Thursday, January 30, 2014

In Defense of Politicians

By Katie Foley

I recently interviewed for a new job within my organization. One of the first questions was, "Why do you want this job?" A lot of possible responses came to mind. I wanted the job because it would pay more, because it would be more of a challenge than my current job and because the job meant more responsibility and greater opportunity. I wanted the job because I would have been good at it.   

These are pretty straight-forward reasons to want a new job. Never did it cross my mind to be critical of the job during the interview - I would have been treated to a very chilly audience if I had. You don't generally seek a new job because you think the job itself is flawed and faulty and you alone can save it. For example, people don't become plumbers because they have long been disgusted with the way houses are plumbed. You never hear of a little kid wanting to grow up to become a ballerina because they believe all ballerinas to be corrupt and they hope to be the exception. 

And yet, this seems to be the norm in politics. Many people deem "because I hate politicians" to be an acceptable reason to want to be one. You do not bash Thomson Reuters or 3M and then seek to become employed by them - yet people rail against the government while seeking government employment as a matter of course. Every profession has it's bad actors, but most professions don't draw critics into their ranks. 

If my house is ever on fire I hope a firefighter shows up to help. I'll leave sales to the salespeople, electrical work to the electrician and auto repair to the mechanic. Let's leave politics to the politicians - that's what they are here for. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Sometimes I Just Can't Keep My Mouth Shut

Nobody who knows me will be surprised to hear that I frequently comment, at length, on the message boards of websites. One of my favorite bloggers is known as the Filthy Liberal Scum. I find his insight fascinating.

The article that prompted the post can be read here. It's a commentary on a pastor who recently preached to a rapt congregation the following:

“Build a great, big, large fence…150 or 100 mile long…put all the lesbians in there, fly over and drop some food. Do the same thing for the queers and the homosexuals and have that fence electrified so they can’t get out… feed’em and you know what? In a few years, they’ll die out… do you know why? They can’t reproduce!”

Of course, the people commenting on the post had varying opinions, ranging from "why can't the South just be a different country?" to "liberals are hypocrites because they say you should tolerate everyone but they don't tolerate religious people" to "not all Christians are like this!"  I had the following to say, which has been "liked" enough times by other people perusing the comments section that I unsubscribed just so that my Facebook Notifications would stop blowing up every five seconds (I'll admit, that's a slight exaggeration). Since modesty has never been my strong suit I have decided to share my much-liked comment with you fine folks. 

I hope not to offend any of our religious followers overly much, but only because they are my friends and because I too believe that the Gospel of Christ preaches love, never hate. With that caveat, here is my post:

"...[P]eople get so offended when liberals speak out against the use of religion as a way to manipulate a vulnerable population, such as one that lacks the critical thinking skills necessary to discern between fact and opinion, or when religion is used as a tool to attack people who are perceived as being somehow threatening to an individual's or group's religious inclination. The problem with comparing one man's speaking out against homo[sexuals] and a general speaking out against religion is that religion is an IDEA. You may see it as an important priority in your life, it may be your Truth, but the actuality of it is that it is an IDEA. Unlike ideas, homosexuality is a characteristic that a finite group of individuals possess. We aren't saying put the South or the Religious in, oh I don't know, a concentration camp where for all we care they can starve and eventually die. All we're saying is that religion has been used as a tool for hate since its inception. It's supposed to be about love, but anyone who has seen the Vatican knows that "the church" didn't care about feeding the poor as much as perpetuating its own opulence. Are all churches like this? No! But then shame on them for not speaking out against the use of religion by people with whom they disagree. Religion is an archaic idea that came about because our ancestors had no way to explain the natural world and because death seemed so depressingly final and happened with enough regularity to make any idea but "everlasting life" truly distressing. What's lightening? Zeus's at it again... What's a rainbow? God's promise not to commit global genocide again. Why do women bleed every month and suffer pain in childbirth? Because Eve ate the apple. What happens when we die? Well, if we worship who these educated people with money tell us to we'll have everlasting life, but only if we strictly adhere to their religious beliefs even though they don't seem to. I hate to resort to quotes, but "Religion is regarded by the wise as false, the common as true and the powerful as useful." Are all religious people the same? No. But challenging an idea is not equal to challenging someone's very humanity and entitlement to life based on a characteristic wholly out of their control. Grow a thicker skin, Bible-thumpers, and get a better argument than "God told me so" because I just got off the phone with the Flying Spaghetti Monster and he finds your arguments unpersuasive...."

God may be Love, but religion is politics wrapped up in a dogmatic belief structure that too often prevents people from gaining true spiritual insight. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Student Loan Debt - The Millennial Sob Story

Contributed by Katie Foley

Ever since I was "this tall" I have heard that the key to a good future is a good education. Fortunately school was something that came easy to me and I had parents who were willing to parent me by taking an active role in my cognitive and social development. A "good education" in my family meant college, end of story. 

When the time for college came I decided to go to a state school because, as I explained to any who inquired, "the price was right." I knew that college is expensive. My older sister went to a private school and seeing her debt load made me direct my attention to a more publicly funded institution. In addition to choosing an economically sensible institution of higher learning, I also worked 30-40 hours a week in order to minimize my need to borrow money. 

Having been so fiscally responsible during college I should have simply framed my shiny new diploma and entered the working world. Instead I went to law school. I cannot say that I "regret" the decision, but I regret the vast amounts of money that foolishly borrowed at a ridiculously high interest rate. I regret not knowing when I began that the economy was about to collapse under the weight of yet another economic bubble. 

As a teenager I witnessed the burst of the .com bubble and as a young adult I witnessed the burst of the housing bubble and subsequent near-collapse of the global economy. I have come to accept that, to a particular breed of greedy jerks, the threat of national or global economic collapse does not outweigh the promise of a quick buck. I have read about the deterioration of worker benefits. I have heard about the decline in academic achievement as lawmakers demand standardized results instead of allowing for cognitive and social development. I have seen the devastation wrought when intellectual strength gives way to political expediency in judicial appointments. I have watched as politicians consistently fail to address the pressing issues of the present and future because they owe their campaign donors more loyalty than their constituents. I have witnessed  much of the America I grew up expecting to inhabit fall prey to the greed of a chosen few, who were able to manipulate the right assholes at the right period in time.

But soon I’ll have to accept that I was one of the assholes manipulated by those greedy jerks. Today I read this article about how U.S. Bank has decided to pull out of the Student Loan business. J.P. Morgan too, it would seem, has decided to start lending only to their current customers. US Bank is one of the more [little "c"] conservative banks left and J.P. Morgan was badly singed by the sub-prime conflagration. When you add to that this article, which states that the student loan debt burden has now exceeded $1 trillion (yes, with a "t"), a debt burden that outstrips credit card debt it would seem that maybe these two banks see a bubble burst on the horizon.

Discussion of today’s student loan debt burden often produces two main arguments. One side thinks that all student loan debt should be forgiven. As someone who has an upside-down mortgage on her law school diploma I would LOVE to see my loans wiped away. However, this is hardly fair and fails to take into account the economic impact erasing debt would have now that the Department of Education holds much of the debt. The opposing side doesn’t think that those with student loan debt should be given any relief, as they “signed on the dotted line” to borrow the money. This is a fair point, but again it is overly simplistic as it fails to understand that this staggering amount of debt is preventing young people from doing other things that are good for the economy, such as buying homes, getting married and having families.

Now President Obama is touring the country, trying to say we need to keep college affordable. I agree. But let's re-invest in our college system instead of ensuring individuals can borrow vast sums of money at a capped interest rate. Let's stop cutting funding for education. Or, if we're going to cap anything, let's cap the rate at which tuition can increase from year to year. Making the assumption of student loan debt more palatable to America's youth may get you votes, but it's not going to keep this bubble from bursting. And unlike a house, my diploma has very little resale value. 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Lessons from Rome

OR ~ Why the GOP should have paid attention in history class

Contributed by Katie Foley

Today, while working, I watched a few episodes of Terry Jones’ BBC series, “The Hidden History of ….”
One of the videos closed with the following monologue from Mr. Jones,

It’s the story of a society that “was run as a mafia-like business; of Senators worth $30,000,000, who supported a system that let the poor go to the war while they supported free trade and low taxes for the businessmen. It’s the story of a society in which the [prosperous][1] families flaunted their wealth while the majority drifted into relative poverty. A society based on inequality, on the tantalizing luxury that was possible for a few, as long as the vast proportion of the population had no rights at all, or could be fooled into compliance with [Miller Lite][2] and [football][3].”

This particular monologue came at the end of “The Hidden History of Rome.” I was astounded by how well the quote had been crafted to span the centuries from ancient Rome to modern Western society. That we are still trying to make these ideas work is nothing short of lunacy. 

Sterling Archer from FX's "Archer"
So how about we try something new guys? Tax breaks for the wealthy and free trade (including the free trade of slaves) did not end well for Rome. The next time you think you’re bringing new ideas to the table, I suggest you first follow Sterling Archer’s advice and, “Read a book!”

Or, you could just watch a historical documentary hosted by a Monty Python alum….

[1] “Noble” in original quote
[2] “Bread” in original quote
[3] “Circuses” in original quote

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Senate District 41 - Thoughts on Redistricting

Contributed by Rachel Nelson, a.k.a. Katie Foley

            I loved my DFL family in the old SD50. Barb Goodwin’s candidacy for the Minnesota Senate gave us a common purpose around which we could unite. This single event, which took place over several months, gave our district the common struggle and history that gives rise to lasting relationships.
            When the Court came down with its redistricting plan, it was a plan about which I could not form a real definitive opinion. Sure, it put a lot of really good sitting DFL legislators against each other, but it did the same for the GOP. I did not have to be too anxious about meeting a bunch of new Democrats because much of what comprised SD50 had been swallowed up by the new SD41. Also, SD41 managed to nab some of the great party leaders of the districts neighboring the old SD50.
            However, it was not until last night that I became truly excited about the new SD41. As Connie Bernardy’s endorsement campaign coordinator I’ve been in a unique position to learn the names of the delegates from the new House District 41A. Last night Connie and her husband Dan hosted an HD 41A get-together. It was very well-attended, including an appearance and speech by Congressman Keith Ellison. But perhaps more important than the campaign atmosphere and upbeat endorsements from Ellison and Carolyn Laine was the chance I had to meet some of the people with whose names I have become so familiar.
            I met and spoke with people who are bursting with ideas and talents that could really make SD41 a shining example of what works for DFL politics. Fundraisers, the centralization of information, complete lifetimes of knowledge and experience – the people I have so far had a chance to meet from the new SD41 have reinvigorated me.
            So I suppose that have I finally had a chance to form a real opinion about the Court’s redistricting plan. State-wide it gives the DFL a chance to take back the majority in the state legislature, giving Minnesota’s policy makers a real chance to enact policies that will make Minnesota great once again. Locally, I couldn’t be more excited about the ideas, energy, wisdom and thoughtfulness displayed by my new DFL family. Let the fun begin!

SHAMELESS SELF-PROMOTION: Elect Rachel Nelson for SD 41 Chair at the DFL Senate District 41’s Endorsing Convention on March 31 at Columbia Heights High School.