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Saturday, July 31, 2004

Rep. Kahn charged

Representative Kahn has been charged with misdemeanor theft for taking campaign literature. I don't think I agree with this charge. What she did was unquestionably wrong, but charging her with theft does not seem to accomplish anything. First, she has arguably learned her lesson, as has everybody else who has ever thought about stealing campaign literature. Thus, no charges are needed for deterrence. Second, it is pretty ridiculous to charge somebody with the theft of something that most people don't want in the first place. Campaign literature is usually ignored, thrown away, cursed at, but only very rarely paid attention to. It would be like charging somebody for theft of fliers placed on cars.

I don't know what the motivations are of the city attorney who charged Rep. Kahn, but I don't think that justice will be served with this citation.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Were the effects of light rail hidden?

According to Republican Representative Phil Krinkie, MnDOT hid the negative traffic consequences of the new light rail line. Rep. Krinkie has long been a foe of this project, so this is just another one of his attacks.

Unfortunately, if this is true, then it shows incredibly bad PR on the part of MnDOT. MnDOT's reputation hasn't been the best lately, with allegations of lowballing offers for property taken for road projects, and poor snowplowing efforts this past winter. Adding this to the mix isn't going to help. I honestly don't understand why MnDOT would do this. It is obvious to everybody that light rail would have an impact on traffic in the area, especially on roads that cross the tracks. Hiding this from the players involved doesn't accomplish anything, and if concerns were aired earlier, then perhaps the traffic signal problem could have already been addressed by experts from other areas.

I support light rail, if not this particular route. However, this route is what we have for now, and we need to make it successful. The fact that traffic is snarled a bit due to light rail isn't a big negative in my opinion, so hiding facts from the city and county would not have had much of an effect on the viability of this project. It's just poor planning on the part of MnDOT. Somebody really needs to get in there and fix things.

Gonzo Eschaton

I normally don't link to blogs with a national perspective, but this post at Eschaton is too good to pass up. I have not lately seen such a good example of gonzo journalism.

One of my favorite authors is Hunter S. Thompson. If it weren't for Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72, I may have never become interested in politics. It's good to see that Atrios is keeping up the tradition.

Monday, July 26, 2004

Judicial elections

This candidate for the Minnesota Supreme Court was twice ruled incompetent to stand trial and doesn't have a valid legal license.

This candidate wants to put his Biblical Christian worldview into the courtroom.

I do not like judicial elections. We already have a place where people with far-out opinions can run for office: it is called the state legislature. Judges should hold their positions based on competence, not their personal views. Elections for judges just doesn't make sense.

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Smoking bans

Bloomington and now Minneapolis have passed smoking bans. This is probably the opening up of the dike, as more localities are likely to pass bans now that the ball has started rolling.

I am supportive of bans in public places, for the sole reason of protecting employees. We have regulations that require employee protection for all kinds of carcinogens in the environment, and leaving out cigarette smoking is a big oversight. I am less concerned about keeping patrons from being exposed to smoke. As such, I don't think that a ban is the necessary solution, but it appears to be the best one. Dedicated smoking rooms, with or without ventilation, represent big investments on the part of business owners and seem to be less likely to work.

I generally don't make my socializing decisions based on the smoking or non-smoking status of establishments, but I do prefer non-smoking. Being able to enjoy music in a non-smoking environment is a definite plus.

Friday, July 23, 2004

What was she thinking?

DFL representative Phyllis Kahn was caught stealing a Republican representative's campaign literature from people's homes recently. She may face possible charges.

I don't get this at all. It wasn't even her opponent; it was a legislator from a suburban district. Rep. Kahn has been around forever and should definitely know better than this. This kind of petty stuff happens in campaigns all the time, but no candidate is ever foolish enough to get caught doing it themselves; the perpetrators are usually overzealous volunteers. This is just sad.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Special Session encore

The lazy circling between the key players in the legislature continues, with yet another super-duper last attempt at working something out for a special session in the mix. This time, however, the Republicans can't even come to an agreement amongst themselves, with the primary sticking point being that the Senate Minority Leader, Republican Dick Day, won't agree to keep the session from veering into fundie territory. Prohibiting his members from introducing bills on subjects like gay marriage, he says, isn't going to happen.

Republicans are trying to blame this once again on the Democrats, beyond all comprehension. Republicans simply refuse to agree to limit debate to the few topics that need to be dealt with, such as a bonding bill and funding for public defenders. Instead, they want to spend even more time on their far-right social agenda. Last time I checked, it wasn't the Democrats who were threatening to blow a special session off the rails by introducing pieces of their "far-left" agenda (and what would that be, anyway? Universal health care? Scary!).

In any case, given the fact that just today Governor Pawlenty took steps to fix the local government aid problem himself, it seems that reality is finally setting in and there will not be a special session. It looks like the legislature won't be talking until next year about how Western Civilization will fall if homosexuals get a marriage license. Too bad.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

A new way to campaign

Yesterday was the last day to file for office in Minnesota, so a lot of people who are interested in such things spent the day at the Secretary of State's website looking at who has filed for office.

Up north, in district 4A, Republican Doug Fuller is running for re-election. The SOS's website gives his campaign website address as www.dougfuller.com. Clicking on that link, however, brings you to...well, a site that isn't exactly fit for family consumption.

I don't know if this is Rep. Fuller's new campaigning technique, or if somebody forgot to renew a domain name registration. But anyway, the residents of district 4A who are looking for some good times will no doubt appreciate Doug's pornographic campaign website. Have fun!

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Gun ruling appealed

Attorney General Mike Hatch is appealing the recent ruling overturning the state's concealed carry law. This is expected. What I found interesting, however, is that the story mentions that Rep. Mark Olson is planning on challenging more laws under the single subject rule in the state's constitution.

Mark Olson is a very special legislator. Extremely far right, he is like a pit bull who will grab onto issues and not let them go. Some of his issues are weird, like Personal Rapid Transit. Some of his issues get him into trouble with Republican leadership, like hammering away on doing things "properly" in the House (Olson has been around for a long time, and has yet to get a committee chair due to his general wackiness). The constitutional challenge is an example of the latter. He has been complaining about how the legislature ignore the single subject clause in the constitution for a long time, so the ruling that overturned the gun law is essentially "Mark Olson's revenge." It will be interesting to see where this ends up. I doubt, however, that he will release his bite.

New Education Commissioner

Governor Pawlenty has announced a new education commissioner. Alice Seagren is a Republican representative from Bloomington. She is more moderate than Cheri Pearson Yecke, who was given the smackdown by the Senate recently and was forced to resign. Seagren has education credentials from her work in the House, and she is certainly less divisive than Yecke. This shouldn't be a controversial issue.

Saturday, July 17, 2004

Rep. Tom Pugh retires

DFL House member Tom Pugh, from South Saint Paul, is resigning to take a position at the Public Utilities Commission. He is from South Saint Paul and was Minority Leader from 1999-2002.

It's not very surprising when a legislator takes a position like this. Getting a permanent job for good pay beats campaigning to be rehired every two years, and many legislators don't hesitate to take these opportunities when they arrive. Given that candidate filing ends soon, though, the question is now who will run for his seat. I believe that the seat will stay in the DFL column with a good candidate, but as always, we will have to wait and see.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Concealed carry found unconstitutional

A district court judge found today that the concealed carry law passed in 2002 is unconstitutional. A group of churches challenged the bill's constitutionality, and they came away with a victory today. Interestingly, the decision has nothing to do with the subject of the law, but rather with how it was enacted. The ruling is based on the fact that the state constitution requires legislative bills to deal with a single subject only. However, in order to get the bill passed, the Republicans amended the concealed carry bill to an unrelated bill dealing with the Department of Natural Resources. This stepped over the line, according to the judge, and so it is null and void.

This is not the first time that a law has been found to be unconstitutional because the bill violated the single subject clause of the constitution. However, it is a rare occurrence. In my opinion, this is abused far too often, and even though I really don't care one way or the other about this bill in particular, it is nice to see that the constitution is actually being upheld. Republicans have used this tactic in recent years to deal with all sorts of hot-button issues, like guns and abortion, and it is a real disservice to the legislative process. I think that the less the legislature does, the better, so I want as many roadblocks as possible thrown up to keep things from becoming law.

It looks like this decision is going to be appealed, which is expected. I hope that the decision will be upheld, and that the state Supreme Court will force the legislature to stop their shenanigans and legislate fairly.

Sunday, July 11, 2004

Slow summer days

Not much has happened on the political front here of late. There still isn't a special session, and it certainly doesn't look like there will be one. One thing did catch my view this week, however, and that was the bishop of the Diocese of Winona telling Catholics that people who are pro-choice should not receive Communion.

I wouldn't call myself a Catholic these days, but I was raised as one and I did have 13 years of Catholic schooling to (try to) instill in me those values Catholics are supposed to have. Reflecting back, I can't think of spending much time in any of my religion classes on abortion at all. Nor on other topics like gay marriage. I do remember hearing about the parable of the Good Samaritan and other examples to show us that Jesus cared a whole lot more about how we treated other human beings, even our enemies, than whether we voted for the right candidate or not or had the right beliefs about a particular issue that isn't even mentioned in the Bible.

I have to wonder why the no Communion stance is limited to abortion only, and not other Catholic issues like helping those who are at the bottom of the economic ladder. If you are so inclined, perhaps you could drop them a line and ask as I have done.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

The Gay Index

This is a rather interesting op-ed from Republican Sarah Janacek about economic development and what is called the Gay Index. Without rehashing the entire column, the point is that cities that show tolerance of gays tend to have higher economic growth due to the presence of a creative workforce. This proves to be a sticking point between social conservatives and pro-business conservatives.

It is hopelessly idealistic of me to expect that these kinds of columns will change anybody's mind about this issue, but one can always dream. I have always been confused about why social issues seem to trump economic issues for many people. I can understand how people are anti-abortion, anti-gay, and so forth, but at the end of the day you can't eat your homophobic sign. Anti-abortion leaflets aren't going to pay your mortgage. You need a job to do that, and the study mentioned in the column is just one more indication that the more open a society is, the more economic growth it creates.

Outfront Minnesota has a list of companies operating in Minnesota that provide domestic partner benefits to their employees. It is a very long list, full of names of well-known, large companies like Best Buy, Target, Microsoft, IBM, AT&T, and many others. Smart businesses know that to get high-quality employees, they have to acknowledge that some of them are gay and welcome that fact. Why hobble our entire state with constitutional amendments that point out that we are not tolerant of different people?

Friday, July 02, 2004

Naughty, naughty take two

After criticizing a Democratic-leaning group for hiring felons to register voters, it turns out that the Republicans had ex-felons working the phones themselves.

Of course, this is a huge mistake. Given the criminal records of these people, they were quickly sacked and offered positions in Governor Pawlenty's administration.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Another Pawlenty crony in legal trouble

When Jesse Ventura was governor, I don't remember many huge controversies surrounding his associates, aside from Steven Bosacker. However, there seem to be a bit more troubles with Pawlenty's friends. Such as this.

Equity stripping has to be one of the more despicable financial crimes. Targeting people of low means is not very honorable. However, the trend seems to be that where others see unethical and illegal behaviour, Republicans see a business opportunity.