.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Saturday, April 30, 2005

Stadium propaganda

I moseyed down to the Dome tonight to catch the Twins play the Angels (where we won, 4-2) and noticed that they are playing an outdoor stadium commercial at various times, showing renditions of the proposed stadium and interviewing people about how great it would be to play outside. This must have obviously started recently, given the pictures of the new stadium proposal. One funny thing is that many of the people interviewed are kids, who of course aren't going to be paying most of the sales tax this plan would include. These commercials got applause, however, when they ran.

It's a no-brainer to appeal to people already at the game with these marketing campaigns, but I was a bit surprised to see it. They were also handing out cards with more information, including how to contact county commissioners, but I didn't get one. And thus begins another attack in this new stadium war.

Legislature kicks it up a notch

The House passed several bills this week. Several hours were spent on an ethanol bill that would increase the amount of ethanol required in gasoline to 20% from 10%. I'm not entirely sold on ethanol, but it is better than the alternatives like MTBE. What I would like to see is a uniform oxygenate standard across the entire country so we don't have all these differently-formulated gasolines that need to be cranked out by refineries. If ethanol is the oxygenate that's chosen, so much the better.

Yesterday was the jobs bill (not a big deal save for the school starting amendment, which would require schools to start class after Labor Day. A dumb idea, if you ask me) and the Health and Human Services bill. The HHS finance bill passed by the House would throw a bunch of people off of MnCare, certainly not the best way to deal with rising health insurance costs. Forcing people to go to emergency rooms won't save any money. The article mentions several abortion-related initiatives, but doesn't mention that pro-lifers voted against an amendment to require hospitals to let rape victims know about emergency contraception. Yep, those pro-lifers, not caring if rape victims have to carry their rapist's child. There was also a rumor that Rep. Tom Emmer, still obsesses with that Minnesota Aids Project-affiliated website, was passing around the House floor some documents talking about interesting sexual practices. I didn't happen to see that one, though, so maybe it is just a rumor.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Gun bill: no go?

The quickness with which the concealed carry bill was planned to be passed may be premature. Apparently, the Senate will allow the bill to be debated and amended, just like any other bill. Hey, what's wrong with that? I don't really care about the bill in general, but there are a few things that bother me. If I recall correctly, the original bill would let people with multiple DWIs, some arsonists, and some other criminals get weapons permits. I don't like the sound of that, so allowing the bill to be debated and possibly amended isn't a bad thing.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Concealed carry redux

The House is working on passing the concealed carry bill again after it was invalidated by the courts due to not following proper constitutional procedure. It will likely pass again, this time without the chicanery. I'm not thrilled about this bill, but in the long run, I don't think it will make much difference in anything.

State health care visions

In the legislature, there are currently two competing visions for the future of state health care in Minnesota. On the one hand, Republicans are looking to throw more and more people off of MnCare. In the Senate, the plan is to reverse the cuts of recent years and ensure that low income adults can actually go to the doctor when they are sick.

Just today, a study found that Minnesota has the lowest rate of uninsured working adults in the country. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Texas has the highest rate. State programs like MnCare are a big part of that low number. Senate Democrats want to preserve Minnesota's top ranking; Republicans want to move the state towards Texas and Louisiana.

Becoming more like Texas is not a good strategy for ensuring the long-term health of this state. Kicking people off of health care so hospitals can absorb more costs, driving costs up for the rest of us, is not a good idea.

City Pages "Best Of"

I opened today's "Best Of" edition of City Pages today to see if I had won "Best Blog of the Year," or, dare I say, "Best Anonymous Person of the Year." Alas, it was not to be (and I had to call the bakery and cancel the celebratory cake). But what's this? In the category of "Best Meltdown" was the saga of Powerline's potty-mouthed response...to me! But alas, I was not even mentioned as a supporting actor. Not in the dead-tree edition, not in the online edition with its myriad possibilities for high-tech so-called "hyperlinks."

Oh well. I guess your infrequently-blogwhoring writer will have to look elsewhere for acknowledgment.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Police database: necessary?

The Minnesota Daily has an interesting story about bills to create a statewide police database to cover incidents. From this story, it sounds like anytime the police are involved in an incident, regardless of whether or not criminal charges are filed, it will go into the database. After 10 days, it will become public information.

If this is accurate, I don't like it one bit. If we had this, landlords would undoubtedly use it to find "problem tenants", even if a person had only been warned about a loud party by the police and no charges had been filed. Pulled over for speeding but given just a warning? Well, your insurance company will know about it.

I think it's great to share information between police, but this is the wrong way to do it.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Other news

Despite how hard Governor Pawlenty is ramming this casino down the state's throat, even the supposed beneficiaries aren't biting. The Red Lake band has decided not to support a plan that includes a racino.

Also, over the weekend Rod Grams gave up on his Senate bid. I wonder if Dick Cheney or Karl Rove made the call, and what they offered him in return.

Campaign finance subsidies

One part of the State Government Finance bill passed by the House last Friday is a significant cutback to campaign subsidies. I generally support public financing of campaigns, and I think these cuts are shortsighted. Campaign subsidies help ensure a healthy mix of elected officials, not only across economic lines but party lines as well. Jesse Ventura would never have been elected governor without subsidies, for example, and third parties probably would not be able to mount any credible challenges to the GOP/DFL party hegemony.

This, of course, is exactly why some people are against them. Governor Pawlenty, who will be facing a re-election campaign in 21 months, would probably love to be able to take subsidies away from his opponents, even as he contemplates eschewing subsidies altogether and not abiding by the attached spending limits.

Fortunately, it sounds like the Democrats in the Senate will oppose these cuts. I hope they aren't touched. I am not a straight-ticket voter, and I would hate to lose the opportunity to vote for other parties.

More stadium thoughts

After sleeping on the stadium deal, today I am less enthused about it. Perhaps I was happy to see a plan that could take this perennial issue off the table once and for all, but now I think that taxpayers will get the raw end of the deal. In order to justify the county's contribution, we would need to be getting something significant in return. Given the open-air nature of the stadium, I doubt that it could be used year-round for public service events. One poster on the Minneapolis politics discussion list suggested that we could make this a model for energy efficiency and sustainability, but is that worth all the money?

I don't know if community ownership needs to be in the mix, or something else entirely. Maybe nothing will make this a good deal for Hennepin county. I'm going to be a lot more skeptical now, though.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

An interview with Steve Sviggum

Over at mnpACT! there is an interesting interview with Speaker Steve Sviggum about increasing the minimum wage. It's worth a read, especially to see how good he is at mindlessly reciting Republican talking points.

Hennepin County stadium deal

The Twins and Hennepin County have apparently worked out a stadium deal. Although the press conference announcing the terms will be tomorrow, the basic plan is for the county to increase sales taxes by 0.15%, while the Twins kick in $125 million. This would pay for an open-air stadium (roof available as a $100 million option, payable by the state) Northwest of the Target Center, near the confluence of I-394, a Hiawatha Light Rail extension, and the Northstar line.

I like baseball. I like the Twins. I would much prefer to watch them play in an open-air stadium as opposed to the Metrodome. However, I have been opposed to publicly-financed stadium plans in the past. To be honest, I don't know what to think about this plan. There is no state money, which is a plus. The sales tax increase is only 0.15%, which is extremely small in the grand scheme of things. However, there is no referendum plan, meaning the people who would have to pay the tax would not get a voice in whether it is applied.

If the plan included a referendum, I would support it at the legislature and probably even vote for the tax increase in the referendum. But if the powers that be don't want a referendum, then I see an alternative that is acceptable: tie this sales tax increase to the sales tax increase for transit. Either they both pass or neither pass. This way, the sales tax would go up all at once instead of separately, and it would ensure that the bulk of the increase went to a public good. If that was the plan, then I would reluctantly approve as the best alternative.

Tom Emmer says "Just Say No!" to reality

Republican Tom Emmer is disgusted by the fact that an AIDS prevention program uses what he considers to be explicit language in information given to the public on how to stop the spread of AIDS. He would end all funding to the Minnesota AIDS Project, even though the website he objects to doesn't receive any state funds.

As one person on the Minnesota Politics Discussion list said, Rep. Emmer seems to be filling Arlon Lindner's shoes. AIDS is a sexually transmitted disease. In order to talk about how not to spread AIDS, it is necessary to talk about sex. In order to talk about sex, you need to use sexually explicit terms. The alternative is something I read in a Bloom County comic strip of probably twenty years ago, where the editor of the local newspaper decided to sidestep the explicitness problem by writing "If you ever do (a-word) or (c-word) be sure to always use a (c-word number two)." Not particularly effective.

Now, I don't know if Rep. Emmer never had "the talk" when he was growing up, but it sure doesn't sound like it. I, for one, do not feel like giving it to him.

Friday, April 22, 2005

House passes state government, higher education bills

Today the House passed bills funding the state government, as well as higher education in Minnesota. The state government finance bill had some wacky provisions in it, aside from the general negativity from state employees on the cuts in the bill. For example, there was the proposal to allow local units of government to opt out of state mandates, which is a perennial favourite of Republican Mark Olson. It generated some conversation, but nothing too explosive, and it passed the House.

The higher education bill did put more money into education, but coming after the huge cuts in recent years, it merely partially fixes the damage caused before. Tuition will still go up, and more people will have problems attending school. There was also a bit of discussion about General College at the U, which was not exactly part of the bill. This bill also passed.

This is crunch time, and a lot of the funding bills will be taken up over the next couple of weeks in both the House and Senate. The first votes won't matter too much, since all of these bills will be going to conference committee where they will actually be formed into bills that will be signed into law. These first votes do give a good sense of attitudes and general direction, however.

More on cooties and vaginas

Pharyngula has some more information on the dual stories of cooties and girls who speak their mind.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Senate DFL budget

The Senate DFL unveiled their budget today. It was short on one big detail, however: how to pay for it. Senator Dean Johnson said that with regards to revenue, his lips were sealed at this point.

Republicans weren't too impressed with the proposal, and I have to agree: without information on where the money will be coming from, this is nothing more than a Christmas wish list. I'm all for more spending on education, health care, and transportation, but it has to be real money, not made-up stuff.

Crazy people II

On the heels of that last school story, we have another: students at Winona High Schools who are wearing buttons that says "I ♥ My Vagina" are getting into trouble.

I don't even know where to start with this. First of all, if a student wore a button that said "I ♥ My Pecs" or "I ♥ My Enormous Brain", I don't think we would be seeing any controversy. Thus, it appears that the only problem is that the button acknowledges the fact that females have a reproductive system.

Second, this message is at its root a positive one. If a girl came to school wearing a button that said "I hate my looks", again I don't think there would be threats of disciplinary action. It's odd how in a culture where teen girls have to deal with body image issues and eating disorders, a positive message about the body is shunned, while a negative one would be accepted. Does this make sense?

It seems that conservatives will not be happy until everybody feels total shame about anything physical. Women are not allowed to even acknowledge the fact that they have vaginas, to say nothing about enjoying them. Enjoying healthy sexuality? That goes against God and nature, apparently. At the same time, the media continues to portray unrealistic and unhealthy sexual attitudes, people (even conservatives!) have affairs and damaging sexual relationships, and sex ed is nonexistent in schools.

From the sound of things, these excellent students certainly have the sense to make good decisions about their health, something that many teens cannot say. These people aren't going to be the ones who get pregnant before they graduate, for example. It just pisses me off that anybody who tries to have a frank discussion about sex these days is instantly cut off. America is completely psychotic in this respect, and it is damaging to everybody, especially girls.

Personally, I can empathize with them, since I was pretty much in the same boat at their age: an excellent non-troublemaking student who tried to provoke a little more critical thinking in a place where, to be honest, critical thinking is about as welcome as a drag queen at the Bachmann family dinner table (ka-ching!) These are the people who should be our next leaders, but they are being taught early that rocking the boat will get you a swift kick in the rear. Way to go, USA!

Crazy people I

The University of Minnesota Morris is trying to put on a show for school-age kids on tolerance. It's called "Cootie Shots." Apparently, some parents believe that the show goes beyond promoting tolerance and promotes homosexuality, so 40 percent of the audience will not be there.

Why do they think it promotes homosexuality? Well, the show doesn't appear to mention sexuality in any way, so that's not it. No, it's best to read the words directly from one concerned person:

"Oh, it's very obvious," countered Laura Carrington, a Morris school board member and retired teacher. "There's a script called 'The Parable of the Stimples.' The Stimples are people who are told that it's OK to make loud noises, but just don't make them in public. Isn't that similar to what, for years, homosexuals were told?

"Suddenly, there were more Stimples than ever. They mention that Stimples don't seem quite so 'queer.' That's pretty out front. I don't think it's the school's responsibility to promote the homosexual lifestyle."

Holy crap. That's not "very obvious" to me. To me, the Stimples sound like they are learning that some actions that are fun in private aren't appropriate in public. Maybe there is something wrong with me that I don't immediately connect this to homosexuality. I also don't see how this is what "homosexuals were told" for years. People like Laura Carrington have been telling homosexuals for years not to keep their lifestyle private, but that they can never do it, they are perverted sinners, and they are going to Hell.

There really is something to be said about people who see the "homosexual agenda" around every corner. If Carrington ever wants to talk about some possibly confusing feelings she is having, I am sure that there are a lot of people who would be happy to talk to her. In the meantime, I think I will stay a good 100 yards away from people like her.

Anti-gay marriage supporters rally today

Today the anti-gay marriage fanatics rallied at the Capitol. The Star Tribune has coverage here, while the Dump Bachmann blog has some news here. I didn't really see it, so I can't tell you whether there were more people today as opposed to the OutFront rally. Even if I did see it, I'm not good at these things anyway. The Strib said that the crow d sizes were about equal, so take that for what it's worth.

I didn't really see any signs, which is not surprising since the rally organizers put the kibosh on that after some signs that weren't media-friendly appeared last year. I heard cheering, and that's about all.

The thing that always makes me sad about these things are pictures like this, that show younger kids getting involved in the hate. I have to wonder how parents can teach their children how to have such vitriolic hatred for people that the don't even know. It's scary. Today's picture reminded me of when Brother Jed came around the U with his family, which was even worse since his children had to be under the age of ten and parroting this garbage.

Apparently, many of the attendees and speakers were ticked off that the Senate isn't dropping all other business and voting on this bill without going through those usual processes of committee hearings and referrals. Yes, it's so hard having to play by the rules, isn't it? All in all, this rally seemed to serve to give the bigots some facetime with each other, and not a whole lot else. I hope they enjoyed it.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Get yer politics here!

Since the legislative session is hitting it's main stretch, there's a lot of stuff going on in the news. Go over to the Star Tribune's politics section, and what do we have?

  • Pawlenty embraces aid for homeless: good.
  • House bill would raise gas tax: good idea, but tying it to a 2006 vote on a constitutional amendment is dumb. Raise the tax now by at least seven cents a gallon, have the sales tax referendum, and ask for dedication of the MVST in 2006.
  • House health budget bill would toss workers off MnCare: very, very bad. If there's one topic that is talked about most often on the bus (besides stories of drunken revelry and fighting), it's health care woes. I just heard people talk about their lack of insurance this morning. Kicking more people off of insurance isn't going to help anybody.
  • House budget strips money for MPR, political funding income tax checkoff: also dumb ideas, although this is what you expect from a very conservative Republican (Marty Seifert). Conservative Republicans don't like MPR, and they don't like any public financing of campaigns.
That's it for today, although I have comments on the General College at the U that I want to make but haven't gotten around to yet.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

The tire dealer from Albert Lea

The Star Tribune will have a story tomorrow on Rep. Dorman, but you can read it right now online. Not a lot of new information, just a bit of a bio and "how we've got here," but it may be interesting nonetheless.

It's official

She's been running for a while, but today, Amy Klobuchar announced that she is running for Senate. She's done pretty well in terms of fundraising so far, so things could definitely be worse. There's a lot of time between now and the election, and this is just one small step in the race.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Rep. Dorman

I don't have anything to write about right now, so check out this story at MN Lefty Liberal about Rep. Dan Dorman attending a DFL fundraiser. Interesting.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Republican Senator Paul Koering is gay

I've been busy lately, which is why I haven't posted on as many issues as I'd like to, but this one is pretty significant: First-term Republican Senator Paul Koering told the Star Tribune today that he is gay. This is a very difficult thing for any public official to do, and it is all the more difficult for a Republican from a conservative district to do so. I'm glad that he did, though, and I hope that he feels relieved at not having to live a fake life anymore.

Of course, this revelation is going to affect the debate on the anti-gay marriage amendment. Senator Koering still supports it.....and I don't know what to say about that. First, I don't think that there is any reason why a gay person can be a conservative. Taxes, national defense, social spending, regulations, all of those things are pretty much orthogonal to sexuality (as well as race). But today's Republican party is by no means conservative. It is a party of gaining power for its own sake, of pandering, and increasingly (on a national level) of corruption. Lots of people make analogies like "Jews for Hitler" or "African-Americans in the KKK", but even though this is hyperbole, there is no doubt that the Republican party today simply doesn't have an ideology that is compatible with gay members. If gay Republicans like Koering work on their fellow party members and try to get the party back to its real conservative roots, I think we will all be better off. I wish him good luck.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Do we need a minimum-price law for gasoline?

Minnesota passed a law in 2001 to put a price floor on gasoline. Independent station owners were complaining about large chains coming in and undercutting prices to put them out of business. It's the Wal-Mart effect in the gas station industry, to put it one way. With prices so high right now, though, some people want to repeal the law.

I don't know what to think of this. I think that in some markets, this is an example of how we need to regulate the free market. After all, in some places, there aren't many choices when it comes to gas, and if Wal-Mart or some other big chain comes in and sells gas below cost to drive everybody out, when they are the only game in town they will have a monopoly. In urban areas, though, this is less likely to happen. Having different laws for urban areas and rural areas doesn't sound like a good idea, though. Then there is the question of whether lower prices are better in the long run anyway, considering our over-reliance on oil.

It's unlikely that a repeal will be passed, but this is one of those unintended consequences that laws sometimes have when circumstances change.

Court of Appeals strikes down concealed carry law

Last year, a district court judge found that the concealed carry law passed in 2003 was unconstitutional because it violated the proper procedure for passing a bill in the legislature. It was appealed, and today, the Court of Appeals upheld the judge's decision and also found it unconstitutional. This decision will likely be appealed to the Minnesota Supreme Court.

Predictably, supporters of the law are up in arms, but they have nobody to blame but House Republican bill supporters for this one. The have used the ol' bait and switch on many hot-button issues in recent years, including this one. The proper way to pass a bill is to pass it in one chamber, send it over, and then pass it in the other. If one chamber doesn't want to pass it, that's the democratic process. It's good to see the constitution upheld.

Monday, April 11, 2005


This isn't really Minnesota-related, but if you haven't seen this video, you gotta. Here's the best part: it's not a parody.

Bonding bill signed

The governor signed the bonding bill today, after the House and Senate passed the conference committee report last week. That was mainly uneventful save a minor meltdown on the House floor over House rules that only served to show once again how disorganized the Republicans are right now.

With the bill signed, Northstar proponents and everybody else waiting for the money for their projects (you know who you are) can breathe a bit more easily. And in contrast to last year, the legislature is actually getting something done.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

"Death to fa"...er, wait, "Let Minnesota Vote!"

So, the bigots are going to be rallying at the Capitol against gay marriage on April 20th (also Hitler's birthday, but I'm sure that's just a coincidence). Last time around, though, some of the signs were a little, how shall we put it, extreme for the tastes of the organizers. Sure, many of the people who oppose gay marriage actually do hate homosexuals, but putting that on a sign isn't good for media relations, apparently. So this year, organizers have some guidelines for signmakers (warning: PDF file). I especially like the "It’s Simple: Either You’re for Marriage or You’re Against It" suggestion, demonstrating the fact that many of these people's brains actually are monochromatic.

Personally, I would like to see a "Being a bigot is kewl" sign at the rally, but I probably won't. Oh well.

Norm on Kofi Annan

Once upon a time, I took Senator Coleman to task for his idiotic witchhunt against Kofi Annan. How Coleman can believe that Annan needs to be booted out of his position for negligence while Bush, Rummy, et al aren't held accountable for their lies and incompetence in Iraq shows that there is very little higher brain activity going on in there.

Well, several months later, I got a reply back from Coleman about the issue. He still won't let go, nor will he admit the hypocrisy:

Dear Friend :

Thank you for taking the time to contact me concerning my call for Kofi
Annan to resign as Secretary-General of the United Nations.

Over the past seven months, the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI), which I chair, has conducted an exhaustive, bipartisan investigation into the scandal surrounding the U.N. Oil-for-Food program -- a program originally established by the U.N. to support the Iraqi people with food and other humanitarian aid while sanctions were in place against the brutal regime of Saddam Hussein.

However, our investigative subcommittee has gathered overwhelming evidence that Saddam manipulated this program to line his own pockets and the pockets of others at the expense of the Iraqi people. At our hearing on Nov. 15, we presented evidence that Saddam accumulated more than $21 billion through abuses of the Oil-for-Food program. We continue to amass evidence that he used the overt support of prominent members of the U.N., such as France and Russia , along with numerous foreign officials, companies, and possibly even senior U.N. officials, to exploit the program to his advantage. We have obtained evidence that indicates that Saddam doled out lucrative oil allotments to foreign officials, sympathetic journalists, and even one senior U.N. official in order to undermine international support for sanctions. In addition, we are gathering evidence that Saddam gave hundreds of thousands -- maybe even millions -- of Oil-for-Food dollars to terrorists and terrorist organizations. All of this occurred under the supposedly vigilant eye of
the U.N.

While many questions concerning Oil-for-Food remain unanswered, one conclusion has become abundantly clear: Kofi Annan should resign. The decision to call for his resignation does not come easily, but I have arrived at this conclusion because the most extensive fraud in the history of the U.N. occurred on his watch. In addition, and perhaps more importantly, as long as Mr. Annan remains in charge, the world will never be able to learn the full extent of the bribes, kickbacks and under-the-table payments that took place under the U.N.'s collective nose.

Mr. Annan was at the helm of the U.N. for all but a few days of the Oil-for-Food program and he must, therefore, be held accountable for the U.N.'s utter failure to stop Saddam's abuses. The consequences of the U.N.'s ineptitude cannot be overstated: Saddam was empowered to withstand the sanctions regime, remain in power, and even rebuild his military. Needless to say, he made the Iraqi people suffer even more by importing substandard food and medicine under the Oil-for-Food program and pawning it off as first-rate humanitarian aid.

This systemic failure of the U.N. and Oil-for-Food is exacerbated by evidence that at least one senior U.N. official -- Benon Sevan , Mr. Annan's hand-picked director of the U.N.'s Oil-for-Food oversight agency -- reportedly received bribes from Saddam. According to documents from the Iraqi oil ministry that were obtained by us, Mr. Sevan received several allotments of oil under Oil-for-Food, each of which was worth
hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars.

To make matters worse, the actions of Mr. Annan's own son have been called into question. Specifically, the U.N. recently admitted that Kojo Annan received more money than previously disclosed from a Swiss company named Cotecna , which was hired by the U.N. to monitor Iraq 's imports under Oil-for-Food. Recently, there are growing, albeit unproven, allegations that Kofi Annan himself not only understands his son's role in this scandal -- but that he has been less than forthcoming in what he
knew, and when he knew it.

As a former prosecutor, I believe in the presumption of innocence. Such revelations, however, cast a dark cloud over Mr. Annan's ability to address the U.N.'s quagmire. Mr. Annan has named the esteemed Paul Volcker to investigate Oil-for-Food-related allegations, but the latter's team is severely hamstrung in its efforts. His panel has no
authority to compel the production of documents or testimony from anyone outside the U.N. Nor does it possess the power to punish those who fabricate information, alter evidence or omit material facts. It must rely entirely on the goodwill of the very people and entities it is investigating. We must also recognize that Mr. Volcker's effort is wholly funded by the U.N., at Mr. Annan's control. Moreover, Mr. Volcker must issue his final report directly to the secretary general, who will then decide what, if anything, is released to the public.

Therefore, while I have faith in Mr. Volcker's integrity and abilities, it is clear the U.N. simply cannot root out its own corruption while Mr. Annan is in charge: to get to the bottom of the murk, it's clear that there needs to be a change at the top. In addition, a scandal of this magnitude requires a truly independent examination to ensure complete transparency, and to restore the credibility of the U.N. To that end, I reiterate our request for access to internal U.N. documents, and for access to U.N. personnel who were involved in the Oil-for-Food program.

All of this adds up to one conclusion: it's time for Kofi Annan to step down. The massive scope of this debacle demands nothing less. If this widespread corruption had occurred in any legitimate organization around the world, its CEO would have been ousted long ago, in disgrace.

Thank you once again for contacting me. I value your advice. If I can be of further assistance to you in the future, please do not hesitate to contact me again.

Norm Coleman
United States Senate
Pathetic, really.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Run, Michele, Run!

Yesterday was the OutFront Minnesota rally at the Capitol. A good crowd with good speakers. However, the real fun was only revealed today when photos were posted at Eleventh Avenue South of Senator Michele Bachmann, number one proponent of the anti-gay marriage amendment, literally hiding in the bushes to watch the rally. Too chicken to even face the people she wants to make second-class citizens, I guess. That has to be some of the most pathetic behaviour I have ever seen.

Legislative benefits

Legislative benefits are in the news these days. First, Senator Mark Dayton is eschewing his pension when he retires from the Senate. He will get $16,000 a year for his six years of work, an amount he thinks is too high. It probably is, although I certainly wouldn't turn down that kind of pension for working six years in one place (anybody know of a job like that other than senator?). He's rich enough not to miss it.

On the state level, there has been some controversy over the fact that former legislators can enroll in the state health plan at any time. Some have done so before seeking medical treatment, thus sticking the state health plan with the bill. A bill has even been introduced to fix this alleged problem. Is it a problem? It doesn't cost much money, but it is something that few others get to enjoy. Maybe all uninsured people in the state should be able to enroll in the health plan at any time. Again, if we had universal health care, these kinds of issues would not exist.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Legislative benefits

Legislative benefits are in the news these days. First, Senator Mark Dayton is eschewing his pension when he retires from the Senate. He will get $16,000 a year for his six years of work, an amount he thinks is too high. It probably is, although I certainly wouldn't turn down that kind of pension for working six years in one place (anybody know of a job like that other than senator?). He's rich enough not to miss it.

On the state level, there has been some controversy over the fact that former legislators can enroll in the state health plan at any time. Some have done so before seeking medical treatment, thus sticking the state health plan with the bill. A bill has even been introduced to fix this alleged problem. Is it a problem? It doesn't cost much money, but it is something that few others get to enjoy. Maybe all uninsured people in the state should be able to enroll in the health plan at any time. Again, if we had universal health care, these kinds of issues would not exist.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Texas less bigoted than Minnesota?

To a liberal Minnesotan, a Texas Republican is pretty much the political equivalent of a Neanderthal. So it is quite surprising to read an article posted to Minnesota Politics Discuss about how Texas Republicans refuse to pass an anti-gay marriage amendment like the one in Minnesota because it "goes too far." See, like our state's proposed ban, the Texas ban would have made not only gay marriage illegal, but any "legal equivalent." This proved to be too much for the Republicans, so they stripped the "legal equivalent" language out of the bill. An attempt to do the same thing here in the Minnesota House failed.

How in the world can we let Texas be better for gay rights than Minnesota? The proposed ban here is evil for two reasons: first, because it bans civil unions, and second, because it would apply to the state an "all political subdivisions." Republicans who espouse local control apparently don't want cities like Minneapolis to decide for themselves whether domestic partner benefits are a good thing or not.

Also on this front is a charge from the head of some wingnut operation called Minnesota Citizens in Defense of Marriage that DFL legislators are misleading the public about the ban. He cites polling data showing that 60% of Minnesotans allegedly support the ban. However, polls show that pluralities or majorities of people support civil unions for GLBT people, which the amendment in the legislature would also prevent. If people knew the facts, they would not support this amendment.

I'm sick and tired of the time spend by the religious right trying to force their morality on the public. Leave marriage to the churches and civil unions to government. That way, a church can marry or not marry whoever they want, whenever they want, although it won't have any legal standing. If the Church of Bigamy wants to marry the same person to five other people, go ahead and let them; it won't mean any more than a church proclaiming me to be bishop of Mars, but hey, whatever floats your boat. Meanwhile, the government will allow civil union benefits to any two adults. Problem solved.

Blog speak, politicians listen!

Or maybe not. But it is funny to see this article about cleaning up the freeway (which a couple of readers brought to my attention) after this post on Monday. Clean is good.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

About a blog

A friend of mine recently pointed out a blog run by a University of Minnesota Morris professor: www.pharyngula.org. He's taking to the creationists like nobody's business, far better than a layman such as myself could. The plot by creationists to inject their non-scientific "Intelligent Design" theory into classrooms is very real, and very frightening. Unfortunately, many people think that the doctrine of equal time should apply to science as it does in politics, which is should not. I'm not arguing that as an alternative to Newton's Law of Gravity schools should teach my theory that planets are held in their orbits by invisible strands of Silly Putty between them and the Sun. Sounds crazy? Yep, but Intelligent Design has just as much scientific validity as that theory.

Take a look.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Fun with Sitemeter

Who at the U.S. Treasury is wondering whether Alice Seagren is gay? Inquiring minds want to know.

Senate says no to casino, racino

A Senate committee voted in a bipartisan way to put the kibosh on the governor's plans to build a casino in order to provide more money for state government. Predictably, he railed against the Senate, calling this against "fairness in gaming" and saying this means taxes will have to be raised. Of course, a casino would be a tax on the statistically ignorant, but the governor doesn't see it as a tax.

This plan crashing and burning in the Senate wasn't terribly surprising. The lopsidedness of the vote probably means that the issue is dead for the year.

Dirty, dirty, dirty

I travel along I-94 every day, and it has to be one of the ugliest stretches of Interstate highway anywhere. The litter along the sides of the road and in the median is disgraceful. I know that MnDOT doesn't have a lot of money these days, but for such a heavily traveled segment of road to look so bad reflects poorly on the state. Don't we have county inmates with nothing better to do than to clean up?

Things I don't mind

There are a couple ideas floating around that don't seem too bad to me. Like the plan to streamline government. Making better use of IT resources, centralizing real estate management (I've had to deal with tracking down which state agency owns state land, and it's a nightmare), and making it easier to get licenses makes sense to me. Economies of scale and all that...

Another idea I wouldn't mind is the plan to change the child support formula. I don't know much about calculating child support payments, but I have heard a lot of complaints about how it doesn't take into account the incomes of both parents. In today's world where women are just about as likely to be in the workforce as men, and split custody is common, it only makes sense to take into account both parents' incomes.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

The revenue question

Do we have a problem with revenues or spending in this state? Late last night, I saw a TV commercial I had not seen before, advocating not raising taxes. The words "Tax and Spend" appeared on the screen (pretty subtle, eh?) and "Tax" was crossed out and over it was written "Growth", implying that if we just sit back and do nothing economic growth will take care of things. Sounds like voodoo economics to me. So who's behind it? In fine print at the bottom of the screen, it was attributed to what I believe to be the Minnesota Association of Realtors. But it was pretty fine print.

On the other side of the coin, today there is an article from former Republican governor Arne Carlson arguing that we do, in fact, have a problem with revenue. The percentage of the state's income that has been going to state and local government (also know as the "Cost of Government") has been decreasing in recent years. It's worth a read.