Has your salary been frozen?
MPR's Tim Pugmire has a story today with union reaction to Gov. Tim Pawlenty's call for a wage and benefit freeze on state workers and teachers.
"What's crazy about that kind of a statement, any compensation savings when we're in as much financial trouble as the state of Minnesota is in, will not protect personnel," Jim Monroe, who heads one of the several unions in Minnesota state government said. "Those savings will then be diverted to another area of the budget to plug that hole in the dike."
According to a recent report in unemployment, government work was a comparatively safe place to be during this period of massive job losses. But in January, the unemployment rate among people associated with state government dropped 2.1%.
But the government "industry" is projected to lose only .6% of its jobs in the state (2,642 jobs) in 2009.
But, unlike private industry, the CEOs of state government are proposing a wage freeze that could extend for years. A bill at the Capitol would prohibit and wage increases for any government workers until the middle of 2011.
If this all sounds familiar, Gov. Pawlenty proposed the same wage freeze during the last budget 'crisis' in 2003.(29 Comments)
Five suggested links for you to click when the boss isn't looking:
If you've discovered something online worth sharing, post it (preferably with the html) below.(4 Comments)
Should Minnesota legalize marijuana for medicinal uses? The issue is steaming along at the Capitol. On Tuesday, it passed through a Senate committee. Today, the bill got an OK from a House committee.
"I spent the last eight years in the nursing home with my aunt and my mother, also at the end of my fathers life, I watched them in a lot of pain and taking a lot of pills," Rep. Tom Rukavina, DFL-Virginia, said. He's sponsoring the proposed legislation. "I just think there's a better way for some folks to address their pain and medical marijuana is legal in 13 other states and there's overwhelming public support."
Like many bills that make annual appearances at the Capitol, the arguments on both sides were predictable, but no less emotional with every story.
Kathy Rippentrop, whose mother was diagnosed with colon cancer, described her mother's slow death. "Mom tolerated the first round of chemo, but the pills to control vomiting cost $100 each. Mom was withering away to nothing with no appetite."
Her father, a recovering alcoholic and drug user, got some marijuana from a friend. "The only miracle drug for cancer is marijuana," she said. "My father will tell you how ironic it is that the government is concerned about the pain of a murderer, but makes the only cancer drug that reduces pain against the law."
Joni Whiting told the story of her 26-year-old-daughter, Stephanie, who was diagnosed with skin cancer and died six years ago. "They cut her face off one inch at a time until there was nothing left," she said. Despite being told by a doctor that smoking marijuana would ease her pain, neither Whiting or her daughter could break the law. By the time she died, Whiting said, her daughter was taking 50-60 Oxycontin pills a day.
"The fear of being caught was significant," she said of her and her daughter's initial decision. That changed when someone left a bag of marijuana on the front step. By the end, Whiting said through tears, her daughter couldn't "stand the pain of us touching her."
"To threaten the sick and dying with jail is unconscionable," she told the House Civil Justice Committee. "What would you have done if you were in my shoes. What price would you be willing to pay to relieve the pain of a loved one. I was the one who listened to her scream in pain."
But Michael Campion, the state's commissioner of public safety defended the state's position on legalization of marijuana. "There is an absence of any empirical data that this legislation is going to do what it intends to do; there's a lot of anecdotal stories but the AMA and the FDA have not endorsed the smoking of marijuana," he said. "It's against federal law and it puts the federal justice system in conflict with our state partners."
An ex-drug dealer testified briefly that if the law is enacted, "people will kick the door in to get those plants in." Under the bill, people would be allowed to grow 12 plants of marijuana.
Another man, Jim Fahiz, testified he blew a hockey scholarship at the University of Minnesota because he smoked marijuana. "I've known thousands of drug addicts," he said, "and every one of them started with marijuana."
The bill passed the committee on a voice vote without opposition.
A similar bill passed through committees in the House last year but never came up for a vote on the House floor.(30 Comments)
Contributors to Norm Coleman's election recount effort might want to cancel their credit cards, according to the campaign.
An e-mail circulated on Wednesday said the Web site, WikiLeaks, which specializes in providing an outlet for people who want to post secret information, has obtained private information from the campaign such as the credit card numbers of donors.
"Let me be very clear: At this point, we don't know if last evening's email is a political dirty trick or what the objective is of the person who sent the email," Campaign official Cullen Sheehan wrote in an e-mail to donors. "What we do know, however, is that there is a strong likelihood that these individuals have found a way to breach private and confidential information."
While the Coleman campaign e-mail notification might alert some of the donors, 1,500 of the nearly 5,000 people on the spreadsheet did not list an e-mail address.
Who's behind WikiLeaks? Julian Assange, an Australian living in Africa who was interviewed last summer (by email) by the Sydney Morning Herald. "In every negotiation, in every planning meeting and in every workplace dispute a perception is slowly building that the public interest may have a number of silent advocates in the room," Mr Assange said in an email interview. Wired.com published an extensive profile of him around the same time.
The question to ask, however, is whether there's a compelling "public interest" in releasing the (partial) credit card information of donors to a political campaign and, if so, what is it? The Coleman campaign may have violated several state privacy laws, but the punishment will be delivered to the innocent.
One of the Society of Professional Journalists' Code of Ethics is to "minimize harm," although it adds, "Only an overriding public need can justify intrusion into anyone's privacy." By providing links to the spreadsheet in question, have journalists overstepped their own code? Absolutely. Consider this item that's in the code: "Abide by the same high standards to which they hold others." One cannot criticize the Coleman campaign for not securing its data, while at the same time publishing -- or at least providing a direct link to -- that data.
Efforts to close the site down have failed, because of the nature of the Internet in the first place. The organization behind it registered its domain name in Nairobi, Kenya. Last month, a federal judge in San Francisco, citing 1st Amendment considerations, rescinded an order that disabled the Web site when it was registered through a California server. The original order stemmed from a Swiss bank's lawsuit against Wikileaks, which had posted 14 leaked documents about transactions at the bank.
It's also the site where a person who broke into then-VP candidate Sarah Palin's e-mail account posted the messages he retrieved.
Ironically, it also posted a leaked document containing the e-mail addresses of its own contributors.
There'll be plenty of questions for the Coleman's campaign alleged mishandling of data, but the story may also present a troubling picture of the collateral damage journalists' can inflict, too.
Update: MPR's Mark Zdechlik will update the story during this evening's All Things Considered.
Update 8:24 p.m. Twin Cities based computer consultant Adria Richards describes how she found the security breach.
This was really interesting. One key fact she dropped was "I didn't download anything; I just noticed that something wasn't right." I have found this to be a trait of I.T. professionals; they're not interested in spreading the information that they know should be locked down, they want the information locked down.(28 Comments)
Is St. Paul going to lose Travelers?
In Annie Baxter's story about the former St. Paul Companies now listing New York City as its official home, company spokesman Shane Boyd says:
"It's just a designation. It's in the documents. It's just to designate where his primary office is. He still has an office here as he does in Hartford," Boyd said. "It's not like he's in any one location all the time. But of the three executive offices, that's the one he spends more time in."
But it's a word in the last line of her story that jumps out:
Boyd says there are no immediate plans to shift any St. Paul workers out of state.
The affirmation that Travelers is now New York-based confirms a story Baxter aired in 2006 that suggested that the company was operating a "decoy headquarters" in Minnesota.
State officials have been concerned for some time that the state would lose jobs after it lost its St. Paul identity. They may be hoping the company's philanthropy is an indicator, however. In January, the company's charitable foundation dropped $1.4 million on St. Paul schools.
Still, it's hard to look at the St. Paul skyline and wonder what would happen if the company were to head East.
Veterans who are injured in battle would be required to pay for treatment of their injuries with private insurance under a plan being considered by the Obama administration, CNN reports. It says the idea has been confirmed by Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki. Currently, vets' insurance companies are billed when they're treated for non-service-related injuries and illnesses.
It's also a plan that's dead on arrival if the president decides to propose it, according to some influential lawmakers and , as you might expect, veterans groups are vehemently opposed to the plan (See a letter sent to the president).
Even the usually Obama-friendly Talking Points Memo criticizes the plan, saying it would put Obama further to the right of John McCain.
The idea, not surprisingly, never came up during the campaign, particularly at a stop in Fargo last year when Obama outlined his veterans' policy. "Caring for our veterans," he said, "is one thing that we can still get right," and promised to "fully fund VA health care."(6 Comments)
There was a lot of link love yesterday for a Time Magazine ranking that appeared to suggest the Star Tribune is the second-mostly-likely big city newspaper in America (The Philadelphia Inquirer was first) to go belly up.
Not so fast.
Shocked that the Boston Globe was on the list, media watcher Dan Kennedy (who, by the way, writes a must-read blog), points out the writer was a blogger who might not have the best information in the world:
In fact, the source of this rather startling prediction is Douglas McIntyre, a blogger for 24/7 Wall Street -- not exactly the ghost of Henry Luce. Time just happens to run the feed on its Web site. (Here's a look at the site's syndication service.) I've interviewed McIntyre. He's a smart, knowledgeable guy, but it's fair to say that he likes to be a provocateur.
You will notice, too, that McIntyre repeats that bit about the Globe's being worth only $20 million. In fact, as the Boston Business Journal reported recently, a more logical number is a shade under $200 million -- far short of the $1.1 billion that the New York Times Co. paid for it (in 1993 dollars, no less), but a lot more than $20 million. I know of no one who ever thought the $20 million figure was credible.
Adam Reilly at the Boston Phoenix's Don't Quote Me Blog (another must-read blog), unearths the nugget that the list wasn't in order -- it may not be #2.
None of which matters to the pressmen's union at the paper. Today in New York, the Star Tribune's lawyers told a judge it needs $3.5 million in concessions from the union as part of $20 million more in cuts its seeking from its employees.
Question: Have you ever attended a Truth in Taxation hearing in Minnesota? Has it done any good?
Rep. Morrie Lanning of Moorhead thinks the state should get rid of the hearings, which are supposed to give the public a chance to comment on proposed budgets that are funded through the property tax.
They don't do any good, Lanning suggests in Tom Scheck's story about efforts to cut the number of state mandates on cities and counties:
Lanning is one of several lawmakers pushing mandate reform in the House. He said the hearings, which are required before a local government passes its budget, aren't useful because they come right before a budget is finalized.
"If you go back and look, I bet it would be rare to find any change in any budget anywhere that resulted from a truth in taxation hearing, simply because it came too late in the process," said Lanning.
Lanning said local governments would still have to notify people about the proposed budget, and the time and place when a budget hearing will take place.
Let's hear from you on this. Have you ever attended one of the hearings? Would you favor reducing state mandates on communities and, if so, which ones?(2 Comments)
On Wednesday night I participated in a roundtable with some soon-to-graduate college students. It was the final chapter of the News Cut on Campus project in which we focused on how the economy is affecting the outlook of students.
The roundtable will be broadcast on MPR's Midday one of these days, but I don't believe it's been scheduled yet. Find the broadcast here.
I was asked to provide some observations about what I learned during the project. Here's a few I tossed in along with a few I didn't.
It's supposed to be hard to make the transition from college to the working world. The dream has never been accomplished by taking one giant step, but by taking a series of small steps, some of which can be missteps. That's just the way it works. It's the late '90s that were the exception. Don't make me tell you about my first $110-a-week-six-days-a-week job I got out of college.
Part of the reason for that is I'm giving the same sort of advice to my youngest son, who isn't far away from graduating. I'm not going to advise anyone not to listen to Mom and Dad, but here's the thing: As we get older, we grow more conservative and more risk averse. But you're far too young to be 50.
Your mother was a hippie and wants you to be more concerned about settling down than she was? Fine. Ask her if she'd be a hippie again if she had it to do all over. It's all part of the journey and we parents forget that you should make your own, regardless of what might happen.