Archive for November, 2010

Luke Hansen: My Superhero

Posted in opinion with tags , , , , on November 29, 2010 by Kyle Fleming
Luke Densel Hansen (2003-2010)

Luke D. Hansen (2003-2010)

On Saturday, I had to attend the funeral of a seven-year-old. His name was Luke Hansen, and I met him this summer when he was one of my campers for Vacation Bible School in Hurley, South Dakota.

At the time I met him in mid-July, he was already four months into cancer treatment. In March, he was diagnosed with an inoperable brain stem tumor. Immediately, he began treatment: radiation, steroids, physical therapy, the works. For us adults, going through all of this would be rough. And at times, Luke hated what he had to go through to get better.

Yet if I hadn’t been told that there was something wrong with Luke, I never would have guessed. He sang the loudest, ran with the bigger kids, talked all the time, and was just your average seven-year-old, except with leg braces and limited mobility on one side. He was the coolest little kid, so full of life and energy. When he showed up to VBS on the last day with “Team Luke” bracelets for the staff, I was touched, and gladly accepted membership to the Team.

From that moment on, Luke became my Superhero. I subscribed to the Caring Bridge website, keeping tabs on everything going on with Luke. I cheered him on when I heard that he was able to play in a couple of baseball games, I wished him luck when he started second grade, and I became concerned when he wasn’t able to go to school because he was too weak.

Being so invested in Luke, I knew I was setting myself up for disappointment. Luke was able to do anything, and even though I was hoping he would be able to beat his disease, I knew every time I looked at my Hulk-green “Team Luke” bracelets that soon he wasn’t going to be around.

That day came the morning of Wednesday, 24 November. I got the email update that Luke had passed away. I’m glad I got it after I had arrived at home for Thanksgiving break, first because it meant that I could be in Hurley for the funeral, but also because I knew if I had gotten the news while driving, I would have had to pull over.

Luke’s funeral on Saturday was wonderful. Over 100 people showed up to send him off, offering so many memories that the basket was overflowing. The doors to the public school had the Incredible Hulk greeting everyone as they entered, and autographs and well-wishes from his sports heroes filled two tables. Luke looked as handsome as ever in his white casket, decked out in his favorite Twins jersey (no surprise there). Many wonderful memories were shared, including a touching poem by Luke’s older sister, Jasmyn.

As I sat back and let the tears roll, the topic of lessons came up. Someone mentioned that Luke taught her some important lessons, including to always be a cheerleader, and to learn the value of numbers. Important lessons as they are, Luke taught me an especially important one: live with no excuses.

For eight months, Luke had death looming over him. And yet, somehow, it didn’t faze him at all. He ran, he jumped, he climbed, he loved, he sang, he lived. And here I am, almost 21 years old, still making excuses for why I can’t do things: I’m not talented enough, it’s too far out of my comfort zone, I’m too old to do that, I’m too invested in what I’m doing to completely rid myself of it.

But Luke showed me that there can be no excuses in life. Life is way too short to focus on what you can’t do. Instead, focus on what you wish you could do, and do it. If it works, you have a new skill. If it doesn’t, then put it behind you and try something new.

Luke was, and always will be, my biggest Superhero, and I hope that someday, I can be like him when I grow up.

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Special Comment: Olbermann Indefinitely Suspended from MSNBC

Posted in current events with tags , , , , on November 5, 2010 by Kyle Fleming

It’s not often that I can comment on news as it happens, but this one is too frustrating to pass up. It was announced about an hour before this posting that Keith Olbermann, host of the MSNBC show “Countdown” will be indefinitely suspended from MSNBC because he made donations to the campaigns of three Democratic candidates without prior consent from NBC News.

Personally, it’s frustrating to me that Olbermann is being suspended. I’m a huge fan of the show, and look forward to it every day during the week. And it’s not frustrating simply because he was suspended. In doing a little digging into the story, it turns out that NBC News policy states that anyone affiliated with NBC News has to get prior approval before they can contribute to any political campaign, regardless of party affiliation.

No, this is frustrating because I know a lot of news media, and even people that I associate with every day, is going to misinterpret the story.

It seems that today, more than ever, America is a Headline Nation. We get all sorts of news and other information at lightning speed, and because there is so much of it, we feel like we don’t have time to read a whole news story. Instead, we skim headlines, and when we find an exceptionally fascinating title, we skim the first few paragraphs of the article, which we then use to describe it to our friends.

The problem is, with a lot of newspaper articles, the sensational information is located at the top of the article, to get you sucked into reading it, and the pertinent information is located at the end of the article. Which means that when you only skim the first few paragraphs of the article, you get broad statements, and maybe a few quotes. Then at the end of the article you get the numbers, statistics, and the things that actually matter.

Meaning that people reading about Olbermann will get extremely general information: Keith Olbermann donated $2400 to three different Democratic campaigns, and now he is suspended indefinitely from MSNBC without pay.

Initially, this article would have been a diatribe against MSNBC for suspending Olbermann. I would have mentioned that it is simply in poor taste to suspend someone simply because of their political leanings. It’s no surprise that Olbermann is a Democrat; anyone who watches his show should know that that viewpoint is painfully obvious. Olbermann can do what he pleases with his money, because his personal finances are his personal finances, and are not tied to a network.

However, one question can still be asked from my original idea to this idea: If Olbermann is being suspended for not getting prior consent for donating to Democrats, why was Fox News virtually ignored? After all, Fox News’ parent company, News Corp, donated one million dollars to the Republican Governers Association back in August.

“But Rupert Murdoch’s personal finances are his personal finances!” True, and if it was simply Murdoch donating to that organization, this would be a moot point. However, because News Corp itself donated to the organization, it makes everything affiliated with News Corp liable for the donation. That includes Fox News. Instead of being chastised or otherwise punished, it got a clever skewing over on Comedy Central, and then the issue was largely ignored.

I understand what issue is at hand, and I hope that whatever miscommunication happened between Olbermann and NBC News gets resolved quickly. As for the future, I hope that all news entities–anchors, reporters, and networks alike–who engage in similar activity are all held equally accountable. It’s not right that Fox News gets this free pass simply because they are a “force to be reckoned with.”

Election Night 2010: Results and Analysis

Posted in current events, politics with tags , , , , , on November 3, 2010 by Kyle Fleming

I will preface this blog by saying that the analysis you will see is not a professional, and probably not even an accurate analysis. My political science experience is one semester at Wartburg College back in the fall of 2008. But even though I’m inexperienced, that doesn’t mean that I can’t have my say.

That being said, let’s look at some of the most spectacular results:

DELAWARE
The results of the Senate race between Christine O’Donnell and Chris Coons was kind of a shocker. Despite O’Donnell’s many mistakes, from her “I’m Not A Witch” TV ad, to her “separation of church and state” blooper during one of the final debates, I honestly thought that she was still going to win. She had kind of a rabid fan base, and that alone, I was sure, was going to get her in. And yet, she loses, and quite considerably: Chris Coons with 54% of the vote, compared to O’Donnell’s 39%.

KENTUCKY
Honestly? Not a surprise. Even after the incident when a Rand Paul supporter stomped on the head of a MoveOn activist, Rand Paul wins the Kentucky Senate seat. Though his victory speech seemed a little off: “There is no rich, there is no poor. They’re all interconnected.” Rand Paul won with 51% of the vote.

NEW YORK
Another race in which I was almost certain that the Tea Party candidate was going to win. Carl Paladino, a beastly looking creep with a penchant for bestiality videos and racism, lost. By a landslide. In a world where it seems like only the slimiest, most evil people make it to Washington, Andrew Cuomo soundly defeats Paladino, 57% to 32%.

ARIZONA
John McCain easily wins his Senate seat, but the real focus of this election was for Governor. Jan Brewer made an absolute fool of herself during a live, televised debate, stumbling over her words, stuttering, and not making any sense. And that was just her prepared remarks. And somehow, despite an awful performance and falsely claiming that there were “headless bodies” in the Arizona desert, she manages to win the Governorship with 51% of the vote.

CALIFORNIA
eBay entrepreneur Meg Whitman is defeated in the Governor race against Jerry Brown, with Brown getting 50% of the vote to Whitman’s 41%. Shocking, in that Whitman somehow managed to spend $142 million in campaigning and advertising. If anything, this race proves that name recognition doesn’t mean anything when you don’t have anything to back it up.

Also on the ballot: Proposition 19, which would regulate and tax marijuana, and allow people over 21 to grow or carry a certain amount of marijuana. Supporters of Prop 19 pushed the idea that this would get California out of debt. But it wasn’t enough: Prop 19 was defeated with 57% of the vote against it.

SOUTH DAKOTA
I mention this one, in part because I love talking about it: John Thune wins the South Dakota Senate race. His opponent? No one. He ran uncontested.

South Dakota also comes up because, as I’ve mentioned a couple of times before, the ballot included Referred Law 12, which would institute a state wide smoking ban. Despite all of the financial reasons for this to fail, it somehow still passed with 65% of the vote.

IOWA
In 2009, the Iowa Supreme Court unanimously ruled that a proposed marriage ban was unconstitutional, becoming the first Midwestern state to allow marriage benefits for same-sex couples. While there was no incredible races to be watching last night, there was one important issue with unfortunate results: three of the Iowa Supreme Court judges that voted against the marriage ban have been voted out. Justice David Baker is out with a 54% “No” vote, Justice Michael Streit is out with a 54% “No” vote, and Chief Justice Marsha Ternus is out with a 55% “No” vote.

NEVADA
One of the most tightly-contested races in recent history, the Senate race between Harry Reid and Sharron Angle is exciting to watch. The race has literally been neck-and-neck the entire race, with each week having the other in the lead. This was one of the few races that everyone was talking about, and everyone was speculating exactly what was going to happen in this race. The results are stunning: Harry Reid squeaks a victory over Sharron Angle, with Reid receiving 51% of the votes.

ALASKA
The Alaska Senate race has been outstanding: Scott McAdams is the Democratic candidate. In a tight race, Joe Miller beats out Lisa Murkowski for the GOP nomination. But instead of accepting defeat, Murkowski, probably after a few snaps and an “Oh no you di’int,” announced she would be running as a write-in candidate.

So how is that race going? Murkowski is in the lead. Well, technically, “write-ins” is in the lead, with 41% of the vote. Joe Miller is in second place with 34% of the vote, and McAdams is in third with 24% of the vote with 76% of precincts reporting as of 7:22 am.

ANALYSIS
So what does this mean? The GOP has control of the House of Representatives, the Democrats have control of the Senate. With my non-knowledge of politics, I can honestly say I have no idea. The results clearly show that the American people are either truly upset with the way things were going and needed a change, or they are easily swept up into anti-establishment rhetoric. A lot of lies were shouted, and a lot of mud was slung in this election cycle, and discerning the truth from the baloney can be a tough thing to do.

If I had to speculate, I would say this could mean either one of two things. Ideally, this would be a step in a bipartisan direction. With one party in power on one side, and the other party on the other side, this is a perfect moment for everyone to sit down and listen to one another. Conversation is the key to making great progress in America.

However, this could also mean that absolutely nothing will get done. The House is full of Tea Party candidates, with platforms that really only included “repeal Obamacare” and “return to Christian values” without really saying how or why. The focus may only be on those two things, and then running for re-election. If this track happens, things will only get worse, and then we will have to wait and see if anything will happen in the election of 2012.

All election results came from a multitude of sources, including: Huffington Post Politics Twitter feed, MSNBC Election Center, and Fox News political coverage.

Your Civic Duty

Posted in current events with tags , , , , , on November 1, 2010 by Kyle Fleming

In case you haven’t been able to tell by the influx of political ads and media coverage, tomorrow is Election Day. Seats for the House and the Senate, as well as many local and state seats, are up for grabs. Tea Party candidates have completely shaken up the election scene, and for some seats, the only way to predict who will win is to wait for all of the votes to be counted.

It is your civic duty to vote tomorrow. While, ideally, I would have the readership to encourage everyone to vote Democrat, the main idea here is to just vote. But don’t vote for just anyone. Take the time to read the issues, examine the candidates, and vote for common sense.

There are plenty of crazy politicians out there (and Keith Olbermann in his Special Comment on Wednesday [two links] exposes the crazies in the Tea Party), and they come from all over. They are running simply because they want to oust the incumbents, but they don’t exactly have the best interests of the people in mind. Many times the stances they take have no ideological support; they are simply taking those stances because they think that’s what the people want.

It’s frustrating, especially in these last few months, to watch these ads and to listen to the debates and wonder why people this stupid are running for Congress. This frustration is a main reason why updates have been spotty at best–I would love to comment on everything stupid and inane that’s been going on in this election cycle, but there is so much going on that it’s hard to know where to start.

And sometimes, the stupidity is just so obvious that all I would need to do is post what was said, possibly with a string of personal attacks and curse words. As fun as that would be, I’m above that, and choose not to comment rather than get myself in trouble.

It is always important to vote, but never has it been more important than this cycle. President Obama, the Senate, the House, and all politicians should be working for the people, but it seems that when the politicians aren’t fighting with each other and filibustering and never getting anything done, they are campaigning.

Politicians say that they have your best interests in mind, but really, seriously, take a look at it. If your incumbent doesn’t appear to have your interests in mind, take them out. But replace them with someone who DOES have your best interests in mind. Look at the issues, look at the voting records, look at everything you can about the candidate. If you like what you see, get out and vote.

If you don’t like what you see, still vote. Other than candidates, there are plenty of things to vote on. In California, Proposition 19 will decide whether or not marijuana will be legalized. Referred Law 12 in South Dakota is the smoking ban law. Vote, and have your voice heard.

P.J. O’Rourke, Libertarian and political satirist, said Saturday on NPR, “The Government represents the will of the People, not the whim of the People.” If these Tea Party candidates get into office, what will they do once they accomplish their single issue? What is left for the Tea Party once they repeal “Obamacare” (a term that I’d be more than happy to have removed from our lexicon)?

Nothing. There will be two years of people with little to no political experience doing whatever they can to keep things moving in Washington.

Get out and vote on Tuesday. Vote for common sense. Vote for what you feel is the best option for your state and for your nation. Just don’t vote out of frustration. Vote for the betterment of all.