Monday, April 24, 2017

Are you now, or have you ever been....

If you're not watching the elections in France, it's time to think of yourself as an ostrich and behave accordingly.

It's not as if so goes France, so goes the world, but it's probably not a bad idea to listen to their political rhetoric. Sure, lots of pundits are saying she can't/won't win, but hey, they said the same thing about our current Toddler-in-Chief.  If you don't know what the National Front stands for, maybe you should go read something about it. You might change your mind about being an ostrich after that. And France is not alone. Other European countries are putting forward right-wing candidates who are increasingly brave about their isolationist and nationalist goals. Needless to say, non-Christians need not apply.

We can make jokes about our government, but to not take what it's doing seriously is at our own peril. And you have to look at government from the town on up to the White House. You have to watch it all. 

Let me share this about Minnesota. Marc Dayton is our DFL governor, having followed the Republican Tim Pawlenty who believed vociferously that civil rights were not for everyone. Dayton took over, and things started happening in this state. We have a surplus. Our business climate is one of the top in country. Our schools are in the top 5 states. Wisconsin is run by the GOP nut-ball Scott Walker. (Speaker Paul Ryan is one of their congressclowns.) Iowa is run by Republican Terry Branstad (Chuck Grassley and that brainiac Joni Ernst are their senators.) Here is the border battle as laid out by Joe Atkins, my former state house representative, now Dakota County Commissioner. 

This is what happens when a Democrat runs the show even with a Republican legislature:
I recently posted a comparison between Wisconsin with Minnesota, using only documented figures and rankings. A couple Iowa friends suggested both Minnesota and Wisconsin would pale in comparison to the Hawkeye State. So I checked. Below are the results.

TAXES. For 2017, an average family with a median annual income of $54,286 would pay $7,384 in state and local taxes in Wisconsin, $6,968 in Iowa,and $6,291 in Minnesota. Source:

PROPERTY TAXES. Minnesota residents pay $2,110 in property taxes on a $180,000 home. Iowa residents pay $2,649 on the same-priced home. Wisconsin residents still take the prize for the highest property taxes; they pay $3,499 on the same $180,000 home. The average household in Dakota County pays $1414 less in property taxes than a family in Wisconsin, $564 less than a family in Iowa, and $461 less in property taxes than the Twin Cities metro average. Source:

WAGES. A worker in Iowa earns an average annual wage of $43,540, while a Wisconsin worker earns an average annual wage of $45,240, and a worker in Minnesota earns an average wage of $51,320. Dakota County residents earn an average annual wage of $51,532. Source:

JOB GROWTH. Wisconsin businesses added 28,900 jobs in 2016, more than four times the 6,700 jobs added in Iowa, but 42% behind the private-sector job growth in Minnesota, where businesses adding 41,200 jobs in 2016. Source: 

BEST STATE FOR BUSINESS. Minnesota ranks as the 4th best state for business, with Iowa coming in 9th. Wisconsin ranks 23rd. Source:

FORTUNE 500 COMPANIES. Minnesota is home to 17 Fortune 500 companies. Wisconsin has 10. Iowa has three. Minnesota is also home to the world's largest privately-owned company: Cargill. Dakota County serves as headquarters for one Fortune 500 company - CHS in Inver Grove Heights - which is #84 on the list with $34.6 billion in annual revenues. Source:

STATE BUDGET. Wisconsin's state government has a $1.7 billion budget deficit. Iowa state government has a $131 million deficit. Minnesota's state government has a $1.65 billion surplus.

DEBT. The State of Minnesota's debt equals $2,982 per resident, while the State of Wisconsin's debt equals $3,933 per resident. The State of Iowa’s debt is $2,082 per resident. Source: Dakota County has zero debt, which is unusual in Minnesota and across the country.

BEER CONSUMPTION. Wisconsinites annually consume 38.2 gallons of beer per person, placing them at #6 in the nation. Iowans consume 34.4 gallons of beer per person, raking #16 nationally, and Minnesotans bring up the rear, at 31.3 gallons of beer per person, which ties us for #25. Source:

GAS TAX. The gas tax is 15% higher in Wisconsin than in Minnesota. At 32.9 cents per gallon, Wisconsin has the 12th highest gas tax in the nation. Minnesota’s gas tax is 28.6 cents per gallon, ranking #25 in the country. Iowa is in between at 32.0 cents per gallon, ranking 14th highest in the country. 

MURDERS. There were 165 murders in Wisconsin in 2016. Minnesota had 88 and Iowa had 60. Source:

FARM PRODUCTION. With $20.2 billion in farm production, Minnesota ranks #5 nationally. Wisconsin farmers come in at #9, with $12.5 billion in production. Iowa leads the way, with $32.1 billion in production, which is second only to California. Dakota County farmers held their own among Minnesota's yield-leading counties in bushels per acre of oats, corn and soybeans.Sources: ID=49642 and

SOCIAL SECURITY. Wisconsin and Iowa do not tax Social Security income. Minnesota is one of 13 states that still does. The legislature is currently considering a proposal to reduce or eliminate this.

QUALITY OF LIFE. Wisconsin ranks 15th. Iowa is 9th. Minnesota is 2nd. Minnesota was narrowly edged out by Hawaii for the top spot. Source:

CHEESE. Wisconsin farmers make 2.8 million pounds of cheese annually, earning them the #1 ranking in the nation, while Minnesota ranks #6 and Iowa is 9th. Wisconsin was second only to California in milk production, with Minnesota ranking #9 and Iowa well back. Notably, MN Milk recently named the Otte Family of Dakota County its Milk Producer of the Year. Sources: and

AARON RODGERS. The Packers have one. The Vikings don't. And Iowa has a guy named Eric Mueller who looks like Aaron Rodgers.

LIFE EXPECTANCY. Hawaiians rank #1 with an average life expectancy of 81.3 years, with Minnesotans coming in second at 81.1 years, Wisconsinites 11th at an even 80.0 years, and Iowans 16th at 79.7 years. In Dakota County, life expectancy is 83.6 years. Sources: and

EDUCATION. Wisconsin ranks #11; Iowans are #17; and Minnesota is #2. In states where at least half of all students take the ACT, Minnesota ranks #1. In Dakota County, seven high schools were named to Minnesota's 50 Best High Schools list: Rosemount, Eagan, Simley, South St. Paul, Sibley, Eastview and Apple Valley. Sources: and

With lots of family and friends in both Wisconsin and Iowa, I wish our neighbors to the east and south nothing but the best. Except when their teams play ours.

It's not that Dayton's a charismatic governor...far from it. He's a total nerd, a lousy speaker, and kinda frail....but he knows how to run the state in spite of some of the asshole politics that go on in the legislature. If you want to see a state that works, look at us. Not saying it's all perfect because it's not. The IR is always trying to short change the Minnesota National Guard. Dayton did not take kindly to that. His response was lovely:
It’s ridiculous and wrong that, despite a healthy state budget surplus, Republican legislators want to cut funds for services to our veterans and for the Minnesota National Guard.                    
                                          Governor Mark Dayton, April 21, 2017      
When our elected representatives put the good and welfare of this nation's citizenry first, last, and in the middle, we can begin to live up to our own expectations. But throwing the working poor under the bus is not a way to start. Cutting arts out of the budget is not the way to start. Slashing funding for medical research is not the way to start. Claiming the climate change is pseudoscience is not a way to start. Telling coal miners you are bringing their job back is not a way to start. 

So if you think doing the ostrich thing instead of paying attention to what's happening in Washington, in France, in North Korea, in Syria, or Afghanistan, or the UK, or Somalia is okay because you're are not impacted directly by the multitude of issues facing those people.....guess again. Not paying attention is like crossing the street. You can get run over.

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week:
If you missed INDEPENDENT LENS: THE LAST LAUGH tonight, watch it. 

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Beware the Ides of April

I cannot keep up with the current administration's constant changes. It's like trying to stay on top of an overtired toddler's mood swings. 

That said, those changes worry me the same way. The recent spate of bombings scare the skin right off my neck. Not that I don't think someone should glass over Assad's palace in the new future, I just don't  think it's good foreign policy for the US. And dropping the "mother of all bombs" on Afghanistan? Nope. This was clearly a dick thing, and tootsie-dick needs to get over his lack of sizable male equipment. 

The current administration talks about chopping ridiculous spending by congress when it cuts out funds for medical research and children's television...well, folks, budgeting begins at home. The cost of chaperoning the First Family is over-the-moon expensive and for what? Let's not even talk about the weekend jaunts to Mar-A-What's-It-Called. How about underwriting his kids' jaunts overseas or skiing in Vail? Do you have any idea what this is costing We, the People? 

Each round-trip on Air Force One costs us $700,000. That's just the airfare. The GAO estimates each trip to Florida cost about $3,000,000. One receipt was for secret-service golf cart rentals: $35,185.00. Seven trips to Florida and we're talkin' about real money: $21,000,000. 

Should I even mention the $127,000 to $146,000 per day it's costing the NYPD to protect Mellie and Baron in their gilded tower?

No wonder this administration wants to cut funding for the arts, public broadcasting, and education...all things that  benefit We, the People, and not the new thems? 

For the sake of comparison, over two terms..that's 8 years....the previous administration racked up a total of $97,000,000...including all those pesky G-type conferences heads-of-state are supposed to attend. ....or about $12,125,000 per year...not quite half of what this family spent in 3 months

But the money this guy is spending isn't going for global conferences or summit meetings. It's paying for vacay. 

And this is okay with you?

Yesterday, the Ides of April, also known as Tax-Day in the US, the sitting president was doing just that....sitting in Florida. Outside, there were very simple, very civil protests asking the goniff-in-chief to produce his tax returns. This bullshit about being unable to release them because of an audit is still bullshit and everyone knows it.

These are not stock photos; these were taken by my friend Artie who is a retired from being director and chief-of-staff of the ITU, a UN Specialized Agency. This guy knows his stuff. The most mild-mannered human on the planet is out there protesting. Of course, you don't know Artie, but I do and that he is out there on the picket line tells me volumes. And I'm telling you that his being out there should be telling you the same thing: something stinks. And if you want to get to the bottom of the offal heap....follow the money.

This is no longer about partisan politics or Democrat vs Republican. This is about damage to the very core of We, the People, and our nation. Look around, folks. This is our worst nightmare..and it is our presumed future. 

Make up your own minds. 

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Hope for the best; prepare for the worst.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Old Story, New Audience

I'm about 99% Pesadik as I write this. The other 1% is my dining room floor which I will do as soon as I hit the "go" button. But the kitchen is done, and while it doesn't have the old familiar feel of my old kitchen, this is, even though I actually moved into the house Pesadik last year, a fresh start, a new beginning. 

That's what Passover is about...starting over. Whether or not you buy into the mythology of Passover, there are some things to take away from the experience. Like cleaning your kitchen. If the expiry date is 2013, throw it away. If the Moroccan tangine pot you bought for that North African dinner party you didn't throw in 1989 still has the tag attached, you might want to get rid of it. But if you find yourself cradling Grandma's chrain jar and checking to see if it still has a whiff of horseradish, you might want to hang on to that one. Passover tells a very old story to a new audience every year. 
The more one tells of the departure from Egypt, the more one is to be praised.                                                                                     any Haggadah
Of course, this has become a metaphor for whatever you want it to be. The seder plate that once held a roasted egg, a roasted lamb's shank bone, parsley, bitter herbs, and the mortar-like charoset now can also have an orange, an olive, a tangerine in sections, and newest of all, a banana. Each one is a metaphor:
  • the orange = the inclusion of women
  • the olive = peace offering, like an olive branch, for the Middle East
  • the tangerine = the inclusion of the entire LGBT community
  • the banana = the plight of refugees from all over the globe. 
Different people add different things to represent pieces of more recent stories of struggle. 

If the point of the holiday is to spur discussion, then there is a plethora of Haggadot for the occasion. This year, there's a HAMILTON HAGGADAH and a HOGWARTS HAGADDAH. This is not a new phenomenon. For a couple of millennium, people have been adding and subtracting from the text. The oldest known Haggadah is from about 1000 C.E. and was found in the Cairo Genizah. Like the rest of Judaism, the story of the departure from Egypt is fluid in the telling with each generation adding, embellishing, and even subtracting from the text.

2nd seder - ready to go
In olden days, I was much more stringent about my preparations for Pesach. Ziggy used to say I was being machmir, and not in a good way. Anytime he used the word machmir, I knew he was thinking borderline crazy. Most of the time he humored me, but there were moments I could see he was getting ready to yell, "GENUG! Enough already!" in a way only a mid-western guy who grew up in a not-Jewish household could possibly yell, "GENUG!" It used to just crack me up and I would keep on doing whatever it was I was covering all the laminate counters with plastic sheets. (Ah, the joys of granite counters! No more plastic!) I find I buy less and less packaged food, and more raw ingredients. I have jumped off the kitniyot cliff and may actually use rice this year. Quinoa fer sure, but that's not kitniyot anyway. Neither is wild rice. And if that is not change enough, I will be hosting second seder night here ...and it will be vegetarian. 

I keep a kosher home and always will. I'm wired that way; it's the only way I know how to run a kitchen. And I don't mind. I have to think before I buy, cook, or even eat. The whole purpose of kashrut, I have long suspected, is to make us do just that. THINK about what we're doing. 

Any religion that isn't making you think through daily events, tasks, and relationships isn't much of a religion. If you're not using your faith to frame what you do in relation to your relationships, your environment, your community, and the world beyond, then your religion isn't doing its job. 

If your religion tells you to hate, tells you that it's okay to elect a serial adulterer even though the bylaws say adultery is on the top-ten list of No-Nos, tells you that once the fetus is a child that child is not worth protecting, or tells you that profiting from the abuse of natural resources is more important than caring for the health and well-being of this planet, then your religion isn't doing its job. 

Religion really isn't about G-d, y'know. It's about us. It's about providing a frame through which we can view the world. And it doesn't much matter through which frame you look, as long as at the end if the day, you're leaving your campsite cleaner than you found it. If you want to be machmir in your observance, if you want to be truly religious, consider how you treat the world around you. 

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week

And if you don't like how the world around you is being treated, 
don't settle for a shrug and a "meh." 
Your voice, your presence, and your faith in something better
 is central to repairing this world

Monday, April 3, 2017

Eames Chairs, Aqua Walls, and Shitter-Twitter

Kinda like this, but darker. 
My mother passed away a year ago today....on the secular calendar. I miss her....and I am really sorry I can't tell her about the aqua wall in the kitchen. She would've loved that right into outer space. See, when we moved into the house in North Bellmore in 1958, mom insisted that the ceiling be painted aqua. She was very fashion-forward for her time. We had the aqua ceiling, a white formica round kitchen table, and aqua Eames chairs from Herman Miller. Very chic for 1958.

The aqua wall.
I am loving my new little house. I love lying on the sofa reading, a fire in the fireplace, and Classical MPR on the stereo. I love sitting at my desk in the study in my ratty writing sweatshirt with a cup of tea. I love coming down to a tidy kitchen...or if it's not tidy, well, it's my mess. And for the moment, I love being in my own little happiness bubble.

The reality is that one cannot shut out reality. It's not like I'm closing the curtains on the world. Far from it. I'm acutely aware of what is going on in Washington, DC, in Israel, in Yemen, in Afghanistan, and Korea. I watch the actions of a Toddler-in-Chief, and after having spent a full day with my two-and-a-half year old granddaughter, I can tell you with absolute certainty that Little Miss has more self-control that our sitting president. 

The other, less attractive side of the reality is that for the first time since, oh, probably 5th grade, I'm worried about nuclear attack. Not necessarily an attack on the US, but the US committing one. I'm not so sure we have the right safeguards in place to stop our side from launching a preemptive strike. And I'm not convinced that Kim Jung-Un isn't exactly incapable of launching a nuclear missile. It doesn't have to reach a target to be destructive; it just has to explode in the jet-stream. 

You think I'm being wacko? Guess again. During the age of nuclear-testing-without-too-much-forethought, there was something called the Baneberry Test on December 18th, 1970. This little event was supposed to be 900 feet underground, but managed to shoot up a radioactive plume of 80,000 curies of iodine-131 into the jet stream. Locally, 86 workers were exposed to high levels of radiation, but it was the radioactive snow that fell in California several weeks later that was really unexpected. 

These are not toys, but the people in the West Wing seem to think this is some kind of game of chicken. In an interview with Financial Times released on April 2, 2017 there was a whole lotta sabre rattling:
Q: You are the master of ‘the art of the deal’ . . . can you cut a deal with Xi Jinping when you see him in Mar-a-Lago? 
A: I have great respect for him. I have great respect for China. I would not be at all surprised if we did something that would be very dramatic and good for both countries and I hope so. 
[Please to be recalling this is the same guy who called China "currency manipulators."]

Q: Are you going to talk about North Korea and a way forward there?

A: Yes, we will talk about North Korea. And China has great influence over North Korea. And China will either decide to help us with North Korea, or they won’t. And if they do that will be very good for China, and if they don’t it won’t be good for anyone. What is the incentive? I think trade is the incentive. It is all about trade.  How do you bring China’s trade surplus down quickly? By telling China that we cannot continue to trade if we are going to have an unfair deal like we have right now. This is an unfair deal. Are you going to equalise tariffs? I don’t want to talk about tariffs yet, perhaps the next time we meet. So I don’t want to talk about tariffs yet. But you used the word equalise. That is a very good word because they are not equalised. If you used a word other than tariff, it is not an equal. You know when you talk about, when you talk about currency manipulation, when you talk about devaluations, they are world champions. And our country hasn’t had a clue, they haven’t had a clue. The past administration hasn’t had and many administrations — I don’t want to say only Obama; this has gone on for many years — they haven’t had a clue. But I do.

Q: How ambitious do you want to be with China? Could we see a grand bargain that solves North Korea, takes American troops off the Korean peninsula and really changes the landscape out there? 

A: Well, if China is not going to solve North Korea, we will. That is all I am telling you. And do you think you can solve it without China’s help? Totally.  One on one? I don’t have to say any more. Totally.  Do you start with North Korea and talk about trade, or pivot around? I’m not going to tell you. You know, I am not the United States of the past where we tell you where we are going to hit in the Middle East. Where they say — I used it in the speeches — ‘We will be attacking Mosul in four months’. A month later, ‘We will be attacking Mosul in three months, in two months, in one month’. And why are they talking? There is no reason to talk. 
And as if the idiocy on China was not enough, praise of Egypt's President Sisi today was unquestionably strange. Our feckless leader said, 
“We agree on so many things, I just want to let everybody know, in case there was any doubt, that we are very much behind President el-Sisi. He’s done a fantastic job in a very difficult situation. We are very much behind Egypt and the people of Egypt, and the United States has, believe me, backing and we have strong backing.”
Some fantastic job. I guess human rights don't count for much in Dictatorland. 

And that's what scares me. Someone suggested we should prepare for a major terrorist attack here, if for no other reason than the administration needs one to shore up its position on homeland security. On the other hand, the latest shitter-twitter is mostly about Hillary Clinton:


Doesn't he have something better to do, like learning to read or developing his 4th-grade level vocabulary? Does he actually think he sounds intelligent sitting on the can shooting this stuff out along with his flatulence? 

Makes me wanna re-post Charles Durning doing "Sidestep" just one more time. Frankly, I suspect it's their theme song. 

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Getting ready for Passover? 
No matter what your level of observance,  take a moment to think about 
what you would take if you were forced to leave your home.
This is not a test.