.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Light blogging

Blogging will be light to perhaps non-existent for the foreseeable future. Like some long-hair once said, life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans. Hopefully, I will be able to once again turn back to the wondrous excitement that is Minnesota politics before too long.

So, what's up with that debate between the gubernatorial candidates last night? Is Hatch ever going to be able to say something concrete about transportation? Is it all that hard to get behind a bipartisan funding plan that will pay for things like fixing the Crosstown?

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Speaking of the convention...

...what a mess. I didn't want either convention coming here. What a huge hassle this will be for everybody who actually lives and works here.

And I don't believe for a second the stuff about the economic benefits. Why is it that every city that hosts these conventions ends up losing money on the deal, not making any money?

Katherine Kersten's Korner

In today's kolumn (which is somehow about why the Republicans picked the Twin Cities for the 2008 Republican National Convention, despite the fact that it was just announced today), Kersten talks about the evolution of politics in Minnesota.

For the most part, it's not bad. It is certainly true that Minnesota is a lot less DFL than in years past, such as in 1984 when it was the only state to go for Mondale. Back in the day, the combination of the Iron Range and the Twin Cities themselves generated big margins for Democrats. With the rise of suburbs and the relative decline of central cities, it has become more balanced. It has not, however, come close to swinging to the Republicans, nor do I think it will.

I do think that is is pretty sad that Kersten has to hold up people like Norm Coleman (empty suit) and Tim Pawlenty (breaker of no-new-taxes promises) as stars in the Republican party. I'm not saying Mark Dayton is my idol, after all. And Michelle Bachman? Please.

But what can you do with that cast of characters? Certainly not run on a positive, forward-thinking platform. Carping about taxes or talking about the horrors of teh gay are not what Minnesotans want to hear, which is why Republicans have not taken over yet, and won't if Republicans don't remember what they used to stand for. Since I don't see that happening anytime soon, the RNC shouldn't expect too many dividends from choosing the Twin Cities for its next convention.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Tim Walz ad

Tim Walz has a TV ad up. It's your standard bio ad, and I like it. Coach, teacher of the year, vet...and "staying the course" in Iraq is the wrong thing to do, so let's change Congress. Holy crap, a Democrat who gets it!

Republicans don't need no stinkin' facts!

So I see that Republicans are running a hit ad against Patty Wetterling on the subject of taxes, including the estate tax, which supposedly hurts "family farms and small businesses." Okay, NRCC and Bachman, let's see you back it up: I want to see evidence of just one family farm that had to be sold as a result of the estate tax in the 6th district. Just one. Lots of farms in the 6th, so it shouldn't be too hard to find a "family farm" that was negatively influenced by the estate tax. Right?

We already know that your multi-millionaire donors want the estate tax gone, so no need to bring them into this.

Monday, September 25, 2006

What's going on?

Amy Klobuchar is so far ahead it's not funny, Republicans are still ranting about Keith Ellison, and the governor's race isn't nearly as depressing as four years ago, but it's close.

Something has to be going on somewhere!

Katherine Kersten's Korner

Kersten seems to have a thing for strict schools these days, and today's kolumn is no different. Not exactly my cup of tea, though, especially the "no dating" stuff. Whatever floats their boat, I guess.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Sheer idiocy

How about we have a new rule in politics: if a candidate invests in mutual funds, they are not responsible for the actions of the businesses that make up those mutual funds. First it was Amy Klobuchar and her oil profits, now it is Patty Wetterling and "shipping American jobs overseas." Of course, the hit piece from the NRCC ignores the fact that Michelle Bachman also has mutual funds. What wankers.

For Republicans, these morons sure don't know much about how mutual funds work, or why it can be advantageous to invest in mutual funds instead of individual stocks.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Illegal?

Here's a thought experiment on the illegality of something. Remember, this is about illegality, not about whether it is ethical to do something.

1. Is it illegal to go to a public website, and generate random webpage requests to see if those pages exist on that website? For example, if you are at www.somesite.com, would it be illegal to request www.somesite.com/a.html, www.somesite.com/b.html, www.somesite.com/c.html, www.somesite.com/jones.html, and so forth? Most of the time, you will get "Page Not Found" errors. If you do find something, it is publicly available even if there are no outside links to it, so you aren't "hacking" anything.

I can't see how this is illegal. Lots of bots, search engines, etc. do these kinds of things. Now, if you were going to generate a million random page requests, somebody is probably going to notice, but is generating those page requests illegal?

2. Now imaging that you create a webpage with a Javascript redirector that takes input and then asks for the appropriate web page. So, you type "a" in a box, and it requests www.somesite.com/a.html. You type "jones" in the box, and it requests www.somesite.com/jones.html. In effect, instead of randomly requesting pages, you are requesting specific pages that you type in. Is this still illegal? If so, what is the change from #1 to #2 that would make this illegal?

3. Finally, imagine that www.somesite.com itself has this box, and you use it to request web pages. Is this now illegal? What are the legal differences between #1, #2, and #3?

I appreciate input. Again, I am not asking if it is ethical to probe public websites in this manner, I am asking about legality.

Torture

Read it and literally weep.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

TV commercials

On to more mundane things...TV commercials!

Patty Wetterling's is okay for your standard introductory biographical piece. As if there are people in this state that don't know about Jacob Wetterling, but you have to start somewhere.

Pawlenty's tax ad is pretty lame. True, that is probably because I think he's pretty lame. I just can't keep from adding "....and led to the delay of the Crosstown reconstruction project" whenever he says he vetoed the bipartisan gas tax increase. That is something to be proud of?

The "word games" anti-Pawlenty ad isn't bad either. It points out how his "no new taxes" pledge is a joke, without being too negative or too kooky. It's not a groundbreaker, but it'll do.

How to become a hacker in three easy steps!

Want to know how to become a "hacker"? Well, it's simple:

1. Go to this page. Select "Page 2" and click on the Go button.
2. Notice that you have just been forwarded to http://www.isotton.com/scripts/fastredirector/page2.html
3. Send that link (http://www.isotton.com/scripts/fastredirector/page2.html) to another person so they can get to that page directly.

Congratulations! You are a 1337 haX0R! w00T!

Now, if I understand this whole brouhaha, this is essentially what Noah Kunin did, except that instead of selecting "Page 2" from a list, he typed it in a box. But that's it.

Am I missing anything here?

A more pathetic day I have never seen...

Today has to be one of the most pathetic days I have ever seen in Minnesota Politics. This "security breach OMG liberal blogger did something illegal OH NOES!" nonsense gives anybody with any knowledge at all a huge, gigantic, monstrous headache. The fact that Mark Kennedy and his Republican underlings have no problem lying to exploit this non-issue is, quite honestly, disgusting.

First, the "hacking" of Scott Howell's website by Noah Kunin. Simply put, you can't hack security that doesn't exist. The allegation is that Noah went to http://www.scott-howell.com/netview.html and then "hacked" where it says "enter a password." Now, to somebody who is ignorant about the web, that may look huge and foreboding. But how can it be security when you are just asked for a password, not a username? Without both, there is no way to authenticate the user, even if you do make the "password" box have little stars in it. And where's the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) that secure websites are supposed to have? Do you see an "https://" in front of that address? I don't.

Becuase it's not a password, and the site is not password-protected by any means. Enter some random gibberish in that box to see what I mean. Say you enter "bob" in the box. You simply get forwarded to http://www.scott-howell.com/cybersession/bob.html. If you enter "mde", you will be forwarded to http://www.scott-howell.com/cybersession/mde.html (of course, neither of these websites really exists). If you simply typed in the URL directly into your web browser, you would get to the same place without a fake "password" prompt. There is no security there.

Now, I'm not saying that what the Klobuchar campaign did was wrong, or that Noah Kunin did the right thing when he discovered that Scott Howell's website was coded by an idiot (and I hope that Mr. Howell has fired whoever is in charge of his web security, because that kind of mistake should not be made by somebody who has even a rudimentary knowledge of the web). I fail to see how Kunin did anything truly illegal; he just figured out that Scott Howell's web minions coded some shortcut, called it a "password", and hoped that nobody would figure out that all of their web pages are public. Putting a sign on a door saying "This door is locked" doesn't make it locked; putting up a webpage asking for a "password" does not mean you are securing your site.

Then we get to Mark Kennedy's "securing" of his website because Scott Howell's was "hacked." Forget for the moment that Howell's website was not hacked. Forget that it is completely absurd for one person to "lockdown" their site because another site, somewhere else on the interwebs, was insecure. The most pathetic, and most disingenuous thing is that Mark Kennedy has done nothing to secure his website. Not a single damn thing, except to put up some WATB page that all of his other pages redirect to instantly.

But are his old pages gone? Are they secured? Are they now invisible to the world? Of course not. Just go to a page like http://www.markkennedy06.com/Action/Register.htm and hit Escape when it starts loading. If you are quick enough, you will keep it from automatically forwarding to the WATB page, and you can clearly see that the contents are still there, still open, still available to the public. Like I posted elsewhere, Mark Kennedy has done with his website the equivalent of throwing a sheet over a couch and saying "Look! The couch is gone!" Pretty impressive and secure...against infants.

But Republicans are still going to act all high and mighty and lie knowing full well the truth, hoping that the public will be ignorant enough about HTML and META REFRESH tags and the like to buy it hook, line, and sinker. The Klobuchar campaign, in my opinion, handled this case in a way far and above how they had to. Kennedy, meanwhile, is going to try to milk this non-scandal for all the slime he can.

There are times when principled Republicans are right about certain issues. And there are times like these when Republicans will do anything, up to and including blatant lying, to get their way. Sadly, the latter happens much more frequently now than the former.

Katherine Kersten's Korner

No kolumn? Maybe her last one left her spent after all of the ridiculous attacks on Ellison.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Outrageous

If you want to read a disturbing story, go here.

It is the year 2006, and women are still treated like absolute trash by certain people in power. I'd like to say that I can't believe these things happen, but I know better, especially when it comes to religious wackos. Every sperm is sacred, indeed.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Mark Kennedy's next ad

Fade in from black to black-and-white images of crime: Watts riots, fires, non-white people doing bad things. Scary music in the background...

Alleged Prosecutor Amy Klobuchar would like you to believe that she fights crime. So then why has crime gone up in Hennepin County? It's simple: she refuses to take responsibility.

Cut to: image of Amy Klobuchar playing with puppies or some similar innocuous image.

You see, Amy Klobuchar refuses to take to the streets of Hennepin County and take the law into her own hands. She doesn't have a concealed carry permit. She probably doesn't even own a gun. Has she ever chased down a criminal while on the job?

Cut to: image of Mark Kennedy in a cowboy hat with a revolver.

Mark Kennedy takes crime seriously. That's why he personally patrols the streets of Minneapolis with a six-shooter in hand. In fact, he kills an average of three drug dealers and al-Qaeda terrorists a day. Has Amy Klobuchar ever killed anyone?

Cut to: smiling image of Mark Kennedy in front of locked-up criminals.

Mark Kennedy will fight crime. Amy Klobuchar won't. The choice is clear.

Huh?

Senator Dayton, it's called "the weather." It is unpredictable, especially here in Minnesota, and there's nothing you can do about it.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Katherine Kersten's Korner

I'm shocked that in Kersten's latest kolumn she resumes her attacks on Keith Ellison. She joins the cadre of Republicans who are trying to paint Ellison as some extremist and paint the DFL as extremist for voting for an extremist. It's a really highbrow strategy, and Kersten has just enough intelligence to join in.

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

There is literally nothing new here. If you want a rehash of everything that wingnuts like Alan Fine and Ron Carey are saying about Keith Ellison, read her kolumn. If you are sick of it, don't.

Knee-jerk ignorance

I found this article on the Ellison's "Hamas-loving" supporter to be interesting, and to verify what I assumed the story was. There are obviously lots of people who support Hamas: the PLO was corrupt and Hamas provided services that the people need. Same with Hezbollah. That doesn't mean that the people who get medicine from Hamas support their terrorism, it means they support the only group that cares whether they live or die.

I see this as a sad reflection on the state of politics and the economy in these Middle Eastern locales, because when things fall apart so badly that these quasi-governmental organizations need to pop up to provide people with basic services, it's not a good thing for obvious reasons. But Republicans? Most of them are probably ignorant of the history of Hamas or the Middle East in general, so they can't comprehend how anybody can support Hamas. They are terrorists!

It must be fun to have such a narrow mind and live your life based on white-or-black moral absolutes. Actually, it's probably not fun. I've spent enough time around those kinds of people to know how much fun it isn't.

Minnesota Poll shows Hatch and Pawlenty tied

The latest Minnesota Poll shows Mike Hatch and Tim Pawlenty tied in the governor's race at 42% each. I'm not really surprised by the closeness of the race. The state isn't doing horribly, but there are a lot of issues (transportation, health care, "no new taxes") that aren't going well. There's no clear direction.

A couple things jumped out at me when I read the crosstabs. First, Pawlenty is hugely popular with the 18-34 group; what's up with that? Second, there are more undecided women than men at this point, which I see as a good thing for Hatch. Hatch, like most Democrats, has a lead among women, so if these undecided women break for Hatch, he could be up slightly. We will see.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

A thought experiment

I normally don't do national politics, but this is something that is so outrageous, it bears comment: the trials for suspected terrorists, and what the Bush administration wants to do.

The way I understand it, the Bush administration wants something like this: they haul in Michael Brodkorb of MDE as a "suspected terrorist." They also haul me in as a suspected terrorist. Under "coercion" (read: torture), I finally exclaim "Yes! Yes! Osama bin Laden personally told me that Michael Brodkorb was the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks when we were eating at Tucci Benucch in the year 2000! He did it!" This becomes the main piece of evidence in the case against Mr. Brodkorb, but because it is "classified" he never gets to see any of it. He could even presumably be put to death on the basis of this, and he would never know it.

So is this it? Do I have anything wrong?

Friday, September 15, 2006

Commercials

Speaking of Michelle Bachman, I saw her commercial this morning. Not much to say about it, expect for the fact that the final closeup of her at the end of the commercial gives her the "deer in the headlights" look. Seriously, she looks like she downed a few Valium before that shot. Is that what she was going for?

Look! LOOOOOOOK!

I'm not holding my breath, but it would be nice if the media did their job and explained to the public the frame that Republicans are using in their campaign this year: namely, that the name of the game is to attack not Democratic candidates themselves, but people tangentially related to them:
  • Keith Ellison is Louis Farrakhan!
  • Plus, Keith Ellison got money from somebody who likes Hamas!
  • Colleen Rowley has a volunteer who believes things that she doesn't!
  • Some people said things about Amy Klobuchar!
  • Some other people said things about Mike Hatch!
In other words, like a petulant child, Ron Carey, MDE, and all the Republicans this year are screaming, "Look at what these people did! Look! LOOOOOOOOOOK!!!!!!!"

They can't draw attention to DFL candidates themselves, because by and large they are good candidates that people like and that have nothing to hide. Compared to some of the Republican candidates (Michelle Bachman, recently unhinged Alan Fine), it's really no contest who the more personable and mature candidates are. And running on the record? The national Republican record is a disaster, and the state record is not a whole lot better.

Republicans are scared that voters are finally going to hold them accountable for not being serious about our country's safety, not looking out for our infrastructure while playing games with our money (Bridge to Nowhere? Bungled Crosstown reconstruction?), getting the government involved in private matters where it shouldn't be involved, and letting the middle class languish while the top 1% of earners reap all of the rewards. And they should be scared. So all they have to run on is character assassination and mud-slinging.

The media typically responds to this by printing "he said, she said" stories that give ridiculous charges airtime, therefore validating them. That's not reporting; that's stenography. Reporting would be dismissing Alan Fine's outrageous statements and pointing out that there is literally no record of Keith Ellison saying anything anti-Semitic, and then refusing to give Fine coverage if he keeps on repeating this nonsense. Will it happen?

Debatin'

Polinaut posted a pretty good liveblog of the gubernatorial debate. From what I see, Hatch wasn't terribly good. Is this the best he can do? At least his latest ad is better than the first, though that's not saying much. It plays to health care, his strength, which makes a lot more sense than making him look like somebody he's not.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Gubernatorial debate

Apparently there was a debate today. I didn't hear any of it, but some reporters did. Did you?

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Katherine Kersten's Korner

Today's kolumn is about Harvest Prepatory Boys Academy, a charter school in North Minneapolis that sounds like it is doing all of the right things. Hey, this is the one kolumn in a hundred where Kersten and I agree!

Wingnuttia Level: 0 (Safe for me, at least)

Primary thoughts

So the results are in. To me, the most surprising thing was Lori Swanson's win. I'm not as surprised by Keith Ellison's win, although it definitely is a big story. The other races were pretty ho hum. But Lori Swanson? I thought that she would put up a good fight against Steve Kelley but ultimately lose. Why she won is a bit of a mystery to me. It is probably partly due to Hatch's support, partly due to Steve Kelley's stadium support (though by no means is that the major reason). Other than that...I don't know.

Another surprising thing was the Republican AG race. Jeff Johnson won, as expected, but somebody named Sharon Anderson got 42% of the vote? I didn't even know Johnson had an opponent. That came out of nowhere; maybe it is a testament to having a Scandinavian name.

About Ellison: the Republicans and MDE (they are pretty much the same thing) are going to waste no time in smearing Ellison from now until he is elected to Congress. They have already started. They have no shame. Want proof? This literally just appeared. Nice.

These attacks are going to come from two directions. First, his race. A not insignificant part of the Republican party is racist: just take a look at Senator George "Macaca" Allen or Representative Tom Tancredo. But outright racist attacks are pretty disgusting in this day and age, even for Republicans, and they know that being obviously racist is going to lose more votes than it will win most of the time.

So that leaves the obvious attack, the one that everybody will be focusing on: his religion. I find this utterly ridiculous, but it is happening all the same. Sure, for a lot of mouth-breathers out there, they think that "Muslim=Terrorist" because their leaders have told them so. In reality, of course, it's a bit more nuanced than that. Just because somebody is a Muslim doesn't mean that they are fundamentalist, just as all Christians are not fundamentalists.

But what is worse? Who is really dangerous? Was it a Muslim or a Christian who said that God let 9/11 happen because America tolerates abortion and homosexuality? When a very prominent person running for the Senate in a certain large state said that voters need to vote in politicians of a certain religion, because otherwise you will get sinful legislation, was she saying that we should be voting in Muslims or Christians?

There are a lot of politicians out there who sincerely believe that we must replace America's secular government with a government that is based on their interpretation of Christianity. In other words, a theocracy. To me, living under a Christian theocracy would be no better than living under a Muslim one, but do Republicans see the same threat? Of course not; you generally don't see your base as a "threat." No, they are so devoid of any sense of irony that they can bash Ellison while advocating their own theocracy.

Keith Ellison, unlike many prominent Republicans, is not a fundamentalist. You will never hear him trash homosexuals, you will never hear him denigrate women, and you will never hear him talk about how we need to get rid of the separation of church and state and get ourselves an Islamic theocracy. He's a moderate to liberal Muslim, just like Farheen Hakeem. They exist. Imagine that! And yet Republicans are going to bash him for his religion, all the while trying to force their own down everybody's throats.

I think that 5th CD voters are going to be a bit smarter than that, but that won't stop Republicans from trying. It could become a very ugly campaign season.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Ellison, Hatch, Klobuchar win

The official results are here. Mike Hatch has won on the DFL side for governor, and Amy Klobuchar has won for senate; no surprises there. Keith Ellison has won in the 5th CD by a pretty comfortable margin. With half of the votes in, Lori Swanson is leading in the AG's race over endorsed candidate Steve Kelley. If she wins, it will be the first time in quite a while that every single candidate I voted for will have won. No surprises on the Republican side.

So far, with varying numbers of precincts reporting, things look safe for legislative incumbents like Dean Johnson, Paul Koering, and others.

Live blogging the primary...

...is not something you will find here. Sheesh. Go to Minnesota Monitor instead.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Primary Eve

The campaigns are now going crazy. After receiving next to nothing from any campaigns for months, within the past couple of days I have been getting robo-calls, campaign literature, and countless e-mails. I have to question the wisdom of sending out five e-mails in a day, or mailing two lit pieces on consecutive days less than a week before the primary. I've already made up my mind; where was this stuff earlier? What gives? And why do people think that e-mail gives you license to annoy everybody?

I live in the fifth CD, so that makes for a couple of interesting races in total. For the most part, I plan on voting for the endorsed DFL candidates. In only two races, I had to think about it: Attorney General and the 5th.

For Attorney General, I will be voting for Lori Swanson, who to my knowledge did not vote for any stadium bills this year. I have no problems with Steve Kelley, but his huge support of the Twins bill is something I can't ignore. Sorry, Steve. Perhaps his calculus is that this won't make a difference in his campaign, or it will be a net positive. We will see.

Now to the 5th. Keith Ellison has made a number of mistakes in his life, that much is true. But the personal attacks on him are completely out of line. I also can't ignore the fact that many of the attacks are directed at him for two reasons: he's black and he's a Muslim. The MDE CAIR posts are just the latest evidence of this. If I chose who I voted for based on religion, I wouldn't be able to vote for anybody. So I look at things as a whole, and nothing I have seen makes me think that Ellison will use religion divisively as so many Republicans do.

And then there are the other candidates. Paul Ostrow? Who is he again? Ember Reichgott Junge? I wouldn't vote for her for any office, no matter how small. Mike Erlandson? I don't like how Sabo tried to make him the heir apparent. Plus, when I look back at Erlandson's tenure as party chair, I see a lot of missed opportunities.

So I am planning on voting for Keith Ellison, and my reluctance about it diminishes with every attack leveled by people like MDE.

That's about it. It won't be too long before we see the results.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Katherine Kersten's Korner

Apparently, Katherine Kersten has forgotten the number one rule of dealing with crackpot conspiracy theorists: don't give them the attention they are seeking. Nevertheless, she does just that in her latest kolumn. I wonder how she deals with kids that are throwing tantrums.

Wingnuttia Level: UC (utter cluelessness)

Unlike Kersten, I'm not going to spend time talking about how silly it is to believe that the Bush administration faked phone calls from United Flight 93 using voice synthesizers or other idiocies. But the fact that 16 percent of Americans believe in some 9/11 conspiracy theories isn't something that I am panicking about. Don't more people believe in UFOs or believe that Elvis is still alive?

I am worried about one statistic, though: the fact that almost half of Americans think that Saddam Hussein had something to do with 9/11. That's almost three times as many people as believe in 9/11 conspiracy theories, and this belief has actually had an impact on U.S. foreign policy, with disastrous results. Guess which party tried its best to push the 9/11-Saddam links? Could it be the one that Kersten calls home?

How about Kersten writes a kolumn about the real scary conspiracy theorists: the ones who believe that Saddam had something to do with 9/11? After all, they are actually running parts of our government. Now that's scary.

Effectively running a campaign?

Lori Sturdevant talks about Becky Lourey's campaign for governor. She finds the candidate "polishing a belated position paper on education, calling for more school time, fewer costly school regulations, and more stable state school funding." Lourey, being the challenger, wants this campaign to be about "issues", like many pie-in-the-sky Democrats.

Yes, campaigns should be about issues. However, spending time writing a position paper? The way to electoral success is not in writing doctoral dissertations. Nobody but the hardcore activists are going to read any of her position papers. They will not have a significant impact at all on her electoral chances. And yet, this is where she is spending her time.

Eventually, I think that Democrats will learn that running as the professor from Gilligan's Island is not the way to win elections, at least not at the present time. The long-term strategy for bettering this country should be to smack the media back into line and get rid of the anti-intellectualism that is rampant among Americans. But that's not going to happen until the right people gain power first, and they aren't going to do it by assuming that the average voter wants to read ten position papers before determining who to vote for.

Thoughts

The primary is two days away. I'll have more to say about it tomorrow, but here's a story on how Senate Majority Leader Dean Johnson is facing a primary challenge. I have heard that this is a serious one and he could be in some trouble. We'll know in two days.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

These are the times that try a nation...

It's nice to see that Congress is spending these crucial few weeks before the election on the important stuff.

Why should I care if people eat horses? Horses are animals like everything else, and like all other animals, they are made out of meat. Giving meat names doesn't make it not meat. Sure, I don't think I would care for horse meat, but to each his own.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Katherine Kersten's Korner

This week's kolumn isn't the feel-good space-filler that she has written of late, breaking her streak. It's also something that I really can't care too much about, that of who belongs to which holier-than-though professional group of some kind or another. It highlights several types of crazy, though, so I'll go through it.

Wingnuttia Level: TA (too apathetic)

It starts with the law firm of Maslon, Edelman, Borman and Brand. It was founded 50 years ago by a Jewish lawyer who couldn't work anywhere else. It was involved with lots of civil rights cases over the years, including desegregating Minneapolis schools. It is headed by a woman. All good.

In 1997 the firm decided to represent some white students who thought that they were denied admission to the law school because of their race. It was a pretty controversial case.

As aside: if I remember this case (and there's no guarantee that I do), the case revolved around the argument that the scores and G.P.A.s the white students had would have been good enough to get them into the school had they not been white, since the standards for non-whites are lower. I detest this kind of affirmative action. Saying that a score of 150 on the LSAT is an automatic rejection if a white student receives it but can lead to admission if a non-white student receives it goes completely against any notion of objective standards. If you want to do that, then get rid of objective measures like grades and tests and go with totally subjective means of determining fitness. I support the kind of affirmative action where objective standards aren't lowered for anybody, where if everything else is more or less equal you take the person with the more diverse background. That's good in my opinion.

Anyway, in 2006 the Maslon firm applied to Twin Cities Diversity in Practice, "a consortium of nine major corporations and 19 law firms interested in recruiting and hiring minority attorneys." They were not admitted because the Minnesota Association of Black Lawyers thought that Maslon's representation of these white students was unacceptable and "carries an unacceptable 'taint' that is likely to undermine ... the goal of attracting future attorneys of color."

Well, this seems pretty silly to me. Lawyers are lawyers: they get paid by their clients to do what their clients tell them to do. Everybody is entitled to legal representation. Malson did what they did for the same reason that Wal-Mart pressures its suppliers to reduce their costs constantly. And yes, people find fault with both things. That doesn't make it any less silly when you get right down to it.

The Minnesota Association of Black Lawyers, however, is not helping its cause by holding minority-only parties on public property. I agree that any group of professionals, be it lawyers, doctors, plumbers, truck drivers, or underwater basket weavers, that hold a racially-segregated meeting in the year 2006 is completely disgusting. It boggles the mind that a group of people can decry representing white students in a discrimination case one minute and then discriminate against white people the next. Have they no sense of irony?

In the grand scheme of things, though, does this matter? Like I said, whether Maslon belongs to this "Twin Cities Diversity in Practice" isn't going to affect whether Maslon actually hires minorities or whites or anybody else. But it does manage to paint a whole lot of people in a pretty poor light. Inspirational, isn't it?

Sixth District polling

Some outfit called Constituent Dynamics polled a bunch of House races, including the 6th district here in Minnesota. I have no idea who they are, and I have read strange things about their methodology (do they use names or not? The report just says "nominee" instead of using any names.) But the results show the Republican nominee (that would be Michelle Bachman) up over the DFL nominee (that would be Patty Wetterling) 53-42. Certainly not as close as many people would believe if these numbers reflect reality.

Mike Hatch's new TV ad

Governor Pawlenty isn't the only gubernatorial candidate with a new ad out; Mike Hatch has one too, and you can see it here.

Wow. You know what this ad reminds me of? That time in the 2004 Presidential race when Kerry went hunting in Ohio or somewhere. Being compared to the Kerry campaign is not a good thing. I wonder if Hatch is using the same ad people?

Seriously, Hatch's ad is so clich├ęd and tired it's sad. Starting off with the gun stuff is just idiotic. I don't think gun control is going to be an issue in this year's election at all, and nobody has brought it up, so why is Hatch doing it? Whenever you start off a campaign by saying, "This is what I won't do..."then you are already on the defensive, and you are losing. The deep, serious voice and mindless laundry list of "accomplishments" don't help. The dog? Come on.

Here's the deal: Governor Pawlenty is a likeable, charismatic fellow, who is currently facing no great crises in the state (the budget deficits have passed). And yet, he is still well under 50% in the polls. People want to vote against Pawlenty, but they need a good reason to vote for somebody else, somebody likeable, somebody they can relate to. Hatch can be that person if he runs a good campaign with innovative, not hackneyed, commercials. Mike Hatch is not Roger Moe and doesn't need to act like it.

I hope that this ad, if it is running on TV, is only running in rural areas where it might, might, not do very much harm. If it is running in the Twin Cities area, it's a waste of money. If the Hatch campaign doesn't figure out how to use the media in an innovative, interesting way, they will lose.

Pawlenty's classroom ad

Governor Pawlenty has a new ad up about classroom funding. It touts his plan to require school districts to spend 70% of their funding in the classroom, and says he's the only person who can require accountability in the classroom.

This stupid idea has started a debate. Why is this idea a stupid one? Well, let's put it this way: the Minneapolis School District reaches that 70% threshold already. The majority of districts in this state, including many successful suburban districts, do not. If you need more proof that arbitrary funding mandates don't work, here's what the Star Tribune has to say: "Pawlenty spokesman Brian McClung offered no evidence of a correlation between student performance and low administrative spending." Even they don't believe it.

But if that's what Pawlenty wants to run on, go right ahead. I'll even toss in a couple of slogans he is free to use:

Tim Pawlenty: Bringing the effectiveness of Minneapolis schools to your town!

Tim Pawlenty: They may be unproven ideas, but at least people like them!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

State Fair Poll results

The Minnesota House of Representatives has tallied the results of their annual, unscientific, self-selected State Fair Poll. The results are here. Some thoughts:

Two-thirds of people support the constitutional amendment to dedicate the Motor Vehicle Sales Tax to transit and transportation. That's good news. However, 52% of people oppose raising the gas tax by ten cents per gallon. We need more revenue for roads and transit, or events like pushing the Crosstown reconstruction out another year will become more commonplace. I hope those 52% of people aren't complaining about traffic.

A plurality of people oppose lengthening the school year. I'd like to see it made long so kids can get more edumacated.

No on a Vikings stadium. How many polls will it take before politicians get it?

No to allowing pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions due to ethical reasons. In fact, No by a huge margin (75% to 22%). The electorate is much more sane than MCCL would like.

Yes to a health-impact fee on alcohol. That's an interesting proposal, one I hadn't heard before. Smokers must think that misery loves company.

Yes to restricting underage passengers for drivers under the age of 18. Good idea. Countless studies show how dangerous it is for 16-year old kids to drive around a car full of other 16-year olds.

Yes to requiring farmers who use fertilizers and pesticides to notify adjacent landowners of when they do it and what they use. Another interesting idea, one that sounds good but one that probably has a lot of opposition among farmers.

No to the Dream Act, which would give non-citizen high school students in-state tuition rates at college. I'm sorry, but opposing this is just stupid. These people are residents by any stretch of the imagination: they went to school here, they pay taxes here, this is their home. To deny them in-state tuition because of their parents' legal status is grossly unfair. We want these people to get an education, put down roots in Minnesota, create high-paying jobs, and pay taxes.

Yes to encouraging doctors and dentists to practice in rural Minnesota through the use of incentives. This is a huge problem, one that is probably going to get worse as more baby boomers retire.

Yes to exempting military pensions from state income taxes. A no-brainer.

Favorite food on a stick: Pronto Pup. I'd have to go with "None of the above", not a big fan of the foods on a stick variety.

Since this is not a scientific poll, you can't draw too many conclusions from it. But on balance, these results show that extremism is not in.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Katherine Kersten's Korner

Another easy one today, about how sports and other competitions are about getting you to do your best no matter what, under any circumstance. Not a bad message.

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

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Yikes

Candidate assaulted in North Minneapolis. Another candidate heard a shooting.

North Minneapolis is not the safest neighborhood in the city, but even this is out of the ordinary, at least from what I understand. If people were being assaulted at random when they were merely walking around, I hope we would be hearing about it.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Waaaa: Tim Pawlenty edition

So Tim Pawlenty is eschewing spending limits. Not really all that surprising, but his reason is pretty lame: he says that "this decision allows us to remain competitive against the onslaught of spending from liberal special interest groups."

Give me a break. As if there won't be tons of conservative special interest groups like the Taxpayers League or MCCL filling the airwaves with attacks against Hatch.

We all know why Pawlenty isn't abiding by the spending limits: as a Republican incumbent, he will have access to plenty of money. Let's be honest about it and refrain from silly excuses, shall we?

Kennedy-Klobuchar debate

They debated at the State Fair today. I didn't hear any of it, but here are stories.

Kennedy's attack on Klobuchar for investing in mutual funds that hold shares in oil companies is pretty pathetic. The whole point of a mutual fund is to invest in a wide array of companies; low-fee index funds that invest in all of the companies making up the S&P 500 or the Wilshire 5000 are great low-cost ways to invest your money, and of course they are going to have money in oil companies. What a sad attack.

Other than that, I don't have much comment. For people who actually saw or heard the debate, how did it sound?