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Sunday, April 30, 2006

Katherine Kersten's Korner

This Monday's kolumn is about converts to the Orthodox Church in the area. In other words, it is something I have very little interest in at all, and it really isn't political. Imagine that: a local kolumn by the Metro kolumnist!

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

What part of "No!" don't you understand?

The Star Tribune has an article on some of the reasons why stadium bills are finally advancing this year after all that time stuck in limbo. For the most part, it sounds like the millions of dollars spent by the Twins and Vikings on lobbyists has won over in a slow, grinding, siege kind of way. Plus, legislators want to cover their asses.

Case in point: Senator Dean Johnson said he senses that even the average Joe and Jane share the legislators' weariness. "The public's tired of the issue and want it resolved and to move on," according to him. That's right, we do want it resolved: we want you to keep saying no, over and over. The reason why there hasn't been the public outrage this year as opposed to earlier is because the public assumes that legislators are not young children in terms of intellect. After saying no tax money for stadiums for ten years, we thought that legislators had actually gotten the picture. I guess not.

For all of those legislators who are listening to high-paid lobbyists instead of the people who actually go out to the polls and cast votes, be warned.

Saturday, April 29, 2006


Hmm. Tens of thousands rally in favor of immigrants. Seventy-five rally against immigrant. Who is more popular? Decisions, decisions...

Friday, April 28, 2006

Rep. Ron Abrams appointed to judgeship

Rep. Ron Abrams, a Republican from Minnetonka, has been appointed to a judgeship. It is no secret that he has wanted to be a judge for quite some time, and he has finally achieved his goal.

I don't know if you will hear many bad words about Rep. Abrams. He is an eminently fair and reasonable person, not to mention an expert in tax policy. Even though he is a Republican, the legislature will be poorer for his absence. I am sure, though, that he will make an excellent judge.


Way to smear the anti-war movement, boneheads.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Stadium vote map

Some guy named David Kirchner made some cool maps showing the Twins stadium vote in the House. Notice all the "for" votes in places that won't be affected by the tax.

Via Norwegianity.

Alternative media

Pulse Magazine has an interesting article about the "punks" who hang out in front of Block E and hassle the squares from the suburbs.

The Minnesota Daily has a real article about an atheist. It kind of reinforces the stereotype of the scientist atheist, but it is good to see this article all the same.

Cue Nelson Muntz

A day after stadium proponents were flying high, flush with a Twins stadium victory in the House, the Senate Tax Committee, gave them a swift kick in the groin. A Gophers stadium bill failed on a tie vote. Then, the Twins stadium bill was changed from a Hennepin County sales tax to a larger sales tax in the seven county metro area to pay for the Twins, the Vikings, and transit projects.

Let the games begin!

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Mark Kennedy: lacking a sense of irony

Wow. I read the "Best Of" edition of City Pages today and noticed the award for meth. Call me crazy, but I didn't immediately get the urge to do some crank. I actually understood that it was a joke. Ha ha, funny, you know?

But Mark Kennedy didn't, and is demanding a retraction. Seriously. For God's sake, keep this man away from The Onion. He might get some strange ideas.

Katherine Kersten's Korner

Wow, big surprise. This week, we learn that Katherine Kersten poo-poos those wicked student activists from the 1960s. In other news, the sky is blue and water is wet.

Wingnuttia Level: 5 (Picking and choosing of facts ahead)

Here's the jist of it: in 1969, a number of students from the Afro-American Action Committee and the Students for a Democratic Society invaded Morrill Hall and demanded an Afro-American studies department. They engaged in pointless destruction and vandalism. University President Malcolm Moos, who coined the term "Military-industrial complex" and now has a building named after him, caved in to the demands to prevent more bloodshed.

Fast forward to today. Recently, the leaders of that takeover were honored by the University. "'We are thankful for you,' Sue Hancock of the university's Office for Multicultural and Academic Affairs told them." Kersten, of course, thinks that lauding criminals is evil, and just sets a bad example. I'm willing to bet that she's going to trash the anti-war protest that will be going on this Friday too.

Personally, I think that wanton destruction and vandalism is stupid. Taking over the University's administration building and trashing it is not very productive. But even though I really don't remember it, I have heard that the 1960s were a pretty volatile time. Race riots all over the country. College students being shot and killed by National Guard troops. It was a time of confrontation, and this confrontation at the University of Minnesota was no different.

Does that mean that all this confrontation was morally good? Maybe not. But unlike Kersten, I think that in many ways this confrontation was necessary, and as a result of this confrontation both sides are much more amenable to sitting down and figuring things out instead of being stubborn. Had students and other people not confronted power structures in the 1960s like they did, we would probably still be living in a very repressive and static society. Or in other words, the exact kind of society that Kersten likes.

Kersten's kolumns really are getting tedious. She doesn't add a whole lot to the debate; you know exactly what she is going to say before she says it. Do I add much to the debate? Hell no. But I'm just a crank with a blog, not somebody writing under the masthead of an old and venerable paper.

Rod Grams may challenge Jim Oberstar


Good luck with that, Rod. I think he's got a better chance at singlehandedly making it to the Superbowl.

Senator Paul Koering endorsed

Senator Paul Koering, one of only two openly gay members of the Senate and the only Republican, was re-endorsed yesterday. It was his first endorsement battle after coming out.

The good: maybe bigotry isn't as big a part of the Republican party as it may appear.
The bad: it took seven ballots, and his challenger may still run against him in the primary.

Seeing as how I don't live in the district, this really doesn't affect me, but it is interesting all the same considering the circumstances.

@(#&%! democracy

As expected, the House passed the Twins stadium bill. Democracy died this afternoon when a vote failed 64-66 to allow the residents of Hennepin County to vote on the tax that will be imposed upon us. The bill itself passed 76-55.

Although I am incredibly angry about this vote, I applaud Rep. Ann Lenczewski of Bloomington for pushing hard for the referendum vote. I also applaud other legislators who voted for democracy even though they don't live in Hennepin County and thus don't have a dog in this fight: Phil Krinkie, Mary Liz Holberg, Karen Klinzing, and several others. At least they see the problem when the state as a whole votes to impose a tax on only one locality for a statewide project. Why don't we put a sales tax on Steve Sviggum's home county to pay for the planetarium in Minneapolis?

This is not yet a done deal, though. It has to be passed by the senate, and Larry Pogemiller says that he has an issue with the current funding plan. Pogey hasn't said what his alternative will be, but we'll all be waiting to hear it.

I'm also pretty tired of all those people who think that this means that the legislature has finally "done something" about the Twins after doing nothing for so long. I'm sorry, but to me, telling Carl Pohlad to drop his $2.8 billion on a new stadium by himself seems to be a pretty good solution. That's doing something in my book; too bad the lobbyists finally won against the wishes of the citizens of this state.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Minnesota tax rankings

Minnesota is ranked tenth in the nation in total taxes, according to the Minnesota Taxpayer's Association (not to be confused with the Taxpayer's League). We are third in personal income taxes, but 26th in property taxes and 23rd in sales and corporate income taxes. Since I think progressive income taxes are far better than sales or property taxes, I don't see this as a very bad thing.

House passes conservation bill

Today, the House passed the conservation bill dedicating a portion of the sales tax to the environment. To tell the truth, I have no idea what the bill now says. So many things happened that it will take a bit to sort them out. I'm pretty sure, however, that at some point it became a bill full of pork transportation projects, and I do believe that as it passed the House it bans tax increases for seven years. Attempts to raise the sales tax and dedicate new revenue failed.

This sucker is going to conference. What fun.

Polinaut liveblogged it.

House to vote on stadium tomorrow

Last night, the House Ways and Means Committee passed the Twins stadium proposal by another close vote. The full House is going to hear the bill tomorrow.

If I had to wager, I would say that it will pass: it is too easy for legislators not living in Hennepin County to vote for it. At least to them, free stadium! I don't know what the backlash will be. Certainly, I see the four county commissioners who voted for the plan facing strong challenges. Beyond that, it's anybody's guess.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Network Neutrality

Lots of bloggers have been on this one, so I thought I'd add my name to the list of people outraged about attempts to eliminate what is known as Network Neutrality. In a nutshell, as it stands right now ISPs can't discriminate against any content on the Internet. Everything is treated the same, from Google to a lowly blog seen by two people a day. However, ISPs want to change this, so they can charge certain providers for "premium access" and, consequently, relegate the rest to "crappy access".

This should be a non-partisan issue. Everybody benefits by net neutrality. An ISP shouldn't be able to block a liberal or conservative blog based on its content, nor should it be able to block small mom-and-pop online stores because it has an "exclusive partnership" with Amazon.com, eBay, or some other site.

It's a huge issue, and if people don't act right now it may be too late. Go to www.savetheinternet.com for more information.

Stadium pics

Over at the Minneapolis Issues Forum, somebody very nice has posted some renderings of the Twins stadium should it be built. Take a look.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Katherine Kersten's Korner

Katherine Kersten's latest kolumn is about an issue I don't care about at all: the brouhaha over St. Thomas and their policy about non-married staff sharing hotel rooms on official trips. Of course, Kersten, being the 1950s throwback she is, is completely on the side of the college and their ban on cohabitation. What do I think? I think that people who are involved with the Catholic Church deserve it.

Wingnuttia Level: 7 (My head hurts...)

Kersten can't leave well enough alone with some issues, like saying that Lawrence Summers was forced to resign "after daring to question the politically correct line on sex differences" instead of just opening his big mouth and saying something stupid. She also seems to think that the heads of Christian colleges are courageous when they fight "secular trends"; I assume this would extend to those Christian colleges that preach that homosexuals are evil. Kersten is thus showing her backwards and patronizing beliefs like she always does.

But frankly, the policies of St. Thomas should concern only those people who are employed by or enrolled at St. Thomas. Why does it matter if unmarried people can't share a hotel room, or if St. Thomas makes all of their employees wear clown noses? It is none of my business. It also isn't representative of "fighting the good fight" against evil secularism like Kersten believes. It's just irrelevant.

Kersten, like many conservatives, can't keep out of the private lives of everybody. Why is she proud of this?

Good grief

Sid Hartman has to be one of the biggest stadium pushers in the state. I wonder if he is registered as a pro-stadium lobbyist?

Sure, his job is a sports columnist and so he has a vested interest in seeing the Twins stay around. But the slobbering kisses he gives to Carl Pohlad and everybody else who has been pushing for a new stadium for over ten years are just pathetic. You'd think that a sports columnist wouldn't be so transparently political.

Hartman calls out Reps. Ann Lenczewski and Phil Krinkie as two people who did more than anybody else to kill the stadium. Good for them. I really don't care for Krinkie's politics much, but at least he is consistent, and he is a consistent opponent of projects like these (and a lot of other spending). Rep. Lenczewski actually lives in Hennepin County and would have to pay the increased tax, along with all of her constituents, so it's not too hard to understand why she would have a problem with eliminating the referendum. As I noted before, the people who voted to eliminate the referendum do not live in Hennepin County. It's not hard to vote for a stadium when you aren't footing the bill, is it?

I like the Twins. But if they leave in 2007 or whenever, I'll survive. There's TV. There's lots of other entertainment downtown. There's the St. Paul Saints. If the Twins move, it won't be the end of the world, and it's certainly no reason to give Carl Pohlad hundreds of millions of dollars for nothing in return.

More stadium politics

Apparently, if you believe Lori Sturdevant, the reason that this legislative session seems to be such a good one for stadiums is because leaders think that they can erase the image of a "do-nothing legislature" in voters' minds by building stadiums. Steve Sviggum seems particularly attached to this notion: "But some folks don't think we've done anything until we've done something on stadiums. And saying no is not getting it done," he says.

Au contraire, Mr. Speaker. Saying no is getting it done. Which is exactly what the legislature should be doing when billionaire owners want a handout from the state. Or the county. Voters have far more pressing concerns than sports stadiums. Getting stuck in traffic, not having health care, worrying about their kids' schools, those kinds of things. Address those issues and maybe the "do-nothing" label will go away. Build stadiums for billionaires...well, I think you'll get another label. And it's not a good one.

Friday, April 21, 2006

House update

Today was a rather strange House floor session. It was supposed to be short, only for moving paper around. As a result, several members didn't even bother showing up. However, when the chair of the Ways and Means Committee, Republican Jim Knoblach, called for a re-referral of a bill to his committee to be turned into an omnibus finance bill, DFL Minority Leader Matt Entenza vehemently objected. This led to Speaker Sviggum leaving the speaker's chair to come down to the floor to talk, a very rare occurrence.

As reader billiam pointed out in an e-mail, the House Republicans had a very long caucus yesterday, several hours in fact. Nerves must have been rubbed rather raw, because Sviggum sounded quite upset today. He was talking about compromise being a "two-way street", talking about how the minority is "obstructing" the process (as if they have the power to do so), and in general sounding like somebody who is losing control of his caucus. The back and forth continued for a while until Knoblach relented.

It would appear, then, that even though on the surface everybody is quite optimistic about getting done early, there is still a lot of stuff that needs to be worked out, and there is probably dissension in the Republican ranks. It will be very interesting to see what happens in the next week or so.

Stadium outrage

The House Taxes Committee passed the Twins stadium proposal last night. It is now on its way to a floor vote next week, possibly Wednesday or Thursday. Opponents say it will be hard to stop.

What was most disgusting about the vote was that an effort to make the deal follow the law and require a referendum in Hennepin County for the sales tax increase failed. It even failed in a bipartisan way, with Democrats and Republicans not living in Hennepin county seeing no problem with getting a stadium they don't have to pay for.

On the Minneapolis Issues Forum list, a poster posted a list of the roll call on the referendum vote:

Democrats for a referendum: Ann Lenczewski (Bloomington), Jim Davnie (Minneapolis), Joe Mullery (Minneapolis), Connie Bernardy (Fridley) (all but one Hennepin County residents)

Republicans for a referedum: Ron Erhardt (Edina), Kurt Zellers (Maple Grove), Phil Krinkie (Shoreview), Chris DeLaForest (Andover), Jim Knoblach (Saint Cloud), Ray Vandeveer (Forest Lake), Ron Abrams (Minnetonka), Paul Kohls (Victoria), Larry Howes (Walker)

Democrats against a referendum: Joe Atkins (Inver Grove Heights), David Dill (Crane Lake), Lyle Koenen (Clara City), Paul Marquart (Dilworth), Tom Rukavina (Virginia), John Lesch (Saint Paul), Mike Jaros (Duluth), Katie Sieben (Newport)

Republicans against a referendum: Dean Simpson (New York Mills), Laura Brod (New Prague), Greg Davids (Preston), Dan Dorman (Albert Lea), Morrie Lanning (Moorhead), Peter Nelson (Lindstrom), Andy Westerberg (Blaine)

Pretty easy to vote for a stadium when you aren't paying for it, isn't it?

I'm incredibly disappointed in the Democrats who voted against the referendum. There is no need for a stadium. There certainly isn't a need for a stadium without public input. I just don't get it.

If this does go forward, I'm with Rep. Lenczewski: the Minnesota Twins should be renamed the Hennepin County Twins, because we are paying for them.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Katherine Kersten's Korner

Today's kolumn is about a member of the real Band of Brothers. I've never seen the miniseries. It's interesting.

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


Happy 4/20 folks!

Senate defeats passes tax bill

Yesterday, the DFL Senate put the kibosh on DFL Senator Larry Pogemiller's tax bill. Today, with the business tax increase stripped out, they passed it.

Republicans and some DFLers didn't like Pogey's business property tax increase, but with it removed from the bill, all but one DFLer voted for it. It will provide relief for counties and cities, while closing corporate tax loopholes to pay for it. Not a bad bill, I guess.

Since the leadership in the House is adamantly opposed to any tax increases, though, the chances of this actually becoming law seem slim.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Children losing health insurance

So says a new report. The loss of health insurance is particularly acute in the under-5 demographic. This is the direct result of budget cutbacks in recent years that has caused many people to lose eligibility for Minnesota Care and Medical Assistance.

While conservatives may rail against lazy, unemployed adults who don't deserve health care (we'll leave the question of the accuracy of such stereotypes alone for now), who can argue that children don't deserve health insurance? Just more casualties of the Pawlenty budget priorities, I guess.

City Pages interviews Al Franken

Read all about it here.

Stadium goodness

Today there was a House Tax Committee meeting for supporters of the Twins stadium plan. Soon there will be a meeting in Bloomington for opponents.

I'm with Ron Erhardt: Why is this new plan any better?

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Pawlenty opposes resident college tuition for immigrants

Apparently, Governor Pawlenty is so opposed to providing resident tuition rates at state colleges and universities to illegal immigrants that he is personally getting involved with the Legislature to make sure that provision does not get passed into law. Nice.

I especially like his reasoning: "Pawlenty says it would be unfair for illegal immigrants to get in-state tuition when residents of other states pay higher rates." Huh? I thought the whole point of providing cheaper tuition to residents is because they pay taxes, they are part of the community, and if they stick around after school it will be a boon to the economy. Well, I'm pretty sure that illegal immigrants who have been living here for years have been paying taxes in the form of sales taxes, property taxes, gas taxes, and almost certainly income taxes if they have worked at all. So what's wrong with giving them resident tuition rates?

Cigarette tax?

Make the cigarette "fee" a tax? Heck yes!


I always think that I have somehow reached the limits of my fear and loathing of the far-right among us, but something always seems to come along to crank up the disgust a notch. Today, it's something called a Purity Ball. Apparently, this is where fathers take their daughters, some younger than ten, and make them say:

"I pledge to remain sexually pure...until the day I give myself as a wedding gift to my husband. ... I know that God requires this of me.. that he loves me. and that he will reward me for my faithfulness."
Yes, that's right. From the looks of things, some of these girls are under ten and being forced to promise never to do something they have no experience with. All while their fathers are there, taking a similar oath. In case you were wondering, there are no Mother-Son dances.

To me, this is just unbelievably sick. This isn't about sex as much as it is about treating women like property. It's right there in the oath: until the day I give myself as a wedding gift...right, just set the bride next to the china. We'll go through the presents later. In case you were wondering, there are no oaths that boys take where they also promise to give themselves as a gift to their wives. In case you were wondering.

How can a parent do this to a child? How can a parent imply that for girls (and girls only), they are to "give" themselves up to their husbands? That their sexuality is something to be afraid of? What happens when a ten year old girl who has made this vow starts going through puberty and experiences changes and feelings she has never felt before? What are the odds that she is going to feel bad about this, fearing it because it is wrong to explore womanhood before she "gives herself up" to her husband? Do these parents want shamed, fearful kids?

PZ Myers says "Daddies of the world, keep your hands off your daughter's sexuality, OK? Raise them to be independent and thoughtful and informed and able to make their own decisions, and then just trust them." Damn straight. A commenter at Pharyngula goes a little further:

The best path to good sexual choices in adulthood includes:

A. good, biology-based sex education
B. parental love, trust, and honesty
C. a healthy sense of one's own sexual and emotional boundaries
D. a realistic but positive view of adult relationships, marriage, and parenting
E. the knowledge that a safe, healthy sex life requires maturity and responsibility
F. the complete understanding that yes means yes and no means no.

And the preacher said "Amen!" Now these are healthy beliefs to instill in kids, both boys and girls. Giving young adults the facts, trusting them to make good decisions, knowing that they will probably make mistakes anyway but hopefully minimizing them and providing support and love all the time...what a crazy way to raise children, huh?

Some of these people who are against sex ed and who torture kids into these stupid "abstinence vows" undoubtedly screwed up themselves when they were younger, and they are in a very misguided way trying to protect people from making mistakes themselves. A good portion of it is probably jealousy that people can have healthy sex lives outside of marriage and not be damaged. I certainly didn't wait until marriage, but because I was given the facts and I am not ignorant, there have been no unplanned pregnancies, no abortions, no STDs, no health problems. It's completely possible to have a fulfilling sex life outside of marriage. Most people do it. Pretending that it is somehow a one-way ticket to Hell is unrealistic.

That's not to say that there is anything wrong with abstinence. Of course, abstinence is the best choice for teens, and anybody who chooses that on their own should be supported. But not only are these creepy "Purity Ball"-like pledges just that: creepy, but they are also ineffective. They don't work. They play to fear and ignorance, which is a losing strategy in the long run.

This kind of stuff is just !*^%@! creepy, bottom line. Fathers, if you want to have a positive impact on your daughter's life, skip the silly and disgusting pledge and just spend time dancing with your daughter, giving her love and attention. She may turn out to be a responsible adult even without trying to make her fear sex.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Northstar costs rise

The total price tag of the Northstar commuter rail line has increased to $307 million. The corresponding increase in the size of Rep. Phil Krinkie's head is as yet unknown, but it's assumed that it might be close to the exploding point.

Seriously, it does sound like the previous cost estimates were unrealistic. Inflation may be closer to 4 percent than 2.7 percent, but I hope not. The amount set aside as a cushion was too low; 8 percent is a lot more realistic than 3 percent for unforseen overruns. I'm not sure about the other budget adjustments, but they probably aren't all that off.

Let's get this thing done before the costs go up any more. I am convinced that like the Hiawatha line, this thing will be much more popular than expected when it opens. Let's get the chance to see that.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Katherine Kersten's Korner

After a full Easter Sunday meal and a bit of pleasant wine-tasting, it really isn't fun to have to read Katherine Kersten and her latest kolumn. I can think of many much better things to do on a lazy Sunday. But alas, she was not given the day off, so I have to take a look as well. This week, Kersten continues the immigration train, this time talking about how hard it is for highly-skilled workers to get here using the H-1B visa program.

Wingnuttia Level: Choose your own.

There are a couple ways to interpret this week's kolumn. Kersten is right when she talks about the problems that H-1B workers experience, and how the quota for these workers is probably set too low considering how many of these people the U.S. economy needs. If one is generally pro-immigration, as I am, this is just another example of how screwed up our immigration process is and how we need to let more people come into this country. If you are against immigration, as many other people are, you can see this as not a problem at all, since these workers from foreign countries are taking jobs away from Americans.

I'm a free-trader for the most part, and a big part of that is the free movement of capital and employees. So take from this what you will. Debate amongst yourselves.

Video games and children

It's not like I have really big problems with Rep. Jeff Johnson's bill to try and prevent kids from buying violent and inappropriate video games by fining them $25. I don't think kids should be able to buy M- or AO-rated games, since they are clearly for adults. However, wouldn't it make more sense to fine the stores that sell them to the kids, much like we fine businesses that sell cigarettes or liquor to underage kids? I don't know what the point is of fining the buyers.

I really don't understand the constitutional issues here either. Restricting the sale of certain games to kids is no different from restricting movies in my eyes. Perhaps I am missing something.

Saturday, April 15, 2006


Happy Passover/Easter/...uh, whatever it is you are doing this weekend.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Fetal pain

Lots of states have passed laws that require abortion providers to tell people considering abortion that a fetus can feel pain; some states, I believe, go farther and require doctors to offer anesthesia for the fetus before an abortion. Why do pro-lifers do this? Well, like all of the roadblocks they throw up in front of abortions, it's because they think very little of a woman's intellect, considering a pregnant woman who is considering abortion to be too stupid to figure things out on her own.

Also, like many of the other things pro-lifers say about abortion (cancer links, depression links, etc.) this one is also completely wrong. Pharyngula has a post about a study on whether a fetus can feel pain, and pro-lifers aren't going to like the result. The bottom line is that before 25 weeks, it is physically impossible for a fetus to feel pain: the connections simply aren't there. Even after that, though, there is little evidence that a fetus can feel pain before birth, and perhaps even afterwards. To use an analogy, after 25 weeks a fetus may have the rudimentary hardware in the brain for this function to work, but no software. And any computer without software is junk a hunk of useless junk. The pain-feeling software comes later, maybe surprisingly so.

I'm not going to hold my breath and wait for pro-lifers to admit that they are wrong and stop peddling obvious falsehoods to people, though.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Ford plant to close

The St. Paul Ford plant is closing. No real surprise here.

This is not good news for St. Paul and the state, but the free market entails creative destruction. I certainly hope that business and government leaders will work together to find a way to redevelop this property and get the employees back to work in some fashion. They are certainly still productive and will be a great asset with the right help.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Katherine Kersten's Korner

I'm not a fortune teller. I don't have access to a time machine. I don't understand how Katherine Kersten's mind works (shudder). So when I wrote this on Sunday:
"Before too long, she is going to have a kolumn about how all these immigrants protesting across the country are outraging good God-fearing Americans because they hate the sight of criminals in the streets."
I honestly had no idea that a scant three days later, she would write a kolumn with this:
"Obviously, many illegal immigrants are good folks, striving to better their families. But they have broken the law to get here. That's why many Americans find it unsettling to see them pumping their fists and shouting grievances in the streets -- cheered on by their American 'social justice' allies."
Wow. Either I have been reading Kersten too long, or the stock Republican response to everything is so devoid of thought and rationality that calling it long before it even comes out is trivial. Either way, it's not a happy thought.

Wingnuttia Level: 5 (Huh?)

You know, I give this a pretty low wingnuttia level because Kersten's argument is so poor, she is actually arguing against what she thinks she is. Her kolumn, once you get past the opening slam against the criminals in the streets, is about a legal immigrant named Jaco van Rooyen from South Africa. He works on a farm in North Dakota because no Americans want to (and can you really blame anybody for that? It's North Dakota!). But trying to keep a legal immigrant around all year is expensive and close to impossible. Van Rooyen has worked for four summers, but had to return to South Africa in the fall. To allow him to be able to work here full-time, he will have to go to South Africa and wait for up to five years.

Kersten seems to want to paint this as a picture of people who are doing the right things but being punished for it: "There are many obstacles, and it's frustrating that some people get to be here without doing those things," van Rooyen says. But that's the entire point that undocumented workers are making: the current system is so arbitrary, and so stupid, that it benefits both workers and employers to ignore it.

Conservatives always seem to leave out the employers when they talk about "illegal immigration", but without employers immigrants wouldn't come here. It may be wonderful that the Seidler farm is working so hard to make sure that they only hire legal workers, not illegal ones. But give me a break. From a purely economic standpoint, it's incredibly stupid to follow U.S. immigration law. The Seidlers would do far better for their farm to ignore the law and just keep van Rooyen around, five year wait be damned. And that's the same economic calculation that thousands of employers make regularly with regards to undocumented workers.

Probably in Kersten's world people get extra points for following arbitrary rules that have no basis in rationality; most religions are based upon this, for example. However, that's not helping the employers maximize their business potential, and that's not helping the people who want to work. By showing how screwed up the immigration process is, Kersten is actually demonstrating that the people in the streets are right to say that it needs fundamental change. Bet she didn't intend on that, huh?

Errors in eligibility determination

I can't really find any faults with this report by the Legislative Auditor that found errors by county workers in determining who is eligible for welfare benefits and who isn't. Some people who shouldn't have gotten benefits did, while some that should have gotten benefits did not.

Fix the procedures and make the requirements clearer if they need to be.

House passes bonding bill

They passed it overwhelmingly. And it's a big one: the biggest ever under House Republican leadership. Now the bill will go to conference, where there probably won't be a huge disagreement, since the House and Senate are rather close together in terms of total amounts.

The House started to debate the State Government Finance bill today as well, but ran out of time talking about a plan by Republican Tom Emmer (yes, that Tom Emmer) to ban all gambling in the state. Why? Who knows.

Monday, April 10, 2006

A green roof?

There appears to be quite a discussion about the green roof.

Now, ignoring any personal comments about David Strom's appearance, sexual proclivities, or ability to relate to other people (since they are absolutely irrelevant), I do have to wonder what the real issue is here. The cost of this green roof really isn't an issue, especially in terms of hiring police or anybody else. I know that David Strom, Mitch Berg, and most other commenters here are smart enough to understand the difference between capital outlays and a recurring operating budget. Money spent on a roof, being an expenditure of the former, certainly can't be applied to the latter, any more than the legislature could stick another $100 million on the bonding bill and use it to fund teacher pay next year.

The only thing that I can think of is that this is nothing more than stereotypical liberal bashing. For Republicans, Minneapolis is full of flower-child liberals who think that they can solve all of the world's problems by eating vegan, wearing hemp, and singing "Kumbaya". It's the modern equivalent of all of those hippies trying to grow food in the desert in Easy Rider: a bunch of idiots doomed to failure.

Which is pretty sad considering what we are talking about here. A "green roof" is not some pie-in-the-sky untested theory. They have a long track record, and they have very real benefits. Storm water runoff is just one of them: the issue of treating stormwater is a very real one, and green roofs help delay costly upgrades to treatment plants. Besides, it's not like this is going to be the first green roof in Minneapolis. I'm sure that the experts who are designing this have already taken into account things like weight, low temperatures, etc.

What really bothers me, though, is when people say things like "Have you not noticed that people are dying in large numbers on Minneapolis streets, and Rybak has cut police since he first became Mayor?" People are not "dying in large numbers" on the streets of Minneapolis, and as a resident I find that to be quite dishonest. I have been by the scene of the shooting in Uptown many times, both before and since the murder. I never feel unsafe anywhere in Minneapolis, be it Uptown, Downtown, along the river, or anywhere else. I think most of the residents of Minneapolis would agree with me.

In addition, the people who make these comments, like the one about Rybak cutting the police, largely do not care about Minneapolis except when there is a tragedy to politicize. There are a great deal of Republicans (not all of them), especially from suburbs and exurbs, who consistently try to defund Minneapolis and St. Paul. It was Republicans who passed the cuts in LGA funding, which is why the Minneapolis police force has diminished: police aren't free. It is Republicans who want to take equity aid and ESL aid and desegregation aid from Minneapolis schools.

Simply put, there are a lot of people out there, and I would argue that David Strom is one of them, who believe that government by definition can do no good. Thus, they argue that government needs to be cut; when it is services are reduced, which leads to problems, which leads to more calls for cuts...in a never-ending spiral. The complete dissolution of government is their goal. It is happening on the federal level for agencies such as FEMA. It is happening on the state level too, where Republicans can cut LGA funding, leading to fewer police, and then claim that Minneapolis is failing as a result (of course, if you argue that Minneapolis should raise taxes to fund more police, Republicans are against that too).

Fortunately, the disasters of the Bush and Pawlenty administrations are leading the public to catch on to this scam. Few people believe that the government needs to be everywhere; I certainly don't believe so. But the vast majority of people in this country and in this state think that the government has many roles to play that benefit the citizens as a whole, and that demagoguing all of government only leads to a poorer quality of life. Republicans have been able to get away with this for a while, but failure is starting to catch up to them.

And in the end, trying to make a big deal out of a "green roof" in Minneapolis isn't going to turn the tide in Republicans' favor.

Property tax relief?

House Republicans are putting forward a "property tax relief" plan. It is completely contingent on the state not losing its case over the cigarette "fee", which is far from certain. But even if it is not ultimately a moot point, it's a pretty poor plan.

The plan is pretty simple: homesteaded property owners would get 10% of their property tax back. A flat 10%, regardless of the income of the payer. Thus, there is no guarantee that this relief would actually go towards the people who need it most, since the property tax is very uneven in terms of tax fairness.

The other big problem with this, which nobody seems to have commented on so far, is that it only applies to homesteads. That means all the renters out there are out of luck. Republicans sure care about those renters, don't they?

Since Republicans right now are screaming that the world is ending due to a lack of police in Minneapolis, wouldn't it make more sense to use this money, if we do get it, for LGA?

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Katherine Kersten prediction

Before too long, she is going to have a kolumn about how all these immigrants protesting across the country are outraging good God-fearing Americans because they hate the sight of criminals in the streets.

Mark my words.

Katherine Kersten's Korner

Weekends aren't that interminable, and it's (almost) Monday again. Time for another Katherine Kersten's Korner! Today's kolumn is about a favorite Republican bugaboo: how easy it is to vote in this state. Like many Republicans who believe that same-day registration and other efforts to actually improve democracy by increasing voter turnout are bad, Kersten is Chicken Little, screaming that "they sky is falling" and that voter fraud is rampant in Minnesota.

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

Like every Republican who believes that we need to tighten up our voting procedures, Kersten offers no proof of widespread fraud. No proof that vouching is allowing people to vote illegally. No proof that college students are voting in every place that they live. In short, no proof of wrongdoing whatsoever. Of course, this doesn't stop Republicans' vivid imaginations, where krazy Democrats vote multiple times in order to game the system.

Kersten seems to take significant issue with "vouching", that is, when a registered voter "vouches" for a same-day registrant under penalty of law, stating that the new voter is a resident of the precinct. Long used by people who have recently moved to a new place and haven't gotten their drivers license updated yet, vouching allows people to vote who would otherwise be disenfranchised simply due to the fact that they moved. I'm pretty sure that there isn't anything in the U.S. Constitution that says you can't vote unless you have all of your ID documents updated properly.

It appears that Kersten supports a bill by Republican Tom Emmer that would require proof of citizenship in order to register. So if you want to register on the day of the election, better make sure that you have a notarized copy of your birth certificate available! And if you don't, well, tough. Democracy only extends to the prepared, I guess.

Kersten writes, "Some would ask: Is there a real problem here?" Good question. I and many others are still waiting for real, concrete proof that voter fraud is a huge problem in Minnesota. Not just stories and "could happen" thought experiments.

Abortion in El Salvador

Here's the actual article. It's one of those must-reads.

Legislators go home!

They may actually do so early. After several years of finishing right at the deadline, if not significantly past, that would be a miracle. But I will believe it when I see it.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Learn something Friday!

Pharyngula rocks. Scientist, outspoken atheist, tireless fighter against the Creationists, lover of cephalopods...what isn't there to like? Today he has up a post that describes how Plan B works, a.k.a. the "morning after pill", that is so simple yet so complete anybody can understand it. Sure, I have long known how hormonal birth control works, but get gets into the interesting minutiae, complete with hormone graph. It's great.

It also conclusively demonstrates how Plan B does not and can not cause an abortion; rather, it prevents ovulation in the first place. So why are Republicans against it? It can't be about being "pro-life", leaving just one answer: they are anti-sex, and anti-women. You don't think so? Well, then give me one good reason to oppose Plan B that doesn't involve moral judgments on sexual behaviour.

Gopher stadium bill vote

...is here.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Gophers stadium passes House

I have to admit I'm a bit surprised at the vote total. I said yesterday that the Krinkie minority report vote (at something like 90-40 against) could be viewed as a somewhat inaccurate barometer of support for the stadium; I expected that fewer people would vote for the stadium than voted against Krinkie. But just the opposite happened. The final vote total was 103-30 in favor.

It doesn't look like the House Journal recording the actual vote is up yet; I guess I will have to wait until tomorrow to link to it.

The Republican future

If you want to know what Republicans want for us in terms of reproductive rights, you need look no further than El Salvador, where it has been illegal for women to have abortions for any reason for eight years. This week's New York Times Magazine has a story about it, and the author of the story is interviewed here.

Women thrown in prison for 30 years for having an abortion. Women prevented from getting an abortion for an ectopic pregnancy until her fallopian tube bursts and she starts bleeding internally. The police getting search warrants for women's vaginas to investigate evidence of an illegal abortion taking place. This is serious. This is real. And this is exactly what the people behind South Dakota's abortion ban want.

David Strom: Idiot

Yeah, we already know that Strom of the Taxpayer's League is a moron, but it appears to be getting worse. Via MDE, whose content of late has been pretty sad ("Barack Obama lost an election once!", "Democrats should return money given to them by some people, uh, just because!"), we see that Minneapolis City Hall needs a new roof. A gravel roof will last 20 years and cost $1.2 million; by my math, that's $60,000 per year of life. A "green" roof, which covers the roof with several kinds of plants, will last 36 years and cost $1.7 million; a bit more than $47,000 per year. Plus, the green roof is better for the environment by providing wildlife habitat downtown and reducing storm water runoff. So it's cheaper over the roof's lifespan, nice for the environment...a no-brainer, right?

Well, only if you aren't no-brainer David Strom, who is opposed to it and thinks it is unnecessary, that it's only a gimmick. So, Mr. Strom, why do you oppose this? Do you just hate Minneapolis? Are you incapable of simple math? Did your Magic 8 Ball tell you to say this? What is it?

Allow me to introduce a concept to Mr. Strom called long-term planning. Taxpayer League zealots who only care about cutting taxes as much as possible now, and damn the consequences, may not understand that over the long run a larger up-front expense may be a good thing. But it's how those of us in the reality-based community do our budgets and live our lives! Care to learn more?

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Katherine Kersten's Korner

Today's kolumn is about Minneapolis Chess, a program for engaging kids in the sport. I like chess, and I think programs like these are great, so I'm going to give her a break for today.

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

Nick Coleman's Corner

Yes, I know that usually I savage Star Tribune Columnist Katherine Kersten in this space, who so richly deserves. Nick Coleman, on the other hand, is somebody I usually agree with or at the very least have few problems with. However, his most recent column, about the "crime epidemic" in Minneapolis, is a bit different.

Let there be no doubt that the senseless killings in Uptown and Downtown in the past couple of weeks are true tragedies. However, this does not mean that the sky is falling, or that Minneapolis is once again becoming "Murderapolis". If you listen to some people, however, you would think that armed gangs of thugs are terrorizing everybody. Nick Coleman seems to be a bit alarmist.

Coleman starts by describing the surveillance tape of the gruesome murder, and it is rightly awful. Somebody dies because he is in the wrong place at the wrong time. If the response times are accurate (two minutes for the police to arrive, another seven minutes for paramedics), then it sounds like emergency personnel got there quite quickly. All well and good so far.

But then he moves on to expressing outrage at all of the things people have said about the murders, that they were random, an aberration, and that the killers are deeply troubled. Not good enough, according to Coleman. And maybe he's right. But to me, the fact that these were very random acts is relevant. These aren't gang turf battles that could be expected to continue on indefinitely. This isn't organized. These are individual screwed up people. They will always exist. I'm not going to let them keep me from enjoying the city, any more than I let potential drunk drivers keep me off the roads.

Coleman says that we have gangs of unruly youth in the streets, and we do. So do most large cities. But what are we going to do about them? More cops comes the answer. Swell, but how will you pay for them? And are we going to criminalize being a youth on a corner?

Plus, there's always the racial component to this. When you hear "gangs of unruly youth in the streets" of Minneapolis, most people are immediately going to picture a group of black youth, not white. Groups of white youth usually don't enter into people's images of the big bad city. Again, criminalizing hanging out on a corner is not going to help the situation.

Coleman's next comment is the one I find the most odd. He says, "If people are bringing a .44 Magnum into a movie theater in the heart of the city's entertainment district, where are the metal detectors?" Somehow, I doubt that tourists and people from the suburbs are going to feel more comfortable about walking around downtown if there are metal detectors all over the place. It's a city, not a prison camp.

More cops would be great, but as I said before, there seem to be a lack of discussions about how they will be paid for. Even if we did have more cops, though, it's hard to see how either of these two crimes would have been prevented. Unfortunately, there are going to be murders in Minneapolis, and they will all be senseless. We should do what we can to make the city as safe as possible, but panicking is not the answer.

Gophers stadium plan one step closer

The House Ways and Means Committee approved a Gophers stadium plan that would have the state paying $9.4 million a year for 25 years. It could now conceivably be voted on by the full House, as soon as Thursday.

The bill is not without its detractors. Today on the House floor, where committee reports are usually approved with little fanfare, Republican Phil Krinkie, candidates for the 6th CD, tried to shunt the money to improving the U's research and medical science instead. He failed, however, on a very lopsided vote. Now, that procedural vote probably is not an indicator of the support that the bill itself has, but if it is, the Gophers are in good shape.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Republican infighting in the 6th CD

Man, is it getting ugly.

I'm not surprised that Michelle Bachmann would pull out all the stops and start hitting people in the knees with crowbars. She is the kind of person I wouldn't turn my back on for a second. But Reps. Krinkie and Knoblach? House colleagues? That's a bit surprising. I wouldn't have expected such a down-and-dirty street fight from either of them, but that's exactly what is happening.

Well, all I can say is keep slapping each other around, folks.

Crazy leftists

I'm with Dr. Ralph Goldstein on a lot of what he sayshere. Not necessarily about not being represented if Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer is elected, or that I love the DLC (I certainly do not), but about the left-wing crazies in the process. I do consider myself to be a moderate on a lot of issues. More than that, though, I consider myself to be a rational person who tries to find real solutions to problems.

I don't support Nelson-Pallmeyer not because he is against the war in Iraq. I am too. But he, like a lot of people in this world on the left end of the spectrum, seems to be a complete and total pacifist. War should never be undertaken lightly, but sometimes it needs to be done. That's an unfortunate fact of life.

The conspiracy-theory stuff certainly isn't helping. I'd like to be able to say that only the right has conspiracy wackos, but there are some people on the left who are equally mired in a shadowy world. At least it is still pretty safe to say that only the right wing openly calls for murder and genocide, though.

I know that Minneapolis and the 5th CD are very liberal, but that doesn't mean it needs to be represented by a crazy person.

Bigotry hits a brick wall

As expected, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted against the marriage amendment today, hopefully killing it for the rest of the year. Michelle Bachmann and her band of bigots have been stymied.

I especially like the part where she emphasizes that she is against civil unions too. "Civil unions fail to offer a civil compromise. Civil union is marriage by just another name." Keep on saying that, Michelle. Considering that the majority of people in this state do not want to ban civil unions by any stretch of the imagination, the more you say that, the shorter your political career will be.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Dedicated sales tax passes in Senate

A plan for a constitutional amendment to increase the sales tax and dedicate it to the environment, conservation, parks, trails and the arts, passed in the Senate. It would raise the sales tax by 3/8 of a percentage point and dedicate the revenue for 25 years. The House version is currently a catch-all for all kinds of goofy constitutional amendments; its future is unknown.

I don't know what I feel about this. Funding for the environment and conservation is good, but I don't like dedicated accounts. We shall see.

Domestic Terrorism

That's exactly what this is. I bet Rice County law enforcement officers even caught these people without secret wiretaps.

It will be interesting to hear what these guys' angle was. I'm glad they were caught before they could harm anybody.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Katherine Kersten's Korner

I've been reading Kersten's kolumns for a while, and it sure is starting to get old. Today's kolumn isn't making it any better. In it, she talks about how Macalester students want to protest Coca Cola, and what's wrong with it.

Wingnuttia level: 5 (Hypocrisy alert)

As a target, Macalester students are pretty pathetic. Everybody knows that they are a bit on the completely insane side when it comes to these kinds of social causes. So Kersten isn't courageously speaking truth to power; she's kicking somebody who has been down for a long, long time.

But even when she does so, she finds ways to be hacktacular. Coke can do no wrong because it has "friendly folks". Coke's only crime is being a "big U.S. corporation", as if people don't like Coke simply because it is rich. Macalester students may not be providing many facts to back up their claims, but neither is Kersten.

Kersten thinks that students should learn to think critically. She may need a refresher course herself. Me, I just plan on ignoring both sides.

Abortion in South Dakota

Can you pick out the crazy people?