Economics, Minnesota, Politics, USA

Single-payer healthcare in the state of Minnesota

Constitutionally speaking, Americans do not have a right to healthcare.  We have a right to free speech, a right to bear arms, a right to freely practice religion or to be free from religious practice, but we do not have a constitutional right to be cared for when we are sick. Supporters of a single-payer system, myself being one of them, are hoping to change that.

health-care-is-not-a-right-it-is-a-service.png

Legislation creating a single-payer healthcare system, aka “universal healthcare”, aka “Medicare for all”, would not change the Constitution, but it would guarantee all Americans publicly funded access to core medical services.  Obamacare is not an example of this system, but it is perhaps a move in that direction, in the sense that it uses the federal government as a tool to get healthcare in the hands of people that the private market had previously left behind.

Unfortunately, the American Healthcare Act, supported by Trump and currently being considered by the Republican-controlled Congress, threatens to undo a lot of that progress.  Needless to say, this is a pretty disheartening development for single-payer advocates who had viewed Obamacare as a significant step towards their ultimate goal.  That’s why Minnesotan supporters of a single-payer system should turn their attention away from Washington and towards creating a single-payer system here in Minnesota.

In the United States, our federalist system of government grants significant leeway to its semi-sovereign states in controlling their own affairs.  In terms of power, state governments may be inferior to the federal government, but they are not necessarily subordinate to it.  This means that, in the case of healthcare, even though conservative legislators in Washington are fighting for further privatization, progressive state legislators can still fight to enact something more public within their borders.  Even though the American Healthcare Act may have dire consequences for the poor, old, unlucky and underprivileged in other U.S. states, that doesn’t have to be the case for anyone in the state of Minnesota.

Trying to pass single-payer legislation at the state level would be an enormous challenge.  Aside from the politics, the practicality of such a system is pretty daunting.  First and foremost is the cost.  In California, the most recent state to seriously consider a single-payer system, a legislative analysis estimated a $400 billion per year price tag.  That is more than double the entire state budget proposed for next year.

la-pol-g-sac-single-payer-explaner-requirements.jpg

And what about the system that we already have in place?  As one write-up put it, a single-payer system “may be what any sane and progressive community would adopt if it was creating a health-care system from scratch,” but that is obviously not the case here in the U.S.  The massive systemic overhaul that it would take to transition from the entangled clusterfuck of deductibles and co-pays to a system in which the state government replaces insurance companies, employers, out-of-pocket patients, and the federal government as the “single payer” is head-spinning to say the least.

f2003c0e9dc2fe0b48d3dfa52ec45534

99ea0faa1f729210107854bd64c82edf.jpg

And then there are the criticisms that we always hear of single-payer systems—the longer lines, the lower quality, and the lack of responsibility shown by citizens once they get start to get something for “free”.  Some of the criticisms may be exaggerated, but in spite of whatever benefits a single-payer system might bring, I don’t think that there is any doubt that, at least for some patients, these problems would become a reality.

10320529_524758634320467_6263646972644199911_n.jpg

But in order to be a success, a single-payer system doesn’t need to be perfect.  It just needs to be better than what we currently got.

A single-payer system would be expensive, but the U.S. already pays more for healthcare than any other country in the world, including the myriad of countries that have already adopted single-payer systems.  Even though the California proposal has a price tag of $400 billion, Californians already paid $367 billion for healthcare in 2016, and that doesn’t include the nearly 3 million uninsured residents that didn’t receive coverage, but would under the state plan.  The real difference would be that, rather than paying a for-profit middleman like the private insurance and pharmaceutical companies that currently rake in all those dollars, Californians would be paying the government via taxes.  And while those estimated costs still leave the price tag of single-payer significantly higher ($33 billion according to the estimates), it would also provide core medical services to EVERYONE.

Single+Payer+Map.jpg

With everyone being eligible to receive government-sponsored medical care, it would not be surprising to find lines that are a little longer or care that is of slightly lower quality for those accustomed to having the most prestigious of plans.  But if this is the case, then the only reason that those lines were so short in the first place is because some people were not allowed to wait in them, and I’m not okay with that.  Plus, one would imagine that, even under a single-payer system, the economically empowered would still be able to use their financial wherewithal to purchase goods and services not accessible to most.

Implementing a single-payer system of healthcare in Minnesota would not be easy.  Even if the political will were there, inevitable setbacks and complications would surely make the transition process a frustrating one for many.  I don’t know if it would be best to try to implement that system in one fell swoop or in a series of steps, but I do know that these are the types of discussions that should be taking place in the halls of the Minnesota State Capitol.

States are the laboratories of democracy, and Minnesota should be the first to experiment with single-payer healthcare at the state level.  Minnesota may not be the economic powerhouse that California is, but smaller populations than us have made single-payer work, so there’s no reason that we can’t too.  If we can be successful in this endeavor—successful in building a workable, government-funded system that provides quality healthcare to all its citizens—then perhaps Minnesota can serve as a model to other states, and eventually, the federal government.  Healthcare is not a right in the United States, but in Minnesota, it can be and it should be.  We just need to make it happen.

singlepayer_300

Follow me on Twitter!!!

Standard
Minnesota, Race, USA

The killing of Philando Castile and the acquittal of Jeronimo Yanez

Jeronimo Yanez and I attended the same university at the same time.  I don’t recall ever meeting him, but we ran with a similar group of friends.  They tell me that Yanez was a good guy—nice, friendly, hardly the monster that many have made him out to be following his deadly encounter with Philando Castile last July.

Nothing I’ve seen over the past year has done anything to make me think otherwise.  Even after watching that horrifying dashcam video in which Yanez pumps seven fatal rounds into the front seat of Castile’s car, I still find him to be a sympathetic figure.  The video hardly portrays a vicious executioner.  The guy’s nervous, he panics, and in the process, he makes the gravest mistake of his life.  It’s obvious that he feels terrible, both then and now, and I feel sorry for him.  But that sympathy isn’t enough to prevent me from adding my voice to the overwhelming chorus who feel that, in the case of State of Minnesota v. Jeronimo Yanez, justice was not served.

I think it’s worth highlighting that Yanez was not being charged with murder.  He was being charged with manslaughter—second degree manslaughter to be exact.  This reflects the notion that we as a society lend police officers a certain amount of leeway not provided to ordinary citizens when it comes to the use of lethal force.  We recognize that police officers perform a difficult and dangerous job in which snap decisions are often necessary, and can make the difference between whether or not an officer lives or dies.

However, when I watch that dashcam video, the definition of second degree manslaughter is exactly what I see. Words like “negligence,” “unreasonable,” and “endangerment,” seem to perfectly describe Yanez’s actions.  He may not have murdered Castile in cold blood, but based on what I’m reading, he still appears criminally culpable for Castile’s death.

But the video admittedly does not provide the whole story.  Despite all the disturbing images that we can see through the lenses of the squad car and Diamond Reynold’s cell phone, we still can’t see exactly what’s happening inside of the car prior to the shooting.  Perhaps this is the primary reason that the jury chose not to convict.  In our justice system, the burden of proof lies on the prosecution, not the defense.  Even though it seems unlikely, there is no hard proof that Castile was not reaching for his gun rather than his license.  There is no hard proof that Officer Yanez did not fear for his life (and if you’ve seen the video, it seems quite likely that he did).  In the United States, the defendant is supposed to be innocent until proven guilty, and in spite of all the incriminating evidence that the prosecution presented, the jurors still obviously possessed the proverbial reasonable doubt.  That doesn’t necessarily mean that they believed Yanez to be “innocent,” it just means they didn’t feel that they had enough to send him to prison.

This case is unique, and should be treated as such.  What we think about the case should be influenced by the details of this case and this case alone, not by what has or has not happened in similar cases in the recent past.  That said, this case is also so emblematic of the systemic issues inherent in the way that we do criminal justice in this country, that it’s easy to see why people are so quick to make that jump.   From the fact that a black man was pulled over for his resemblance of a suspect in another crime (a.k.a. “driving while black”), to the careful compliance exhibited by the black occupants of the car as they talked to the police (in Reynolds case, even AFTER her boyfriend was shot), to the ultimate acquittal of the officer (are black people innocent until proven guilty?), this case just seems to be such an example of the experience of black people when they come into contact with the criminal justice system and those who administer it.  As one write-up put it, “the system worked as it was designed, it was not built to protect black lives.”  I’m not sure if I agree with everything that that statement implies, but I understand why a black person might.

Even if Yanez had been convicted, that verdict would have given me no pleasure.  This is a disgusting situation in which even “justice” is no real remedy.  As one juror put it, “nobody was ok with it”—nobody was ok with the pain and suffering that will plague each member of the Castile family for the rest of their lives, nor the guilt and regret that Yanez will carry with him for the rest of his.  Yet that juror still chose not to convict. I was not in that court room.  Maybe, legally speaking, acquittal was the right call.  But if this case is not an example of injustice perpetrated by a police officer against a black man, then what in the hell is?

 

 

Follow me on Twitter!!!

Standard
History, Minnesota, Politics, Race, USA

The Walker Art Center and the “Scaffold” Controversy

Social justice-centered censorship is sweeping the nation, and this past week, Minneapolis became the temporary epicenter.  The controversy stems from a piece of art that was set to debut at the grand reopening of the Walker Art Center Sculpture Garden later this month.  The piece known as Scaffold is intended to represent a commentary on the use and abuse of capital punishment throughout the history of the United States.  Part of that commentary includes a reconstruction of the gallows used in Mankato, Minnesota, during the 1862 hanging of the Dakota 38—the largest mass execution in U.S. history.

dakota-38-mankato-massacre.jpg

The Scaffold structure has been met with massive resistance from both Native and non-Native peoples alike. That resistance came to a dramatic culmination on Wednesday afternoon with the joint decision to dismantle and burn the structure in a ceremony led by Dakota Spiritual Leaders and Elders. But while Scaffold’s run has ended before it ever really began, the conversation that is taking place in the Twin Cities and around the country is just getting started, and I personally am still trying to figure out where on these issues I stand.

Although artist Sam Durant intended Scaffold to be an awareness generating piece about the historic plight of Native populations, I understand the concerns about the unintended messages that the piece may also convey.  Chief amongst these is the structure’s location in the Walker Sculpture Garden—a less than solemn place with frolicking couples and children, mini golf, and a giant rooster and a cherry.  As one write-up puts it, “context matters,” and the context of the Walker Sculpture Garden may contribute to the trivialization of one of our State’s gravest injustices.

Another concern is the neglect of Native voices in the retelling of a story that is particularly impactful to indigenous people in this part of the country.  Sam Durant is a white guy from L.A., and while he has collaborated with Native groups in the past, this project was completed without any attempts at outreach to the Dakota peoples who the project is about. What is more, while in negotiations to obtain Scaffold, the Walker Art Center never reached out to Dakota groups in the community, which in hindsight, should have been a no-brainer considering the gruesome nature of the project and its intimate ties to that tribe’s history.

But all that said, I also understand a lot of the resistance to the resistance of the soon-to-be-burned structure.  Scaffold is a lot of things, but I don’t think it’s an example of genocide opportunism. A reading of Sam Durant’s near instant apology can quickly punch holes in that accusation.  The project’s actual intention was “to speak against the continued marginalization of these stories and people, and to build awareness around their significance.”  Misguided methods? Perhaps. But after reading the letter in full, Durant hardly seems like the kind of a guy seeking to exploit tragedy for personal gain.  Even the highly criticized “jungle gym” component of the project stems from a thoughtful albeit questionable attempt to comment on the school-to-prison pipeline phenomenon so prevalent in communities of color today.

I also have to say that I got some respect for a fellow white guy doing his darndest to challenge oppression and privilege in the world, especially when he doesn’t have to.  As a member of the most dominant group in almost every major demographic category, guys like Durant don’t need to tackle injustice, because on a systemic level, they probably don’t often face it.  I’m not trying to paint Durant as a hero, and that kind of observation may sound tone deaf considering the gravity of the issue at hand, but that doesn’t make it any less true.  Perhaps it’s also that ignorance to experienced oppression that leads to the blundering nature in which guys like Durant (and myself) try to address said oppression, no matter how pure his (my) intentions might be.  But while it’s not always the thought that counts, the thought still counts for something, and what Durant is doing is exactly what us white guys are supposed to do in fighting oppression and dismantling our own privilege—starting conversations in our communities, with our people, and trying to create change.

Cultural appropriation is often a term that gets tossed around to describe artists like Durant who try to tell stories that aren’t theirs to tell. But while misappropriation is certainly a thing, and perhaps applicable here, there also seems to have been a societal shift in what we define as tasteless or insensitive appropriation of someone else’s culture. Bob Dylan sang songs about both Emmett Till and Rubin Carter in the 60s and 70s, and I’ve yet to find an article that condemns him as a “racism opportunist.” On the contrary, Dylan is constantly recognized as an American civil rights hero who used his art to draw attention to repressed and silenced voices, even if the experiences of those voices were a far cry from his own.

08-10038904309WALKER052717+.jpg

Sam Durant is no Bob Dylan. Even if he thought that he was, he knows differently now:

“I made Scaffold as a learning space for people like me, white people who have not suffered the effects of a white supremacist society and who may not consciously know that it exists …However, your protests have shown me that I made a grave miscalculation in how my work can be received by those in a particular community. In focusing on my position as a white artist making work for that audience I failed to understand what the inclusion of the Dakota 38 in the sculpture could mean for Dakota people.”

Hopefully Durant has learned from this experience as much as his statement seems to suggest.  Hopefully he remains encouraged, and continues to try use his position of power and influence to do good in the world. If there is any solace he can take from this catastrophe, it’s that his project still accomplished its intended goal—it started a conversation. It’s not exactly the conversation that he intended, but it’s an important conversation nonetheless, and no matter what side of the issue you’re on, or what your ethnic background is, or what your beliefs are regarding the myriad of –isms at play, there is understanding to be gained for those willing to listen and learn, especially considering the fact that no one in this conversation seems to disagree that injustice is something that we need to address.  If nothing else, Sam, thanks for that.

 

Recommended viewing to learn about the Dakota 38:

 

Follow me on Twitter!!!

Standard
Education, Minnesota

The Disbandment of the Forest Lake Police Department and Student Resistance

I’m home sick from school today.  It is the first sick day that I have taken on a school day in my three-year career as a secondary teacher with Forest Lake Area Schools.  I threw up in a garbage can after 5th hour yesterday, so you know it’s legit!  But even in my sickly, sofa-ridden state, I cannot help but feel moved and inspired by what is taking place in the school and community in which I teach.

The events I refer to started back in January, when Forest Lake Mayor, Ben Winnick, first floated the idea of disbanding the Forest Lake Police Department.  To take its place, Winnick proposed a cost-saving measure that would switch the city’s law enforcement services to the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, potentially saving the city more than $300,000 annually.  The switch would also cost 23 Forest Lake police officers their jobs.

The idea was met with strong resistance from the community—resistance that last week culminated in a flurry of emergency meetings in which dozens of Forest Lake community members (high school students included) aired their grievances about the proposal.  The final meeting took place Monday night, when the Forest Lake City Council voted 3-2 to approve the contract with Washington County Sheriff’s Office, effectively disbanding the police department of the city of Forest Lake.

 Resistance only escalated from there.  At 1:15 on Tuesday afternoon, as many as 1,000 students walked out of Forest Lake High School, and went on to march all the way to City Hall in a show of support for their police officers.  While Monday’s vote was an ominous one for FLPD supporters, the decision ultimately needs to be approved by Washington Country, lending the protesters hope that further action can still halt this unpopular decision from taking root in their community.

Forest Lake High School did not sanction the students’ actions.  Students who chose to walkout should have been marked with unexcused absences and will be responsible to make up whatever learning they missed.  In my opinion, that’s what gave this protest teeth. Student willingness to stand up for what they believe to be right, in spite of whatever consequences they might face from their school and/or parents, provides a powerful undercurrent to Tuesday’s actions.  Cancelled classes and signed parental permission forms would have turned Tuesday into less of a walkout and more of a field trip, and field trips usually don’t create social change.

What is more, it is not the school’s place to take a stance on this issue.  The school expressed its support for the free speech rights of its student body, and that was all that it should have done. Certainly every one of us educators has an opinion on the issue at hand, but as one of my students put it, regardless of what our own personal opinions may be, we live in a democracy, and on this issue, it appears that the people have spoken.

As a teacher, I could not feel more proud of the student leaders who are so effectively using their voices to stand up for what they believe in.  Even if their quest proves to be unsuccessful, I hope that this experience leaves them feeling empowered, and that it encourages them to continue to act as the agents of change that they are proving to be, in Forest Lake, in Minnesota, in Washington, and in the world.

Tomorrow I will return to work and rejoin the student body who, during a difficult stretch of the year, have reminded me how special it can be to teach high school students—guiding them as they find their voice and identity in the world.  More than anything else, that is what us teachers are hoping to cultivate, and in the case of many of yesterday’s class-ditchers, it appears that, to at least a certain degree, our school is succeeding.

*          *          *          *          *

Note: The opinions expressed in this piece are my own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Forest Lake Area Schools or anyone else associated with the district.

we love our cops

Follow me on Twitter!!!

Standard
Minnesota, Sports

Why Vikings fans are better than Packers fans

The regular season christening of U.S. Bank Stadium is finally upon us, and the opening opponent couldn’t be bigger. This Sunday, the much-reviled Green Bay Packers will make their way to Minneapolis to take on the hometown Minnesota Vikings in a Week 2 matchup of long time division rivals. Purple people like myself have been waiting a while for this moment. The stadium is an awe-inspiring architectural feat, and while I’m not crazy about how the politics went down, I can’t deny my giddiness towards the finished product. And with a football club that looks ready to take the next step, what better way would there be to break in the new building than kicking the crap out of my all-time least favorite team.

Annoying Packer fans will surely be looking to spoil it for us. Twin Cities-based Cheeseheads have most assuredly swept up their fair share of the tickets, and with a fanbase that travels as well as any team in the league, there is no doubt that plenty of lifelong Wisconsinites will be waddling their way into the stadium as well. If things don’t go the Vikes’ way, which would be less than surprising, “Go Pack Go” chants could very well become distressingly audible through our television set speakers.

This is why the Green & Gold believe themselves to be the greatest fans in all of sports. Their passion and loyalty is difficult to match, especially when it comes to an organization as unfortunate and undecorated as the Minnesota Vikings. But despite outward appearances and all the success and accolades that the Green Bay Packers have amassed on the Vikes, one thing that they don’t have is better fans, and they never will. Here’s why:

Let me start with a concession: The Green Bay Packers are the greatest football franchise of all time. I don’t want that statement to be true, but it probably is. This is Title Town we are talking about after all—home of thirteen NFL championships, four of which were Super Bowls.

Even when they’re not winning titles in Green Bay, they are still winning football games. The Packers are the third winningest team in NFL history, an unsurprising stat for anyone that has been watching football for the past couple of decades. Twenty-two of the Pack’s last twenty-four seasons have resulted in .500 football or better. For Vikings fans my age, that means that the Packers have been winning basically our entire lives.

And winning aside, the team itself is just fucking cool. They are the only professional sports franchise that I can think of that is both named after and located in suburban America—a refreshing phenomenon for those of us who didn’t grow up in one of America’s thriving metropolises. What is more, that suburb owns them. Their system of public ownership is one of the most unique arrangements in all of sports. The stupid certificates that they hang on their walls may be meaningless, but I’d still rather be the pretend owner of a NFL franchise than the real life bitch of a billionaire. At the end of the day, when it comes to storied franchises, there are arguably none more storied than the Green Bay Packers, even if you’re reading that story through purple lenses.

The Vikings story, on the other hand, reads more like a dark satire in which the protagonist accidentally kills himself. We’ve had some good runs, but none that have ended in anything other than epic failure. People tell me that the Vikings once went to four Super Bowls, all of which they unsurprisingly lost. Not that it matters to me anyway, considering their last visit to the big one was in 1977, nine years before I was born.

There have been times in my life where the Vikings have appeared to possess Super Bowl potential, but of course none of those years ended well either. From 1998-2009, we did make it to three NFC Championship games, but two of those ended in heartbreak so tragic that you couldn’t script it if you tried, and the other was a 41-donut blowout.

Other seasons have seen the Vikings rotate between uninspiring mediocrity and laughing-stock status, and in those seasons, us fans have seen some wild-ass shit. We’ve seen our stadium roof collapse in and our star wide receiver attempt to mow down a traffic guard.   We’ve had to learn terms like “love boat” and “Whizzinator” just to participate in team-related water-cooler conversation. We’ve witnessed two hardly believable flights down to Hattiesburg and followed the unfolding of an incredibly bizarre child abuse saga in which Adrian Peterson was at one point riding a camel. In a perverse sort of way, the Vikings have always been entertaining, but it has hardly ever been the kind of entertainment that us fans are looking for.

It is not likely that the Vikings will dramatically alter that legacy in 2016. Despite a 1-0 start, Teddy Bridgewater’s season-ending injury has already tempered expectations for what looked like a promising season. A one-time dark horse candidate for the Super Bowl, the Minnesota Vikings would now be lucky just to repeat as NFC North champions, but that seems like a tall order in a division with this year’s odds-on Super Bowl favorite. Even if next Sunday goes our way, this season, in all likelihood, ultimately will not.

The paragraphs above illustrate a lot of the reasons why Packer fans view themselves as “better.” They have a better team, better icons, better stories, better legacy…But while the success of their organization is indisputable, it is also that success that has turned Green Bay Packer fans into a bunch of spoiled little brats, brats who have zero conception of the tenacity and resilience that goes into creating better fans.

Packer fans may be as passionate and loyal as they come, but they have never had that passion or loyalty truly put to the test. I’m passionate about my team when they are winning too, but heartbreak hardens a person, especially when you experience it in the immense doses that you do when rooting for the Vikings. And how challenging is it to be loyal to a team that so regularly provides the positive reinforcement necessary for the continuance of that commitment? Live through 1998, 2009, and all the mediocre-to-terrible seasons in between, and maybe then you’ll have something to write home about.

And then there is the quarterback position, the most important position in team sports. Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers are two of the greatest quarterbacks ever to play football, and they are the only two quarterbacks that have started meaningful games for the Packers over the last twenty-plus seasons. You know how many starting quarterbacks the Vikings have had during that time? Me neither.  But I can tell you that that group includes names like Tarvaris Jackson, Christian Ponder, and two separate stints of Brad Johnson, which is really all that you need to know.

It also says a lot about why Vikings fans are the way that they are, and likewise, why Packers fans are the way that they are. Last year’s post-season is a perfect example. A week after Blair Walsh’s infamous blunder, Vikings fans, recuperating from another spirit-crushing loss, were doing what we do every post-season: hitching our wagon to another team, preferably the one that would next be playing the Green Bay Packers. Hence, we were all Cardinals fans that weekend, and vociferously voiced our new found fanship on social media as they took on the Pack in a Divisional Round showdown. Bitter after a heartbreaking loss of their own, Packer fans struck back, chastising fans of the Vikes for their shameless celebration of schadenfreude. “Don’t you have anything better to do than root against our team?” they whiningly asked. “Isn’t it pathetic that your team is so terrible that you have to get your kicks by rooting against ours?” they complained annoyingly. No, we don’t, and yes, it is, but what those Packer fans don’t understand is, as fans of the Minnesota Vikings, that’s all we’ve got. That’s all that we’ve ever had.

Packer fans do not understand that in the entire history of the Minnesota Vikings, there has never been one single year that has ended in a Viking’s celebration. Every season in the Viking’s fifty-plus years of existence has either ended with an unsuccessful regular season campaign or a painful post-season defeat. We have no legacy to hang our hats on—no Super Bowl victories to revisit. At some point in every season, rooting for, or against, other teams is literally all that we have been able to do.

Packer fans pretend that they are different—that they are the league’s shining example of sportsmanship, too pure to participate in the sadistic ritual of reveling in another team’s misfortune. But it’s easy to be a good sport when you’re sitting inside of a trophy room packed wall-to-wall with proof of past seasons’ successes. If that room were as dust-filled and depleted as that of the Viking’s, perhaps they wouldn’t be so gracious.

Being a Vikings fan, on the other hand, is not easy. Being a Vikings fan is hard. Us Vikings fans have weathered some shit. It would probably be easier for us to just pack away our purple jerseys, pick a different team or a different sport, and put an end to all of our self-inflicted misery once and for all. But what makes Vikings fans great is that we don’t do that. We’re still here, still cheering on our club, still singing the Skol song in spite of all the reasons that our team has given us not to. We’ll be there this Sunday, we’ll be there next Sunday, and we’ll be there the Sunday after that. We’ll be there next season and next decade no matter how many blown ballgames, and embarrassing controversies, and season-ending injuries we endure. That’s because we are Vikings fans. We’ve been disappointed, heartbroken, and humiliated all our lives, but we always come back for more. That’s what makes us better. That’s what makes us the best.

Someday it will all be worth it. On that fateful evening when the Vikings finally lock down that first Super Bowl championship, all that stockpiled suffering that we’ve carried with us for years will be suddenly transformed into a sensation so sweet words won’t suffice to describe it. It will be an elation that can only result from decades of misery and hardship—a feeling that a privileged Packer fan has never and could never know. For once we will have something that we can truly celebrate. For once we will have a team that we can really be proud of. For once the Minnesota Vikings, as an organization, will be as great as the fans that represent it. And if that day never comes, well, we’ll still be wearing purple.

Follow me on Twitter!!! 

Standard
Minnesota, USA

Taking on the man: A tale of two renters

Taking on the man is hard. The man has the money. The man has the power. The man built the system, and therefore, has the system always working in his favor.

Taking on the man is like a card game in which you don’t know the rules, the deck is stacked against you, and your opponent has already been playing for years. You can increase your odds of winning by studying the rulebook, but the buy-in is pretty steep, and the man is playing with house money and house odds. Sometimes, it’s just easier to not play.

deck stacked against u.jpg

But on the rare occasions when you choose to take on the man and beat him at his own game, damn does it feel good. Damn does it feel right. And every now and then, when the stars are properly aligned, that actually does happen.

My girlfriend recently took on the man. Over the past year, she and her roommate have been locked in a battle with their former landlords—a company named Minneapolis Real Estate—over a $1,500 damage deposit that came back about $1,000 short.

If you’d like a more detailed account of the whole episode, you can read it here in the statement that I wrote for their recent court case, but basically all you need to know is that my girlfriend and her roommate got totally screwed. They attempted to dispute the damages, but each effort was met by a company stiff-arm. The company rejected the letter outlining the initial disputes, they regularly and purposefully ignored phone calls, they refused to participate in conflict resolution, and on the few occasions when the girls were able to corner someone into a conversation, they were treated with the utmost condescension and rudeness.

This case looked destined to end like the majority of cases likely end between relatively powerful landlords and their relatively powerless tenants. Renters, by nature, are usually not powerful people, and landlords, as property owning elites, are. But to the girls’ credit, they persevered. Every time they reached a dead end, they got back on the highway, pulled out the roadmap, and searched for an alternative route. And when they finally arrived at small claims court earlier this week, the results proved that they had indeed reached their desired destination.

The court awarded my girlfriend and her roommate with $2,780—nearly all of the $3,070 for which they filed suit. While the money will obviously be appreciated, both the girls will tell you that the most gratifying part of the experience was the satisfaction they gained from being validated—the affirmation that they were indeed being treated unjustly, and that justice, at least in this case, was going to be served.

I’m really happy for them, but I also unfortunately doubt that most like cases have similar endings. My girlfriend and her roommate were extraordinarily organized, having spent hours on the phone and computer exploring their options, saving and copying all relevant documentation, and even gaining entry into their old apartment in order to photograph the so called “damages.” Over a nearly 12-month period, the girls put in a lot of time and endured a significant amount of stress and frustration playing out a process that never guaranteed them anything for their efforts. It would have been very easy to just give up—to take the money they were originally afforded and chalk up the lost dollars to the inevitability of being screwed by the man every now and then. Luckily, they didn’t do that, and luckily, that didn’t happen.

The man isn’t always a landlord, nor is he always man. He can be a boss or a business owner, a police officer or a politician—any person or people in a position of power who use that power to do not-nice things to the people below them on society’s totem pole. Taking on the man can be a tall order—a task in which one must tread carefully and cautiously, maintaining a healthy dose of both optimism and realism. Hopefully this story can provide some of the former to those out there engaged in their own battles with the man—inspiring them along the way to hopefully winning their fights.

Of course, there’s no shame in having to give up and living to fight another day. Not everybody has the time and resources and knowhow to take the man on in every situation, and even when they do, the man will still probably win more often than not. That’s what makes him the man, after all. But know that the man doesn’t always win. The man has his kryptonite, and that kryptonite is justice. In cases where an injustice has been done, there are means for justice to be sought. The man still cuts the deck, and usually has an ace showing, but for those with a basic understanding of the rules, a decent hand, and a willingness to play the game, don’t count yourself out too quickly. You never know, you might get lucky.

Follow me on Twitter!!! 

 

 

Standard
Minnesota, Sports

How much does it cost to watch the last place Minnesota Twins on a Tuesday night following a nearly 3-hour rain delay?

Last night, my buddies and I walked into the Freehouse, one of my favorite Minneapolis establishments, to grab some drinks and food and continue our social outing. It was a little after 10:00 PM when we arrived, which is why we were surprised to see the 2nd inning of Minnesota Twins baseball in progress up on the television. This was not a replay, but a live game taking place a few blocks away at Target Field following a rain delay due to the most epic storm to hit the Twin Cities thus far this summer.

The stadium was barren. At any given camera angle, there appeared to be more players on the field than fans in the stands. This shouldn’t be very surprising. The Twins are by far the worst team in the American League, and a game against the struggling Oakland Athletics is hardly a draw for fans on any night, let alone on a Tuesday post-rain delay. But we were out, we were thirsty, we were hungry, we had money to spend, and we figured, perhaps, for once in our lives, that money might actually buy us a few bargains down at Target Field.

We were wrong.

$17. That is the floor price for tickets to watch two terrible organizations play a meaningless game of baseball in an empty stadium at fucking midnight. No bartering allowed. And for Target Field and the Twins organization in general, this is an unequivocal embarrassment.

Since Target Field was built on the promise of increasing revenue and, consequently, organizational success for the Twins franchise on the field, the Twins have made the post-season exactly one time—their first season in the new stadium back in 2010. Since then, the Twins had put together back-to-back-to-back-to-back horrible seasons, a trend briefly bucked in 2015 when the Twins contended for a playoff spot well into September before ultimately coming up short. At the time, that run created a lot of hope. After the historically bad start to the 2016 season, that run now feels like a distant memory.

Attendance has reciprocated performance. As beautiful as that stadium is, it has failed to compete with the ugliness on the field. In 2015, Twins attendance numbers dropped for the fourth consecutive season, a trend they are unsurprisingly on pace to continue in 2016.

Twins-Attendance-chart-thru-2015.jpg

Which is what made last night such a great opportunity for the Minnesota Twins to finally do something good—an opportunity to make up for some of its organizational failures, to open up the gates, to partially apologize to the taxpayers who funded this beautiful ballpark, to generate some positive publicity for the organization for the first time since Opening Day. With one generous gesture, the Twins had an opportunity to say to their fanbase, “We have really failed you, and we acknowledge that. Come enjoy a cheap game on us. You’ve been loyal, and you deserve it. Spend the savings on our vendors, and try to enjoy yourself as much as possible on this unique night of baseball.”

But like the Twins have done so many times over the past six-and-a-half seasons, they blew it. Instead of appeasing a resentful fanbase, they sent us away even more resentful than before. Instead of my buddies and I walking away from Target Field after a rare Twin’s win, a few domestics, and a renewed sense of good will towards our struggling franchise, we returned to the Freehouse more frustrated than Joe Mauer during one of his many batting slumps.

I live four blocks away from the stadium and have yet to attend a game this year, and after last night’s experience, that trend will likely continue through the season’s end. It’s not because I hate the Twins. I’m a loyal fan. It’s not because of a begrudging attitude towards the organization either, all though last night was annoying. It’s because the Twins don’t give fans like me a reason to come out.

The Pohlad’s have generated hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue off of the construction of Target Field, a project mostly built on public money. Yet the Minnesota Twins still rank 20th in the league in payroll, a factor that partially explains why the on-field product is so underwhelming—why the Twins consistently fail to compete with AL teams like the Red Sox and the Yankees, or even small-market divisional opponents like the Tigers and the Royals. This wasn’t supposed to happen in the post-Target Field era, but nevertheless, it has.

I’ve been to Target Field enough times now. It’s a beautiful stadium. I love it. I’m glad we built it. I’m glad we have it. But I’m also over it. At $17 a ticket, Target Field alone is not enough to draw me out on a Tuesday night after a rain delay to watch one of the most unwatchable teams in baseball. I need a team worth watching, or I need a cheaper ticket.

My experience last night felt like a personal ‘fuck you’ from the Minnesota Twins to their fanbase. I don’t know if it was out of a lack of awareness or a lack of respect, but either way, that is not the message that you want to send to loyal fans that have stuck with the Twins in spite of the organization giving them so little reason to do so over such a sustained period of time. The Twins continue to baffle me at almost every organizational level, and as much as I’d like to think that the tide will soon turn, that the Buxton’s and Sano’s and Berrios’s of the world will soon right this ship and make Target Field a local destination worth coming out to, with everything that I’ve seen from the Twins over the last several seasons, I think that I’ll reserve that good will until they can prove that they actually deserve it.

1880209671.icon.jpeg

Follow me on Twitter!!!

Standard