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Progressive Politics in Minnesota, the Nation, and the World

What If He Just Wanted To Die?

Category: Society
Posted: 09/19/16 19:12

by Dave Mindeman

I am going to suggest something that is more observational than based on any factual data. It is only my opinion - and please take it with a huge grain of salt. But there is something unusual about the St. Cloud knife attack.

Based on what we know so far, this 20 year old did not fit any kind of profile you would associate with a "terrorist". He was a quiet student, but a good student - straight A's. He was close to his family. He had no criminal background. His friends and associates all had nothing but good to say about him. He was a Muslim - but not religious. He hadn't been to the mosque in some time. He never talked about religion...it was not that important in his life; but he never denied that he identified himself as a Muslim.

He had one post in his Facebook past that seemed relevant. It was from 2011:

"If the man who killed more than 70 persons in Norway was a Muslim, the media would have called him a terrorist. Instead the murderer was called "the aggressor (Reuters) or "the gunman" (BBC, CNN and Al Jazeera). The term "terrorist" is therefore reserved to Muslims. The USA talk about a violent attack not a terrorist attack. Please put this as your status to show that hypocrisy rules in this world!"

That seems like a fairly natural reaction...and not a radical one by any means.

And then there was the attack itself. It came out of nowhere. It certainly didn't look planned. He didn't seek out particular victims. He used his knife on 10 people (one did not seek treatment and was found out later). Doesn't it seem a little odd that in 10 knife attacks, he did not kill anyone? You would think that the odds are that he would open an artery or hit a vital organ at least once in those 10 attacks.

Yes, he apparently uttered "Allah" and asked at least one person if he or she was a Muslim. But there weren't any raving utterances.

And when he was finally confronted by the off duty police officer, he lunged at him over and over as the officer fired each time.

It almost seemed like he wanted to die.

Just for the sake of argument, what if this young man had become severely depressed. He had some financial struggles. Maybe things got worse. Maybe he got to the point of giving up. It's possible that things could deepen mentally without someone around him noticing.

What if he just snapped at the Mall? What if he decided that he wanted to die and chose the "death by cop" method we often hear about? Is it possible that a young man cynical about the treatment of Muslims would use a knife to draw attention of authorities and use Muslim wording to escalate what he was doing? And once he had the gun pointed at him, the additional lunges were meant to end it in a final sense?

Again, pure speculation. Maybe further information will make this become more definitive.

It just seems different.

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50th Anniversary of Star Trek

Category: Society
Posted: 09/08/16 06:50

by Dave Mindeman

People often make jokes about Star Trek geeks. I have to confess I am one. Have been for the entire 50 years of its existence. Its creator, Gene Roddenberry, has been gone quite a few years now, but that legacy continues and is now in one of those resurgent times.

We have lost some of the originals - Majel Barrett, DeForest Kelley, and recently one of my favorite people, Leonard Nimoy. But as with all time tested ideas, a new generation moves ahead.

People who are puzzled by the convention obsession...the costumes...the insistence on Star Trek purity...the character worship, may have some legitimate points to make about a departure from reality. But there is one constant that everyone admires - the hopeful future.

The new wave of Star Trek movies and series couldn't come at a better time. As societal ugliness rears its head in a controversial election year, the idea that in the future we, as a species, will work it all out, is a comforting premise. No more discrimination. No more greed. We solve the climate crisis. Your purpose is to improve yourself and your society. Good triumphs over evil.

We want that. We need that. And Star Trek provides that hope.

And over the years it has provided generations of students a means to look at science in a different way. As Spock would say, "Fascinating." One of the ideas that was emphasized in that series from the beginning was to make science real and plausible. Not just science fiction, but science fact. Many of the "futuristic" gadgets and ideas in Star Trek have become reality. Wireless communication. Complete recycling. Portable medical scanners. Lasers. Theories on matter and anti-matter.

The producers at Star Trek have always had scientific consultants. They ask if its plausible. Could this be real based on what we know? What does the science say about this? It made young and old minds think and wonder.

Sure, they had to make the stories fanciful and exciting. That is still part of the creative process, but they stayed true to some basic, bedrock principles that have fueled the longevity of the franchise.

The original Star Trek aired 50 years ago this week. It has had its ups and downs in the entertainment world. But it is as strong today as it has ever been.

We will keep watching and be hopeful that our real world can continue to strive to match that peaceful and better world of Star Trek.

Live long and prosper.
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The Clintons Are Not The Real Problem With Money In Politics

Category: Society
Posted: 08/30/16 11:51

by Dave Mindeman

I do not get this constant obsession the press has about money in politics and access. Every day we get a new story about a large donor and the insinuation that there is "play for pay" or buying access.

Of course there is. Don't be obtuse. That is the system we have. That is the way it is done. I don't like it. Nobody likes it. But don't insult our intelligence with stories that make it sound unusual.

The Clinton Foundation reporting borders on ridiculous. Wealthy people donate a lot of money to a charity and then ask for attention? Wow, there is a shocking development.

Do you think that Sheldon Adelson gives millions to Republican causes just because he is a loyal guy? NO, he expects every political candidate to come running to his side the moment he requests it. It is how it is done. And the complaints about it are useless until we act to stop it with a Constitutional amendment or a court case that can work to overturn Citizen's United.

Picking on the Clintons or the Adelsons or the secret cabal of donors that are out there is kind of pointless. Democrats and Republicans are never going to unilaterally disarm when it comes to large contributions. Neither side can properly be expected to until we make a legal framework that makes sense.

Bernie showed us that it can work under the right circumstance, but even his small donor base was running out of gas at the end. Money in politics has become too hard to keep up with. Bernie supporters were getting tapped out. And frankly, the level of contributions of that magnitude cannot be sustained. And it should not have to be.

Money is not speech. There I said it - strike me down. It is not. Paying for words is not the same as speaking them with your own voice. Buying a commercial is not the same as thousands of people speaking on their own. A million dollar donor should not have the same power as a million $1 donors. It just does not make sense.

Money has been elevated into a virtual false deity. A political candidate with the power of ideas is drowned out by the candidate with millionaire backers.

Clinton is villified by the left and the right for the rich donor base they have built up for decades. But they are the counter balance to the right that has a larger and better funded network. The Clintons have allowed Democrats to compete with this Republican base of influential donors and lobbyists that control the House of Representatives, talk radio, many newspapers, and several media corporations.

All of this has to stop - and quite frankly it will probably take a Hillary Clinton presidency to have that chance. She has campaigned on an end to Citizens United. She wants to change this system. We often forget that it was a right wing attack on Hillary herself from the Citizens United group that started this whole Supreme Court mess in the first place.

It is going to take someone with a full understanding of the pros and cons to make a system that is fair and accountable.

Sure, you can find plenty of fodder about money in politics to complain about it for the rest of your life. Won't do you any good, but if it makes you feel better, please continue.

But until we get this system changed, we have to deal with it. And I would rather have the Clintons attempting to use that system for good purposes in the world rather than Republican donors simply buying out everything else.

If you think Donald Trump is going to stop wealthy people buying access, you have not paid attention to how he does business. It has always been how he operates. He knows nothing else - and even if he mouths the phrases that criticize it, he only does that because it is what he knows and he believes that it should simplified and more direct.

Money is a corrupting influence in American politics. I absolutely agree. But making the Clintons the prime example of this system is a naive surface grasp of the reality. The dark money is the real culprit and that pervades the Republican base - that is something you never see because there is no transparency.

We need Hillary Clinton in the White House and then we need to force some action on this issue.
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