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Friday, June 30, 2006

Kersten smackdown

When I write about Katherine Kersten's kolumns, I typically focus on her ridiculous reasoning and "logic". Frankly, that's about all I can stand. Rarely do I have the time to do extensive fact-checking of her work; besides, I spend too much time thinking about her anyway for my health. But that's not stopping others from finding factual errors. According to a Hennepin County Judge, the drug dealer with five felony convictions and out of jail after only four months turned out to be a guy with TWO convictions who had spent 400 days in jail, over a year. Minor details and all.

See, it's not that Kersten's reasoning and logic is insane, although it is. She just makes stuff up. She does it a lot. Yet she continues to get away with it. That's some quality journalisming, Star Tribune.

Congressional gift ban

Yes, yes, I am all for this: a Congressional gift ban, meal ban, travel ban, ban on earmarks, and a ban on no-bid contracts. Lobbyists should not be able to buy politicians. I have no problem as a taxpayer paying more for Congressional travel on fact-finding missions as long as it cuts lobbyists out of the loop. Eliminating earmarks may reduce spending enough to pay for it anyway.

According to Larry Jacobs, "the odds of this passing are long." That's because the bums in Congress now are accustomed to being bought. Throw them out and insist that our new elected officials reform Congress. It's the only way to eliminate these scandals.

Fewer abortions

Good news: the number of abortions in the state continue to decline.

Bad news: the number of women having abortions for economic reasons is up sharply. Apparently, state money for family planning is also declining. If we don't give low-income women, who probably don't have health insurance, access to birth control then the decline in abortions may reverse itself.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Katherine Kersten's Korner

Today's kolumn is about taxi regulation in Minneapolis. Kersten and myself are o the same side of the fence on this issue: I don't believe that the city should cap the number of taxi licenses.

Wingnuttia Level: 2 (Depends on your point of view)

To the extent that the city should regulate taxis, it should only regulate safety. Capping the number of licenses leads to the situation that she describes. Arguments about letting drivers earn a good living, reducing pollution, etc. ring hollow to me. The market will decide how many taxis will exist, and what they will charge. This is a perfect example of too much government regulation.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006


The flag-burning amendment failed, which is great. However, Senator Dayton voted for it. What? Sometimes, I really have to wonder what he is thinking.

There are only a handful of documented cases of flag burning every year; less than ten for sure. And burning the flag is almost always a pretty stupid idea that just pisses people off and hurts your cause. But if this thing passes, I believe I will have the uncontrollable urge to do just that. I predict that should such a stupid amendment ever be enacted, then the number of actual flag burnings will skyrocket.

Pawlenty's continued campaigning

Wouldn't you know it? Now that the legislature is no longer in session and none of his ideas can actually be put into practice, Governor Pawlenty is suddenly all about education. This time, it's free tuition. If you graduate in the top quarter of your class, you get two years of tuition at state schools; four years if you go into math or science.

Of course, Pawlenty had almost four years to pitch this idea when it would have mattered, but he didn't. Instead, he's presided over huge increases in tuition that have served to shut off access to higher education and saddle students with debt. That's quite the education record!

I get the suspicion that had Pawlenty put forward this idea earlier, David Strom would have been none too happy. That is what really mattered, at least until Pawlenty underwent his conversion in the past month.

Do I think it is a good idea apart from Pawlenty's blatant politics? You bet. This is definitely something we should do. But you know, I don't really trust Pawlenty to actually go through with it. I wonder why?

The check is in the mail


Sunday, June 25, 2006

Katherine Kersten's Korner

Why can't she take a day off? Why can't she write about cute puppies or something equally non-controversial? But no, she has been on a hot streak lately, writing tedious kolumn after kolumn. She continues her streak today, subbing as Governor Pawlenty's press writer and ranting about the proposal by some wealthy Minnesotans to increase taxes on the top earners in the state to pay for government programs.

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

There is hardly a need to rehash her comments, which are basically the same as what Governor Pawlenty made: the ad writers are out of touch, they should feel free to write their own checks to the state, they are limousine liberals, etc. The Republican Noise Machine settled on a message for this issue quickly, and everybody in on board.

"The Gang of 200 seems badly out of touch with ordinary Minnesotans." Really? Did you notice, Kersten, that recenly MnDOT had to shelve plans to start rebuilding the Crosstown Commons because the state has no money and no contractors would pay out of their own pocket to cover the shortfall? Do you think that ordinary Minnesotans are happy that this huge bottleneck is not going to be fixed yet again? Did you notice, Kersten, that Governor Pawlenty had to recently ask Minnesota businesses to provide IT experts for free to the state because we have no money? Does this ring a bell to you?

"What programs would these additional dollars support? Education, health care, transportation -- the sorts of government endeavors that have proven capable of swallowing whatever resources we throw at them, no matter how massive." How nice of her to think this. I have a different view: that these "endeavors" as she puts them have real benefits are state spending is nowhere close to being excessive. More transportation money won't go down the black hole, they will pay to expand roads and transit, reducing congestion, reducing pollution, and helping our economy. Education spending will reduce the number of those 30- or 35-kid classrooms in schools around the state. Spending money on health care will get more people insurance, so that they aren't a drag on our local governments when they use the emergency room, they only health care they have if they don't have insurance.

Finally, Kersten, take a long, hard look at this graph:

You'll notice that the middle class in this state pays about 12% of their income in combined state and local taxes. You'll also notice that the people at the very right pay less than 9% of their income in combined state and local taxes. The signers of the ad want to increase income taxes by two percentage points on the top earners in the state. Do you see a connection here, or do you believe that the wealthiest people in this state should pay less than the middle class?

Here's what Kersten is really saying: it's okay for the richest people in Minnesota to pay less in taxes than the middle class. And since education, health care, and transportation swallow whatever resources we throw at them, why bother spending money on them at all? This is the Republican vision for the state. Now who is out of touch with ordinary Minnesotans?

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Walter Mondale

Some Democrats, including Walter Mondale, have come out in favor of a missile strike on North Korea's long-range missile presumably sitting on the pad. Is this a good idea?

First, there is a question of whether this missile really exists. The U.S. says it does. Within the past few days, South Korea has said that its intelligence is that a launch is not imminent. I've also read that the fuel that North Korea uses in its missiles is so corrosive that a missile must be launched within a day or two of fueling or else the missile is ruined. Since I don't work at the CIA, I have no idea what is the truth. But that's something to consider.

Second, what kind of missile is this? At the very beginning of this whole issue, I remember hearing that the missile had enough range to "reach the U.S." only in that it could reach parts of Alaska. Now, more recently, I've heard that it has enough range to reach California. What is the truth? If it is the former, then I don't think a strike is warranted. If the latter, then maybe.

The final consideration is what North Korea would do in response. North Korea is in such dire straights that it is hard to see a military response: they probably don't have the capability. On the other hand, North Korea's leader is a crazy person, who is liable to do anything. If I had to wager, I would say that North Korea does nothing in response.

So if the missile is ready to be launched, and if it has enough range to hit a significant portion of the U.S. aside from just Alaska, then I would find a missile strike to be an acceptable strategy given my bet that North Korea would not retaliate in any meaningful way.

The larger question, though, is whether the U.S. will allow other countries to develop long-range missiles. North Korea is an exceptional case because it is universally reviled, but what about other countries? What about our "allies" in the War on Terror like Saudi Arabia? These are tough questions.

Judi Dutcher will be Hatch's running mate

It's swirled around now for a while, but it is finally confirmed: former Republican and State Auditor Judi Dutcher will be Mike Hatch's running mate.

I always thought that the DFL missed a huge opportunity when they nominated Roger Moe for governor in 2002 instead of Dutcher. Maybe this time things will work out.

Friday, June 23, 2006

More of the same

This is a blog about Minnesota politics, but two things:

1) No, I would not support the war in Iraq if Iraqis were "white". South America, Canada, Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia...it doesn't matter where it is or what color the people are, I would not support it. I did support the first Gulf War. I did support the war in Afghanistan (although it would have been nice had we finished up there).

2) For those war supporters, when do we leave? Seriously, when do American troops get to come home? Just give me a metric. X number of Iraqi troops trained, Y number of schools rebuilt, less than Z roadside bombings or kidnappings per day. Saying "we have to fix Iraq now that we broke it so we can't leave" doesn't explain when Iraq will be "fixed". So when will that be? Saying "I'll know it when I see it" doesn't cut it. This is war, not pornography.

Josh Marshall is absolutely right: the Republican plan is no plan. It really is more of the same. Republicans think that we should be in Iraq indefinitely, maybe even forever. Not one has said when it will be over. So when is it?

Thursday, June 22, 2006


It's no surprise that Norm Coleman voted with Bush and against bringing the troops home from Iraq. According to Bush, the "next president" will decide when the troops will come home, not Bush. That means almost three more years of IEDs, insurgent attacks, torture, and other good stuff that doesn't accomplish much of anything. Norm doesn't have a problem with that, apparently.

But what I don't get is why Mark Dayton is on the Bush side of things. Does Dayton really believe that U.S. troops need to continue to be put in harm's way for so long? Does he honestly believe that this administration has a plan, that Donald Rumsfeld is going to make things better?
It's time to face facts: Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney et al. blew it. They have done just about everything wrong that can be done in war. Oh, sure, we have a "government" in Iraq, but Sunnis and Shiites continue to kill each other. At this point, the only thing that would stop them from doing so would be to send so many troops to Iraq that nobody could sneeze without being seen. Since that's not going to happen, what else is there to do?


Today a bunch of wealthy Minnesotans took out an ad saying that they think the state should raise taxes on them to pay for education, health care, and transportation improvements.

Should this happen? Are the wealthy not paying their fair share? Some time ago I had a post on this very issue, but the most important thing is the graph showing how taxes fall on various income groups:

Tax incidence graph

Notice how the tax incidence hump peaks in the middle class and drops off for the very wealthy. So if anybody should be paying their fair share, guess who it should be?

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The Pawlenty Philosophy

I'm noticing a pattern here. First, MnDOT's plans for the Crosstown reconstruction project require bidders to pay for part of the project themselves temporarily. Now, the administration is asking the private sector to provide highly-trained experts to the state at no cost.

Maybe the Pawlenty re-election slogan should be "Vote for Tim Pawlenty. He's a little short right now and just needs a bit to tide him over. Really, he'll have the money next week, he swears..."

Big Improvements For Free

Seriously? Are you kidding?

When I first saw this, I thought that the state was going to be asking tech experts to work for free, in essence asking for a lot of highly-skilled interns for a year. This was stupid enough, but then I saw that what the state really wants is for these workers to be paid $150 to $250 an hour by private businesses. So apparently Pawlenty is looking for a few good businesses with absolutely no business sense.

Of course, the Pawlenty administration is all gung-ho about this. They need to talk it up if they expect anybody to actually take them up on this offer. But I'm confused. The state's CIO says that he "hopes to renew the spirit of the 'Minnesota Miracle' of the 1970s, when private companies 'were honored and delighted to participate' in government projects to improve the state." I'm not too sure, but did the Minnesota Miracle involve businesses doing the state's work for free? I thought it involved increasing sales and income taxes to reduce property taxes and reduce inequities between property-rich and property-poor communities. Maybe I'm wrong.

The only thing that would make this work is if businesses got a few "extras" in exchange for doing work for free. Say future state contracts, or maybe lax tax enforcement. No no no, says the administration. There will be no quid pro quo.

Which is why, in the end, this will fail. I'm all for public-private partnerships, but they need to be real partnerships. When one side gives to the other with nothing coming back, that's not a partnership. Pawlenty can't expect that Minnesota's business community is going to make up for his underinvestment in the state out of the goodness of their hearts. Nice thought on the government and private sector working together, but let's go back to the drawing board.

Katherine Kersten's Korner

Late Wednesday night, and it's time for another Katherine Kersten's Korner. Today, she is once again harping on crime. And unsurprisingly, she doesn't let reality get in the way of her preconceived notions.

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

Most of the article is about a group of North Minneapolis residents taking action themselves against crime in their neighborhoods. And good for them. Reductions in the size of the police force due to state-level budget cuts means that there are fewer cops on the streets looking for criminals. Inevitably, this means that there will be more crime. Instead of waiting around for somebody else to fix the problem, they are taking good first steps. Minneapolis definitely needs more cops, but neighborhood involvement is crucial as well.

So what's the problem? Kersten sure likes to make things sound horrible. She actually visited the neighborhood (will wonders never cease?) and had this to say: "I expected to retreat into someone's living room, glancing around uneasily for a kitchen table to dive under if shots were fired. I gulped when my hosts invited me to join them outside."

How thoughtful. North Minneapolis is a place where most of the people are law-abiding. It is not the inside of a prison. It is not Iraq outside of the Green Zone. Although I'm not surprised that Kersten sounded scared silly to be outside in a neighborhood that TV newscasters make out to be a cesspool full of bodies. People are actually living in their neighborhoods to prove to the criminals that it's not their playground, and it tends to work. Going into North Minneapolis is not a death sentence.

She also harps on drug dealers getting out of jail immediately for what, the second kolumn out of the last three? She seems to be particularly obsessed with the War on Drugs. Despite what others may think, I don't believe it's a good use of money to jail small-time dealers for long periods of time. That prison space can be better put to use housing the dangerous criminals. I get a lot more upset when I hear that somebody with two or three assaults or robberies is getting out of jail quickly, or even repeat drunk drivers, than I do when I hear that drug dealers aren't getting stiff sentences.

Minneapolis faces a number of problems on the crime front, but they are not impossible to fix. One thing that would go a long way would be to stop painting Minneapolis as a crime-riddled wasteland in the media. That way, these block clubs who are trying to take back neighborhoods will find it easier to coax others out into the open, and get the criminal off of the streets.

Criminal graduation rates

Minnesota is a nice place to live, but not for everybody. Black students have less than a 50% graduation rate, compared to over 80% for white students. This kind of gap is shameful.

I don't really know the best way to fix it, though. A graduation rate that low represents a breakdown on all levels, and it's going to be hard to fix them all.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Money donations

Apparently, I'm comparing apples and steaks (does that mean I am the steak?). Let's see what we have.

The spouse of a Democrat running for the House made a contribution to the House DFL Caucus.

The spouse of a Republican running for the House made a contribution to the House Republican Campaign Committee.

So far, so good. Seems to be the same thing.

But then MDE says that the Democratic donation is "fishy." He has no proof of collusion. No proof that any laws were broken. Nothing like that at all.

He says it is "fishy." You know what I call it? Good money management.

Say your spouse is running for the House, and for whatever reason (you've reached the limits, you can't make that kind of donation, etc.) you can't contribute directly to your spouse's campaign. You've got a lot of money laying around, though, and you want to influence the election. Because the race is competitive, you know the House DFL Caucus (or HRCC) will be putting money into it, so if you donate to them, there's a good chance some of the money will come back to help your spouse.

It's legal, it's acceptable, and it makes perfect sense. Just like doubling down on an 11 in Blackjack, you are making the most out of your money.

But according to MDE, this is somehow wrong. So I have a few questions to ask him.

If it is wrong, how should the law be changed?
Should spouses be disallowed from making soft money donations?
If they do donate, should the receiving organization be banned from spending money on that race?
Does the amount matter? Does the timing of the contribution matter?

Republicans must really be fishing for things if this is the best they can come up with. And that whole "saying everybody else does it too isn't a defense" is a crock. These are the campaign finance laws we have, so of course all sides are going to take advantage of them. If an American League coach is philosophically against the DH, would he be wise to put his pitcher in the batting order, so he's not using the "everybody else does it because it is allowed" defense?

Nobody has any evidence that Shawn Otto wrote at the bottom of his check, "This is for my wife's campaign ONLY!" No evidence of any e-mails, phone calls, letters, meetings, or telegrams showing collusion between Otto and anybody else. No laws were broken. Nothing was done wrong.

I may think that the way we fund campaigns stinks, but I'm not going to say that one side can't use the law to its advantage when the other side does all the time.

Monday, June 19, 2006


I'm going to pretend to be all MDE for now, because over there certain people are making a big deal about an apparently legal contribution from the spouse of a candidate to the House DFL Caucus.

Now, of course Republicans would never do such a legal thing.



Well, anybody can go over to the Campaign Finance Board's website and take a look at the House Republican Campaign Committee's (HRCC) report.

And what do we find?

That on 8/23/05, Dr. Laura Dean of Stillwater made a contribution of $1,500 to the HRCC.

Now, Republican Representative Matt Dean, who represents Stillwater, has a wife, named Laura, who also happens to be a doctor.

So I can't exactly prove that Dr. Laura Dean is Matt Dean's wife, but how many Dr. Laura Deans can there be in Stillwater who aren't married to Matt Dean?

Also in the report, we see that the (Rep.) Pat Garofalo Volunteer Committee donated $550 to the HRCC on 10/11/05. A Peter Nelson giving the same address as Rep. Pete Nelson donated $300 on 2/7/5. And the Tim Wilkin for State Representative Committee gave $1,500 on 12/30/05, perhaps trying to get rid of some unnecessary money at the end of the year.

Are these donations illegal, unethical, wrong? Not in the least. I am sure that all donations were well within the law. But for those who think that only Democrats use the law to their advantage....well, let the facts speak.


A message to whoever is elected governor and to the legislature: no matter what else you may think about our schools, let's make sure that this doesn't happen in Minnesota schools.


Governor Pawlenty said recently that schools are in a silent crisis, and they need to change the way that they are run. This would involve more rigorous curricula, but other than that few details were offered.

My first thought: it's June 19th. An election is a few months away. The legislature is no longer in session, thus there is no chance to actually change how schools are run. Can anybody say election ploy? We weren't born yesterday. Maybe Governor Pawlenty should have made these suggestions when he could do something about it?

As for the proposals themselves, to the extent that there is information (such as more IB or AP classes, creating magnet schools for science and math, and so on) they are great ideas. I definitely think that schools need to be more rigorous and standards need to be much higher. I also disagree with Mike Hatch when he says that "throwing around" small grants won't improve our schools. No, it's not a complete solution, but small pilot projects are a good idea and allow for the laboratory of democracy to work.

I do, however, share Rep. Mindy Greiling's questions about how serious these proposals are. Aside from the fact that he is putting them forward now when he can't do anything about them, has Governor Pawlenty done a whole lot in his current office or as a member of the state House? I can't really think of much. Getting rid of the Profile of Learning was a big deal, but that was a bipartisan effort that was all but inevitable. Aside from that, nothing he has done has really swept the state's schools by storm.

Part of the problem is that too often, Republican "ideas" for reforming schools are nothing more than backhanded slaps at the teachers union. It's not much of a secret that many Republicans see the union as an enemy, but since the union exists it must be dealt with. While like any union, the teachers union looks out for its own members first, a true leader's job is to get all stakeholders together and convince them that they share the same goals. So far, I haven't seen that from this governor. There is no doubt some resistance to certain school reform plans from the union, but what is he doing about it?

Color me skeptical.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Question Of The Day

Okay, yesterday I asked who said this:
Never has so much military, economic, and diplomatic power been used as ineffectively as in Iraq.

And if after all of this time and all of this sacrifice and all of this support there is still no end in sight, then I say the time has come for the American people to turn to new leadership — not tied to the policies and mistakes of the past.

I pledge to you: we will have an honorable end to the war in Iraq.
I said it was a bit of a trick question, and it is: nobody actually said that. However, if you replace the word "Iraq" with the word "Vietnam", it suddenly becomes a quote with an author: Richard Nixon said it during his 1968 campaign for the presidency.

I wonder what Tricky Dick would say about the war in Iraq if he were around?

Katherine Kersten's Korner

It's time for a very special Father's Day edition of Katherine Kersten's Korner. Today's kolumn proves that Kersten just can't leave well enough alone when it comes to politicizing a non-political holiday.

Wingnuttia Level: 4 (Hidden agendas and bending of reality ahead)

The kolumn is about Joseph Phillips: actor, author, radio commentator, conservative. He has written a book on raising kids, politics, the whole bit. He calls on men to reclaim their roles as fathers in raising their kids. Controversial? No. Liberal or conservative? No, more like common-frickin'-sense.

Apparently, there are some people out there who do not know that children look to their parents as role models, or that you have to say no a lot to kids. Controversial? No. Liberal or conservative? No.

So then why does Kersten say that "Phillips' views aren't politically correct in an age when we often hear that family form doesn't matter because love is all that counts." Who the hell says that? What does that even mean? The only thing that I can think of is that through logical flips and loop-the-loops, Kersten is talking about those decadent liberals who support gay adoption or something like that, or families that don't always have two parents. Well, that's called life. Sometimes one parent who knows what they are doing is better than two who aren't there. Sometimes a same-sex couple can raise better kids than a heterosexual couple. Pointing that out isn't "political correct", it's just being accurate.

Phillips has an idea of what the community can do to help raise better kids: "How about not putting Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie on magazine covers as the world's most beautiful, intriguing people?" Okay, but how is this political? Do liberals care about Hollywood in reality, or is this just some ridiculous stereotype?

Leave it to Kersten to latch onto something and try to use it to further her worldview. It's just sad, not to mention completely divorced from reality. I know conservatives who let Hollywood and TV raise their kids. I know liberals who never let their kids watch TV and probably don't even know that Brangelina are having kids.

Parents should take an active role in their kids' lives and protect them from those things that they don't want their kids exposed to. This isn't earth-shattering, this isn't political incorrect (or even correct). It just is. No need to make it political.


Governor Pawlenty's staff should probably pay closer attention to what they are reading.

If he's going to blow off a constituent's question, at least send an appropriate blow-off letter.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Question Of The Day

Who said this:
Never has so much military, economic, and diplomatic power been used as ineffectively as in Iraq.

And if after all of this time and all of this sacrifice and all of this support there is still no end in sight, then I say the time has come for the American people to turn to new leadership — not tied to the policies and mistakes of the past.

I pledge to you: we will have an honorable end to the war in Iraq.
It's a bit of a trick question. I'll post the answer later.

Idiotic Star Tribune

No, I'm not talking about continuing to employ Katherine Kersten. I'm instead referring to this story about the paper refusing to run an ad for the Gay Pride festival showing two men kissing.

If you run ads showing a man and a woman kissing, but refusing to run ads showing two men kissing, you are basically printing a big sign that says "Yes, we discriminate!"

Seriously, what were they thinking?

Friday, June 16, 2006


Seriously, this kind of stuff is truly hacktacular. Of course Republicans are going to say that Democrats are voting against the troops or other such nonsense. Voting for resolutions that say how much we love the troops is the truly important stuff, isn't it?

Maybe this is why I'm not a politician. I just couldn't do this. All of the "Clean Skies Initiative" and "No Child Left Behind" and "We Support The Troops" resolutions, using Orwellian language, is just not my nature. How do people do these kinds of things? Isn't being honest and straightforward and dealing with the things that really matter the way it is supposed to be?

Thank you, Governor Pawlenty!

Thanks to Governor Pawlenty's shortsightedness, the traffic mess that is the Crosstown Commons won't be fixed when it was supposed to be. For some odd reason, contractors balked at paying for the project themselves because MnDOT doesn't have the money to pay for it. I wonder why?

How is this Pawlenty's fault, you may ask? Well, remember how the legislature passed a bipartisan transportation funding plan that raised the gas tax to provide funding for projects just like this? And remember how Pawlenty vetoed it so he could still be best friends forever with David Strom and the Taxpayers League? Me too.

So I don't think it is any exaggeration to say that Pawlenty and his policies are the reason for this delay. Thanks to him, this overcrowded, dangerous stretch of highway will go unfixed for even longer, harming our economy and people's lives.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Katherine Kersten's Korner

Far from giving me a break, Katherine Kersten keeps on kranking out the krazy kolumns. Today's is all about why Minneapolis is going to Hell in terms of crime, or so she says. Isn't that wonderful?

Wingnuttia Level: 4 (Hidden agendas and bending of reality ahead)

The article starts by pointing out the fact that crime in Minneapolis has increased by 15% over the past year. Do I feel 15% less safe? Not so much. But I digress.

The way Kersten sees it, there are two reasons why crime in Minneapolis is getting so horrible. The first is all about the inefficacy of the Drug Court, or in other words, let's keep on fighting that War on Drugs and hope that this time we turn the corner (sound familiar?). It doesn't matter that the prisons are already overcrowded, we simply need to keep on throwing drug users in jail. Eventually, that might work!

The second reason is two-fold: racial profiling is frowned upon, so the police can't simply throw blacks and Hispanics in jail. Awww, that's too bad. Plus, the Civilian Police Review Authority is out of control, and it is so dang effective that police are intimidated. That would come as some surprise to all of those people who have been criticizing the CPRA as completely toothless, which is just about everybody.

A while back the City Pages did an article about how much Minneapolis has to pay out to settle police brutality lawsuits. In short, it is a huge amount of money relative to other cities. The problem, thus, would seem to be not that the CPRA is making officers apprehensive about doing their jobs, it is that Minneapolis police too often thump people for no good reason, and get caught doing it. Having worked around police before, I know that there is no reason why police should inherently be brutal. They can do an excellent job while not breaking any laws. I don't know why the Minneapolis police are less capable of doing that than other departments, but that's what needs to change. Declawing an already laughable CPRA is not going to help anything.

More police would help, certainly. More police that make connections with the community and did not use excessive force would help even more. Kersten's bold, old ideas really aren't going to help anywhere.

Update: Aha, maybe this is why Jeff Jindra, the police sergeant that Kersten quotes, thinks that the CPRA has too much power.


The Pioneer Press has an article on gated communities here in Minnesota. Personally, I am disgusted by gated communities and I am glad that they are so rare here, but apparently another one is coming.

I really have to wonder about people who would want to live in a gated community. Are they that scared? Do they have no sense at all of the relative risks of crime? I don't feel unsafe anywhere in Minneapolis, to say nothing about any of the suburbs. Why one would feel the need to retreat behind a fence and security in the suburbs is beyond me.

It probably is fear; "Ask that family that was walking in Uptown to dinner," says a person living in a gated community, referring to the murder of a student earlier this year and to crime in general. Yes, but tell me this: where will you go walking in a gated community? Can you go to a movie, to a restaurant, to a bar, to a lake? Can you get anywhere worth going when you live in a gated community except by leaving in a car? If you were to walk around, would you even see your neighbors?

Just think: you can hop in your car all alone after work, drive an hour through traffic to your gated community, then run in your home without having to interact with anybody, certainly not any of those scary-looking "undesirables". Who cares if you never learn about anybody else, if you are never exposed to anything outside of your comfort zone. At least you will be "safe"!

Sue Jeffers profile

The Minnesota Daily has a profile of Sue Jeffers, the bar owner challenging Governor Pawlenty in the primary this fall. It gives a pretty good indication of where she stands on the issues; I pretty much thought, "Ummm, okay then" after reading it.

I especially like her comment about how horrible it is to raise the minimum wage: “It cost me $40,000 a year with no increase in productivity (at Stub & Herb’s)." I'm sure her employees appreciate that. Maybe she didn't stop to think about how employees who make a bit more money are more productive because they don't have to worry so much about having enough money to pay their rent and food?

She also demonstrates her complete ignorance about student service fees at the U of M, implying that somehow a "goat club" is being directly supported by student fees. Ummm, not quite. Very few student groups get student service fees. But good try on pandering to the students.


Unemployment is down in Minnesota. People have differing views on this.

Generally, of course lower unemployment is a good thing. However, the devil is in the details. According to MPR (but nowhere else in the media as far as I can tell), much of the decrease in unemployment was the result of people giving up their search for a job, at which point they are no longer considered to be "unemployed" for statistical purposes. In reality, only about 2,500 people found work; many thousand more simply gave up.

I think most people would agree that unemployment really goes down when people get jobs, not when they get up. Plus, what jobs are being created? Are they high-skill, high-paying jobs? Or are they jobs at Wal-Mart and McDonald's? These things are important.

Of course Pawlenty is going to toot his horn about this. Perhaps Democrats should acknowledge that a reduction in unemployment is a good thing, but point out that Pawlenty has shortchanged education funding and the other things necessary for unemployment to be reduced by high-paying jobs.


Today I saw a "W '08" sticker on a car. WTF? Are the Republicans planning on (further) abrogating the Constitution to let George run for a third term?

Monday, June 12, 2006

My take

I wasn't at the convention this weekend as I previously explained, so I may not have the best view on what it means. Ah, but that may be beneficial, right?

Anyway, I do tend to agree that the Democrats are more united now than in recent years. There will be no serious primary battles. Ford Bell is a lost cause, although his stubbornness and martyrdom means he's going to refuse to drop out. You know the type. Becky Lourey isn't going to win either, and I would expect her to have a bit more sense about these kinds of things, but what can you say?

Mark Ritchie, Matt Entenza, and Rebecca Otto are all very good candidates in their respective races. No Buck Humphreys this year: these people know their stuff. They will provide a pretty good contrast to the Republicans that are running.

Republicans have already gone into attack mode, so it is up to the Democrats to come up with a good message for Minnesota. I don't think they are there yet, but there are some promising signs. I think people have a better feel for this kind of thing this year after being beaten constantly.

It is of course a bit too early to be making any predictions, but the Democrats are in a pretty good position coming out of this weekend. They will have to take advantage, though, and that's something that has historically been hard for Democrats to do.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Katherine Kersten's Korner

Today's kolumn, like many, is about a subject that Kersten does not have any expertise in: namely, the field of psychiatry. However, this hasn't stopped her yet, and today will be no exception!

Wingnuttia Level: Objective Fact Rejection Disorder

Kersten is not a doctor, so her kolumn really doesn't do anything to shed light on the issue of mental illness. The hook is a recent news article about how road rage is indicative of something called Intermittent Explosive Disorder. Not being a doctor myself, I really can't say anything about this disorder, its pervasiveness, its treatment, its existence, anything. Like many conservatives, though, Kersten sees it as a bunch of baloney, an excuse to ignore the only thing that matters: personal responsibility.

Mental illness is still stigmatized in this country, and a lot of this stigma does come from conservatives. To them, a person's attitude and behavior begin and end with personal responsibility. Alcoholism? Depression? Anorexia? Nothing but weakness; the solution is to simply buck up and start acting like a man. I've seen many conservatives simply say outright that they don't think depression even exists until they see it manifest itself in a family member, and only then do they realize that there is more to the brain's function than personal responsibility. As an aside, I do have to commend Republican Jim Ramstad for not falling into this trap, and being a big supporter of mental health treatment parity. But I digress.

Kersten's kolumn goes down the road that has been trod so many times before. Intermitten Explosive Disorder is an excuse to turn everybody into a crackpot, so everybody can be medicated. Doctors are just inventing things out of whole cloth. And so on. While the prevalence of medication is something that people can be concerned about, it is hardly limited to medication for mental health isuses. I think I see a lot more TV commercials for E.D. than anything else.

In any case, Kersten just doesn't have anything to add to this debate. Why does the Star Tribune print this stuff? Are we next going to hear her thoughts on String Theory?

And as for what I do when people act like idiots on the road, I ignore it. I do some pretty strange things when I am driving by Minnesota standards, like using my turn signals, letting people merge, and using the left lane for passing only. When I see people who don't understand how to drive and are mad about it, it's not worth it to get mad back.

Prison time

The first thing I thought of when I read this story about programs in prisons that encourage criminals to convert to Christianity was that no government money should be spent on this. Taxpayer dollars going to conversions? Come on. Where are the programs for Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Wiccans? Spending taxpayer money on something like this is a clear violation of the separation of church and state.

But then I was just perplexed. I am a heathen and I have never gotten so much as a speeding ticket. Are there actually people out there who commit crimes until Jesus tells them not to? Do people actually work this way?

1,000 posts

Stop me before I post again!

An Inconvenient Truth II

One anonycommenter says that there still is some controversy among scientists and points to some Washington Post article. This issue is so important Gore addresses it directly in the film.

Of over 900 articles reviewed by Gore in peer-reviewed scientific journals, the places where only facts are allowed to be published and there is no such thing as "he said, she said" journalism, a whopping total of 0% said that global warming does not exist or there is a controversy as to its human cause.

Of over 600 articles reviewed in the popular press, the places where lazy journalists get one quote from one side and another quote from the other side and call it a day, not bothering with objective facts, 53% of articles said there was a controversy.

The media is doing more than a disservice when it says there is a controversy about global warming. It is lying. This would seem wrong or even downright evil until you realize that the goal of media outlets like the Washington Post is not to tell the truth or educate people, it is to sell papers and make money. Controversy sells, so that's what they write.

On the other hand, after thinking about it some more it is evil.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

An Inconvenient Truth

I just saw the Al Gore movie "An Inconvenient Truth". I would recommend it to everybody, especially those who doubt that global warming is real. After watching it, there is no way you can argue that it doesn't exist, no way you can argue that it is "controversial", no way you can argue that some scientists are in doubt. Gore doesn't make these arguments himself, they are backed up by (watch out!) facts.

Seriously, go see it. Then do something about it.

Hatch is endorsed

Not such a big surprise.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Ron Carey is so cute!

Ron Carey, chairman of the Minnesota Republican Party, doesn't seem to be listening to the words that are coming out of his mouth. After Amy Klobuchar was endorsed, he said a few things obviously trying to hurt her; funny thing is, all his statement does is make Mark Kennedy look out of touch.

Klobuchar "supports government controlled health care"...which is exactly what an independent citizen panel says, although 23,000 people from all 50 states could be wrong.

She supports "tax increases"...or, in other words, perhaps injecting some fiscal discipline into Congress and paying for the things that people want, like Big Bird (will Republicans never learn?), instead of running up endless deficits.

She supports "cutting and running in Iraq"...the war that the majority of people in this country think is a mistake, and one where continued American presence seems to do nothing to better the security situation, and only results in more death for our troops and Iraqi civilians.

On the other hand, Mark Kennedy supports doing nothing to guarantee health care for everybody, loves President Bush's budget priorities and ongoing deficits, and thinks that we should just stay the course in Iraq, for who knows how long (does he support permanent bases in Iraq?). Good old Mark Kennedy: out of the mainstream.

Klobuchar endorsed

Big surprise!

DFL Convention

If you haven't noticed, I am NOT providing live blogging of the state DFL convention, because I am not there. Why would I want to spend my weekend with a bunch of damn dirty hippies? If you want the latest, check out the usual suspects.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Norm: Defender of Marriage

Norm Coleman voted for cloture on the Federal Marriage Amendment. This divorced Senator obviously believes that the biggest threat to marriage today is not divorce, not long distance, not sharply differing work schedules, not infidelity, but teh gay. Nice.

Here's what Norm has to say on the subject, courtesy of a reader:
Thank you for taking the time to contact me regarding the Marriage
Protection Amendment (S.J. Res. 1).

I support a constitutional amendment that would constitutionalize the
Defense of Marriage Act, ensuring that the citizens of a state, through
their legislature, have the right to define marriage as they see fit.
Moreover, I believe that state legislatures and citizens, not activist
judges, should determine what constitutes a marriage.

I have not, however, agreed to support the Marriage Protection Amendment
which was introduced on January 24, 2005, by Senator Wayne Allard (R-CO)
and referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary where it was
reported favorably by the Constitution Subcommittee on November 9, 2005.
This resolution proposes a constitutional amendment holding that only
marriages between men and women will be recognized as legal marriages in
the United States . In addition, this resolution would prohibit any
state or federal laws that seek to confer marital status to unmarried
couples or groups.

My two chief concerns about this particular resolution are that the
language may to go beyond the issue of defining marriage and interfere
with things such as employer-provided health care programs, for example
and that it substitutes the judgment that citizens of each state should
make through their legislatures.

Though we may agree at times and disagree at times, I value your advice
and will keep it in mind when the Senate returns to this topic.

I am humbled to serve as your Senator, and hope you will not hesitate to
contact me on any issue of concern to you or your family.
Huh? I sure would like to know how you can have an amendment that would put DOMA into the Constitution while ensuring that "the citizens of a state, through their legislature, have the right to define marriage as they see fit." If the amendment passes, that means that citizens can define marriage however they want as long as it is between a man and a women. Double nice.

No special session

...at least for now.

It's not too much of a surprise that the House and Senate couldn't agree on the amendment. They are just too far apart.

Katherine Kersten's Korner

Blogger is being quite disagreeable, but here's another Katherine Kersten's Korner anyway. Today's kolumn is about something MDE has been harping on for a while: Congressional candidate Keith Ellison's former comments and acquaintances.

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

Well, I'm sure that there are some people who will take Ellison to task for the things he said when he was younger, as well as the people he hung around with. The Nation of Islam is not one of your more tolerant organizations, and many of its members are very good for inflammatory rhetoric. Ellison never said anything like "Kill Whitey", but when he was a student, like many students he was, ah, strident.

Count me as a person who is not impressed. I believe people can change and mature as they grow older and learn, and this appears to be the case with Ellison. He has said that he is no longer a member of the Nation of Islam and has not been for quite some time, and he has distanced himself from the comments made long ago. Since he was elected to the legislature, he hasn't made any controversial comments, nor has his record shown him to be far out of the mainstream. He does not act as if he is in favor of splitting the country into black and white nations.

Throughout the article, almost all of the rantings come from people other than Ellison, and Ellison is just tarred with the same brush. Others were gay-bashing and Jew-baiting, not Ellison.

Like I said, I am sure that for some people, Ellison's history will be a reason not to vote for him. And there is nothing wrong with writing about somebody's (accurate) history. But this guilt by association, along with ignoring how a person has changed, is pretty sad.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Interesting offer

The House actually offered to raise taxes by putting forward an offer on the issue of dedicated funding for the environment that increased the sales tax instead of diverting part of the existing sales tax. Interesting. I didn't think the House would actually go that far, seeing as how they hate obviously raising taxes as much as Pawlenty (although "fees" and property taxes are always fair game, of course).

And what about Pawlenty? Since this is a constitutional amendment, it doesn't need his signature. How convenient for him.

You need money for this?

$1.5 million for character education? Seriously? Parents and teachers can't work in these kinds of lessons, you know, for free?

Monday, June 05, 2006

Where does Norm stand?

Americablog readers have been calling senators all day and asking them to what extent they defend marriage. It's not just about defending marriage from teh gay, of course: the Bible says lots of things about appropriate sexual behavior, and the right-wingers say up front that they want to ban not only gay marriage, but anything remotely kinky or interesting. That includes divorce, a big no-no in the Bible.

Norm Coleman's website doesn't indicate where he stands on the issue, nor is there any indication of whether Norm is defending marriage to the fullest extent possible. I have heard that his wife lives quite far away from him, which certainly isn't traditional. Are they both behaving when they aren't in the same place? If the U.S. government wants to stick its nose in our bedrooms, it is only fair to return the favor.

Any word?

Ellison campaign changes

According to Checks and Balances, Minnesota House staffer Dave Colling is going to become Keith Ellison's new campaign manager. Don't know what that means, but I thought I would report it.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Katherine Kersten's Korner

Today's kolumn is typical Kersten mendacity. Really, it almost doesn't merit comment. It's a tired old rehash of all of her favorite "arguments."

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

I'm not Methodist, so I could care less what they do with their time, or what the topics of converation are at their conventions. I don't know what religion Kersten is, but I am willing to bet that it isn't Methodist, so I do have to wonder why she cares about them...

Unless, of course, it gives her an excuse to decry "left-wing" activism. Apparently, according to her, the fact that Methodists are pushing "left-wing" policies is the reason why membership in the church has been dropping lately. Religious expert Kersten says "[people] seek answers to life's most profound questions: What is the purpose of my life? What is the meaning of my suffering? What is my connection to the transcendent, to God?" And apparently the Methodists aren't doing enough of that, instead talking about chlorine-free paper.

Pay special attention to the next line in her kolumn, though, because it will make your head explode: "If rank-and-file church members believe their leaders attend too little to these eternal questions, and focus too much on political advocacy, they may look elsewhere for spiritual nourishment."

Guess which churches are being investigated for mixing politics and religion? Fundamentalist churches. Guess which mega-churches print out huge voter guides that exhort people to vote against Democrats and liberals? Guess which churches use their bully pulpits to talk about such political topics as opposing gay marriage, supporting the war in Iraq, banning contraception? It's not the Methodists, or any other "liberal" churches.

I know, I know. For Kersten to see the speck in the eyes of the Methodists and not to see the beam in the eyes of conservative churches is nothing new. But seriously, isn't anybody at the Star Tribune going to start pointing these things out to her?

John Kline

I don't like just about anything that John Kline does, but I do have to appreciate the fact that unlike other Republicans, he doesn't seem to be interested in excusing what happened at Haditha. Maybe changing his mind about the war is something to do later.

Look, Marines are made for killing people. If I needed an army of bad guys with weapons defeated, I'd call in the Marines. For police work, peacekeeping, and the like, however, that's not what the Marines are for, and it is stupid to expect them to do those kinds of things.

If we are going to have more Commander Cuckoo Bananas running out country in the near future, maybe it would be a good idea to create another branch of the military full of peacekeepers, for when we invade Iran, Venezuela, Bolivia, North Korea, etc.

More evil

Yet another story about how some people would rather have their daughters die of cervical cancer than send "mixed messages" about sex. The fact that people such as these have kids, and are probably warping them with their own screwed-up viewpoints, is something that keeps me up at night.

Do any of these parents have the intellectual capability to understand that if they prevent their kids from getting this life-saving vaccine, they are preventing their children from choosing what kind of life to live? Not everybody believes that having one sex partner in your life, and only within marriage, is the kind of life they want to live. And despite beliefs to the contrary, those of us who have sex outside of marriage can do so without mental anguish or unintended pregnancies by being smart.

But no. Apparently, a 2,000 year old book is more important than a person's life. Nice to know.

Friday, June 02, 2006

No special session

I don't see this happening. The Senate wants an increase in the sales tax, the House wants to use the existing sales tax. Using the existing sales tax is not a good idea. If that happens, and if the MVST dedication passes, that's going to be a huge chunk of General Fund money that will be off limits, and therefore not available for use on education, law enforcement, health care, you name it.

Not getting a new tax isn't worth it. It's rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

We are all terrorists now

A funny thing happened to Mark Kennedy: he has, like the majority of the country, become one of those America-haters, one of those loonies, one of the unhinged moonbats.

Remember after 9/11 how merely criticizing President Bush or his policies meant that you were a terrorist and you hated America? Remember all the crap that anti-war people got before the war in Iraq when they said that there weren't any WMDs, that the Bush administration was too incompetent to rebuild the country after the war? Remember when responsible people, Democrats included, criticized Bush for his unaffordable tax cuts, only to be told that huge deficits don't matter or will go away with the sizzling economy? I sure do.

Well, it seems that Mark Kennedy's campaign plan, like the plans of most Republicans running for re-election this year, is to try to join all those crazies, to try and wash their hands of the mess they created. "Bush who?" Kennedy seems to say. "Wasn't some guy named Bush president once? Nah, can't say I've ever heard of the name." You see, Kennedy is campaigning on change, saying that Washington is broken and he is going to fix it.

But it ain't gonna happen, Mark. You see, we all know that it is your fault that this is happening.

It is almost entirely Republicans in Congress who have become corrupt, engaged in scandal with lobbyists, harkening back all the way to the K Street Project of Tom DeLay's. It was planned from the beginning, and Kennedy is an accomplice.

It is Republicans who have pushed for huge deficits and pork barrel spending. Hey Mark, all of a sudden you are concerned about our country's budget? Say, didn't you make the deciding vote for one of Bush's budget bills? If you had a problem with Bush's budget priorities, that would have been a good time to air them, don't you think?

It is Republicans who have filled the bureaucracy with their partisan hacks, even filling the bureaucracy of another country entirely with partisan hacks (remember all the kids who got jobs with the Coalition Provisional Authority who had no qualifications other than they were Republicans?). These hacks are the ones that screwed up FEMA's response in New Orleans, and you helped put them there.

Republicans have held Congress since 1994 and the White House since 2000. If "controlling our borders" is really a top priority, Republicans have had an awful long time to work on it, but of course, they don't do anything until they are looking for a wedge issue for an election.

Mark Kennedy is the reason why we are in this mess. He and all the other Republican enablers didn't just sit back and let all these catastrophes happen. No, they created them. They broke the budget. They broke FEMA. They broke Iraq. They broke our tax code. They have broken just about everything they touch, and now they want to pretend that it's not their fault.

Where are the new ideas from Repbulicans? Based on what has happened so far this year and what is planned, it sounds like Republicans' biggest worries are flag burning and teh gay. This is the "change" that Mark Kennedy thinks he can sell Minnesota? I'm sorry, but as they say, that dog won't hunt.

No, it's time for Kennedy and other Republicans to be held responsible for what they have done. It's time for Democrats to take control and seek some answers. It's time to find out why billions of dollars have been misappropriated and lost in Iraq. It's time to find out why Washington is a cesspool of corruption, mostly on the Republican side (and Democrats like William Jefferson can take a hike too if they are corrupt). It's time to get answers so these things won't happen again.

Mark Kennedy may try to run from his record, but the people of Minnesota aren't going to let that happen.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Vote Yes

There is a new website out there for supporters of the constitutional amendment to dedicate the Motor Vehicle Sales Tax (MVST) to roads and transit. It is at http://www.voteyesmn.org/.

I support the amendment, although I would like to see a higher gas tax to actually pay for some roads.

Katherine Kersten's Korner

Today's kolumn is a pretty interesting history lesson about the existence of the Communist Party in the U.S.A., including it's involvement in Minnesota's DFL party back in the day.

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

If I have any quibble with the story at all, it's the headline: Haynes may have "started" with the Minnesota DFL party, but he certainly did not spend all of his time there, nor is the story about how the DFL was secretly controlled by the Communists. However, as a former employee of a newspaper, I know that headlines are out of the hands of the writer of the story, so Kersten's not at fault here.

To be honest, I'm not really surprised by what is in the story. Like Haynes, I was taught in my Political Science classes that Communists never had real power in the political realm in this country, but that certainly doesn't mean that they didn't exist. I had presumed that most DFLers are well aware of Hubert Humphrey's fight against Communists when he was merging the Democratic and Farmer-Labor parties and as mayor of Minneapolis, but apparently that might not be as widely known as I thought. In any case, it's important to remember that Humphrey and the non-Communist liberals won.

Yes, there were Communists in government during the 50s and 60s, but that doesn't mean that the McCarthy pogrom wasn't extreme and un-American. It should also be noted that while there were probably thousands or tens of thousands of Communists back in the day (and probably still around today, for that matter), there are much less than a hundred terrorists in this country today by all counts. There were some unpleasantries due to the "Red Scare" in terms of civil liberties, but nothing like the wholesale trashing of our Constitution that is happening today. Thinking about the relative threats is probably a good idea.

All in all, this Haynes person and his research sound pretty interesting. I'm certainly not laughing at him.