Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Antisocial Media

Sometimes I wonder if I need better friends, at least on Facebook.

Frankly, some of the things that earn the endorsement of people on social media are mind-boggling. In one instance, I learned of an Alabama legislator who is apparently (a) gay and (b) threatening to publicly expose the marital infidelity of her colleagues unless they get on board with supporting gay marriage. The reason – somehow they are hypocrites, or something.
Alabama's only openly gay legislator is putting her anti-gay colleagues on notice: If they keep espousing family values rhetoric as a reason to oppose marriage equality, she'll start making their marital infidelities public.

"I will not stand by and allow legislators to talk about 'family values' when they have affairs, and I know of many who are and have," wrote state Rep. Patricia Todd (D) on Facebook over the weekend, as reported by the TimesDaily in Alabama. "I will call our elected officials who want to hide in the closet out."

What is her reasoning, other than overweening self-righteousness?
Todd's post came after a federal judge ruled Friday that Alabama's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. She told The Huffington Post that she decided to issue her threat after reading some of the anti-gay rhetoric coming from certain elected officials in the state.

"If certain people come out and start espousing this rhetoric about family values, then I will say, 'Let's talk about family values, because here's what I heard.' I don't have direct knowledge, because obviously I'm not the other person involved in the affair. But one thing you would never hear about me is that I ever cheated on a partner or had an affair," said Todd.
Shut up, she explained. So why is this okay?  Oh, she hates "hypocrisy."
"One thing I'm pretty consistent on is I do not like hypocrites," she added. "If you can explain your position and you hold yourself to the same standard you want to hold me to, then fine. But you cannot go out there and smear my community by condemning us and somehow making us feel less than, and expect me to be quiet."
I'm not sure how opposing gay marriage is smearing a community, but we'll leave that aside. And while I doubt there's very much that keeps a person with this particular worldview quiet, let's consult a familiar source, the Merriam-Webster dictionary, to determine what she's doing:

But it's totally okay if you're blackmailing a "hypocrite," apparently

And on my FB feed yesteday, the linked article was posted at least three times, with comments like "you go, girl!" and "why wait? Just do it anyway!" and "great idea!" It's kinda disheartening.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Nothing's free

You aren't going to get free community college. Someone has to pay for it. And that someone is you:
Earlier in the week, I discussed the Obama administration's proposal to tax earnings on so-called 529 college savings plans, part of a package of tax hikes that will pay for new programs such as his proposal to make the first two years of community college free. This has been touted as a plan to hike taxes on the rich to help the middle class, but in fact it's more of a plan to redistribute money from the upper middle class to the lower middle class.
As Megan McCardle rightly points out, the proposal isn't going anywhere because it's going to hurt the people it's supposed to help. But the larger issue is what it really signals:
Why target a tax benefit that goes to a lot of your supporters (and donors), that tickles one of the sweetest spots in American politics (subsidizing higher education), and that will hit a lot of people who make less than the $250,000 a year that has become the administration's de facto definition of "rich"?

Presumably, because you're running out of other places to get the money. The top tax rate on people who make more than $413,000 ($464,000 for married couples) is already almost 40 percent. That's on top of Medicare taxes (2.9 percent, not capped), Social Security taxes, state and local taxes (in a deep blue area like New York City, these can amount to 10 percent, though you get some of that back by deducting state taxes from your federal tax) -- a marginal tax rate of around 45 to 50 percent in blue states, and possibly even more if you run a business.

Capital gains are taxed at a lower rate, of course. But if you combine the Obamacare capital income surcharge for higher earners, and the administration's new proposal to raise the base rate to 28 percent, you're looking at a capital gains tax of almost 32 percent for people who make more than $200,000 a year ($250,000 for married couples). We are simply running out of room to pay for generous new programs with higher taxes on the small handful of people who make many hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. I'm not saying that it's impossible, politically or otherwise, to further raise their tax rates. I'm just saying that there's not all that much money there left to get. 
McArdle is right.There simply aren't enough people who make that kind of money around to tax. So that leaves you. If you have a 529, Obama is coming. If you have a Roth IRA, he's not coming yet, but he will be.

One other thing -- if you're running a small college with a modest endowment, I wonder how the economic model works if suddenly your applicant pool isn't planning to spend four years with you, because they already have two years of "free" community college. Do you suppose those credits are gonna transfer?

Monday, January 26, 2015

More than a Yumbo

This story gives a whole new meaning to "Have It Your Way," that's for sure:
A New Hampshire woman got a surprise at a Burger King drive-thru: a bag full of cash instead of food.

Janelle Jones says she discovered on the way home that the bag did not contain the sweet tea and junior spicy chicken sandwich that she had ordered Friday at the Rochester fast-food restaurant.

Foster's Daily Democrat  reports that Jones called her husband and they decided to return the $2,631, which was a Burger King bank deposit.
Assistant managers across the country are trembling at the thought.

Greece Greece Baby

The Greeks are going to force the issue and Europe is trembling:
 Greece rejected the harsh economics of austerity on Sunday and sent a warning to the rest of Europe as the left-wing Syriza party won a decisive victory in national elections, positioning its tough-talking leader, Alexis Tsipras, to become the next prime minister.

With almost 98 percent of the vote counted, Syriza had 36 percent, almost nine points more than the governing center-right New Democracy party of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, who conceded defeat. The only uncertainty was whether Syriza would muster a parliamentary majority on its own or have to form a coalition.
So all that money that Greece owes? Well, good luck, creditors:
But his biggest promise — and the one that has stirred deep anxiety in Brussels and Berlin as well as in financial markets — has been a pledge to force Greece’s creditors to renegotiate the terms of its financial bailout, worth 240 billion euros, or about $267.5 billion. Squeezed by policies intended to stabilize the government’s finances, Greece has endured a historic collapse since 2009; economic output has shrunk by 25 percent, and the unemployment rate hovers near 26 percent.

While setting up an imminent showdown with creditors, led by Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, Mr. Tsipras has argued that easing the bailout terms would allow more government spending. That, he said, would stimulate economic growth and employment as well as help the Greeks who are most in need.
So how would one renegotiate the terms, you ask?
Mr. Tsipras has demanded that creditors write down at least half of Greece’s €319 billion public debt to give the country more breathing room for a spending stimulus.
Do you think the Germans will agree to that? I don't. Especially since other countries are watching what's happening with great interest:
A Syriza victory would lift hopes elsewhere for parties that are critical of the European Union, especially in Spain. There, the left-leaning, anti-austerity Podemos party, which is less than a year old, already is drawing 20 percent support in national opinion polls. The leader of Podemos, Pablo Iglesias, joined Mr. Tsipras last week for Syriza’s final campaign rally.

“What the whole debate about Greece and Syriza highlights is that voter anxieties, voter resentment and electoral disillusionment over austerity policies can be expressed at the ballot,” said Jens Bastian, an economic consultant based in Athens and a former member of the European Commission’s task force on Greece. “The example of Greece today may become a precursor to what happens in other countries like Spain, Portugal or Italy.”
Podemos translates to "we can" in Spanish. And if Greece can, Spain can. A big fight is coming. Watch carefully.

Friday, January 23, 2015


I haven't been able to figure out how to interpret the uproar over underinflated footballs and the New England Patriots. Then I saw this argument from the estimable Stephen Carter:
 It’s comfortable for us to tell ourselves that sensible people don’t cheat when they know they’re going to win. But not everybody is sensible. The Watergate crimes continued well beyond the time when it was considered plausible that the Democrats might unseat Richard Nixon. (Edmund Muskie, the candidate Nixon feared most, was long out of the race by June, when the burglary was discovered.)

One recalls Judge Richard Posner’s observation that we seem to view plagiarism committed by successful authors as “a chump’s crime, less likely to reflect a serious larcenous intent than a loose screw.” He adds: “The more successful the writer, the more nutty-seeming the plagiarism.”

But not all cheating is nutty, even when you’re confident. There are those who by constitution and character will continue to press, seeking every possible edge. It never made sense that Dennis Kozlowski and Mark Swartz, both more than handsomely compensated, would loot Tyco to the tune of some $150 million, but the jurors convicted them of doing just that. Sometimes you do it because you can get away with it.
I think that last part is the key. The Patriots win because they press every possible edge. At the margins, it's hard to know how much of an advantage the Patriots would have received, although I'm pretty sure they've tested it out. And it's possible that the Colts were on the trail because they got a heads-up from the Baltimore Ravens:
According to Jay Glazer of Fox Sports, the Indianapolis Colts were tipped off by the Baltimore Ravens before the AFC championship game about the Patriots possibly altering the air pressure in their footballs. The Ravens lost to the Patriots in a divisional playoff game the week before.

Two things stand out about that report: If true, the Ravens were obviously pretty angry to tip off the Patriots' next opponent, and this would mean it's more than a one-game situation in New England. Unless it's a crazy coincidence that the Ravens assumed the Patriots' game balls were under-inflated when they weren't, told the Colts their hunch, and the championship game happened to be the game in which 11 of the 12 Patriots' game balls were flatter than usual. Of the Patriots' 12 game balls, 11 each had two pounds per square inch less than NFL rules stipulate, as ESPN reported Tuesday.
What do you think? Is it a big deal, or not really?

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Non-intuitive, all right

Apparently the pregnancy rate among younger people is dropping. Some folks would like to credit various forms of "non-intuitive" sex education courses:
The annual number of teen births in Hennepin County has dropped by half since 2007, a startling reduction that many health officials are attributing to investments in “nonintuitive” sex education.

Declines were sharpest in Brooklyn Center and in Richfield, two communities where the county established school Teen Outreach Programs (TOP), which focus first on instilling personal and community values.
That could be it. Or maybe there's another explanation:

Selecting the new deck chair, part two

When we decided to leave our old parish, we thought it important to send the pastor a letter explaining our decision. We heard back from our former pastor today. He indicated that the problem we identified was something he'd not heard before. He then pointed out that the parish was much more than the one program, or the one employee we'd identified as being a problem.

That's true, and it utterly misses the point. There is a tendency among suburban parishes, especially huge suburban parishes, to try to be all things to all people. The list of ministries at our old parish is extensive indeed. A parishioner with the time or the inclination could participate in dozens of activities and serve on a variety of committees. The parish lists 16 separate parish groups and 20 different social missions. Every one of them, in isolation, is admirable and desirable. Taken as a whole, it becomes an unwieldy mess.

Our new parish has fewer resources and doesn't try to provide a comprehensive program of services. We're okay with that, because the parish keeps its primary gaze on the needs of the parishioners and serving the local community first. While I am certain that the missionary priests will come and say Mass, and that there will be a second collection for any number of endeavors, the main focus will remain closer to home.

I think that's important. We have a responsibility as Catholics to go out into the world and do what we can to make it better. To be effective, we need to be sure that we take care of the blocking and tackling. Are we properly educating our children in the faith? Are we demonstrating the larger meaning of faith in our lives? Or are we merely taking on a series of activities that are far-flung and diffuse? If we are going to make the world a better place, we'd better know the answer.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Selecting the new deck chair

Most of the local headlines concerning the Catholic Church relate to bankruptcy proceedings and whatever else de facto Archbishop Jeff Anderson deems appropriate. Most of the national and world headlines surround the reports of the various utterings of Pope Francis; this reporting varies in accuracy and rarely provides full context.

For us, the news is that we've changed parishes. We've left the gigantic parish in our town to join a smaller parish in a neighboring community. We had a variety of reasons for making the change, most of which are idiosyncratic, but the primary reason is that we felt that the gigantic parish wasn't paying attention to details in their faith formation classes.

There's a lesson in that; although we encounter God as individuals, we pray together in community. Our communities are often a matter of geography, but we have greater freedom in choosing now than we did in the past. We had a 2.4 mile drive to our old parish; the new one is 5.5 miles away. We initially chose the gigantic parish because it had ample resources, especially compared with the struggling inner-city parish we'd reluctantly left when the kids were little. I wrote about our old parish extensively a few years back, but this change is different.

More to come.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Getting a Woody about snipers

I don't have a dog in the fight in the debate arising out of Clint Eastwood's new movie "American Sniper." I may get to see it at some point, but there are plenty of good movies coming out that I haven't and won't see.

Over in bien pensant land, we are supposed to outraged about it, though. Michael Moore explains:

So there!

The invaluable Walter Russell Mead found this bit of inconvenient history:

That's Woody "This Land Is Your Land" Guthrie, paying tribute to a Russian woman, Lyudmila Pavlichenko, who was a sniper who felled over 300 Nazis in Odessa and Sevastopol. The lyrics extol her virtues and her marksmanship:

Miss Pavlichenko's well known to fame;
Russia's your country, fighting is your game;
Your smile shines as bright as any new morning sun.
But more than three hundred nazidogs fell by your gun.

I would imagine that at least one of the nazidogs was somebody's uncle, but we'll leave that aside. It's possible that she was actually a coward, but Woody Guthrie didn't think so. I'd even argue that he was a little smitten:

In your hot summer's heat, in your cold wintery snow,
In all kinds of weather you track down your foe;
This world will love your sweet face the same way I've done,
'Cause more than three hundred nazzy hound fell by your gun.

For her part, Miss Pavlichenko offered no apologies for her performance, even appearing in the United States in 1942 to build support for the war efforts on the Eastern Front:
Just two months after leaving Sevastopol, the young officer found herself in the United States for the first time in 1942, reading press accounts of her sturdy black boots that “have known the grime and blood of battle,” and giving blunt descriptions of her day-to-day life as a sniper. Killing Nazis, she said, aroused no “complicated emotions” in her. “The only feeling I have is the great satisfaction a hunter feels who has killed a beast of prey.”

To another reporter she reiterated what she had seen in battle, and how it affected her on the front line. “Every German who remains alive will kill women, children and old folks,” she said.“Dead Germans are harmless. Therefore, if I kill a German, I am saving lives.”
Better yet was what she said in Chicago later in the tour:
Her time with Eleanor Roosevelt clearly emboldened her, and by the time they reached Chicago on their way to the West Coast, Pavlichenko had been able to brush aside the “silly questions” from the women press correspondents about “nail polish and do I curl my hair.” By Chicago, she stood before large crowds, chiding the men to support the second front. “Gentlemen,” she said, “I am 25 years old and I have killed 309 fascist occupants by now. Don’t you think, gentlemen, that you have been hiding behind my back for too long?”  Her words settled on the crowd, then caused a surging roar of support.
Woody Guthrie had a sign on his guitar:

It says "This Machine Kills Fascists"
I don't know about you, but if you need a fascist killed, you'd have better luck caling the sniper, regardless of what Michael Moore thinks.

Monday, January 19, 2015


I'm trying not to dwell on the result too much, but in order to have a better result next time the Packers are going to have to figure out a few things after letting a game they had in hand slip away. My thoughts:

  • I think you have to look at Shawn Slocum, who ran the special teams this season. The Seahawks won the game because they scored on a fake field goal and because they recovered an onside kick. Neither play should have been successful. Tim Masthay also had a very poor punt late in the game. You can't have that. Between all the blocked kicks and other misadventures throughout the year, I think Slocum should be on notice. And that's the best case scenario.
  • The Packers are still a run stuffer or two away on defense. Marshawn Lynch eventually wore the defense down. It shouldn't have happened.
  • I know that you want to run the ball when you have a 12-point lead and the ball, but you have to move the chains. The best way the Packers know to move the chains is to pass the ball.
  • The good news is that the next time the Packers play the Seahawks, the game will be in Green Bay. A look at the 2015 opponents shows the following:

    Come to Lambeau, Russell

That looks pretty favorable -- nearly all the tough games are in Green Bay. Getting both the Cowboys and the Seahawks in Lambeau is the best-case scenario. The toughest road game on the schedule might be the game against the Lions; the Broncos and the 49ers are both pretty dicey propositions at this point and none of the other teams scare me much, although the Vikings are going to be better in year 2 of the Zimmer regime. I also suspect the best AFC West team next season might be the Chargers, who are also coming to Lambeau this time.

It hurts, yes. Now it's time for the Packers to turn pain into resolve.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- Return to Seattle Edition

Just when you thought the Packers were done with Seattle, they have to go back to the noise and deal with Richard Sherman, who never met a microphone he did not want. The Packers are playing for a trip to Glendale and people are feeling the HYYYYYYPPPPPEEE!

Oh yeah. Time for a little theme music:

Old dude, that's just wretched. What the heck is that?

Perry Como. You don't know who Perry Como is? 

He should be named Perry Coma, because anyone who listens to that would probably lapse into a coma. This is a football feature. I think you're supposed to remember that. And that might be one of the worst earworms I've heard in a long time.

Glad to be of service.

You seem to have a very warped view of what service is. And I will take my revenge for that. But we'll have to leave that aside, because while I know it will be hard for you to keep your train of thought from derailing, it's time to pick these games. Now try to keep up. And yes, watch me work!

Indianapolis Colts (+6.5) vs. New England Patriots. I fooled you by talking about the other game going on this weekend after building up the Packer game. Very clever of me. This game is reminding me of the famous Brady/Manning duels in the playoffs in the middle of the 2000s, where New England dominated the Colts for the most part, though some Patriots fans are still upset about 2006. Andrew Luck is in charge now, and this is the biggest game in his young career. He has all the attributes to be the next Montana, but he needs to win in New England. Tom Brady has been in big games going back to the Tuck Rule Game, which was a questionable decision similar to the "Calvin Johnson" rule, which will be coming up later on, since Gino is still muttering about it a week later. I see you, Gino! New England, at least since 2009, has had a tendency to not win the big game, and it makes you wonder if the Kraft family should just sign Troy Brown, or Deion Branch or Lawyer Milloy, all players who helped Brady become the player he is. I expect a close game and the Colts can pull this one out because, if you remember, the man who really won Brady's first two titles is on the other sideline. Colts 24, Patriots 21.

I remember the last time these teams played. The Patriots destroyed the Colts behind a running back named Jonas Gray, who since then has apparently been in the federal witness protection program. The Colts dispatched Peyton Manning last week and apparently forced John Fox to Chicago in the process. That's pretty impressive. Winning in New England is a larger challenge, though. I think the Colts play better this time, but I don't think they have solved the riddle yet. And while you are correct about the crucial role that Adam Vinatieri played in those early days, he can't hurt his old team if he's on the sidelines. One last Super Bowl trip for Tom Brady. Patriots 35, Colts 23. 

Glorious Green Bay Packers (+7.5) vs. Seattle Seabags. The Packers won a tight contest against Dallas due to a questionable call on Dez Bryant late in the game. I know that Dallas fans (and Gino) are upset and I do not like the rule much myself, as it is a difficult call to make. That being said, the rule is clear and what people forget is that Sam Shields did tip the ball slightly, and he is not getting the credit I feel he deserves. Dez also was lucky again that he did not get flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct for being on the field sans helmet. But that's all in the past now. What happens in the Great Northwest? Seattle won the last matchup on Opening Night and it was not close. A couple things have changed. Percy Harvin is in NYC, which means that Pete "What's your deal?" Carroll lost his biggest playmaker. Another thing that should concern Seahawks fans and bandwagon fans is that Davante Adams has emerged as a legit receiving threat to complement Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb. If Richard "I'm Better at Life than You." Sherman stays on one side of the field, he should know that Aaron has more confidence in the rookie and will throw him the ball. Eddie Lacy is a factor and I would run him right at Sherman and hopefully truck him a few times. I am nervous about this game, but you never know, and the Packers really have nothing to lose. Packers 12, Seattle 7.

I don't know about this one. The Packers have improved in a number of ways, but they also have a gimpy quarterback. Can they stop the run? Can they keep Rodgers upright? Can they keep Russell Wilson in the pocket? Can they pull themselves away from playing board games in the locker room? So many questions. The way I see it -- this game is about being physical. The Seahawks are nasty and like to hit you hard. And they are good at it. The Packers have to strike the first blow. Eddie Lacy is going to be a crucial factor in this game. If he goes for 100-125 yards, the Packers have a chance. The young fella is right that the way to attack Richard Sherman is to make him tackle some big running backs. The Packer offensive line is pretty good and has some nasty guys. They hold the key. I want to believe it will happen. I do, I do. But I have to be realistic. Seattle 27, Green Bay 21.

C'mon, old dude! You need to buck up a little! Get inspired! Swig some Geritol and get off the couch and ride! Consider this wisdom from one of your favorite movies -- sorry about the F-bomb in this clip, but we need motivation!

Those Germans were pretty sneaky.

You were in college then, right?

Not quite that old, really. 

Oops. That wasn't nice of me to say. Meanwhile, we should note that da Bearz have hired John Fox to be their new coach. How does a Fox coach a Bear? Better yet, answer this musical question, old dude!

My goodness -- that's worse than Perry Como!

I told you I'd take my revenge. Meanwhile, I should note that Ohio State now has at least three starting quarterbacks to deal with, since Cardale Jones is coming back. I've even heard that Art Schlichter wants another chance. So what will happen to Braxton Miller?

He can transfer to another school. How about Knox?

Great idea, old dude! He'll be delighted to play in the Midwest Conference, I'm sure. Nothing says big time football like taking a bus trip to Grinnell, Iowa. Seriously, you need to start taking your Geritol. No, I have a better idea. If Braxton Miller is unhappy about being replaced and he wants to really stick it to Urban Meyer, he can always come to Madison. It worked for Russell Wilson and I think Braxton would love to have a new challenge. Think about it, Braxton. Ben out!

Oh, that Francis

The problem with being Pope is that every word you utter gets scrutiny. And Pope Francis likes to talk:
Francis spoke about the Paris terror attacks while en route to the Philippines on Thursday, defending free speech as not only a fundamental human right but a duty to speak one's mind for the sake of the common good.

But he said there were limits.

By way of example, he referred to Alberto Gasbarri, who organizes papal trips and was standing by his side aboard the papal plane.

"If my good friend Dr. Gasbarri says a curse word against my mother, he can expect a punch," Francis said half-jokingly, throwing a mock punch his way. "It's normal. You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others."
The Pope Whisperers at the Vatican tried to clarify what the Pope really meant:
The Rev. Thomas Rosica, who collaborates with the Vatican press office, issued a statement early Friday stressing that the pope was by no means justifying the attack on Charlie Hebdo.

"Pope Francis has not advocated violence with his words on the flight," he said in a statement.

He said Francis' words were "spoken colloquially and in a friendly, intimate manner among colleagues and friends on the journey." He noted that Francis has spoken out clearly against the Paris attacks and that violence in God's name can never be justified.
How do I put this delicately? In a lot of ways, the man who was until recently Cardinal Bergoglio is something of a chatty Cathy. He likes to talk and he tends to be pretty colloquial, which is in keeping with his approach to ministry. That's great if you're having private conversations with members of your congregation, but he's in a different position now.

I continue to think that the Pope's instincts are good on a number of issues, especially the need to focus on the poor -- too many American parishes are so busy building glittering facilities and counting their money that they can't see through the stained glass. We should always be about faith and works and less about making delicate doctrinal distinctions. The Church is large enough to accommodate Opus Dei and Dorothy Day. Still, I am a little woozy at some of what Francis says when he's working the rope line. The contradictions of the Church are always there; this Pope lays them out for the world to see.

Woe Canada

Target took it on the Moose Jaw yesterday and no amount of Medicine Hat could change the reality -- it is time to leave Canada:
After its first attempt to expand globally turned into an embarrassing and costly debacle, the Minneapolis-based retailer announced on Thursday that it will shutter its 133 stores north of the border and will instead focus its energies on revitalizing its core 1,800-store U.S. business.

The decision comes less than two years after Target opened its first stores in Canada to much fanfare. The operation quickly became a black eye for the company as it struggled to get the basics right. Its problems keeping shelves stocked were mocked on social media and turned off many consumers, while Canadians also complained that Target’s prices were too high.
How does this happen? The answer is simple -- if you can't get the back end right, nothing on the front end matters:
A number of other well-regarded retailers such as Wal-Mart and Lowe’s have managed to find some degree of success in Canada, [retail analyst Charlie O'Shea] said. So it is especially surprising that Target, which is a fairly good U.S. operator, got it so wrong in Canada by trying to simultaneously build out a distribution network and open dozens of stores.
The distribution network is crucial. If you can't get goods into the stores expeditiously, it affects what the customer sees and it absolutely hurts you in pricing. The distribution network has to be ready to rock and roll before you turn on the lights. Target historically has entered markets with a certain amount of caution; going coast to coast in a huge nation was too much for any fledgling distribution network to handle.

While stopping the bleeding is likely the right thing to do, it comes at a cost in Minnesota:
The aftershocks of Thursday’s decision will be felt at Target’s Minneapolis headquarters. About 600 employees in the United States, many of whom are based in the Twin Cities, supported Target Canada as either a full- or part-time responsibility. The company expects some layoffs here as a result, but doesn’t yet know how many, said Dustee Jenkins, a company spokeswoman.
It's likely to be a big number. Good luck.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Happy birthday, Maria

Today is my daughter Maria's birthday. I wrote the following seven years ago:

The first call came at 3:00 in the morning. My wife, already in the hospital on bed rest, was on the line. I was home with my son Ben, who was 4 years old. She told me that I should be ready; the doctors were trying to slow things down, but it was possible that the baby was coming.

The next call came at 3:30. This time it was a nurse; she told me that I should get over to the hospital, because the baby was coming. I called my mother-in-law and asked her to come over to watch Ben. I got in the shower and started thinking about how my life was about to change.

About 4, my mother-in-law arrived. I was already dressed and we barely spoke as I headed for my car. It was snowing moderately - all told about 3 inches would fall that morning - as I slowly made my way down 694 to St. John's Hospital. I strolled in about 4:20, told the lady at the desk that my wife was in labor, and I headed for her room. It was strangely quiet. I walked right past the bassinet, not even realizing that my second child had already arrived. The doctor was cleaning up and my wife was lying in her bed, tired but happy. "It's Maria," she said. "She's right behind you - you walked right past her."

Then I looked and realized that indeed, there was a baby in the bassinet. My daughter had arrived at 3:50 in the morning. I missed the moment, but immediately went over to see her. A nurse had her bundled and told me that I could pick her up and hold her. I did.

For the next hour and a half, I held my daughter and tried to imagine what she would turn out to be. I talked to her and told her many things - how much I loved her, how happy we were, what a nice brother she had. I told her many things that morning. But mostly I wondered; who was this little girl?


Today Maria is 15 years old. I know many more things about Maria than I did that day, and she knows many more things about her father. When I wrote my essay initially, on the occasion of Maria's 8th birthday, I described her as follows:

Maria is sweet, silly, funny and amazingly smart. She has moments of amazing insight and some days she has a tongue like a lash. She's a good portion of the way through her childhood already. It goes by fast. She will change and grow in countless ways in the next 8 years, in ways I can hardly imagine. The one thing I know most of all; I am fortunate to be her father.

Seven years on, much of that is still true. Some things have changed -- with increased maturity, she's less likely to let fly with a cutting remark than she was then. She's tried her hand at being a musician and a writer and has demonstrated significant talent in both. She's become an outstanding student. And her work ethic is top-notch, far better than mine.

You only get one shot at a childhood and Maria is making the most of hers. Things get more complicated as the years go on, but I'm confident she'll navigate it well. There's a song in The Sound of Music called "How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria." While Maria is decidedly not a problem, at one point the following musical question is posed:

Many a thing you know you'd like to tell her
Many a thing she ought to understand
But how do you make her stay
And listen to all you say
How do you keep a wave upon the sand

As far as I can tell, you can't keep a wave upon the sand. But you can appreciate the majesty of it and the power it possesses. We can be borne back ceaselessly into the past, as Fitzgerald suggests at the end of The Great Gatsby, or we can be the wave. It is clear that Maria knows the better course.