It’s been a while since I’ve written anything about politics. It’s also been a while since something has made me so angry that I needed to write about it. (Not that I haven’t been annoyed by something, I just haven’t felt like writing about it.) Last week, while I was minding my own business doing my homework from my programming course on Coursera.org, I took a break and glanced through Twitter to catch up on some news and whatnot. The first tweet I saw was:

My first thought was, “WTF?! Are you fucking kidding me?!” Of course a retweet followed. Then, in a move reserved only for extreme circumstances of gross government interference, I emailed my representative, Mr. Bob Barrett (I haven’t heard back yet, that was 3 days ago).

Now, I realize there’s nothing Bob can do about it right now, but I feel like he and everyone else who has any godforsaken power in this stupid state, should probably realize that this is the dumbest thing Minnesota could be focusing their energy on right now.

Aren’t there 3rd graders who can’t read? Or 11th graders who can’t find South Dakota on a map? Of course, they’re not as big of a priority as making sure an unemployed 29-again-year-old woman can’t learn something new. Give me a break!!

Do I hate python with all of my being right now? Yes. Do I think this could lead to more job opportunities? Potentially. Am I busting my ass every single freaking day to learn this stupid evil language? Why yes, yes I am. But that doesn’t mean the State of Stupid Minnesota needs to say, “No Candice, we didn’t receive payment from M.I.T. and the University of Toronto to teach you and without that payment we can’t be sure that M.I.T. would provide you with a quality education for free. So, you’re out of luck. Sorry sweetie.” (I feel like The State is really condescending like that.)

The thing with this law is, and everyone under the sun has written about it (links below), it’s old as shit! Also, it’s intention is to make sure Minnesota students/residents aren’t paying thousands of dollars for some horseshit degree (University of Phoenix comes to mind here.). I GET IT! The state is just protecting me from learning stuff for free from excellent institutions. Thanks, Minnesota. I’m so glad you know what’s best for me. I don’t know where I’d be with you, Da– I mean, State.

Two things here:

1) Coursera.org/Edx.org are FREE!! I don’t pay anything. I don’t even need to wear pants if I don’t want to. I can sit on my couch, drink coffee and watch a lecture from my teacher from M.I.T. The only thing it costs me is an internet connection, and since it’s 2012 and I don’t live in a fucking cave, I already had that!

2) Coursera.org/Edx.org do not offer degrees. I will not earn any sort of college credit from any university offering courses on those sites. A few courses offer a certificate of completion, but that’s basically just helpful to say, “Yes Mr. Future employer, I was taught python by two professors at the University of Toronto. See, it says so right here.” That doesn’t mean shit, really.

Now, on Coursera’s Terms of Service page it has a special message for Minnesota students:

Notice for Minnesota Users

Coursera has been informed by the Minnesota Office of Higher Education that under Minnesota Statutes (136A.61 to 136A.71), a university cannot offer online courses to Minnesota residents unless the university has received authorization from the State of Minnesota to do so. If you are a resident of Minnesota, you agree that either (1) you will not take courses on Coursera, or (2) for each class that you take, the majority of work you do for the class will be done from outside the State of Minnesota.

Bottom line is this: Minnesota is stupid when it comes to “education.” Apparently gathering up money, AKA: “authorization”, from quality institutions matters more than the fact that Minnesota residents can learn anything they want for free!

Seeing as though I live close to Wisconsin (< 10 miles away), I can always cross the dreaded river and set up shop in a coffee shop and do my work (I don't even think there's a Starbucks or Caribou in Wisconsin, definitely not in St. Croix. I don't even think they have wi-fi yet. True story.) but then these classes are costing me money and that totally negates that whole "free" thing. Or I just use a proxy and and learn from Japan.

Or:

I continue to learn from my couch. This is The U.S. of A. I can learn whatever the hell I want, wherever the hell I want.

SUCK IT, MINNESOTA!!

Story links:

Huffington Post
The Business Journals
TechCrunch
Slate
Reason
The Chronicle of Higher Education

The war on everything

April 13, 2012

Did you folks know we’re at war? No, I’m not talking about Afghanistan or Iran or The War on Terror, I’m talking about a war on literally everything. And everyone is a target.

There’s a War on Religion.

There’s a War on Women.

There’s a War on Moms.

There’s an impending Race War.

There’s a War on Jobs.

There’s a War on Obesity.

There’s a War on Grilled Cheese Sandwiches.

There’s even a War on Salt.

I understand that using catchy little phrases is easier than actually explaining what is really going on. I understand that we live in the Twitter News Cycle now, and every single person can only use 140 characters or less to explain very complex situations.

I also know that NO ONE LIKES WAR. So, what better way to get people to come over to your “side” than to whisper, “Yo, there’s a secret war being waged and guess who the target is? YOU!! That’s right, there’s a War on You! Join us and help us fight back. Also, please donate to [Random Politician]’s campaign.

I know what you’re thinking, “Well, shit. If there’s a war on ME then BRING IT ON!! I’m going to take these guys down… wait… huh? I’m just sitting at my computer drinking my 4th cup of coffee this morning and reading headlines on Twitter (because I’m much too busy to actually read the whole story)… where’s this war? I don’t see it.”

Like any good political operative will tell you, you’ll never see it. By the time the general population notices, it will be too late. The damage will be done and your inactivity will be to blame.

We have almost 8-ish months until the November election. That means there’s still time for more wars and more victims to be gathered more fighting back. It’s time to pick up your weapons and ensure that your side wins the most victims voters.

Politics is dirty. No. It’s beyond dirty. It’s a soul-destroying pit filled with hundreds of years worth of liquefied animal manure and people willingly swim around in it. Now you too must jump in and do your part. For America.

Have you ever been forced to join a union? I have. It happened quite a few years ago, but it helped shape my opinion against being forced to join a union.

Less than 10 years ago I applied for a job as an “employment specialist.” The job was to help adults with disabilities find work in the community. I went through the interview process and got the job.

After a few weeks of “training” I was told that I forgot to turn in my union paperwork. I had to turn in my stuff by the end of the week or I wouldn’t be allowed to work.

“Huh?”

I thought it was weird. I didn’t remember hearing anything about joining a union. Furthermore I didn’t remember being told that joining a union was a condition of my employment.

When I couldn’t find the paperwork I needed, I asked my boss, who gave me a tiny packet. At the end of the day I sat at my desk and looked through the stuff. I just had to fill out this postcard and check the box that says I allow union dues to be taken out of my paycheck. The most odd thing was the union I was joining was the Steelworkers union.

“What? I’m not a steelworker. I have never been a steelworker. No one in my position will ever be a steelworker.” I recall asking a coworker about it and she said something like, “The union covers more than just steelworkers.” That was it. That’s all I got.

I always thought joining a union was a choice. Freedom of assembly, or something. What the hell was this “forced membership” crap? I forgot to turn in my stuff on Friday and on Monday the following week my boss said, “I need your union paperwork today or I’ll have to send you home.” So I reluctantly handed it to her and went on with my day.

At the time, it bothered me. It bothered me even more on payday when I saw for the first time in my life “Union Dues” on my pay stub. How could I be forced to pay for something I didn’t want or even understand? I just sucked it up. I had other stuff going on in my life I wasn’t going to get bent out of shape over a stupid union. Also, I wasn’t being forced to attend union meetings or lobby for benefits or strike. Whatevs.

I eventually quit that job. Not because of the union, but because I really hated working there.

Now, I share this story with you because as many of you know, the Minnesota legislature is working on passing a “Right-to-Work” law. In my MN Politics list on Twitter it’s been a hot topic. Sure there are only a few people on the list, but I pretty much get a good idea of both sides of an issue from those people.

My bias toward the law comes not only from my experience above, but from talking to my family about their involvement with unions. My aunt used to be (or still is, according to the website) the treasurer for AFSCME at the Department of Revenue (employed for 20+ years). She’s very pro-union, obviously. My brother-in-law in part of a union at PepsiCo and has a love/hate relationship with his union. (Yes yes, the old “I’m not but I have friends who are…” thing…)

My argument against unions has only ever been, “Why does anyone HAVE to join?” I can wrap my mind around people who want to join a union, it’s the “you have to join” thing that gets me. In order for me to keep my job I had to give up money from every check to a union. Sure, I could have walked away from the job and gave the Big Union the big F-U. However, I had bills to pay and I NEEDED to join because I NEEDED that job.

I didn’t really receive any direct benefit from that union that I can recall. I don’t remember ever seeing a union rep or attending a union meeting. My pay was very close to or the same as the pay I would have received from a non-union job and my benefits were typical, nothing to write home about, if I remember correctly. I honestly couldn’t really tell you how being a member benefited me. I don’t know where my union dues were going and what services I was paying for.

Now, I’m not saying I didn’t receive any benefit, I just can’t tell you what those benefits were. It wasn’t like a manufacturing plant I worked at (but wasn’t a union member) with the union number posted on every wall in the building and with an on-site union rep making the rounds. There were posters saying “Call your union rep if: (list of reasons to call).” There were meetings, votes, benefits, seniority lists, pay, it was all tied to the union. There was nothing like that at this job. My dues were just taken out of my check and that was it.

I haven’t spent a great deal of time reading about “right-to-work” laws, specifically in Minnesota. But from what I can gather, the law essentially gives people the right to opt out of a union. Which, had Minnesota been a “right-to-work” state a few years ago, I could have saved a few hundred dollars in union dues. At the time, that would have been enough to pay my car insurance for the year.

Just some food for thought.

Apparently there’s a new social media policy being adopted my some employers, mostly government agencies, that require applicants to hand over their usernames and passwords for Facebook and Twitter. It’s not just employers, colleges are asking applicants for the same information.

First of all, I have a link to my Twitter account on my resume. I expect employers to try to look me up given the field I work in (or trying to work in). However, I will not be handing over my password to anyone. Everything you’d want to know is public information: my followers, who I’m following, my tweets, my lists, my interactions with other people and even a link to my crappy blog. What more could you need to know?

Of course there are the DMs. Sure, mine are rather boring. You’re not going to find some Anthony Weiner-type scandal, and it wouldn’t be horribly embarrassing if they were leaked. Regardless, handing over my password, and access to my DMs, is no different than allowing an employer permission to bug my house and phone to listen to things I say in the privacy of my own home.

There are many people who will say, “If you don’t have anything to hide, what’s the problem?” The problem is, it starts with access to your Twitter account, next text messages, followed by video cameras in your living room/car and tracking devices in your purse…

…oh wait…

…that’s already possible.

Is there any situation where that type of intrusion would be OK? In my opinion, no. Unless I’ve done something illegal and there’s a search warrant, it’s just not going to happen.

If that means I don’t get a job, so be it. I guess that’s the price I’ll have to pay.

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