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Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Nahm's staff acting pathetic

Seriously, how pathetic is it to be caught editing Coleman's entry on Wikipedia? Didn't anybody tell them that editing your own (or your boss's) entry is a faux pas?

Also pathetic is spokesman Eric Mische's whining. "What's to stop someone from writing in that Norm Coleman was 7-feet-10-inches, with green hair and one eye smack dab in the middle of his head?" People with more integrity than you and your staff, Eric. Politicians may find this hard to believe, but there are a lot of people in the world who believe in objectivity and accuracy and actually want to make sure that these entries reflect reality, not political spin. If I saw such nonsense in his entry, I would remove it. Amazing!

Wikipedia is a great resource, one that I use every day. Sure, it's not 100% accurate, but nothing is. As long as you check other sources and take a look at the revision history or discussion page when it comes to controversial issues, you shouldn't be hoodwinked too often.

Also, a note to staff: do this stuff from home. That way, you might not be caught when your IP address reveals you to be working from Nahm's office.

I wouldn't piss off a vampire...

Here's a little hint for people out there: if you decide to run for a prominent elected office, say, governor, make sure you don't have any outstanding arrest warrants. Because if you do run, you are going to be very public, so evading those warrants just isn't possible.

Hmm, arrested for escape and stalking. Stalking just isn't cool, but escape? Did he turn into a bat and fly away or something?

Fundraising numbers

I'm not into parsing the fundraising numbers, but if you are, see these takes:

DFL Senate
MN Publius

Wes Skoglund stepping down

DFL Senator Wes Skoglund is not running for re-election. Statement here.

There is no question that a Democrat will hold this seat; the only question is who.

Wetterling not running for Lieutenant Governor

Patty Wetterling is not teaming up with Mike Hatch to run for LG. So now what is she going to do? Run for Congress? Run for nothing? I guess we will wait and see.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Godwin's law

Colleen Rowley sure has some brilliant volunteers. How stupid do you have to be to put a picture like that up?

It's pretty hard for Democrats to run on removing Republican corruption from Washington and improving the political tone when they do incredibly stupid things like this. John Kline has plenty of real negatives to harp on; there is absolutely no need for dumb personal attacks like this.

A brave legislator

State Representative John Lesch, a DFLer from Saint Paul, is going to Iraq just for the hell of it. Considering how things are there at the moment, I would have to say that is quite crazy. However, what little bit of objective journalist is in me sees why; after all, I too would want to see things for myself before coming to any conclusions.

Fortunately, I don't think a trip is in the cards for me, making it a moot point.

Let's hope that Rep. Lesch and all Americans in Iraq come back safe and sound.

Katherine Kersten's Korner

It's Monday once again, and that means another Katherine Kersten's Korner. Today's kolumn is about single-sex classes in public schools.

Wingnuttia level: 2 (Beware of hidden agendas)

It's not much of a secret that boys are lagging behind in school. They don't read as well, they don't go on to college like girls do, and they are more likely to get into trouble. I think Kersten gets a backhanded slap at feminists who spent all their time worrying about girls and not paying attention to boys; a lot of conservatives, mainly conservative women, seem to have this refrain. Nevertheless, the gender gap is real, and it needs to be addressed.

Single-sex classes have shown benefits for both boys and girls, so I really don't see any reason why they are a bad idea. If it works, it works.

That doesn't mean that the pendulum should swing back in the other direction so that girls are once again ignored. Girls have their own set of special circumstances that no boys ever have to deal with, and schools need to continue to keep that in mind. There's no reason to shortchange any student.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Another take on Peter Hutchinson

Lori Sturdevant has an article on Peter Hutchinson's entry into the governor's race as the Independence Party candidate. Like most people, she sees this as a big win for Pawlenty. I think she correctly deduces that Hutchinson's presence in the race will allow Pawlenty to focus more on pandering to his base than reaching out to moderates. Look for Pawlenty to make very public pushes for big conservative issues like gay marriage this year.

Employers and immigrants

Surprise! Employers aren't being checked to make sure they aren't hiring illegal immigrants. Do you think that might have anything to do with the fact that immigrants are coming here for work?

The "L"-word

This story about the House DFL caucus's recent leadership election isn't terribly interesting, but House Speaker Steve Sviggum brings out the old "L" word again and says that State Representatives Matt Entenza and Margaret Anderson Kelliher are "very, very liberal Twin Citians."

I think I'm beginning to see a pattern here. If Republicans keep on saying that their opponents are liberal and nothing else, do you think that voters won't notice that Republicans haven't done anything good for citizens of the state of Minnesota lately? I bet Republicans hope so.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Democrats and candidates

An anonymous poster left a comment that deserves further attention:

Ok so if Democrats don't win elections on issues then why do we care about healthcare, women's rights, and the environment (etc)? Should we just pick the 'prettiest, most charming, and voted 'most friendly' in high school candidate no matter what they stand for? It might be interesting to hear from the people who don't think Amy resonates with anyone. It is January and yes Amy has gotten the calls from Washington (Chuck Schumer) anointing her as the candidate. OK my venting is complete, but when it comes down to it I think as Democrats we should look at all the ISSUES and choose the candidate who will stand up for all Minnesota Citizens not choose a candidate just because they might win some kind of personality contest.
Well? The majority of people in this country want to keep Roe vs. Wade. Large majorities (I think over 70%) of people in this country want universal health care and to do "whatever it takes" to protect the environment. People in this country do not support huge tax cuts for the top 1% of earners, or huge tax breaks to corporations in all likelihood.

So Democrats are on the right side of most issues. However, I can't help but notice that we control nowhere close to 70% of Congress, or even a majority. We don't control anything. So why is this?

Contrary to what the anonymous commenter says, citizens do NOT choose candidates based on issues. They simply don't. Most people don't sit down and follow a budget, or even comparison shop based on price at the grocery store; it's a bit of a stretch to think that they are going to sit down and carefully consider a candidates position on the issues before they vote.

So if they don't vote based on issues, what do they consider? It's not "personality" per se in the mold of whoever was most popular in high school. I think that people choose the candidate that best expresses that they care about the same things that the voters care about, that they share the same values. For Republicans, they may not share the same values when you get right down to it, but voters think they do. And, more importantly, voters think that these candidates will stand up for what they believe in and "do the right thing."

When a candidate is nothing more than a walking conglomeration of issues, with not much else holding them together, the candidate is not going to win, no matter how good his or her stand on the issues that matter. You need a fighter, you need somebody who will make a stand. That's why the Democrats are in such disarray in Washington; just look at them. As Dayton pointed out quite well yesterday, they aren't willing to take a stand on anything if there is a chance they might lose. So why would voters vote for people like this? Do you ever see Republicans backing down on anything? Is Michelle Bachman giving up on her constitutional amendment on gay marriage because it hasn't gone anywhere yet?

When Democrats are afraid of their own shadows and give weak explanations for what they do, they will lose elections. Democrats need to strongly and forcefully explain why they do what they do, speaking not in the language of issues but in the language of what is important to them personally. They need to live the life that they are preaching, too.

Paul Wellstone won here not because the people who voted for him agreed with him on the issues; a lot of them didn't. He won because he was a person who stood up for his beliefs and didn't apologize for them. He was strong, and he was genuine. I doubt he was voted "most popular" at his high school, but that's not important. He didn't back down, and he was somebody that people could rely on. That's important in a candidate.

Of course, issues matter. The Democratic party is made up of people who have similar views on many issues. But it has to be more than that. DFLers don't get together merely because they happen to have the same views on universal health care. It's about family, it's about community, it's about living lives with those shared values. Why Democrats don't emphasize these aspects of the party, instead of just relentlessly harping on issues, escapes me.

There are other reasons why Democrats don't win: corruption (as we are seeing now), the right-wing noise machine, and so forth, but in the end those are all just cop-outs. Democrats still somewhat arrogantly think that voters are as wise and conscientious as they themselves think they are. But that's just not true. We need to move beyond issues, or else wait for Democratic opponents to screw up. That's not a winning strategy.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Rep. Andy Westerberg retiring

Republican State Representative Andy Westerberg of Blaine is retiring. He wasn't one of the most visible Republicans at the Capitol, but he was solidly conservative. He strongly supports a Vikings stadium in Anoka County, but I remember him for being a big proponent of spending billions of dollars on a new freeway outside of the existing 494/694 beltway. I don't think he every said where the money would come from for this, or why such a project would do anything other than accelerate sprawl.

Ultra-liberals are on the loose!

Well, it appears we know what Mark Kennedy's campaign strategy is going to be.

Doesn't it bother any serious conservatives that the Republican Party has been by and large taken over by people who act like 14-year old boys? Or doesn't anybody notice? Really, if Kennedy has nothing better to offer than name-calling and distorting his records, is that something that Republicans can be proud of?

Profiles in (non-)courage

So I heard on MPR this afternoon that Mark Dayton opposes Sam Alito's nomination to the Supreme Court and will vote against him, but won't support a filibuster because he doesn't think it will work.

Gee, it's pretty brave of him to only vote on things that are guaranteed to pass. That's leadership, I tell you. Never take chances, never fight for what you believe in, only take a stand when it is guaranteed not to fail.

A solution in search of a problem

Republicans never pass up a chance to reduce voter turnout. That's how most Republicans think, it seems: they want to make it as inconvenient as possible for people to vote, especially anybody who does not live in the suburbs with a three-car garage and 2.3 kids. That's why they repeatedly call for photo ID requirements for voting.

It doesn't matter that there is no evidence that there is voter fraud in Minnesota elections. It doesn't matter that the homeless, the elderly, students, or mobile people may not have the right credentials to vote. Wait a minute; that last stuff does matter, because that's who Republicans want to keep from voting.

Do either of the Republican sponsors of this legislation have any proof that there is fraud? No. Go on, ask them. See what they say.

Look, if you are worried about people voting more that once, why don't we implement a pretty low-tech, unobtrusive, and simple solution that the rest of the world seems to know: indelible ink on fingers. Pretty simple, and it doesn't take away anybody's right to vote. Sure, some people will complain about voting twice by absentee ballot, or voting in the wrong place, but the former will not be stopped by a photo ID requirement and the latter isn't really a huge problem, in my opinion.

Like I've said before, one good thing about Democrats is that they want to see as many people as possible vote, unlike Republicans. I hand out voter registration cards regardless of partisan affiliation. I would drive a Republican to the polls as soon as a Democrat. Isn't that what this country is supposed to be about?

Thursday, January 26, 2006


I don't do national politics, but I do have one question: why would anybody, much less any Democrats, vote for Samuel Alito? Seriously.

It's not about his stand on abortion. It's not about how often he has ruled against individuals. There is only one real issue here, and it is a big one: Alito does not believe in the Republic that I was taught in elementary school, with three co-equal branches of government. He believes that the Executive branch is at the top of the pyramid, with the two other branches subservient to it.

I used to think that the Senate had a long, proud history of independence, and maybe there used to be some truth to that. But anybody who votes Alito to the Supreme Court is simply voting to cut off their gonads and hand them over to the Imperial Presidency. I'm disgusted that so many Senators, some Democrats among them, are willing to do this.

Random Klobuchar notes

Amy Klobuchar would oppose Alito. Unlike some people, I don't think it's terribly relevant what she thinks of him; she's not going to vote on him, so what's the point? But this is obviously the right stance for her to take. Saying that she would support Alito wouldn't help her anywhere, but it would tank her support among activists. Frankly, I don't see how any Democrat can vote for him. What are they afraid of?

Also in the story is news that St. Paul DFL Representative Alice Hausman is no longer backing Klobuchar and backing Ford Bell. Losing one endorsement out of many isn't that big a deal, but what I don't get is why people think that Klobuchar is somehow the candidate from Washington. Hello? I don't remember Amy getting calls from Karl Rove or Dick Cheney (or their Democratic counterparts, if they exist). Amy is the front runner because she is a strong Democrat who is a tough fighter. She has been connecting with the party activists for a long time now. She didn't come out of nowhere, nor has she been foisted upon voters.

I don't know much about Ford Bell, and maybe he does take all the right positions. But sooner or later Democrats need to learn that they don't win elections by having the better list of issues. People vote on emotion and character, not issues. Amy is a strong candidate who resonates with people and, more importantly, really appears to stand for something. But sadly, many Democrats still think that the way to win issues is to come up with even more perfect issue statements, no matter how personally unappealing the candidate is. When will they learn?

Katherine Kersten's Korner

Today's kolumn is about nuns. Or a nun. Nuns in general.

Wingnuttia level: 0 (Safe for the reality-based community)

There isn't much to say about this one, other than that it's always nice to see people who are willing to devote their lives to charity.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Peter Hutchinson running for governor

Peter Hutchinson, a former Minneapolis school superintendent and finance commissioner, is running for governor as the Independence Party candidate, the party that brought us Jesse Ventura and Tim Penny.

He says he is running because political discourse has become overrun with divisive social issues like abortion, gay marriage, and gun control, something I agree with. The policy positions in the article, such as opposing public money for stadiums, opposing a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, and an openness to a sales tax on clothing, all sound pretty good to me.

That doesn't mean I'll be voting for him, though. If the DFL candidate was a hack like Roger Moe, I would happily vote for Hutchinson. Fortunately, this is not happening. Anything can happen, though.

Republicans generally welcome his candidacy because they think he will pull votes from Democrats, which is probably true for the most part. However, if Pawlenty chooses to run a campaign based on hot-button social issues, this could change.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

More teh funny

This is probably Not Safe for Work, and also probably Not Safe for Christians. But if you want to guarantee your ticket to hell, check out some pictures of ads that Jesus should not be in, full of FARK-y goodness.

Via Pharyngula.

Scott Newman running for Judge

According to Minnesota Republican Watch, Republican Representative Scott Newman is running for judge in the First Judicial District, and will be seeking the GOP endorsement. This comes on the heels of the court decision allowing judicial candidates to do this.

Of course, I think this is a terrible idea. If Newman wants to get voters to elect him to office so he can enact his pet ideology, then he should stay in the legislature. But what really struck me when I read this was literally "Who?" I've never heard of this guy, although he was apparently elected in 2002. I had to go check the House website to confirm that he is a legislator. I may not be plugged in, but I usually know elected officials at least by name. Where did this guy come from?

Senator Jane Ranum retiring

That's it. According to the Minneapolis discussion list, Democrat Jane Ranum is not running for re-election. She represents Minneapolis. No word on who is running in her stead.

Wetterling may run for Lieutenant Governor

That's about it. She talked with Mike Hatch about it. Some wingnuts' heads are exploding, as they babble about "broken promises." Look. Whenever a politician gives his or her word about what office they will run for, or how long they will be in office, it's a lie. Don't believe it. This is nothing new.

What is it with these delicate conservatives? Tom Tomorrow has an idea.

Wacky MCCL

Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL), everybody's favourite anti-abortion group, is running TV ads about a fictional firefighter who saves lives because he wasn't aborted. No word yet on when they will be showing ads about the wonderful things that happen when a father rapes his daughter and gets her pregnant, though.

Sarah Stoesz, the head of Planned Parenthood, says that what we need more of is birth control, not fictionalized ads. Boo to her! Doesn't she realize that there would be a huge firefighter shortage if there was more birth control?

Monday, January 23, 2006

Another candidate for governor

Sue Jeffers, owner of Stub & Herbs bar on the University of Minnesota campus and vehement opponent of smoking bans is running for governor. Believing that the Republicans have sold out, she is running as a Libertarian.

So far, she seems to be a single-issue candidate, and it's an issue that most people don't really agree with. So despite what the treasurer of the Libertarian Party says, she probably isn't going to win. Maybe she can join forces with Jonathon Sharkey and form a Vampire-Libertarian unity ticket.

Sixth Congressional District Republicans

The Pioneer Press has an article about the four people who are running for the Republican nomination in the Sixth Congressional District, comprising the north and west suburbs.

Here's the rundown:

State Senator Michelle Bachmann: She hates teh gay.

Jay Esmay: Who???

State Representative Phil Krinkie: Dr. No. He adamantly opposes government in almost any form that spends money. I think he's okay with government getting into your bedroom, though.

State Representative Jim Knoblach: Sounds like Jimmy Stewart. Also doesn't care much for spending of state dollars, particularly for programs that are popular in his neck of the woods like the Northstar line.

All of them are trying to stake out positions to the right of everybody else. What fun! None of these people is really going to light the fires of voters in the district (although neither is Ellwyn Tinklenberg), so if they think that being the most conservative is going to win, that will make for an interesting election.

St. Paul Ford plant not closing (yet)

That's welcome news.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Katherine Kersten's Korner

It's time for another Katherine Kersten's Korner. Today, we learn what really sets her off: teachers. Specifically, the fact that Education Minnesota is launching a TV campaign to get input on Minnesota's schools and maybe, just maybe, help drive public opinion on the issue.

Wingnuttia Level: 10 (She's gonna blow!)

Honestly, there is not much to say about Kersten's false outrage. She has been around the block a few times and is not as naive as she pretends to be. Yes, Education Minnesota wants to change public perception about funding for public schools. Her heart all a-flutter, she barely keeps from passing out and asks, "Is Education Minnesota a serious education organization, dedicated to academic excellence and innovation? Or is it, first and foremost, a union concerned with increasing its members salaries and benefits?" News flash: they are a union, concerned with themselves.

I've been around the legislature a few times, and you know what I've noticed? That there are a lot of people there who are pushing their agenda. Sometimes, they even take to the media to get their point across. And guess what? Most of these people don't care about the greater good of Minnesota. The people who are at the capitol trying to get new stadiums for the Twins and Vikings aren't trying to make Minnesota a utopia for all of its citizens, they want money. The farmers who come down to lobby for dairy programs and other supports for family farms aren't concerned with the plight of every single person in the state, they want money. When the owner of some auto glass replacement company was on the radio a few years ago it wasn't because he was dedicated to excellence and innovation in field of car repair, it was because he was lobbying against a bill that he thought would hurt his business.

We get it, Kersten. You, like lots of conservative Republicans, don't like public school teachers. You think they are liberal pigs at the public trough, trying to get good old-fashioned salt-of-the-earth kids to think that homosexuality is normal and the U.S. is horrible and all those other things that you believe teachers are conspiring to do. But please, spare us the fake outrage at a group simply doing what every single other business, church, charity, government, and organization has done from time immemorial: look out for itself. If such sights lead you to an apoplectic fit, I suggest that you stop watching TV, reading newspapers, listening to the radio, surfing the web, or otherwise engage in activities that expose you to the outside world.

The judiciary

Lori Sturdevant has an interview with Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Kathleen Blatz about the state of the judiciary. It's a good read, and I generally agree with her ideas.

The judiciary is not the same as the legislative or executive branches. If you want to elect people to put your particular ideology into law, elect somebody to the legislature, not to the judiciary. Judges should not be elected, they should be chosen by a bipartisan expert panel (Governor Ventura is widely applauded for following this model when choosing judges, selecting them based on expertise rather than ideology). Recall of judges should be allowed, but not electing them to their posts. And we definitely need more of them.

Activist judges are not the threat that people think them to be. There is no evidence that this is an issue in this state. I have no problem with Blatz, even though she was a Republican legislator before she was a judge; there is no evidence that she, or any other judges, have made their ideologies, paramount in their rulings. As long as we have moderate liberal and conservative judges selected by their expertise, we will have the independent, thoughtful judiciary this country needs to survive.

A look at Governor Pawlenty

The Star Tribune has a look at Governor Pawlenty today as he (presumably) prepares to run for re-election. It's worth a read, even if it does allow Pawlenty to spin things his way a bit, but that's not really surprising.

I think it is accurate to say that Pawlenty isn't in the strongest position coming into this election. Of course, the more liberal people in this state aren't happy about the cuts to things like health care that Pawlenty is responsible for. At the same time, the quite conservative Taxpayer's League people are not happy with the governor's actions with regards to taxes, such as the cigarette "fee". Neither of these things would be a big problem if he could energize the much large moderate population, but as the article points out, he has no big singular accomplishments to do so. I don't think anybody is buying that he has done huge things for schools, no matter what he says, nor does he have some big transportation plan, or some new and interesting plan to tackle health care.

A couple of his comments can't be left unanswered. First, his claim that he balanced the budget without a "general state tax increase" only works if you ignore property taxes, the cigarette "fee", and various fee increases for state services. Second, his explanation as to why he is going to waste time on issues like gay marriage: "I get a little concerned when people say we can talk about money and buildings but we can't talk about values", is ridiculous. When it comes to issues like banning gay marriage, ignorance, divisiveness, fear of the unknown, and hatred are hardly things I would associate with the word "values." Community, tolerance, compassion...now those are values, and those are the very things that are destroyed when you implement conservative programs on issues like gay marriage and immigration.

Pawlenty has the advantage of incumbency, and never discount the DFL's tendency to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, like when it gave the torch to Roger Moe four years ago. But Pawlenty is certainly vulnerable.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Teh funny

If you aren't reading Get Your War On, you are missing out.

Sex crime laws

A bunch of new laws are being proposed to deal with sex crimes. Rep. Joe Atkins, a DFLers from Inver Grove Heights, is proposing that everybody convicted of a sex crime be evaluated to determine their risk of reoffense, instead of just those criminals that serve time, as is current practice. This would, of course, result in an increased cost to the state for evaluating these people and tracking them if it is warranted.

Another proposal is from Republican Jeff Johnson, a representative from Plymouth and a Republican candidate for Attorney General. His proposal would require active GPS tracking of Level 2 and Level 3 sex offenders for as long as they are on supervised release, which may be for the rest of their lives. There is no firm cost, but Johnson estimates that the total cost won't be more than $8 million per year.

These aren't terribly bad ideas. Rep. Atkins' would probably cost less and not face as much constitutional scrutiny as Rep. Johnson's plan. But if the legislature does tighten the laws and mandate more tracking, they have to provide the resources to do it. It is no benefit to public safety if law enforcement officers are forced to do more with less. There are more criminals than just sex offenders out there.

Wetterling out

It's official: Patty Wetterling has dropped out of the race for the Senate and endorsed Amy Klobuchar. She does not have any immediate plans, although she could run for Congress in the Sixth district; she has also been mentioned as a possible candidate for Lieutenant Governor.

Why did she drop out? Money and no chance of winning. She's a very nice person, but you have to be more than a nice person to deal with the crap that comes with a high-profile campaign.

What kind of crap? MDE has Mark Kennedy's statement: "I'm surprised at Mrs. Wetterling's withdrawal from the U.S. Senate race. Although all three Democrats are from the liberal wing of their party, Mrs. Wetterling's campaign seemed to be setting the agenda on the DFL side..." Gee, "liberal wing" of the Democratic Party. Ouch, Mark. That's a real stinger there. Careful, you know that saying the "L"-word can get you censored from major TV networks, it's so vile.

You know what I've noticed? There are two wings of the Republican Party these days. One is the corrupt wing, all of those elected officials on the Abramoff/DeLay/Hastert/Ney/Cunningham axis, who think it is their prerogative to loot the government and reward their contributors, all while screwing over responsible, average folk. The other wing is the powerless wing, who seem to do nothing but stand by as their colleagues debase themselves and make "integrity" a dirty word.

Which wing of the Republican Party are you a member of, Mark?

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Wetterling to drop out

Patty Wetterling is dropping out of the Senate race tomorrow, according to the hot and heavy rumors on the grapevine.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Katherine Kersten's Korner

Another (early) Thursday, another kolumn. This one is about those baby boomers. Ah yes: what a drag it is getting old.

Wingnuttia level: 0

Today's kolumn is basically a reflection on the fact that the baby boomers are now starting to turn 60. The generation that is used to getting its way and doing what it wants will be moving into retirement, Social Security, and pants up to their armpits. What will happen? What will the challenges be?

A better question might be: does anybody believe that Kersten has been to a Rolling Stones concert? Give me a break. Kersten looks like my grandmother, for whom Mel Tormé is the height of popular music (not that there is anything wrong with that). I can't imagine what Kersten would do when the communal joint was passed around. Would she even know what it was?

If she has anything right, it's how silly boomers look at these concerts. I've been there, and seeing 50-year olds act like they are teens again is not a pretty sight, and not only due to the extra weight they are carrying.

I hope I die before I get old...

Tobacco "fee" will still be collected

This is good news for the state at least. They can continue to collect the tobacco "fee" while the lawsuit against it winds its way through the courts. Better than losing the money immediately.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Fightin' Dems, Minnesota-style

Via MN Publius, I see that Andrew Borene, a veteran of Iraq War II, is running for Senate in District 41, which includes Edina and Bloomington. The current occupant of that seat is Republican Geoff Michel. Although the Iraq war probably won't be a huge issue on the state level, it's great to see a veteran running for office, and he should give Michel a real run for his money.

Funny, almost all the Iraq war veterans running for higher office around the country are running as Democrats. I wonder why that is?

Religious discrimination

I hope Jonathon the Impaler's [wife or girlfriend, don't know which] sues Peterson Bus for all they are worth. Getting fired simply because she is a Pagan and is associated with Jonathon is outrageous. If there ever was a clearer example of religious discrimination, I haven't seen it.

Pawlenty's bonding bill

Governor Pawlenty has released his bonding proposals. The full cost is close to $900 million (see the executive summary here). It doesn't look like a bad start. $60 million for the Northstar corridor is in there, which is great news. If there are any deficiencies, it looks like they are in the higher ed section, according to House and Senate members. The only thing I really noticed was $26.6 million for expansion of the Carlson School of Management at the U of M, simply because I remember when the current building wasn't finished; it's less than a decade old.

I do get the feeling that the final bill will be larger than this.

Monday, January 16, 2006

A debacle of debacles

You know, if people's lives weren't at stake, what Bush and the Republicans have done with the Medicare drug benefit would be a pretty funny illustration of how much contempt Republicans have for government. They lied about the cost, they made it hard to comprehend, they put in the infamous "donut hole", they filled it with giveaways to the pharmaceutical industry, and they threatened their own Congress critters until it was passed. Now, predictably, it has all fallen apart and the states, including Minnesota, have to step in.

But you know what? This isn't funny. People's lives are at stake here. This wasn't just another chunk of corporate welfare, this wasn't just another example of paying back corporate contributors. This is about creating complete chaos where people are having problems getting the medicines that keep them alive. It's so bad, pharmacies are basically handing out drugs for free, hoping that the money will be figured out later.

It's been said that people like Grover Norquist, the conservative who wants to drown the government in a bathtub, are losing their power over Republicans. Based on the Medicare drug plan, though, it's hard to agree. These people honestly don't care about good government. In fact, they want bad government, so they can go back later and blame government for all the problems that their own policies are creating. Are people going to keep on putting up with this?

Another transit strike?

It's way too early to say for sure, but rejecting the contract is a step towards that end.

Please, not another strike!

Katherine Kersten's Korner

Today brings another kolumn from Kersten. I think I've discovered her two favorite subjects: ridiculous far-right rhetoric and war heroes. Today is an example of the latter.

Wingnuttia level: 0 (Safe for sentient beings)

Yet another war hero, this time from the Red Army. A bit ironic a right-wing kolumnist waxing poetic about a commie soldier, no? But the Soviets were on the right side (or more accurately, they were not on the wrong side for a few years, after Operation Barabossa and before the start of the Cold War), so it's all good.

I like stories of war bravery as much as the next person, but this is getting a bit tedious. Not to mention the fact that today is the traditional celebration of somebody else. Given what many conservatives think of King, however, I guess it's not a surprise that Kersten chose a different topic for today.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

The new set of values

I don't have much to say about this story in today's Star Tribune, about the rise in enrollments at private Christian colleges lately. I am pretty uninterested in what fundamentalists do with their time. However, one part did jump out at me. At Northwestern College, the emphasis in one values, and students are held to "strict standards." On the other hand, "ideas" like Intelligent Design creationism are taught.

Funny, I didn't know that lying to students was an important Christian value. Is that in the student handbook somewhere?

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Pro-immigration groups don't like Pawlenty's plans

That's a surprise. Frankly, I don't have anything of substance to add to what they said.

Friday, January 13, 2006

State workers to get pay for shutdown

State workers who did not work during last year's shutdown will get half of their pay or half of their vacation time, under an agreement reached by the governor and the unions. The cost to the state will be around $4 million, and around eight or nine thousand workers will be affected.

The workers win and the state loses on this one, I guess. I am not aware of the legalities surrounding this or why the state has to pay anything in the first place; was there a threat of suing the state due to breach of contract? In any case, the funniest part of this in my eyes is the last paragraph in the story: "As part of the agreement, the unions also agreed not to lobby lawmakers to restore full shutdown pay." What does that mean? State employees can't say anything about it to legislators? If a legislator asks, they have to keep their mouths shut? What kind of unenforceable nonsense is this?

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Pawlenty's other immigration proposals

Today, Governor Pawlenty came out with some positive immigration proposals, the supposed "carrot" to his "stick" of last week. What are they?

• Tax credits for immigrants who become citizens

• Education for immigrants on such important topics as tax info, home ownership, and business

• More visas for students and workers with tech skills (the H1B visas, I'm assuming)

• Immigrant investor visas

• A grant program to fund English language classes

• Get more foreign physicians to rural areas

• Increase immunizations for immigrants

For the most part, this list is okay, but two things jump out at me. First, tax credits? I don't like targeted tax credits for the most part, and this is definitely one of them. Also, I see no reason to encourage immigrants to become citizens; if they are a resident alien (i.e. if they have a green card), they are here legally and whether they become a citizen or not really doesn't matter to me, nor do I see how it matters to the state.

Asking for more H1B visas is another one I don't really care for. As I understand it, this is pretty much a guest-worker program for high tech workers, which means that the immigrant is tied to a job. This leaves him or her in a rather weak position, and the employer in a rather strong one. Just plain immigrant visas that don't tie people to a specific job or industry, please.

Otherwise, these aren't bad ideas. I can see some people trying to demagogue the proposal to give investors visas, saying that we are selling Minnesota to foreigners. That is what opponents have argued when attempts have been made to allow immigrants to own farmland. Ridiculous. Again, as long as they pay their taxes and obey the laws, whether a business owner is a citizen or not doesn't concern me.

Minnesota drivers

Turn signals: what a concept!

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Katherine Kersten's Korner

Her new kolumn is up, and it's a two-fer: not only is it Katherine Kersten's Korner today, but more Metablogging: her kolumn is about MDE and those fearless bloggers.

Wingnuttia Level: 5 (Liberal? What's that? I see no Liberal here.)

I guess it is in no way surprising that Kersten thinks MDE is a great blog. It is, after all, written by somebody with close ties to the state Republican party. I don't quite know if it is really the talk of the town, but yes, he has had a couple of scoops (where he got that internal House DFL caucus memo remains a mystery). If you ignore the interminable mountains-out-of-molehills he posts on his blog (enough with the Kiscaden switching parties! You guys have Norm to answer for!), sometimes you learn things there before anybody else has the story.

Kersten describes the affair between MDE and Blois Olson, so if you haven't yet heard the story, it's there to see. She points out that the lawsuit that Olson filed could break new ground legally, which is true. She and Brodkorb take the Star Tribune to task for not defending his rights as an anonymous blogger and for giving Olson prime space to pitch his story. I know, you are all shocked that Kersten finds fault with the Star Tribune.

She then moves on to talking about how blogs are destroying the former media gatekeepers, bringing democratic discussion to the masses. Basically, all those things that self-important bloggers bring up to show how important and earth-shattering they are. I'm not terribly impressed by this kind of posturing from either the left or the right, but there are a lot of blogs out there that pretend they have a huge impact on discourse in this country. An impact, yes, but let's be realistic.

Because of the importance of blogs, Kersten says, people like Olson, who run the old-school media outlet Politics in Minnesota, may be feeling a bit threatened. To back her up, she finds a quote from Annette Meeks, from the Center of the American Experiment.

What? Forget for a moment that the CAE is a far right-wing organization, which means that in her kolumn, the only bit from a non-right wing person is one sentence from Olson. Fair and balanced she ain't. But Kersten herself used to work for CAE, and nowhere is this pointed out in the piece. Now, I guess there really isn't anything wrong with Kersten calling up her old pal Meeks and getting some choice quotes for her kolumn, but shouldn't there be some kind of disclosure here? As Atrios says, perhaps we need to convene a panel on blogger ethics.

Maybe I'm looking at this the wrong way, but it does seem to me that Kersten should acknowledge her ties to the CAE if she is going to be quoting members.

In the grand scheme of things, MDE really isn't a huge player. He gets an average of 1414 hits a day according to TLB (which is a whole heckuva lot more than this site). Even though a lot of the people reading his blog are political junkies, it's still a flash in the pan considering the size of the state. Brodkorb obviously enjoys blogging and I'm glad that he does. In the end, though, despite what Kersten says, blogs will be the ones that set the masses free.

Saint Paul adopts smoking ban

Good for them.

Twins stadium plans

The governor met today with Twins officials and representatives from Hennepin County about getting a stadium plan somehow in place. No major breakthroughs were reported.

Come on, Tim, make getting a stadium your top priority this year! You know you want to. Just go for it!

City Pages on Matt Entenza

This week's cover story asks if the fact that House Minority Leader and candidate for Attorney General Matt Entenza is married to one of the most powerful people in the health care industry could create a bit of a conflict of interest should he be elected and be forced to take action against said industry. I think it's a valid question. The article seems to spend half of its time, though, talking about the campaign contributions they made last year, as well as campaign finance reform, which don't seem to be terribly relevant to the question at hand. Read it anyway and decide for yourself.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006


I saw a Kelly Doran/Sheila Kiskaden billboard in St. Paul yesterday. Isn't it a bit early for running mates?

Sharon Marko for Congress?

State Senator Sharon Marko is not running for re-election. I think this makes it much more likely that she will run for Congress and try to get the DFL nomination, possibly setting up a primary battle with Colleen Rowley. Rowley's fundraising numbers haven't been all that great, so some pols smell weakness. You know how that goes...

Bonding proposals trickle out

It seems like the governor is releasing his bonding proposals bit by bit. Today, it's corrections, with a pricetag of $123 million. Most of that would go for an expansion of the sex offender program at Moose Lake. $28 million would be to expand the prison at Faribault.

Since the laws are tougher with regards to sex offenders, it's a good idea to build the facilities for the increased population now before we run out of room. However, do we need such a huge expansion of our prison system? Our prison population has skyrocketed in recent years, costing the state millions of dollars. Perhaps alternatives to incarceration are in order. According to the Department of Corrections stats I referred to yesterday, 25% of the people in state prisons are there for drug offenses, more than any other category. For some of the nonviolent offenders, treatment may be a better and cheaper alternative.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Reducing school administration costs

The governor has put forward a plan to require school districts to spend at least 70% of their budgets in the classroom as opposed to on administration. While I don't like micromanagement of local units of government, I guess I don't have any philosophical problem with requiring districts to spend this much in the classroom (although 70% seems arbitrary to me: why not 69%? 72%? 75%?).

The only thing that bugs me is that the administration costs include staff development. Training for our teachers should not be shortchanged.

Katherine Kersten's Korner

It's time for another Katherine Kersten's Korner, and today's kolumn deals with everybody's favourite topic of late: immigration. And boy, is it a doozy.

Wingnuttia Level: 8 (Warning: severely warped reality ahead)

You know, I often have to turn to Kersten to hear the latest news. For example, she starts off by saying that "the governor's opponents have thrown ugly words his way, among them 'race-baiting', 'xenophobic', and 'fear-mongering'." That's interesting, because in all the articles that I have read, I don't see any of these words. Maybe there has been a letter to the editor or two that says something about xenophobia, but none come to mind. Of course, Kersten may be plugged into some huge liberal echo chamber that I am not aware of. Or she could just be making stuff up.

Her next statement is one that really pushes the wingnuttia level of this kolumn up: "But one allegation by some DFL critics really takes the cake: That illegal immigration isn't a real or central issue for Minnesotans." She then puts forward three bullet points in an attempt to show that these allegations are wrong. I'll deal with the allegations one at a time; see if you can find out what they have in common:

First, she cites a study conducted in Mexico by the Pew Hispanic Center that shows that 21 percent of Mexicans would enter the country illegally if given the opportunity. I have no reason to distrust Pew, and that figure doesn't sound too far off.

Second, she says (without citation, although I'm pretty sure this is accurate) that the most rapid growth in our nation's illegal immigrant population has been in states with small immigrant populations. Anybody who has been in the central cities and has taken a look around can see that our immigrant population is higher, and illegals make up part of that.

Third, she cites a study by the Urban Institute that says the Midwest is a "high-growth" region for illegal immigrants.

Does anybody know what these three things have in common? That's right! Not a single one of them shows that Minnesotans think that illegal immigration is a central issue to them. Oh, sure, these may be reasons why Kersten thinks we should be obsessed with illegal immigration like certain people are, but just because she thinks we should does not mean we are. Kersten's argument is no different from saying "Minnesotans care deeply about the price of squid tentacles because studies show that some people eat them." Once again, Kersten would get a big fat "F" if she tried to use that reasoning in a term paper from the high school level on up.

Now that we have passed Kersten's pathetic reasoning, let's get to the bad statistics. She says that 6 percent of the state's prison population consists of illegal immigrants, while they make up only 2 percent of the population. The implication, of course, is that these people are more likely to commit crimes. What I immediately wondered upon seeing those numbers, though, is whether they are what they are because Hispanics are overrepresented in the prison population, much like blacks are (and like whites are underrepresented).

According to the Department of Corrections, the July 1st, 2005 inmate profile shows that 632 out of 8708 prison inmates are Hispanic, or 7 percent. The 2000 Census says that Minnesota's population is 3 percent Hispanic (and that percentage has probably gone up in the five years since, to maybe 3.5%). So the prison population has twice as many Hispanics as the general population, give or take. Kersten is saying that the prison population has three times the number of illegal immigrants as in the population at large, so maybe they are bigger criminals...

But hold on here! Kersten's unsourced statistics show that 6 percent of the prison population is made up of illegal immigrants, but 7 percent is Hispanic. True, assuming that illegal immigrants are uniformly Hispanic is not totally accurate, but I think that there is sufficient overlap in the populations so that it accurate enough for rough calculations. So? Well, she is saying that 86% of all Hispanics in Minnesota prisons are illegal immigrants. That seems like an absurdly high number. I've shown my sources for these facts, Kersten hasn't. Where is she getting the 6 percent number from?

It goes without saying that Kersten has never shown much concern about how black are horribly overrepresented in the prison population, but whatever.

In her next paragraph, she says that illegal immigrants add to the cost of public education. So does every kid. Hell, kids with special education needs add a whole heckuva lot more to the cost of education than other kids; does Kersten think that they are too much of a burden too? A lot of their parents probably aren't paying enough in taxes to cover the costs of special ed; should they be kicked out of our school system? Illegal immigrants "often lack health insurance, and tend to use costly emergency room services." I haven't noticed her concern about all the poor white people who lack insurance and use the emergency room for health care. I just don't understand where she is trying to go when she says that illegal immigrants are vulnerable to the unscrupulous and criminals. Doesn't that mean they should be protected instead of being treated like pariahs? Or is she saying, like the woman who dresses provocatively, that they deserve it?

She then brings out the old "divide and conquer" tactic, pointing out that majorities of legal Hispanic immigrants want curbs on immigration. Of course they do: some of them are competing with new immigrants, legal and illegal, for jobs. It's the "I've got mine" syndrome, and it is hardly limited to Hispanics. People at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder, no matter what their race, see immigrants as competition in the labor market. I fail to see how any of this proves that there isn't a racial component to the discussion anyway.

She ends by saying that the governor's critics need to "turn down the volume" and have a civil debate. It is statements like these that show how far out in Lala-land Kersten really is. Since these proposals have come out, I've seen and linked to a bunch of reasonable stories where there are civil discussions about the pros and cons of Pawlenty's ideas. I haven't linked to any stories about the governor being verbally attacked in public, or stories about immigration advocates burning the governor in effigy on the Capitol lawn. That's because these stories don't exist and won't exist.

In the end, what Kersten and other conservatives are so upset about is that most people aren't buying the line, espoused by Pawlenty and other Republicans, that illegal immigration is the number one issue facing Minnesota today, and we need drastic action to fix it. No matter how many stories about unreasonable raucous critics they make up, though, they aren't going to be able to convince the rest of the state that the sky is falling.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Sage advice

John Gunyou has some good things to say.


Blois Olson, the person who is suing the blogger that runs MDE, has a column in today's opinion section of the Star Tribune. I can't say that I agree with his rather negative assessments of anonymous bloggers. I don't think I need to teach a history lesson about the role that anonymous political writing played in our nation's history, or point out that the first amendment to the constitution protects anonymous speech. However, it seems that some people need to be reminded.

I am most puzzled by the statement, "In the blog Minnesota Democrats Exposed, a former GOP research director has written anonymously for the last year and a half attacking Democrats at every turn." So what? Lots of people get paid to attack Democrats at every turn. Everybody has a choice to listen to them or ignore them. I don't see what being a blogger or being anonymous has to do with it.

Blogs are not perfect. Blogs will contain falsehoods, just like op-eds, discussions with your crazy family members at Christmas, or talk radio. It's up to individuals to determine the facts, and it is up to the media to do that fact-checking. Anybody who buys into a blog 100% deserves what they get. It is just another method of speech, nothing more, nothing less.

Can't get enough of that immigration!

Here's yet another story on Governor Pawlenty's immigration proposals, this time from the point of view of the police officers who would be dealing with them on the ground. There is a divide, but it's not the ideological divide that I would have expected. Instead, officers in large cities like Minneapolis, where there are a lot of immigrants, are against it, while in smaller rural locations, police officers would like the extra help.

I can see how this might be the case. In a smaller town where there isn't yet a whole lot of diversity, the issue of building community trust with the police isn't as large an issue, since there already is a great deal of trust: the police know everybody, and everybody knows the police. To the extent that there are problems, such as language differences or an influx of fake IDs, these departments would probably appreciate the help (although I don't know exactly how helpful the governor's proposals would be, especially in terms of resources and dollars). On the other hand, in a city like Minneapolis, with a large immigrant population that is constantly turning over, it's harder to build a relationship with your "neighborhood cop." Thus, anything that would throw up more barriers between the police and residents is harmful.

I think it is accurate to say that some of the governor's proposals have more support than others. It will be interesting to see how the chips fall.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Illegal immigration and IDs

Here's a story on the real costs of our country's failed immigration policies when it comes to identification, in the Pioneer Press. As the article points out, there are real problems for law enforcement, schools, hospitals (where a misidentification can mean the difference between life and death), banks, and the people whose identities are sometimes stolen and sold on the streets to immigrants. Unlike the governor and other politicians, who can have debates on this issue from their ivory towers, the people on the front lines have to deal with this huge problem.

Identity theft is illegal and a huge problem, so I don't have a whole lot of sympathy for people who do get caught up in the net when the fake identities that they have cause problems. However, when the starving person has to steal a loaf of bread, I tend to feel the appropriate response is to go beyond punishment and find out why the person has to steal bread in the first place. These people are a part of our economy, our community, and our lives. A way has to be discovered that will allow them to throw away the false identities they have been using and face the same rights and responsibilities that everybody else face.

I'm sure that once again, there will be a lot of people (I have a few in mind) who will simply point out that these people are breaking the law and that we should have no sympathy for them. Well...I wonder what they would think if somehow all illegal immigrants could disappear for a while. Crops would go unharvested, houses and businesses would go uncleaned, food in restaurants would go uncooked, buildings would go unconstructed...the list goes on and on. Whether you like it or not, a good portion of our economy depends on these undocumented workers. Saying it is illegal isn't going to change reality, any more than saying that selling drugs is illegal will get dealers off of street corners. Being part of the reality-based community, I prefer to talk about realistic solutions instead of demagoguery.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Biometrics and computer crimes

The governor put forward some plans for using biometric data for driver's licenses, as well as creating new crimes for hackers and people who use computers for crimes.

The proposals on stiffening penalties and creating new crimes looks fine to me, although given the reality of the internet, it may be hard to prosecute data theft that is outside of this state or country. The biometric proposal is interesting, and I don't think I know enough about it to form a good opinion one way or the other. I'm glad that the proposal doesn't put biometric data on the licenses themselves, because that doesn't work. This may be one of the limited times that biometrics are useful.

For those who want to know more about biometrics and how they can fall short when it comes to security, Bruce Schneier is THE expert when it comes to these issues. He knows his stuff, and he is sane about the tradeoffs that must be determined for any security system.

House DFL leadership squabbles

Some people aren't too thrilled with House Minority Leader Matt Entenza's plan to hold onto his current leadership position and run for Attorney General at the same time. Well, there are probably people in every House and Senate caucus that are upset with their respective leaders; the only difference here is that this made it into the paper. House DFLers will decide for themselves on January 28th.

This story was broken by Minnesota Democrats Exposed (MDE), that blog that has been in the news recently due to his being sued. I've only recently started reading it due to the publicity, and I've got two things to comment on. First, how is he getting internal House DFL e-mails? Second, what an uninteresting blog. He has such revelations as politicians run late sometimes (I'm sure Super Pawlenty would have grabbed the controls of that plane himself and slammed it to Saint Cloud on time or something) and deciding how to run for office is flip-flopping (that probably makes party-switching Norm Minnesota's Flip-Flopper in Chief, doesn't it?). Well, his allied blogs aren't much better.

Pawlenty's natural resources bonding plan

I have no idea whether Pawlenty's bonding plan for the environment and natural resources is a good thing, but he released it today and it totals $187 million. "Pawlenty" and "good stewardship" really don't go together, though, so I doubt that this plan will please those groups who are working to protect our resources. Star Tribune sporting columnist Dennis Anderson doesn't sound too optimistic either.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Mayors and Police Chiefs Against Idiocy

The mayors and police chiefs of Minneapolis and Saint Paul are against Governor Pawlenty's short-sighted immigration proposals. Good for them.

Saint Paul Chief John Harrington explains why, and it's the same reasons everybody else has been given: police officers don't have the training to try to ascertain immigration status, and doing so would reduce the public's trust in the police.

Limits on eminent domain

I'm all for this.

One sentence in the article sums this issue up perfectly: "What [the government] cannot do is take property from A and give it to B just because B promises to create more jobs and taxes with the land." That's it in a nutshell. Just because some government doesn't like "Joe's Slop Shack" doesn't mean they have the right to condemn the land and give it to "Trump's Gold-Plated Fabergé Eggs" because the latter will pay more in taxes. This is an issue that just about everybody can agree on, and based on how broad this coalition is, everybody has.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Katherine Kersten's Korner

It seems that Kersten has been letting things slide over the holiday season, writing infrequently, but she has a new kolumn up today.

Wingnuttia Level: 0 (safe for mass consumption)

It is about a group of people who are sewing special clothes for soldiers who were injured in Iraq and have to wear special prosthetic devices. Kudos to them. It sounds like a very worthy project, and I'm sure the recipients are overjoyed that they can have clothes that look normal again.

Yuck (more metablogging)

Whatever happens with this lawsuit, it is still ugly. Suing bloggers for the posts they make...well, I honestly can't comment about the merits of this lawsuit, because I know nothing other than what is in the article, but it doesn't make me feel very good. I'm definitely not interested in libeling or defaming anybody on this blog, nor am I using it as a personal news outlet; this is pretty much my rants on whatever happens to be in my head. The thought I could be sued, though, certainly gives me pause.

Hatch wants limits on driver's license info

Mike Hatch wants limits on the sale of driver's license info by the state. Is this a good idea? Probably, but I don't know how much good this will do. The dissemination of DL numbers is a problem, but guess what? It's easy to calculate your Minnesota DL number from your name and date of birth. So if a criminal had your name, address, and date of birth, there is no need to purchase the state's DL information to get your DL number.

However, since lots of criminals are lazy, making it a bit harder to get this information is a good thing. Limiting it to other state agencies and letter consumers know when their information is being accessed isn't a bad idea, nor is the $5 fee.

Jack Abramoff's Minnesota connections

...are few: according to this, the only politician in Minnesota who has received money from Abramoff directly is Gil Gutknecht, and that was $250 in 1996. I don't think calling on him to return the money is very realistic. However, this doesn't include any other PACs or any of Abramoff's friends who made political donations. Of course, on the list of people Abramoff gave money to, there are no Democrats.

Republicans took control in 1994 and proceeded to become some of the most corrupt politicians in America's history. According to published reports, Abramoff has the goods on up to 60 members of Congress. Who knows if that includes anybody in the Minnesota delegation? There are one or two I wouldn't be too surprised about.

And although this is almost a purely Republican scandal, if any Democrats get involved, they should be punished too. I think that's another one of those differences between Democrats and Republicans: I believe that all corruption has to go, not just corruption on the other side.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Pawlenty's immigration proposals

Well, Pawlenty's immigration proposals are out, and they are less draconian and punitive than I expected: I was expecting something like requiring all dark-skinned people, including children, to show their "papers" before they got any services like education. While I'm sure that there are many people in this state who would applaud such a plan, that's not the road that Pawlenty took. However, that doesn't mean his ideas are worthwhile or will actually accomplish anything.

Some of them don't sound too bad on their face. Some of them don't have much to do with immigration at all. But some are stupid ideas, and none of them are going to have much impact on illegal immigration in this state.

So what are they? Here they are, with comments:

• Creating a Minnesota Illegal Immigration Enforcement Team of 10 state law enforcement officers: where are these officers going to be coming from? Last I heard, we were very short on State Patrol members. It doesn't sound like these are going to be new law enforcement officers, so whoever gets the double duty will be pulled from elsewhere. Plus, what are these people going to do? When I hear this kind of "team," I think Dilbert.

• Stronger penalties on having fake IDs: this goes beyond just illegal immigration, and it would create some stiff penalties for having or creating a fake ID. I'm not sure what the statistics are, but it seems that a lot of underage people could be caught up in this, and I don't think any 19 year-old with a fake ID is going to be pleased with getting a year in jail for trying to buy beer; I'm not sure if the punishment fits the crime. And if this law were passed but the college kids got off with light sentences and the darker-skinned people were thrown in jail for a year...that would be disgusting.

• Increasing penaltis for human trafficking when victims are under the age of 18: I guess this sounds okay, but I have to confess to ignorance on this subject. I don't understand, for example, how this would reduce illegal immigration, but trafficking of kids can't be a good thing.

• Requiring law enforcement officers to record the country of citizenship and immigration status of suspects arrested for serious crimes: okay, I'm really confused with this one. What is this going to accomplish? Seriously. Say Joe Blow is arrested for a felony, is convicted, and is then deported, which is what happens when immigrants commit serious crimes. Joe comes back, and then what? What good is having his immigration status in a record going to be? Is this information going to be collected for arrests, or convictions? Who is going to figure out immigration status (the $64,000 question). What is the point of this?

Okay, those were the not terribly bad ones. The rest are just stupid.

• Passing a state law pre-empting cities from passing local ordinances that prevent local police officers from inquiring about immigration status or enforcing immigration laws: would somebody please sit the governor down with a bunch of immigration lawyers? Please? They would tell him that untangling immigration status is hard for a bunch of lawyers and judges, let alone police officers. I know of people with expired visas who are allowed to stay here. I know of people with valid visas who aren't. I know of people who literally have to undertake two wrongs to make a right. Immigration law in this country is seriously screwed up. Police officers aren't able to handle it. And again, do we have too many law enforcement officers out there that we need to give them more pointless work?

• Putting immigration status on driver's licenses: I don't like feature creep. This is feature creep. Driver's licenses should be for the privilege of driving only. Nothing else.

• Imposing fines of up to $5,000 on employers who knowingly recruit or hire illegal immigrants, and barring such employers from state contracts: ah, the pathetic little stab at holding employers accountable. Notice the word "knowingly" in there. That kind of intent is pretty hard to prove, which means that the big Republican employers will be safe from this new law. After all, it's not going to be hard for an employer to argue that they didn't knowingly hire any illegal immigrants, they were just duped by false documents. That they didn't do much checking of their employees...well, that's life. Incidentally, if you gave this proposal teeth, then conducting raids would give those 10 members of the Enforcement Team something very good to do.

These proposals show that the Governor isn't terribly interested in having a serious discussion on immigration and how it helps (or hurts) our state. As if there was much doubt about that.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Pawlenty's "priorities"

Apparently, the governor is going to announce tomorrow his snazzy new ideas to fight the huge problems of "illegal immigration" in this state. His attempt to win re-election by harping on emotional, unimportant issues starts then, I suppose.

I'm willing to guess that his ideas will almost solely consist of punishing immigrants or their U.S. citizen children, and will not include anything like requiring Minnesota employers to follow U.S. law with regards to hiring. Immigrants are going to come here as long as there are jobs available to them. It makes more economic sense for companies to hire illegal immigrants than not to, so unless that changes, there will be no change in the number of immigrants who come here. However, I'm willing to bet that Pawlenty will punish kids for their parents' attempts at building a better life.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Red Lake

There is a story today in the Star Tribune about the Red Lake reservation. For some reason, I just don't like the notion of a closed reservation.

Mark Dayton's last year

The Star Tribune talked to Mark Dayton about his last year in the Senate. He feels frustrated by how things work, but more free to vote his conscience now that he isn't running for re-election. That sounds about right.

Dayton has several strikes against him for getting things done: he is in the minority party, he has little seniority, and he doesn't have the best reputation as a heavy-hitter or a mover and shaker. Even so, he is frustrated with how things work in Congress, and I have to agree with him. The longer I am involved in politics, the clearer it becomes that Congress or the legislature is not a good way to get things done. Being a believer in a meritocracy and trying to find new ideas and compromise, this doesn't mesh well with elected office. The Senate really is an old boys' club with rules and procedures like the Stonecutters in the Simpsons.

It's probably a good thing that Dayton isn't running for re-election in terms of keeping the seat in the DFL column. It's still very early and lots of things are to be decided (such as who I would like best), but, for example, a ticket headed up by Amy Klobuchar for Senate and Mike Hatch for Governor would be a pretty good draw. If there are strong candidates at the top, it could be a very good year for the DFL.