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Showing posts from June, 2015

Laudato si'

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Pope Francis's second encyclical, Laudato si', is a tour de force of prophetic political thought, addressing a broad set of contemporary social ills and calling for radical change in how humans think about the world in which we live. Its 246 numbered paragraphs are eminently readable, often poetic, and draw on a variety of scriptural, religious and scientific sources. Francis's treatment of climate change has received a lot of attention--particularly his reference to "A very solid scientific consensus" on a "disturbing" level of global warming (para. #23)--but the subject is addressed in the encyclical within a more general context of human relationships to nature as well as to each other. Without rejecting established doctrine, the Pope continues his fruitful efforts to change the Church's focus from enforcing rules to engaging with people in their real lives.

An argument that runs through the piece is that human individualism has become unmoored …

Film review: "Stonewall Uprising"

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Friday's Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges ruling state marriage laws cannot discriminate against same-sex couples added a special poignancy to today's screening of "Stonewall Uprising" in the Whipple Auditorium of the Cedar Rapids Public Library. The film, first aired as part of the PBS series American Experience in 2011, portrays the pivotal events at the Stonewall Inn in New York City that began 46 years ago today.

The filmmakers do their best with a paucity of archival material. Stonewall was by all accounts unplanned, and its significance appeared only in retrospect. (In 2015 The events were downplayed in New York City media at the time, and hardly reached news elsewhere. I was a young news junkie in 1969, but never heard of Stonewall until years later. I also didn't know that I was, according to the film, living in the only state in the Union (Illinois) that did not criminalize gay sex.) It is now clear that the road to Obergefell, not to ment…

Envisioning CR V: Regional governance

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To cut to the chase: Is there anything about "regional governance" in Envisioning CR? No--probably not surprising, because Cedar Rapids can't make specific plans beyond its own boundaries. But it's important to the future of the city anyhow.

Regional governance is important because one of the major obstacles that gets in the way of addressing almost any American policy problem you care to name is that our political arrangements do not match the reality of people's lives.

This has not always been the case. Alexis de Tocqueville, in Democracy in America (1835-40), described an America of self-governing towns, with a few weighty matters handled at the state level and a very small number at the national level. That made sense in a world where economies were local, with town commerce linked to surrounding farms; and when most people performed all their lives' functions in a small geographic space generally within walking distance of their residence. [This isn'…

Citieees gone wild

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Thinking about how a lot of seemingly unrelated political issues have a common origin began when Jane and I were driving on 4th Avenue SE last weekend, and stopped for a red light behind three other cars at 10th Street. After waiting a long time, and with no cars on the cross street, car #1 finally ran the light. A few cars came down 10th Street; then, after a significant pause, car #2 ran the light. A few more cars came down 10th Street, then another pause; finally, car #3 ran the light. Finally, as we came to our moment to decide, the light turned green. We'd been at the intersection at least two minutes. I don't know how long the earlier cars had been waiting. I said to Jane, "At least there wasn't one of those traffic cameras at the light." Jane pointed out that there was, in fact, a camera above the intersection:

I had the awful vision of drivers #1, 2 and 3 getting unpleasant surprises in their mailboxes soon. Thanks to informed citizen Phillip Platz, howe…

Riding on infrastructure with the Corridor MPO

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Corridor MPO, the county-wide organization charged with coordinating transportation initiatives, touted a number of bicycle-related projects Saturday on the second annual MPO Bike Ride. Multi-modal transportation planner Brandon Whyte led the tour of sites including protected bike lanes in Cedar Rapids, a trail extension from Ely into rural Linn County, and a proposed trail bridge across the Cedar River.

Besides the protected lanes to be installed on 3rd Avenue this summer, Whyte also demonstrated the green striping of bike lanes downtown. These are being added near intersections to show where the lanes start and to distinguish them from auto traffic lanes. The city has experimented with two types of paint, MMX (pictured above) and thermoplastic (below).
The thermoplastic costs about twice as much, but is brighter and considerably more durable, so would not only pay for itself but also be more serviceable. The paint is funded by a grant from Linn County Public Health.

Across the river…