Once upon a time, when I worked for The Dickinson Press, we ran a local feature on the editorial page on Saturday morning called “Weekenders.” The whole staff contributed, but the editor, John Neckels had the final say on what was included, and how it was said, and took responsibility for any repercussions.
The Weekenders column was just a bunch of short blurbs on various subjects that we collected during the week and often offered comments on. It was, at various times, serious, silly and sarcastic. It was the best-read feature in the paper. I don’t know what happened to it after I left the paper in 1975, but I’ve thought about reviving it in some fashion from time to time using a variety of media outlets. A year ago, when I started this blog, I promised myself I’d get around to doing it again. So here’s a first try.
President Reagan’s son Ron, speaking to an Associated Press writer recently, made me feel a little less nervous about 2012. The younger Reagan said “Sarah Palin is a soap opera, basically. She’s doing mostly what she does to make money and keep her name in the news. She is not a serious candidate for president and never has been.” I hope he is right, and that whoever the Republican candidate is, it is someone who is at least a little bit qualified to be president, just in case he or she wins. On the other hand, it could be pretty darn entertaining . . .
Chuck Suchy’s Centennial paen to his home state, “Dancing Dakota” will not be our state’s official state waltz. The State Senate this week, on a pretty much party line vote, saw to that. The song had a hearing in front of the Senate Agriculture Committee for some stupid reason. Several sponsors and supporters spoke in favor of the bill, explaining why we should have an official state waltz, and why this one. No one spoke against it. The committee voted 3-3 to send it to the floor with no committee recommendation. There, a couple of Senators again explained why we should have a state waltz, and why this one. No one spoke against it. Looked like a done deal. Until they opened the key to vote. 30 Republicans and two Democrats voted against it. Ten Democrats and four Republicans (who apparently did not get the memo to vote against it) voted for it. It’s no big deal, I suppose. As Jefferson would say, “it neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” Still, it would have been fun, and a few people put a lot of work into making it happen, including a pair of NDSU professors, Tom Isern and John Miller, so the partisan vote was disappointing. There is certainly no better waltz in the world than this one to be the Official North Dakota Waltz. Someone suggested the Republicans killed the bill because its prime sponsor was a Democrat, Sen. Connie Triplett. Maybe. That would be sad. The bill, the song and the songwriter all deserved better.
My State Senator, newly elected District 35 Senator Margaret Sitte, finally gets my vote for something: the goofiest bill introduced in the 2011 Legislature. It’s SB 2309, and it was introduced to “nullify” the federal health care laws in North Dakota. That’s right, it says that the federal laws enacted by Congress and signed by the President don’t apply here in North Dakota. In its exact words, it says the federal health care laws “are not authorized by the United States Constitution and violate its true meaning and intent as given by the founders and ratifiers and are declared to be invalid in this state, may not be recognized by this state, are specifically rejected by this state, and are considered to be null in this state.” Well! Violate its true meaning and intent? Hmmm. Has she been channeling Thomas Jefferson? Is that how she, and she alone, can determine the “true meaning and intent” of the U.S. Constitution? Goofier, the bill says that any federal employee who tries to enforce the law is guilty of a felony, but any state employee who tries to enforce the very same law is only guilty of a misdemeanor. Huh? Where’s that in the Constitution? I learned about this bill too late to attend the hearing. Darn. Must have been something. No committee action yet. Can’t wait to hear the sponsor defend this bill on the floor of the Senate. Margaret is a Senator because the incumbent, Tracy Potter, stepped aside last year to run for higher office. Tracy was an entertaining state senator, but nothing like this. Tracy, come back, Tracy . . . .
Meanwhile out in Montana, the State Senate has given preliminary approval to adopt the “Code of the West” as Montana’s state code. Senate President Jim Peterson introduced the ten-point cowboy code from the book “Cowboy Ethics” by James P. Owen. The code includes items such as “Live each day with courage,” “Be tough, but fair,” “Know where to draw the line,” and “Ride for the brand.” Well, gee, the Code of the West, eh? Who could be against that? For starters, how about Democratic Sen. Shannon Augare, a Native American from Browning? He says the cowboy’s code was not always so favorable to the state’s original residents, and that the code endorses a checkered past, such as brutality against Native Americans for speaking their own language. Peterson’s bill isn’t a real original thought, by the way. Wyoming adopted the code last year. In Montana, it’s Senate Bill 216. We’ll try to keep track of it for you.
Bullying has been in the news a lot lately. Enough that some North Dakota Senators introduced a bill dealing with teaching our children about bullying in schools. When it came to the floor for a vote this week, newly-elected State Senator Oley Larson (Yes, he claims that’s his real name) from Minot went on a tirade against the bill that lasted so long that Lt. Gov. Drew Wrigley had to gavel him back into his seat. Larson’s choice line: “If we actually succeed in raising children who never experience any abuse or neglect, they will grow up to be emotional marshmallows.” Oooookay. Senator Larson has a compadre: My Senator, Margaret Sitte, voted against the bill. She says it will take away from students’ learning time. Tracy, I’m serious. Get back here. And yes, in spite of Oley and Margaret, the bill passed the Senate and moved on to the House.
Only we Catholics can really appreciate this, but you Protestants can read on if you want. Or you could convert, to get in on the action. I’m taking calls. Here’s the news: The iPhone, which just went on sale here this week, has a $1.99 app called “Confession: A Roman Catholic.” It guides Catholics through the sacrament of confession and contains what the developer describes as a “personalized examination of conscience for each user.” It is not designed to replace going to confession. We still must go to a priest for absolution. One news report listed the following features (notes in parentheses are mine):
• Custom examination of conscience based upon age, sex and vocation – single, married, priest, or religious
• Multiple user support with password protected accounts (yeah, right, like I’d share THAT phone with my wife)
• Ability to add sins not listed in standard examination of conscience (for the REAL sinners among us)
• Confession walkthrough including time of last confession in days, weeks, months and years (the ultimate guilt feature)
• Choose from 7 different acts of contrition (I swear, I’ve been a Catholic for 63 years, and I didn’t know there were seven. I can name the seven deadly sins though.)
• Custom interface for iPad (so you can see your sins in really big type)
Whooooeee. I’m going to stick with my Blackberry. This iPhone app adds a whole new level of worry when you misplace your phone. Forgive me, Father Chad, for writing this. That’ll teach me to make my priest my friend on Facebook. He’s a pretty cool priest. We’ll see how cool.

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