Police Raids on Protesters in St. Paul

If you don’t follow my Twitter updates, you probably missed much of the hubbub over yesterday’s police raids in the Twin Cities. In anticipation of the Republican National Convention, police have been raiding homes, detaining people and pulling over buses. Most of yesterday’s raids centered around a self-described anarchist group, the RNC Welcoming Committee. Five or six of their members were arrested on charges of conspiracy to riot and a number of weapons or potential weapons were seized (among them what could be some regular household items, what actually are weapons [slingshots mostly] and what’s just bizarre—buckets of urine, later explained by protesters to be a gray water system and not actual urine).

It’s all kind of bizarre, and as early stories come in it’s hard to know who to believe (like I just blogged, nobody just disagrees, we have to insult, mislead and insinuate).
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Why Can’t We Just Disagree?

As an addendum of sorts to my recent rant on the ineffectualness of politics, I offer this thought: Why can’t people just disagree? I’ve talked before about how hard it is to argue, and I think the current political climate only reinforces that.

The problem is that very few people can just disagree. We take disagreement to the next level by seeing the worst in people, flinging accusations and insults, and starting to distort the truth ourselves. You can see it in politics when someone points out the gaffes of one candidate, ignoring all context, explanation, apology or understanding, and then shrugs at the gaffes of their own candidate.
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Politics is Like Trying to Cure Cancer with Ointment

The last 24 hours have probably been some of the most historic 24 hours of politics in a long time. Barack Obama officially accepted the nomination of the Democratic Party with a stirring speech last night in Denver, making him the first African American presidential nominee in U.S. history. And today John McCain announced that Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin would be his running mate, making Palin only the second female vice presidential nominee from a major party in history. No matter who wins in November, history will be made.

I find myself caught up in the excitement—and rightly so; it is historic and ground-breaking and that has personal implications for me—but I’ve been reminded by several people that politics is not everything. As one friend said, “I freaking hate politics. It’s all trying to cure cancer with ointment.”

Even as politics enters uncharted, historic territory and is worth being excited about, I think it’s worth remembering that there are more important things.
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Yes We Can: Hillary Clinton Made Me Cry

Let me start by saying I don’t like Hillary Clinton.

But I got teary eyed watching her tonight during the Democratic National Convention. There were two moments that got me: Her introduction video when she said, “See, you can be whatever you want to be,” and in her speech when she talked about women getting the right to vote and her mother being born before women could vote and her daughter being able to vote for a woman for president.

All my life women and minorities have had the right to vote and have had other equal rights and I’ve never thought much of it. But when you realize that only white men have ever been the face of this country’s highest office, it sends a clear message and you begin to wonder about those equal rights. It’s one thing to say a woman or a black man or a Latino woman or a Jewish man could be president, but it’s another thing to see it happen.

I got teary eyed because this election year a woman and a black man had a chance to be elected President of the United States, and for the first time I realized what that meant for my daughter and my soon-to-be-adopted black child. I can tell them, and reality will back me up, that they can be whatever they want to be.

You could say that fatherhood has made me soft, and you’d be right. Thanks to Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama for proving you can be whatever you want to be.

Politicians are Rich

I think the story about John McCain not knowing how many houses he owns is hilarious. They’re even passing out buttons at the DNC: “Ask me how many houses I own.”

As funny as it is that you can claim to connect with the average American when you don’t even know how many houses you own, just about every national politician would be in that camp. Starting salary for a member of Congress is $169,300. I don’t know about you, but that’s a lot more than I make. By way of comparison, 80% of U.S. households make less than $100,000 per year (and that’s households, not individual salaries). I think it’s fair to say that few members of Congress can claim they know what it’s like to be an average American today.

That’s true for John McCain and it’s true for Barack Obama. I’m not saying they shouldn’t make that much money, but it should be remembered when politicians claim they understand tough economic times. It’s a little ironic when we accuse our congress members of being elitist when that’s exactly what they are (and as Jon Stewart says, you shouldn’t be allowed to run for president if you don’t think you’ll do better than the rest of us).

Start Seeing Art’s Downtown St. Paul Art Map

Protagoras by Charles GinneverOn Saturday I posted the Downtown St. Paul Art Map on Start Seeing Art. It’s a free, printable, 7-page PDF map that features outdoor sculptures and murals in the downtown area.

I’m intentionally putting it out just before the Republican National Convention comes to town. Hopefully it will draw some attention to some of the amazing public artwork we have in the Twin Cities. The map itself isn’t very pretty (I’m no designer, and I didn’t even try to be), but it does include 85 works of art and pictures of each one (OK, 84 pictures. One sculpture is supposed to be placed any day now and I don’t have a picture of it).
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What To Do With Como’s Pedestrian Bridge?

Pedestrian BridgeThe St. Paul Real Estate Blog recently covered the abandoned pedestrian bridge in Como Park. If you’re not familiar with the bridge, it’s near the intersection of Lexington and Horton by the old Streetcar Station building. Built in 1904, this was the grand entrance to Como Park, where guests would arrive via streetcar and then take this pedestrian bridge over the tracks and into the park. But when the streetcars disappeared the bridge became useless. With the tracks gone it seems to be a bridge over nothing (there’s even a sidewalk that runs parallel to the bridge, making it seem even more useless) and has fallen into disrepair. Now it’s fenced off to keep people from being injured by falling concrete.

Weekly guest blogger Erik Hare asked how the crumbling bridge might be saved. The problem, as I pointed out in the comments, is that the bridge has no purpose. If it were to be saved, it would need a purpose.

So what can we do with an old bridge to nowhere?
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Vice Presidential Frenzy

I’ve been getting kind of weary of the vice presidential speculation and frenzy. How many times can we talk about how Barack Obama is going to text message his choice and you can be the first to know? I heard three of four times that Obama could make his announcement as early as Wednesday morning. Everyone’s a buzz. It’s as if the political junkies have nothing else to talk about and refuse to move on until both candidates name a VP.

So yesterday I had enough and decided I’d pretend to be the first to know and start spreading fake vice president announcements on Twitter. I did Obama VP picks yesterday and McCain picks today. And let me tell you, I had way too much fun.

Fake Barack Obama VP Picks:

I know people say Obama needs to beef up his foreign experience & military credentials, but picking Cobra Commander as a VP?!

I can’t believe Obama picked Clinton—Bill Clinton—as VP! First black presidential candidate picks first black president as VP.

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What Happens When We Get a Referral?

I haven’t talked about our adoption in a while, mainly because things haven’t changed. We’re still waiting for a referral. Though it occurs to me that a lot of people don’t know what that means. A referral is basically when our agency matches us with a child to adopt from Ethiopia. The entire rest of our adoption process is waiting for that referral. Here’s what the referral process looks like:

  • Our agency receives a profile of a child by e-mail.
  • They review the information and look to the next family on the waiting list open to that child’s age, gender, background and medical condition (we’re open to a child or siblings under 12 months old of either gender).
  • Our social worker will contact us by phone with the referral information (which is why we’re a little jumpy when the phone rings).
  • Referral information is forwarded by e-mail (this includes the name, photo, age, gender, background and medical history).
  • Families are strongly encouraged to have the referral information reviewed by an international adoption clinic or pediatrician with experience reviewing child referrals from Ethiopia. A review by at least a pediatrician is actually required before we can accept the referral.
  • We need to report back to our agency regarding acceptance within one week of receiving the referral; this timeframe is flexible if there are pending medical questions.
  • Family notifies their specialist of acceptance and completes acceptance paperwork.
  • Specialist notifies Ethiopia of acceptance.
  • Ethiopia pairs the family’s translated dossier with the child’s referral information and submits to court.

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How Not to Market the Ford Flex

Business Week has an interesting article about Ford’s new marketing czar, Jim Farley. Ford has effectively been having an identity crisis the past few years, struggling to sell cars while it has a reputation for selling trucks and SUVs. The solution so far doesn’t seem especially brilliant, but it’s certainly not bad. Initial ideas include getting dealer input and feedback on marketing campaigns and having strict control over the branding of each model.

Who knows if this will help Ford after their recent $8.7 billion (with a b) loss, though I’m pretty sure marketing alone isn’t going to cut it. Especially if this is what they come up with for their new seven-passenger crossover/SUV, the Flex:

The Flex is supposed to be a hip urban vehicle that Ford hopes will attract people for its design aesthetic rather than utility. At Farley’s urging, the team honed the Flex brand mission from a page, to a paragraph, and then to one sentence: “For people in search of stimulation.”

[Flex product manager Usha] Raghavachari’s brand book instructs dealers and ad makers that the Flex will never be shown with picnicking families, beach volleyball games, or dogs. No mentions of cup holders. “We can’t have this turn into a dog-drool minivan, but it might if we don’t exercise discipline,” says [CEO of Team Detroit, Ford’s ad agency, George] Rogers. All photography of the Flex was shot at night to drive home the nocturnally hip, ready-to-go-clubbing image Ford is aiming for.

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