Archive for the ‘freedom’ Category

The Catholic Church in Minnesota recently mailed out 400,000 DVDs to its parishioners in the state, asking them to accept the church’s belief that gay marriage is wrong for human beings. In fact, gay marriage is so bad for the rest of the world, the Catholic leadership wants lawmakers to pass a new law forbidding it. It’s about six weeks before an election, see, and the church would really like its people to vote for candidates who oppose gay marriage.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune published this piece last week (Sept. 20).

Then, an art curator at the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis decided to produce a sculpture using DVDs provided to her by other Catholics who are opposed to its content. It’s her way of taking a stand against the church’s teaching on gay marriage. She was summarily terminated from her job, of course, and the Star Tribune published this article about the debacle.

As I read the story and readers’ comments, this one struck me as the most relevant…so I wanted to share it here. Naturally, not all good Catholics are anti-marriage. Some actually think with a reasonable and “modern” process about the issue. Here’s the reader’s comment from the newspaper:

Where did the $400,000 for the DVD come from?

First, I’m a parishioner at St. Mary’s, and like many fellow parishioners, my wife and I are planning to donate the archbishop’s DVD to Ms. Naylor’s art work. We feel this work of art is the perfect response to the archbishop’s actions, and it’s the Holy Spirit at work. Second, the archbishop has clearly crossed a line of political lobbying that is totally inappropriate. The church lobbies on behalf of the poor, children and others who need the protection of the church. The church builds schools, hospitals and shelters to serve, according to Christ’s command. That’s not what this DVD is about. This is the archbishop telling Catholics how to vote to change the constitution of the secular state of Minnesota. Minnesota and the United States are secular institutions which have laws and constitutions to protect the rights of all–regardless of religious belief. Instead of fighting for the poor, Archbishop Nienstedt is fighting to get Catholic theology into the constitution of the state of Minnesota where it would govern anyone, Catholic or not. We’re not a theocracy–like Iran or Saudi Arabia. We’re America, a secular society, and one of our core beliefs is freedom of religion. That includes freedom *from* religion. I don’t want my church dictating to people outside the church. It used to be illegal to buy contraceptives in many states, because archbishops demanded laws against it. They misused the authority of the church then, just as Archbishop Nienstedt has misused his authority now. Finally, I have to ask: where did this $400,000 come from? Was it a donor? Who was the donor? What else has the donor given money to? And if it wasn’t from a donor, how can the Archbishop order $400,000 be taken from the church’s budget and spent on this theocratic attempt to deprive some non-catholics of their civil rights? That money could run a daycare center in north Minneapolis for 250 kids for a year. Or a homeless shelter. Or it could have been spent lobbying the legislature to stop cutting funding for education. The number one subject Christ talks about in the New Testament is about the poor–not fighting to take away rights that are due to others. The appropriate place for the archbishop to plead his case for the church’s view of the institution of marriage is from the pulpit. Instead he wasted desperately needed $400,000 of funds on an arrogant attempt to decree Catholic law should be secular law. Each year there is a special collection at St. Mary’s, as in all diocese churches, for the Archbishops Fund. Each year as the scandals have grown in the church, the amount of donations has shrunk. So long as Archbishop Nienstedt leads the bishops of Minnesota in this kind of arrogant theocratic campaigns, ours is one parish household that will give our money elsewhere to help the poor and the forgotten. Rohn Jay Miller, parishioner at the Basilica of St. Mary.

Amen Brother!



Read Full Post »

It’s an upward spiral that seemingly will not end any time soon.

I’m talking about the cost of health insurance and specifically the cost that you and I – Joe and Jane consumer – get to bear to have adequate health plans that take care of our families.

In this Wall Street Journal story, reporter Avery Johnson notes that the costs employees are expected to kick in to get health insurance through their employers continues to increase – at an alarming rate.

Knock on wood, I’ve generally been a healthy individual throughout my entire life. No broken bones. No chronic conditions. No major hospitalizations, save for a three-day stint of pneumonia that put me in a hospital bed in 2005. I didn’t like it. I’ve not gone back.

My two teenage kids and beautiful wife are also healthy people. So when we open-enroll for health insurance each October/November, it’s usually a fairly quick discussion and selection of the health care plan that includes a higher than average deductible and lower monthly premiums.

Pretty easy until now, that is.

Seems crossing the 45-year-old threshold has me thinking more about health costs as well as retirement planning (which needs to include saving for health care expenses needed after I end my career as a wage earner).

For the past several years I’ve worked in the health care industry. First for the world’s largest medical device manufacturer and now for the world’s largest health plan insurer. My eyes are open to the ways of health plan coverage and the costs associated with them. I’ve developed strong opinions on the use of medical technology to prolong life.

And as health care reform goes into the implementation stage during the next several years, I hope the very industry I work in gets smart at finding ways to help individuals manage their own care intelligently.

  • A focus on health and wellness early in life.
  • Assistance with the obesity epidemic in a way that makes sense (personal health coaches are already being offered through many work plans, but at a cost to everyone not just those who are affected).
  • Common sense approaches (and cost savings) for families and individuals who are above average on the health front and take the necessary measures to stay healthy.

By putting the onus on individuals to adopt healthier lifestyles, stay healthy and make smart health care decisions, Americans should be able to get the care they need when they need it at a cost that is affordable. Sounds so simple, but my gut tells me we remain a long, long, long way away from making that a reality in our country.

As with any major change, it happens in small steps. We first must get everyone pointed in the same direction before the big flywheel will start to turn (aka Jim Collins, “Good to Great).  This happens through various agents including our own federal government launching new laws and programs. But people, we can’t rely on the government to make the change for us.

In the end, our health and well being is up to each of us. Truly. We own it. And if we expect to have access to the best health care in the world, then we better start taking care of ourselves.


Read Full Post »

Giving Thanks

Today at the dinner table, I’ll sit with my two kids for a brief dinner that I worked all morning to prepare. And that’s OK, because that’s how life is and while I’m separated by 700 miles from the rest of my immediate family, I’ll give quiet thanks for:

My two kids. They mean the world to me and I’d do anything for them…anything. They’re in their teens already and soon one will be in college. In a matter of just a few years they’ll both be “just visiting” on Thanksgiving, engaged in life full-on.

A good job. After 15 years in journalism and PR, I’ve spent the last two years with the company I feel I’m destined to be serving. This company does more good for people than I can possibly explain. In fact, every five seconds, someone’s life is saved or improved through the technologies my company provides. It’s a pleasure to have a career with Medtronic.

Health. I’m 42, and my doc tells me I’m in good shape. I completed a sprint triathlon earlier this year and plan to do it again in 2008.

Friends. You know who you are. From co-workers to those “in the city,” to friends I’ve met through this blog, I’m grateful to all of you and hope I’ve brought a few smiles to your faces.

Seasons. Living in the ‘burbs of Minneapolis means all four seasons strike at the appropriate times of the year. While summer and fall are my faves, the first snowfall (which is happening as I write this) makes me all warm and tingly inside.

Words. Writing is my life. Thanks to all the words that flood my noggin and exit my fingertips.

Freedom. Many will argue that our rights in the U.S. are slipping away. Well folks, we still live in a country founded on freedom and while the definition of the term may shift and change because of world events, how we embrace freedom is up to us…not the government. Have faith in our history and our foundation.

Music. Egads! Imagine life without your favorite musician. Artists like David Gray, Bonnie Raitt, the Dave Matthews Band, and a plethora of emerging indie artists make life so very much better.

Cycling. I think because of the Minnesota winters that last and last, I’ve come to appreciate my cycling habit all the more. Each March/April when the bike comes of the trainer and hits hard pavement again, is just like riding for the first time all over again – except I have the balance thing figured out already.

Coffee. A guilty pleasure, try as I have in the past to decaffeinate myself. But I’m through with those silly notions.  My occasional skim vanilla latte and low-fat scone is not gonna kill me. On other days a nice dark roast (Xs two or three) does much more than get me through a busy morning.

Movies.  Last night “Van Helsing,” at the request of my son, and today I’m watching “Bullitt” with Steve McQueen. In fact the famous car chase through San Francisco is just getting started. What better way to entertain ourselves on a holiday weekend?

There are many other things I’m thankful for in life. I’ve had conversations with a very wise woman about the simple pleasures that make life better. Quiet weekend mornings, a nap, a good book, security in the fact that you’re in charge of the day. These are things I’m grateful for – and not just today, but every day.


Read Full Post »

Of Patriots and Good Causes

I consider myself a patriot of the United States. I love my country and the remarkable things its inhabitants have accomplished. I’m also fully aware that we’ve accomplished much of the greatness we now boast about at a high cost – on the backs of others who were easily trampled by our fathers, grandfathers, great-grandfathers and great great grandfathers who didn’t know better. Or maybe they knew better but failed to allow their consciences to slow up “progress.”

I digress.

From my early years as a child, I embraced patriotism. My hometown celebrated its bicentennial in the early ’70s and I believed the entire world’s eyes were on Spencer, Iowa as we recognized that occasion with flags and fireworks and parades featuring local veterans who had fought in all the great wars. I saluted flags until I realized that those of us who haven’t served only had to put our right hands over our heart when the Star Spangled Banner was played. I still do that, by the way – and I get a little peeved when I see some ASS listening to the anthem with his trucker hat cocked and in place. Ugh!

There are many reasons to be disenchanted with the United States today. But on Veterans Day, I hope everyone can take a minute, set aside their views on war and be thankful that through the years – since this country was founded – men and women have been willing to give their lives to ensure us of our rights.

Three hundred million of us can walk on some of the richest earth in the world thanks to the service of a relatively handful of brave – oh so brave – people.

Thank them. And take your damn hat off!


Read Full Post »

Here in Minnesota, a statewide ban on almost all indoor smoking went into effect on Monday, Oct. 1, 2007. Bars and restaurants where smokers once puffed away, filling their stomachs with fried food and their lungs with nicotine, now have to take their nasty-ass habit outside.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that…

The ban promises to change the way many Minnesotans socialize and how local businesses operate, especially in border towns, where nonsmoking and smoking bars may soon be almost close enough for secondhand smoke to drift from one to the other.

Some fear that patrons who don’t cross state lines might jump ship to casinos on Indian reservations, where smoking will be allowed, while others may simply drink and smoke in their own homes.

Bracing for the ban, bar owners have been making last-minute trips to home improvement stores to pick up extra propane heaters. Outdoor areas, where smoking is permitted, have been added in many places.

“They’re doing patios, outdoor facilities to try and make their customers have a spot to have a cigarette so they don’t have to get in a car and leave,” said Kenn Rockler, of the Minnesota Tavern League.

I love the line that states, “some may simply smoke at home.” Duhhhhhh. And thank God the restaurant and bar owners are making accommodations for those with a smoking habit. I just love the site of shivering puffers as they stand outside on a January night next to a propane patio heater … smoking a heater. Many bar owners feel they would otherwise go out of business if they don’t offer options – especially with all the lure of TV trays and smokeless ashtrays sitting close to the Lazy Boy.

The ban is the result of Minnesota’s Freedom to Breathe Act (gasp – I’ve been holding my breath since 1999, when I first moved to the state). Finally! As a citizen of the Land of 10,000 Lakes, I’m protected from the dangers of secondhand smoke.

Of course, if I’m a bar owner just over state lines in Iowa, Wisconsin or either Dakota Territory, I’m thinking my ship has just arrived. Bar revenues will likely increase by 1 percent as smokers in Minnesota hop in the car or hitch to those states still living in the cigarette liberation age of 2006 – long before freedom to breathe acts were passed.

So progressive we are here in the North Country!


Read Full Post »