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. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

In Defense of Millennials

Contributed by Katie Foley

The other day I read this article and it got me thinking, Are Millennials, or “Generation Y” as this author refers to us, really “going nowhere?”

To prove their point, Mr. and Ms. Buchholz cite the fact that 18 year olds are getting their licenses at a rate 15% lower than their 1980’s counter parts. Also, twice as many young adults were living at home in 2008 compared to 1980, and the likelihood of a young person moving to another state has dropped 40% in the same time frame.

What’s to blame? To start with, the authors blame Facebook. Apparently studies have shown that the more time a young person spends on the internet, the more likely they are to delay getting their driver’s license. We’re more risk adverse, we’re too quick to believe “luck” plays a major role in life’s events and we’re more sedentary. As the authors pointed out, even a decrease in bike sales indicates that we’re literally going nowhere.

So what gives? Are we just too involved with our virtual world to explore the natural world around us? Do we settle for mediocre jobs instead of pursuing our dreams because of an innate laziness we picked up somewhere? Are Millennials complacent?

I don’t think so. The authors talked about every modern American generation through the Baby Boomers, then skipped Generation X. Is Generation Y really the first generation of “why bother?” In my lifetime, I have always known that AIDs existed, that it could infect anyone regardless of sexual preference or promiscuity, and that you could not get it from a toilet seat. I was born into a pre-Google world, but the internet was around by the time I was ready to start browsing. Until recently, there has never been any doubt in my mind that I had a right to use contraception and that women could go just as far professionally as men, even if they weren’t there yet.

But as I grew into adulthood the world around me has all but imploded. A vibrant economy during my adolescence has turned into the “Great Recession.” Home ownership, touted as part and parcel of the American dream, has turned into a nightmare in neighborhoods around the country, as reported on the nightly news. People who cannot understand what a computer network is are trying to draft laws regulating them. Every day we see drug users who are not violent, not lazy and not on the road to a serious and debilitating addiction. On 101.3 Drake sings, “It’s my birthday I’ll get high if I want to,” while AM 1130 is promoting the same “War on Drugs” propaganda that has characterized this  doomed movement from the start.

Millennials understand the value of an open community, an online community of people around the globe that share our interests and vision. It is because young people were able to set up proxy servers faster than the government could find them that videos of the 2009 Iranian uprising made it to our television screens and computer monitors. Some of the greatest modern protest movements have gained recognition, validation and exposure through the use of the internet.

Using today's dollars, the average cost of private college tuition is 3.4 times more expensive, public college tuition is 4 times more expensive, and private law school is 4 1/2 times more expensive now than it was when I was born in 1985. Regardless of whether cars and gas prices are more or less expensive now or then, the cost of college alone has become something young people must consider when developing a life plan.

Perhaps it’s just our priorities that have changed, not our values. Instead of buying $75,000 homes we’re buying $75,000 educations. Rather than spend our limited funds meeting our friends and associates over coffee, we utilize technology in a way that allows us to meet virtually. Maybe we aren’t complacent, maybe we just realize that if we are going to make this country work we better buckle down together and do some problem solving. It’s possible that what the Boomers and Gen Xers don’t fully understand is that “It’s not that we don’t care, we just know that the fight ain’t fair.” [1] Don’t worry, once you’ve finished making a mess of things we’ll swoop in to save the day. 

And stop patronizing us by pretending to be concerned about your legacy. . . 

[1] "Waiting on the World to Change" by John Mayer, lyrics available here