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a not-so-short summary of what happened in iran

a not-so-short summary of what happened in iran

today on “kate researches a topic and distills it into mass amounts of genX cynicism with slight millennial optimism”: what the heck happened with iran?

i feel like for 3 days the US who followed the news was on tenterhooks with iran and then whoosh, it just sort of fizzled out. so what the heck happened?

first, iran and US relations are not the greatest. in may 2018, DT pulled out of an international agreement for the iran nuclear deal (it was between the US, UK, france, china, russia, and germany and limited what iran could do with its nuclear program). the reason the program was going to be put in place was because the restrictions were really punishing ordinary people in iran (you know, the pleebs like you and me) and raising the cost of living immensely. after the US pulled out, more of the strict rules were put back in place and oil exports were affected.

but, a brief history of iranian rule will help. since 1979, when the islamic revolution took place, the country has been under theocratic rule – an islamic republic that governs according to the laws of islam. the supreme leader has control over everything pretty much, so no checks and balances. there is a president, too, who is elected, but he is the 2nd most important person. the supreme leader is leader for life, so the current SL has been in power for 30 years. 30 years!!! the current president, however, has only been in power since 2013, but he’s been working on a better economy and better worldwide relations. you might remember him beating mr. ahmadinejad (I’m a dinner jacket – remember that?) in 2013. i believe this was a part of the arab spring (don’t quote me on that).

so the new prez worked on the iranian nuclear deal in 2015, working with the above countries to create a better relationship with them (they thought iran was working on a nuclear weapon and were scared [really, they should be more scared of the US’s nuclear arsenal. good grief]). part of the previous sanctions imposed were specifically designed to damage its economy – stop selling oil and natural gas to certain countries – and this really damaged the economy, as the cost of food and fuel became super expensive for the pleebs. in 2015, the new prez agreed to the iranian deal that would lift the sanctions in exchange for iran cutting back on nuclear activities (can we all agree that perhaps some nuclear activities include NOT bombs? like nuclear energy? for what it’s worth, iran had said that its nuclear activities were peaceful. although who knows what they are doing.) it was hoped that iran’s economy would get better and the country, pleebs especially, would get back on its feet.

this deal is what the US (DT) pulled out of in 2018.

then, in 2019, four US oil tankers were damaged off the cost of the UAE, and we (well, probably DT) blamed iran but didn’t provide evidence. iran denied it. after that, a US surveillance drone was shot down by iran, who said it was in their airspace (that’s reasonable if its in their airspace). (at this point, DT tweeted BIG MISTAKE and said he was 10 mins away from an airstrike before pulling back. meanwhile, the US had been designing rules and restrictions to stop other nationals from buying iranian oil.

so there’s some background; if you want to know more about what happened in 1979, i’d suggest watching the movie “argo.”

now, some background on this suleimani dude. i’m gonna call him S because i don’t want to type his name every time.

S joined the iranian revolution guards in 1979 after the revolution and rose in the ranks pretty quickly.

  1. he fought against the opium trade from afghanistan to turkey/europe
  2. in 1999, he told the iran president to crush a student revolt otherwise the military would launch a coup
  3. he was set to start collaborating to destry the taliban, but hended after GW said iran was a part of an axis of evil
  4. he strengthened a relationship with hezbollah and sent operatives to they could retake southern lebanon
  5. he is described as the single most powerful operative in the middle easy and combats western influence to promote the expansion of siite and iran’s influence in the middle east.
  6. he coordinated attacks and other stuff during the syrian civil war – he was a strong supporter of bashar al-assad and thousands of the iranian military force were spread out across syria. al-assad said that S deserved most of the credit in repeling the rebels and recapturing cities and towns.
  7. conspired with russia for al-assad’s syria and tried to get russian military on board to reshape the war.
  8. worked to get rid of ISIL in iraq. (ISIL is probably the more accurate term for ISIS.) [i feel like this…might be good?]

some other items of note:

  1. he was on a list of iranians who were targeted with sanctions by the UN. he, along with bashar al-assad was sanctioned for providing material support to the syrian government.
  2. the US put him on a list that forbade US citizens form doing business with him.
  3. he was a popular national figure in iran – more for the conservative side of things i’d imagine. he was considered more popular than the president (but not as popular as the supreme leader)

not the best guy.

so, S was killed on jan. 3 by a US drone strike near the baghdad airport, ordered by DT. the reasons:

  1. he had been involved in the killing of americans
  2. there was an attack on the american embassy in baghdad
  3. there was an attack on a k-1 air base
  4. an iraqi-american contractor was killed by a rocket attack

at first, DT had wanted to strike the shia militia, but chose the most extreme (proposed) option instead. a little contradiction at this point, given that the above list was used as “justification” while DT said he was preventing imminent attacks on americans. DT told fox news that four embassies had been targeted for future attacks while secretary of state pompeo said there were no known attacks forthcoming, so WHO TO BELIEVE, WHO TO BELIEVE.

[also, this whole thing where DT was telling people at maralago about the strikes before they happened and NOT telling congress? and then telling the details at a private fundraiser?? how is that not a violation of state secrets? i’m sorry; that’s ineptitude at its greatest. what an iDioT.)

congress did NOT authorize the attack, and since the attack was done in iraqi airspace, there was also some controversy over not getting consent from iraq. hmmm.

so, what was the reaction?

  1. the US said this violated international human rights law
  2. some compared it to the killing of archduke franz ferdinand (kind of full circle there, wouldn’t you say?)
  3. WWIII started trending on twitter
  4. the risk of iran retaliating with war…well that was definitely a real possibility
    1. iran launched ballistic missiles at two us bases in iraq (with no casualties, but some servicemembers were concussed)
    2. the US embassy told americans it would be best to leave iraq ASAP
    3. DT said that any retaliation would result in US targeting 52 iranian sites, including cultural sites, WHICH is pretty much a war crime as defined at the geneva convention
    4. US civil aviation operators are prohibted from flying over airspace in iraq, iran, and the persian gul and gulf of oman
    5. iraq wanted US troops to get out, but the DT administration refused
  5. DT imposed new sanctions, targeting the metals industry, construction, manufacturing, textiles, and mining sectors. 17 sanctions against the largest copper, steel, and iron manufacturers were also put in place.
  6. …and then

and then, it seemed to fizzle out after the ukraine flight crash. this was an international passenger flight from tehran to kiev. not long after it took off from tehran, it was shot down and 176 people on board were killed.

an iranian military operation shot it down, and it was attributed to human error. after some hemming and hawing by iran, they finally admitted they shot it down after mistaking it for a US cruise missile.

after that, mass protests broke out in iran, calling for the supreme leader to be removed because of the deception about the shooting down of the airline. they called soleimani a murderer, and chanted death to the dictator. riot police are trying to rein them in, even as the protesters chant “they are lying that our enemy is america; our enemy is right here.” at funerals of iranians who were on the flight, people shout anti-government slogans. (this was just days after protesters were out rallying behind their islamic leaders after S’s death – such a flip! i am speculating that there were probably different types of people in each type of protest.)

ukraine, canada, and the UK, all countries that had citizens on the flight, are demanding transparency and justice for families. justin trudeau partly blamed the US for the shootdown of the plane.

so what’s happening now? iraq is doing its best to get US troops out of there because of its parliament’s relationship with iran and what happened with S. operations against ISIS would come to a standstill, and if the US withdraws, there would be more room to resurge. iran would expand more power into iraq. so the strike on S turned out to mean iraq supporting iran and kicking out the US. currently, the government is an islamic, democratic, federal parliamentary republic with executive, legislative, and judicial branches. if iran spreads out, it could easily turn into a theocracy.

*******

you made it this far. this was a lot of info, and good job on reading it all.

i’m tired of leaders pulling us into wars and altercations and not seeing the humanity in all humans, whether brown, cream, dark cappuccino, or freckled pale ivory. i read a tweet shortly after the killing of S and it said something to the effect that the average citizen in the US has more in common with the average citizen in iran than either one of them have in common with their leaders.

the average pleeb in iran does the same things you and i do: we go to work, we have a home, we cook our meals, we drive or walk or take the train to the store, we have pets, we have families, we care about the people we see, we get hungry and thirsty, we celebrate, we have hangnails, we clean out the catbox, we worry about the weather, we cheer on sports teams, we brush our hair in the morning, and we struggle to sleep at night sometimes. i by far have more in common with average iranian or iraqi or argentinian or canadian or yugoslavian or norwegian or sudanese or aussie person than i do with donald trump or his crony cabinet members.

i think that’s important to keep in mind. we’re more alike than we are different. and i don’t know about you, but wars and battles and plans to kill people aren’t what i call an everyday thought on my part. when it comes down to it, i think people would rather lead a satisfactory life and be with friends and family than wage war with someone on the other side of the planet. i don’t know why that’s so difficult for leaders to grasp.

********

sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qasem_Soleimani#Military_career

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2020_Iranian_attack_on_U.S._forces_in_Iraq

https://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/listeningpost/2020/01/iran-patriotism-protests-200117231148880.html

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/iraq-asks-united-states-to-set-up-mechanism-for-troop-withdrawal/2020/01/10/794058ea-32f8-11ea-971b-43bec3ff9860_story.html

https://www.cnn.com/2020/01/18/politics/trump-soleimani-details-mar-a-lago/index.html

https://www.cnn.com/2020/01/18/middleeast/iraq-iran-us-troops-analysis-intl/index.html

 

turn off your bluetooth

turn off your bluetooth

i’m watching a documentary about how our data is mined and how cambridge analytica persuaded undecided voters in the 2016 election and brexit. one of the comments was how the price of a person’s data is more valuable than oil.

it’s stuff like this why i don’t have alexa in each room, read paper books, and turn off as many location services as possible on my phone. another thing i want to start doing is remembering to turn off my bluetooth when i go into stores (they are able to use your BT to send you intrusive messages when you walk past these beacon things. they also know that you were in their store and will be able to send you ads). i was recently at a google ads training, and the person running it was telling us about how she turns off BT, which is telling – when the people who understand how the technology works and turn if off? you know something is not cool.

this makes me wish for the golden days of the internet again, before we were immersed in the internet so much.

i was going to write a short story today, but after i started watching this doc, i ended up not having time and also had to vent briefly about it.

book review – invisible women: data bias in a world designed for men

book review – invisible women: data bias in a world designed for men

unpaid work.

sex.

gender.

does it seem like i’m going to start a feminist rant? no. i’m going to talk about what we women have known forever.

i just finished up “invisible women: data bias in a world designed for men” and boy howdy am i annoyed. despite being the majority of people who inhabit the earth, we get the short stick when it comes to, well, just about everything.

caroline criado perez does a nice job of making statistics and data points palatable in her book, which tend to make me set aside a book if it becomes too boring. instead, she weaves in stories and examples with her data, using recent, actual events to back up what she’s talking about. (and if you’re worried about “citation needed”, about 30% of the book is footnotes and annotations.)

she talks about three major parts of women’s lives that are ignored in our world: sex, gender, and unpaid work. each of them is infuriating in themselves to think about discrepancies, but the most irritating for me was the medical section (dealing with the sex portion of this). think about all those medical studies and drug studies and all those medications you’re taking. now think about how the majority of test subjects and even mice are male. now think about how different the female body is with hormones and different muscle mass and metabolism, even. and the data they do get after these studies? they don’t disaggregate them by sex! so there could be a great drug out there for women that didn’t do squat out there for men, but do we know? no. science grants have generally dismissed research into childbirth and menstruation due to them being “not pressing” even though one happens every 28 days for most women and the other happens 360,000 times a day! if that’s not pressing, i’m not sure what is. and then let’s not talk about how doctors dismiss women’s pain as “all in their head”. did you know that a lot women are given antidepressants instead of painkillers? and the men in the same situation are given painkillers?

WHAT. ON. EARTH.

now, let’s touch briefly on the fact that when you include any vehicular crash tests that include dummies that are the size and stature of women (but not anatomically, so the chestal area is flat [think about where a seat belt goes]), the safety ratings PLUMMET. and they don’t even do crash tests with these smaller dummies in the drivers seats, because, you know, women don’t drive ever, amirite?

and let’s not even get started on phone size and the pocketriarchy. yes, she talked about both those things. i wish she had used the term pocketriarchy though. i’d probably’ve written her a love letter.

*EYE ROLL SO HARD*

and that’s just one. unpaid work is another huge portion. one of the scandinavian countries decided to do their snow removal backwards (start with the sidewalks and side roads and move outward) and the number of injuries massively reduced. why? because all the women who travel to various places for different errands and to take care of people are more likely to walk and use side roads. the men who don’t do all this unpaid work just use a main road to get to their jobs and go home. women are also more likely to combine various trips into one: i go to work, but on the way home, i stop at target, i stop at the grocery store, i stop to pick something else up. husbands generally don’t do this because their wives do.

throw in childcare, eldercare, taking care of infirm relatives, housework, etc.: what do you think it would add to the GDP? she posits that it would more than double what the GDP is worth in its paid work. considering the average woman’s leisure time versus a man’s, this wouldn’t surprise me one bit. consider emotional labor.

ok, phew. i’m getting all riled up here.

for the last one, gender, which is inculcated in us from day one, i think what’s most telling is how the workworld is designed for men and women are told “hey, just be more bold. be more insistent. be more” when talking about the pay gap. didn’t get a raise? well, you obviously didn’t sell yourself as well as jeeves did over in the corner office. so we’re going to have a workshop on how to teach women to show their worth in the workworld. instead of this, can’t we just acknowledge that women aren’t as aggressive as men in the workworld and are just as, if not more, worthy? can that just be… the NORM? instead of telling women they need to be more aggressive in the workplace? and when they are, well then they’re just shrill. they’re too much. they’re HILLARY CLINTON. (such an odd insult.)

*EYE ROLL AGAIN*

bottom line in ALL of these is that when standards are set or buildings are designed or drug tests are commenced, maybe a few women at the table would help. heck: if the table were half women, that would be at least egalitarian. because chances are that they will think of something that men don’t think about because they don’t experience it. that’s why it’s good to have diverse backgrounds at the table as well.

so. read this book. women, prepare to want to scratch your eyeballs out in frustration (only because you know it happens all around you all the time). men, prepare to have your eyeballs opened a bit. at least i hope that’s what happens and i hope you think about it next time you’re making decisions for the whole in a room full of men.

kudos, caroline. keep fighting the good fight.

some info on the green new deal and a video for you

some info on the green new deal and a video for you

if you, like me, are somewhat concerned about the climate and how humans are shooting themselves in the foot when it comes to that, you may have heard some rumblings about the green new deal. and you, like me, may want to know more but haven’t really dug deep into it.

well, this post is for you! i’m going to read about it and summarize what we know.

the green new deal isn’t new. it’s been thrown around since 2006 to move the US toward 100% clean, renewable energy by 2030 (solar, wind, geothermal, etc). how to do this? carbon taxes, jobs guarantees, free college, single-payer healthcare, and utilizing public programs.

(before you get all in a huff about the social programs part of this, please for a moment think about how social security is socialism. it’s even in the name *shocker* [yes, you pay into it. so does everyone else. and it gets distributed. that’s how socialism works. roads, police, schools, libraries, firefighters. all socialism. embrace it.])

it’s recently gotten a resurgence from the current congress, after AOC assembled a committee to nail this down. the committee was tasked with providing a “’detailed national, industrial, economic mobilization plan’ capable of making the U.S. economy ‘carbon neutral’ while promoting ‘economic and environmental justice and equality.'”

what does this mean? well, after working on a resolution, here’s what will happen over a 10-year national mobilization:

  1. guaranteeing jobs with sustainable wages, vacation, retirement security, medical leave
  2. providing all peeps with health care, adequate housing, access to clean water, clean air, food, nature
  3. providing post-secondary training (whether college, trade school, etc) to all people
  4. 100% of power demand is through clean, renewable, zero-emission energy
  5. repair and upgrade to the US infrastructure (eliminating pollution and emissions from these )
  6. building upgraded, efficient power grids
  7. new building would be energy efficient
  8. invest in zero-emission vehicle infrastructure and manufacturing, clean and accessible public transportation
  9. spurring growth in clean manufacturing
  10. working with farmers and ranchers to eliminate pollution as much as feasible

why is health care and wage info in there? well, i guess it would gain more support if those are included, but i think separating them out would help this gain more traction. i do think the social aspects of this are important, but i don’t think they should be a part of a green initiative. it needs to be able to stand on its own.

so in march, republicans in the senate called for an early vote on the GND without discussion or expert testimony. so that was great. it failed 100% (dems voted no in a protest i guess).

will this go anywhere? i’m not sure. i think we are at a crossroads. on the one hand, people would love it if coal came back, because it means jobs. but those jobs are dwindling even with a return of coal. instead of wallowing in self pity about a loss of an industry, how about celebrating and learning how to have a career in the new industries of renewable energy? we have a robotics/energy program at my college where students graduate directly into a $35/hr job. learning is cool.

more and more energy companies are using renewable energy options. i actually get 100% wind energy through excel, and i’m working on being a part of a solar farm.

new homes ARE more energy efficient. windows are triple paned or have insulating gas in between the panes. more homes use geothermal energy. people don’t want to spend a lot of money on their utilities.

and that’s the rub: if the public starts to DEMAND the items on this list, it will happen. if we start to notice that the coral reefs are dying, that our weather in MN is probably at the forefront of climate change in this country (i wish i could find this article), the extreme weather we have is a result, the drought in the west, the hurricanes in the south. pay attention to something, and the public outcry usually results in a change in business practices.

[case in point: check out the current organic/gluten free/healthy foods front compared to even 10 years ago. people demand things and companies respond.]

the thing is, we’re so short sighted. if americans don’t see something in front of our face, it’s out of sight out of mind. i’m not sure if this is due to our constant, inexplicable need for 100% autonomy on everything, or that our history only goes back 225 years (compared to europe, africa, asia, that’s not long), or that we’re just stupid. but if it’s not a problem now, then it’s not a problem.

i think that this needs to become a more pressing global issue with leaders and people earthwide becoming involved and loud about how we’re just plotting our own demise if we do nothing.

so, i leave you with this video about a very scary graph and the hope that some semblance of a green new deal, even just environment related, is pushed forward.

 

sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_New_Deal

a tidy home

a tidy home

take a moment, today, and step outside. really pause and notice: the greening grass underneath your feet, the trees overhead, the pit-pat of rain falling on your outstretched hand; the smell of dampness on a chilly spring day, the increasing chirp of birds that have made their way north after the calm silence of winter; how the wind whips around you and the dead leaves and seed pods in the trees rattle against the cold in their hopeful knowledge that spring is right around the corner.

welcome home. this is it, earth-dweller. this pale blue dot is ours to call ours. it is our only.

somewhere along the way, a smart person decided to declare that earth day would happen on an annual basis. that we would learn about the three Rs in gradeschool. that we would encourage our parents to recycle and not focus too much on the reuse and reduce (arguably more productive than the recycle R). that we would plant trees on one day. that we would paint pictures and draw with our colored pencils and create art of the earth, our home, on this one day. somewhere along the way, the earth was reduced to one day.

you don’t think about home just one day a year. home is year round. home is always. home is where you are. earth day is every day.

and then it has become pressing. the science is resounding. the knowledge is there. and ignored, because why would you fix something that’s worked for the last couple centuries? why should you be inconvenienced? why would you need to change what you’ve been doing when you can’t see that anything’s wrong? why should the disposable lifestyle you’ve become accustomed to be taken away? you’re burnt out; why make things harder?

but: you don’t need to see the fire in order to know what to do when the fire alarm goes off.

and here’s what we need to know: the earth will prevail. the precipice we stand upon is not one of “will the earth survive;” it’s one of “will humans survive.” water shortages hurt people. flooding forces relocation. dying coral reduces species, which flows right up the food chain. after we’ve annihilated ourselves and several animal species, the climate will eventually equalize and the earth will be happy again.

our home is ours. we are not its responsibility. it is our responsibility.

this edge we are standing at is what future generations will notice and look back at. it will be the turning point of either something good or something bad. and whether or not you believe climate change is caused by humans, one thing i think we can all agree on: we don’t want to mess up our home. if cleaning the rivers and lakes, making sure the air is clear enough to breath, watching the crops we plant so we build sustainable agriculture and profitable agriculture, seeing that clearcutting trees is not just poor stewardship of the earth they grow from but also aesthetically displeasing, preserving natural areas not just for preservation’s sake but for our sake, is not going to combat climate change, then at least we can agree that keeping a tidy, clean home is good for the human spirit.

what is wrong with making the earth a better place to live in, even if human-caused climate change is a hoax?

i like my house. i like cooking in my kitchen, sleeping in my bed, hot showers, sitting in my faux-cabin living room; i enjoy the amenities that life in this era has given me. but where i truly feel at home and at peace and alive? in the woods. at the lake. under the milky way. standing in just-tilled dirt. pushing fingers through sand on a beach. listening to the frogs croak in the evenings. watching the gloaming fade into dark. feeling the sun on a warm-ish february day. hearing thunder in the distance. kicking through autumn leaves. standing in falling snow on a moonlit december night in a silence so complete.

this is the home i love. i would bet it’s the one you love too. let’s do what we can to make ourselves hospitable earth-dwellers.

in which i do a brief history of israel and have some thoughts and also i’m slightly scared to publish this

in which i do a brief history of israel and have some thoughts and also i’m slightly scared to publish this

i have often wondered why the US is very much involved with israel – why we give the country money and don’t question politics. why presidents and senators and representatives and other government officials don’t criticize or say anything negative about israel. in fact, i blogged a 2-sentence blog post in 2006 wondering the same thing.

(let it be known that jewish people have basically gotten a bum deal in life. tons of stereotypes (which i have never understood), the wandering people, the holocaust, etc. i have no doubts about that. also, i don’t get jewish stereotypes. i just can’t comprehend why people are prejudiced against jews. good on you if you get it; i just don’t.)

i’ve asked my peers what the deal is. no one seems to have a good answer.

and then MN representative ilhan omar (a muslim of somali descent) asked a question that i thought was relevant and useful in my own musings on israel dealings, and she got SUCH criticism.

What I’m fearful of — because Rashida [Tlaib] and I are Muslim — that a lot of our Jewish colleagues, a lot of our constituents, a lot of our allies, go to thinking that everything we say about Israel to be anti-Semitic because we are Muslim. And so to me, it’s something that becomes designed to end the debate because you get in this space of — yes, I know what intolerance looks like and I’m sensitive when someone says, “The words you used, Ilhan, are resemblance [sic] of intolerance.” And I am cautious of that and I feel pained by that.

But it’s almost as if, every single time we say something regardless of what it is we say that is supposed to be about foreign policy or engagement or advocacy about ending oppression or the freeing of every human life and wanting dignity, we get to be labeled something, and that ends the discussion. Because we end up defending that and nobody ever gets to have the broader debate of what is happening with Palestine. So for me, I want to talk about the political influence in this country that says it is okay for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country. And I want to ask, why is it okay for me to talk about the influence of the NRA, of fossil fuel industries, or Big Pharma, and not talk about a powerful lobby?

(points that especially piqued my interest: nobody ever gets to have the broader debate of what is happening with Palestine; political influence in this country that says it is okay for people to push for allegiance to a foreign country)

she got slammed. and i got more curious.

so, if you’re like me, and wondering what the deal is with US-israel relations, why rep. omar is being lambasted, how any negative talk about our muslim citizens isn’t treated the same way, and how you are also now scared to even question this, THIS POST IS FOR YOU.

some history

i thought it would be good to learn about the history of israel as a country.

the place we currently know as israel is also known as the holy land or palestine. the land is THE holy place for major religions in the world: the birthplace of judaism and christianity, and it also contains sacred sites for islam, samaritanism, druze and bahai faiths.

various peoples have lived there, but jewish people were the major inhabitants from about 1000 BCE-300 CE. christianity became more widespread at that point and then lasted until the arab muslim empires conquered it the 7th century. then we know all about the crusades between about 1100-1300. then the muslims continued to hold onto it from then until 1917.

during WWI, britain was committed to creating a jewish national home – the balfour declaration – after the fall of the ottoman empire, when britain took over palestine. (some research into the balfour declaration indicates that britain’s intent was monetary. they wanted to convince american jews to enter the war and use connections to jewish financiers in new york that would help out. i’m not a historian. don’t quote me on what i found out on the internet.)

in the late 1800s, the zionism movement (a move to establish a jewish nation) had been established by jews in the russian empire. after a crap-ton of persecution, they called for a jewish state, arguing that it was the only way to protect jews from anti-semitism*. eastern european and russian jews began immigrating to palestine. in the 1920s and 30s, british rule continued in the section of palestine, due to (deserved, in my opinion) arab opposition.

there was fighting, and the brits tried to limit jewish immigration. then the holocaust happened and many jews entered illegally. radical jewish groups started terrorism against the brits in palestine, and at the end of WWII, the US on the cause, and the united nations voted to partition off palestine in 1947.

the UN gave more than half of palestine, even though they made up less than half the population. in 1948, the jews secured their UN-allotted land and some more. britain withdrew and israel became a country.

the next day, egypt, transjordan, syria, lebanon, and iraq invaded. enter much turmoil.

US-israel – what’s that about

ok so this is where i’d like to know more info.

in general, zionism was a non-issue in the US until about the time the british enacted the balfour declaration. congress passed a resolution during the wilson administration that supported the establishment of a jewish homeland in palestine. after WWII, the US was suddenly all hands on deck in the affairs of the middle east, which was a complete 180. the reasons? soviets, israel, and of course, petroleum.

ok, let’s go by some years.

1953-1961: the US was mostly out of the way except for loans for basic food necessities. a lot of israel’s support cam from german reparations, and france supplied weapons (to counter the attacks from the surrounding arab and egyptian attacks).

1961-1969: in 1966, an iraqi pilot who defected landed a soviet fighter jet in israel, and info on the jet was immediately shared with the US. this was during the arms race and escalating cold war, so this was a big deal. the US policy shifted 100% toward israeli support.

this was also the time of the 6-day war, during which israel decided to preemptively attack egypt. and then accidentally attacked a US navy ship (accepted by the government, but still held by some to be deliberate). in the kennedy years, the US was seen as a fair country by the middle east. by the end of the johnson years, the US was the most distrusted/hated country in the middle east.

1969-1977: israel had been occupying egypt and syria since 1967 (6-day war), and they finally attacked the israeli forces. thus launched the yom kippur war. soviets began to resupply the arab forces, and israel asked the US for military supplies. (sense the theme of US vs. soviet union among all this as well. good grief.) israel cornered egypt, giving the US an upper hand in the cold war. henry kissinger told israel to not destroy the egyptian army, the egyptians withdrew the request for support from the soviets, and the soviets went along with it. then kissinger got the israelis out of arab lands.

oh, and this all contributed to the OPEC embargo that happened in 1973-74. in 1975, israel declined the US to redeploy to sanai. president ford then basically stopped relations with israel for about 7 months until there was an israeli-egyptian accord.

1977-1981: god bless jimmy carter. check this guy out. he wanted to start pressuring israel to withdraw from the palestinian lands they had captured and also supported a palestinian homeland. as such, he wasn’t the most president among the israeli government.

1981-1989: reagan, however, was different. relations between the US and israel strengthened under reagan because of his perspectives on terrorism, security, and above all, the soviet threats. in 1989, the US granted major non-NATO ally to israel, so that it had access to weapons systems. at this point, the US was giving $3billion in grant aid annually.

at the end of the reagan terms, israelis were once again annoyed because the US opened dialogue with the palestine liberation organization.

1989-1993: big news: secretary of state told one of the pro-israel lobby groups in the US that israel should abandon its expansionist policies (like, why was this even a policy to begin with? that’s what i don’t understand. you get a country after millennia of being flung about, and the first thing you do is decide to take over the land around you? how is that a good idea, especially since the people around you are the ones who got thrown out of their homeland…that seems a bit hypocritical). THEN, GWbush says that east jerusalem is occupied territory and not a sovereign part of israel. WOO BOY.

amid all this was the iraq-kuwait (gulf war I). the US somehow convinced israel not to retaliate against some attacks, and good thing because then it would’ve been all out war against israel. this paved the way for the israeli-PLO recognition and signing of  a declaration during the oslo accords.

1993-2001: yitzhak rabin was assassinated and replaced by netanyahu, whose policy was to expand jewish settlements. after a visit to israel, clinton offered $300 million for weapons defence.

2001-2009: ah, enter 9-11. israel was annoyed because bush II was apparently being nice to the palestinians at israel’s expense so that the arabs would support the US in its anti-terror activites. and another $9 billion in conditional loans were made available through 2011.

bush was also the only president thus far who thought it was ok that israel was pushing its boundaries, stating that it was unrealistic that israel would return to its 1949 borders (can i eye roll here).

oh, and here’s something: the US provided israel with bunker buster bombs, which were used on civilian areas in lebanon in violation of international law. ugh. why can’t we all just get along.

2009-2017: obama wanted a peace deal between israel and palestine. in 2009, israel agreed to a 10-month freeze on settlement construction in the west bank (but not east jerusalem. or units already under construction. or dismantle israeli outposts). palestine said no thanks.

in 2011, there was a UN resolution that declared israeli settlements in the west bank illegal. obama vetoed. then in 2010, israel said that it would continue with its expansion in east jerusalem (seen internationally as occupied territory; by israel as annexed territory). obama was pissed. he gave an ultimatum. (i don’t think the ultimatum included “no money for you.”) there was no agreement.

and then, netanyahu said this: “I know what America is; America is a thing you can move very easily, move it in the right direction. They won’t get in their way.”

obama pushed for pre-1967 borders (before the 6-day war) and settled-upon swaps – so that israelis and palestinians would negotiate. but also he was ready to veto palestinia application for statehood at the UN (so seriously, palestine is basically the west bank, gaza strip, and part of jerusalem, but isn’t a real country. this gets more and more messed up.)

2017-now: well well well. guess what. DT lifts all restrictions on construction in the west bank and the US will open its first permanent military base in israel. and he recognizes jerusalem as the capital of israel.

the $$$

let’s see. in 2010, $2.8 billion was spent in foreign aid to israel. $3.1 billion in 2014. israel has been one of the top recipients of US aid since 1970. a portion used to be dedicated to economic assistance, but that was ended in 2007. now israel just gets $3 billion.year for foreign military financing. 74% must be spent by purchasing US defense equipment, services, and training. what a stupid subsidy for US industries. (talk about welfare.)

the land

israel’s need to expand is disturbing to me. but it views jerusalem as a god-given right. israelis actually threw rocks at US diplomats who’d come to check out vandalism at a grove of olive trees planted in honor of a palestinian who had died after an altercation with a soldier from israel. this was in the israel-occupied area of the west bank. seriously?

since the 6-day war, when israel annexed east jerusalem, the arabs have been pushed out of their neighborhoods where israel is building homes and government offices. israel insists that jerusalem is its capitol.

all this is weird to me because the large portion of israelis are jewish immigrants since 1947. and even before that, jerusalem was established around 3500 BCE and it wasn’t until 1000 BCE that it became the jewish kingdom. babylonians occupied it in about 600 BC, destroyed the temple, and exiled the jews. but then 50 years later, jews were allowed to return and rebuild the temple.

in 300 BCE, alexander the great took over, and since then a few different groups have ruled it: romans, persians, arabs, egyptians, crusaders, islamists, etc.

its holy connections:

  1. the jewish temple built in 37 BCE
  2. jesus was crucified 30 AD
  3. muhammad died in jerusalem in 630ish AD

see, THREE MAJOR RELIGIONS can claim that town.

israeli citizenship

i wondered if american jews were automatically citizens of israel. but here’s an interesting thing. since palestinians were living in israel when it became a country, you’d thing that they would automatically become citizens. not so. arabs only became citizens if they met certain stipulations, and since many of them fled during the 1948 war, they didn’t meet residency requirements. in fact, they became stateless because none of the surrounding arab countries where they were refugees would grant citizenship (except jordan). imagine that: you’re hanging out at home, then some country halfway across the globe decides that your lands should be made into a different country, they immigrate there, a war starts, you hightail it outta there because war, then when it settles down you want to go back home and you can’t because you don’t meet these citizenship stipulations that you didn’t know about when you fled. because they weren’t enacted.

so, a few ways on how to become an israeli citizen:

  1. live there. those arabs/palestinians who were continuously present were granted citizenship.
  2. descent. if you are born of israeli citizens, you are a citizen.
  3. law of return. all jews have the right to immigrate to israel and claim citizenship upon arrival. after three months, immigrants receive israeli citizenship.

israelis can hold dual citizenship.

US citizens can hold dual citizenship, BUT if you are naturalized in the US, you are required to renounce any prior allegiance (not citizenship) to other countries (interesting as this is what rep. omar brought up).

the lobby

the lobby. why are there even lobbying groups in america? what a racket. i wish they would be done away with entirely. but that’s another blog post.

so the israel lobby is the american israel public affairs committee (aipac). it consists of secular, christian, and jewish individuals and groups. it goes back to the mid-1800s! some other george bush denounced oppression of the jews and called for elevating them to an honorable rank by restoring jews to israel (and then converting them to christianity!!!! OMG). doing this would benefit EVERYONE, forming a “link of communication” between humanity and god. good grief.

as for the current formal lobby, which works like all other lobbies, the members ask the government to stop pressuring israel to divide jerusalem and israel (according to the group’s founder). weirdly enough, a large chunk of the lobbying done is by evangelical christians.

jewish americans vote more than any other ethnic group and will vote according to a candidate’s stance on israel. jewish americans have also been major benefactors to campaigns. aipac is also known for being a well-organized, influential lobby (unlike pro-arab interest groups).

the aipac is similar to other lobbies. we know them: the NRA, AARP, big agriculture, etc. some commentators have been critical of the influence that the aipac has over US policies in the middle east. and apparently, this is the “tired trope” that rep. omar brought forth. according to some, there is no other lobby that claims as much criticism as the aipac, and this, i guess, is antisemitic in that we think there’s a jewish conspiracy (see damascus event* for example of such conspiracy theory). but… THAT’S WHAT LOBBIES DO. THEY TRY TO INFLUENCE. i’m so confused.

some thoughts

  • jerusalem should be a neutral zone, like switzerland. make it its own state where no one holds citizenship or something. the UN is its governing body.
  • the history of that area is so varied. it’s hard for one religious group to claim it because they ALL can claim it.
  • why does israel insist on expanding its borders? i’d be happy with any country at all! i mean, they could’ve ended up in china (the balfour thing suggested the middle east, but hadn’t promised it).
  • for a group that has been severely dumped on in the past, it sure is doing a lot of dumping.
  • is there a connection between the US supply of weapons and money to israel and the surrounding middle eastern countries’ continued dislike of the US? would 9-11 have happened if the US hadn’t had as close a relationship with israel? (is this considered a jewish conspiracy theory? good grief.)
  • i still don’t understand anti-semitism. like, why people are anti-jewish in general. or the whole money-hungry stereotype. maybe i’m naive.
  • lobbying in general i think is evil. it should be banned. candidates should have a stance based on their own research and morals, not on how much money someone gives them.
  • i don’t think there’s anything wrong with rep. omar’s remarks and questions. i have them. i’m sure other people do too, especially those who don’t know anything about the history i’ve just shared with you. just in case this gets “found”, i’m gonna say right here that i consider myself to be open-minded and did try to find sources that were objective. if that’s not the case, then right my wrong!
  • i think what’s happening to palestinians SHOULD be addressed. they are turning into a displaced people, just like the jews were.

i’m not sure how humanity gets to a point where we can’t see our own humanity reflected back to us in others. 

 

**********************

*some things that all jewish people were blamed for: the death of jesus, the black plague, they were forced to practice christianity (well, along with every other non-christian, let’s be real here), too lofty a position in islamic societies, those living in muslim lands had to pay a tax to muslims (this was actually true of all non-muslims living there), general expulsion from areas, discriminatory laws,  etc. i think the tipping point for the zionist movement was the damascus affair, when 13 well-known jews were arrested for kidnapping and ritually killing a french monk in damascus (????). 9 were let go and blood libel accusations (the ritual thing) weren’t allowed anymore.

sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Israeli_citizenship_law

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citizenship_of_the_United_States#Dual_citizenship

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Israel%E2%80%93United_States_relations

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Israel

https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/state-of-israel-proclaimed

https://www.history.com/topics/ancient-middle-east/history-of-jerusalem

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persecution_of_Jews

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Damascus_affair

newsflash: everyone’s burnt out.

newsflash: everyone’s burnt out.

you know, millennials, i didn’t really understand all the flack and outrage toward you. as a half millennial myself, i kind of understood (i’m a xennial – born in 79). i didn’t get the special snowflake syndrome. i thought the hipster phase was quirky. i was annoyed by the articles pitting boomers against millennials, but that was mostly because i was wondering “where am i in this?”

but overall? millennials are ok. i have siblings who are millennials. rock on.

until this article: “How Millennials Became The Burnout Generation”

But when it came to the mundane, the medium priority, the stuff that wouldn’t make my job easier or my work better, I avoided it.

Burnout and the behaviors and weight that accompany it aren’t, in fact, something we can cure by going on vacation. It’s not limited to workers in acutely high-stress environments. And it’s not a temporary affliction: It’s the millennial condition. It’s our base temperature. It’s our background music. It’s the way things are. It’s our lives.

i read this article slack jawed, reading how people in their mid 20s-late 30s are not going to the post office, avoiding getting their knives sharpened, not submitting insurance claims to the tune of $1000. and how life is hard. the recession killed jobs. but now they’re working all the time because it’s expected of them. and most of all because they’re ill prepared for life.

before i get too far, i have a couple caveats: i’m an oldest of four. my mother was a taskmaster to all of us. minus the guy with a TBI, we’re all gainfully employed and able to make it in life. a lot of this i attribute to excellent parenting.

but, that’s not to say that being an adult is not HARD WORK. there were a lot of things as an adult* that i was ill prepared for, ESPECIALLY in my 20s and 30s.

and that’s how i became extraordinarily irritated at this article, at the author, at the stupid unfinished to-do list, at the millennial generation. sure, they can’t all espouse these ideals, but really? really?

then here’s a secret: we’re all burnt out.

i kept thinking about my mom while reading that article. the woman is probably one of the hardest working people i know. in the early 90s, she quit her job to go back to school with a house of four kids and my dad (who was kind of in and out of work and more SAHD). add on top of that managing a household, little income, and no one to tell her how to do all that – talk about burnt out. now, she’s still working, houses my brother with a TBI, and has an octogenarian husband (hi dad!). i’d imagine she’s still burnt out. and she’s no millennial.

we all had to work hard in our 20s. we all didn’t have a $45k/yr job waiting for us out of college. we all had to work at making ourselves indispensable at work. and we all can figure out how to get to the post office to put our ballot in the mail. or not, if that’s what we choose to do. this is not new news.

i left college in 2001 and worked at a newspaper for $7/hr (almost $10/hr today). then i decided to go to grad school to amass more debt, i guess. new job for $12/hr. then i got laid off. in 2006. (that’s pre-recession.) then i graduated from grad school and worked at target. then i got a job for $12/hr, where i worked for 5 years over the recession years, making it through 6 series of layoffs, until i quit to pursue a job that actually made use of my skills. that job that finally was what i wanted to do? i got it when i was 33.

from what i can tell in the article, the burnout comes from working too much. i can’t figure out if that meant that people don’t want to work 40 hrs/wk anymore or if millennials are working 60-hr weeks. and part if it, i gleaned, comes from the expectation that they would work that much. well, STOP IT. salaried? put a max on the hours you will work. yes, we know there’s work to be done, but if i stayed til my work was done, i would have to work straight for a month with no sleep.

worried about getting replaced? you’re cheap (see $7/hr above). and, if you can make yourself indispensable at work, then all the better. the reason i survived 6 rounds of layoffs was because of that. i was the last person to be hired in pre-press, and 5 people were laid off before i quit. you can learn new things – cross train, work hard during your 40 hours, and be open to change. another pro-tip: get an hourly job if you can. i have NEVER been salaried, and if i go over 40 hrs/wk, i am paid OT.

so what was i ill prepared for? budgeting was not a fun thing for me. dealing with bad roommates, figuring out how to manage school loans, debt, and eating. awful jobs. more awful jobs. bosses that sucked. figuring out what exactly i did want. you know, what most people deal with.

i’m sorry that we can’t all be a trust-fund baby, not work, and have a butler to do all our bidding. you don’t think all people would take that if offered? you’re not the lone generation to not want to do that. i think the only thing from the past that espouses the ideals that millennials would like to aspire to are the 1950s white men who went to work, came home to a meal on the table and a sparkling house (thanks to their wives), then got to sit in the living room afterward reading the paper and drinking a scotch until it was time for bed. talk about making america great again.

my dad once told me that the best time for americans was in the late 1800s. i scoffed at that and told him that may have been the best time for white american men. now is a pretty great time considering rights and amenities for women and POC, even with the current administration. if i think about if i’d rather live and work now or in the late 1800s, i’ll take now in a heartbeat. think about no electricity, chopping wood, killing and growing your food, preserving it, saving seeds, tilling with handheld tools, doing laundry over the course of 2 days, cooking on a woodstove, etc etc. it had to have been backbreaking. they weren’t watching netflix for five hours straight, that’s for sure.

i think a huge part of why millennials think they got the short end of the stick is that now there is this platform that shows everyone what CAN be. what we should strive to be. instagram, facebook, twitter – the way to show our best faces. all we see of others is the good stuff – the perfect lives. so why wouldn’t millennials be confused when we don’t have that? and better question: why don’t millennials get that that’s not real life?

real life. here’s what real life is: leaving work and heading home right away even though you know you should stop at a grocery store and pick up some milk. making a frozen something food even though you should make some real food. sitting on the couch and watching netflix even though there are clothes to be folded. getting up to run on the treadmill because that’s the one productive thing you’ll do tonight. glancing at the dirty carpet and dishes on the counter even though you’d feel better if you cleaned it up. putting off cleaning the catbox even though the cats would be happier and you’ll regret it when you finally do get around to it. and on and on and on.

and i’m not a millennial. and i’m not burnt out.

this is life. for most everyone.

sorry to break it to you, but this is how the majority of people deal with life. now think about people who are in poverty. think about oppressed groups. think about those who work two full-time jobs in the service industry. think about veterans with PTSD and other mental health problems.

not so burnt out now, are you. cuz here’s some news:

being an adult sucks.

life blows sometimes. you deal with it and make the best of it the way you can until you feel pretty ok with your life balance.

*adult? i mean, i still think of myself as 8 years old sitting in second grade staring at the guy picking his nose wondering why he’s an idiot. a lot of the time i’m not sure how anyone thinks i know what i’m doing. fake it til you make it!


here’s some pro-tips for those who can’t be bothered to sharpen their knives or go to the post office:

  • i bought a fancy electric knife sharpener. best thing ever.
  • get a kitchen scale and weigh your packages with it. buy postage online. if it fits, put it in your mailbox. if not, check out your work’s mail room – they may accept outgoing mail, including UPS and fedex. if not, and going to the post office is inevitable, leave the package on the counter, skipping the line.
  • i don’t know what to do about rebates. i wish they would all move online. but you can buy single stamps from the customer service counter at a grocery store, and they usually have a mail drop.
  • most insurance/HSA things accept online submissions these days. i was annoyed the first time i got a note that i needed to submit my receipt, but after i saw how easy it was, i got over it. save a PDF from one thing and upload it to another. can’t figure out how to save a PDF? take a screenshot. can’t figure that out? visit google.
  • i now have catfood delivered to my house through chewy.com. my next step might be litter.
  • if you hate grocery shopping, use free grocery pickup! i just learned from my cousin that it’s free at walmart. (i do not hate grocery shopping, so i will continue to peruse the stores.)
explore mn!

explore mn!

i started in april at lake maria in the middle of minnesota with snow on the ground and an ambitious summer planned. i finished up my visits to 72 minnesota state parks and recreation areas in october, stopping at rice lake on the way to the southern part of the state.

so many people get caught up in their pockets of home, work, favorite destinations. so many people talk about visiting other countries regularly, heading to a coast every spring break, living the winter months in the southwest US.

but you don’t hear a lot about people visiting different areas of minnesota, about how varied and interesting our own state is. i traveled across most of the counties during my summer travels, sat in the four biomes the state boasts (pretty good for a non-mountainous state), found the place where three watersheds diverge, and drove through the highest points in the state and the lowest. i watched fireflies blink from the prairie in june in the southwest and saw the milky way spread across my vision during a moonless, clear night in august in the northeast. from lake bronson to beaver creek; blue mounds to grand portage; wow does minnesota have a lot to offer.

minnesota has 76 state parks and recreation areas in all parts of the state, providing outdoor activities for all residents. and we do like our parks: every year, more and more minnesotans use the parks. unfortunately, the state congress has been underfunding the parks system. like education, the parks system used to get a large chunk of its money from the state’s general fund and the rest from fees, licenses, etc. now, only a fifth of its budget comes from the general fund. other funding at this point includes the legacy amendment, lottery money, licenses, and fees. at the same time, the parks want to increase its system. people want more groomed trails and acres in their parks and more people use them, but even still, funding is cut.

this means that fees continue to increase and the DNR reduces funding to more of the smaller parks, especially in rural minnesota. last winter, cross-country ski trails at 20 parks went ungroomed. while volunteers are readily welcomed, to do so means that liability insurance needs to be increased.

cuts will start to be made, with 34 parks on the chopping block (including grand portage, the the one at the very tip of the arrowhead AND the final destination in the most beautiful part of the state, in my opinion). this means trails go ungroomed, so much so that they may no longer be trails. campgrounds may be closed for part or all of the season. those 34 parks, of course, are rural parks in sparsely populated areas with fewer regular visitors.

these, of course, are the parks most vital to seeing the state and encouraging residents to get outside.

while i will happily pay more for camping and for my annual permit, not everyone can afford to or is able to do so. and i would encourage all mn legislators to step up and upkeep the parks system that we should be so proud of, one that is available to ALL minnesotans.

but what i really want to encourage is all minnesotans, especially those in the metro, to visit more of the lesser-known parks. head up to grand portage and judge cr magney – even stop at grand portage national monument and sit at the edge of north lake superior, where the hills are tall and tower above the low-level lake and the milky way is visible as soon as you look up at the night sky.

find the restored prairies and bison herd at blue mounds, where you’re so close to south dakota that the wind whispers across the tall grass, telling you to go west.

step onto the swinging bridge over beaver creek, where the water runs clear over polished stones with watercress green in the current.

follow the mississippi river from its source at itasca, the crown jewel of the state parks system, through lake bemidji, schoolcraft, savanna portage, crow wing, lindbergh, lake maria, fort snelling, frontenac, john latsch, great river bluffs.

learn about the rise and fall of late 19th-century towns as the railroad chose to bypass both crow wing and forestville.

step onto the white sand beaches of zippel bay, and listen to the waves of lake of the woods breaking on the shore at night a half mile away in the campground because it’s so quiet.

learn about this great state we live in; the parks are so much more than recreation. you learn about the history, wildlife, ecology, geology, and environment that make minnesota what it is.

there is so much to see in this state we call home, and the parks are the best way to learn what it has to offer. get out there and explore them.

mn state parks: top 10

mn state parks: top 10

here’s my definitive (sort of) list of the top 10 state parks in minnesota. after a summer of driving and traipsing around the state to visit 72 state parks and recreation areas, this list is the result of what parks i would visit again given the chance.

i knew that not all parks would be my cup of tea, and not all parks would be a destination. but here’s what i do know: there is a park in close proximity to every minnesotan. there’s no excuse to not visit a state park. however, if you want to make a park in minnesota a destination? here are the 10 parks i recommend.

EDIT: apparently i need to clarify some stuff. i enjoyed the north shore. i consider jay cooke to be a part of the north shore parks. but i guess it is not because the big lake is not visible. but here’s my thing: EVERYONE LIKES THE NORTH SHORE. everyone GOES to the north shore. the parks there are visited SO MUCH. they are not in danger of losing funding or support. so i include jay cooke as my favorite “north shore” park even though no big lake. and i include judge cr magney on my bonus national monument park. if i could place grand portage national monument on my state park list? it would probably be #3 or #4. But here’s the thing: you need to GET OUT AND LOOK AT THE REST OF THE STATE. it is FANTASTIC, this state. sure, the north shore is great, but so is itasca and hayes lake and whitewater and BLUE MOUNDS. GET OUT THERE!

1. itasca

itasca was the first state park and is considered the crown jewel of the parks system. it’s the 3rd-most-visited park in the state (behind snelling and gooseberry) and is the 2nd largest (just closely following st. croix at 32,700 acres), located up by park rapids (it’s about 20 minutes from bemidji). it houses the headwaters of the mississippi and the biggest red pine in the state.

it’s also got two campgrounds, several cabins, a lodge, a restaurant, an interpretive center, ANOTHER interpretive center, two gift shops, the best CCC built structure, a wilderness drive, bike paths, hiking paths, several historical sites, and many lakes where you can spend some time.

two anecdotes: 1) i passed through from bemidji to home and only planned on spending 30-45 minutes at the park. i ended up spending 2 hours there. and this was a drizzly gross day in july; 2) right after visiting, a coworker of mine stopped by and asked me about itasca and if he should take his visiting parents there. i said absolutely, though he wasn’t convinced. after he got back, he came to my office and raved about the park. next time his parents visit, they want to spend a week there.

so NO JOKE when i say that itasca is the real deal. i convinced my entire family to spend 5 days there next june. that’s how much i am enamored by itasca.

it’s number one in my book. 😍

2. blue mounds

here’s why i like blue mounds state park, even though the average person will take a look at its location (far SW corner of the state) and wonder why this is worth the trip.

take a look at that picture: take in the wide blue sky, the waving grass, and imagine that a buffalo herd is wandering across the prairie. (blue mounds has a bison herd but they weren’t wandering close to the fence this day.) to me, blue mounds screams: GO WEST GO WEST GO WEST and i want to load up my car on an early june morning and set out across south dakota, across the prairie, to the hills, to the rough red buttes, to the mountains.

minnesota is in a great place of the country. while non-mountainous, it houses three (perhaps four) distinct biomes, highly unlikely for a non-mountainous state. it’s also home to three watersheds, also unlikely for non-mountainous states. so while a geological wonder, most people just see boring corn fields or monotonous tree-lined roads.

get out and visit blue mounds because it’s a great example of the diversity this state has to offer. the rangers are harboring a patch of dirt that grows native prairie grasses, which supports the bison herd that lives in the park. the location, buffalo ridge, also shows us the varied altitude within the prairie, giving way to lower areas on one end of the park to wide vistas.

go west without even leaving the state.

3. jay cooke

and in stark contrast the wide-open spaces of blue mounds, we hop to the northeastern-ish area of the state, with tall pines and slate rock.

most people gravitate to gooseberry, but i would offer that jay cooke is the far superior (ha) park. just south of duluth, it’s where the st louis river is getting close to its final destination in lake superior. with the lack of shrubbery and grass due to slate, it’s a fascinating landscape (all up the north shore, really). the st. louis rolls its way around islands and over rocks, which seem to be the perfect location for a pine to take hold.

i can speak to the campground, as jay cooke was one of four parks i camped in over the summer. the spot was spacious – more than enough for two tents – and i was able to put my hammock up between two trees. the trail to the office and lodge was lined with tall pines, which smelled great, and the park had programming every night (the night lori and i were there, it was hoots and howls or something like that).

jay cooke is right outside carlton, which is a nice little town with a lot of historical significance once you dig in a little. the restaurant scene was surprisingly nice, and the drive on 210 to duluth from jay cooke was EXCELLENT.

4. william o’brien

i have to admit – i visited william o’brien park in early may when the trees were barely starting to bud and the ice was JUST out. when i stopped at WOB, it was starting to rain and get gloomy. i wasn’t sure how i was going to like this park.

BUT, despite the gloom and rain and late spring, i would go back to WOB in a heartbeat. in fact, any of the parks on the st. croix river (see below), and just the drive along the st croix river, are worth the visit. WOB is in a very excellent location in the state, where the deciduous forest meets the coniferous forest, so you have pines and maples hanging out together in this picturesque location along a rumbling little river on its way to the mississippi.

here’s how i knew WOB is a winner: it was raining and i barely got out of the car so i could get the shot above, but even just a short car tour through the park and i was sold. in fact, i might head back there in the next couple weeks so i can experience the park again when it’s not so gloomy

5. interstate

interstate is on my list for many of the same reasons that william o’brien is on my list, with one distinct point: the park is located directly on the st. croix river, giving you excellent locations for camping and listening to the water sliding past. the river valley and bluffs of the st croix are gorgeous, and although this park is small and bordered by busy hwy 95, it’s worth the visit and the stay.

i stopped at interstate the same day as WOB, so i know i’m missing out on  a lot of loveliness that this park has to offer. another thing i am doing next time i visit is stopping over to the wisconsin side (hence the name of the park), which offers the same sort of setting with much more park. the minnesota side makes up a small part of the interstate park.

interstate is also close to taylor’s falls, a quaint little historical village on the st croix.

6. frontenac

if you’ve ever taken the drive from the cities to winona or la crosse, you know the river road is one drive that you want to take at least once. frontenac seems like it’s a park that might seem a little boring at first: you drive through old frontenac, then up a slightly barren bluff to get to the top. but once you’re there? you’ve made it.

the chippewa river in wisconsin, one of the hardest working rivers in the country, dumps into the mississippi just northwest of wabasha, creating a delta that makes up lake pepin. yep, lake pepin is not the result of a man-made dam but a naturally made delta by a river that’s outputting so much water into the mighty mississippi that it creates a lake.

and frontenac state park gives you a giant view of the widening of the river, letting you take in the bluffs and barges and buoys. there is a series of wooden stairs that take you down to the riverfront, switchbacking their way down the bluff through the trees and foliage with the occasional deck overlooking the river with informational placards and benches.

while you’re there, make sure to take a quick tour through old frontenac, a very historical town with old plantation style houses that line the river to take in the view. the whole village is placed on the national register of historical places. i knew i was in for a treat when there was a horse paddock in the middle of town 🙂

7. zippel bay

from the highly populated area of the metro and southern part of the state to the far north – zippel bay is the most northerly state park in minnesota, located on the southeast side of lake of the woods. (garden island recreation area is more north, but it’s located on an island in the middle of lake of the woods 30 miles from shore.)

white sand beaches and the shorter, less dense aspen of the area give this park an almost otherworldly feel. i stood on the edge of the lake and felt like i was on the edge of the world (well, edge of the country, that’s for sure). this lake has a different feel from the much larger lake superior, which is lined with tall pines and cliffs. and it was sparse – i was one of 3 people in the park and felt very much isolated, not only from people but from civilization. as i slept in my tent that night, i heard the waves crashing on the shore – a half a mile away.

it might seem like this park is almost too eery to recommend, but i highly recommend this park, if only to take the time to separate yourself from civilization. like i said, i heard the waves a half a mile away. it is never that silent in my neck of the woods. it’s rare that anyone experiences that kind of silence or darkness. the park is beautiful and awe-inspiring and eery and invigorating.

8. hayes lake

i almost didn’t include hayes lake in my top ten. in fact i’m still hesitant to add it, but it’s in a part of the state that people rarely visit and i think it’s important to expand our horizons.

also, it’s one example i’ve found of a man-made dam doing a lot of good for the environment. i’ve learned a lot about a lot of things while on my parks visits: the dakota resettlement saga; the oak savannah; the ecology, topography, and geology of minnesota; preservation and conservation efforts; and man-made efforts to contain rivers. in most cases, i’m pro-river, pro-environment. get rid of the control of the rivers and let water do its thing.

but hayes lake is in the middle of a lake droughted area that has a lot of wildlife passing through. so the addition of hayes lake in the early 1900s was a boon for the wildlife in the area, which you can see in the photo above. when i visited, there were a ton of fowl on the water, just paddling along.

the park is also quintessential north – the blue, crisp lake and green, tall pines.

9. whitewater

if i hadn’t lived 10 miles from whitewater for three years, i might not have placed it on this list. but since i knew more about whitewater than i would’ve with one visit, i would recommend a visit because of the park as well as the area of the state. the whitewater river flows through the park, creating the valley and large bluffs surrounding the park. there are several trails throughout, awesome trout fishing, and a fire tower if you feel adventurous. there’s a small “lake” in the park (i call it a pond where i come from), along with several picnic pavilions and picnic tables. it’s a great place to take a day trip. st. charles has a small bike shop for those who need to get a tune-up before heading out on the trails.

i’ll also give a shoutout to the bluff country of southeastern minnesota while i’m here: lanesboro, rushford, preston. the area is fantastic sight seeing, and if you’re a biking buff, check out the root river trail.

10. glacial lakes

number 10 was hard. i was wavering between sibley state park, banning, and glacial lakes, and in the end glacial lakes won out because of the varied area surrounding the parks. there’s a lake with cabins available to stay in and camping, as well as boating and swimming.

but i think the topography of the area is really interesting. it’s where the glaciers left gravel deposits as well divots, so there are hills and lakes throughout. it’s also technically in the prairie, and there is preserved prairie within the park with native grasses and flowers, but the area also boasts some hardwood forest, so you can see how the hardwood forests have encroached a bit on the prairie.*

BONUS: grand portage national monument (and judge cr magney)

the farther north you get in minnesota, the more isolated you feel and fewer people you see. on the north shore jaunt, i stayed at judge cr magney park (home of devil’s kettle falls), where the light pollution is so small that you could see the milky way as soon as you stepped outdoors.

but keep going north to the tip of the arrowhead, past the majority of north shore visitors, and check out grand portage national monument.

the drive there turns out to be one of the most breathtaking in the state, with the road curving up large hills through the pines and the expanse of the lake to the east. at this point, the lake no longer crashes against tall slate rock outcropping but laps at shoreline.  as you pull into the national monument area with grand portage bay opening up below you, you can see why this was a popular place for furtraders and native americans coming and going in their large canoes.

unfortunately for lori and me, we got there too late for the visitor’s center, but we scoped out the historical displays and stood on the long dock. it’s not hard to imagine the haven this would have been.

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every park i went to had something going for it. there was always something that was interesting, whether it was geological, topographical, the types of trees, water feature, etc. my top ten may not necessarily be anyone else’s top ten, especially since i confess to be a true trees and lakes kind of girl (and a person who appreciates south dakota).

what is great and what i encourage you to do is visit all the parks and find out for yourself what you like, whether it’s a refuge of a lake amid flat fields of corn (split rock creek state park, kilen woods), cascades (anything on the north shore), bluffs and river valleys (great river bluffs, beaver creek valley), or exploring the boglands (big bog – which is super interesting!).

and let’s take one paragraph to give some extreme props to the civilian conservation corps – the CCC. many, many of the parks i visited had some construction done by the CCC – whether it was the swinging bridge at jay cooke, the lodge and cabins at itasca, the water tower at lake bronson. your short history lesson: the CCC was a work relief program put in place 1933-1942 in efforts to get the economy going again (great depression, you know). it provided jobs to 3 million young men, who earned $30/month ($25 of which was sent home). the CCC planted 3 BILLION trees after conservationists pointed out that the loggers hadn’t planted any replacement trees. they construction trails, lodges, building, facilities in 800+ parks across the country. they created state parks, updated forest fighting methods, and did some public building and roadway construction. it was so popular that 82% of the public agreed with how it was working (can’t imagine that today!). so the style of the buildings you see in the state parks? that’s due to the CCC.

so. minnesota’s tourism office isn’t wrong one bit. explore minnesota. it’s really, really quite the mixture of greatness.

RUNNERS UP: here are the parks that i think you could also visit but are in the same area as other parks that i place higher on the list:

  • banning
  • anything on the north shore (hm… maybe cascade is the best one that’s not gooseberry)
  • beaver creek
  • st. croix
  • sibley
  • lake bemidji
  • maple river
  • BIG BOG
  • lac qui parle for the biggest cottonwood in the state
  • crow wing
  • great river bluffs

*you see a lot of oaks in this transition area. this is the oak savannah, and it used to be primarily oak trees and prairieland. oak bark is especially resilient to fire due to its thickness, so those trees stood after the other hardwoods succumbed to FLAME when prairie fires came through. after settlers started pouring in and putting out the prairie fires, the oak savannas disappeared and the hardwood forest started encroaching on the prairie. 

this great state

this great state

i’ve got four state parks left to visit. i’m thinking about my thing i want to send to the startribune. here’s a start! please comment thoughts, edits, what i missed. i’m not satisfied with my conclusion. halp!

i started in april at lake maria in the middle of minnesota with snow on the ground and an ambitious summer planned. i finished up my visits to all minnesota state parks and recreation areas in september, stopping at st. croix on the way home from visiting a friend in wisconsin.

so many people get caught up in their pockets of home, work, favorite destinations. so many people talk about visiting other countries regularly, heading to a coast every spring break, living the winter months in the southwest US.

but you don’t hear a lot about people visiting different areas of minnesota, how varied and interesting our own state is. i traveled across most of the counties during my summer travels, sat in the four biomes the state boasts (pretty good for a non-mountainous state), found the place where three watersheds diverge, and drove through the highest points in the state and the lowest. i watched fireflies blink from the prairie in june in the southwest part of the state and the milky way spread across my vision during a moonless, clear night in august in the northeast. from lake bronson to beaver creek, blue mounds to grand portage, man does minnesota have a lot to offer.

minnesota offers 76 state parks and recreation areas in all parts of the state, offering outdoor activities for all residents. and we do like our parks: every year, more and more minnesotans use the parks. unfortunately, the state congress has been underfunding the parks system. like education, the parks system used to get a large chunk of its money from the state’s general fund and the rest from fees, licenses, etc. now, only a fifth of its budget comes from the general fund. other funding at this point includes the legacy amendment, lottery money, licenses, and fees. at the same time, the parks want to increase its system. people want more groomed trails and acres in their parks, more people use them, and even still, funding is cut.

this means that fees continue to increase and the DNR reduces funding to more of the smaller parks, especially in rural minnesota. last winter, cross-country ski trails at 20 parks went ungroomed. while volunteers are readily welcomed, to do so means that liability insurance needs to be increased.

cuts will start to be made, with 34 parks on the chopping block (including grand portage, the the one at the very tip of the arrowhead AND the final destination in the most beautiful part of the state, in my opinion). this means trails go ungroomed, so much so that they may no longer be trails. campgrounds may be closed for part or all of the season. those 34 parks, of course, are rural parks in sparsely populated areas with fewer regular visitors.

these, of course, are the parks most vital to seeing the state and encouraging residents to get outside.

while i will happily pay more for camping and for my annual permit, not everyone can afford to or wants to do so. and i would encourage all mn legislators to step up and upkeep the parks system that we should be so proud of, the one that is available to ALL minnesotans.

but what i really want to encourage is for all minnesotans, especially those in the metro, to visit more of the lesser-known parks. head up to grand portage and judge cr magney – stop at grand portage national monument and sit at the edge of north lake superior, where the hills are tall and tower above the low-level lake and the milky way is visible as soon as you look up at the night sky.

find the restored prairies and bison herd at blue mounds, where you’re so close to south dakota that the wind whispers across the tall grass, telling you to go west.

step onto the swinging bridge over beaver creek, where the water runs clear over polished stones and watercress green in the current.

follow the mississippi river from its source (itasca is the crown jewel of the state parks system), through lake bemidji, schoolcraft, savanna portage, crow wing, lindbergh, lake maria, fort snelling, frontenac, john latsch, great river bluffs.

learn about the rise and fall of late 19th-century towns as the railroad chose to bypass both crow wing and forestville.

step onto the white sand beaches of zippel bay, hearing the waves of lake of the woods breaking on the shore at night a half mile away in the campground because it’s so quiet.

learn about this great state we live in; the parks are so much more than recreation. you learn about the history, wildlife, ecology, geology, and environment that make minnesota what it is.

there is so much to see in this state we call home. the parks are possibly the best way to see the state, so get out and see it.