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Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Judicial elections

The filing of a campaign finance complaint over a judicial retreat is just one more reason why we need to end judicial elections in this state. We vote for the legislature. We vote for the governor. We don't need to vote for all three branches of government. The judiciary should be non-partisan, but a far-right Republican activist decided that's a bad idea, so here we are.

Or if you don't want to get rid of elections entirely, how about one election a few years after the judge is chosen by a non-partisan panel of experts? That, combined with recall, is good enough.

Governor news

Governor Pawlenty is running again, which is expected, and which I really don't have any comment on.

Becky Lourey chose former Viking Tim Baylor to be her running mate, which I also don't have a whole lot of comment on.

I guess it is one of those days.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Katherine Kersten's Korner

Today's kolumn is an appropriate one for Memorial Day, about an author searching for the stories behind the graves that dot Fort Snelling cemetery.

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

Happy Memorial Day, everybody.


Hey, it's been two years now. Rawk on!

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Want some idiocy with your morning coffee?

Check it out. "Nationwide abortion chain" indeed. I've noticed that Planned Parenthood has McDonald's-like signs saying "Over 1 Billion Served".

These people need to stop using their skulls for storing old rags and maybe, you know, find some facts. They are as far from being pro-life as you can get.

Net neutrality

There is a good article in the Star Tribune today.


I hope Sid Hartman's salary is considered to be a Twins lobbying expenditure.

For want of courage

So it appears that the stadium deal was nearly undone. While this isn't surprising to those people who were intimately involved in the process, to most people it might be news. What I thought when I read that story, though, is that if a couple of senators had the courage of their convictions, it could have turned out much differently. Instead of a story about how the state almost didn't give millions of dollars to billionaires, the story could be about how a brave bunch of legislators finally stood up to the threats from major league sports and told them to pay their own way, just like the hard-working citizens of Minnesota have to do.

But all for naught.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Journalisming is hard

So the wingnuts are up in arms about a new Planned Parenthood clinic opening up in Woodbury. I had heard this story earlier and dismissed it as sheer idiocy, but it seems to be sticking around. Apparently, these people have a problem with providing birth control and other health care services to women and men. There will be no abortions performed there, so that excuse is out. No, this time, they are protesting because of the birth control, such as the morning after pill. The group of protesters seems to include Senator Brian LeClair, so moderate suburbanites take note: LeClair is against birth control. It's have kids or no sex, I guess.

Typical reactions from the right-wing theocrats, to be sure. What makes me mad about the Pioneer Press story, though, has nothing to do with the protest itself. Instead, it is the shoddy journalism in the article, which passes on all attempts to educate people and reverts to the tired old he-said, she-said "balance" that passes for critical thought these days.

I am referring specifically to this quote from some pro-life protester: Kiolbasa said the morning-after pill is "a form of abortion, and we have a big problem with that." Elsewhere in the story, it says that "no abortions will be performed." What we are left with is a disconnect, two incompatible facts that the writer does nothing to clear up.

Say it with me, folks. Plan B Is. Not. An. Abortion. Like other forms of hormonal birth control, it prevents ovulation. If a woman who is pregnant takes the morning after pill, it will not terminate the pregnancy. For more information, see Pharyngula's excellent and detailed post on the subject.

Now, I don't expect the Pioneer Press to go into minute details about how Plan B works, but I do expect that Kiolbasa's blatant lie should be corrected. She is wrong. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. But the story makes it sound like it is some kind of difference of opinion.

These people say these things because they know that they can get away with it. Journalists have a pathological aversion to calling liars liars. "Nobody could have forseen that the levees would be breached", remember? "We know where the WMDs are", remember? They continue to get away with it because journalists don't call them on it.

What could have been written instead is something like "Kiolbasa said the morning-after pill is 'a form of abortion, and we have a big problem with that.' However, Plan B contraception is not an abortifacient like mifeprestone and does not terminate an existing pregnancy. Instead, if taken quickly enough, it can prevent ovulation." Then maybe the public would learn something and stop confusing Plan B with RU-486.

Perhaps it would be wise to contact the Pioneer Press or the writer of the article to share.

Oh, and keep this in mind: the far right is not only trying to do away with abortion. They want to do away with all birth control, as is becoming increasingly evident.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Immigrants not so bad after all

Last December, a report was issued by the Pawlenty administration that purported to show how much immigrants cost the state. The report was highly dubious and neglected lots of key information, such as how much revenue immigrants raised. Now, a new report from the Legislative Auditor shows that they earlier report was, in fact, wrong: in the long term, legal immigrants are a net gain, although at the local level that may not be the case.

Something to ponder.

Erlandson running in primary

So Mike Erlandson is going to run in the primary for the Fifth Congressional district. Hmm. Like Rod Grams, he must have a hankerin' to lose an election.

Katherine Kersten's Korner

Today's kolumn is about how KTIS, a Christian radio station, is the number two station in the metro area in the morning. Since I rarely listen to the radio, and never to Christian radio stations, this isn't too terribly interesting to me. Good for KTIS, I guess.

Wingnuttia Level: 1 (Pockets of insanity)

I don't know what "coarseness" Kersten is talking about on other points of the dial (aside from the top-rated morning station, KQRS), so I can't really comment on that. I would like to say, however, that I hope Kersten never writes anything about how persecuted poor Christians are and how they are marginalized by society; marginalized people don't have the second-highest rated radio station. Not that there was any truth to the myth that Christians have it so hard these days; now, Kersten simply doesn't have an excuse to argue that in the future.

Monday, May 22, 2006

From the department of "duh!"

This has nothing to do with politics, but when I read it, it provoked some serious questions about the naïveté of the buyers of these luxurious condos. Apparently, some people are shocked, shocked that the condos they are buying are noisy and smelly; they can hear and smell what their neighbors are doing. It's almost like living in a large building and sharing living space!

Excuse me? What were these people thinking? As the article says, a condo is something you buy, an apartment is something you lease. Other than that, there is no difference. Do people really expect that living in a condo is going to be different?

In any case, I think that the downtown condo market is becoming seriously overbuilt. I wouldn't recommend buying a condo anytime soon unless you want to have some negative equity in a few years.

Session wrapup

You know where to find the links for this.

All in all, it's a pretty mixed session. Legislators can point to several things and say that they "accomplished" something, unlike previous do-nothing sessions: a billion-dollar bonding bill, stadiums, more money for sex offenders, a few smaller issues like data privacy. On the other hand, "stadiums" isn't what a whole lot of people wanted, and neither side got anything good to appease their bases. There was no property tax relief. Democrats did not get anything like more transit funding, health care, or reversals of previous budget cuts. Republicans did not get huge tax cuts, anti-abortion bills, bills about hating teh gay, or other social conservative issues.

About the stadium issue: a pox on both their houses, may brimstone rain down upon them, yada yada. There were plenty of cowards on both sides with regards to this issue, but let it be known that the Twins stadium bill passed the Senate by two votes, and two Minneapolis senators voted for it. I think that Rep. Ron Abrams made a good point: since the final bill included a bribe in the form of using some of the sales tax revenue to pay for libraries and Youth Works, what's going to stop every other city in Minnesota from coming to the legislature and asking for a sales tax increase to pay for continuing programs like these? Local sales tax, with few exceptions, don't pay for operations, they pay for capital projects. But that precedent is gone.

I did read one article somewhere saying that because the sales tax dedication to natural resources didn't pass, Senate Democrats will be held responsible, mainly because they screwed up the bill by including arts funding." Whatever. It is just as likely that people will blame House Republicans, who screwed up the bill by having two ballot questions and refusing to raise new revenue with the bill, instead creating a big old budget hole that nobody wanted to fill. In any case, I don't see the failure of that bill being a big deal in the long run.

And in the long run, it looks like the only real winners this year were Carl Pohlad and Jerry Bell.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Katherine Kersten's Korner II

Aren't we lucky? Two kolumns to read today. The second is about how Minnesota is now a "Purple" state, instead of a Democratic "Blue" one. Uh-huh.

True, party self-identification is at parity, and the state is not as Democratic as it used to be. But I hardly doubt a grand Republican revolution is going to occur.

The key lies in this statement from a CAE conservative: "When I speak to Republican groups, I'm always amazed at the number of people who, like me, have come from other states, where -- for example -- taxes are much lower. They say, 'It doesn't have to be like this.' "

Think about that. All these people are coming here from other states to enjoy the things that Minnesota has. A good education system. Parks and natural resources. High employment. Good health care coverage. All of the things that make Minnesota ranked consistently as one of the best places to live. And all things that cost money and take a community to create.

I doubt that most Republicans who move here consciously think about pillaging Minnesota, but this is exactly the kind of thinking that Annette Meeks is demonstrating. The things that make Minnesota great did not spring up out of nowhere. It took the entire community to decide to pay more for the things that really matter, to stick together and try to improve everybody's life. These are the things that don't exist in Mississippi, Texas, or any of the other states that these people are coming here from. They seek to enjoy what they did not have, and yet they also seek to destroy what makes it possible.

After several years of Republican control in the governor's mansion and the legislature, people are beginning to see this. "No new taxes" doesn't mean a better life, it means larger class sizes, more money to go to state parks, and bottlenecks on the freeway.

If the Republicans who come here want to create the Alabama of the north, people aren't going to be fooled.

Katherine Kersten's Korner

We apparently have a Sunday kolumn today, and even though I am in no mood for insane rantings, Kersten is. Today it's all about how the nasty, evil, left media is making all those Catholics feel bad because they are, uh, covering a movie or something.

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

Okay, Kersten and everybody else who is getting the vapors over this: It's a movie! And, once more for good effect: It's a book!

Honestly, who gives a damn about what some fiction book says about Catholicism? Why do you people care? What is wrong with you? Are you incapable of telling the difference between what is fact and what is made up? Well, for some of the most fervent believers, probably...

Just because the media is mentioning The Da Vinci Code doesn't mean it is out to get Catholics. Although I have never read the book, nor seen the movie, nor plan to do either, I seem to remember that is is a pretty successful thing. So, probably, it's being reported on because a lot of people are interested, not because reporters wanted to get in some Catholic-bashing in between their bouts of eating aborted fetuses.

I view Kersten's reaction to this faux "issue" in the same way that I viewed the Muhammad cartoons: people who feel that the best response to cartoons is to torch things and kill people are $*%#*! idiots. And people who think that the media is out to get Catholics somehow because tens of millions of people have bought a book are also $*%#*! idiots. Do you people not have lives?

But the thing that makes me most angry about this kolumn is her last line: "Mocking and maligning the Catholic Church is the last safe harbor of bigots in this multicultural world." No, Kersten, mocking and maligning the GLBT community is the last safe harbor of bigots, and it is something that you and other conservatives do regularly.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Crunch time

Twins stadium looks like a done deal, as is the Gophers; the Senate completely rolled over on everything. Right now, conference committees are feverishly working to get everything done, in time so that bills can be passed tomorrow morning, noon, and night. Monday is the last day, but no bills can be passed that day, so Saturday is it. What fun!

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Stadium update

It looks like there will be a final bill for a Gophers and Twins stadium; the Vikings are out of luck. If the Twins bill taxes me without a referendum...well, I will not be a happy camper.


What is this person thinking? She deserves the ticket. She deserves no sympathy. And Rep. Paulsen is dead wrong if he agrees that the ticket was out of line.

MnPass allows single drivers to access the HOV lane in one place: I-394. You know, where all the toll and MnPass signs actually are. It does not count as an extra person. All of the other HOV lanes and ramps around the metro, you know, the ones without MnPass signs and signs indicating how much you have to pay, have nothing to do with MnPass. Get it?

Seriously, what is this person thinking? That MnPass really is a Lexus Lane, a way for those with money to simply bypass all the plebs sitting at the ramp meters? Is there a sticker on the transponder that leads people to believe that they can use all HOV lanes? Are people that foolish?

Apparently, yes.

Katherine Kersten's Korner

It's time for another Kersten kolumn, and this one is once again tilted beyond belief. I really don't expect Kersten to be fair and balanced, but since she isn't, shouldn't an editor somewhere keep her from claiming that she is? This Thursday's insanity is all about how horribly partisan things are today. The bad example of partisanship: a Democrat. The good example of how things used to be: a conservative she used to work with at the conservative Center of the American Experiment. It's like the flip side of the lobbying scandals, where almost all the bad guys are Republican but it's painted as a bipartisan scandal.

Wingnuttia Level: 8 (Give me a #$%(*%! break)

Yes, things are more partisan than they used to be. That's the consequence of the age that we live in. We have an expanded media, along with sharply more partisan niche media. We have the same thing online. We have lots of soft money and single-issue groups. Since Kersten is such a conservative, maybe she would like to go back and live in the 1950s, or 1850s, or whenever, but that's not happening.

Like I said, it's very intersting that Kersten gives an example of a naughty partisan Democrat, but doesn't give an example of a naughty partisan Republican (and Bachmann deserves all the scorn she gets). The good guy is somebody who is obviously extremely conservative, even if a DFLer; you've got to be pretty conservative to be on the board of the CAE.

This DFLer, Sandy Keith, goes on to talk about how things used to be: no party affiliations, Republicans representing parts of Minneapolis and Saint Paul, that kind of thing. Which may be interesting from a historical point of view, but what does this teach us about what we can do today? Absolutely nothing.

That't the key: the kolumn is nothing more than some old codgers reminiscing at the nursing home talking about how much better things were before. No interesting ideas on how to be less partisan in today's environment. No examples of people who are trying to cross the divide. Nothing that anybody can put to good use. And that's why this kolumn is pretty worthless.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

So it IS a tax

The Minnesota Supreme Court has ruled that the state can keep collecting the cigarette tax. While good for the state, this will complicate the end of the legislative session. With $400 million to spend, everybody is going to have an idea on how to spend it, and there are only five days left. From predicting an early adjournment...to this.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Important issues facing the state

This just makes me feel embarrassed. Legislation requiring students to say the Pledge of Allegiance in English only? Wow, that's an important issue.

I hear that the Bible has been translated into languages other than English; perhaps somebody should tell Rep. Seifert about that too.

Profiles in wishful thinking

Sorry buddy, but you aren't going to win.

Katherine Kersten's Korner

Today's kolumn is a feel-good story about a kid from an orphanage in China. Because it contains no idiocy, and because I have a non-Kersten related headache, I think that's all the comment that needs to be made about this one.

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

Sunday, May 14, 2006

More poll results

Unsurprisingly, when people hear that they don't have to pay for stadiums, they don't care as much. Cynical politics indeed.

I guess we no longer live in a time when things are wrong just because they are wrong. Giving hundreds of millions of dollars to billionaires so they can play? Not wrong. The government collecting data on the private domestic phone calls of its citizens, like the Stasi and KGB? Not wrong.

Sviggum continues to be a grade-A hypocrite, saying that he would say "no" to public funding for stadiums, but when he doesn't have to personally pay for it, it's alllllll good. He then asks whether people would support money for the Guthrie or a "bridge in Warroad." Arts funding is debatable, but people do tend to support it. And road funding is a function of government, last time I checked, so I really wouldn't have a problem with a bridge in Warroad. Good examples though.

Wetterling endorsed

That's pretty much fine by me. Not that I had anything against Tinklenberg. Either would be fine, but I think that Wetterling's name ID and positions may make for a better contrast between her and Bachmann.

Saturday, May 13, 2006


Finally, there are poll results that show just how strongly Minnesotans are against public money for stadiums. A new Minnesota Poll shows that two-thirds of people polled are against new stadiums. Less than one third of people think that the Twins or Gophers need a new stadium; the number drops to less than one in four for a Vikings stadium.

What really makes me toss my cookies, though, is Steve Sviggum's quote. He said that "sometimes in life it takes leadership" to take action that may counter results of a poll. Excuse me? Passing the civil rights bills in the 1960s took leadership. Voting against enshrining bigotry in the state's constitution takes leadership. Giving a billion dollars of taxpayer money to billionaires when the people who pay those taxes want it spent elsewhere does not take "leadership." It means you are bought and paid for.

It is disgusting that Sviggum would imply that voting for a stadium is something that takes courage.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Hold onto your wallets

Since giving millions of dollars to billionaires seems to be a top priority for Steve Sviggum and Governor Pawlenty, it would be a good idea to watch you wallets, as the conference committee for the stadium bills has been put together.

Both Sviggum and Dean Johnson have said that they wanted to be done by Syttende Mai, or May 17th for all of you non-Norwegians. Why a Norwegian holiday as the deadline? Maybe Sviggum and Johnson just want to get together and celebrate their heritage (along with the Wege perhaps?). But that's not going to happen at this rate.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Credit where it's due

I hate Qwest. I haven't had Qwest phone service for years, and getting rid of them made me very happy. But I have to give them credit for not giving in to the government's domestic spying. No kudos for AT&T and the others, who have apparently happily turned over phone records to the NSA, records on domestic calls that innocent Americans are making. There is no exaggeration anymore: this is Big Brother.

There is no justification for this, no reason. It is tyranny. I can't believe that only one company refused to spy on its customers. Perhaps the others are being paid off nicely, as some have said.

And just because the content of the phone conversations aren't being given to the government doesn't make it okay. Traffic analysis can be just as good as the conversations themselves. If you are a cheating husband, all the proof your wife needs is in the records of who you are calling and when; what you happen to be saying doesn't matter so much.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Even more wonkery

Mr. Anonymous, who is famous throughout the ages for his wisdom, posted a few more items of liberal blogosphere wonkery:
  • Strengthen and enforce regulations about competitive bidding for Federal contracts: yep, HUD seems to have a bit of a problem with this of late. Contracts should not be based on partisan hackery or used as kickbacks.
  • Don't pay contractor bills if the contractor can't provide legitemate receipts and/or proof of work: if the Democrats do take control of the House or Senate, the first thing I would like to see them do is open investigations into the waste of billions of dollars of our money in Iraq. Literally billions have just "disappeared". This is unconscionable.
  • Allow Medicare to negotiate lower drug pricing: yes. The fact that this was explicitly banned in the Medicare drug plan law is disgusting, nothing more than a sop to drug companies. The good thing about being huge is being able to negotiate discounts; just ask Wal-Mart.
  • Support "Net Neutrality": I'm already a big supporter of this issue, which shouldn't be partisan.
  • Adhere to FISA requirements: yes, another one of those simple ones. We should definitely be spying on terrorists, but there is no reason not to go through the court system to do so. If there is something wrong with existing law, let's hear it and debate it.
  • STOP F---ING with REAL scientific research: of course. When it comes to topics like sex ed, global warming, or anything that shows that reality has a liberal bias, Republican fundies go nuts. They are nothing more than anti-science medievalists.
  • Promote serious campaign finance reform: well, the devil is in the details here. Without knowing more, I can't comment.
  • Get the foxes out of the henhouse: sure. While oil companies, drug companies, and other sectors should definitely be able to add their input in the policy process because they know a lot about the issue, they shouldn't dictate policy. Secret meetings like the energy policy shenanigans are disgusting.
These things aren't really all that radical. Mainly, it is about the government being responsible and accountable to those who it works for: us. Not to big corporations, not to the minority wackos, but to the American people as a whole.

More evidence of transportation funding shortfalls

More and more of our roads have poor surfaces, which means more potholes, more cracks, more bumps, and more vehicle damage. While MnDOT has spent much in recent years on big projects, routine maintenance funding has not kept up with demand.

Because the gas tax has not been increased in almost two decades, MnDOT increasingly has to make these tradeoffs: more money for expanding capacity, less money for maintenance. More money for maintenance, less money for adding lanes. It's time that leadership, especially Governor Pawlenty, do something about this. This means giving MnDOT more revenue, plain and simple. There is no other solution.

Katherine Kersten's Korner

Holy crap. Today's kolumn comes completely out of left field. She talks about the Body Worlds exhibit at the Science Museum, but says that it Disney-fies death, whereas real death "devastates us, bringing anguish and loss or unbearable pain." Huh?

Wingnuttia Level: ??? (I don't even know how to classify this one)

The only explanation that I can come up with as to why Kersten has such a view on death is that recently she has experienced a death that devastated her, brought her anguish and pain. Of course, many deaths are like that, and these feelings are completely normal. But not all deaths are like that; some deaths, like those that come at the end of a long terminal illness, may be about finally being freed from pain. And to connect her feelings about death to the Body World exhibit makes no sense at all.

I think the exhibit is very cool and I definitely plan on going. It is not disrespectful to exhibit people in this way; in fact, by educating the masses about how anatomy really works, it is very respectful. Moreover, her concerns that "How would our view of Body Worlds change if we knew that one of these "whole body specimens" -- intestines spilling out, muscles splayed and flying --was John, the friendly guy next door, who died four years ago with his family weeping at his bedside?" are completely ridiculous. People in the exhibit actively chose to donate their bodies, so if John thought that he would make a more lasting impression on this Earth after his death by being in this exhibit instead of decomposing underground, more power to him. I can definitely respect that.

Body Worlds doesn't treat people like stuffed goats. It treats people exactly how they want to be treated. Nothing wrong with that at all.

To say that plastinization gives people eternal life, as Kersten seems to believe, is also ridiculous. It may make better use out of corpses than worm food, but it doesn't give anybody eternal life. The bodies are all anonymous; even if we knew that neighbor John donated his body to Body Works, there is no way to tell which is his. How is that for eternal life?

Like I said, maybe Kersten has struggled recently with a very difficult death. Just about any feelings that arise from such an experience are okay. Personally, I don't fear death, and I have experienced it firsthand, from grandparents dying to the death of somebody who was far too young. While death may be unpleasant sometimes, it is simply a part of life. We must always realize that. Ignoring it, keeping it away from our senses, or not thinking about it are hardly healthy ways of living.

More liberal policy wonkery

The Anti-Strib takes me to task for the list of liberal policy planks, because I don't include anything on foreign policy or immigration. Fair enough. Let's hit it.

Foreign policy: engage in multilateralism. Promote democracy and human rights around the world: this means stop cozying up to autocratic regimes like the ones in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Egypt, to name a few. They may be allies in the GWOT, but they are not our allies in the realm of human rights.

With regards to Iraq, get out. We shouldn't have gone in there in the first place, and unless we are willing to be occupiers, using brute force to keep everybody in line, we are only hurting things. I don't think the U.S. is ready to be a colonial power, so get out. Iran: we have plenty of time to deal with this, years and years. There is no imminent danger. However, we need to think about what we will do in a world where more and more countries have nuclear weapons. This is inevitable. I have no ideas on that.

Stop being hypocrites. If we support democracy, that means we support democracy even when we don't like the results of elections.

I am a free-trader. This is probably something that many liberals will disagree with.

On immigration: amnesty for illegal immigrants. Sharply increased quotas for legal immigration. No guest-worker program. Severe crackdowns on businesses that hire illegal immigrants. A lot of people will disagree with me on this one too, but this is what I believe.

As for the abstinence issue, I posted a reply in comments over there but I'll repeat it here: abstinence is great. I think that all teens and all people who are not ready for sexual relationships should be abstinent. However, abstinence-only programs do not work, and those who say that they do are lying. Study after study proves this. Moreover, lots of abstinence-only programs are full of lies on methods of contraceptions, such as the myth that condoms can't block the HIV virus because the pores are larger than the size of the virus itself. Blah blah blah.

It is irresponsible and immoral to withhold life-saving information from people. Abstinence doesn't last forever, and once people become sexually active they need to know what to do. I am always confused by this: according to abstinence-only supporters, once a person becomes sexually active where are they supposed to get information on being healthy, on safe sex, on birth control, and the rest?

One thing that I think separates me from lots of religious conservatives is that I don't buy the "Do this because I say so" line of reasoning. While it may work for some, generally people stop listening to that excuse long before they reach puberty. Teens are semi-intelligent young adults. If you give them all the information, teach them that abstinence is 100% effective, condoms are X% effective, and so on, they might just figure out using rational thought that it is better to abstain for a while. Believing in something because you thought it out yourself works a lot better than hearing "Don't have sex because God says so."

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

What liberal bloggers believe

Atrios has a pretty interesting post on many of the policy-wonkish things that bloggers on the left tend to believe. I can't say I have much disagreement with it:
  • Undo the bankruptcy bill enacted by this administration: definitely. Many, if not a majority, of bankruptcies in this country are due to medical bills, not people going hog-wild with the credit card. However, the bill passed by Congress assumes the latter. There is no reason why a bill can't be targeted towards punishing the irresponsible, and helping those who are a victim of circumstance.
  • Repeal the estate tax repeal: sure. The only estates that are taxed are those that are worth millions of dollars. We used to believe in egalitarianism in this country; dying with the most toys is nothing to worship. Pohlad, I'm looking in your general direction.
  • Increase the minimum wage and index it to the CPI: if you aren't going to do away with the minimum wage, this is the only sensible solution. Inflation is real.
  • Universal health care (obviously the devil is in the details on this one): yes. Would definitely help with the bankruptcy issue too.
  • Increase CAFE standards. Some other environment-related regulation: yes, again. The only thing that might help our energy crisis.
  • Pro-reproductive rights, getting rid of abstinence-only education, improving education about and access to contraception including the morning after pill, and supporting choice. On the last one there's probably some disagreement around the edges (parental notification, for example), but otherwise: yes, yes, yes. No "abstinence-only" lies. More access to contraception. Parental notification I don't like, but I can't make a good argument against it. Waiting periods, bogus "informational packets" also full of lies should go.
  • Simplify and increase the progressivity of the tax code: again, yes. Simplify, get rid of most deductions and loopholes, and tweak the progressivity. This would benefit everybody.
  • Kill faith-based funding. Certainly kill federal funding of anything that engages in religious discrimination: yes. No evangelism with tax dollars.
  • Reduce corporate giveaways: yes, see tax code and my stadium rants.
  • Have Medicare run the Medicare drug plan: what a concept! Having Medicare run it instead of the drug companies!
  • Force companies to stop underfunding their pensions. Change corporate bankruptcy law to put workers and retirees at the head of the line with respect to their pensions: pension underfunding is a huge issue. Imagine paying for Social Security, Medicare, pensions, $10 a gallon gas, and a war with Venezuela all at the same time. Actually, don't think about it: it's too depressing.
  • Leave the states alone on issues like medical marijuana. Generally move towards "more decriminalization" of drugs, though the details complicated there too: yes.
  • Imprison Jeff Goldstein for crimes against humanity for his neverending stupidity: well, there are probably people who could go to the head of the line before Goldstein.
  • Paper ballots: no more Diebold disappearing magical ballots. Optiscan works.
  • Improve access to daycare and other pro-family policies. Obiously details matter: you can't expect single mothers to work and get off welfare without child care. You can't expect lots of two-income earner families to do this considering how expensive child care is.
  • Raise the cap on wages covered by FICA taxes: yes. It increases the progressivity of our tax system. There is no need for a wage cap.
Other, "duh" things, really don't need a comment:
  • Torture is bad
  • Imprisoning citizens without charges is bad
  • Playing Calvinball with the Geneva Conventions and treaties generally is bad
  • Imprisoning anyone indefinitely without charges is bad
  • Stating that the president can break any law he wants any time "just because" is bad
  • Marriage rights for all, which includes "gay marriage" and quicker transition to citizenship for the foreign spouses of citizens: get government out of the marriage business altogether. Churches marry. Governments have civil unions.
One more thing I'd like to add is treating all income the same. Please, explain to me how it is fair that a middle-class person, like a cop, teacher, manager, or any other worker can pay a marginal rate of 25% or 28% by showing up to work every day, while a millionaire can make a hundred thousand bucks on a sale of appreciated stock and pay 15% in some circumstances. Anybody? Bueller? How about treating income as income?

I seem to have attracted a troll to this blog. Notice, troll, that there is nothing radical on this list. Nothing about forced veganism, throwing paint on people wearing fur, or "butt pirating" (leave me out of your fantasies, thank you very much). Just relatively simple and common-sense things that the Republicans have completely ignored in their slavishness to corporate America and the Christian Fundamentalist wackos.

Governor Pawlenty hates medicine

Well, he does.

Here's an idea: let's legalize pot. Not make it legal for registered medicinal use. Not "decriminalize" it. Legalize it, sell it in stores just like liquor or tobacco. Tax it, regulate it, make sure it is pure, all that good stuff. Same for hemp. Banning hemp is like banning the potato during Prohibition.

Tobacco has no medical value at all, but it is legal. Alcohol has limited medical value (and next to none in the forms it is usually consumed in), has huge social consequences, but is legal. Marijuana has medical benefits, and it's social consequences are no worse than alcohol, and usually much more benign (have you ever heard of a person getting violent after smoking a joint and battering his wife or girlfriend? Me neither). So let's all be adults here and legalize it. I'm tired of this stupid War on Drugs, and I'm tired of politicians pretending like reality doesn't exist when the subject turns to this. Governor Pawlenty may be no Rhodes Scholar, but even I think that he is smart enough to realize that marijuana has real medical benefits. So why pretend otherwise?

Gas tax holiday

Several Republican legislators are proposing that the state stop collecting the 20 cent per gallon gas tax until the end of the year. This would be done in order to give Minnesotans some relief at the pump.

But before you start celebrating, keep this in mind: like the property tax relief (Krinkie Checks), this would only happen if the state wins the lawsuit over the tobacco "fee". So once again it is a "wouldn't it be nice if?" plan. Hey, how about a plan for what the state would do if it won a billion-dollar lottery jackpot?

Although it's not as bad as the property tax plan because a gas tax holiday would be more beneficial to lower- and middle-class people, it's still not very good policy. Especially since the state has a huge transportation budget shortfall (as is demonstrated by the Crosstown Commons project being delayed).

The era of cheap gas is over; no tax holiday will stop that. ANWR won't stop that. Tar sands won't stop that. Vastly increased fuel mileage standards for cars, trucks, and SUVs might, but it's a longshot, and you don't see Republicans hopping on that bandwagon. We need to figure out what to do in an age of expensive hydrocarbon energy, or we will be screwed.

Senate stadium plans

The Senate passed two stadium bills today, one funding the Gophers stadium, another funding a Twins Stadium, Vikings stadium, and transit improvements.

The Gophers stadium proposal takes away TCF's naming rights and names it "Veterans Memorial Stadium", something that I like. This confuses Senate Minority Leader Dick Day, who probably wouldn't have any problems naming the stadium "Bob Bruinink's Pasty White Rear" stadium if the money was ponied up, but I like the idea of going back to our roots and honoring veterans. The bill did not include the 13% memorabilia tax, which was stripped out for some reason but will appear in the Senate tax bill.

The Twins/Vikings stadium bill would pay for transit and retractable-roof stadiums for both teams using a half-cent metro-wide sales tax. This is touted by proponents as being the only way to get something good out of the "need" to give billions of tax money to billionaires; I say hogwash. How about a transit-only bill that raises the metro area sales tax by no more than a quarter percent, including a referendum? No need for stadiums.

The passage of these bills may doom stadium plans this year, especially for the Twins and Vikings. The House and Senate will have about a week to come to a compromise before they have to adjourn. It may be possible for the Gophers, but the Twins/Vikings bills are so far apart (the House hasn't even passed a Vikings stadium plan), that it may be impossible.

If that happens, yay for us.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Slow Day

Governor Pawlenty tells kids to stay in school. Good advice, if not exactly earth-shattering.

I do in general agree that schools do not adequately prepare students for life after graduation. This includes everything from stronger math and science skills to things like learning how to balance a checkbook or do taxes. We need much higher standards, and (here's the kicker) parental involvement.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Katherine Kersten's Korner

Today's kolumn is about a survey that a lot of people have been talking about: a National Geographic report on how ignorant young people are of geography.

Wingnuttia Level: 1 (Generally recognized as safe)

It's essentially Jay-walking on the Tonight Show. Yes, we all know how ignorant young people are (however, as Kevin Drum pointed out, there are no statistics on how ignorant older people are, so there is no reason to believe that 18- to 24-year olds are any more ignorant than their parents).

She talks about a school that emphasizes memorization of geography, the kind of old rote education that conservatives think can solve all of the world's problems. I don't know about that. It probably isn't a bad thing: I did a very similar thing when I was in school. But one National Geographic survey with incomplete data is not a way to create policy.

It would be interesting to do a survey that not only includes older people, but also takes a look at different kinds of schools. Then we may get some good data.

Endorsement roundups

Fifth District: here and here

Sixth District: here, here, and here.

In the Fifth District, Ellison should win the primary. Very few people support Ember Reichgott Junge, Jon Olson or Paul Ostrow. Unless Mike Erlandson wants to lose a primary while turning his name to mud in DFL circles simultaneously, he should decide against running in the primary. Sure, Erlandson is disappointed: his boss did everything he could to give the endorsement to him, but the people of the fifth decided to go in a different direction. They aren't going to change their minds in a primary.

I still think that the DFL can win in the Sixth with a smart campaign. It doesn't matter how conservative the district is, or how many people hate teh gay. Whoever the DFL candidate is, he or she needs to run a simple, straightforward campaign. Trying to hem and haw and sound like Republican-lite on issues like gay marriage is only going to end up in disaster, like every other time Democrats have tried to get cute and have it both ways on these issues.

The Democrat simply needs to say, "Look, if you think that gay marriage is the number one issue facing this country today, then vote for my opponent; I'm not going to make that a priority like she has. However, if you think that in addition to gay marriage, there are lots of other important issues facing this country like our foreign policy, access to health care, jobs and wages, and education, then I ask you to take a good look at my values and how I stand on the issues, because on balance I might just be the candidate you are more in agreement with." Don't insult voters, don't try to waffle on the issue, simply be direct and honest and say that while the Democrats by and large don't think that banning gay marriage is our top priority, Democrats share the values and other priorities of many, if not most of the voters in the district.

Some of you may think that's a crazy strategy. I'd like an example of where being a spineless waffle has actually worked for the Democrats lately.

Shocking news: virginity pledges don't work!

Yes, I know that it will surprise you to learn that when teens sign virginity pledges in their abstinence-only classes, it doesn't do much good.

I've harped on this issue before, and there really isn't anything new in this story, but one thing captured my attention. See if you can find out what is wrong with this quote:
The findings have raised the ire of Concerned Women for America, a prominent conservative organization that advocates adolescent sexual abstinence.

"The Harvard report is wrong," said Janice Crouse, a fellow at a Concerned Women for America think tank.

"This study is in direct contradiction with trends we have been seeing in recent years," Crouse said. "Those who make virginity pledges have shown greater resolve to save sex for marriage."
Did you catch that? That's right: the Concerned Women of America think that the Harvard study is wrong not because they have facts to the contrary, but because those who sign the pledges have "greater resolve". They don't need no stinkin' facts.



Sid Hartman, yet again. Waaahhh!!!

Seriously, this column could almost be a parody, it is so bad. Guess what, Sid? Pointing out that Bud Selig wants a new stadium in Minnesota is not going to get you friends, because most people in this state, for or against a stadium, think that Selig can go @#*%! himself. Doing the opposite of what Selig wants is a good plan in my book.

It's interesting that there is no shortage of millionaires that want to buy the team, but there is an extreme shortage of adult millionaires who will stop acting like babies and actually build themselves a playground for their new toy. Waaahhhh!!!

According to Sid, "A new owner might come in here and say: 'I am not going to contribute one nickel to building a new stadium. Build it with tax dollars like they have done in other places or this team is going to move.'" Hey, New Owner: don't let the door hit you on the way out, jackass. Apparently, MLB's argument for public funding of stadiums is that everybody else is doing it. "But Mommy, Jimmy has a cool new bike, why can't I get one?" Waaahhhh!!!!

Holding taxpayers hostage is not a reasonable deal. Pretending that Pohlad is doing the state a favor by offering to pay for 25% of a stadium is ridiculous. Grow up.

Reason number 3,692,204...

...why government should not subsidize business.

You'd think that after this happens over and over, governments would get a clue.

Saturday, May 06, 2006


In the Fifth Congressional District, the DFL has endorsed State Rep. Keith Ellison. Assuming he wins the primary, he will be elected to Congress easily.

In the Sixth Congressional District, Republicans have endorsed wacko Michelle Bachmann. Assuming she runs a campaign based on teh evil gay and nuking Iran (which is likely), and assuming that the DFL candidate is strong enough and has enough sense to forcefully call her on it (which is always a question), then the DFL could win this one. A campaign that stresses the real issues facing this country, such as the huge budget deficit, the failure of our policies in Iraq, the troubles facing the middle class in terms of the economy, and the extremism of Bachmann could win.

Friday, May 05, 2006

A glutton for punishment

It looks like former Senator Rod Grams feels the need to lose yet another campaign. I really don't know why a person would tilt at windmills in this way, but hey, different strokes and all that.

Not that I will mind seeing Grams get stomped on one more time.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Okay, more stadium goodness

Okay, just a couple more. Good to know that a Twins stadium is your highest stadium priority, governor. Care to put that on your campaign literature?

Sid Hartman is the resident Twins WATB. Hey Sid, if the Twins do move to Nevada and become the Las Vegas Showgirls, I bet you can talk the Star Tribune to buying DirectTV or some other service so you can still watch the games. I hear technology is fabulous these days.


Is this necessary? Defending your home is one thing. Using deadly force in your car or in public is quite another.

Katherine Kersten's Korner

In today's kolumn, Kersten and I pretty much agree. Yes, you read that right.

Wingnuttia level: 2 (minor levels of insanity)

Okay, so I had to ding her for comments like "In countries where government's job is to provide all good things, the economic system -- paradoxically -- often proves incapable of delivering them." That's not necessary, nor accurate. However, you are probably unsurprised to hear that I agree with her on the stadium issue. I also agree with her on the Mall of America Phase II government handout: Just Say No!

It's pretty sad that Kersten is more of a true conservative than Governor Pawlenty, Speaker Sviggum, and many other so-called Republicans in the legislature. Is this something to be proud of?

A couple other stadium-related things. First, this column by Chris Bowron hits the nail right on the head.

Second, John Marty is a flip-flopper. It doesn't matter if he is going to vote against the Gophers bill in the end. Is he planning on arguing that "I voted for the stadium bill before I voted against it"? Second, it doesn't matter how worthy the Gophers stadium is; I've expressed by apathy towards it many times. What is sad, though, is that Marty, for no reason, just switched his vote and got nothing for it. If that was the plan, why didn't he do it earlier and save time?

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Get your stadiums here!

The House Government Operations Committee approves a Vikings stadium.

The Senate Taxes Committee approves the Gophers stadium after DFLer John Marty, perennial stadium critic, switches his vote. Say "bye bye" to my respect for Marty!

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

House passes property tax Christmas list

Because that's all it is: a bill that spells out what they would like to happen. One-time nine percent rebates to homeowners only; if you are a renter, then screw you. Just about every DFL amendment that was put forward to attempt to pass some kind of long-term property tax reform was ruled "out of order", meaning that nobody had to take any tough votes on replacing the wish list with something meaningful.

Oh, and this will only happen if the state wins its lawsuit with the tobacco companies over the tobacco "fee" that was passed last year. Yep, because of Pawlenty's cuteness in not calling a tax a tax, the money that some would like to use to send bribes...er, "rebates" to homeowners may disappear. Plus, the Senate really doesn't seem to keen on passing the bill either. So don't spend those checks yet.

Stadium bill to Senate floor

The Senate may be voting on a stadium bill by Thursday. It would provide for a half-cent sales tax in the metro to pay for three stadiums, and there would be a referendum. Not something that the Twins want.

Nor Governor Pawlenty or Steve Sviggum apparently. "The primary problem is that the Senate bill does not build a stadium," according to Pawlenty's spokesperson. Really? That's the "primary problem"? I would think that for a so-called conservative governor, the "primary problem" would be the fact that the government is giving away hundreds of millions of dollars in welfare to a rich guy...although sadly, the modern definition of "conservatism" seems to have no problem with that. Steve Sviggum says pretty much the same thing about the Senate bill: "It doesn't get the job done. It doesn't move ahead."

I certainly hope that Pawlenty and Sviggum campaign on "getting the job done" by building sports stadiums. Roads? Health care? Education? Property tax reform? Nah, the "primary problem" facing the state is the dearth of new, expensive stadiums. Brilliant!

Drinking with Kos

I attended Drinking Liberally tonight at the 331 Club, where Kos from Daily Kos was in attendance as advertised. It was a pretty packed place, full of energy, and Markos did not disappoint. He is a very good spokesperson for the liberal blogosphere, telling it like it is, passionate, and taking the fight to Republicans everywhere.

Overall, his question-and-answer time and his opening spiel were good. I don't think I will quite agree with his remarks that the traditional media is not necessary anymore; only a very tiny fraction of people read blogs after all. However, I do think that blogs and other online media are in their ascendance, and the chattering class, the pundits, the self-styled experts, the letters-to-the-editor writers, they are definitely plugged in. And that does make a big difference. Markos talked about that vis-à-vis the Stephen Colbert affair at the Washington Correspondents Dinner, but it's evident in lots of place.

I also agreed with his take that Democrats need to talk about the issues that Democrats share, and get away from the single-issue advocacy groups. One woman asked what Democrats can do about all the women who are outraged at the loss of reproductive rights, and Markos gave her an answer that she probably didn't like: that these single-issue groups need to butt out. Frankly, I agree, and I am surprised by these people. I am a strong supporter of reproductive rights, but women aren't rioting in the streets about abortion. Few people are rioting about anything, except maybe gas prices. Talking about volatile issues is pointless.

All in all, a good night. I was kind of surprised that no politicians showed up; I would have thought that they had more sense.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Drinking liberally tomorrow with Kos!

Tomorrow night at the 331 Club in NE Minneapolis, Markos Moulitsas from Daily Kos will join Drinking Liberally as part of his book tour. From all indications, it is going to be pretty crazy.

I may saunter by to see what the deal is. For those who want to see me, I will be the person wearing clothes.

Clearing up some misconceptions

I like the Twins.

I go to Twins games.

I think the Twins are an asset to the state.

I wish the Twins would play in a real open-air stadium instead of the Metrodome.

I would pay for a stadium by choice in a non-tax way: a Twins stadium IPO, for example, or some other unique funding method.

But I adamantly oppose any tax money going for a stadium.

Carl Pohlad's net worth is $2.8 billion. He could build a $600 million stadium and hardly make a dent it that pile. If that happened, Hennepin County could spend some money for infrastructure improvements, I will not care.

Carl is old, and he will not take that money with him when he dies. I don't know how many kids he has, but if he paid for a stadium himself and has two kids, they would still get more than $1 billion each. Giving more than $500 million each to your kids won't make you the Worst Father of the Year.

Sports teams have been blackmailing governments for too long now. Until the people stand up to them and say "No more!", they will continue to do so.


What are they up to?

The Senate is trying to do something about stadiums, but they are still working.

Both the House and the Senate passed the funeral protest bill. I don't know what the final bill actually says, but it just might be unconstitutional as Rep. Mike Jaros says.

The House today passed a supplemental finance bill, which could probably be more accurately described as a bill for locking up sex offenders and nothing else. Except adding some language relating to abortion, because that's always fun.