Thursday, March 02, 2006

Befriend a Republican. And then drink a beer.

Oh what a week. The 2006 Legislative Session in Minnesota (thanks to the Minnesota Historical Society for the pic at left) got off to a productive start on Wednesday, with important issues like prohibiting gay marriage, bashing immigrants and eliminating eminent domain. Eminent domain, what's that you say? It's the right of cities to seize private property, usually property that's blighted, but also to make way for things like sewers, roads and other economic development projects a city deems necessary, like a mall.

Why is this oh-so-sexy issue receiving as much coverage as gays (not) getting married and immigrants (not) stealing your job? Well, the Supreme Court ruled a few months back that local cities can use eminent domain to take property from one private entity and give it to another private entity if it's in the public interest. So developers and citizens came together to prevent this from happening. (Maybe you've seen the billboards popping up around town, paid for by Minnesotans for Eminent Domain Reform?) The thing is, it simply doesn't happen that often, and cities, believe it or not, sometimes do need to use it. Do you like crack houses? Adandoned store fronts? Do you need a new sewer line installed?

Actually, I probably couldn't defend it much past that. I got pretty bored reading about it--but it's sure to take up a lot of time this session because a lot of people are going to get screwed, and an equal number are going to make a couple bucks, no matter what happens. A great organization working on eminent domain is the League of Minnesota Cities. They're reasonably opposed to knee-jerk reactions and legislation that may come your way as a result of the court ruling.

What gets me most riled up about the arrival of the 2006 session--and it's really an extension of politics in recent years--is the ability of republicans to create outrage that didn't exist before. How many straight people do you think spent much time thinking about how gay people's relationships threatened their marriages before all these amendments started showing up? Or spent time complaining that immigrants--illegal or not, they're all the same right?--were taking our jobs and commiting crimes, before the prez decided we needed to crack down on them? If republicans spent this kind of energy on real problems and less on winning elections, just think what kind of society we could live in.

Maybe I'm just mad or jealous that they do such a good job of framing the debate and coordinating their message, from our commander in chief down to your city councilmember, year to year and election to election.

A good friend of mine has a crazy idea: start communicating with the right wing, compassionately, with a willingness to listen. He challenged me to befriend one republican and start a constructive dialogue about how we could build a movement about restorative justice and political forgiveness. I say great, but will they bring the same sort of willingness to listen? You never know until you try.

And until then there are elections to win. Which means, in Minnesota, precinct caucuses are coming up. Next Tuesday folks. In your neighborhood. Visit to find out how to get involved (if you're a democrat). (If not, then I'll leave it up to you to find info about the party of your choice. Don't want to make it too easy for all ya Libertarians out there.) Every seat is up this fall, and we have good candidates to endorse. Do it.

And until then, there are good beers to drink. Like HopDevil IPA from Victory Brewing. Great beer, hoppy like you like it. Victory also offers tons of their beers in 22oz bombers, and they're all solid beers. I usually don't drink it, because its a little on the expensive side, and there are other equally good beers for cheaper (and I am cheap so...), but it was on sale for $6.99 at my local liquor store (Big Top, y'all).

I also tried De Dolle Ara Bier (on clearance no less!), a unigue Belgium beer from De Dolle Brouwers. What a crazy beer! It had a weird hop infiused musty smell to it, but the taste was anything but. Honey and sweet apples filled my mouth, and left me smacking my lips after each sip. I brewed an ESB once using about a half cup of honey (added at the beginning of the boil if you really must know), and the Ara Bier had some of the same qualities brought out by the honey. I was really impressed.

So the week in winding down, and for the first time in awhile, I'm thankful for the weekend (it's been really slow at work for the past several weeks). In honor of the legislative session, and all the wonderful things that are likely to occur in the next couple months, pick up a new beer you've never had. And take my poll. And see what I'm listening to. Ah, the things to do at Capitol Brew-haha.

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