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Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Gerlach wins Republican primary for Senate seat

Representative Chris Gerlach has won the Republican endorsement for an open Senate seat in Apple Valley.

Rep. Gerlach is one of the most right-wing members of the House Republican Caucus. This election was supposed to be a mini-referendum of sorts on how extreme the Republicans wanted to be in this seat. According to the election results, it was a resounding vote for "very."

It's pretty safe to say that Gerlach will win the Senate seat, and whoever runs as a Republican for his House seat will win as well.

Just can't give up

Ah, yes. Good old Arlon Lindner, Republican from Corcoran who was denied the Republican endorsement, will run as an Independent.

This is the person who trashed the Dalai Lama, said that homosexuals actually were not killed in the Holocaust, and said that homsexually-spread AIDS will turn this country into "another Africa." He has tried to bring his native-Texan biblical worldview to Minnesota, embarrassing his peers as he does. He doesn't accomplish anything legislatively, but he doesn't mind starting controversies when his mouth gets ahead of his brain.

These three-way races can go any way. Who knows what will happen during the election in this district? Whatever happens, it will be interesting.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Naughty, naughty

Senator to apologize for campaign e-mail.

Moral of the story: If you are a legislator, pay attention to where you are sending your screeds from.

Majority leader a minority abroad

This is a story about how President Bush's foreign affairs can have an impact on state politics in interesting ways.

I can't agree with the protesters' methods. It is easy enough to convincingly argue against Republican politics using data and reasoning. Eggs are not necessary. But it is certainly an indication of how the past three years of dogged go-it-alone-ism has hurt the U.S. abroad.

Saturday, June 26, 2004

Light Rail is here!

Following the long lines last night at Fahrenheit 9/11, I encountered more long lines at the opening of the Hiawatha Light Rail line today.

At around 12:30 I took the bus to the Lake Street station, where I had to wait for at least twenty minutes to even get up to the platform. I decided to head southbound (a mistake, which I later learned), and a train went by before I could find enough room to get on board.

The ride to the Fort Snelling station was impressive. Quiet, smooth, and just in general very nice. I have ridden the "L" in Chicago many times, and compared to that system's old tracks, jumpy rides, and trains in poor condition, this was far better. Bike racks have been included in the trains, a very needed touch.

When I got off the train at Fort Snelling (which everybody had to do), the line to go back towards downtown was over two hours long. I decided to take the bus instead, which was running parallel to the light rail line to ferry the enormous crowds around. After much more waiting in line, and a very slow bus ride later, I arrived back at the Lake Street station and went home. Time: after three o'clock. Almost three hours to go to Fort Snelling and back, a distance of only a few miles. At least for today, light rail is the popularity king.

More info: Metro Transit.

Fahrenheit 9/11

This isn't really Minnesota-related, but I thought I would share my experiences in seeing Fahrenheit 9/11 yesterday.

I was waiting around for a call from a recruiter until five, so that mean I couldn't go to any earlier shows. Despite the fact that the theater closest to me was playing the movie on three screens, every single show on Friday night was sold out. Thus, I had to go to a suburban theater, in this case the AMC theater at Southdale in Edina.

I arrived at six to try and buy tickets for the seven o'clock show. No dice: sold out. I bought my ticket for the 9:55 show and vowed to come back later.

When I arrived, there was a long line of people waiting to get into the auditorium. The wait before the movie was interminably long, longer than any movie I can remember in the past decade. During this time, a patron was thrown out by the management for handing out anti-Bush bumper stickers. This brought quite a negative reaction from the crowd.

The movie itself was phenomenal. It made me laugh, then it made me cry. Actually, that's a pretty good summary for how I feel: I am tired of having a government that makes me feel like crying whenever I see what it does. I am sure that a lot of people in that theater agreed with me. When it was over, it got a thorough round of applause, though not as healthy as what has happened at other theaters (perhaps the fact that the movie ended after midnight had something to do with it).

My verdict: go see this movie. As far as I can tell, there are no glaring factual errors, despite what some critics have said. More importantly, the most powerful parts of the film are those parts when you see and hear what soldiers and their families think about the war in Iraq. That's not fact, that's opinion, and I think that so many people are afraid of seeing this movie because many of the opinions are not those that have been on the news.

There is a reason this film won the Palme d'Or at Cannes.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Mandatory minimum sentences

I fully agree with the American Bar Association here. Mandatory minimum sentences, especially for drug offenses, are counterproductive and a waste of scarce resources. Our prison population has skyrocketed in the past two decades or so, mainly due to mandatory minimum sentences for small-time drug dealers and users.

Who has benefited from this? Construction firms that build prisons, sure. Private entities that run these prisons, yes. But has society as a whole? No. We pay more in taxes, we build more prisons, we throw more people in jail, all for no real reduction in drug use.

Justice is about taking into account the crime and the circumstances surrounding it, and determining the best punishment that will deter the behaviour and help ensure that it doesn't happen again. Mandatory sentencing completely takes this power away. If the "tough on crime" rhetoric matched up with results, we would be living in a crime-free utopia by now.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Dayton responds

A follow-up to the Dayton/Moon meeting. Apparently, his excuse (and the excuse of many like him) is that he just "didn't know" what was going on. I don't know, but I think I would check into ceremonies a bit more before attending them.

The article also mentions that Senator Coleman was there. Considering what Moon has said about Jewish people, that is even more sickening.

Friday, June 18, 2004

New Commissioner of Public Safety

...has been chosen. The winner is Michael Campion, who has been acting commissioner for a couple of months. There doesn't seem to be a whole lot of information on him floating around, good or bad. Considering the controversy of Rich Stanek, this is probably intentional. Governor Pawlenty probably sees no need to rock the boat with this post.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Republican chair in trouble

We had Pat Forciea, and now Republican Chairman Ron Eibensteiner is in trouble. Republicans hate taxes so much, they think they are exempt from paying them. Unfortunately, this doesn't seem to work in the real world.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Dayton and Moon - WTF?

I was over at the great and wonderful site Eschaton earlier today (as I am most of the time) and Atrios posted a little story about the totally insane ceremony held on federal property where the Reverend Sum Myung Moon crowned himself the Messiah. Moon says nice things like homosexuals are dung-eaters and that Hitler and Stalin have swung around to his support. Even Jesus things Moon is the Next Great Thing, according to himself, of course. In other words, he is like David Koresh, only very, very rich, which is why he gets far more fawning attention than he deserves (he owns the Washington Times and spends millions each year subsidizing its right-wing news).

What caught my eye in this story is that one of our senators, Senator Mark Dayton, was supposedly at this event. As I said before, WTF? Why would any sane person be associated with this nutball? This goes especially for Democrats.

Perhaps it would be a good idea to drop the senator a line and ask.

Monday, June 14, 2004


Representative Ray Cox has some thoughts on the use of English.

I don't think the government needs to get involved in pushing English. If a person does not speak English, their opportunities for economic and social advancement in this country are reduced. If people want to live with fewer options, why does it matter? Is it the role of the government to maximize everybody's potential? If so, why not require people to be bilingual, since that allows for even more opportunities than just speaking English or Spanish?

There are a lot of people here who know little English. Providing information to them in languages other than English is better than the alternative of not serving these people at all. Better to have drivers tests in Spanish than to have unlicensed drivers, for example. Beyond that, however, the government shouldn't take any special actions to promote any particular language. The common tongue here in English, and everybody knows it. We don't need to put it into law.

Friday, June 11, 2004

Slow week

Well, now that the odds for a special session have once again plummeted, it's been a slow week here. On Minnesota Politics Discuss, there is a very fun debate about gay marriage going on again. Also, the state Republican convention is starting tonight, so if you are looking for something to do, go right ahead.

Otherwise, I'm going to get into the fun of a righteous Googlebomb: Democratic National Convention. Feel free to join in...

Thursday, June 10, 2004

More pain for central cities


I like the part where lawmakers said they didn't intend to be so hard on Minneapolis and Saint Paul. Beating up on the central cities has been a favorite for House Republicans ever since they took control in 1999. This is just another in a long line of slaps.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Special Session III

Reality sets in as certain senators who feel slighted at their absence from negotiations currently in progress regarding a special session remember they have power, and threaten to use it. That didn't take long.

The meeting today with the DFL senators sounds like it didn't go off as well as hoped, so the prospects for a special session are still muddy. Unless something drastically changes, it will be hard to come to an agreement on a session, as people like Michelle Bachmann have no incentive to be good team members.

Pawlenty and the Taxpayers League

The Taxpayers League is truly one of those far-out groups. Generally, the governor and the Taxpayers League get along, which is not surprising. However, on the issue of prescription drugs, they don't.

For a group that styles itself as looking out for the taxpayer, opposing the reimportation of drugs doesn't make a whole lot of sense. If the same drugs are cheaper a few hundred miles away, then by all means we should be buying them. The government purchases more health care in this country than any private insurer, so a reduction in prescription drug costs would benefit the taxpayer very much. Of course, this might also hurt the profits of drug companies (and also the profits of major media outlets, which receive billions from those companies for unnecessary drug advertising). When it comes to who gets the most protection, it is obvious which side the "Taxpayers" League is on. And don't get them started on using the government's purchasing power to negotiate lower drug costs. Sure, it may be okay for Wal-Mart to user their purchasing power to get lower prices from suppliers, but when the government attempts to behave like a business, it's bad. At least in this case. Right?

I'm sure the governor isn't losing too much sleep over this. This fight allows him to look like the sensible moderate when compared to loonies like David Strom. Re-election isn't that far away, after all.

Monday, June 07, 2004

Special Session II

The likelihood of a special session has increased. Senator Dean Johnson, Speaker Sviggum, and the governor have been talking, trying to come up with a mechanism for calling the legislature back into session. As things stand now, the plan is to get several "working groups" together so they can hash out agreements on the key issues. There would be four or five working groups, working on the budget, the bonding bill, sex offender/criminal issues, the stadium issue, and possibly a garbage group that will take up everything else.

Senator Johnson is going to talk with his caucus and possibly report back tomorrow afternoon. Stay tuned.

Sunday, June 06, 2004

Socializing at the Capitol

Today there is more sober reflection on drinking and socializing at the Capitol (see here). In a nutshell, many legislators lament the decline in after-hours socializing that used to bring people together across party lines. As a result, legislators are less likely to know each other, and it is harder to get anything accomplished.

I have often been regaled by tales of how things were in the "good old days," back in the 1980s when legislators and lobbyists were allowed to have a good time. There has definitely been a change, brought on by the gift ban, scandals, and a legislature that is no longer just made up of members of the good old boys' club. While there is probably no need to go back to the days of legislators dancing on tables, perhaps something has been lost.

Part of the blame has been put on the gift ban, but that's inaccurate. Legislators can socialize without lobbyists picking up the tab. I think there are still far too few restrictions put on lobbying, so in my opinion relaxing the gift ban isn't the way to go. Lori Sturdevant suggests that maybe the party caucuses should host get-togethers. This is certainly an idea. Another idea, long my personal favourite, would be to dispense with conference committees and compromise through the art of Ultimate Frisbee games. Nothing like legislating by disc. Deciding things by a game of frisbee would also be far easier for the public to understand and follow than arcane legislative committee meetings!

Close to home

Donald Rumsfeld warns of religious zealots who are bent on destroying democratic nation-states.

The Minnesota Family Council is pushing for people to help put God back into our heritage by contacting legislators to vote for the gay marriage amendment.

Apparently, it takes all kinds of zealots.

Friday, June 04, 2004

Pawlenty confuzzled

Methinks the governor is a bit confused about his actual power (see here). Governors don't exactly get to decide what the legislature can and can't debate during a special session. That is determined by the, um, actual legislators. So unless Michelle Bachman and her ilk are kept tied up in a closet, there is nothing to keep anybody from bringing up the gay marriage amendment in a special session, regardless of the governor's promises. In addition, the Senate or the House can choose to adjourn at any time without the governor's permission, so he can't "allow" the Senate to adjourn if gay marriage comes up either.

His word in this matter is about as binding as when I say "I've got the check." If Pawlenty really wants to make promises, he should stick to things he can actually do. Otherwise, he is just blowing smoke.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

More incompetence

Revelations like these almost defy comment. It is usually understood that the state should be able to at least keep track of sex offenders under their supervision. Yes, criminal justice records are a mess in this state (something that CriMNet was proposed to fix), but not being able to answer a simple question about how many sex offenders are in similar situations is incompetent or willfully ignorant to the point of being criminal itself.

It looks like the answer to "Who was in charge here?" is the ever-popular "no one."

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

New additions

I've updated and expanded the state blogroll. I have also added two newsfeeds, one Atom and one RSS (for those of us who use the old-school newsreaders, if there is such a thing for a new technology). Check it out.

Granny get your gun...or something to protect you!

This isn't terribly timely news, but still, what dumbass came up with this idea? Vulnerable adults plus sex offenders is a pretty poor mix, which should be obvious to anybody with a quarter of a brain. What's next? I hear that Minneapolis schools are having budget problems and may close schools, so why not use the extra space to house some criminals? It's win-win!

There is a larger issue here: is anybody thinking about how our criminal justice system works? The state is running out of space to house sexual offenders, which is supposedly why they stuck them in a nursing home. But why? Minnesota's prison population, like the rest of the country's, is exploding. According to TalkLeft, there are now more than 2.1 million people in prison in the U.S. One out of every 75 males is behind bars. No wonder we are running out of space.

What is also clear is that most of these people shouldn't be in prison. Our prison population is exploding because of mandatory sentencing laws, three-strikes laws, and a "get tough on drug offenders" mentality that is having some very real consequences. I will admit that I am not terribly concerned about sex offenders being released (in fact, I could be at a community notification meeting regarding the Level 3 sex offender moving into my neighborhood as I write this). However, I am even less concerned about a person moving in here who is a felon because he sold weed to some undercover cop and ran afoul of mandatory sentencing. If I had to choose between whom I wanted locked up, I'll take the sex offender.

As a result of politician's attempts to pander to constituents' fears and look "tough on crime," we are imprisoning more and more of our population who are not dangerously violent. The overcrowding of prisons results in situations like the one we are facing now, where truly dangerous people are put out in the community with inadequate supervision. It's time the adults sat down and had a serious discussion about how our criminal justice system should work so that the right people are behind bars.

Legislators? We don't need no stinkin' legislators!

It's obviously poll week over at the Pioneer Press. Today's edition deals with the popularity of the Legislature in the wake of getting absolutely nothing accomplished this year. Unsurprisingly, the public is not in a forgiving mood: 82% rated the legislature's job performance as "fair" or "poor." What may come as a surprise to Republicans is that the public blames everybody just about equally. The governor and House Republicans have been beating on the Senate Democrats since the session ended, with little result.

This is not terribly shocking. In the minds of the public, the legislature is regarded as a monolithic block without party designation. Many people would be unable to tell you which party controls what. However, the public can tell the difference between people in power who get things done and people who don't, and clearly the public is seeing a whole lot of worthless boat anchors at the Capitol. Since the House is the only body up for election this year, and since the Republicans hold a large majority, an anti-incumbent movement would hurt them the most. There are five months to go, though, so a lot can still happen.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Newspaper logins

Many newspaper stories require an account login in order to access them these days. Apparently print media is not satisfied with merely providing poor news quality; they want to take away people's privacy too. Being a privacy advocate, I always enjoy evading these silly attempts to collect data on users. You can too. When you are confronted with a newspaper site that prompts for a login, use the following information...

E-mail address (if asked): mailinator@mailinator.com
Username (if asked): mailinator
Password: mailinator

This will work at most newspaper sites. If not, simply create a new account with this information so that others may enjoy privacy-enhanced surfing. Stick it to the man.

Concealed carry

The Pioneer Press had a story today looking back at the effects of the concealed carry law (story here). All in all, this law has had little impact on anything. Far fewer people than expected applied for permits, and not everybody is even carrying when permits are granted. Neither side has been vindicated.

I always found this debate tiresome. Personally, I see no need to carry a firearm, even though I live in the 'hood. I have never been in a situation where a gun would have helped, nor can I imagine ever being in a situation. If somebody wants to mug me or assault me, they are going to do it regardless of whether I have a gun or not. I don't think I have been deprogrammed to an extent where I could shoot to kill another human being, so why bother trying? So I really didn't care that this law was passed. I knew the status quo would remain for the most part. That said, the law could still use some tweaking. People who have been convicted of domestic assault or other crimes of violence (including DUI) should not be granted a permit. Let the law-abiding citizens who believe this will do them some good carry; it's mostly harmless. It's not harmless when people with past records of idiocy are granted permits.