The Little League World Series just ended and the whole world now knows about Philadelphia's talented Mo'ne Davis. The second round of the WNBA gets started Friday night and our Minnesota Lynx will be trying for a third national title in four years.
There was a fall season-like chill in the air early today, a reminder that volleyball and hockey are just around the corner. That begs a question about how great the University of Minnesota womens' Gophers will be this coming school year, with returning players from the U.S. Olympic Team, or will the previously dominate University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs be back as the national power. Oh, and there is always a question at the start of new school years about how great Concordia University's women's volleyball team will be in the coming year.
High school, college, the pros; we almost take it for granted that great sports teams and players will entertain us in the coming year and in years to follow. In Minnesota, at least, we can also count on women's teams as being among the most accomplished athletic groups ever assembled.
Give the credit where it belong: Title IX of the national education amendments of 1972. Public policy decreed there would be gender equity in education, and it is being realized. Reviews of educational attainment show women are largely outperforming men these days, and Minnesota sports fans know that women's teams locally have have dominated their sports arenas in recent years beyond the wildest dreams of their male counterparts.
This is recalled here because Deb Balzer just reminded us Tuesday was Women's Equality Day. We take it for granted on sports days. We just don't pay heed on pay days.
All this is relevant when we think of public policy aimed at correcting imbalances and injustices in education, workplaces and sports. The key ingredient of policies such as Title IX is to create opportunities.
The extraordinary runs on titles by the Lynx, the four national titles and a 62-game winning streak over three years by the Gophers, and the five national titles by UMD's hockey women are a combination of being given opportunity and seizing it.
You can't even think about women's sports achievements in Minnesota without including the seven consecutive national Division II volleyball titles for Corcordia University's Golden Bears, a fete not likely ever duplicated and won't be if Concordia adds an eighth title this fall.
All of these successes represent personal and team accomplishments. All started by being granted opportunity to succeed.
The Minnesota State Fair is on and hundreds of rural kids, especially 4-Hers and FFAers, have come to town to make nice with city folks. This used to be a time when rural and urban would meet and sometimes study cultural differences.
Modern media, modern education, and general mobility have wiped out most cultural endowments that separated rural from urban in past decades Science has greatly changed lifestyles out on the farms as well. But humor, even when saluting the present, still reaches back to an earlier time in rural America.
So it is that as the Minnesota State Fair winds down on its 12-day annual run, agricultural-oriented email sites are passing around the following letter home from a farm kid in Marine Corps basic training.
“Dear Ma and Pa,
“I am well. Hope you are. Tell Brother Walt and Brother Elmer the Marine Corps beats working for old man Minch by a mile. Tell them to join up quick before all of the places are filled.
“I was restless at first because you get to stay in bed till nearly 6 a.m. But I am getting to I like sleeping late. No hogs to slop, feed to pitch, wood to split, fire to lay. Practically nothing.
“Men got to shave but it is not so bad; there's warm water. Breakfast is strong on trimmings like fruit juice, cereal, eggs, bacon, etc., but kind of weak on chops, potatoes, ham, steak, fried eggplant, pie and other regular food. Tell Walt and Elmer you can always sit by the two city boys that live on coffee. Their food, plus yours, holds you until noon when you get fed again.
“We go on "route marches," which the platoon sergeant says are long walks to harden us. If he thinks so, it's not my place to tell him different. A "route march" is about as far as to our mailbox at home. Then the city guys get sore feet and we all ride back in trucks.
“We have what they call hand-to-hand combat training. You get to wrestle with them city boys. I have to be real careful though, they break easy. I'm about the best they got in this except for Tug Jordan from over in Silver Lake. I only beat him once. He joined up the same time as me, but I'm only 5'6" and 130 pounds and he's 6'8" and near 300 pounds dry.
“Be sure to tell Walt and Elmer to hurry and join before other fellers get onto this setup and come stampeding in.
“Your loving daughter,
If the conversation on Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis is politically charged this week, there’s good reason. Gathered at the Minneapolis Convention Center are several hundred elected representatives from around the nation and the world. All week I have had the opportunity to marinade in the lively presence of attendees at the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL)—elected representatives and staff of the fifty states’ very diverse governmental entities as well as an impressive contingent of international visitors.
Though members of the Minnesota Legislature are everywhere, the local press seems to me to be conspicuous by their absence. They and their readers are missing a great story–some highlights:
Most notable, perhaps, is the fact that the gathering is remarkably civil. Elected officials with diametrically opposed political views are managing somehow to respect each others’ opinions, to listen, and to discuss with marked civility. I’ve observed discussions of everything from voter registration to health care to humane treatment of farm animals and found attendees willing, if not eager, to hear our their colleagues’ perspective.
One good example of collegiality happened on Tuesday when the members of NCSL conveyed special honors on former Congressman Martin Olav Sabo, recognized as a founding father of NCSL. Particular mention was made of the Congresman’s work on government transparency, specifically Minnesota’s Open Meeting Law. It was a privilege to hear Mr. Sabo accept the recognition and to commend and further inspire the collaborative approach of NCSL.
Minnesotans starred again on Wednesday when Senator Amy Klobuchar joined Cindy McCain (yes, wife of John McCain) to lay out the facts of sex trafficking in this nation. Mincing no words, they outlined the steps these elected officials might make in their own states, as legislators and as community leaders. Their frank and practical approach was clearly an eye-opener for many attendees.
Minnesota leaders, including Governor Mark Dayton and Minneapolis Mayor Besty Hodges as well as a number of legislators are involved as speakers and panelists throughout the conference. Senator President Sandy Pappas and Speaker Paul Thissen headed up the cadre of Minnesota legislators who master-minded event planning. It was the legislators who arranged the feature of the conference that stands out in my mind as the crowning glory of the Summit – to wit:
Staffers of the Minnesota Legislature are the omnipresent guides that are making the Summit stress-free. Clad in bright blue shirts, volunteers are everywhere. They are smart, smiling, ready to go the extra mile to guide a lost legislator who may be reluctant to admit that she’s overwhelmed by the cavernous Convention Center. The guides don’t just answer but anticipate the visitor’s question. This congenial, informed squadron of local experts sets a high standard not just for Minnesota Nice but for Minnesota Informed.
Following is our weekly round-up of links and stories that our staff are enjoying this week.
The Hugo Awards! (Geek Feminism) — At last weekend's World Science Fiction Convention in London, one big question was how a misogynistic, racist, and otherwise bigoted sub-group of nominees would fare at the Hugo Awards, the top fan-voted honors in science fiction and fantasy. Geek Feminism summarizes the results, with links to many great stories.
Hobbit beers are coming to a shire near you (A.V. Club) — This makes me very "hoppy" that I can combine my love of Tolkein and beer steins.
Prisoners Dilemma (America) -- Human Rights Watch, the University of Chicago Crime Lab, the National Academy of Sciences, and Pope Francis have all decried the nation's growing incarceration rate. "Our country must transform the prison from a trash can where we dump offenders to an instrument for the public good."
Is a street an asset? (Strong Towns) — Charles Marohn Jr., Minnesota's smartest conservative thinker about city streets, sprawl and highways, digs deep into the real balance sheets of municipal infrastructure in his Strong Towns blog. The comment string is enlightening, too.
King County Metro Announces $1.50 Low Fare For People Making $23,000 and Under (Seattle Weekly)
Judge won't block union vote by 27,000 Minnesota home health care workers (StarTribune) — Collectively bargained contracts for home health care providers will likely lead to substantial improvements in their wages and working conditions, which is good not only for the workers themselves but for the overall vitality of our economy.
Colorado peaches. Just arrived in Minnesota. Get 'em while they're fresh. It's a short season.
Chris Kluwe and the Vikings reached a settlement. He told ABC news, "You have a children's game, and you have basic human rights. And there's one of those I'm always going to value more than the other." Nice job, Chris.
Last week, I spent 16 hours sitting in a DFL booth at our county fair. For those who have not had the opportunity to participate as a volunteer in a political booth at an event like a county fair, it is an interesting experience. It gives you the opportunity to talk with people; some who agree with you and some who do not. Actually, the most interesting discussions can be with those who disagree. I know I have had discussions lasting more than 30 minutes with people who hold opposite views to mine. We often end by agreeing to disagree and shake hands. These are good educating discussions—giving us all a chance to understand those with different viewpoints than ours.
It is also fun to hand out candy to kids. We asked the kids to promise to vote when they turn 18 if they took a piece of candy. I am not sure how many will remember their promise, but if one more person votes when turning 18, it is worth the effort. By the way, they just had to promise to vote—not for any particular person or party. Some of the other good things about the fair is you have people come to the booth, and say they did not realize there were other democrats in the area. This is probably not true in the metro area, but it certainly is if you live where I do. We do get a chance with these people to invite them to our meetings and events. For me, another good thing about the fair is the opportunity for some good food. It is not the State Fair, but the 4H booth had some good hamburgers.
So, I told you some of the good things about the fair, but there was one event that really upset me. A gentleman walked by our booth and made some comments accusing us of various things, most of which I missed, but I heard him say that we were trying to destroy Christianity. Now I know destroying Christianity is not in our platform, but what bothers me the most is the anger and bitterness of this gentleman.
Many of us really get emotional about our political views, and often call our opponents names, although not always out loud. For me politics should be a way to express different views, and then have our governing bodies develop a strategy for the future using those opposing views. Yes, sometimes I may be too utopian, but whatever our political views we need to avoid the anger and out of control emotion.
If we want to end the polarization that is taking over national, state and local politics, then we have to listen to our opponents respectfully, and not resort to name calling. At times it may be difficult, but I think it worth the effort.
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Happy Friday! Below are a few things that we've enjoyed reading this week.
Urban Growler in St. Anthony Park: “We are the new Northeast” (CityPages) — St. Anthony park is quickly becoming the "New Northeast." I made a pit stop at one of the areas new breweries, Urban Growler, this weekend. Their food and beer is great. This is one of many new exciting small businesses emerging along the Green Line.
How John Oliver Beats Apathy (The Atlantic) — A nice piece examining what John Oliver has done differently with his new show that makes it both entertaining and an often-effective call-to-action.
Once doomed State Fair carousel marks 100th birthday (KARE 11) — Boyd Huppert of KARE 11 is one of my favorite story tellers.
I've been harping lately on the policy silliness in Washington over highway funding. It's so bad that even a right-winger like U.S. Senate candidate Mike McFadden occasionally lapses into semi-sense. He briefly voiced support the other day for raising federal fuel taxes -- with a typical conservative proviso that increases in the regressive levy at the pump should be balanced with cuts elsewhere, most likely the progressive income tax -- but almost immediately backed away, without further comment on the flip-flop. Anyway, here's some real sense from the Bipartisan Policy Center on what to do about this recurring problem.
Spot The Historical Error In This “Downton Abbey” Publicity Picture (BuzzFeed) -- Guys, you had ONE job.
Every week, I bug our staff and writers to tell me about the things that are making them happy. Below, are a few of the things they shared this week.
The tickets are cheap, the shows are funny or sad or weird, and the MPLS community is soaking in a "Theater Invasion." Don't miss out on the Fringe Festival fun!
Lost At Sea, Legos Reunite On Beaches And Facebook (NPR) — As an avid Lego fan, I immediately loved this story. It is the tale of lost Legos and their slow journey to the shores of the UK. Twenty years ago the Tokio Express was caught in a storm that washed nearly 5 million Legos off the deck and into the sea. The Legos are still washing up on shore today.
Deep Chords: Haruki Murakami’s ‘Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage (The New York Times) — American artist Patti Smith reviews the highly acclaimed new work of Japanese writer, Haruki Murakami.
Affordable Housing Draws Middle Class to Inland Cities (New York Times) -- Americans have always been a mobile people, although the Great Recession diminished that mobility due to reduced job opportunities and the inability to sell a home without taking a loss. Now Americans are increasingly moving away from the coast to find affordable housing in inland cities.
Out of Office: You Know You Travel Too Much When… (LinkedIn) — Digital communication was supposed to minimize our need for business travel, but many road warriors still are constantly on the move. Beyond Philosophy CEO Colin Shaw takes a lighthearted look at life on the road.
Here is Where: Discovering America's Great Forgotten History by Andrew Carroll — Bet you didn't know the first American car - or horseless carriage as it was called - had an electric motor and batteries and ran around the streets of Des Moines. Andrew Carroll, who has a flair for uncovering such nuggets of American history, plucks this fun nugget from his book for the current issue of American History magazine.
As my first year of graduate school was coming to an end at Carnegie Mellon University, I was conflicted about which city I should seek an internship in–not to mention which organization. Getting a master’s degree in public policy and management is rewarding and interesting, but has left me completely unsure of what kind of career or job best fits my skills and interest. However, as my time at Minnesota 2020 nears its end, it is easy for me to realize I chose correctly four months ago.
MN 2020 turned out to be a good fit for many reasons. It was important to me to be in a state like Minnesota, where forward-thinking policies have been implemented. I also felt connected here because I taught high school math for three years in St. Paul, an experience which sparked my interest in education policy. On top of all the great things about Minnesota, I chose MN 2020 specifically because I knew it would challenge me to become a more critical thinker and a better writer (writing is not my favorite task), while also providing me with data analysis opportunities (data analysis trumps writing).
All of the fellows working at MN 2020 are urged to analyze policy, not just determine how we feel about an issue–and analyzing policy as a progressive is about examining where policies break down and end up hurting those who truly required the assistance in the first place. As a progressive, I look for policies that are created by–or at least with input from–those who will be most affected by the change, not just created at the top and handed down. I also support policies that do not create bigger inequalities.
As I move forward in my career I plan to continue to fight against injustice. I intend to push causes that truly bring people together, causes that form collectives that will fight for the rights of all humans to work and be respected no matter their skin color, ethnicity, spiritual or religious beliefs, age, gender identity, sexual orientation, language or any demographic differences that may exist.
Spending my summer at MN 2020 surrounded by inspiring and brilliant people has given me the opportunity to solidify my ideas on what a progressive is and could be. As I enter into my second year of grad school, I still have no concrete post-graduation plans–but I do know that whatever I end up doing, I’ll do it with a progressive organization.
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Every week, I ask our staff, "What's making you happy this week?" Their responses always make for a fascinating list of policy, humor and thoughful finds.
The Incompetence Dogma: So Much for Obamacare Not Working (New York Times) -- NYT op ed columnist and Nobel laureate economist Paul Krugman bemoans the right's detachment from reality that prevents them from recognizing the success of Obamacare.
7 of the most badass women who ever lived (who you've probably never heard of) (Global Post) — Have you heard of Khutulun, Mongolian warrior princess or airline pilot, Bessie Coleman? I hadn't either until this showed up in one of my newsfeeds.
The Suburbs Will Die: One Man’s Fight to Fix the American Dream (TIME) — Minnesotan Charles Marohn Jr. is a conservative sprawl apologist's worst nightmare, using his background as a sprawl-building civil engineer and a rock-ribbed Republican's sharp pencil to skewer the profligate, dominant suburban design of the second half of the 20th century. Leigh Gallagher, another strong sprawl critic, profiles Marohn in an excerpt from her book, "The End of the Suburbs," in Time magazine.
The Burrito Bracket. (FiveThirtyEight) — Bringing statistical, methodological and dissective rigor to finding America's best burrito. From Nate Silver's Fivethirtyeight.com.
The Green Line may not seem so new anymore, but I'm still discovering all of its opportunities for Twin Cities exploration. Here's an A-to-Z list of food and fun from Metro Transit.
Five reasons to go to Oktoberfest (and five not to) (The Local) — I went looking at Thelocal.de, the online English language newspaper from Germany, curious to see how the Germans planned to note the start of World War I next week. What caught my eye, however, was the feature about five good reasons to visit Oktoberfest in Munich this fall, and five good reasons to stay away. Fun guidance. I'll be staying home.
Review: ‘Boyhood’ a simple story, stunningly told (Delaware Online) — Last night I saw the movie "Boyhood" and I'm sure many who have already seen it will agree, it is unlike any narrative film ever done.
A little more than seven years ago, Minnesota 2020 was founded with John Van Hecke as its founding Executive Director. At the time of its founding, many were rightly skeptical that a progressive think tank could thrive in Minnesota and have the kind of impact on public policy that its founders envisioned.
John Van Hecke successfully navigated the challenges of a start-up organization and built Minnesota 2020 into a respected, credible source for data-driven research. His vision, oversight, and editorial perspective have all been contributed to the foundation on which our organization stands. His weekly column has attracted a loyal following each Friday, and is often reprinted in newspapers around the state.
John at a press event in 2009
Seven years later, John has decided its time to step back from the organization he built. He’ll continue to write for us as a Senior Fellow from time to time, but today is his last day in the office, and tomorrow’s Journal will be his last weekly Friday column.
On behalf of the entire staff at Minnesota 2020, we wish him good health and good fortune, and want to express our profound gratitude for his many accomplishments here. We’ll continue to build on the foundation John built. It remains as vital a mission as ever to widely share a progressive, research-based vision for a prosperous, just, and sustainable Minnesota.
We’re beginning to organize a party to more properly celebrate John’s accomplishments. Stay tuned for more details. In the meantime, I invite you to write him a note in the comments to wish him well and let him know what his work at Minnesota 2020 has meant to you.
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