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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Bigotry reaches a new low

I thought that Michelle Bachmann clones couldn't get much worse in their lunacy and bigotry; sadly, though not all that unexpectedly, I was mistaken. Via Minnesota Republican Watch, these people have created a new website called "Gang of 12" about the 12 senators supposedly "Forcing Minnesotans to accept same-sex marriage". Yep, you read that correctly. And what will happen if these 12 people won't allow a vote on the gay marriage amendment? Let the website speak for itself:

•Laws extended to include polygamy or group marriage
Restrictions on freedom of religion (with an image of the Bible and the word "banned" in front of it)
Children in same sex households deprived of a mother or a father
Schools forced to teach all aspects of homosexuality
Everyone subject to public displays of homosexuality
People silenced from speaking out against homosexuality

Not to mention the radio ads they have for people to download.

Wow. Just, wow. These people are desperate. These people are liars. These people have no shame. These people are despicable. And these people want to control your lives.

Rasmussen Senate poll

The latest numbers from Rasmussen on the senate race are out:

Klobuchar: 45
Kennedy: 42

Bell: 43
Kennedy: 40

While it is no surprise to see Kennedy losing to Klobuchar, it is surprising to see even Ford Bell leading him. Since Bell hasn't done anything huge lately that could generate a surge in support, I think this shows how weak Kennedy is. After all, Kos points out that he hasn't broken 42% in any Rasmussen poll yet. Kennedy is not looking so hot.

Budget forecast

After all is said and done, and the K-12 funding shift is paid back (leaving other funding shifts still in law, though), the state has a surplus of $88 million. Or, in a budget of around $30 billion, a rounding error.

I say we stick it in the rainy day fund. It's to inconsequential for meaningful spending, so to get into arguments about spending it would be a waste of time.

Republican spying

This is just pathetic. I heard about the Republican plan to send out a bunch of CDs/DVDs containing a multimedia presentation on the gay marriage issue, exhorting Michelle Bachmann clones to contact their senators and ensure that we have the right to vote on a proposal to put discrimination in our state's constitution. That's their position, so it's not terribly surprising. What is surprising, however, is that the CD that is being handed out collects information and sends it back to Republican Party HQ without telling anybody.

That sounds like spyware to me, and that's a pretty big no-no unless you want to piss people off. Why is the Republican Party not telling people that they are harvesting information? What do they plan on doing with it?

Monday, February 27, 2006

February budget forecast tomorrow

The February budget forecast is being released tomorrow, and the consensus is that it is a bit too early to start spending that surplus. Sure, there may be an announcement tomorrow that there is more revenue than expenses for the rest of the fiscal year. But that could change if the state can no longer collect Pawlenty's health impact "fee". In addition, even if the state can keep all of the tobacco money, all of the surplus is already set aside for paying back school districts to undo an accounting trick used to balance the budget the last time around.

In other words, put the champagne and spending plans on the shelf for now.

I'm good enough, I'm smart enough...

So there is some disagreement over the spectre of an Al Franken candidacy against Norm Coleman. Some people think that it would be great, others less so. I'm in the latter camp, although I didn't explain why.

Like I said before, I think Al Franken is quite funny. I have several of his books, I like his comedy, and I think he is good at what he does (since I never listen to his radio show on Air America, I can't really comment on that). But running for senate? That's not something I think I can agree with.

Yes, Jesse Ventura and Arnold won, as Luke points out in comments. However, as Chris said also in comments, Jesse and Arnold are completely different, and this is the truth. Jesse "ain't got time to bleed." Arnold talked about "terminating" the deficit and said that his opponents were "girlie-men." There is a certain segment of the population that laps up this tough-guy crap. After all, they were pretty successful movie actors; somebody was buying tickets to those things. Al Franken is not one of those people. Maybe there is a segment of the population that likes Stuart Smalley; even if there is, it's far smaller than that "other" segment of the population (nobody went and bought tickets to Al Franken's movie. I just don't see voters in Brooklyn Park and Coon Rapids coming out and voting for Franken to prove a point like they did for Jesse, and there isn't anybody who will seriously argue differently.

Second, I hate it when parties draft or agitate for candidates that are famous. Especially if they don't have a long track record in politics. To me, all this does is scream out "Hey, everybody! Our party is so bereft of talent that we have to get a big-name candidate because we don't have anybody else!" Some people may argue that Franken does not fall into this category because he does have a history of political activism. He does and he doesn't. Yes, he's been attacking Republicans and conservatives for a while, but only recently has that led to a concerted effort on his part to campaign for Democrats. More importantly, this political activism is by and large not in Minnesota. He has moved here, yes, but that's a recent development. While it may not be entirely accurate to say that Franken is a liberal Hollywood carpetbagger, that's not going to stop Republicans from saying so anyway.

Norm Coleman is a spineless blob out there who doesn't seem to have any principles to speak of, except for maybe "Watch out for number one." I think the candidate that could best campaign against Norm is a strong candidate that can clearly articulate his or her values and point out that they match the values of the vast majority of Minnesotans, as opposed to Norm whose values change depending on the weather and the polls. Franken has his strengths, but I don't see him running this kind of campaign. Can his beliefs and values connect with the voters? I'm pretty unsure of that.

It would be a mistake to ignore the positives of a Franken campaign. Of course, such a campaign would instantly be high-profile, making it probably one of the top tier races to go along with the presidential campaign. Along with that comes the money: a high-profile campaign like this would undoubtedly bring in a lot of money, for both sides. There would be no danger of Franken's message getting lost in the noise.

However, I think there are a lot of good Democratic candidates out there who could run a very good race against Norm and win, and do it by running a good campaign that connects with voters. Sure, it may not draw the attention and money that a Franken campaign could draw, but star power is not all there is to winning office.

As great a comedian and writer Franken is, he definitely has not sold me on Franken the candidate. Maybe in a few years if he shows that he is serious about settling in Minnesota and getting involved in the political scene from the ground up. I think Minnesota is still a place where voters want to see a candidate come in and earn their votes, instead of buying them.

Sunday, February 26, 2006


Okay, Al Franken is funny and all. I like him. But please, I don't want to hear any of this. There is no way that grownups are going to vote for Stuart Smalley for Senate. Jesse Ventura? Arnold? Do any of these ring a bell?

Katherine Kersten's Korner

Monday has come early, so it's time for another Katherine Kersten's Korner. Today's article is about a group in Minnetonka called Tonka CARES that hopes to reduce teen substance abuse.

Wingnuttia Level: ?? (I'm missing something here, I know it...)

Since I'm not a parent, let alone a parent of teenagers, I really don't have much to say about this one. However, if I did have a teenager who demanded to go on spring break in Mexico as a rite of teen passage, and said I was ruining his/her life and s/he hated me after I said no way, I think I would say, "Cry me a $^!&@*! river." I guess that's my parenting philosophy. I don't exist to be my kid's friend.

Friday, February 24, 2006

An atheist on the loose!

I can hardly believe it: there's a story about a real-life atheist in the mass media! I honestly can't remember ever seeing one before. Of course, it's not an article that is solely about an atheist: it's an article about an atheist who talks to a bunch of Christians at a religious college. But the very acknowledgment of atheism is pretty amazing.

Right-wing Christians like to talk about the godless liberal media, but only a fool could argue that this is the case. Just in the past year, how many times has Newsweek put on its cover a story about Christianity, Islam, or some other religion? A few time, if I remember correctly. I am sure about the number of times a story about atheists has been on the cover: zero. Same for last year, and all the years I can remember. I can't remember the last time I have seen an article about atheists anywhere.

It's just a crazy topic for a lot of people to tackle. Ronn Johnson, the Christian professor at Northwestern, says about his atheist foil, "But I was curious, too -- I'd never really rubbed shoulders with an atheist." As if atheists are Martians or something. In reality, anywhere from ten to fifteen percent of Americans do not consider themselves to belong to any particular religion. We are not insignificant. To make not so subtle a point of it, it's like the media ignoring all African-American people in this country, treating them as if they don't exist.

I am one. Like August Berkshire, the atheist professor, I guess I would be a "positive" atheist, somebody who don't believe in a deity because we see no evidence. I don't know about Berkshire, but I go a bit further: as a strong agnostic, I believe that we poor humans simply can't fathom any knowledge about the existence or non-existence of any deity. It will always be unknowable. And since there are an infinite number of ways that a deity can exist, the chance that any one interpretation is the correct one is zero, so believing Christianity as opposed to Islam or Judaism or Jainism or anything else is ridiculous, totally unsupported by evidence.

I'm not a "negative" atheist who goes around telling people that they need to drop their beliefs because there is no god, though. As long as the result of faith isn't harmful, then I don't care what people believe. Whatever gets you through the night, and all that jazz.

Unfortunately, too often it is harmful. The Inquisition. Fred Phelps and his supporters protesting funerals. People killing doctors who provide abortions. People killing others because their prophet has been drawn in a cartoon. And on and on. This simply disgusts me, and renders any positive effects of religion immediately moot. If people act this way when they are "religious", then those particular people shouldn't be religious.

The majority of religious people, though, don't kill or hurt in the name of Jesus or God or Muhammad or anybody else, so I frankly don't spend all that much time thinking about them. It's not worth it, unless I am in a philosophical mood and looking for a spirited debate.

In that case, bring it on. I'll never ridicule a person's beliefs unprovoked, but like Berkshire, I'm not afraid to say why I don't believe.

South Dakota wankers

This isn't Minnesota, but it's our neighbor: as just about everybody knows, South Dakota has passed a certainly unconstitutional total ban on all abortions.

Of course, there are all the usual reasons to be pissed off about this, but here's my biggest: what's up with the "five years in jail" punishment? If these pro-lifers actually believe that a fetus has the same rights as any other post-delivery human being, which they claim to believe, then any doctor who performs an abortion should be charged with first-degree pre-meditated murder. And the mother, nurse, or anybody else who is involved with the abortion should be charged with being accomplices to first-degree murder, with maybe a conspiracy charge to boot. A fetus is a person, right? You kill a person intentionally you get charged with murder, right?

The fact that the law does not say this only shows that so-called pro-lifers really don't care about equating a fetus with you and I. This is all about politics and controlling women, and it is despicable.

Pawlenty of fun

Governor Pawlenty has a plan to put more money into mental health care. Mental health is far too often overlooked as a necessary investment. Too often, we are paying to incarcerate people who really need treatment for mental health issues. Throwing these people in prison is a waste of money and humanity. Anything to increase focus on mental health is good.

A ban on protests near funerals? Not so good. It's not that I think Fred Phelps should be protesting the funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq; it's just that I don't think a law is the right response.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Outrage II

I'd be hard-pressed to find bigger pricks than these people (the protesters, not the people fighting them).

I know that many states are considering laws to ban protests and funerals, which is not something I can agree with. The proper response to these people is not legislation, it is what the Patriot Guards are doing. Even though I don't have a motorcycle anymore and I'm against the war in Iraq, I would be honored to stand with everybody else and fight against the bigots with my presence.

Katherine Kersten's Korner

Well, Katherine is back from her vacation or coven or wherever it was she went for the past week or so, and she has a new kolumn up. She must be rested, because she comes out with all of her krazy guns blasting the DFL over the pro-Iraq war ad that certain independent groups are trying to foist upon the citizens of Minnesota.

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

Here's the recap: a group puts on TV an ad that says the media is only reporting the bad news in Iraq, there's a lot of good news there, and that in Iraq we are fighting al-Qaeda, the same people who caused 9/11. KSTP refused to air the ad because they disagree with the ad's portrayal of the media, i.e. KSTP news. The DFL also thinks the ad should be pulled because it is misleading and crazy. Kersten and the pro-war people she manages to find think this is un-American.

Is this a freedom of speech issue? That depends on what freedom of speech means. Just as it is not okay to slander people and call it "free speech", I don't think it is okay to air misleading ads. How is this ad misleading? Take the Iraq and 9/11 connection, which wingnuts are still pushing over four years after 9/11, and after expert after commission after reality has shown that there was NO CONNECTION BETWEEN IRAQ AND 9/11. Are we fighting al-Qaeda in Iraq? Yes, because al-Qaeda moved in there after we invaded Iraq and created the wonderful terrorist training ground that it is today. Pro-war wingnuts, whose numbers are dwindling every day, still continue to grasp at straws to find some kind of reason as to why we invaded Iraq. The fact that people still push the Iraq/al-Qaeda connection is disgusting, misleading, and pathetic.

Then there is the question of whether the media is only reporting the bad news. Are there a lot of people in Iraq who are doing great things, painting schools and whatnot? Of course there are. But that doesn't mean that everything is hunky-dory. I seem to remember a recent story about a guy who merely traveled to Iraq and was all but kicked out because it was too dangerous to even walk around in public. That doesn't sound like Iraq is a terribly normal place to be, does it? Also, just this week there are very real worries that the latest mosque bombing could trigger a civil war. Good news, anybody?

I know that people who see the good things have their perspective, and people that are blown up by IEDs have theirs. Hell, both can be correct. But look at it this way: what if 95% of America was perfectly okay, with people getting electricity, water, well-painted schools, and all of that stuff. And 5% of America was blowing stuff up. Now, do you think that the news would focus on the 95% of people who are doing as well as can be expected, or the fact that 15 million Americans are killing each other with suicide bombs and IEDs? I think the latter, even though the vast, vast majority of news for most people could be considered "positive." That's how it works. Always has, always will.

"But the DFL is supposed to be the party of free speech, of diversity and tolerance" says some upset war supporter. Yes, but that does not mean that the DFL is the party of pulling things out of your posterior. If I say that the Minnesota Department of Health should not put out a brochure that says abortion can lead to breast cancer, it's not because I don't believe in "free speech," it's because I don't believe in "making stuff up." The ad, with its misleading Iraq/al-Qaeda claims, is "making stuff up."

Kersten ends by saying that the DFL should be labeled un-American for having a problem with the ad, and says that if the Republicans tried this the media would howl. With all due respect, Katherine, you are full of it. I have been called un-American by just about every Republican from the lowest peon to the President of the United States for about four years now because I didn't support this stupid war and I haven't from the get-go. Have you forgotten "you are either with us or against us?" Have you forgotten all those cautionary notes from this administration to the media not to question the President, because it gives aid and comfort to the enemy? Have you forgotten people like Ann Coulter calling liberals traitors and saying we are guilty of treason? No, there are a bunch of people who are not acting like Americans, and it's not the DFL for taking issue with a misleading ad. It's people who say that Timothy McVeigh should have blown up the New York Times building.

Aside from the "pissing on the corpse of Wellstone" kolumn, this has to be the worst.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006


Given the fact that Governor Pawlenty now supports a Twins stadium deal with or without a Hennepin county referendum, I wonder which so-called conservative principles he has left? Certainly not local control. Certainly not keeping the government out of subsidizing businesses. What Republican principle dictates that we give the Twins our taxpayer dollars without asking the public as required by law so they can reap all of the profits?

I guess Pawlenty's not alone in this, though. Apparently, more than half of the House Republican caucus is willing to go along with this too.

I think I feel worst for all of the small businesses in Hennepin county that would jump at the chance to get two-thirds of the cost of a major capital improvement from the county and keep 100% of the revenue it generates, if I recall the latest stadium deal specifics correctly. Unfortunately for them, they don't have the publicity or lobbyists that the Twins have. It's too bad, since these businesses would probably be pretty unlikely to throw a tantrum in the future and threaten to move away, unlike professional sports teams.

I like the Twins as much as the next guy, and I want to see a new stadium for them, but I'm not willing to give my tax money away (and I just did my taxes, so I know what I am talking about) to a business without getting some return on my "investment." If the government is going to put up the majority of the funds for a stadium, then I want the government to get the majority of revenues generated by that stadium. Simple.

The enforcer

Governor Pawlenty wants to crack down on wayward sex offenders. By paying police officers overtime, and giving their details to the public, Pawlenty wants to find those sex offenders who have failed to register with law enforcement as they are required to do.

This is all sufficiently badass, but how about another incentive that harkens back to the motivational techniques that principals use to encourage their students to read? If all 1,386 offenders behave and register like they are supposed to, the governor will shave off his mullet.

The Lourey health care plan

Gubernatorial candidate Becky Lourey released her health care plan today. It would include a constitutional amendment affirming health care as a basic right, mandates on increasing efficiency, and expanding the MinnesotaCare program to provide universal health care coverage.

I'm glad to see a plan that includes universal coverage, which is where we need to end up, and soon. I don't know if MinnesotaCare is the best way to accomplish this. Maybe it is, maybe it isn't. In any case, starting a discussion is the first step.

Predictably, the Republican response is to whine about "big government". I guess Republican party chair Ron Carey thinks that doing nothing and letting the market take care of it is the way to go. Or maybe he agrees with President Bush that Minnesotans need Health Savings Accounts because we have too much health insurance?

I don't like to see government get involved in markets. Take municipal liquor stores, for example: the government has no business selling anything like alcohol. However, when the market fails, the government needs to step it. The market has failed for health care. It's time to do something about it.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Kersten a no-show

I don't know if she is on vacation, out of ideas, fired, or what, but there hasn't been a Katherine Kersten's Korner for a week because there hasn't been a kolumn to write about. If she writes again, they will come back. Really.

DFLers want benefits for striking Northwest workers

Just tossing this out there. I don't know what I think about it at this point.

AFSCME endorses Klobuchar

Whatever tiff is going on in her office, it isn't enough to keep AFSCME from endorsing her.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Another sixth district rundown

The Strib has another rundown on the sixth Congressional district and its candidates. This will be the marquee House race in Minnesota, so brace yourself for lots more of this.

The Klobuchar campaign

At this point, Amy Klobuchar pretty has the DFL nomination sewn up for the Senate race. With no Mike Ciresi and Patty Wetterling, she is the clear front runner, despite what Ford Bell supporters may think. However, not everybody is onboard the Klobuchar juggernaut. The Star Tribune has an article today on how some AFSCME members aren't all that pleased with her.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Opinions you should have

Lots of one-liners today:

Light rail between Minneapolis and Saint Paul: Yay!

Mike Hatch threatens to sue makers of cold medicine: Boo! How dumb an idea is this? Last time I checked, lots of things were used in making meth. Why single out medicine manufacturers for cleanup costs? Why not go after drain cleaner makers? Coffee filter makers?

Pawlenty backs mercury reduction: Yay!

Support builds for a math/science academy: Yay, I guess!

DFL complains about governor's radio show: Hmm. I too think there is something fishy, but that doesn't mean it is illegal.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

A silly law

This is a pretty silly idea. Is the fact that everybody charges an extra nine-tenths of a cent for gas really that confusing? Does it make it that hard to compare prices? I guess I see no difference between $2.129 versus $2.209 a gallon and $2.13 versus $2.21 a gallon; I can tell which is cheaper pretty easily in both circumstances.

Other bulk items are priced in fractions of a cent; why should gasoline be different? If there is any problem here, it is if stations don't advertise the price accurately. If that is so, then simply enforce the appropriate laws on advertising. There is no need to tell gas stations how to set their prices.

Republican education plan

Sometimes, bands put out a "Greatest Hits" album that brings together everybody's favorite songs. However, usually these songs are popular. Few people put out "Greatest Flubs" albums. But the Republicans are doing just that with their education plan this year. It consists of plans that have all failed in the past. I guess they have a problem with "the vision thing."

So what is it?

• Vouchers: Next. Seriously. Vouchers, yet again? What brilliant leadership.

• Banning teacher strikes during the school year: May as well ban teacher strikes period, because that's what this would accomplish. There's not much point to a strike if you can't strike when you are supposed to be, you know, working.

• Streamlining teacher licensing: Meh. The devil is in the details.

• Prohibiting school employees from using school time and resources to work for or against political candidates or proposed legislation: Again, the devil is in the details. Sure, people shouldn't be using school computers to print out campaign literature. But what about advocacy, what about the principal who writes to his legislator to say, "Please vote against this bill as it would negatively impact our school in these ways..."? That seems legitimate.

• A science/math magnet academy: Not a bad idea.

By and large, an underwhelming list. Minnesota used to be an innovator in education. Now, some people apparently aren't concerned about that.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006


Not much to blog about at the moment, but I do agree with both party leaders that you should all be doing to precinct caucuses next month. Information:

DFL Party
Republican Party
Independence Party
Green Party

Monday, February 13, 2006

The cost of crime prevention

The Pioneer Press has an article on the rising costs of keeping sex offenders from harming more victims. The state is getting tougher on these people, but along with the toughness comes the need for more money. Budgeting is a matter of priorities, so what can you do?

I don't think anybody is arguing that we need to do less to keep dangerous sex offenders off the streets. So the discussion starts with the assumption that costs are going to increase. So where will the money come from? Increased taxes (the article mentions that the average Minnesotan pays $34 a year in taxes to keep sex offenders behind bars)? Less spending on other criminals? Less spending elsewhere in the budget? We need this discussion; saying that the money will come from "somewhere" is not terribly responsible.

Personally, I think that we should find less expensive alternatives to incarceration for non-violent drug offenders. The money saved would then be used for protecting the public from those criminals that we need to fear. I really don't care about the person busted for possession of marijuana, but I do care about the sex offender in my neighborhood.

Katherine Kersten's Korner

Another Monday brings us another Katherine Kersten's Korner! Today's kolumn is about elderly lovin'.

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

This is apparently Kersten's Valentine's day offering. If you like romantic stories about octogenarians getting hitched, read it. Personally, I'm not in the mood for Valentine's day. But it's up to you.

One thing did occur to me, though. If marriage exists in order to have children, as many Christians argue, then isn't a marriage between two people unable to have children a real marriage? Do we need a constitutional amendment banning it? Talk amongst yourselves.

Conservative anger

Lots of people are talking about Glenn Greenwald's post on the cult of Bush. I'm not, since this is a blog about Minnesota politics and not national politics, but I can't help but notice these things, especially since his post is driving a lot of traffic my way due to l'affair Powerline. So I'll take a break from this state to discuss this.

Glenn's post is very interesting and very poignant. It is pretty shocking to see former conservatives give up everything they have previously believed in for an ignorant, not-very-conservative President. What's up with that? Who knows? What I haven't seen discussed, however, is the raw anger from a lot of these conservatives.

Obviously, my experiences with John Hinderaker represents an example. But it is hardly confined to Powerline. Lots of the top blogs on the right are full of angry people. Michelle Malkin, obviously. Captain's Quarters. Hugh Hewitt. Glenn Reynolds maybe not as much as most, but perhaps. I really don't read any of these blogs, but I have seen lots of examples of their irrational anger. LGF doesn't really count, nor does Ann Coulter, who is a performer, not a serious pundit.

Why are these people so angry? I understand one brand of conservative anger: that of the poor white male, who works hard but barely gets by, and thinks that he is being kept down by affirmative action and the actions of liberal East Coast elites. In other words, the people who would have voted for George Wallace in another time. I certainly don't agree with it, but I can understand it: it is hard to be worker in this country who makes low wages and has only a high-school education, if that. It's only going to get harder, mainly due to Republican policies.

But what about John Hinderaker? Michelle Malkin? I am sure that Hinderaker has far more material possessions and success than I do. He is no dummy: he graduated from Dartmouth and Harvard Law. I'm sure that his law practice isn't hurting. Malkin, despite her racism, is a successful columnist whose works appear in more than 200 papers around the country, a successful book writer, and a speaker. Again, I am sure that she does not suffer from want. The same goes for the rest of those angry conservatives.

So why the anger? They live in a time when the politicians that they support control everything. They are personally successful. They are famous in a way that most people will never be. A lot of them get paid a great deal of money to do what they do. But even so, often times they are angry to the point of irrationality.

If anybody should be angry, I would think that it would be people on the left. However, the major bloggers on the left just aren't as wildly angry as their counterparts on the right. Sure, everybody can find something to get worked up about, but its hard to see Josh Marshall or Duncan Black going off on people to the extent that conservatives do. It's just not their personality.

Frankly, I don't have any answers to this; I am just tossing out the question. Perhaps it relates to the fact that the believer is never so fanatic as when he most doubts his beliefs. Could all of these people simply be angry because deep down they don't believe the "accomplishments" that Bush et al have brought to this country? Or is it something else?

Sunday, February 12, 2006

I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die

There's no point to this post, other than the fact I wanted to use that line with regards to this.


How this isn't child abuse is something I will never understand.

Gay marriage

Lots of stuff on gay marriage today: Lori Sturdevant talks about how Senate DFLers aren't worried about voting against a constitutional amendment anymore. Nor should they: voters simply do not care much about gay marriage. On the other hand, we have Senator Michelle Bachmann embarrassing herself once again by talking about marriage 5,000 years ago (neglecting to point out that women probably didn't have much input into the whole marriage thing, seeing as how they were property and all), setting up strawmen like "group marriage", and exclaiming how great it is that this issue unifies homophobes of all stripes.

Finally, there is an interview with an author who points out that highly-educated workers don't want to live around a bunch of bigots, something I can attest to personally. The Twin Cities has a lot of these highly-educated people, which is the reason for our good economy; driving them away isn't a good plan.

Although Republicans will once again try to make this into a divisive issue this year, trying to rend the community, hopefully the sane among us won't take the bait.

Friday, February 10, 2006


A group of legislators got together to try and figure out how they can work better across the aisles and between the House and Senate. Anything that helps them work together and get their work done is great.

A lot of legislators blame increased partisanship on the lobbyist gift ban, saying that without dinners and parties thrown by lobbyists, legislators have no way of getting to know each other. That's a pretty lame argument. It all comes down to a matter of will. There are a lot of legislators in the metropolitan area, of both parties. I'm assuming that most of them have houses. There's nothing to keep them from opening the doors and inviting everybody over for a good time. No lobbyists. No contributors. No special interest groups. Just legislators.

The could all bring food, desserts, and a couple cases of beer. Sit around, talk, maybe watch a quality movie like Con-Air. Millions of families do this every year, including mine, and it seems to work. No lobbyist gifts required.

Norm pwned!

Minnesota's junior senator made a fool of himself again at the Michael Brown senate hearings. Apparently, Norm thought that it would give him a bit of a rush if he took a few potshots at Brownie. After all, everybody knows that Brown was incompetent, so there's no danger in hitting a man on the ground over the head with a chair, right? Well, much to Norm's surprise, Brown still has teeth, and Norm eventually had to cower back to his corner.

The video is here via Crooks and Liars.

What. A. Tool.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Funding for the environment

A bunch of DFLers have gotten together to try to put more money into the state's environment, especially water. According to the article, funding for the environment has dropped from 2.2% of the state's budget to 1.2%. It is far easier to cut mostly invisible environmental programs than to make high-profile cuts to education and health care.

The DFL plan is to use money from the lottery to fund programs to clean up lakes and rivers. Since the lottery is supposed to be for improving the environment, this isn't a terrible idea. The Senate plan is to use general fund money and maybe a constitutional amendment, which I assume is a dedication of part of the sales tax or something. I tend not to like dedicated funds. Republicans apparently debated last year a fee structure but didn't pass anything.

Protecting our water needs to be a high priority, so I hope something is found to do this.

Katherine Kersten's Korner

Break out the bubbly, for it is time for another Katherine Kersten's Korner! Today's kolumn answers the age-old question of how crazy you have to be to connect failed Minnesota Education Commissioner Cheri Yecke to the outrage over cartoons in the Middle East. The answer, of course, is Katherine Kersten Krazy!

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

Frankly, this kolumn is so bat guano crazy it is hard to know where to start. Kersten reminds us of Yecke and the battle over the Profile of Learning, stating that Yecke "engineered" the repeal of the Profile of Learning, but paid with her job. In reality, the repeal was a bipartisan effort that had been around for a long time before finally getting enough support to do away with the standards, and Yecke was run out of the state because she was an ineffective Republican hack. But Kersten sheds a tear for this wonderful, misunderstood martyr.

Not worried in the least about reality, however, Kersten drives forward: "Radical Muslim protests over Danish cartoons of the prophet Mohammed now remind us why the battle in St. Paul was so important." With bated breath we await what must be a mind-blowingly stunning connection that Kersten is going to draw for us.

What is it? Why, it's because the Profile of Learning was a tool of something called "cultural relativism", that's why. Taking another reality break, I seem to remember that lots of people were against the Profile of Learning because of the paperwork and overhead involved, not to mention the fact that many people thought that it was not effective in improving student achievement. But for Kersten, the only thing that was important, is "cultural relativism".

Cultural relativism is one of those bugaboos that far-right conservatives dream up to attack liberals with, even though just about nobody outside of their circle knows what the heck it means. Think "homosexual agenda". And like the homosexual agenda, the very liberal that are purported to be big supporters of cultural relativism usually don't know what it means. They certainly aren't holding secret cultural relativist meetings where they plan to take over the world.

Fortunately for us who don't hold Republican decoder rings, Kersten tells us what cultural relativism is: "That we in the West mustn't judge other cultures, or view our beliefs and institutions as superior to theirs. The cure for cultural misunderstandings, it suggests, is tolerance."

Yecke was no cultural relativist, according to Kersten. No sir. In fact, she was just the opposite. According to Kersten, "She insisted that America and the West, home of liberal democracy, are superior in important ways." So superior, in fact, that Yecke said that Columbus' arrival in the New World did not lead to the genocide of Native people. Gee, all of those smallpox-infected blankets must have been misunderstood housewarming presents. Kersten says that the unfair critics of Yecke wanted her to pay more attention to racism and sexism; actually, I think critics such as myself wanted an education commissioner who wasn't fantastically ignorant. Let's not even start on her support of creationism.

Unfortunately for Kersten, Yecke wasn't able to purge the republic of cultural relativism. The evidence of how horrible this cultural relativism can be is, of course, 9/11, where we learned that radical Muslim fundamentalists don't like to play nice.

It is here that I have to say that perhaps Kersten would consider me to be one of those cultural relativists. See, I don't think that America is the number one country in the world. It's by and large a great place and is one of the freest countries in the world, but I can't honestly say it is superior. And I do have tolerance for other cultures. If French people want to call a Big Mac a Royale with Cheese, or the rest of the world gets excited over a football that's not the same as football in this country, no problem. Different strokes and all of that. Thinking that this country is superior has led to some of the more unpleasant incidents in our nation's history. White man's burden and all of that, the already-mentioned genocide of indigenous people, imperialism abroad, and other stuff that Americans should not be proud of. There's enough freedom in this world for us to say that other countries can have their own fates and freedoms too.

However, tolerance of other cultures does not extend to practices and beliefs that go against fundamental rights. I don't think there are many liberals who think that it is just fine to tolerate societies that give almost no freedom to women, for example, or don't allow for freedom of religious worship. And there are definitely no liberals who think that we need to tolerate terrorism or murder. This does make a good strawman argument for Kersten, however.

In fact, if you think about it, it is Republicans who are more deserving of the charge of tolerating cultures that have no regard for human rights. Did Democrats or Republicans oppose sanctions against South Africa over apartheid (here's a hint: the current Vice President voted against imposing sanctions). Was it a Republican or a Democrat who had no problem with sweatshop conditions on the Marianas Islands? Hey, we have to tolerate these different cultures who, ah, insist on treating their workers like slaves. Even when it is U.S. territory, I guess.

Kersten asks a couple of "urgent questions": "How should we respond when other cultures insist on tolerance from us but refuse to extend it in return?" and "Which Western principles and institutions, if any, are we willing to risk our personal safety to defend?" Well, in answer to the first, ignore them unless they try to hurt us, in which case we take whatever action is necessary to prevent that, including the use of force. In answer to the second, I think the answer is "all of them". Do I get extra credit for answering these urgent questions so quickly.

Kersten doesn't seem to think all that much of those governments, including the Bush administration, that are apologizing for the cartoons. I fail to see why this is. The cartoons are incredibly offensive and serve no real public purpose. I, too, would probably apologize to the world for the ignorant hateful people that live here. They do, however, have a right to print their stupid cartoons, and we can't apologize for freedom of speech.

Kersten is right to take the Star Tribune to task for not printing the cartoons. But merely printing the cartoons does not make a newspaper a hero. Kersten makes it sound like a truly righteous act, talking about those papers that have "boldly reprinted the cartoons in solidarity with the Danes." That's like saying we should be proud of a newspaper for boldly printing the latest anti-Semitic graffiti from members of the Aryan Nation. The cartoons were crap and only meant to incite; the only reason to print them now is because the reaction to them is such a huge story. There is nothing to be proud of here, especially since people are dying as a result.

Kersten brings it on home by tinkling on people's graves, pointing out that standing up for freedom of the press can lead to physical harm, and saying that this is the first time in decades that people have realized this. Oh really, Kersten? Why don't you tell that to all of the journalists who have gone to Iraq in the name of freedom of the press and been killed. I guess they don't count. She can't end without one more dig at cultural relativism, saying that Europe has almost given in to this horror without any evidence at all. Again, simplistic Kersten reasoning is coming into play: "Old Europe" is liberal, decadent, secular, and therefore bad.

This one ranks up there with her rant against Wellstone in terms of sheer insanity and partisan screeching. I'm embarrassed for the Star Tribune.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

More about the Republican legislative plan

The Pioneer Press has a bit more on the Republican legislative plan that I reported on yesterday. The big deal, which I didn't mention because I really didn't get it, is supposedly "tax relief for homeowners, not for governments." Apparently, this is some kind of attempt to pass some property tax relief for homeowners, instead of reversing previous Republican cuts to Local Government Aid.

Talk about an election year gambit. First, since this will be done using surplus money, it's going to be a one-time thing. Second, by ignoring the fact that previous LGA cuts are responsible for huge property tax increases, the Republican plan does nothing to change the underlying realities that cause the tax hikes in the first place. Thus, next year may see property tax increases just as large. Maybe this is intended to be some kind of one-time rebate à la Jesse Checks. If so, then the Republicans certainly aren't advertising it as such.

At least the article points out that the Republican plan is basically rubber-stamping the governor's ideas. So much for an independent legislature.

Mike Ciresi is out

Mike Ciresi is not running for Senate. But you should already know this.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006


Checks and Balances has some info on fundraising numbers for new legislators (registration required). It is somewhat interesting.

Also on the topic of fundraising, the Star Tribune has a story on all the fundraisers taking place right now because the legislature isn't in session until March. Fundraising is a fact of life in politics, so that there are fundraisers is not surprising or shocking.

A couple things crossed my mind when reading the article, though. First, it's pretty sad that House Republicans are proud of block renewable energy standards and ensuring that we remain dependent on Middle Eastern oil. And I don't even think that any House members work for oil companies! Second, the article says that DFLers accuse the Republicans of being beholden to the wealthy and businesses, while Republicans say that the DFL is controlled by "Indian tribes, trial lawyers and labor unions." Aren't we forgetting right-wing social conservatives like the Family Research Council and MCCL for the Republicans and school teachers for the Democrats?

Local media

I'm sorry, but the Star Tribune is wrong: at this point, the cartoons are the story, and not publishing them is essentially ignoring a news story.

I'm going to echo a lot of people's comments. First, the cartoons are crude and insulting, no doubt about it. However, in the free societies that exist in the U.S. and Europe, people have the right to express their crude and insulting ideas. But keep in mind the impact. Just like with flag burning or something like Piss Christ, you aren't impressing anybody, certainly not me.

On the other hand, burning down embassies and killing people? Reactions are completely out of line. I am equally disdainful of all fundamentalist religious types, regardless of creed: this is why. Just as the makers of these cartoons aren't impressing me, those who are reacting with violence aren't either. What is happening is completely out of proportion given the fact that when you get down to it, these are some cartoons. That's it.

As an anti-Iraq war reality-based liberal, I'm disrespected pretty much on a daily basis by this administration and many members of the media. However, I haven't decided to burn down Fox News or kill anybody because of it. That's not how the world works, and the Muslim community is allowing its most extreme members to tarnish everybody, just like when Pat Robertson opens his mouth.

This incident should also give pause to all those neocons who envision democracy spreading far and wide in the Middle East: liberal secular democracies are not likely to spring up in places where the vast majority of people think that it is the government's job to censor blasphemous things. This certainly isn't a religious or cultural issue; the same reason applies to former Soviet states, few of which can be considered democratic. I guess Fareed Zakaria has it right when he says that liberalization needs to come first, democracy later.

The Republican legislative plan

The Republicans put forward their legislative goals today, and apparently they can't get the facts straight with regards to Minnesota's unemployment.

I don't think there are any stories up about the content of the plan, but it seemed to be little different from the governor's: credit card transportation spending, a bonding bill about the same size as Pawlenty's, and fun social issues like immigration and gay marriage. Definitely the priorities of the citizens of this state.

Rep. Lesch out of Iraq

Rep. John Lesch has left Iraq after only a week. The story just gets weirder, though. Apparently, a senior Iraqi official lectured him about coming to Iraq, sounding like a pissed-off parent. I guess the reason why Iraqi and U.S. officials were so ticked was that had something happened to him, they would have had to stage a rescue or something.

I really hadn't thought about that. If I went to Iraq and was kidnapped, I wouldn't expect the military or anybody else to do anything. I would expect to get my head chopped off, honestly. That's the risk you take entering a country with an active insurgency. You're an adult, and if you go there by your choice, then nobody is there to look after you.

If some random U.S. citizen can't even enter the country without all hell breaking loose, it's hard to see how things are getting better over there.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Northstar audit

So the report says nothing was illegal, but it still sounds bad. Two similar groups (Northstar Corridor Development Authority and the Anoka County Regional Railroad Authority) hiring the same consultants? Almost $9,000 on food over 220 occasions with little documentation? What's up with that?

This is Minnesota, not Louisiana or Mississippi. Our government organizations are supposed to be clean, not corrupt. Although no laws were apparently broken, this kind of stuff simply looks bad. Is it really necessary to build a commuter rail line?

Stadium politics

Legislative leaders met today with the governor and Twins officials to talk about stadium plans. The leaders promised to poll their caucus members and get back. I still think it would be really, really neat if Governor Pawlenty made a stadium the central piece of his re-election efforts this year.

Also noted is the face that a judge said that the Twins don't have to stay at the Metrodome past this season. But where would they go? That question is unanswered at the moment. I don't know a whole lot about how Major League Baseball works, but it seems unlikely that the Twins could move elsewhere in the space of only a year.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Katherine Kersten's Korner

Cripes, it's (almost) Monday again. Another Kersten kolumn is up. This one is about a sick kid fighting his illness like a champ. If that's up your alley, give it a read.

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

No mistake

Don't much feel like blogging. How about you tell me what opinions I should have?

Friday, February 03, 2006

Another creationist bites the dust

Via Pharyngula, David Eaton has resigned from the Minnetonka School Board. For those of you who don't remember, Eaton was the guy pushing for revising the curriculum to cast doubt on evolution where it is not warranted. In otherwords, yet another creationist.

Like PZ Myers, I too am glad that he will not be inflicting his anti-intellectualism on Minnesota students. We've won this time, Happy Bunny:

Unfair media advantages

I agree with this. It is unfair for Governor Pawlenty to have a regular radio show while he is presumably running for elected office.

If this isn't against the law (and it doesn't sound like it is yet), I would like to see something that prevents candidates from hosting regular TV or radio broadcasts for 12 months before an election unless they expressly state that they are not running. Either give it up or give all of their opponents the same opportunity to have such media access.

There's nothing wrong with Pawlenty having a radio show, but when it comes to election season, fairness should be the rule.

The end of Northwest?

At this point, another strike vote is pretty much like bayoneting the survivors, isn't it?

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Bush's visit

President Bush was in Minnesota today. I wasn't there so I can't comment, not that I would want to. I am, however, duly impressed that he can't speak English.

Wetterling for Congress

Patty Wetterling is almost certain to run for Congress in the Sixth District. Watch as Republicans' heads explode.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Katherine Kersten's Korner

Today's kolumn is just irritating. That's the best word to describe it. Irritating. It's about the Minneapolis School District and how it is in a "crisis".

Wingnuttia Level: 6 (It's irritating, okay?)

Yes, Minneapolis schools have lots of problems, like just about all urban school districts. When you have lots of poverty, lots of immigrants who don't speak English as a first language, and lots of social problems, you aren't going to have the best schools. School officials need to work on student achievement, of course, but these things aren't going to turn around overnight, and many of them won't turn around at all without dealing with many of the underlying issues.

It's nice that Kersten calls the school board "dysfunctional" but gives no evidence of its dysfunction, aside from remarking that things are bad. Since the school board is elected by the community, I assume this means that voters are idiots as well who keep on returning "dysfunctional" school board members to office.

She says that "some" African-American leaders are saying that the board needs big changes, but then only mentions one: Louis King, a former school board member. That's the extent of her evidence, something that Kersten never seems to worry much about.

Kids are leaving the district and enrolling elsewhere, such as different school districts or charter schools. This seems to be working for the kids and their parents, so what's the problem? In fact, if everybody leaves the Minneapolis district, goes elsewhere, and gets better results, shouldn't that be a good thing according to Kersten? Then why is she worried that unless Minneapolis schools start making changes it won't be worth saving? She cares but she doesn't. Something doesn't add up.

Louis King says the board needs "board members with extensive business experience, who view families as customers and understand that competition has changed the rules of the game." What he has done to recruit these kinds of people to office and get them elected is left unclear. Remember, this is a democracy. It's the duty of school board candidates to convince voters to vote for them. It's not King's duty to simply dictate to Minneapolis residents whom they "should" be voting for.

It ends with another cry about how Minneapolis schools may be too late to be saved. Huh?

All this column shows is that when Kersten pretends to care about things like public schools, she just can't get it right because she really doesn't believe it. If Minneapolis schools are as bad as she says, who cares if they disappear? I wouldn't. Then again, schools probably aren't so horrible that they are beyond saving. Minneapolis needs to make changes, yes, but these changes need to come from the community, not from self-appointed leaders who tell us what residents should be doing and nothing more.

If Kersten had just come out and said she wants to see Minneapolis schools fail and be replaced by something better, she would have been far more believable.

Sharon Marko for Congress? Part II

DFL State Senator Sharon Marko has "filed papers" for Congress, although she hasn't said she is running for sure. She says she will make her decision within a few weeks.

I think that she is in, personally.

Whip out the credit card yet again!

You know, I'm really interested in the personal finances of the Pawlenty family. Okay, so I'm not really that interested, but I do have to wonder if Pawlenty practices what he preaches. See, he preaches a lot of the old "buy now pay later" approach, also known as whipping out the credit card whenever the fancy strikes you. He did it again today, proposing to build a bunch of roads now and (somehow) pay for them later.

He has pulled this stunt before, also for transportation funding. On some level, he knows that transportation funding in this state is inadequate and our roads are falling apart, severely hampering economic growth. But he also knows that his BFF David Strom doesn't want him to raise taxes. So his only recourse is to propose a bunch of spending and close his eyes as to how to pay for it. That problem can fall to his successors.

This isn't the most terribly responsible thing to do, is it? I don't know about the governor, but I don't spend lots of money on big things without having a plan to pay for it. That's the responsible thing to do, so I won't burden anybody else with the load. "Anybody else" in this case means all the residents of Minnesota. If Pawlenty wants to increase transportation spending, which I totally agree with, he needs to be honest with people about how to pay for it.

And this nonsense about somehow using a form of arbitrage to explain it just doesn't work. This is taxpayer money, governor, and we don't follow the rules of Wall Street day trading here. Be honest. Be responsible. Don't stick the children with the bill for your spending.