Category Archives: Politics

How not to report the news: Food stamp fraud edition

After my father died, growing up, my family depended on entitlement programs like WIC, free school lunch, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Hardly the mystical “Welfare Queens” conservatives imagine, we were just a low-income, single-parent household. You know, like … Continue reading

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The Colonel Surrenders in Minnesota

I’m posting here an article I originally wrote for the Kandiyohi County Historical Society newsletter titled, “The Colonel Surrenders in Minnesota” (here’s the original .pdf). In it I tell the story of something that, growing up in Montevideo, I was vaguely aware of but knew nothing about. So, turning to the archives I tried to learn more about the only time (as far as I’m aware) a U.S. President visited western Minnesota. The fact that it happened to be Teddy Roosevelt just as he was planning his political comeback should be no surprise. Two years later, in 1912, the state rewarded Roosevelt’s efforts with its 12 electoral votes.

Radical politics were nothing new to the western part of the state — in fact, the seventh district’s first congressman was a member of the Populist Party and, later, represented by the prohibitionist Andrew J. Volstead. (It’s forgotten now, but prohibition was a progressive movement that advocated for women’s suffrage and workers’ rights among other things). Because of this and the fact that the major rails to the Twin Cities ran through the region, it was not uncommon for satellite cities like Willmar to receive its fair share of speakers. Everyone from William Jennings Bryan (source) to Eugene V. Debs (source) and “Big Bill” Haywood (source) at one point or another visited the city. As I’ve written elsewhere, this region was later a hotbed for the Farmer-Labor Association. It was Appleton, for example, that Farmer-Labor Party Governor Elmer Benson called home. Continue reading

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The Sharknado of Social Systems

Today the Supreme Court ruled in Hobby Lobby that private corporations can exercise their religious freedom by denying women access to particular forms of birth control. First, I’d like to begin with a few words on religious freedom and the regulation of business. … Continue reading

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Howard Zinn & Noam Chomsky on “Is There Hope in This Desperate Time?”

I know some of my readers won’t be particularly interested in this, but I thought I’d share it anyway. Recorded in September 2004 to raise funds for Spare Change, a street newspaper, the video brings together two of the top public … Continue reading

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The History of the “Black Dog” as Metaphor

“A light seen suddenly in the storm, snow/ Coming from all sides, like flakes/ Of sleep, and myself/ On the road to the dark barn,/ Halfway there, a black dog near me.” – Robert Bly, from “Melancholia” in The Light Around the … Continue reading

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What Can Mark Twain Tell Us About Syria?

After reading my last post (The Virus of the Mind: Imperialism, Syria, and Selective Accountability), someone directed me to an article written by the political scientist Dr. Joel Johnson (Augustana College). In “A Connecticut Yankee in Saddam’s Court: Mark Twain … Continue reading

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Two brief excerpts from Team of Rivals: Turtles and Ambition

After reading about the upcoming film Lincoln, which is being directed by Spielberg and is slated for release on November 9, 2012, I noticed that it is being based on the book Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin. specifically, … Continue reading

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