Monthly Archives: March 2013

Gay Marriage And States Rights

Gay Marriage

Watching the story surrounding the arguments before the Supreme Court is fascinating.  I love hearing the back and forth not only among the partisans but the “experts” as well.

Some thoughts.

I love President Obama being called out:

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and some of the other more conservative justices expressed irritation that the case was before them at all and said President Obama’s stance – to enforce the law but not defend it – contradicted itself.

“I don’t see why he doesn’t have the courage of his convictions” and not enforce the law if he thinks it is unconstitutional, the chief justice said.

This goes to the decision by the President that the law was unconstitutional and that his Justice Department wouldn’t defend the law in court.  However, Obama is still enforcing the law and when the law was struck down by a lower court, Obama appealed it to the Supreme Court.

 Then, I never would have thought I’d see the day when a liberal Justice would appeal to the concept of state’s rights:

“It’s not as though there’s this little federal sphere … you’d be really diminishing what the state has said is marriage,” Ginsburg said.

I think that if Ginsburg rules DOMA unconstitutional because of state’s rights, the left is going to have a hard time fighting state efforts to ban gay marriage.

As for me, I think that gay marriage is protected federally in the same way that interracial marriage is protected federally.

There Are No Journalists Anymore: Version 12,567


I’m sure there are example on both sides of the ideology spectrum; right and left.

But this one’s a doozy:

RICHMOND, Va. –  Gov. Bob McDonnell has signed legislation into law that will require voters to carry photo identification with them to the polls, starting next year in Virginia.

Virginia joins four other states that have strict photo ID requirements in place for elections, an action Democrats decried as a Jim Crow-era tactic to suppress the votes of the elderly, minorities and the underprivileged.

“This is merely a continuation of attempts by Republicans to suppress the vote of individuals who are not likely to support their right-wing agenda. I guess it’s true that if you can’t win elections the right way, cheat,” said Sen. Mamie Locke, D-Hampton and chairman of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus.

Republican majorities in the Virginia House and Senate pushed the bill to passage one year after a more modest GOP-sponsored voter identification law failed to prevent President Barack Obama from winning Virginia for the second presidential election in a row and a Democratic U.S. Senate victory.


I think it is entirely fair to point out that one side, one team, feels the republicans are pushing this law through for the exact reasons mentioned above.  I have no issue with that.  And, in fact, that point was made by inserting the quote from Locke.  And further in the article, next paragraph, the reporter points out that republicans have their reasons for passing the law.

But the editorial section is totally out of line.

Bees And Chemicals


My son is 7 now.  So it was near 5 years ago that I remember talking to a friend about bees and colony collapse disorder.  This is where a normal fully functioning hive of bees suddenly fails for no apparent reason.  There are tons of explanations but so far none seem to have stuck.

Here’s another one:

… pesticides are typically applied to seeds — mainly of corn, but also other crops — as a sticky coating before planting. When a seed sprouts and grows, the chemicals spread through the whole plant. So insects, such as aphids, that try to eat the plant also get a dose of poison.

But could they be killing more than aphids? Krupke put up a picture of a beehive surrounded by a carpet of dead honeybees. In several places across the Midwest, there have been reports of bees dying in large numbers like this. And tests detected the presence of neonics on them.

It seemed like a mystery. How could bees come into contact with chemicals that are buried in soil with crop seeds?

Krupke put up another slide: a picture of a huge machine that’s used for planting corn. This equipment is apparently part of the answer.

These machines use air pressure to move seeds from storage bin to soil. A slippery powder — talc or graphite — keeps everything flowing smoothly. The air, along with some of the powder, then blows out through a vent.

Krupke explained how he tested that planter exhaust and found amazing levels of neonic pesticides: 700,000 times more than what it takes to kill a honeybee.

That toxic dust lands on nearby flowers, such as dandelions. If bees feed on pollen from those flowers, that dust easily can kill them. A tell-tale clue: These bee die-offs all happened during corn-planting season.

The cold spring has delayed the efforts of apiaries to split their hives so I may have to wait an extra week or 4 before I can get mine.  No worries.  In fact, the delay may do me well, I’ve found an acquaintance at  the YMCA that is anxious to have me host one or two hives on his property to help with his garden.

Mandatory fun!

The Cost Of Food In America

Food Consumption

The chart above, first posted at Carpe Diem, is an interesting snapshot of America.  We have the lowest food costs in the world.

Interesting threads in the comments.  I’d add that Household Compensation includes money spent as a result of various programs; food stamps et. al.

From the post:

Relative to our total household spending, Americans have the most affordable food on the planet — only 6.7% of the average US household budget goes to food consumed at home. European countries like Spain, France, Belgium, and Norway spend twice that amount on food as a share of total expenditures, and consumers in countries like Turkey, China, and Mexico spend three times as much of their household budgets on food as Americans (see full list of countries at the link above).

For America’s increasingly affordable food over time, which has also been the most affordable in the world as a share of household spending for many years, we can thank the innovation, technological advances, and ever-greater supply-chain and distributional efficiencies that drive America’s farming industry, which in turn drive down food prices relative to other goods and services and relative to our income.

The State Of Our Nation’s Schools

School Building

There’s a new report out that shows the conditions of our schools across the nation is pretty poor:

WASHINGTON — America’s schools are in such disrepair that it would cost more than $270 billion just to get elementary and secondary buildings back to their original conditions and twice that to get them up to date, a report released Tuesday estimated.

Horror stories abound about schools with roofs that leak, plumbing that backs up and windows that do little to stop winds.

I have little doubt that the report is accurate, at least in direction if not in total value.

Where is the failure occurring?

The report does not assign blame for schools’ disrepair but the problems often start at the local and state levels. In most cases, schools are funded by local property taxes and they are reliant on their neighbors’ wealth and willingness to fund their schools. A National Center for Education Statistics found large disparities between schools in areas of high poverty and those in more affluent areas.

This shouldn’t surprise us; school districts are local affairs and, as such, responsibility falls to those at the local levels.

I would occur to me that the solution to this problem is going to fall into one of two areas – local and state or the federal government.  Well, the folks that are featured in this interview have their ideas:

“We have a moral obligation,” said Rachel Gutter, director of the group affiliated with the U.S. Green Building Council. “When we talk about a quality education, we talk about the “who” and the “what” — teachers and curriculum — but we don’t talk about the “where.” That needs to change.”

Her organization is urging the Education Department to collect annual data on school buildings’ sizes and ages, as well as property holdings. The group also wants the Education Department’s statistics branch to keep tabs on utility and maintenance bills.

It’s hard to argue that schools in areas of poverty are not only functionally poor but structurally deficient as well.  And the solution to that is tricky.  I break with a lot of conservatives on education; I DO think that the role of government is to care for our kids.  However, I’m not convinced that a federal program is what we’re after.  For example, I don’t have much of a problem funding schools federally in some way, but I do fear the extremists who are allowed to insert their version of what a good school is and what that means.

The alternative?  The individual state or school district.  But there isn’t a lot of hope there either.  The obvious solution is public funding of private schools for each kid, but the power of the school boards and teacher’s unions is such that public delivery of education seems here to stay.

Where Are All The Doctors Going?


There’s going to be some problems in Minnesota in the next 10 years:

Doctors are getting older in Minnesota.

In the next 10 years one in three will retire, and there aren’t enough future physicians to replace them. That could threaten your access to health care.

Combine this with a demand problem:

The Minnesota Health Insurance Exchange will give access to health care to an estimated 300,000 currently un-insured Minnesotans, meaning more patients, more overtime, and fewer doctors to treat them.

Now, I happen to think that as we increase our demand for doctors, the market should correct and supply us with more.  However, this can only happen if the market is free enough to allow corrections in price.

It’ll be interesting to watch as this unfolds across the country.


The Cost Of Ethanol


I’m in the market for a lawn mower.

I’m reading the various reviews online and I’m struck y how many negative reviews there are for many of the mowers out there.  I suspect that there is the phenomenon of the negative reaction; people trend to rate only when they wanna complain.  But still, there are a whole lot of mowers out there that won’t start.

It turns out that ethanol contributes to the failure of these small engines.  In order to keep the engine safe, you have to purchase Stay Bil.  This is an additive that helps negate the impact of ethanol in the engine.  While it is relatively inexpensive, $6 for enough to treat 20 gallons, it’s still a pain in the arse to have to account for.

And wait until we get to E15.


Shocking Headline

Gopher Basketball

I saw this in my [soon to be extinct] Reader Feed:

Gophers Win First Official NCAA Tournament Game Since 1990

Now, I’m from Minnesota so I’m accustomed to shameful defeat, but 23 years…?

No way.

Then I realized that we cheated and were stripped of our wins.

It’s hard being from Minnesota.

North Dakota – Defining Life


For me, the issue of abortion comes down to two things; life and liberty.

There is a clear difference between a collection of cells and of life.  No reasonable person has any moral compunction about cutting a finger nail, removing hair or even taking a kidney; cells, even human cells, do not constitute life.

However, living human beings have a right to expect to liberty that  is called out in the Declaration; The right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

I have long suspected that 80-85% of Americans agree on this issue; we’re divided because of the extremists on either side.  For example, when asked if abortion should be legal is the woman’s life is in danger 88% of people responded that it should be – 82% agreed that it should be if the health of the mother be in danger.  And on the issue of victim of crime, 83% responded that it should be legal.

Further, I think that most people agree that there is a place and a time; support for abortion in the 2nd trimester falls by more than half when compared to abortion in the first trimester and by 75% when the pregnancy is in the 3rd trimester.

Polls here.

All this adds up to the fact that Americans are very aware of the issue and that two things matter:

  1. Why
  2. When

The why, except for discretionary reasons, is straight forward.  I suspect the when speaks to the beginning of life.

Personally, I do not believe that life, scientifically, begins at literal conception.  I do not believe that a human being is present at the time the sperms fertilizes the egg.  However, there is a time when that collection of cells becomes a human being.  And at that time, that human being is entitled to natural rights.

All this is a lead up to the state of North Dakota defining life at that moment of conception; that time when an egg is fertilized by the sperm:

North Dakota lawmakers Friday completed action to outlaw almost all abortions, voting to define life as beginning at conception.

The Republican-dominated House also approved a so-called personhood amendment that asks voters to change the state’s constitution to recognize and protect “the inalienable right to life of every human being at any stage of development.”

Pretty far out there if ya ask me.



Potty Talk


So, a long time ago I was working as a busboy at a hotel on campus at the University of Minnesota.  Out of the blue, one of the waitresses says to me, “You are the strangest person I know.”


For a long time I’ve been thinking about what the ramifications might be if when we legalize gay marriage.  When we finally move from the old places to the new places.  What will that mean practically.

What will the changing definitions and norms of the sexes mean in today’s culture.  And I keep coming back to bathrooms and locker rooms.

Consider, for example, why we have different rest rooms for different sexes?  Why is that?  What is the reason for the segregation?  I have no historical basis to go on, so I can only assume that it’s because women don’t want men seeing them in their most vulnerable and likewise don’t want men dropping trau in their presence.

Makes perfect sense.

Until you think it through.  Stalls all around.  And, being a long time man, I’ve never barged in on another guy in his “private time” to see, accidentally or not, anything that would make a nun blush.


Yet the norm remains.  Men in men’s rooms and women in ladies rooms.  Why?

So, if we are now having fair and open discussion surrounding the fact that some people are straight and others are gay, and more importantly that that is okay, is there ever going to be a discussion surrounding potty etiquette?   I’ve thought about it but never thought that I would start it.

Bring on Arizona via Moe:

Kavanagh’s [new amendment] prohibits a person from entering a “public restroom, bathroom, shower, bath, dressing room, or locker room” if the sex designation of that facility does not match the individual’s birth certificate.

So, I never went there, but it’s close.

If there is a case for separate restrooms based on sex, is there an equally strong argument for separate restrooms based on sexual preference.  Now take it further, the YMCA or any other gym.  If we decide to build and maintain separate showers for men and women, for what I think are obvious reasons, isn’t there at least as compelling reason to build separate facilities for gay and straight people?  After all, if a woman doesn’t feel comfortable showering in front of a man who might be sexually attracted to her, don’t I have the same reasonable right to the same expectation?

Now, before anyone goes all crazy on me for being some looney wacko, understand that I’ve experienced this to a degree.  I used to live in Seattle and have vacationed in the parks of Orcus Island.  And one of those camps had a jacuzzi and sauna, co-ed, with an expectation of nudity.  For the first 10-15 minutes it was out-of-this-world-strange.  However, after that initial period of weirdness, things kinda gelled into normal and it was like nothing was odd at all.

So,now that I’m not the guy that started it I can wonder out loud in print.