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March 30, 2011 / Candice

…Then they came for the smokers…

Liberty: Doing what you want with your life as long as it doesn’t harm anyone else.

Put simply, you want to drink daily? Good luck with that, hope your liver survives and you’re not dumb enough to drive. You want to gamble your savings away? Hope you hit it big. But your kids better still have an active parent, a roof over their heads and food on the table. You want to smoke? Haaaaave at it. Just don’t be an asshole and blow the smoke in the face of the elderly woman walking down the street and for Pete’s sake, if you see a baby, put the damn thing out.

I think I also need to get this in, I don’t hate smoking bans. I feel it’s fine, even fair, to ban smoking inside hospitals, court rooms and at the DMV. All places where people are required to be. It’s OK only because my choice to smoke would impact those people who are REQUIRED to be near me.

My argument on smoking bans is this: if I own a bar/restaurant/store and want to ban smoking because I have many loyal customers who suffer from asthma or allergies, it may be in my best interest to ban it in my building or outside of my door. If my customers are happy my bank account will be too.

Unfortunately, the government doesn’t give us a choice. In fact, I’ll take it even further; they’re splitting the herd between smokers and non-smokers and picking one over the other. (The same with splitting between rich & poor, white & black, etc…) If the free market had seen a demand for non-smoking bars, electric cars and mercury laced light bulbs, they would have existed years before a government handed down a mandate. But I digress…

Now, take this thing in Hennepin county (Minneapolis), the county has effectively banned smoking on county owned property. EVEN IN YOUR OWN CAR! If you’re at a Hennepin county park and want to have a cigarette, too bad. Sure, you’re outside, in the fresh air, you may have even found a spot away from all other human beings, you’re still not allowed to smoke. I’ll give the county a pass on the smoking in parks, parking ramps, outside of buildings, whatever. Cigarette butts are a pain to pick up, I get it.

But for the government to say, “You’re not allowed to smoke in your car (property).” Is enough to make my blood boil!! It’s my car I will smoke if I want, you overbearing jackasses!!

The kicker here is the price tag for this new policy. It’s as much as $120,000. Do you know how many f—ing pot holes you can fix with much money?

The thing that REALLY gets me, for all the whining done by the government about smoking they sure don’t seem to mind the MILLIONS in tax revenue it generates every year. (Over $300 million a year, to be exact.) When the pool of smokers decreases due to limited rights and skyrocketing taxes, the revenue will go down. Since most of Minnesota’s cigarette tax goes to provide health care for over half a million citizens, the state will have to get the money from somewhere else. You know, because you can’t cut funding for the poor-minority-children. (Exaggerated eyeroll)

The thing is, my beef isn’t with smoking bans, per se, it’s where the bans cross the line from public property to personal property (I’ll do whatever I want in my car, thank you very much!!). But Minneapolis has no problem funding the right to kill yourself with booze. As long as they’re out of the way and we don’t have to pick up after them.

If the government really wanted to effectively ban smoking due to health risks, they’d tax the shit out of cigarettes. $200 a pack tax will get anyone to quit. But you see, it’s not a “public health” issue, it’s a control issue. If they control the money, they control the rights.

What next? Telling us what we can eat? Oh wait…

March 21, 2011 / Candice

Ignorance is bliss… sometimes.

As I’m sitting in some hole-in-the-wall bar in Wisconsin over the weekend with my sister and some of her friends I thought to myself, “These people don’t give a shit about anything happening in the world. Lucky ignorant bastards.” They’re not bad people, in fact, quite the opposite, but I just couldn’t get the passed the idea that if I mentioned “Gadhafi” they’d all look at me like I was insane. “Who…what…huh? What the hell? Is that even a word?” It was a strange world to be in. (Insert some witty joke about Wisconsin here. I’m not feeling very clever.)

But then I realized, I’m not too far off from those people. I used to be all uber-immersed in the world of politics. I used to actually care about every fucking detail about every fucking story that hit the wires that day, week, month, year. Now? Not so much.

I spend my day jamming as much pop culture information into head as humanly possible (I do it so you don’t have to. You’re welcome.) and since I must use Twitter to do my job, I get the meat of what’s happening in the world, but details? Meh. I don’t have time for stinkin’ details, unless we’re talking about how much it will cost you to buy Jennifer Aniston’s house. ($48 mil, in case you’re wondering.)

The thing is, with my job I get to know what people who use the internet really care about, and let me tell you, it’s not politics. The political stuff I write doesn’t perform nearly as well as the stuff about stars getting into a fight on “Celebrity Apprentice.” That’s not even just speculation, there’s actual data to back up my statement. The first time I heard “Yeah…political stories don’t perform well.” my heart sank. I wanted to say, “Huh? How is that possible? People really don’t care?”

Will defunding NPR get people talking about the merits of federal subsidies? No. However, it will get people talking about how they watched Sesame Street when they were 5 and this one time, when they didn’t have cable, they watched a great documentary on PBS, but they can’t remember the name of it. Does the fact that our military is helping to bomb the shit out of Libya get people talking about how much it’s going to cost America to be involved in what may become a third war? No. But they will look up a map of Libya to find out where it is in the world or the proper spelling of Gadhafi or Qaddafi.

I guess it all goes back to my biggest gripe about political blogging. It’s all choir preaching. The people in the Internet Beltway are the only people who will read my blog (or any political blog, for that matter). And that’s really only because we share similar views. Even the progressives in my e-circle of acquaintances know what to expect from my libertarian-ish ass. I’m not bringing new news into the world. I’m throwing my opinions out into the universe and the only response I get is “I totally agree Candice, did you see my post on the same subject? LINK.” Or some clever douche baggery about my made up words (like douche baggery) and how I’m wrong and I hate kids/minorities/America/puppies/baby seals. (So a baby seal walks into a club…)

The fact of the matter is, people just don’t care as much as we’d like to believe they do. And I’m starting to believe they’re on to something. I’m not getting all huffy and puffy and having an anxiety attack over some crap that happened in the Senate last week. Mostly because I don’t know what happened in the Senate last week. I do know the House passed the NPR defunding bill and I know Michelle Obama is writing a book on gardening and healthy eating. At this point, the whole “ignorance is bliss” concept is something I feel like I could embrace fully and stop obsessing over politics altogether.


we all know that isn’t going to happen.

It was good while it lasted though.

January 6, 2011 / Candice

Dear 112th Congress,

(especially Chip Cravaack)

Don’t fuck it up.

Love Always,

December 15, 2010 / Candice

Parenting Failures Are NOT McDonald’s Problem.

About a 30 seconds in you’ll hear, “Her 6-year old is so drawn to the toys, it’s a fight she just can’t win.” REALLY? When I was six I lost every battle with my mom. She used this age old parenting tactic which worked every damn time, she said, NO. There wasn’t an explanation, there wasn’t a “I’m sorry honey, not today.” It was just a straight up “NO.” And if I, or my sisters asked why, “Because I said so.” If we begged, pleaded, or were otherwise being giant brats, there were no words. Just a quick swat to the behind and we were sent to our rooms. (Oh the humanity!!)

Now, I understand that kids are drawn to toys. They’re fun, exciting, flashy and noisy. But I don’t understand the push to drive the toys out of McDonalds. Why not just get rid of all toys!! I mean, how the hell does this mother even survive going to Walmart or Target? There they have aisles and shelves full of toys. They have little racks right when you walk in the door, FULL OF TOYS! Even in the check-out lanes, MORE TOYS!!!

I get it, the premise of the suit is that McDonalds is pairing a reward (toys) with junk food (burger and fries.) But when I took a look at the McDonalds website, I saw nothing about toys, and nothing about fries. Their happy meal page looks like this:

It lists the Happy Meal options, but the pictures (what kids are drawn to) show the much healthier versions of happy meals. The burger/cheeseburger/nuggets is paired with milk and apple slices. Now, unless your kid is holding you at gun point, you have the choice. If your kid doesn’t want apple slices and milk, then they don’t get McDonalds.

I guess I grew up in a different time. You know, when parents were actually parents. I can remember many occasions when my sisters and I were in the car with my parents and we’d ask, “Can we go to McDonalds?! PLEEEEEASE!!” 99.9999% of the time, they said “No.” and just kept on driving. On the rare occasion when we did get to have fast food, my evil food-nazi mother made us eat all that fatty goodness before we’d even get our toy. Can you believe that woman?! My god!!

The simple fact is, if you don’t like how McDonald’s operates, then don’t eat there. That’s the beauty of the free market. You have the choice. But to demand that they change their operation because you can’t say no to your child is pure bullshit.

The moral of the story: If you fail as a parent, you get to blame someone else. Isn’t America great?!

December 13, 2010 / Candice

Minnesota’s ‘wet houses’, fiscally and morally right?

One of my favorite quotes is from Jason Lewis, Minnesota guy and syndicated talk show host: “Let’s be blunt here–we are not a family with legal obligations to support one another. We are a nation of free individuals whose only hope in getting along lies in respecting the rights of our neighbors–including those who simply wish to be left alone.” Over the weekend when I read “They drink more, and you pay less.” in the early edition of the Sunday Pioneer Press, I couldn’t help but think of that quote.

The story was the last in a three-part series by Bob Shaw on the four “wet houses” in Minnesota, located in St. Paul, Minneapolis, and Duluth. A wet house is basically “hospice for alcoholics”, allowing men, who have been alcoholics for a long time, a place to drink themselves to death, literally. They get a room, which is a 12 by 12 concrete “cell”, with a bed. They’re free to come and go as they please. They can drink beer, mouthwash and cheap whiskey as much as they’d like. They even get a nurse to help care for them. There’s not a 12-step program they’re forced to follow, there’s no preachy counselor, just 60 alcoholics in a building, a few staff and a nurse.

Some might think it’s a terrible thing, “Just put a roof over their head and let them kill themselves with booze?!” The thing to keep in mind is, these are guys, many of them are in their 50’s or older, who have been alcoholics nearly all their lives, they’re homeless, jobless and have made the choice to continue to drink. They’ve been in and out of jail, rehab, hospitals, detox, all at the expense of taxpayers in Minnesota. One man, Wayne Britton, 59, has cost taxpayers about $1.5 million and his “rap sheet” includes 12 DWI convictions.

But while the drinking binges continue for Britton and the 59 other alcoholics at St. Anthony, the spending binges have ended. The St. Paul “wet house” is slashing the public’s financial burden for those men by more than 80 percent — saving about $5 million a year.

The “wet houses” cost about $18,000 per year, per person, to run. The St. Anthony wet house is paid for by Ramsey County, St. Paul, Catholic Charities and the state of Minnesota. If you think $18,000 a year is a lot to spend on someone who is going to die anyway, look at the facts.

The worst alcoholics cost the public an average of $100,000 a year, according to St. Anthony Residence manager Bill Hockenberger.

That’s a whole heap of cash. But the men of the wet houses, cost a fraction of that. They’re not going to jail, or making frivolous trips to the emergency room and they’re not going to detox just to have a bed to sleep in. The men who live in the St. Anthony house also have their monthly welfare payments cut by more than half to $89 per month when they move in. Furthermore, they’re not hurting anyone by drinking and driving, as most have sold their cars to buy booze. They’re not begging for money on the corner, they’re not stealing or stumbling around on the streets.

Consider Marion Hagerman. In his 39 years of drinking, the 54-year-old has been arrested about 60 times. He has kept drinking despite six drunken-driving convictions and six 28-day treatment sessions.

His drinking has cost the public more than $450,000. And since he was admitted to St. Anthony’s two years ago?

Nothing. Not a single arrest, detox stay or emergency-room visit.

It’s not that he’s turned his life around — he still drinks mouthwash, which he stashes in a nearby Dumpster. But he has drastically cut his cost to the public.

“I use to stumble around and make a fool of myself outside,” said Hagerman, as he relit a day-old cigarette butt in his bare room. “But now I go home and do it here.”

Aside from the cost, the other thing to consider is, these are guys who have given up trying to get help. They’ve done all the court ordered 12-step programs, gone through rehab half a dozen times and they still make the choice to drink because it’s become more than just a habit, it’s who they are.

“Treatment is a bunch of B.S.,” snapped Ricky Isaac, a three-year resident, as he drank a beer on the center’s drinking patio.

“Those AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) people make me sick. I hate hearing about other people’s problems. I have my own problems. If you want to quit, you quit on your own.”

They rebel against the chirpy optimism of abstinence-based programs: Try harder. Pray. Ask for help. Don’t give up. We feel your pain.

In contrast, St. Anthony feels like Death Row. The message is refreshingly grim: Everyone is going to keep drinking, it’s probably going to kill them, and no one’s going to talk them out of it.

“It’s just so honest here,” Hockenberger said. “I ask someone, ‘Have you had a drink today?’ and they say: ‘Definitely! I wish I had some more!’ “

I’m supportive of the idea of alleviating the cost to the taxpayer by still allowing these men to live the lives they choose. The alternative is pushing them back on the streets and heaping the enormous costs onto the backs of the already over-burdened taxpayer. These guys aren’t going to change, in fact, throwing more money at them and pushing them through failed treatment programs is down right futile. Look at someone like Paul Schiller, 53, from “The men of the wet house” (Emphasis is mine.)

Schiller has been in St. Anthony for seven months. He is a relative late-comer to alcoholism, starting his heavy drinking five years ago.

A high school dropout, he worked as a truck driver and then in a machine shop. For years, though, he’s been unable to find a job.

“I am not looking for work. It gets you too depressed,” said Schiller, who has reddish splotches on his face and wears a Miller Lite beer cap.

Schiller has been through treatment twice, without making a dent in his drinking habit. He simply didn’t want to stop, and he says he never will.

“You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink,” he said.

Last winter, his home was under a bridge on Payne Avenue in St. Paul.

“Winters are rough. I cover my tent with blankets,” he said. “Some days I would come back and the blankets would be gone.”

Drinking is just something he does, without thinking about it much.

“I didn’t think I had a problem, even when I was homeless,” he said.

Schiller has been to various county detox units 10 times. He said he has not been to the emergency room “except once, for a suicide attempt.”

Schiller said he has been in 13 traffic accidents involving alcohol, but only two of those were with him driving — drunk both times. He has had one DWI, he said.

But he has shown it’s possible to be a drunken driver even without a car. Last fall he was riding a bike while drunk, crashed and broke his shoulder.

He has no plans to leave St. Anthony. In fact, he has no plans of any kind.

“I am going to stay here forever, yes. It is better than the bridge,” Schiller said. “And the bridge is better than Dorothy Day.”

Cross-posted at True North.

December 6, 2010 / Candice

So you think you want to prevent child abuse, facebook?

Over the weekend I noticed a lot of people were changing their facebook profile pictures. Usually that means some silly meme has been started by someone and everyone is jumping on the bandwagon to bring about some sort of change. This weekend’s meme?

Change your profile picture to one of your favorite cartoon characters and ask your friends to do the same. The point of the game? To have no human faces on Facebook only childhood memories by Monday to fight child abuse. Copy and paste to spread the word

Last night on facebook I said: “FYI: Changing your profile pic on FB to an image of a cartoon for a day or a week or a year won’t stop child abuse. Love Always, A Realist.” Of course, now people think I’m a bad person, but to be honest, I don’t care. Reality is, changing your facebook picture does nothing, I repeat, NOTHING to fight child abuse!

My friend, and fellow Jason Lewis lover, Lindsey suggested: “If someone wants to help stop child abuse how about donate to a shelter, volunteer at a shelter or children’s hospital. Don’t change your picture and expect fairies to come out of the sky and make everyone safe!

That is the root of my argument. DO SOMETHING! Changing your profile picture on facebook doesn’t do a damn thing.

Now, if you really want to do something effective, and most of you don’t, you just want to make yourselves feel better by changing your picture, here’s a list of charities that actually do what you wish changing your profile picture did. Now get out your credit card, checkbook or volunteer and get to helping, in a real way.

Amigos For Kids

Family Violence Prevention Fund

Prevent Child Abuse Minnesota

December 3, 2010 / Candice

I fail at poli-blogging. Here’s why:

When I started this blog, I knew I didn’t want it to be a “news regurgitater” like every other poli-blog site out there. I didn’t want to sit at my computer and link to stories everyone was writing about because, well…it’s unoriginal and my crap gets lost amongst all the other crap out there anyway. (Not that I’m under any delusion that my crap is similar to or better than other crap, it’s all just crap, after all.) But the thing is, if I’m not going to write what everyone else is writing and beg people to link my crap posts in their crap posts and have my ultimate goal be to get a zillion hits every day, then why even write at all?

I guess the answer to that question is, it’s for me, not so much for you. Frankly, I don’t care if anyone reads my blog. (And no one does.) I could cry about it and whine “Boooohooooooooo! I spent my hard earned money creating this badass site and no one reads my crap!! But I’m special and I deserved to be recognized for all my hard work and sacrifice for the good of the people” or some shit. But that’s not true at all.

I’ve been linked a few times, and I do appreciate it. But I won’t beg anyone to link my stuff. In fact, I’ve struggled with this concept for a while. If I can’t get linked on my own merit, what’s the point? I know that’s how it’s done and I get it, but it’s not something I’m willing to do. Also, most of the conservative bloggers who would be prime targets for linking are jackasses, and I wouldn’t bother talking to them anyway, let alone asking them to link my blog. Yet, people do. To each their own… *shrug*

The other reason I fail at poli-blogging is: I hate politics. I do. It’s like being in an abusive relationship. You gain nothing positive out of the relationship, only heartache (or headaches, as it were) and moments of “What the f**k am I doing here?!” But I love him. (politics.) Every time I try to get out of the relationship something sucks me back in. Why? Because it matters. Our government matters. The process matters. Our politician’s constant push to control our lives…matters. The fact that half of the country doesn’t care bothers me. But do I understand the apathy.

I also fail at poli-blogging because I don’t post stuff every day. I do write every day, but most of the time it ends up mostly incoherent and ramble-y and I don’t post it. Or I just stopped caring about it half way through it. It’s hard to stay passionate about politics when it sucks. I stay informed and read my daily news, but for the life of me, I just cannot be passionately supportive of a system that attempts to screw someone every single day.

I also think I fail because I’m unemployed. I have literally all day to read about what’s happening in our world and that’s too much time. It’s too much time to consistently care all day long. There is definitely something to be said about desensitizing people with over-information. Yeah, there’s a lot of bullshit in the political world, but pretty soon it all becomes the same. “Oh really, there’s a corrupt/philandering/lying politician? I’m shocked…SHOCKED!!!” In fact, I think it’s fair to say that nothing really makes me angry anymore simply because it all does. The only thing that changes are the names or parties, otherwise it’s the same shenanigans with a different spin.

I feel I’d be better at this whole poli-blogging thing if my bullshit threshold was higher and I could tolerate the jackassery involved in politics, but I don’t think that’s possible.