If the scandals -- real or imagined -- this week have done nothing else, they've properly set up the summer of 2013 as a time to observe the 40th anniversary of the Watergate hearings.
The first hearings of the scandal began 40 years ago today:
"This is far worse than Watergate," Rep. Michele Bachmann declared this week, referring to the IRS focus on Tea Party groups. We can't possibly know that because we don't know enough about the IRS story yet.
But her hyperbole mirrors that of Democrats around this time 41 years ago. They were trying to get the country to pay attention to a political break-in and the steady drip of information that increasingly reflected a presidential cover-up, and the country wasn't at all interested because it was easy -- far too easy -- to dismiss the assertions as the work of partisan politicians and a liberal media.
"Back then, investigations followed facts. Today partisanship leads to distortion of facts to suit theory," a follower on Twitter commented this week when I noted the seizure of reporter phone records had the faint aroma of the Nixon administration.
He had part of it right -- the current part, but the assertion that Watergate lacked the politics of today's scandals reinforces that younger people really don't know much about either Watergate or the Nixon administration. And so when Rep. Bachmann declares the current situation worse than Watergate, it probably doesn't matter much to many Americans except those who remember Watergate and understand that the current scandal in its current form is nowhere close.
All of which is a lengthy lead-in to pointing out that PBS NewsHour is in the process of putting together a terrific site about the anniversary of the Watergate hearings, starting with a series of poignant remembrances from viewers about how the nation was captivated by the hearings.
Consider this one, for example:
The Watergate hearings made a lasting impression on me. I clearly remember and think of it often to this day, how I sat indoors most of the summer and listened to these hearing unfold. I was fascinated. I was 13 years old and glued to the television. I think now what a weird kid I must have been. But it had a lasting impression on me. I understood only part of it I am sure. The phrase 'to the best of my recollection' vibrates in my head still when I think of the hearings. John Dean, Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Liddy, John Dean's wife with the tightly coiffed blonde hair...these are all images that remain with me. I don't really recall what my impression was in terms of government, morality and the media. I do think though that these televised hearings enabled the viewer to watch government unfold as it were and it seemed and seems to me to be a valuable public service - one of the few good reasons for television to exist. Now, I want the summer of '73 back - to have the fun I was supposed to be having!
And this one...
So many moments in our collective history have been described as "when we lost our innocence," but in the case of Watergate, that really was the case. How could anyone emerge from it unchanged? For me, I learned to be wary, if not suspicious of government. If something they do doesn't seem right, it's our duty to speak up. I also learned that the media, when it really wants to, and when it's allowed to, can change history. What would have happened to us as a nation had certain media outlets, particularly The Washington Post and CBS, not focused on this story and seen it to its conclusion? Few people believed them at first. Few people thought a president and his administration could be so venal. It was a major revelation to find out that was the case, and I'm so glad some determined media outlets saw it through when the pressure to back off was immense.
It obviously made us more cynical, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. A lot of us were naïve before, and this is just the opposite extreme. But sometimes the most patriotic thing an American can do is to keep asking questions. It happened once. It can happen again, if we're foolish enough to permit it.
Although the hearings started 40 years ago today in the Senate, it would be another year before it completed its work, and then the House Judiciary Committee did something even more remarkable in congressional history -- its job. Six of 17 Republicans on the committee sided with Democrats in impeaching a Republican president.
An engaged public? A savvy media? A Congress rising to the occasion? Setting aside the facts of Watergate, these were some of the most remarkable aspects of the scandal, which the present scandals are not likely to duplicate to any degree.(6 Comments)
The Dayton administration released its heretofore secret plan to fix its botched Vikings stadium funding scheme today. The only surprise is that it didn't meet Dayton's description last week that his secret plan would be "something that you'd never even imagine."
It turned out to include a plan to take a fiscal hammer to smokers. Again.
The plan was unveiled at a Capitol hearing today and includes $24.5 million in one-time revenues from a tax on the current cigarette inventory, MPR's Tim Nelson reports.
DFLers had already targeted smokers by considering tax bills with cigarette tax increases. A House version was to increase the tax by $1.60 a pack, although Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk says the final tax could match the $2.52 per pack rate charged in Wisconsin. That's $1.29 more than Minnesota assesses now, the Associated Press says.
It's understandable that Dayton would turn to the cigarette tax. Smokers, many of whom are poor, aren't much of a lobbying threat, and it's an easy sell under the excuse that it will force more people to quit. It's a health issue, not a revenue issue.
But it's surprising how quickly Gov. Dayton caught tobacco tax religion.
"You raise the price of a pack of cigarettes $1.50," Dayton said in a 2010 gubernatorial debate, "that's money out of the pockets of working people and poorer people, and that means kids don't have as much to eat or don't have the same quality of food. Those are addictions, and I think you treat addictions as addictions and you don't penalize the people who are dealing with them economically."
Enter the "health" argument. In March he told MPR that it's about health not revenue.
"I believe we want to make taxes fairer not more regressive but it serves other purposes," Dayton said.
Now, it's serving another purpose -- paying for a new football stadium, pretty much the scenario he decried in 2010.
In many ways, the politicians at the Capitol are trying to recover from several bad decisions of the last two sessions. One, of course, was a stadium funding scheme that many analysts said wouldn't work. But the more serious one is giving away the 1998 tobacco trial windfall.
In 2011, the Legislature decided to spend $1.2 billion over the next 20 years by selling off the windfall with "tobacco bonds." In exchange, the state got about $750 million to close an immediate budget shortfall. $117 million of that was set aside to pay for the cost of doing it. Do the math on all that.
It was a bad deal that provided an immediate political gain for legislators -- making the the budget deficit disappear without raising taxes prior to an election, an election the ruling majority went on to lose.
The situation also shows a deeper problem that's infected Minnesota for years: the lack of a sustainable vision, especially where anti-tobacco efforts are concerned. Having won the tobacco settlement, the state started an aggressive program to curb smoking, then eliminated it in 2003. Then it increased the cigarette tax to balance the budget and cut smoking, then it sold the tobacco settlement, then it turned to smokers for more money.
Any joke goes over better if you include Wisconsin in it somewhere. Or Congress.
It's even better if you include both, as Stephen Colbert proved this week.(0 Comments)
When can the government spy on the text messages you're sending and receiving? Good question. The American Civil Liberties Union asked the government for a clarification of its policy, filing a Freedom of Information request.
This is what the ACLU got back:
"The documents we received from the FBI don't flat out tell us whether FBI agents always get warrants, but they strongly suggest that they don't," the ACLU says on its website.
Ironically, perhaps, the lack of transparency is suddenly uniting both the left...
... and the right.(0 Comments)
If Peter Sagal's idea was to get people stirred up in discussions about the U.S. Constitution -- and let's hope it was -- it's working. Sagal is promoting his soon-to-air PBS special on the Constitution and stopped by Politico for a fascinating discussion about the document and the documentary.
He points out, for example, that the Constitution is changing by our willingness to view it in context of the times. If segregation, for example, was unconstitutional when it was struck down, in theory it was unconstitutional when it was fully ratified in 1790.
It's a great conversation worth taking the time to watch.
But Sagal seemed stunned by the reaction to the interview. Specifically this:
"I've been calling it the Tinkerbell of national charters because Tinkerbell only lives if you clap, right? Or if you say, 'I do believe in fairies, I do!' It's like this: 'I do believe in civics, I do!' And everybody believes in it, and we move on. And it's an amazing phenomenon."
"A very 'NPR' kind of attitude is apparent," Larry O'Connor of Breitbart said.
The national dialogue that Sagal's program is sparking, sounds very much like the accounts of the Constitutional Convention itself. It'll be a rowdy and ugly discussion, and we won't be worse off for having it.
The show airs on May 7.(2 Comments)
What does it mean to "protect Social Security?" What does it mean to work on "a bipartisan solution" to keeping Social Security solvent? What does it mean to "tweak" Social Security?
Those were all good questions that could have been asked in response to points made at last October's presidential debate by President Barack Obama against his challenger, Mitt Romney. Today, we're seeing the problem with not asking them.
None of the answers either candidate presented on the question were very specific, nor were they pressed for specifics by compliant political journalists, many of whom were more interested in Big Bird.
When asked about Social Security, Obama quickly shifted the question and rather than force an answer with a shred of substance from the president, moderator Jim Lehrer merely answered, "sure." Obama then lapsed into yet another conversation about his grandmother.
Mitt Romney did Obama a favor at the debate by noting "neither the president, nor I, are proposing any immediate changes to Social Security or Medicare."
No, that would come after the election. It was a sadly typical example of the rhetorical sleight of hand that politicians engage in during debates, and the only cure is a tough question and an insistence on an answer.
Today, the president proposed a $3.8 trillion budget featuring reductions in payments to Medicare providers and cutbacks in the cost-of-living adjustments paid to millions of recipients in Social Security and other government programs.
That, apparently, is the tweaking nobody could be bothered asking about during the campaign.(2 Comments)
What story do you think this picture tells?
Or this one?
They're part of an exhibit at the Capitol that was set up today, coinciding with the Homeless Youth Act, which seeks money to support programs and services for homeless youth.
Politics aside, it's an impressive collection of art from young Minnesotans who'd been homeless, working under the tutelage of the Kulture Klub Collaborative (See Marianne Combs' and Nikki Tundel's outstanding profile of the collaborative). "Youth examined the various identities and personas they wear in their daily lives," according to a release announcing the exhibit, which is only on display at the Capitol until Friday.
Each young artist was asked to consider their personas, and select two to examine. They were challenged to "examine and reconcile the differing parts of the same individual."
In family portraits, the young artists were asked to consider the family as a single identity, while capturing "something honest about each."
After the Capitol, the exhibit will be on display at the Kulture Klub Collaborative in Minneapolis.(0 Comments)
Maybe the administration finally has the "pain" to trumpet in the wake of the so-called "sequester cuts."
Bay News in Tampa reports the organizers of Sun 'n Fun -- probably the second-most-important general aviation event of the year -- in Lakeland are taking a big hit because of anticipated air traffic controller cutbacks.
They have to come up with $300,000 to pay for air traffic controllers for the event, which starts April 9.
Last week, the FAA announced that the air traffic control tower at Lakeland will close.
Sun 'n Fun director John Leenhouts suggested organizers are checking the couch cushions for spare change, indicating the group will cut its order of Porta Potties for the event.
(h/t: Don Hanzlik)(0 Comments)
The FAA has now released the list of airport towers it intends to close on April 7th, due to the sequester cuts.
The tower at the airports in Anoka (Blaine) and St. Cloud are the only towers in Minnesota to close, down from the three the secretary of transportation said he might close, and only one of them is on the original list.
Both towers are "contract towers," operated by a private firm under contract to the government.
Spared were the airport towers at Flying Cloud and Crystal, both of which are staffed by FAA personnel. Flying Cloud is one of the busiest airports in Minnesota.
three eight airport control towers will close: Central Wisconsin in Mosinee, Kenosha, Eau Claire, Janesville, La Crosse, Milwaukee, Oshkosh, and Waukesha.
The Oshkosh closing will be worth watching since for one week of the year in July, it becomes the busiest airport in the world. During the giant EAA airshow, FAA controllers from elsewhere in the country staff the tower. They're handpicked to do so, but it's unknown -- officially -- what affect the planned furloughs of controllers will have. EAA officials say the show will go on and there will be a tower, however.3 Comments)
This is -- or was -- a big anniversary in the history of political journalism. It was 100 years ago today that the first presidential news conference was held.
There's a fair chance you'll be able to tell your grandchildren you remember the very last one ever held because the era of press conferences by presidents is drawing to a close, Bill Plante of CBS News seems to suggest.
The suggestion is in the age of Twitter, presidents don't need news conferences anymore to get their message out, an assertion, which -- in itself -- reveals the opposite poles of press and president. A press conference isn't about getting a message out. A press conference is about answering tough questions that people without access to a president can't ask, but to whom answers are owed.
But, for the record, the White House took another step forward in the "straight to the people" strategy of recent times today, unveiling the audio series, "Being Biden."
Episode One: This picture:
The presentation isn't really about the picture at all, as it turns out. It's about the push for gun control.
There were no follow-up questions.(4 Comments)
I was growing somewhat concerned earlier today when I noted that one year ago on this date, Republican lawmakers filed a bill to raise the speed limit on I-35E in Saint Paul from its current 45 mph.
No need to go into much background here. You just have to read the post I filed last year.
Instead, I was concerned the bill hadn't made its annual appearance at the Capitol. There are traditions and history here: The crocuses bloom, the smoke turns white when a pope is elected, and the I-35E speed limit bill is filed at the Capitol.
Be concerned no more! The bill was filed today.
Subd. 5g. Interstate Highway 35E. The commissioner shall designate the maximum speed limit on marked Interstate Highway 35E in the city of St. Paul, from its intersection with West Seventh Street to its intersection with marked Interstate Highway 94, as 50 miles per hour. Any speed in excess of the speed designated in this subdivision is unlawful.
EFFECTIVE DATE.This section is effective on the date the commissioner erects appropriate signs designating the speed limit, which must occur on or before August
As history and tradition also dictates, it is doomed.(11 Comments)
In two days, the average U.S. senator raises enough money to equal the poverty level for a family of four.
That statistic is contained in a new breakdown by MapLight, which analyzes the influence of money in politics.
House members, it said, raised about $2,315 a day. Senate members raised $14,351 every day during the last election cycle.
Faced with light opposition, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar raised "only" about $10,000 a day.
Elizabeth Warren, who won the Massachusetts Senate seat, raised more per day (including Sundays/holidays) than any other winning candidate: $58,227.88 per day.
Who's #2? Minnesota congresswoman Michele Bachmann, who raised the daily equivalent of $35,472.22.
Last on the list was Rep. Eni Faleomavaega, who needed $151 a day to win his 13th term representing American Samoa.
Our four-month break from full-time presidential campaigns has apparently ended with today's release of 2016 presidential poll showing Hillary Clinton crushing her opposition.
The Quinnipiac poll (available in full here) shows Mrs. Clinton besting New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in a general election. Christie, however, would beat Joe Biden.
"Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would start a 2016 presidential campaign with enormous advantages," Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, tells Swampland. "She obviously is by far the best known and her more than 20 years in the public spotlight allows her to create a very favorable impression on the American people. But it is worth noting that she had very good poll numbers in 2006 looking toward the 2008 election, before she faced a relative unknown in Barack Obama."
Yes, she did. Which means, what, exactly?
Let's hit the Wayback Machine and set it for 8 years ago this month, more than three years before the last election for an open presidential seat.
It was a Marist College poll of Democratic presidential contenders:
Hillary Clinton 39%
John Kerry 21%
John Edwards 15%
Joe Biden 5%
Wesley Clark 4%
Russ Feingold 2%
Bill Richardson 2%
Evan Bayh 1%
Mark Warner 1%
Who's missing from the list? The guy that got elected president.
Here's the Republican poll:
Rudy Giuliani 25%
John McCain 21%
Condoleezza Rice 14%
Jeb Bush 7%
Newt Gingrich 5%
Bill Frist 3%
Rick Santorum 1%
George Pataki 1%
Mitt Romney 1%
Bill Owens 2%
Giuliani, as fate would have it, was one of the biggest busts of the presidential campaign.
Head to head, the poll said, John McCain would beat Mrs. Clinton rather handily, and so would Rudy Giuliani.(2 Comments)
Let us consider this idea: If there were more women elected to office, there wouldn't be a sequester and a budget problem right now?
CBS This Morning provided a fascinating panel of women opining on the subject today.
"Women strive for consensus, they collaborate better," Jarrett said.
Valerie Jarrett, Condoleezza Rice, and Lesley Stahl all acknowledged that progress for women has been much greater than it often seems on a daily basis -- "astounding," Stahl said. The exception, they said, is in getting elected.(5 Comments)
Janet Napolitano, the nation's director of Homeland Security, says airport security lines have been running nearly twice the normal amount at some airports.
She mentioned Los Angeles International and Chicago's O'Hare, but said she'd have to doublecheck which ones she's talking about specifically.
"If you're traveling, get to the airport earlier than you otherwise would," she warned. "There's only so much we can do with personnel, and please don't yell at the customs officers or the TSA officers, they are not responsible for sequester."
Hers is the latest call that sequester is going to be a nightmare for airport travelers.
But the security checkpoint woes have been hard to spot.
CBS News says it's not the airport security checkpoints that are the problem Napolitano cites, it's customs, which makes her advice particularly curious for someone in charge of the system, since people don't go through customs on the way out of town..
At John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) in New York, CBP said there were approximately 56 flights with wait times in excess of 2 hours, and 14 flights over 3 hours. Miami International Airport (MIA) reported 51 flights over 2 hours, and 4 flights approached/exceeded 3 hours. According to the CBP, those wait times are uncharacteristic and a result of reduced staffing.
"Due to sequestration, CBP reduced overtime this weekend at Ports of Entry around the country and effects are already visible," the department said in a statement. "Lanes that would have previously been open due to overtime staffing were closed, further exacerbating wait times at airports with typically longer international arrival processes."
UK's The Telegraph reports that officials at the three airports cited by Napolitano suggest everything's fine:
"We haven't had any slowdowns at all," said Marshall Lowe, a spokesman for LAX. Mr Lowe said that he had been on duty over the weekend and received no reports of unusual security delays.
DeAllous Smith, a spokesman for Hartfield-Jackson, said: "There have been no abnormally long lines at the security checkpoint nor unusual aircraft delays at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport as a result of sequestration."
Their comments were echoed by Karen Pride, the director of media relations at Chicago Department of Aviation, who described operations at O'Hare as "normal" with "no unusual delays or cancellations".
If you've been traveling via airports, please report your experiences in the comments section below.(4 Comments)
Remember that news conference Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood had last week about the air transportation system will be a "calamity" because the coming sequester will force the FAA to furlough air traffic controllers?
The Washington Post today has a side of the FAA budget that LaHood didn't talk about: The side that sends money to small airports with little real reason for existing, including one -- it claims -- in Minnesota.
But the Post focuses mostly on Lake Murray Airport in Oklahoma which last year got about $1,500 from the FAA for every takeoff and landing.
That's because of a bill Congress passed in 2000 that created a new "entitlement" program for small airports. The rules: If a field was on the FAA's official airports list, and if it had sufficient need for infrastructure improvements, there would be money. Up to $150,000, every year.
The money was paid out of a "trust fund" filled by taxes on airline tickets and airplane fuel.
On Capitol Hill, this looked like a master stroke of pork politics, engineered by then-House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bud Shuster (R-Pa.). His measure carpet-bombed congressional districts with money. In the Senate, the bill won by 65 votes. In the House, it won by 218. (Shuster retired in 2001. He did not return a call for comment about the legislation).
Out in the real world, however, there were problems.
Little airports such as this "need a grant every now and then. Not necessarily every year," said an FAA official who discussed the program's flaws on the condition of anonymity. "Now, we have a system that gives 'em all a little money, every year."
Airport advocates often try to get public owned airports to grab the money because it comes with strings attached: the airport has to stay open or the money has to be paid back.
But there are a few problems with the Post reporting. It lists 88 airports across the country, including the one in Oklahoma, that "have no paying customers and no planes based there."
It lists Glencoe, MN as one of the airports. But that's not exactly true. There are 10 aircraft based on the field and the city sells aviation fuel, although it doesn't sell much. It says the airport has no "paying customers" and that's a slight flaw in the Post's methodology since small general aviation airports don't usually exist for passenger travel.
Several airports in farm country serve as bases for the traveling agricultural crop spraying operations that visit Minnesota farms several times a year.
Still, the airport received $150,000 in 2012, according to the Post. You could pay a few air traffic controllers with that money, the paper figures.
(h/t: Sara Meyer)
Here's a picture that's picking up steam around the Internet today. A picture of five aircraft carriers in port in Norfolk, Virginia. The chances are pretty good it's going to show up in your Facebook feed soon.
The accompanying message is only partially correct:
What is wrong with this picture?
The picture is of the five nuclear carriers.
Just like Battleship Row, Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941.
This picture was taken the other day in Norfolk. The Obama Administration ordered 5 nuclear carriers into harbor for "routine" (?) inspections. Heads of the Navy were flabbergasted by the directive.
NORFOLK, VA. (February 8, 2013). The first time since WWII that five (*) aircraft carriers were docked together.
USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69), USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77), USS Enterprise (CVN 65), USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75), and USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) are all in port at Naval Station Norfolk, Va., the world's largest naval station.
Sources stated that this breached a long standing military protocol in the Navy meant to avoid massive enemy strike on major US forces. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Ryan J. Courtade/Released)
What's the real story? Welcome to the sequester.
First, the picture was actually taken in mid-December, not this month. Second, none was ordered into port for "routine maintenance."
The USS Enterprise was retired from the Navy in January. It's being dismantled.
The USS Eisenhower deployed on Thursday and is on its way to the Middle East to relieve the USS Stennis, which will return to its home port on the West Coast. The Eisenhower was in port for two months to get its flight deck resurfaced.
The USS Harry Truman was to depart on a mission to the Central Command in early February, but Navy officials asked the secretary of defense to cancel that mission, which presumably was to the Persian Gulf where the U.S. has had two aircraft carriers. Now it will have one -- the Eisenhower.
The USS Bush was not ordered into port for "routine inspections." It had been undergoing tests of its ability to have aircraft, which it does not presently have. Its cruise was canceled because of the sequester.
The USS Lincoln also was not ordered into port for routine maintenance. It was in port for a two-year refueling mission, which the Navy has now canceled because of the sequester cuts.
The Truman's situation is particularly interesting. WTVR TV in Richmond described what happens to people when a deployment is canceled.
Families depend on deployment money to pay bills. Many move home for family support. They are already gone.
Single sailors with children already sent their kids to caretakers.
Many sailors moved out of apartments or homes, have cars in storage and already set up mortgage and phones and bills. This will be a tough adjustment.
Since they are now cancelled, only delayed indefinitely, they could have to leave suddenly if the budget impasse is solved.
The Navy is asking for community help for these 5,000 sailors, giving leniency on bills.
Living arrangements, help with temporary storage, temporary transportation...many of them do not have local family or a support system.
But back to the photo: It originally was paired with a U.S. Navy story about sailors coming home for Christmas:
Home for Christmas: 9 Flattops at Norfolk naval base, December 20, 2012.
With the returns from deployment of the carrier DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER on Dec. 19, and the amphibious ships IWO JIMA and NEW YORK on Dec. 20, the piers at Norfolk's naval base are about as full up as they'll ever be.
Five aircraft carriers, four big-deck amphibious assault ships, a full cast of "small boy" surface warships, along with nuclear submarines and support ships, are crowding the base, giving a comfortably snug feeling to the waterfront. Similar scenes -- although not with the gathering of flattops seen here -- are taking place at other fleet concentration areas like San Diego and Pearl Harbor.
The Navy makes a point of trying to gives its shipboard crews a chance to spend Christmas with their families, and for a few days the percentage of ships underway drops to the lowest point it will be all year. But many of these ships will be gone in two weeks as the pace of operations picks up again.
In a decade or so, scenes such as this at Norfolk could become quite rare, as the fleet is in the midst of a gradual shift from the Atlantic to Pacific. Within a few years, about sixty percent of the U.S. Navy's ships will be homeported at a Pacific base - virtually a mirror image of the Cold War emphasis on the Atlantic.
The Navy also says the story about this being the first time so many carriers were moored together since Pearl Harbor is untrue.
Not surprisingly, the story was changed, the picture was attached, and the Internet did its thing.(35 Comments)
With a week to go before "The Sequester," we'll be hearing more about what services the government will cut as across-the-board cutbacks are implemented.
What's somewhat surprising is we haven't already been told specifics in some cases and an appearance by outgoing transportation secretary Ray LaHood in the White House briefing room underscores the lack of detail.
Lahood told reporters that more than 100 air traffic control towers would be closed, and suggested that travelers could feel the pain.
"Travelers should expect delays of up to 90 minutes at peak airports during sequester," starting on April 1, LaHood said. "It's going to be very painful for the flying public."
The airlines aren't buying LaHood's assessment that it could be "a calamity."
"When they see the kind of cutbacks that are going to be made at some of these towers, they're going to have no choice," LaHood countered.
Linking the closing of air traffic control towers with delays by airline travelers also ignores one truth: Most air traffic control towers aren't in cities where most travelers go. And closing an airport's control tower doesn't close an airport.
Take Minnesota, for example. There's only one very important control tower -- the one at Minneapolis Saint Paul International Airport. But it's not Minnesota's only control tower. Presumably, the FAA wouldn't close the tower at such a large airport, not when there are so many other candidates.
There are three other towers in the state staffed by FAA controllers.
Crystal Airport: There is, obviously, no airline service to Crystal. It's a general-aviation reliever airport, designed to keep smaller planes from needing to land at the big airport. According to the website, Flight Aware, it handles an average of 514 flight operations a day. But that mostly includes planes flying through the airspace, not actual takeoff and landings. Most of the traffic at the airport is VFR -- visual flight rules -- in which the pilot, not the controller, is primarily responsible for keeping aircraft apart.
Crystal is on the FAA's list of towers that would likely be closed.
Flying Cloud: The effect of a tower shutdown is somewhat more pronounced because this is the region's executive airport, with plenty of corporate jets. Generally, there are two controllers in the tower -- one handling take-off and landings and one handling ground traffic. Because there are two parallel runways, the closing of the tower mostly affects the ground operations. Pilots, left to their own devices, could cross a runway where a jet is taking off or landing.
But that's unlikely because there are already provisions in place for a closed tower at Flying Cloud (and every other towered airport in Minnesota). When the tower closes for the night, only one runway is "open" to traffic, eliminating the problem.
Flying Cloud is on the FAA's list of towers that would likely be closed.
Saint Paul: The downtown airport isn't close to what it once was. The National Guard helicopter maintenance facility moved most of its operations a few years ago. The flight school closed after the Mississippi River flooding of a decade ago (there's still a flight school on the field, but it has nowhere near the traffic the old one did), and there hasn't been scheduled passengers service in a decade. 3M still has its corporate jets there and there are still a handful of executive jets landing each day. But, like Flying Cloud, changing to closed-tower rules presents few problems, and isn't going to have any effect at all on airline travelers.
Those are the only control towers in Minnesota operated with FAA controllers. But there are several "contract towers" that are operated by private firms under contract to the FAA."
St. Cloud -- Allegiant Air runs a handful of flights a day to the Phoenix area. Could they be affected or delayed if the tower were to be shut down? It's hard to see how. Back when Northwest Airlines ruled the skies, airline flights made it in and out of uncontrolled airports all the time. It's not as if it's every-pilot-for-him/herself. In the absence of a controller, there are radio procedures for keeping an orderly flow of traffic.
St. Cloud is on the FAA's list of towers that would likely be closed.
Duluth - The airport claims 162 flight operations a day, a third of which are general aviation flights and 14% of which are military. United, Delta, and Allegiant (or their subcarriers disguised to look like the big airline partners) all fly out of Duluth and if there were to be a slowdown in the event of a closed tower, Duluth figures to be the place where it might be felt. But the tower there also stands a good chance of being allowed to stay open because it's an airport of entry for people flying into the U.S. from Canada. (Update: See comments. Duluth is an FAA tower. It is not scheduled to be closed but may not be staffed overnight)
Anoka/Blaine - This is another reliever airport that actually has a busier schedule than nearby Crystal. It's almost exclusively general aviation (there are some medical evacuation aircraft based on the field), and the pilots are well schooled in flying in and out of uncontrolled fields.
Anoka is on the FAA's list of towers that would likely be closed.
Rochester - It claims only 112 aviation operations a day, a third of which are commercial. Because of Mayo, it's popular for corporate jets too. But, like St. Cloud, it's not a particularly difficult airspace to fly in and out of. (Update: See comments. Rochester is an FAA tower. It is not scheduled to be closed)
And we know this because busier airports underneath the big MSP airspace don't have any control towers and traffic comes and goes just fine. These include Lakeville (Airlake), Lake Elmo, and South Saint Paul.
But there's much more to the nation's airspace system than the control towers on which Secretary LaHood focused. The most critical operations in these parts comes out of this non-descript building.
It's the FAA's Minneapolis Center -- located in Farmington -- and it controls all of the nation's airline traffic as it passes through (parts of)North and South Dakota, Iowa, Minnesota, Michigan, Nebraska, Wisconsin and a small slice of Kansas and Missouri.
Whatever delays passengers might experience would actually come from furloughs there, although "optional" services to general aviation pilots would most certainly be sacrificed in favor of keeping the airlines happy. The entire air traffic control system is already designed to keep GA operations out of the way of the airlines.
In the meantime, it's good to keep the dire warnings in perspective and require a transportation secretary to explain how closing towers at airports without airline service is going to significantly hamper the airline-traveling public.(7 Comments)
Former Minnesota Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch told WCCO Radio today she's never watched (or listened to) the December 2011 press conference at which it was announced she'd resigned her leadership post because of an affair with a staffer.
She says she probably won't ever watch it. That's too bad, because looking back at it now, coupled with yesterday's Star Tribune story, her claim that four of her male colleagues were staging a power play gains at least a fair amount of traction.
"There was a meeting at the Minneapolis Club where I was taken to under false pretenses, and those actors... I think they think their intentions were clear. They knew what they were doing going into it. As more intentions came to light, that became clear. What was particularly difficult to understand was the ferocity," she told WCCO Radio's Chad Hartman.
Even before Ms. Koch broke her silence with yesterday's Star Tribune article, there was a stench around the story and timetable the Republican men -- Sen. Chris Gerlach, R-Apple Valley, Sen. David Senjem, R-Rochester, Sen. Geoff Michel and Sen. David Hann, R-Eden Prairie -- painted at the news conference announcing Koch's resignation.
That much was clear when former GOP staffer Cullen Sheehan later acknowledged to MPR's Tom Scheck that the other Republican leaders knew about the alleged affair three months earlier than the timetable they outlined at the news conference by Sen. Geoff Michel.
At a hearing on his actions last spring, Sen. Michel insisted he played it by the book.
"The comment about the cover-up is political nonsense," he said. "It was Senate Republican leadership who went to Sen. Koch to confront this. When she stepped down it was Senate Republican leadership who told the public the next day, rather than wait for it to come out in dribs and drabs. This 21st century media.... you guys act quickly."
Now, however, elements of that story are falling in dribs and drabs.
We now know, for example, that Sen. Michel,
in consort with lawyer Ron Rosenbaum (see comments for clarification. Rosenbaum's involvement was passing Michel's willingness to meet with WCCO, which came from Todd Rapp. The goal was for Michel to get the info to 'CCO, but Rosenbaum wasn't an architect of this), slipped the story of an affair to WCCO TV, apparently to Pat Kessler.
That's a coup (of a different kind) for Kessler, but it still doesn't explain the insistence via the Star Tribune story that the leak to WCCO had to occur to help the Republican men get on top of the story. Whatever pressure they claim to have felt in the situation, they intentionally created by leaking the story in the first place.
Compare that to what Sen. David Hann said when he was asked about the news conference announcing Koch's resignation. "It's a total surprise," Hann told MPR News.
A surprise? It shouldn't have been. Hann was one of the men who set Koch up at the Minneapolis Club.
The men insisted it was Koch who brought up the idea of resigning. But in her interview with the Star Tribune, that's not how she remembers it:
At the end of the three-hour meeting, Koch said, Hann gave a clear directive: "He said, 'You are going to resign tonight,' " and they were going to fire Brodkorb the next day.
The resignation was announced the next day at a news conference, and Hann told the Star Tribune why the news conference had to be held.
"There were a number of stories that were being circulated that we were aware of that were absolutely not true," Hann told the Star Tribune. "Things being said needed to be corrected."
"I think if he was trying to make the situation smaller by doing that, all evidence points very much to the contrary," Koch said today. She's right.
It was textbook politics. Create the dribs and drabs by leaking them, and then hold a news conference under the guise of needing to get out in front of the leaked information.
That, for the record, is how a power play works.
The polling firm, Public Policy Polling, is out with a new poll, saying if same-sex marriage were on next year's ballot, "it would probably pass."
The poll says 47 think same-sex marriage should be legalized, 45% think it should be illegal.
Although that's a narrow margin, the rapid movement in public opinion in favor of gay marriage over the last few years suggests that 22 months from now it would probably pass by a broader margin. Whether it's next year or not, the generational breakdown on our numbers makes it clear the direction things are going in- voters under 45 support gay marriage by a 53/38 margin. It's just 36/54 opposition among seniors dragging down its overall support.
When civil unions are introduced into the discussion 75% of voters support some form of legal recognition for gay couples to only 23% who are completely opposed to it. Even among Republican voters 56% at least support civil unions.
In November, the percentage of people voting against banning same-sex marriage in the Constitution was 51-to-47.5 percent, possibly indicating that about 4% of the people voting against the amendment in November weren't necessarily voting for same-sex marriage to be legalized.
Here's the full poll. There were several other issues in the poll, including a finding that 54 percent Minnesota Republicans think President Obama should be impeached.(5 Comments)
We have a winner in this week's things-that-are-cool competition.
Taking a tour of the White House and finding out the president and his wife would like to meet you.
The White House live-streamed the event yesterday.
But this one, which happened in 2010, is still better.(1 Comments)
There are a fair number of "education" groups issuing "report cards" on the state of education, but where do they come from and who's behind them?
It's a question that comes up today following the release of a StudentFirst report card showing Minnesota education policies getting a "D."
On today's show, former Minnesota senator Kathy Saltzman, the Minnesota director of the group, explained why the state got the mark it got and what the state should do. She said, among many other things, under performing schools should be closed and local districts should get more flexibility.
But these are not impartial grades. They're a grade of a political philosophy. Just because the state got a "D," doesn't mean it deserved a "D." It also doesn't mean it doesn't deserve a "D." It means a group, with a particular point of view on how to educate children, graded a state on how well it adheres to what is, basically, a policy, about which there is apparent disagreement.
StudentFirst is the work of Michelle Rhee, would got credit for turning around a class in Baltimore and a school system in Washington.
Coincidentally -- we think -- she is the focus of a PBS Frontline documentary tonight.
In an article yesterday, Esquire warned of following Rhee's advice:
The current model for education "reform" in this country -- a corporate model with transparency problems and severely decreased political accountability -- is broken. Handing over "our" schools to hedge-fund managers, and to the people like Michelle Rhee who volunteer as well-remunerated middle managers, privatizes public education without having the basic cojones to admit that it's happening. This is not the way it's supposed to work.
And the Washington Post suggests the grades of states have been cooked by virtue of the fact standardized test scores weren't included. That penalizes states -- guess who? -- who do well in the test results.
One of the measures that was not used was standardized test scores -- which is ironic given that she is a big supporter of test-driven accountability for students, teachers and principals. This allowed StudentsFirst to give bad grades to states with high standardized test scores, such as Massachusetts. The reason? StudentsFirst says that while the state is consistently ranked first in National Assessment of Educational Progress scores for 4th grade and 8th grade reading and math, there was a large gap in scores in 2011 between white and Hispanic students.
Louisiana consistently ranks at or near the bottom of states for NAEP scores, and the achievement gap in Louisiana is huge: State tests show a 22.1 point gap for black and white students in English Language Arts in spring 2011 and a 26.7 point gap in math. But the state is implementing reforms that Rhee likes.
California got an F, and Richard Zeiger, California's chief deputy superintendent, called it a "badge of honor," given (he said to the New York Times) that StudentsFirst "makes its living by asserting that schools are failing." Rhee actually responded in a statement taking him to task for saying it.
"If you like her style of reform, then you will think that's a good thing. If you don't, be very worried," the Post said.
TPT will broadcast Frontline tonight at 9 p.m. (CT)(9 Comments)
The White House has just uploaded a slew of new photos to its Flickr account. You, of course, can zip through them and find the ones that may or may not interest you, but there are three in the recent collection that I think shows how most of us can't really comprehend what it's like to be the president of the United States.
One day, you're talking to the surviving members of Led Zeppelin about the best speakers you ever owned...
A few days later an advisor comes in to tell you a bunch of little kids have been shot and killed in Connecticut...
And a few days after that, you're hanging out with the siblings and cousins of one of the kids who was killed. And you're not talking about speakers.0 Comments)
The 113th Congress opened today and most of the first day of work was a celebration of power and privilege.
But this was a nice moment...
Sen. Mark Kirk had a stroke 11 months ago at a relatively young age.
For the record, yes, he did vote against the Affordable Care Act.
He says he has a new view on government-provided care.
"Had I been limited to that I would have had no chance to recover like I did. So unlike before suffering the stroke, I'm much more focused on Medicaid and what my fellow citizens face," Kirk told the Sun Times.
Nearly 250,000 people with brain damage are in nursing homes that are ill equipped to care for them. BusinessWeek reported last week the more expensive facilities are not available to many of them because Medicaid won't pay for it.(2 Comments)
First Chris Christie hugs Barack Obama a couple of weeks before last November's election, now the New Jersey governor has nothing good to say about House Republicans after they torched a vote on a bill for federal aid for his hurricane-stricken state.
Hurricane Sandy got some of the blame/credit for the results of November's election. It could influence 2016 too.
Christie noted -- accurately -- that New Jersey is one of the few states that gives the federal government more money than it gets back. Most states that don't are Republican states, by the way.(2 Comments)
Much has been made about Mitt Romney's definition of your typical Obama voter as people benefiting from "handouts," but a new survey reveals there's not much difference between the Obama and Romney crowd when it comes to entitlement.
Pew Research says the majority of Americans -- 55% --have received government benefits from at least one of the six best-known federal entitlement programs. Fifty-nine percent of the people who voted for Obama fall into the category; 53% of Romney voters benefited from a major government program.
But there remains a significant disagreement on the role of government, even among those who benefit from an existing entitlement program:
Nearly three-quarters of those who ever received welfare benefits (73%) say government has a duty to care for those who cannot care for themselves. In contrast, less than six-in-ten (56%) of those who have never been on welfare agree.
Similar double-digit gaps surface between non-recipients and those who ever received food stamps (14 percentage points) and Medicaid (13 points).
But when those who ever received unemployment benefits are compared with those who have not, the gap virtually disappears: About six-in-ten adults (57%) who have received unemployment benefits say government should help the helpless, while 58% who never collected jobless benefits agree.
No significant differences in attitudes toward government's responsibility to the neediest emerged between adults who have ever received Social Security and those who have not (60% vs. 57%). Similarly about six-in-ten (61%) of those who benefited from Medicare believe it is government's duty to help those who cannot help themselves, while 56% of those who have not received these benefits agree.
North Korea successfully fired a rocket today, raising the possibility of a long-range missile that destabilizes a barely-stable area of the world.
It also provides us with an opportunity to glimpse the fascinating and spontaneous outpouring of joy by North Koreans.
"What the North Koreans have done is taken the technology the Russians developed 50 years ago and upgraded it a little bit and they're trying to use that old technology to cause a splash in the international scene and to get paid attention to," Homer Hickam, a former NASA engineer, told CNN.
And, yeah, that Homer Hickam, which makes one wonder if there's a Homer Hickam somewhere in North Korea today?(1 Comments)
In Minnesota, it often doesn't really matter what else a politician does, as long as the roads get plowed in the winter and the potholes get filled in the spring, which is a curious thing since none of them drives a plow or wields a shovel.
The 36 hours since Sunday's storm have not been kind to the people who have to remove the snow. The warm weather at the start of the storm made the snow wet, the people who just had to be out driving out in it on a Sunday packed it down, and the cold backside of the storm turned it into glaciers.
Here's a typical Tweet from the morning commute today:
To all of you people who love winter so much, do you not have to ever drive in rush hour traffic?!?!?! #thisbites
And this was a recent update...
Avoid Mississippi River Blvd in St. Paul. The city has not salted/sanded and the 2-wheel drives are getting stuck on every hill.— Mpls/St Paul Traffic (@MSP_Traffic) December 11, 2012
Drivers mostly don't care why roads are in bad shape. They just want them cleared. Period.
What happens when they're not? It's a good time to hit the Wayback Machine:
"Now I've lived there for 46 years and this was the worst that I have ever seen. The only time that the road has been worse is right during a storm and it seemed like that in those days, as soon as the storm has let up, they were out there."
That was a DFL senator in March 2004, when a committee of the Minnesota Senate voted to oust then transportation commissioner Carol Molnau from her job, taking advantage of the reaction over snow removal to retaliate against a Republican administration over budget cuts.
The controversy even forced MnDOT to commission a report proving that the snow removal was better than DFLers said it was.
For example, on heavily traveled roads like Interstates 494 and 694, MnDOT's goal is bare lane one to three hours after the snow stops falling. The average snow-removal time on those roads last winter was a little more than two hours. But the average times were longer than a year ago, when the state had less snow, and also longer than two years ago, when snowfall was about the same as this year. And while MnDOT met its goals statewide, it failed to meet its plowing goals in the Brainerd area during the month of January, and in the Rochester area in February.
But the DFL didn't buy it. "Minnesota drivers know that they spent longer in traffic, that there were more accidents, and that they were put in jeopardy, all because of the Pawlenty/Molnau administration budget cuts," then legislator Matt Entenza declared on the steps of the Capitol.
It took almost four years for the full Senate to finish the job of firing Molnau. By the time she was removed in 2008, the bridge had collapsed in Minneapolis and nobody was complaining about snow removal.
So far, the condition of roads hasn't surfaced as a political grenade in 2012, although it's obviously early yet. A DFLer sits in the governor's office, of course, and the DFL has regained control of the Legislature in the upcoming session.
And the commissioner of transportation? Tom Sorel got out just in time. He left for a new gig with AAA 11 days ago.
Somewhere around Chaska, Carol Molnau must be smiling.
(Photo: MnDOT. Highway 10 East of 7th at 9:47 a.m.)
The chances are if you ask a mental health expert what significant step the nation can take toward mental health parity and a keener awareness of mental health issues, a bill that passed the House of Representatives yesterday wouldn't be on the list.
By a 398-1 vote, the House voted to ban the use of the word "lunatic" from federal legislation, one of the few times the House has agreed with the Senate.
"Federal law should reflect the 21st Century understanding of mental illness and disease, and that the continued use of this pejorative term has no place in the US code," Sen. Kent Conrad of North Dakota said.
The word still appears in some parts of federal law - a section of financial regulation, for example, addresses the power of a bank to act as a "committee of estates of lunatics."
The problem is the use of the word as an actualnoun to reference to people with mental illness, not as an adjective for people who don't.
Curiously, the use of the word idiots was not included, as in this 1966 federal law on the time allowed to sue the federal government:
Words in subsec. (a) of this revised section, "person under legal disability or beyond the seas at the time the claim accrues" were substituted for "claims of married women, first accrued during marriage, of persons under the age of twenty-one years, first accrued during minority, and of idiots, lunatics, insane persons, and persons beyond the seas at the time the claim accrued, entitled to the claim." (See reviser's note under section 2501 of this...
Or this 1950s amendment on how sentences are to be constructed...
words used in the present tense include the future as well as the present; the words "insane" and "insane person" and "lunatic" shall include every idiot, lunatic, insane person, and person non compos mentis; the words "person" and "whoever" include corporations, companies, associations, firms, partnerships, societies, and joint stock companies, as well as individuals;
A search of federal code turned up only a half-dozen pieces of legislation involving the word lunatics.
By congressional standards, the bill raced through the Capitol. It was first proposed last April.(3 Comments)
Normally, I'd be a little embarrassed to present a Simpsons character explaining something as important as the coming "fiscal cliff."
But I've seen the politicians explaining this over the last few weeks and if they're not embarrassed, well...
Oh, and only slightly off topic, did someone say Simpson?(1 Comments)
If you listened to Talk of the Nation yesterday, you heard retiring Texas congressman Ron Paul defending the notion of Texas seceding from the Union as something very American. He's been saying the same thing for years, and Texas is still down there in Texas -- one of us. Also, it's not really American at all. Details, details.
I guess we suspected it all along.
Abbie Evans, the kid who couldn't take on more minute of the presidential campaign, is a Democrat.
We are awaiting her reaction to the news of David Petraeus' affair.
(h/t: NPR)(4 Comments)
Here's how the electoral map of Tuesday's election would've looked if we were pre-1870 America.4 Comments)
Judging by the number of people who just won an election and are already floating trial balloons that they're ready to try for something bigger, Tuesday's election will likely not bring any relief from the thing we say we don't like.
But we say that, and then post, and retweet and forward to our heart's content. People, you have the power to make it stop.
Make it so.
|Date||Winner||Dow open||Dow close||% Diff||% Diff 4 years later|
It's all over in the Michigan Supreme Court race where Bridget Mary McCormack finished as the top vote getter. She has her little sister to thank, as well as Jed Bartlett, C.J. Craig, and the West Wing reunion.
The reward for victory is the blooper tape from the commercial's filming...
For the record, of course, we have no idea what the candidate stands for. Justice. Or something.
From the "It ain't over until NMA says it's over" file...(1 Comments)
I'm not here this morning so let's just open up NewsCut to what you think. The DFL has a clean sweep and has regained control of Minnesota politics. What now? Should there be a bill to legalize same-sex marriage? How do the Republicans rebuild? How does Minnesota change? Or not.
Spill, be nice to each other, and I'll see you later on.(19 Comments)
For people who have a "thing" about the beauty of the Constitution, it may be unsettling that we're even asking the question today, "Should voting be mandatory?"
At last check in a very unscientific survey, 41% of people said "yes," which just goes to show you how easy it is to get people to endorse stripping people of rights.
The right to vote goes hand in hand with a right not to vote and while many people find that distasteful, that's the thing about rights. We don't have to own a gun, for example. You don't have to be free from a religion if you don't want to. And rights, you may have heard, are inalienable. Rights are cool like that.
Plus, if you made people vote, you raise another issue: Is the country well served by having people who don't know what they're voting on... voting?
In fact, we don't have to wait to answer that question. At what point are we better off if some people don't vote?
"There is a legitimate argument to be had about how low your knowledge level needs to be before you should seriously consider abstaining," Ilya Somin writes today on the legal blog, The Volokh Conspiracy. "The answer depends in part on the knowledge level of the rest of the electorate. Even if you know very little about a given race or issue, you may be justified in voting if the rest of the probable electorate is even worse. But, at the very least, you should probably abstain if you know almost nothing. In that scenario, the average of the rest of the electorate will usually be better, or at least is unlikely to be worse."
"When voters support bad policies, it is usually out of ignorance rather than selfishness," Sormin claims.
Let's face it: There are always two positions on the ballot that people always point to when it comes to voting without much information: judges and soil & water conservation commissioners.
Do you vote anyway for these positions and guess? Or do you abstain?
In these types of races, Somin abstains.
In this election, as in several previous ones, I'm going to practice what I preach. I think I know at least as much as the average voter about the presidential and congressional races, and about Virginia Question 1. On the other hand, I know very little about Virginia Question 2, and almost nothing about most of the candidates in the local government elections here in Arlington County. With respect to the local races, my knowledge is diminished by the fact that the candidates don't have party identifications listed on the ballot. Therefore, I can't even utilize my understanding of the general proclivities of the Democrats and Republicans in this area. As a result, I'm going to abstain on most of these issues and leave them to the rest of the electorate, which hopefully knows more.
(Photo: Minnesota Historical Society)(11 Comments)
Can you take pictures or video of your ballot?
YouTube is encouraging people to take video or pictures of their completed ballot and send it to them, making a note that people should check their local laws. Good idea.
In Wisconsin, it's a felony to post a picture of a completed ballot on Facebook, although nobody can seem to remember anyone actually being charged with the offense.
There was great confusion in 2008 in Minnesota about whether this was illegal in Minnesota. At the time, the Citizen Media Law Project got an explanation from the Secretary of State's Office:
While there is no state or federal law that strictly prohibits the use of cameras or other video equipment in the polling place to record an individual's own voting experience, the Office of the Minnesota Secretary of State strongly discourages voters from using cameras or video recorders in the polling place for the following reasons:
Voters have a right to privacy-both as to how an individual has voted as well as whether or not an individual has voted. Either or both of these could be compromised by pictures or video. In addition, other voters' objections to being photographed could lead to disruptions within the polling place.
We are expecting record turnout this year, which means that there may be lines and polling places may be crowded. Voters have a right to take the time they need to vote, but should not take extra time to take pictures.
But by this year, that had been cleared up (update: at least for absentee ballots):
203B.03 PROHIBITIONS; PENALTIES.
No individual shall intentionally:
(a) make or sign any false certificate required by this chapter;
(b) make any false or untrue statement in any application for absentee ballots;
(c) apply for absentee ballots more than once in any election with the intent to cast an illegal ballot;
(d) exhibit a ballot marked by that individual to any other individual;
(update) But for typical voting, you can snap and post to your heart's content, although the secretary of state would rather you didn't.
So do this. Or don't:
(h/t: Peter Brickwedde)
There are two primary ways to look at the Pioneer Press' editorial on the same sex marriage amendment: (1) It was a typically Minnesota passive aggressive discussion in which a claim of neutrality is betrayed by intentionally vague writing that provides the writer with deniability while making a position known and/or (2) it's what you get when you're too afraid of newspaper's traditional role in leading a debate by forcefully taking a stand, thus risking alienating a declining subscription base.
A reading of the editorial leaves little doubt that the unnamed writer is endorsing a "yes" vote on the same-sex amendment on Tuesday's ballot, using the "I'm just saying" style of argument that is more common to Internet trolls than newspapers with rich pedigrees.
Finally, the vote no coalition has been careful to steer clear of any whiff of forcefulness. Their television ads rely on happily married traditional couples advising that for reasons of love you should vote no. They wisely have struck a gentle rather than strident tone. Yet, supporters of traditional marriage are not wrong to point out that religious groups who have refused to make their facilities available for same-sex couples have lost their state tax exemption and that religious groups have been forced to close their charitable adoption agencies as a result of having to choose between fulfilling their social mission and acquiescing to a new definition of marriage. And that whenever schools educate children about marriage they will have no choice but to teach it as a genderless institution. Indeed, some members of the movement are aggressive. In California, activists outed people who gave financial support to that state's marriage amendment, some of whom lost jobs as a result. And we saw it here in Minnesota when Target Corporation was subjected to extensive protests for having contributed to a gubernatorial candidate who supported traditional marriage. It did not matter that Target had a long record of support for the GLBT community or that its contribution had nothing to do with the definition of marriage. It was about sending a message that those who took the wrong position on marriage would pay a heavy price. In Chicago, the mayor of one of the nation's largest cities and a former high ranking White House official big-footed a fast food chain and its CEO for his belief in traditional marriage. For those who hold traditional beliefs about marriage, increasingly the force of law will be brought to bear on matters of education, speech and practice. Already in the course of ordinary reporting on this amendment, the Pioneer Press has encountered traditionalists who withhold their names for fear of the possible consequences of addressing the issue. None of which is to suggest that we do not support free speech and the right to protest and transparency in the political process. The point is that the story would be incomplete if it left out any mention of the consequences. And of course these consequences are appropriate or not depending on your stand on the issue itself.
Historically, people in Minnesota generally respect people who make a principled argument if they think they're being treated honestly and respectfully. An institution long dedicated to a search for truth insults its community's intelligence when it doesn't think a declarative truth is something its readership can handle.
They may be right. We'll never know. Such is the nature of an editorial "wink."
In any event, the Press lost the one person who may be responsible for online growth: Vikings punter Chris Kluwe, whose essays on his blog were surely page-view gold, the currency of today's online journalism. He's quitting his blog at the Pioneer Press site and is looking for a new home for it.
My main issue with the Pioneer Press editorial is this: It's a lie. I have no problem with them taking a position I disagree with. What— Chris Kluwe (@ChrisWarcraft) November 3, 2012
concerns me is them presenting a completely biased piece (word choice, examples used, conclusions) as a neutral position. That's not only— Chris Kluwe (@ChrisWarcraft) November 3, 2012
irresponsible journalism, it's massively hypocritical. Have the courage of your convictions. Attach your name to what you believe in. Don't— Chris Kluwe (@ChrisWarcraft) November 3, 2012
try to confuse people through obfuscation and selected presentation of arguments. It ruins discussion, and you should be ashamed.— Chris Kluwe (@ChrisWarcraft) November 3, 2012
I will not abide lying. A stable society has to be built on a foundation of trust, and that editorial just eroded some of it away.— Chris Kluwe (@ChrisWarcraft) November 3, 2012
The Press' editorial also appeared to anger some in its own newsroom. "The Pioneer Press I know values fairness and honesty," food and ag reporter Tom Webb tweeted today. "Its marriage editorial slights those values, and is unworthy of a fine newspaper."
He's not "just sayin'."
Several listeners taking in this afternoon's rebroadcast of last night's forum on Minnesota's same sex marriage constitutional amendment noticed that a lot of it was dueling Bible passages.
They've let us know they noticed that:
This discussion is so incredibly far off base it is absolutely incredible. As the discussion went on during the "MPR Debate: Constitutional amendment on marriage," all I heard, over and over again, was Jesus and the Bible define marriage and the law must follow the Bible. While in their own context that's true, government must support ALL the people, not just Christians and their theology. The desire to marry and enjoy all the benefits of the laws of the land that surround marriage has NOTHING to do with religion it has to do with civil law. Thus, engaging in a religious debate is simply false. Where are the voices of Buddhists, Atheists, Jews, Wiccans, etc? Where are the voices of the average American with no religious axe to grind? Admittedly, the reason you invited Reverend Jerry McAfee because religion has been extremely vocal on this issue. But, frankly, I am tired of being preached at by Christians who are continuing to try to do with legislation and the vote, what they have failed to do with persuasion. -- James Garlough, Apple Valley
Listening today to the debate on the marriage amendment, it seems to me a glaring lack of attention is on the need to strengthen the separation of church and state in our country. A sub topic is the 3 branches of government balancing each other.
Health care debate, marriage ammendment, role of the judiciary, a preacher saying that our countries law should be based on the bible? What about separation of church and state?
I am a Catholic, who is all for freedom of religion and also for granting the civil right to marriage to lesbians and gays as a way to strengthen marriage and family.
By the way, the Catholic church states that: "the Church's leaders are to avoid endorsing or opposing candidates or telling people how to vote" (US Conference of Catholic Bishops) Many of us question if they should be campaigning for amendments. The hierarchy is treading a fine line on their own teachings. -- Sue Nichols/St. Paul
Voting "NO' does not remove the protections of the constitutional concept of separation of church and state. I would argue voting "YES" tricks us into doing just that. Why impose religious values on marriage from a governmental perspective? Christians are not the only ones who can be married. Children are not taught only Christians have rights. Why discuss religious issues in school at all? Different religions are free in this country to define marriage in their own way. -- Fritzie Borgwardt/Edina
If you removed the religion from the public discourse of government, what would this debate sound like?(24 Comments)
To some degree at least, all of us can identify with little Abigael.
But until it's all over next week, here are some good campaign 2012 reads:
Who is the *real* fake lumberjack? (MinnesotaBrown)
Update: NPR apologizes for making Abigael cry -- apparently she was listening to NPR when the tears started to well up.(2 Comments)
I've several times said that one of the most remarkable news conferences by a politician that I've ever seen was the one New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg had after the Cirrus plane, piloted by a pitcher for the New York Yankees, slammed into an apartment building.
He just kept facts coming, delivered in a fashion that he knew what he was doing, without much in the way of flash. If leaders appear to know what they're doing, people tend to feel better about things.
Today's news conference on the situation in New York was similar, and left reporters with few good questions to ask because he'd already answered them (full news conference here).
These sorts of situations give us a good glimpse in the styles of leaders. There are few similarities between Bloomberg and New Jersey's Gov. Chris Christie, who gets his points across in a more emotional way.
Two styles, both seem to get their message across in dramatically different ways.
These sorts of things are "part news conference, part fireside chat, and they require the full portfolio of executive skills: confidence, calm, empathy and wit," the New York Times says.
Which style do you favor in a leader?
A few of the social networking sites I frequent have been abuzz in recent days about employers who send letters to employees telling them how they should vote or, at the very least, "informing them' about what candidate is likely to lead to their layoffs.
Until 2010, the New York Times reported this weekend, federal law barred using corporate money to urge employees to support specific politicians.
That leads to the obvious question: Could your boss fire you for voting the "wrong way?"
Eugene Volokh at the law blog, The Volokh Conspiracy, provides the answer today.
These laws also date back a long time; indeed, the earliest laws that we might view as bans on discrimination in employment involved bans on discrimination based on voting (long before there were laws that banned discrimination based on union membership, race, religion, and the like).
As early as the 1700s, several colonies and states barred any "attempt to overawe, affright, or force, any person qualified to vote, against his inclination or conscience," and some also barred, "after the ... election is over, menac[ing], despitefully us[ing] or abus[ing] any person because he hath not voted as he or they would have had him." These voter protection laws seem to have covered threats not just of physical violence but also of legal coercion, for instance a jailer's threat to revoke a bail-like release based on the inmate's vote (there was an 1815 South Carolina conviction on that very point). And they may have covered threats of economic retaliation as well -- a similarly general 1854 English statute was applied to threats of economic retaliation and not just those of physical attack. The bans on threats, from 1721 to the 1860s, were included alongside bans on bribery; given that offering to provide a financial benefit in exchange for a vote was forbidden, it makes sense that threatening to deny a financial benefit in exchange for a vote would have been forbidden as well.
But even though the boss is free to talk politics at you, you're not necessarily free to talk politics back, according to Marketplace.(6 Comments)
A question: Why aren't there popular conservative comedians?
It's a question that nagged me while watching the video sweeping the InterWebs today...
Stephen Colbert, a liberal playing a conservative, has plenty of material on a nightly basis, but conservative politicians aren't the only ones saying stupid things that are good for comedy.
This is a situation, actually, that has had some study. At this year's South by Southwest, one panel, moderated by Alf LaMont of LA's Comedy store, considered it:
Even while prepping for the panel it had become clear to me that the available resources for political humor were, by a huge margin, a ridiculously huge margin, leftist. My desire to be an evenhanded moderator was hindered by my lack of access to comedy or comedians who self-identified as right leaning. Regardless of how deep online I searched, there was little in the way of "Right-Wing comedy" that made any sort of mark on the political spectrum. Not in the enormous ways that Bill Maher, Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart have been making waves, by tying satire to genuine political action. At best, right wing comedy seemed to be relegated to the notorious conservative radio talk show circuit, where pundits like Rush Limbaugh and Anne Coulter gently dip their toe into satire from time to time and Dennis Miller holds court as the sole comedian who will dive into conservative politics exclusively.
An academic to whom he turned, acknowledged there's not been scholarly research on the questions, though he theorized that the economics dictate that comedians appeal "to the downtrodden masses."
Comedian Stephen Kruiser, writing at Breitbart, didn't think that was all that funny.
The other part of the reality is this: most liberals in the entertainment industry expose themselves to conservatives about as readily as they would a leper colony. The only conservatives they know are politicians on TV and their great-uncle Cedrick. They assume we're all book-burning freaks who sit around comparing scowls on those rare occasions when we take breaks from THE WAR ON WOMEN.
The caricature conservatives they know in their heads couldn't possibly be funny, therefore none of them could ever really exist in the world of comedy.
Today, the BBC presented an interview with Alison Dagnes, author of A Conservative Walks Into A Bar: The Politics of Humour, who says comedy is anti-establishment, "and that is firmly in the liberals' wheelhouse."
"Conservatives are not funny. I'm being brutally objective here," comedian Dean Obeidallah, told CNN a few months ago, while refusing to say why "conservatives struggle so horribly when trying to be funny."
"To be a conservative comic you're going to poke fun at feminists and gays -- politically incorrect stuff -- but it is just too taboo these days," comedian Nick Di Paolo told the Daily Caller. For the last few years the media has just gotten so politically correct, and I mean it's not just the news. It is throughout the media. Just look at how white heterosexual men are portrayed as compared to women and minorities. And that is why I don't think you are ever going to see a conservative comic as famous as Jon Stewart on the right. As Colin Quinn says, 'it's so big it's not a conspiracy.'(12 Comments)
When is the last time your vote was influenced by a newspaper editorial endorsement?
The effectiveness of the newspaper endorsement is debatable, but there might be fallout from newspapers not endorsing candidates an issues.
Media monitor Jim Romenesko says the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has decided it will take no role in endorsing candidates in the presidential and Senate races
"Inside the paper, I'm told, there's the feeling that 'we have two tough picks to make and we're taking a pass,' and the paper is less relevant because of it," he writes today.
Milwaukee columnist Bruce Murphy says the paper took a lot of heat when it endorsed in the recent recall election. It raises the question, though, that if a newspaper is unwilling to get in the middle of a public fray, what's the point of having an editorial department?
Newspapers like the JS are bleeding readers, ads and staff at an alarming rate. I'm guessing the editors decided it just wasn't worth the blowback to do endorsements, all the more so when the evidence suggest they have little impact on readers anyway.
I think it's an inevitable and probably smart decision by the newspaper, but it does present it with a big challenge: to reinvent the editorial page. The fact is that policy editorials, the kind listed by Dold, typically get very little readership, whereas candidate endorsements get much more discussion and exposure, including in ads by candidates.
Will the newspaper continue to devote the resources, the staff time it takes to write thoughtful, policy wonk editorials that get low readership? Once you dump editorial endorsements, isn't the whole editorial page up for grabs?
Meanwhile, this weekend is the weekend when newspapers trot out the big endorsements. NPR's David Folkenflik says the Pioneer Press will not endorse in the presidential race. In his story, he notes that some experts say editorials only matter in local races, not the national ones. So, contrary to the old axiom, all politics isn't local.(1 Comments)
American Public Media's Marketplace provided a good glimpse into the effect of the presidential campaign on friendships last night, turning to two Minnesota pals on different sides of the race.
Only these two guys also own small businesses, and destroy the notion that the sector is monolithic voting block.
"It's the new kissing the baby," says Shawn Sheeley. "For both candidates, the conversations around small businesses, I feel, are pandering."
Here's the piece:(2 Comments)
Is this ad wrong?
An organization pushing the voter ID amendment in Minnesota filed a complaint with Minnesota campaign overlords today, arguing that the assertion that a military ID won't be considered a valid ID is flat-out wrong.
"To them, military IDs aren't valid IDs," the young man says.
The truth? Nobody really knows yet because the legislation going before the voters is nothing if not vague. Voters are being asked to vote on a principle -- the idea of showing a photo ID before voting -- than a finely crafted piece of legislation that's intended to tell you everything there is to know before you decide whether it warrants changing the state's Constitution..
Consider this from MPR's Molly Bloom and Curtis Gilbert:
The fact is, the legislation is unspecific when it comes to saying how the bill would work. This is the entire piece of legislation:
"Section 1. CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT PROPOSED.
An amendment to the Minnesota Constitution is proposed to the people. If the amendment is adopted, article VII, section 1, will read:
Section 1. (a) Every person 18 years of age or more who has been a citizen of the United States for three months and who has resided in the precinct for 30 days next preceding an election shall be entitled to vote in that precinct. The place of voting by one otherwise qualified who has changed his residence within 30 days preceding the election shall be prescribed by law. The following persons shall not be entitled or permitted to vote at any election in this state: A person not meeting the above requirements; a person who has been convicted of treason or felony, unless restored to civil rights; a person under guardianship, or a person who is insane or not mentally competent.
(b) All voters voting in person must present valid government-issued photographic identification before receiving a ballot. The state must issue photographic identification at no charge to an eligible voter who does not have a form of identification meeting the requirements of this section. A voter unable to present government-issued photographic identification must be permitted to submit a provisional ballot. A provisional ballot must only be counted if the voter certifies the provisional ballot in the manner provided by law.
(c) All voters, including those not voting in person, must be subject to substantially equivalent identity and eligibility verification prior to a ballot being cast or counted.
Sec. 2. SUBMISSION TO VOTERS.
(a) The proposed amendment must be submitted to the people at the 2012 general election. If approved, the amendment is effective July 1, 2013, for all voting at elections scheduled to be conducted November 5, 2013, and thereafter. The question submitted must be:
"Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to require all voters to present valid photo identification to vote and to require the state to provide free identification to eligible voters, effective July 1, 2013?
There's nothing in the legislation that says how voter ID is going to work, but there's also nothing in the legislation that says military IDs won't be honored.
But we do have a sense of who won't be given any exemptions -- veterans in nursing homes and students away at school.
In particular, four amendments were offered in both the House and Senate debate last spring.
One would have given veterans living in a state veterans home a pass. But the amendment was rejected on a 71-to-63 vote. (March 20) in the House. It lost 36-to-30 in the Senate. (March 23)
Another amendment would've given a voter living and voting in a state-licensed care facility (old people, basically) a pass. It lost 71-to 63 (March 20) in the House. It lost 35-30 in the Senate. (March 23)
Students "enrolled in a public or private post-secondary institution located within or outside the state" might've also been exempted. But that, too, lost in the Senate 36-to-30. (March 23)
And, finally, Senate Republicans turned aside an exemption for anyone living in a precinct where mail-in voting was allowed. That failed along party lines, too.
Curiously, at least as near as I've been able to tell, nobody tried to propose an amendment during the floor debate that specifically would have said, "if you're in the military and you've got an ID, you're good." It would have been so simple.
But all of this is going to be worked out by the next Legislature, which gives this year's legislative races all the more importance. Also curiously, few candidates running for the Legislature seem to be playing that fact up.(20 Comments)
It's always interesting to have the national media drop in on congressional districts in Minnesota to capture the sentiment of flyover country.
CNN today sent Wayne Drash to assess how things are going in Minnesota's 6th District, where Michele Bachmann is being challenged by Jim Graves in the redrawn, and now more conservative, district.
Step one: Make the area seem nutty:
Jim Graves strolled down Main Street in his pressed shirt with French cuffs and skinny jeans, a dapper enigma in a land of flannels and Wranglers. He stuck out his hand to introduce himself to a ruffian in a wheelchair scooter.
The two talked politics before the stranger confessed he's an anarchist who believes Americans should be allowed to kill three people a day. "That would take care of the idiots REALLLLLL fast," the man said with a chuckle.
Check. Step two. Offer only the political polling that confirms the basis for the story in the first place.
Drash admits he doesn't cover politics but offers this...
It's impossible to know just how close the race is, though apparently it's tightening. Two non-partisan political handicappers -- the Cook Political Report and the Rothenberg Political Report -- have moved their ranking of the contest from likely Republican earlier this year to now lean Republican.
It's really not that difficult to know how close the race is.
But the CNN article notes only challenger Graves' internal polling showing the difference between the two candidates is within a couple of points, but it had a high margin of error and internal polls are often unreliable. Why more independent polling was left out of the story we can only guess. It wasn't hard to find out about them.
The national media is describing the race as Bachmann's biggest challenge yet. They may be right, but at the moment it's more media narrative than fact. True, Bachmann won the race in 2010 over Taryl Clark easily (by almost 13%), and far more moderate cities were in the district back then.
But her toughest yet? Not yet.
That would be 2008, when El Tinklenberg came just 12,000 votes from ending Bachmann's political career, thanks in large part to a last minute Bachmann gaffe in which she questioned the patriotism of Barack Obama, in a district where some of the larger cities voted Obama. Those cities have now been banished to the 4th District.
The article notes that DFLers think the chances of knocking off Bachmann are better this year because there's no third party candidate to siphon independent votes, but by ignoring the two independent polls, the fact that independents are nearly evenly split between Bachmann and Graves goes unstated.
The fact Bachmann is in a close race at all in a district that was tailor-made for a Republican does show a vulnerability not previously calculated. However, the polls also show that there aren't many who haven't already made up their mind in the race and both polls showed that even if all the few undecideds go with Bachmann's challenger, it doesn't put him over the top. That doesn't mean it can't or won't happen, of course, but the extent of the challenge can't be minimized for dramatic effect.
Drash on Twitter referred to his story as "a fun little story," but here in flyover country, it's a pretty serious sort of thing.(17 Comments)
As I've said before, a political debate isn't over until NMA says it's over.
It's almost over. Tonight's presidential debate, focusing on foreign policy issues, is the last of the debates. And two weeks from tomorrow, it will all be over and we can go back to watching chia pet commercials instead.
Live blogging starts with the pre-game show at 7:30. We hope you'll take the opportunity to provide your perspective, reaction, and links during the debate.
The rules are out for tonite's presidential debate drinking game.
"If either candidate greets moderator, Bob Schieffer with 'Hi Bob' EVERYBODY DRINKS!" according to the website, debatedrinking.com.
Otherwise, here are the key words from President Obama to hoist a tankard:
Let Me Be ClearAnd for Mitt Romney...
Commander in Chief
Peace Through Strength
Are political drinking games a bad thing?
"If you're playing a drinking game during the debates, that means you're watching it with friends," Sarah Lohman tells NPR. "You're paying close attention and you're probably going to talk about what they said afterwards. To me, there's nothing negative about that."
"Needless to say watching a presidential debate while intoxicated is not a good plan for informing oneself about issues that affect our lives," counters James Garbutt, a psychiatry professor and director of the Alcohol and Substance Abuse Program at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine.(4 Comments)
What's the proper way to refer to a professional woman in a political campaign?
That has become an issue for debate in the race for the U.S. Senate in Massachusetts where incumbent Scott Brown is facing Elizabeth Warren.
Boston Herald reporter Christine McConville raises the question after she attended a Warren rally this week. The Herald is the conservative alternative to the more liberal Boston Globe, just for the record.
"I want to go to Washington as a U.S. senator, to support all women, all the time," Warren told the roaring crowd.
That's when I raised my hand, with a question for Warren. What, I planned to ask her, matters more to today's female voters: the economy or abortion and contraceptive rights?
"Professor," I said, and the crowd started to hiss.
"Elizabeth," she replied.
But, of course, as a reporter, I'd never call her that. We're not friends, and she's an accomplished public person who deserves respect. I don't call Scott Brown "Scott," I always used "Mr. Baker" when I interviewed gubernatorial hopeful Charlie Baker a few years ago, and I don't want to think what would happen if I addressed Boston's mayor as "Tom."
"Why did you call her that?" one furious supporter sneered, when three of them confronted me afterward. "That's so demeaning."
Warren is a law professor at Harvard.
There was a way to get around the issue: Just ask the question without any reference to a title. Reporters do that all the time.(17 Comments)
The debate isn't over until NMA says it's over.
I was in the mood for a little napkin math today so picked up on the line from last night's debate from Gov. Romney stressing that he would eliminate taxes on the savings of middle-class families. In this case, middle class families consists of people making less than $200,000.
"No tax on your savings. That makes life a lot easier. If you're getting interest from a bank, if you're getting a statement from a mutual fund or any other kind of investment you have, you don't have to worry about filing taxes on that, because there'll be no taxes for anybody making $200,000 per year and less, on your interest, dividends and capital gains. Why am I lowering taxes on the middle-class? Because in the last four years, they've been buried. And I want to help people in the middle class."
What's the math on that?
Searching for the best savings rate online, the major non brick-and-mortar banks are offering about .75% annual return.
The site, Statistic Brain, says the average amount Americans have stashed in a savings account is $3,800.
According to this calculator, that yields about $28.59 a year. Here, you can calculate yours too...
Interest income is taxed as ordinary income, so the amount of tax depends on your tax bracket.
The highest bracket under the plan taxes these things at 33%. So, if you made $199,999, you save $9.53 a year.
The average American household income, however, is $44,000. Assuming there's no reduction in the adjusted gross income (highly unlikely), the interest income is taxed at 15 percent. So the proposal saved a family $4.29 a year.
But 25 percent of households in the U.S. have no savings at all. And the average retirement savings in a household is $35,000.
If all of that were shoved into a savings account (unlikely), it would yield about $253 a year in interest and the tax on the highest earners in Gov. Romney's definition of middle class would be $83.49. But, of course, many retirement funds are in accounts that pay no taxes until they're tapped after age 65, at a lower tax rate.
I'll be providing some of the content in this evening's live blog of the presidential debate. We look forward to hearing from you.
Last Saturday was my 40th high school reunion and I once had every intention of going. I loved those old friends of mine and I hadn't seem them since the 5th reunion, which -- rather typical for our class -- was held six years after we graduated. We had a commonality of life experiences. It was impossible to grow up in the '60s and not be politically astute; how could we not be when there was every chance the president was going to send many of us off to Vietnam, if we didn't incinerate in a nuclear blast first?
Then, years later, Facebook came along and every day was a reunion. I found that my old friends -- in many cases -- are now much different in every way than we were before. We had also gone off in our own political directions; some of us -- some of them -- to the far reaches of the spectrum.
It might've been -- and probably was -- a delightful evening. But I couldn't risk the chance that I might fly halfway across the continent at considerable expense to undergo the talk radio- and cable TV-inspired conversations I loathe.
Increasingly, it seems, our relationships revolve around politics; one reason why I have a "no politics/no religion" rule among my aviations friends, most of whom I've lost after defriending them on Facebook. If you talk politics, you're only going to lose friends.
If you've been in the same situation, there's good news: It's not just you. Politics is straining the social fabric.
MPR's Public Insight Network has been collecting stories for a segment later this month on the program, "This American Life." They've populated this map with those stories.
One of my favorites:
I was a late adopter of Facebook -- I've only been on it for about a year and a half. What has been especially striking to me as a user is the way in which people's political Facebook status updates reflect the kind of polarizing language I thought was reserved for cable news pundits and congressmen in the midst of a temper tantrum. ...
After a particularly long week of angry Facebook posts depicting ludicrous caricatures of Republicans, I posted an (admittedly whiny) update bemoaning the lack of intelligent discourse and lack of attempts to "reach across the aisle." Within seconds, I had a reply: "Romney bathes in baby's blood."
The Public Insight Network is assembling audio stories from people, some of them heartbreaking splits over politics. Tom Cox, for example, hasn't spoken to his brother in three years.
In another month, the presidential campaign of 2016 begins. How do we disconnect this relationship between politics and our relationships?(5 Comments)
As a baby boomer, war has always been pretty cut-and-dried with me. Vietnam does that to people.
It's not real hard to see issues of war that aren't hard to figure out in the first place. When people are putting lawn signs out to "liberate Iraq," the message is pretty clear: If significant foreign policy decisions are going to be based on lawn signs and bumper stickers, sending people off to war might be something you want to think about a little longer.
The most powerful blog post I've read today comes from Erin Kotecki Vest, who writes as Queen of Spain. Today, she writes about the morning ritual in her house, waking her 7-year-old up for school and encountering a 7-year-old who doesn't want to get up and go to school.
So she told her daughter, instead, to "get up for Malala," the young Pakistani girl targeted by the Taliban in Pakistan for wanting girls to get an education.
And I held her face in my hands, and I looked into her eyes.
Do you understand why you need to go to school today? And every single day?
And with a resolve I see ONLY in my daughter, especially when she's angry, she nodded.
We then went about our usual morning. Breakfast. Shoes. Backpacking grabbing...and we headed out the door.
As we left in the car I caught her in my review mirror. She was looking out the window.
Honey, are you ok?
I'm fine Mom. I'm mad.
I'm mad too.
Being a girl shouldn't be hard.
No, it shouldn't.
Years before we had a reason to go to war in Afghanistan, human rights advocates were trying to tell us what was happening to girls there, and for the most part, nobody much cared.
Then 9/11 happened and we all know the rest.
And we're justifiably tired of a war that doesn't seem to have any end, and seems intent on bankrupting the nation, as it did the the Soviet Union before us.
During last week's vice presidential debate, I thought of that as I heard both candidates try to claim the high ground in their fight, by talking about the 2014 deadline for leaving Afghanistan. Both sides, basically, favor leaving. I favor leaving, too. War stinks and it's easy to run against it most when it's lasted for 10 years.
But there's something about this war that doesn't necessarily lend itself to easy answers, and debates on the subject are closer to lawn signs and bumper stickers rather than well-considered complexities of foreign policy.
The fact is, sadly, Malala Yousufzai wasn't the first girl to be punished for wanting an education.
The Taliban, whether in Pakistan or Afghanistan, will stop at nothing to prevent it from happening.
"People are crazy," Razia Jan, founder of a girls' school outside Kabul, told CNN last month. "The day we opened the school, (on) the other side of town, they threw hand grenades in a girls' school, and 100 girls were killed.
Few people are mentioning this on the rare occasion when the war comes up in the presidential debate. Staying guarantees the deaths of more U.S. soldiers. Leaving probably increases the likelihood of more Malalas.
When is war worth fighting? What is the cost-benefit analysis of protecting girls anywhere from those who would deny them something as basic as an education? Is it our problem?
For many people, perhaps, the answer is as easy as figuring out which side "their guy" is on. But as people who watched last week's debate figured out, "their guy" doesn't seem to have an easy answer.
And I know exactly how they feel, although I'll actually say the words they won't: I don't know.(7 Comments)
I stumbled across this piece of history while channel surfing the other night, stopped and was entertained by what I thought was a Saturday Night Live skit. Only it turned out to be the actual 1992 presidential debate, the last time it was hosted by a woman, in this case: Carole Simpson, then of ABC News.
It was a better debate than I remember, although the town hall format isn't that great when it's filled with "average citizens" who are too respectful to demand actual answers from candidates.
That "respectful" nature of the audience is pretty much what's behind today's controversy with Candy Crowley, the first woman since Simpson to "moderate" a presidential debate. The two candidates want to preserve the "just hold the microphone and look pretty" role they've assigned Crowley, knowing that the audience won't press them for actual answers.
Simpson has seen this stuff before. She told MSNBC, basically, that it's a sad commentary that the one role the Debate Commission had for a woman moderator is the one role that minimized her importance in the process.
The two people on the panel above neglected to point out, though, that the chair of the Presidential Debate Commission is a woman, the same woman who refused to meet with those school kids a few months ago who were presenting a petition calling for a woman to be named moderator of a presidential debate.
With any luck at all, someone in the audience will ask the candidates this question: Why are you two so afraid of women with questions?(8 Comments)
It is written: We can't move on from a news story until NMA weighs in on it.
So, let's move on.
The pregame show starts at 7:30. As usual, we suggest you listen on the radio (or watch the video in the window below) and follow along with pithy analysis, questions, and occasional cat videos as warranted. Join in the conversation.
The Latino vote is increasingly recognized as important in U.S. elections. The number of Hispanics eligible to vote is now up to 11% of the electorate. But Hispanics tend not to vote and not to think about voting to the same degree that other groups do, a survey out today says.
The Pew Research Center says 61 percent of the Latino voters surveyed say they've thought a lot about the election, an unfavorable comparison to the registered voters in the electorate.
The study also points out that the turnout rate for eligible Latinos tends to lag historically and it probably will this year, too. Seventy-seven percent of Latinos surveyed say they are "absolutely certain" they will vote this year. Eighty-nine percent of all registered voters in the survey say they will.
And the Voter ID laws that are in effect. Most don't think that will affect them, the respondents said. And most Latinos favor the idea.
One recent development that could potentially have an impact on the Latino turnout rate is the passage of state laws that require voters to show photo identification in order to cast a ballot. This year 11 states--Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, New Hampshire, South Dakota and Tennessee--have such laws in effect.1 Together, these states are home to 15% of all Latino eligible voters.2
According to the new survey, fully 97% of all Latino registered voters--as well as a nearly identical 95% of Latino registered voters in those 11 states--say they are confident they have the identification they will need to vote on Election Day.
The survey also finds broad support among Latino registered voters for voter photo ID laws; 71% favor them, nearly as high a share as among the general public (77%).4 Comments)
For a guy tough enough to shut plants down and ruin many of America's small cities (I'm thinking of you, Pittsfield, Massachusetts, with your GE power transformer plant that once employed 13,000 people), it only took a little Twitter reaction and some fact checking to get under Jack "Neutron Jack" Welch's skin.
Welch, the former GE boss (who got his start in Pittsfield, by the way. It was GE's birthplace) has decided to quit contributing to Fortune magazine, only a few days after his infamous Tweet that the Obama administration was cooking the monthly jobs report.
The more Welch talked about the conspiracy, the sillier he looked...
Nonetheless, Minnesotans are buying the theory, according to the polling released today by Public Policy Polling.
Given that the numbers released last week actually weren't very good, the poll seems to confirm that quite a few people only believe what people like Jack Welch tell them to believe.(2 Comments)
I'm generally unimpressed with the "debate bingo" cards I've seen in advance of tonight's presidential debate, which I'll be live-blogging here. It's just that they're too easy. A person could easily get "bingo" in the first 10 minutes and then where are you? A game that's over and nothing left to do for 80 minutes but watch a debate.
I favor the Twins' "Twingo" method. Who among us hasn't stayed at a bad baseball game if only on the oft chance that the Twins will turn the elusive 2-2-3 doubleplay and give you "Twingo"?
So here's the community debate bingo card I've put together.
Update 1:49 p.m. - Courtesy of MPR health care law reporter Elizabeth Stawicki, here's health care debate bingo.(3 Comments)
It's been a never-ending campaign, this presidential election of 2012, which began almost as soon as Barack Obama was elected in 2008. The campaign of 2016 is just a month away.
The lengthy campaigns have done nothing for quality. There's still hope for the presidential debates, which begin this week. But the list of issues absent from the campaign is a who's who of importance.
The Washington Post brings up one: The Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court is almost always the dog that doesn't bark in presidential campaigns, no matter how much scholars and activists on both the left and right lecture about its importance.
They are right, of course, that a Supreme Court justice with life tenure is one of the most lasting legacies a president can leave. Consider that Ronald Reagan's last election was in 1984 but one of his choices, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, is the pivotal justice on today's court.
On a divided court, Kennedy is the justice most likely to decide questions of gay rights, affirmative action, who is eligible for the death penalty and even how the presidential campaign itself is financed.
Kennedy is also one of four justices on the court who are still going strong when most mortals would be planning afternoons of bridge or fishing. Kennedy and fellow Reagan nominee Antonin Scalia are both 76. Among the justices on the left, Justice Stephen G. Breyer is 74 and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 79.
That's some serious old.
Today, the Court took a pass on some fairly important issues for the coming term(4 Comments)
Saturday Night Live nails it with a look at undecided voters.(4 Comments)
It's not any crazier, really, than the professionals.
We are hereby closing the "greatest political commercial ever" competition and declaring Bridget Mary McCormack the clear winner.
Somebody running for a judge position in Michigan. Does it matter?
Her younger sister, by the way, actually is Mary McCormack, formerly of The West Wing and lately of In Plain Sight. She is, for the record, "delightful, whip smart and possibly hot."
The only thing that could possibly top this is a commercial for Hennepin County Soil and Water Conservation District featuring Sam Seeborn and Mrs. Landingham. Of course, that would be difficult considering she was killed by a drunk driver while driving to the White House to show the president a new car she just bought.
(h/t: Vince Tuss)
Would it be OK if journalists also worked on political campaigns?
It's the suggestion of Sasha Issenberg, author of The Victory Lab, who writes in Slate today that political reporters don't know enough about the inner workings of political campaigns. So he's recommending news organizations send their reporters to work on some.
What if journalists actually developed a working knowledge of those mechanics and the tools campaigns used to engineer them? It doesn't take much to dramatically increase your base of knowledge about voter-contact tactics, which often reveal more about a campaign's thinking about where its votes will come from than the latest Web ad or polling memo released by a communications department. A lot of media have written about the Obama campaign's new mobile canvassing app, but few have asked a central question about its underlying purpose: Why is the Obama campaign using it to send existing volunteers to recruit other volunteers instead of hunting for new supporters?
So a modest proposal: newsrooms develop a version of a study-abroad program, placing their reporters in campaign field offices for a month during the summer of an election season. It's time that they see the place where campaigns interact with real people, by asking the questions on phone-bank scripts, entering the answers into databases, then seeing how that information shapes decisions about which voters to call or visit next. (Full disclosure: I volunteered for Democratic candidates in New York starting when I was 12, but have not worked in campaigns since I first got involved in journalism.) My guess is that journalists who spent even a few weeks in this world would pose wildly different questions the next time they sat down with Jim Messina or Stuart Stevens.
He's ready for the objections of you news purists, too:
The media have become so fixated on neutrality that we have become detached not only from the ideologies and philosophies of the people we cover, but their methods, too. Many have noted that the turn toward rigorously empirical campaigning looks a lot like the one that has changed baseball over the last decade, as described in Michael Lewis' Moneyball. But political reporters are in even worse shape than the sports press was. Baseball beat writers may have had trouble appreciating and assessing the quantitative revolution taking place in front offices because they lacked the requisite statistical expertise. But political reporters are actually far more poorly positioned to document similar transformation in our fields. Nearly everyone who writes about baseball has held a bat and a glove at some point, and some--no matter how old or physically unfit they may be now--still play catch, dabble on a softball team, or coach Little League. The first step toward appreciating why a general manager might prize a statistic like a pitcher's WHIP is understanding what it takes to throw a baseball 60 feet, or the choices a batter faces at the other end.
He misses on that one. Knowing how to throw a baseball 60 feet does absolutely nothing to enhance one's understanding and application of WHIP in baseball.(6 Comments)
An actor who plays a fake character hosted a fundraiser for one of the chaps running for president. So now there's a report of a little backlash against the beer company for whom the actor's fake character pitches.
File this under you can't make this up.
It involves this guy, the most interesting man in the world.
Jonathan Goldsmith is the actor and he held a fundraiser in Vermont (did you really think he lived on his own island?) for Barack Obama, according to Ad Age.
"Since you are supporting Obama you just lost a customer," wrote one fan on the Dos Equis page. "Mexican beer for Obama............bye-bye Dos Equis," it quotes one fan posting on Dos Equis' Facebook page.
Brand importer Heineken USA closely guards what Mr. Goldsmith does in character, but since he is hosting the event as a citizen, the marketer has less leverage. In a statement, the company told Ad Age: "Mr. Goldsmith's opinions and views are strictly his own, and do not represent those of Dos Equis."
One beer company executive not affiliated with the importer said it's "not smart business sense for any brand or company to be in the middle of a political debate," adding, "people are going to associate him with the character he plays and that comes with a high degree of risk and I'm sure it's not making the Heineken people happy."(5 Comments)
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court today sent that state's voter ID law back to a lower court to determine if, as alleged, the law disenfranchises voters.
It's not the victory opponents of the law -- similar to the one voters in Minnesota will decide in November -- had hoped for, but it raises the profile of questions voiced there -- and here -- about how difficult it will be to get the photo IDs to vote at all.
In particular, the majority on the court cited the strict guidelines the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation adopted for providing identifications to would-be voters.
Why? Because of the federal ID laws that make getting an identification card difficult.
However, as implementation of the Law has proceeded, PennDOT - apparently for good reason - has refused to allow such liberal access. Instead, the Department continues to vet applicants for Section 1510(b) cards through an identification process that Commonwealth officials appear to acknowledge is a rigorous one. See N.T. at 690, 994. Generally, the process requires the applicant to present a birth certificate with a raised seal (or a document considered to be an equivalent), a social security card, and two forms of documentation showing current residency. See N.T. at 467, 690, 793.1 The reason why PennDOT will not implement the Law as written is that the Section 1510(b) driver's license equivalent is a secure form of identification, which may be used, for example, to board commercial aircraft.
But in a dissent, Justice Debra McCloskey Todd criticized the court for not killing the law...
Despite impending near-certain loss of voting rights, despite the Commonwealth's admitted inability thus far to fully implement Act 18 and its acceptance that, presently, "the Law is not being implemented according to its terms," and despite the majority's concession that the "most judicious remedy" in such circumstances would be to grant an injunction, the majority nonetheless allows the Commonwealth to virtually ignore the election clock and try once again to defend its inexplicable need to rush this law into application by November 6, 2012.
Justice Sheamus McCaffery went further...
I was elected by the people of our Commonwealth, by Republicans, Democrats, Independents and others, as was every single Justice on this esteemed Court. I cannot now be a party to the potential disenfranchisement of even one otherwise qualified elector, including potentially many elderly and possibly disabled veterans who fought for the rights of every American to exercise their fundamental American right to vote. While I have no argument with the requirement that all Pennsylvania voters, at some reasonable point in the future, will have to present photo identification before they may cast their ballots, it is clear to me that the reason for the urgency of implementing Act 18 prior to the November 2012 election is purely political.
The question of how people will get the IDs if Minnesota approves the question in November is unclear because the Legislature didn't address the issue when it put the question before voters.
But the Pennsylvania situation makes clear that whatever ID process is followed, it not only will have to allow people to vote, it'll also have to get them on an airplane.(8 Comments)
The Minnesota Lynx were honored at the White House this afternoon.
"These women have brought glory back to Minnesota," Obama said, noting that just a couple of years ago the Lynx had the worst record in the NBA.
He paid particular attention to UConn vet Maya Moore. "She's becoming a regular here," he said. "It's like the fourth time she's been here."
"As the husband of a tall, good-looking woman.... it's wonderful to have these women as role models. We know that when girls are involved in athletics, they do better across the board. Our women athletes present themselves so well and are such great ambassadors to the game... you don't see them on SportsCenter doing stupid stuff."
"This group is incredibly selfless," coach Cheryl Reeve said.(1 Comments)
The person who tracked down the source of the video of the Mitt Romney fundraiser is Jimmy Carter's grandson.
James Carter IV told NBC News he encouraged the "source" to release the full tape to Mother Jones magazine, which called attention to it yesterday.
But Carter also confirmed there is a personal side to the backstory of the campaign video: he was especially motivated, he said, because of Romney's frequent attacks on the presidency of his grandfather, including the GOP candidate's comparisons to the "weak" foreign policy of Carter and Barack Obama.
"It gets under my skin -- mostly the weakness on the foreign policy stuff," Carter said. "I just think it's ridiculous. I don't like criticism of my family."
Carter said he is currently unemployed and has not been paid for his work by the Obama campaign or any other political organization. What motivated him at first was Romney's role at Bain Capital and the controversy over whether the GOP candidate as a businessman had invested in companies that outsourced jobs overseas.
On NPR's Tell Me More program today, David Corn, the Mother Jones political reporter discussed his role in the video.
It didn't take long for the Obama campaign to turn the video into an online ad.(6 Comments)
Songwriter Randy Newman is calling out what he sees as racism in the presidential campaign.
The Associated Press today reports Newman, an Obama supporter, released a protest song today, to confront racism in American politics.
"It's delicate enough that I'm not going to offend people every which way, but I wanted to get it right as best I could," Newman told the AP, which said he's worried there may be some backlash against the song.(4 Comments)
Mitt Romney has sat down for his first interview to explain why he felt the U.S. reacted "inappropriately" in issuing a statement in Egypt that criticized the makers of a film that has inflamed some in the Muslim world.
"And the idea of using something that some people consider sacred and then parading that out a negative way is simply inappropriate and wrong. And I wish people wouldn't do it," he said.
The full transcript is here.(2 Comments)
The controversy over the statement from the U.S. embassy in Egypt, hours before a mob invaded the consulate in Benghazi, Libya. and killed four people, including the U.S. ambassador, continues to fester, and more than a few people aren't sure why.
"I think most Americans would look at that and say this is not the appropriate response when your embassy was assaulted when the American flag is taken down and two Islamic flags put up over American territory," Sen Rob Portman of Ohio told CBS this morning in an appearance that had to leave people wondering if politicians have the ability to say, "whoops, my bad."?
Give some credit to the questioner for CBS News who pointedly said, "as you know," before pointing out that Portman's timetable was completely wrong -- the statement from the embassy came before there were any attacks.
That's when Portman said he didn't know that, which brings up the question, "why not?" How can a U.S. senator, more than 24 hours after the statement was released, still not know what he's talking about?
He could've read the Wall Street Journal's website, which published the timeline of events at noon yesterday. So did NBC. So did The Atlantic. And so did the National Journal.
Roger Ebert asks on his blog today, "which parts (of the statement) would you disagree with? Why?"
Sentence One: One-quarter of the earth's population is Muslim, including many Americans. Yes, their feelings can be hurt by a crude attack on the Prophet. I would go so far as to suggest those who made the trailer hoped to hurt their feelings. Why else, when their original effort failed to attract attention, did they pay to have it translated into Arabic, so it could be understood in nations where the box office appeal of the so-called film would be non-existent? The only purpose must have been to hurt feelings.
Sentence Two: True. Sincere. Heartfelt.
Sentence Three: I'll repeat it. "Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy." This expresses one of the fundamental founding principles of our nation.
Sentence Four: The statement rejects the actions of the mysterious people responsible for posting the trailer and the having it translated into Arabic.
"The statement said, at its start, 'we apologize,'" Portman told CBS this morning.
Shockingly, no journalist on the set stopped him to say, "no, it doesn't say any such thing."
Here's the statement:
"The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims -- as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others."
"It's not all that complicated," Portman insisted.
That one he got right.(15 Comments)
In case you haven't gotten enough Chris Kluwe, NPR put him on the air this afternoon.
This time, though, they put him on with Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo, whom Kluwe was defending in his letter.
Kluwe ducked the question of whether any teammates objected to his letter. At first he said he's gotten plenty of support. Pressed further he said, "there were obviously concerns about it being a distraction to the team."
Meanwhile, the New Yorker laments that Kluwe is now the story, instead of Ayanbadejo.
For the past three years, Brendon Ayanbadejo, a backup linebacker and standout special-teams player for the Ravens, has been advocating for same-sex marriage--writing about it, talking about it, appearing as one of the stars of a video campaign launched by backers of a measure to legalize it in Maryland. It's not his day job, but he's gotten enough attention for it that an anti-gay-marriage Maryland state legislator wrote to the owner of the Ravens and demanded that he shut Ayanbadejo up.
Enter the Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe, who came to Ayanbadejo's defense with a vitriolic but quite enjoyable rant published on the sports blog Deadspin. And now Ayanbadejo is no longer the story--sure, he'd done the harder work, but he never used the words "lustful cock-monster." Admittedly, Ayanbadejo is still getting mentioned in the stories about the whole dustup, but a careful reader will see what's going on--Kluwe is the lead of the story; Ayanbadejo only gets noticed when the writer stops to fill in the details. (For the record, Kluwe has done his own advocacy for same-sex marriage in his home state.)
You may think that this is the paranoia of the homer, a cry of bias from someone who's just looking for reason to feel slighted. And you may be right.
That's pretty much the sum and substance of it. The rest of the article -- the majority, actually -- is about some football game.
The new political ad from Mitt Romney against Barack Obama will probably appeal to voters with short memories and a lack of context -- the bread-and-butter of politicians these days.
The ad, of course, comes a day after former president Clinton got the headlines with his endorsement of Obama.
It also has very little to do with any issue in the campaign so far.
Foreign Policy must've seen the ad coming because it revisited the context around "give me a break" in an article issued yesterday.
The quote referred to a dispute in the campaign between then-candidates Obama and Hillary Clinton over opposition to the war in Iraq. Obama had claimed that he had opposed the invasion of Iraq "from the beginning," when he was on record supporting the invasion in 2003.
The full quote:
"It is wrong that Senator Obama got to go through 15 debates trumpeting his superior judgment ... and never got asked one time, not once, well, how could you say that when you said in 2004 you didn't know how you would have voted on the resolution, you said in 2004 there was no difference between you and George Bush on the war ... and there's no difference in your voting record and Hillary's ever since?" Clinton asked. "Give me a break. This whole thing is the biggest fairy tale I've ever seen."
Clinton's comments were as much an indictment of a political news media as it was of his wife's opponent at the time.(20 Comments)
Maybe it's because we in Saint Paul were knee deep in the protests at the 2008 Republican National Convention in the city, but protests at the Democratic convention in Charlotte seem to be getting scant attention.
You may have to turn to unconventional and/or non-traditional sources for the information.
Enter Voice of America...
Undocumented residents protested yesterday...
By contrast to Saint Paul in '08, the cops in Charlotte don't seem to be dressed in the "Michelin Man" outfits. And they're using bicycles more...(2 Comments)
Politics is often the parsing of words. "The definition of is," for example is political legend.
The definition of "abandoned" occupies center stage in Minnesota politics today.
The quote of the day came early today, thanks to the Duluth News Tribune's article on the Minnesota House of Representatives candidate whose daughter came forward to say he "abandoned" her years ago.
Leah Simonson, 20, went to the paper to say her birthfather, DFL candidate Erik Simonson, hasn't seen her in 18 years.
"I wanted him to know that he is so against Gauthier for what he did and his actions -- and that's not OK -- but I want him to know that what he did is not OK, either," said Leah Simonson said.
That brings us to the definition of abandonment and Mr. Simonson's response:
"That's not true. I've paid my child support," he told the News Tribune. "To say the word 'abandoned' leads people to believe that I didn't do what I was supposed to do."
"I'm not understanding why this is an issue now that needs to go to the media, but apparently somebody wants some attention, I guess," he also said.
Question: Is it anybody's business?(13 Comments)
You're 56 years old, working in an industry in decline. The realities of unemployment aren't going to change depending on who wins in November because (a) you're 56 years old and (b) you work in an industry in decline.
This latest in a series of short interviews with Americans by CBS pretty well peels through all the politics of a presidential campaign and gets right to the real issue facing millions of Americans: Nobody seems to have a good answer to one person's question. And often, that question gets lost in the noise.
In Minnesota today, state officials said the number of job openings has increased in the state. But many of the openings are low-paying, temporary gigs. And the ones people are losing, are the kind that you could support a family on.
Also today, St. Jude Medical of Saint Paul announced a round of layoffs, including 80 in Minnesota.(1 Comments)
The hottest ad during the Super Bowl was Clint Eastwood's "Halftime in America" ad for one of the car makers. It was inspiring indeed.
There was a rumor this week that Eastwood would be the "surprise speaker" at the Republican National Convention tonight, which caused me to take another look at the ad.
Discussion point: In an election year, has his description stood the test of time?(4 Comments)
Welcome to Tampa!
It's apparently quite a show of force in Tampa during this week's Republican National Convention. Nothing can put a good scare into a city like the specter of a group of people holding different opinions.
Apparently, officials there point to Saint Paul in 2008 as the inspiration for this year's buildup of force against would-be demonstrators (most stayed home), according to the Associated Press.
City officials maintain the massive show of force _ more than 3,000 officers _ is needed to ward off possibly violent protests, pointing to several clashes with police at the 2008 Republican convention in St. Paul, Minn.
Civil liberties advocates have worried about the amping up of security at political events, where dissenters are kept in so-called "protest zones," fenced enclosures often far from the actual event. In Tampa, the protesters and city-sanctioned parade routes are blocks away from the RNC and the nearby media center. The installation of surveillance cameras on public streets (a few dozen are in place in Tampa) also give some free speech advocates pause.
Ron Krotoszynski, a professor of law at the University of Alabama, said that security at conventions has grown since 1988, when more than 300 anti-abortion protesters were arrested after blocking clinics during the Democratic National Convention in Atlanta that year. Since 9/11, "measures have become even more draconian," he said. "Organized dissent has been banished from downtown areas."
It's like going back in time. The people in Saint Paul had the same concerns. Those security cameras? We got them too. They were supposed to be temporary. They're still there.
And, also like 2008, Tampa is finding another truism: Political conventions are bad for businesses. Tampa, thanks to the hurricane and the authorities, is deserted.
Saint Paul could have provided a lesson about that to Tampa, too. But from the sound of things, the businesses bought the "it'll be great for business" line.
Jeff Morzella had hoped the convention would double business, but on Monday, only 75 customers ate in his restaurant compared to 400 patrons on a typical day.
"This has been a ghost town," Morzella said Tuesday morning, standing outside his restaurant named FRESH. Streets surrounding the block were barricaded. The biggest source of downtown traffic for the past few days has been police officers on bicycles, but they have been eating at meal stations catered by outsiders, not local restaurants, Morzella said.
FRESH generally garners up to $20,000 in weekly revenue but as of Tuesday had only taken in $800.
"More money out of pocket. No money coming in," said Morzella, whose restaurant serves soups, salads and paninis. It's on a row of restaurants just a few blocks from the Tampa Bay Times Forum where delegates are convening. "I would need to triple business between now and the end of the convention to make up for what I've lost already."
"I've been on this street for 31 years and this is the worst I have ever seen," said Marty Greenwald, who runs a hot dog business and appears to be losing his shirt.
A week or so from now, officials in the city will issue a press release trumping people's lying eyes and proving that the convention made money for the region.
It's like old times.(12 Comments)
Considering how political reporters have to listen to every stump speech a presidential candidate gives, you'd think some of them would be better at remembering them than the story of Mitt Romney's speech in Hopkins last night reveals.
The Associated Press reports...
Creating a potential headache for his campaign, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said big businesses in the U.S. were "doing fine" in part because they get advantages from offshore tax havens.
His comments echoed similar assertions about the state of big business by President Barack Obama which Romney has criticized. They're also a reminder that the GOP candidate has kept some of his personal fortune in low tax foreign accounts.
The problem with the story is Romney's comments are not that similar to the ones for which Republicans criticized Obama.
Here's Obama's comments:
The truth of the matter is that, as I said, we've created 4.3 million jobs over the last 27 months, over 800,000 just this year alone. The private sector is doing fine. Where we're seeing weaknesses in our economy have to do with state and local government -- oftentimes, cuts initiated by governors or mayors who are not getting the kind of help that they have in the past from the federal government and who don't have the same kind of flexibility as the federal government in dealing with fewer revenues coming in.
Earlier in the press briefing (full transcript here), the president alluded to the private sector saying, ".. overall, the private sector has been doing a good job creating jobs. We've seen record profits in the corporate sector. "
That's clearly an allusion to big business but that isn't the same part of his news conference where he said "the private sector is doing fine." And using the word "overall" before the phrase "private sector" does not distinguish between its components. Romney, on the other hand, obviously was drawing a distinction between large business and small business.
Commentator Rachel Maddow gives Romney a pass... sort of.
In context, any fair examination shows that Romney was trying to make a point about small businesses -- larger corporations are "doing fine," but more modest-sized enterprises are not. Obviously, everyone knows what he meant and the argument he intended to present. This need not be controversial.
But therein lies the rub: everyone also knows what Obama meant and the argument the president intended to present, but that didn't stop Romney from turning the out-of-context phrase into a major campaign offensive -- and then echoing the exact same sentiment.
But, in fact, the president explained his assessment of the economy completely in the June briefing. He said the private sector was creating jobs, the exception being the construction industry. And then he discussed the number of jobs lost in the government sector. In fact, he said "where we're seeing weakness in the economy is state and local governments."
And as long as we're invited to talk context, let's do that. The only similarity between the two mens' comments were the words "fine" and "business." Where they obviously have some similarity is why the big businesses are doing fine, but that point wasn't what made the headlines.
The president's solution to the assessment was pretty clear in the June briefing...
If Republicans want to be helpful, if they really want to move forward and put people back to work, what they should be thinking about is, how do we help state and local governments and how do we help the construction industry. Because the recipes that they're promoting are basically the kinds of policies that would add weakness to the economy, would result in further layoffs, would not provide relief in the housing market, and would result, I think most economists estimate, in lower growth and fewer jobs, not more.
And, to be clear, the Obama jobs plans includes a tax break for small business. The plan also includes public works spending, aid to state and local governments to prevent layoffs of teachers and money to stop the foreclosure of homes.
There's nothing about that that in any way is echoed by Gov. Romney's jobs plan, which includes -- his campaign website says -- reduced taxes, reduced spending, reduced regulation, and reduced government programs.
Stories that might suggest that Romney and Obama have some common ground on the issue (thinly veiled "gotcha" stories), or that Romney was somehow hypocritical on the subject of jobs do voters no favors when they come at the expense of a contextual comparison between the two men.
The differences couldn't be more obvious.(1 Comments)
One of the great mysteries of politics is why the news media continues to present public opinion polls showing the state of the presidential race, based on a model of electing a president that we don't use in the United States.
Poll shows White House race still tight, the Associated Press headline says.
In fact, it's a statistical dead heat with most people having already made up their minds.
The problem, as I've mentioned before, is we don't elect presidents based on a general majority election. So while the person in Pennsylvania supporting Obama appears to be offset by the person in Georgia backing Romney, that's not reflective of anything. Neither is the voter in California. California is going to go Obama's way; there's hardly much of a reason to even make the call to California to see what a voter thinks.
Pennsylvania is more important than Georgia. Pennsylvania has 20 electoral votes; Georgia has 16. What makes the race close -- or not -- is states, and it wouldn't be hard for the media to present a more detailed picture of the race; it's not like most of the boys on the bus are busy covering issues.
More than likely, in fact, they're in Pennsylvania, Florida, Ohio, or North Carolina -- the largest states that could go either way.
Electoral-Vote.com calculates all the individual state polls and says as of today, Obama likely has 297 votes; Romney has 241. A person needs 270 electoral votes. Is it close? Sure, nobody's voted yet and a few -- very few, really -- states are up for grabs.
The news in the Associated Press story isn't the popular vote, it's that the race hasn't statistically changed in two months. But what kind of sexy headline is, "Nothing much new in presidential race"?
Look at it this way, under the Associated Press' method of assessing the race, Al Gore was elected president (I know what you're thinking; don't even bother saying it.) based on the number of votes cast. But that's not how we elect presidents.
By the way, if you're looking for an important legislative branch that's really close, look no further than the Senate. Again, according to Electoral-vote.com, based on state polling, Republicans look to be poised to take control from the Democrats.
Now, that's a story.(4 Comments)
Where on earth did Rep. Todd Akin get the idea that rape victims rarely get pregnant? Right here on earth, probably -- Minnesota.
The St. Louis Post Dispatch says Akin may have gotten the information from a 1972 paper authored by Dr. Fred Mecklenburg, a former professor at the University of Minnesota Medical School.
In Mecklenburg's original article, he wrote that pregnancy resulting from rape "is extremely rare," and cited as an example the city of Buffalo, N.Y., which had not seen "a pregnancy from confirmed rape in over 30 years." Other cities -- Chicago, Washington, St. Paul -- also had experienced lengthy spells without a rape-caused pregnancy, Mecklenburg wrote.
The reasons were numerous: Not all rapes result in "a completed act of intercourse," Mecklenburg wrote, adding that it was "improbable" that a rape would occur "on the 1-2 days of the month in which the woman would be fertile."
Mecklenburg's third reason seems to have been picked up by Akin.
A woman exposed to the trauma of rape, Mecklenburg wrote, "will not ovulate even if she is 'scheduled' to."
(h/t: Matt Sepic)
The "I'm not saying, I'm just saying" style of commentary does not lend itself well to Twitter. Just ask Sen. Dan Hall who tweeted this last night...
The insinuation is pretty clear although in the aftermath of some reaction -- even within his own party -- the senator went literal with the explanation.
His defense is that he didn't actually say people who are against the same-sex marriage ban aren't patriotic.
— Dan Hall (@SenatorDanHall) August 21, 2012
@johnkriesel Everyone seems touchy when I give them my observation. U read into it what U want, but no one is calling anyone unpatriotic.
Listening to the political insiders on MPR's Daily Circuit this morning insist that the national political conventions are not boring and really are important, got me thinking about the best convention speeches in history that were not made by the nominee.
I'm soliciting your nominations for an eventually NewsCut vote, but here are some of my favorites in no particular order.
Zell Miller at the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York...
The GOP, by the way, is hoping lightning strikes twice when another Democrat-turned-Republican -- Artur Davis -- speaks at the Tampa convention.
Bill Clinton at the 1988 Democratic National Convention. He wouldn't shut up and the delegates started booing.
Mario Cuomo, 1984. Considered one of the best speeches ever given at a convention.
Ann Richards, 1988. This was the famous "poor George" speech, though the rhetorical flourishes throughout the speech were lost because of the one line. But the Bush family got the last laugh. She was defeated later in her career by George W. Bush.
Minnesota, of course, is not the only state debating Voter ID, which would require people to show a valid ID when they vote. But what's happening in other states certainly frames the debate here, too, especially in states where the law has recently passed and is being tried for the first time.
In Pennsylvania, a state judge today has refused to toss the Voter ID law in a case that includes almost all of the reasons on both sides of the issue in Minnesota.
In a post on the blog, Above the Law, Elie Mystal points out why the rush is on to strike down the law before it is employed:
This was always the brilliance of the Republican push for these voter ID laws. They've been perfectly timed to get them through this election. By the time this issue is ripe for judicial review, the votes will already have been counted. If the GOP is right and this kind of suppression really does influence the outcome of the election, well, they'll have their victory long before courts start unpacking which individuals were disenfranchised.
Pretty lucky that the threat of voter fraud only became a big GOP issue in the run-up to the 2012 Presidential election, isn't it?
Of course, the game isn't over. Simpson says that the photo ID requirement has a "plainly legitimate sweep," and I'd imagine that contention will be attacked on appeal, seeing as there is no evidence that voter fraud occurs at any significant level, or that a photo ID requirement would stop the de minimis fraud that allegedly takes place.
But Simpson's ruling should be another good reminder to everybody who wants a second crack of political battles through the courts: it's a lot easier to prevent a law from being passed than it is to get one overturned.
Some of the people who sued to overturn the law say they will not be able to get a state ID in Pennsylvania because they can't obtain a birth certificate, according to the Associated Press.
Here's a copy of the judge's decision:5 Comments)
If you've ever wondered why ABC News and other TV networks don't do more serious coverage of issues in the race for president, this reporter's notebook about staking out Tim Pawlenty's house in Eagan provides a pretty obvious answer.
Multiply the fairly ridiculous energy on the possibility of getting a scoop that doesn't matter to non-political reporters and those outside the Beltway, by the number of possible VP picks and you can figure out what resources might be left for serious reporting.
On day two of the stakeout, he came to say "Hi," and brought assurances that there were no clandestine meetings with anyone from Boston, stressing throughout our time together that he was "telling it to you straight."
He did offer me a cold beer, although, as a working journalist behind the wheel of a parked car, I was forced to decline.
On day three, hours of air conditioning and laptop charging led to a dead car battery. And despite seriously considering asking Pawlenty for a jump, your unbiased reporter called the car rental company.
"Does ABC have no sense of humanity?" Pawlenty asked on day four, pulling up in his gray Ford Taurus and noting that reporters who stake out vice presidential candidates spend an awful lot of time in hot, parked cars. "Need anything from Hardware Hank?" he asked, driving off.
What he was buying at Hardware Hank might've provided a clue. If it was plumbing supplies, he was going to be too busy at home to be running for vice president. Should've followed him.(5 Comments)
It was a funny bit last night on The Daily Show when Jon Stewart criticized the "fluff" coverage the national news media gave Paul Ryan, the vice presidential candidate for Mitt Romney.
A funny bit, indeed. It just wasn't a fair or accurate assessment.
Let's just take today's Paul Ryan stories -- and these are the top stories as reported by Google -- as proof:
A closer look at Paul Ryan's federal budget plan (Los Angeles Times)
Is Paul Ryan Romney's New Religion Problem? (Part I of III) (Huffington Post)
Paul Ryan right to challenge medical industrial complex (Washington Post)
Medicare rises as prime election issue (New York Times)
For its part, NPR has been a little too "insider politics" in its coverage, and committed the sin of talking about the Weinermobile. But even in its fluffy coverage, it still noted legit issues and positions Ryan has.(2 Comments)
The New Ulm Journal has provided video from last night's fundraiser for congressional candidate Mike Parry, who makes the assertion that Gov. Mark Dayton "popped 15 or 16 pills" during some unspecified negotiation session.
It's at the 2:40 mark.
The assertion didn't seem to have much impact on the audience. Note the woman in the front row who keeps checking her smartphone.
Curiously, the Journal left Parry's comment out of its story about the fundraiser near Hanska.
The reporter covering the event tweeted it last night.
Gov. Dayton's father, Bruce, is a contributor to Parry's congressional campaign.
The Parry-Dayton feud goes back a ways.(10 Comments)
If there is one thing that should've gotten President Obama's speechwriter canned, it's the quote about "you didn't build that," when referring to American business.
It was a sloppy piece of writing which allowed Obama's detractors to legitimately have a field day with what they think he said, and allowed his supporters to say "you're wrong," based on what they think he said.
Here's what he said.
It comes down to: "what is the meaning of that" Did it refer to businesses building roads and bridges? Or did it refer to businesspeople building their own business?
No matter. In a new video, presidential contender Mitt Romney gets around the thorny issue by simply editing the quote.
Let's think about this: A toilet paper company can't say that a particular toilet paper won't leave any pieces on a bear's tush, but a candidate for president can intentionally distort the competition. Insert your own toilet paper/presidential candidate joke here.(5 Comments)
Anyone who's ever watched politicians get questions they didn't have answers for had to know that Gov. Mark Dayton was heading for the rocks almost immediately after he got a question on MPR's Daily Circuit the other day about a subject that has little to do with politics or policy.
Kerri Miller asked the governor about the number of incidents Minnesota Vikings -- and other NFL -- players get into in strip joints at 2 in the morning.
Now, if you're ever elected to office, readers, and a talk show host asks you to comment about why players get into trouble at 2 a.m. in strip joints, one response might be: "I don't know. I've never been in a strip joint at 2 a.m." (Optional alternative: "I don't know; I've never been in a strip joint before.")
In his response -- the audio of which is below -- you can almost hear Dayton thinking about listening to the voice in his head that had to be screaming "Danger, Will Robinson!" But he went ahead anyway and paid the usual price.
"It means that young males who are heavily armored and heavily psyched as necessary to carry out their job are probably more susceptible to be in bars at 2 o'clock in the morning and have problems, or DUIs. It doesn't excuse it, it just says that it probably comes with it," Dayton said.
That would've been a good place to stop, but he kept going:
"It's basically slightly civilized war, and then they take that into society, much as solders come back, and they've been in combat or the edge of it and then suddenly that adjustment back to civilian life is a real challenge."
That's the kind of thing that can push talk of balanced budgets, same-sex marriage amendments, voter ID, and a governor's morning prayer rituals off to the side, and put a bruise on the forehead of a handler from banging it on the desk. Sure enough, it took seconds for it to sweep across the country, including the Washington Post
Clearly, that would explain Marshawn Lynch's DUI charge, which resulted from him nearly hitting two other vehicles while driving in the wrong lane on an Oakland, Calif. highway.
And working in a "civilized war" environment is obviously what led Denver Broncos defensive end Elvis Dumervil to allegedly pull out a gun during an argument with another driver while both vehicles were stuck in Miami Beach traffic.
Ted Glover of the Daily Norseman said demanding an apology on behalf of combat veterans would be "as stupid as the comments that Dayton made. I just want people to quit comparing sports to war."
And then he provided one of the best responses with this graphic:
In his "apology" today, Dayton compounded his woes by trying to identify its legitimacy.
"In a recent interview, I was asked why so many professional football players had difficulties off the field. I made a poor analogy, by saying that the psychological adjustments they have to make from their contests to normal society were not unlike the difficulties experienced by returning veterans.
"Some of the psychological dynamics may be similar; however, I, in no way, meant to compare their challenges with the traumas and hardships experienced by the heroes who fought in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. While I am a football fan, I reserve my highest respect and admiration for those courageous Americans in uniform, who risk their lives to keep us safe and to make the world more free.
"I regret my mistake, and I apologize for it."
There is, of course, no equal comparison between a football player and a combat veteran and in honest moments, few people likely think that the governor can't make that distinction.
Likely, he was referring to the "fight or flight" response that is dictated by adrenalin, and is particularly at work in combat situations. But it works with you, too, even though that doesn't make you a combat veteran.
None of that can be explained on a talk show in which you got a question you weren't expecting.
That's why a good politician punts in that situation.
Does John McCain ever wonder what's in the water in Minnesota?
The Arizona senator is denouncing Rep. Michele Bachmann's suggestion that the Muslim Brotherhood has "infiltrated" the Obama administration.
McCain took to the Senate floor today to defend Huma Abedin, a deputy chief of staff to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, named by Bachmann last month in calling for an investigation into whether the Muslim Brotherhood has infiltrated the department.
McCain told the Senate today that the letter is "an unwarranted and unfounded attack on an honorable woman (See clip here)."
Here's the "money quote:"
"This is about who we are as a nation and who we still aspire to be. What makes America exceptional among the countries of the world is that we are bound together as citizens not by blood or class, not by sect or ethnicity, but by a set of enduring, universal and equal rights that are the foundation of our constitution, our laws, our citizenry, and our identity. When anyone, not least a member of Congress, launches specious and degrading attacks against fellow Americans on the basis of nothing more than fear of who they are and ignorance of what they stand for, it defames the spirit of our nation, and we all grow poorer because of it."
If this sounds a bit familiar to you, you might be remembering an October 2008 McCain appearance in Lakeville.(20 Comments)
The bookies might be as legitimate when it comes to political analysis as anything we're force fed in the news these days.
Gov. Romney is expected to pick a running mate soon, so that the London Olympics don't overshadow the pick.
Let's check Paddypower, which opened book on the Republican vice presidential pick last April, installing Florida's Marco Rubio as the overwhelming 11-to-4 favorite.
But that was then and this is now. Now, Rob Portman, the Ohio senator, is going off at 7-to-4 odds, but former Minn. Gov. Tim Pawlenty is drawing in the railbirds, too. Betting on either one will not pay for medical school.
Betting on Pawlenty requires ignoring history. Governors don't usually get on the ticket; the last one to be elected was Spiro Agnew. Only 4 of 25 people nominated by a major party came from the ranks of governors.
The last time it happened became a study in how not to pick a VP candidate.(7 Comments)
Posted at 11:57 AM on July 17, 2012
by Jon Gordon
Filed under: Politics
DFL Governor Mark Dayton appeared on The Daily Circuit this morning. Here's an account via local reporters on Twitter:
Gov. Dayton says to @kerrimpr MN will do "anything within reason" to help get the Verso Paper Mill in Sartell back online.— Conrad Wilson (@conradjwilson) July 17, 2012
Gov. Dayton tells @kerrimpr Verso Paper is still waiting to hear from their insurance company re: Sartell mill.— Conrad Wilson (@conradjwilson) July 17, 2012
Gov. Dayton says SW LRT has broad support in the business community but not in political arena. Doubts it could move forward w/out #mnleg— tomscheck (@tomscheck) July 17, 2012
Dayton says he supports funding the line but doesn't sound bullish on using DEED bonding funds for it.— tomscheck (@tomscheck) July 17, 2012
Gov. Dayton predicts that the amendment that would ban same-sex marriage will be defeated in November. He opposes the amendment.— tomscheck (@tomscheck) July 17, 2012
Gov. Dayton says the "many arrests" of Vikings players in recent months "troubles me."— tomscheck (@tomscheck) July 17, 2012
On MPR, Gov Dayton defends #vikings Adrian Peterson after arrest: "He's an upstanding citizen...a fine role model".— Patrick Kessler (@PatKessler) July 17, 2012
The Saint Paul Saints are as close as they've ever been to getting their wish for a taxpayer-subsidized stadium in downtown Saint Paul. This week, Saint Paul Mayor Chris Coleman sent a $27 million request to state officials for bonding money for the stadium, and the early line seemed to be it had a good chance of making the cut.
So an announcement today about the Saints' latest irreverent marketing gimmick probably had some of the politicians who've stuck their neck out for the team cringing.
According to FoxSports North, the team will change the name from the Saints to the Aints as part of Atheist Night at the old ballyard.
"I think our message here and our brand of entertainment has always been one that's been inclusive," (Team GM Dave)Sharrer said. "When we were approached by the Minnesota Atheists, we felt like it was within our nature to be inclusive and certainly work with them to provide them the opportunity to provide their message in the same way that we have worked with hundreds and hundreds of faith-based groups over our 20 years here in St. Paul."
Sharrer said the promotion is "all in good fun." "This isn't about mocking or ridiculing any one belief," he said.
And, no doubt, many people will find it funny. But religious people tend to take matters of faith seriously, and it's nearly impossible to separate religion and politics. There's a fair chance an overblown national debate on this that should start in 3...2....1. You know the "Merry Christmas" vs "Happy Holidays" debate? It's going to be like that.
Marketing genius? Probably. It's what the Saints do. And it's pretty smart of the atheists to have the event to coincide with the Minnesota Regional Atheists Conference.
But it's not particularly astute politically and what with the intertwining of religion and politics these days, the idea risks costing the Saints a stadium.
When I suggested on Twitter this week that the flap over the title of two controversial constitutional amendments on November's ballot suggested that both sides of the debate think voters are too uninformed to actually read the question, a few pols said the issue is about the powers of the executive branch vs. the legislative branch.
Folks may believe that, but a MinnPost assessment today betrays the claim.
Jon Krosnick, a professor of communications, political science and psychology at Stanford University, tells MinnPost that voters can be influenced by the wording...
"Many people who will vote in any election are not actually highly attentive to politics and highly informed," Krosnick said. "Many people vote reading the wording of an amendment for the first time in the voting booth or when they receive an absentee ballot. So in that sense, a significant number of votes will be cast by people who are forming an impression of an amendment at the time that they're casting their vote, and so a title can certainly create a spin in their minds that can affect their vote choice."
(update to clarify 7/13/12 11:01 a.m.) - When you vote on a constitutional amendment, you don't actually see the amendment on the ballot. You see only the question about the amendment. For example, here's the amendment for voter ID, and here's the amendment for the same-sex marriage ban)
It's true that the number of people we think hang on every word of political coverage is far smaller than the amount of coverage would suggest. Over the years, our Select A Candidate traffic has shown a huge spike the day before elections.
And some Minnesotans -- judging by recent recount examinations -- aren't particularly adroit at filling out and understanding a ballot.
Still, it's hard to believe a person eligible to vote in Minnesota can't figure out what this question is asking:
"Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to require all voters to present valid photo identification to vote and to require the state to provide free identification to eligible voters, effective July 1, 2013?
or this question...
"Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to provide that only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Minnesota?"
When Minnesota voters approved the Legacy Amendment in 2008, they had to rely on this title:
Clean Water, Wildlife, Cultural Heritage, and Natural Areas.
But you didn't hear a lot of people complaining after its overwhelming passage, "but I didn't know my taxes were going to go up." Why not? Maybe they're not as clueless as some people think.
Maybe they read the question, which was much more complicated than either of the two above.
Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to dedicate funding to protect our drinking water sources; to protect, enhance, and restore our wetlands, prairies, forests, and fish, game, and wildlife habitat; to preserve our arts and cultural heritage; to support our parks and trails; and to protect, enhance, and restore our lakes, rivers, streams, and groundwater by increasing the sales and use tax rate beginning July 1, 2009, by three-eighths of one percent on taxable sales until the year 2034?
That was a tough one, what with those multi-syllable words and all, but the voters of Minnesota did just fine.
But back to the challenge ahead.
Minneapolis pollster Bill Morris of Decision Resources said the lesser-known Photo ID amendment title is more likely to sway people how to vote in November.
For anyone who has any faith in the democratic process and the ability of people to govern themselves, that's impossible to believe. But Morris is a smart guy and he makes a good living understanding the Minnesota voter. Assuming he's correct, the biggest problem with the November ballot may not be either one of the questions or the title of each.
By the way, is it worth telling the voters yet that if they're just too confused by all of this and decide not to answer the question, that's a "no" vote?(10 Comments)
The pressure was on Mitt Romney's speechwriter today when the Republican presidential candidate appeared before the NAACP. It was, it's fair to say, an organization that the incumbent can count on for votes in November. It's not unlike when a Democrat goes before the American Legion or VFW convention.
Romney got booed a few times during the speech, which required him to go off script, usually a good thing for people who tire of stump speeches and bumper sticker slogans.
The news will probably concentrate on those parts of the speech.
But here's the entire speech (You can go right to 11:30, however, if you'd like to get to the key part):
President Obama isn't addressing the convention this year; he's sending the vice president instead.(3 Comments)
Though it plays a little loose with a description of Minnesota's 3rd Congressional District, The Atlantic is giving some recognition to an effort in Twin Cities suburbs to organize opposition to the same-sex marriage ban on November's ballot.
The article, written by a New York Times community moderator, profiles the movement to distribute rainbow flags to the "sleepy suburbs" of Eden Prairie and Minnetonka.
So off Henderson went to her home in Eden Prairie, a suburb of 60,000 filled with white-collar professionals, 94 percent of whom are Caucasian. That afternoon, she started going door to door with flags in hand. She was quickly joined by her neighbor Wendy Ivins. They took the picture-perfect neighborhood by storm, engaging their neighbors in respectful conversations. Soon, more and more rainbow flags began to appear in the sleepy cul de sacs, planted on large lots and hanging from wood porches.
On city blocks it would be easy to spot a growing movement, but in Eden Prairie, you have to drive past one spacious home after another to witness the trend. So Ivins sent an email to a few dozen of her neighbors: "As you may have noticed, there are many rainbow flags flying in front of houses in our neighborhood," she wrote. "We are doing this to show support for our gay neighbors, friends and family members and our pledge to VOTE NO on the constitutional amendment that would ban marriage for same-sex couples." She added, "Flying the rainbow flag is not meant to start a confrontation, but rather to start a conversation. I think we can all learn from each other."
The article strays when it makes the connection between the 3rd Congressional District and the 6th.
Thirty minutes away is Anoka, where Michele Bachmann made a name for herself. As the Republican representative of Minnesota's 6th district, she proposed a constitutional amendment against same-sex marriage back in 2003. In a 2004 lecture, she called homosexuality a "sexual identity disorder" and an "issue of sexual dysfunction." Her district made national headlines after an upsurge of teenage suicides led to a Rolling Stone piece called "One Town's War on Gay Teens."
The 3rd District, however, is a moderate Republican district and has been for awhile. Rep. Jim Ramstad represented it for years until his retirement. It's much more purple than the 6th, which is one of the most conservative districts, perhaps, in the country. His successor, Erik Paulsen, beat a DFL newcomer by only 7 percentage points in 2008, though the incumbent slaughtered a virtual unknown two years later.
The National Journal's Almanac of American Politics points out that even though the 3rd is home to the Republican establishment, "it voted just 51% for George W. Bush in 2004, and in 2008, it flipped to the Democratic column, voting for Barack Obama 52%-46%." Bill Clinton won the 3rd. Twice.
It is a district in which financial conservatism more than social issues is typically the big part of local campaigns. That the district would include a large number of people who would be opposed to the same-sex marriage ban, is not the "you'll never believe it" story that the out-of-towner might want to believe.(5 Comments)
As much as Minnesotans like to make fun of government, the non-partisan people at the Minnesota House of Representatives' House Information Services provide an unusual amount of public access to what's going on at the Capitol, certainly more so than nearly every other state.
So it's a sad state of affairs today that the Legislature is closing Session Weekly, the printed publication that could always be depended on for accurate coverage of many issues, including those that escape the notice or interest of the news media (of which there are plenty).
In a news release today,
House Speaker Kurt Zellers House Information Services struck a familiar note -- print media is yesterday...
However, because of a dynamic shift to accessing information online, the continued reduction in the Session Weekly print subscriber base, and as a result of responses to our user surveys, we have determined the best allocation of our department's limited time and resources is to end Session Weekly and shift our attention to creating an even more robust online presence, especially through the expansion of Session Daily.
The nonpartisan Session Weekly newsmagazine has been a primary vehicle for House Public Information Services' nonpartisan outreach efforts for 29 years. But, as with many printed products, it has seen its circulation numbers decrease -- down more than 79 percent since 2000. Computers and portable electronic devices have changed how a majority of people receive their news and information, and when they expect to receive it.
Session Daily isn't a bad product, either, but it's McSession in nature. The bits are bite-sized "this happened today" nuggets. Session Weekly articles, on the other hand, tended to be more comprehensive and contextual.(8 Comments)
You probably know by now that Andy Griffith has died and if you're like many people, you think Mayberry or Matlock.
But Griffith was once marketed as the next Marlon Brando, thanks to "A Face in the Crowd," in which he played Lonesome Rhodes, a perfectly despicable -- and entirely phony -- political pundit.
The film wasn't a box-office smash, but it has had some staying power over the years as its relevance seems to grow. In a 2007 Vanity Fair profile of the movie, James Wolcott said it anticipated the "duping" of the American voter by politicians with media savvy.
These days we pride ourselves on being more sophisticated in perceiving image manufacturing and media manipulation, but I would argue that it's the average voters who have savvied up over the last half-century and the Beltway pundits who have become the rubes, regressively dumber with each political cycle. They're suckers for a "man of the people" more than the people themselves are! It's the Beltway cognoscenti who fetishized Bush's likability, harping on how much more fun he'd be to have a drink with than the cardboard Gore (never mind that Gore won the popular vote), lionize John McCain as a no-guff maverick (never mind his rampant reversals and shameless backflips to court favor with the Republican far right), and keep fobbing off Newt Gingrich--that Uriah Heepish fraud--as a bubbling fountain of futuristic intellect instead of the flagrantly opportunistic manure spreader he has shown himself to be over the last two decades. It was the majority of the American people who kept "Monicagate" in sensible perspective while archdeacons of capital wisdom such as David Broder worked themselves up to a fine moral lather, and it was the majority of the American people who faced reality and turned against the war in Iraq while the archdeacons frittered and fence-straddled. The militant gullibility and brassy confidence of today's elite opinion-makers produce more harm and folly than anything conjured in A Face in the Crowd. Because they possess influence. They're professional dupes.
In 'A Face in the Crowd,' Andy Griffith left a film that makes us pause and consider what political punditry has done to us all.(1 Comments)
North Dakota Rep. Rick Berg is the Washington Post's poster child for disguising an important fact in campaign advertising.
Words like "incumbent" or "representative" or "senator" are out. The campaign marketing people are downplaying any previous election to the Senate or House.
The Post takes Berg, who's running for Senate, as an example, noting that in biographical profiles, the campaign ads leave out any reference to being an elected politician.
It's a difficult theory to prove on this side of the border, however. None of Minnesota's sitting congressional representatives has produced an ad yet. Nor has incumbent Sen. Amy Klobuchar.(4 Comments)
General Mills showed absolutely no skittishness today when it went public with a call to turn aside the same-sex marriage ban in November's elections.
Ken Charles, General Mills' vice president of global diversity and inclusion acknowledged on his blog today that the same-sex marriage ban is a business issue for the company:
I am proud to see our company join the ranks of local and national employers speaking out for inclusion. We do not believe the proposed constitutional amendment is in the best interests of our employees or our state economy - and as a Minnesota-based company we oppose it.
We value diversity. We value inclusion. We always have ... and we always will.
We're proud of our workplace, and we're proud to be a leader for diversity and inclusion in our community. For decades, General Mills has worked to create an inclusive culture that welcomes and values the contributions of all.
We believe a diverse, inclusive culture produces a stronger, more engaged workforce - and strengthens innovation. Inclusive communities are more successful economically as well. We believe it is important for Minnesota to be viewed as inclusive and welcoming as well.
Obviously, there are strongly held views on both sides. We acknowledge those views, including those on religious grounds. We respect and defend the right of others to disagree. But we truly value diversity and inclusion - and that makes our choice clear.
Is there the possibility of blowback from supporters of the proposed ban who also eat cereal? The National Organization for Marriage certainly hopes so, judging by this press release this afternoon:
The National Organization for Marriage (NOM) today blasted the General Mills Corporation for basically declaring a 'war on marriage' with its own customers. Speaking at a Gay Pride event today, CEO Ken Powell said General Mills opposes an effort to preserve marriage as the union of one man and one woman in Minnesota, where the corporation is headquartered.
"Marriage as the union of one man and one woman is profoundly in the common good, and it is especially important for children," said Brian Brown, NOM's president. "General Mills makes billions marketing cereal to parents of young children. It has now effectively declared a war on marriage with its own customers when it tells the country that it is opposed to preserving traditional marriage, which is what the Minnesota Marriage Protection Amendment does."
A national survey conducted by the Alliance Defense Fund last year showed that 63% of people with children living in their home, 'believe marriage should be defined ONLY as a union between one man and one woman." Just thirty-five percent of people with children at home disagreed with the statement. Overall, the ADF survey found that 62% of adults believe marriage is only the union of a man and a woman.
"This will go down as one of the dumbest corporate PR stunts of all time," said Brown. "It's ludicrous for a big corporation to intentionally inject themselves into a divisive social issue like gay marriage. It's particularly dumb for a corporation that makes billions selling cereal to the very people they just opposed."
I'd like to hear from employees of General Mills. Does a political stance taken by your employer change things in your workplace?
The "what's the deal with that?" season is officially underway in Minnesota politics, with the release today of a short film for Senate candidate Kurt Bills.
It hits a Twilight Zone theme, if you couldn't tell. Bills apparently produced the film for the Minneapolis 48 Hour Film Project, in which filmmakers get two days to make a film.(1 Comments)
Anoka County commissioners today voted 4-to-3 to pull out of the Northern Lights Express project, which sought to bring passenger rail service from Minneapolis (via Coon Rapids) to Duluth, an idea which is pretty well dead without Anoka County's support, its commissioner says.
"We are an integral part of the completion of that line; us pulling out I think will, ultimately, kill it," Commissioner Matt Look, chair of the county's regional rail authority, told the Pioneer Press.
Look told the paper he's worried about the amount of money Anoka County would need to hand over for the $1 billion project. It's expected to be about $10 million, although he thinks it could be as much as $100 million.
His concerns echo those voiced by taxpayers in counties other than Anoka, who -- in March 2008 -- ponied up an additional sales tax beyond the gas tax increase approved by the Legislature.
Most Much of the money in transit-poor counties like Washington County was diverted to places where there were mass transit projects on the table -- Hennepin and Anoka, with projects like Anoka County's Northstar commuter rail project (update: And Ramsey, of course, with the Central Corridor).
But that line has been a disappointment from the start. Its projected ridership is down, and Metro Transit is reducing fares to try to get people out of their cars and onto the train.
Conceptually, Northstar was supposed to run from Minneapolis to St. Cloud, but there wasn't enough money to extend the line past Big Lake. And the reality is: Not many people -- or at least enough people -- want to go to Big Lake.
By "pooling" its sales tax money from other counties, Anoka County unloaded the Northstar project from its property tax payers. Anoka County's pullout from another mass transportation project exposes the reality of such dependency in transit planning: You can't always
trust depend on your partners to reciprocate when it's your turn.
Update 2:15 p.m. 6/14/12 - Anoka County Commissioner Matt Look, mentioned above, called to say the original post contained "a significant failure to relay correct information." He indicated that this is passenger rail, rather than commuter rail. In rereading the post together, it was clear that he objected to the last paragraph, which he believes said his board could not be trusted.
That's not what I wrote and while I can't defend words I didn't write, I can further explain the ones I did. One of the funding mechanisms in building a mass transit system for Minnesota was an increased sales tax in certain counties; five of the metro counties voted to impose the sales tax, two did not -- the goal was an overall buildout of transit solutions in the state. The Northern Lights project is not funded by that tax, and I regret the impression that it was.
In the buildout of transportation solutions, "partners" -- counties, in some cases -- are obliged to subsidize transportation projects in other counties. Those projects may be under the control of any number of agencies and boards, several of whom may have been created after the vote to increase the sales tax. (Note: NLX funding presently comes from the U.S. Department of Transportation, bonding money from MnDOT, Congress, the Federal Railroad Administration, and local cities and counties.)
Why did I bring up the sales tax increase in five counties if the money doesn't go for Northern Lights? Because an overall vision for a mass transportation infrastructure in the state necessarily comes back to the contentious gas-tax legislation. It's the last time a public engaged itself in the question of "what's my role in developing a transportation infrastructure that may primarily benefit someone else?" (For the record, the previous contentious debate was just a few years earlier when voters approved a constitutional amendment dedicating a percentage of the motor vehicle sales tax to transit projects.)
As the link above shows, when Anoka County approved an increase in the sales tax for transit, it did so to get the Northstar rail project off the property tax, and at least one commissioner -- the late Scott LeDoux -- did so with the idea that outsiders (visitors to the National Sports Center in Blaine) would shoulder some of the burden for a project that benefited primarily Anoka County residents. It's under that vision for the responsibility for paying for transportation projects, that I invoked the sales tax increase in the overall transportation system funding question. It renews the same question last asked during that contentious debate.
The debate in several counties when the expanded sales tax and gas tax increase was pitched did not center around the role of one board or another board, or even one project or another project, it centered on a single question: What do we get out of this?
The same perspective that Commissioner Look provides in deciding not to put more money into passenger rail, sounds pretty familiar to the refrain of those who didn't benefit from light-rail asking why they should pay for Minneapolis or St. Paul's exploits in that arena. The commissioner's question isn't unreasonable now; it wasn't an unreasonable question then. What's the answer?
The structure of financing for many transportation projects comes under the direction of several boards, agencies, and partners. There is no guarantee that any one of them will agree with any other board, agency or partner on any component of that buildout, when it comes time to deliver on a specific mass transportation project. So while a transit-poor county, like Washington County, used as an example above, has agreed to be part of the metro-wide transit solution, it did so very much on faith.
Some people are disappointed by the decision in Anoka County. Some people aren't. It doesn't matter to me what side of that people are on. My observation is simply that articles of faith in matters of mass transportation projects in Minnesota sometimes go unrewarded. Anoka County isn't obligated to help with a project that may be of benefit to, say, St. Louis County, just because it got some help easing a taxpayer burden for Northstar from some outsiders. And if you're thinking about an overall transportation system for Minnesota, it would be a mistake to think it does.
Commissioner Look's concerns are principled, which is why I've asked him to write an addition to this post which states his position. He has declined to do so at this time.
Update 2:46 p.m. 6/15 Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin has submitted this response:
This blog post seems to overlook the willingness and leadership of five counties to help create a stronger transportation system in the metro area. The fact is that every investment decision regarding the five-county sales tax has been a unanimous decision of the Counties Transit Improvement Board. These decisions supported a project that was consistent with the Metro Council's transportation plan for the region. So I'd like to address the specific concerns of what has been written in Tuesday's blog post and Thursday's update.
· Blog Post: "One of the funding mechanisms in building a mass transit system for Minnesota was an increased sales tax in certain counties; five of the metro counties voted to impose the sales tax, two did not -- the goal was an overall buildout of transit solutions in the state. The Northern Lights project is not funded by that tax, and I regret the impression that it was."
Fact: The goal of the five-county sales tax was not "an overall buildout of transit solutions in the state." It was to expand high level transit in the participating five counties. That's why bringing the sales tax into a discussion of NLX is grossly misleading.
· Blog Post: "So while a transit-poor county, like Washington County, used as an example above, has agreed to be part of the metro-wide transit solution, it did so very much on faith."
Fact: CTIB has guaranteed Washington County an annual grant of 3% of all the revenues generated by the five-county sales tax. The guaranteed annual grant is more than half the money generated in Washington County (less than 6% of the five-county sales tax is generated in Washington County).
· Blog Post: "By "pooling" its sales tax money from other counties, Anoka County unloaded the Northstar project from its property tax payers. Anoka County's pullout from another mass transportation project exposes the reality of such dependency in transit planning: You can't always trust depend on your partners to reciprocate when it's your turn."
Fact: None of the original capital investment for Northstar came from the five-county sales tax. CTIB funds have been used for the Fridley and Ramsey Stations, added or being added after the counties' portion of the original capital costs have been paid using property tax dollars. The five counties are now paying for 50% of the operating costs of Northstar. That responsibility has been "unloaded," but not all of the investment for Northstar.
· Blog Post: "Most Much of the money in transit-poor counties like Washington County was diverted to places where there were mass transit projects on the table -- Hennepin and Anoka, with projects like Anoka County's Northstar commuter rail project (update: And Ramsey, of course, with the Central Corridor)."
Fact: Even the corrected statement is misleading. Cedar Avenue busway, a project of Dakota County, has also received significant funding from the five-count sales tax. So, that means that Hennepin, Anoka, Ramsey, and Dakota, have received significant funding. That would be four of the five counties. And Washington County has not only received a guarantee of receiving more than half it contributions, it also was permitted to use the funds for planning and subsidization of express busses, something only projects in Washington County are permitted to do. This was designed specifically to respond to the fact that Washington County didn't have projects that were as ready to go as other counties.
Is there a risk in joint multi-county efforts? Yes, but these five counties have seen fit to work together and invest almost a half a billion dollars in transit expansion. In the process, working together, they have helped bring over half a billion dollars in federal investment into the region, investment that would otherwise have gone to other regions with which we compete each and every day.
The issues associated with passenger rail are different. Moreover, the system is under the leadership of MNDOT, not Met Council. The mixing of the two systems, as this articles does, is terribly confusing at best.
In matters of gay rights and voters, it's a good idea to bring a healthy dose of skepticism to public polling. History tells us that.
A new poll shows 49 percent of registered Minnesota voters oppose the ban on same-sex marriage that's on November's ballot.
According to MPR's Capitol View blog:
The latest numbers demonstrate a shift in voter sentiment among independents since January when the firm found that more people supported the amendment than opposed it, said Dustin Ingalls, who is assistant to Public Policy Polling's director.
"Independents have moved from being 50 to 40 for it to being against it, pretty strongly so," Ingalls said. "Really the entirely movement has been with independent voters."
The poll's release, coincidentally, comes on the same day a federal appeals court refused to reconsider a ruling that struck down California's Proposition 8 amendment banning same-sex marriage.
Fifty-two percent of the voters in 2008 passed the same-sex marriage ban in California. But there's the thing: Pre-election polls said something entirely different.
A Survey USA poll just a few days before the election, showed a 50-to-47 percent opposition, well within the margin of error. In fact, most every major poll showed a lean toward opposition, even with high undecided.
Why? The director of the Field Poll, which also showed a lean toward opposition, said regular church-goers were more prone than other voters to be influenced by last-minute appeals to conform to church positions.
There's that. There's also this possibility: On this subject, a lot of people lie to pollsters.
Tom Jensen, of Public Policy Polling, tweeted a few weeks ago that "... I don't believe polls showing majority support for gay marriage nationally. Any time there's a vote it doesn't back it up."
His pre-election poll in North Carolina a few weeks ago said the amendment was favored by 57 percent of the voters, but 61-percent of the voters supported it on election day. Close, but not that close.
Polls keep showing Americans are more accepting of same-sex marriage, but Americans keep banning same-sex marriage.
It could be, the blog HotAir suggests, that the polling inconsistency has less to do with party affiliation than with demographics:
According to the Pew poll I linked up top, fully 56 percent of seniors still oppose gay marriage. Among voters 18 to 29, it's just 30 percent. Grandma and grandpa can be guaranteed to turn out while junior really can't, so it's grandma and grandpa who ultimately make the laws. (See also: Entitlements.) Beyond that, the national polls are typically of adults, not actual voters. It may well be that the average American adult shrugs at gay marriage, but shruggers tend not to make it to the polling place. In all likelihood opponents of gay marriage are more motivated, which means they'll be overrepresented in the voting booth. And finally, it could be that there's a slight NIMBY problem at work in state votes as opposed to national polls. Some people, when asked whether they support gay marriage in the abstract, might say "sure" because they're dealing with a hypothetical. When suddenly they're not dealing with a hypothetical but rather the prospect of lots of gay couples moving to their state to marry if no ban is enacted, the calculations for some fraction of those voters might change.
For sheer trivia and worthlessness, nothing beats the "pool report" issued to the local media when a president visits. It's usually written by one reporter selected to be the "official" dispenser of information, so as not to litter the area with the likes of reporters.
Here's the first dispatch from today's presidential visit to Minneapolis.
The President emerged from the Air Force One at around 10:50 a.m. on a glorious, sunny morning in Minneapolis. AF1 came to a stop outside an Air Force Reserve hangar. The President strode down the steps wearing a dark blue suit and black shoes. He was joined on the flight by U.S. Reps. Betty McCollum and Tim Walz, D-Minn. He was greeted by Democratic U.S. Sens. Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar along with U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn. He was also met by Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman.
The President had a particularly long chat with Ellison, but the pool reporter could not hear the conversation.President then jogged over and immediately began shaking hands with about 90 well-wishers, including one woman carrying an Obama portrait. The snapped pictures with cameras and camera phones as he got close.
"How is everybody doing?" the President asked? The crowd cheered."Welcome to Minnesota," one woman said."School out yet?" the President asked one school age kid.
Repeating if you just tuned in: It was a glorious morning in Minneapolis.
Full details later.(5 Comments)
President Obama is in Minnesota today to the mostly giant shoulder shrug of the state. He's giving a speech in Golden Valley and raising money for his re-election campaign.
Whenever Obama visits the state, it's very hard not to think about one of the most amazing sights in the history of Minnesota politics.
It was four years ago Sunday that thousands of Minnesotans lined up through the streets of downtown Saint Paul to hear then-candidate Obama speak at Xcel Center (relive it here).
It was clearly a moment of political passion which has pretty much disappeared. Were the expectations of what life would be like four years later realistic?
The unemployment rate in the country that evening was 5.5 percent. Today, the government announced, the unemployment rate jumped to 8.2 percent.
The stock market had closed down 100 points that day -- the Dow was at 12,402.85, after opening 12,503. Today, the market opened a few hundred points below that, and tanked big.(9 Comments)
Dean Barkley, who was a U.S. senator because Gov. Jesse Ventura appointed him after the death of Paul Wellstone in 2002, has announced plans to run for the Minnesota Supreme Court.
He'll challenge Associate Justice Barry Anderson.
"I decided to try a different approach," he tells the Star Tribune. Presumably, he's referring to getting elected to something. He finished third in the 2008 U.S. Senate race, and also ran for the job in 1994 and 1996.
He could be right. Most people have no clue about judicial candidates on the ballot, and there are restrictions on what candidates for judicial positions can say. A little name recognition could go a long way.
It also could lead to the ongoing debate of whether it's better to have judges elected or appointed.
Of course, if judges are merely appointed, you don't get neat campaign jingles and ads.(5 Comments)
Forty-five years ago today, Gov. Harold LeVander signed legislation creating the Metropolitan Council to "do a job which has proved too big for any single community."
James Hetland was the first chairman of the council, charged with bridging the long-time divides between Minneapolis and St. Paul. He died Wednesday at 86 years old.
The Star Tribune and Pioneer Press both wrote nice obits for today's papers. I appreciate those kinds of obits because they remind me that there are lots of people, largely anonymous to most of us, who built this region in ways that weren't flashy but necessary.
A Met Council staffer today noted that back in the 1960s, the region had some sever infrastructure problems. Home septic systems were failing in many suburbs, delivering poorly treated wastewater into lakes and rivers and the metro bus system was "disintegrating" as buses aged, fares rose and ridership dropped.
Nearly 50 years later, the region is better because he and others did the work that got things done.
Some lines from the Star Tribune obit sum it up pretty well.
At the time, Minneapolis and St. Paul were intense rivals, but Hetland immediately sought to unify the council, said Ted Kolderie, a former head of the Citizens League, which had pushed for the formation of the council."It was a nice touch that at the initial meeting of the new Metropolitan Council, when it came time to vote on where its offices would be, the vote was 7-7, the east metro voting for St. Paul and the west metro voting for Minneapolis, Kolderie said. "Jim, a Minneapolis resident, broke the tie by voting in favor of St. Paul."
"That maybe says as much about him as anything," Kolderie said.
"We don't have many of Jim's kind around any more," Kolderie said. "The kind of person who had a successful and productive career and took time for an incredible amount of civic work. This is what 'civic leadership' really is."
Gov. Harold LeVander and the first members of the Metropolitan Council, August 1967. James Hetland is seated at far left.
Source: Met Council
From the exotic land of neighboring Wisconsin comes a Marquette University poll today showing Republican Gov. Scott Walker sitting in a pretty good position for his recall election in three weeks.
The poll shows Walker with a 6-percentage-point lead over Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.
That's interesting enough, but this nugget is, too: Republicans are more interesting in voting than Democrats and Independents are:
Republicans are more likely to say they are "absolutely certain" to vote on June 5, at 91 percent, than are Democrats and independents, both at 83 percent. In other areas of participation, Republicans also have an advantage. Sixty-two percent of Republicans say that they have tried to persuade someone to vote for or against a candidate, compared to 54 percent among Democrats and 48 percent among independents. Democrats, however, are more likely to have been contacted by a campaign, 83 percent, to 78 percent for Republicans and 76 percent among independents. These rates are for all registered voters in the sample, not just likely voters.
Marquette Law School Poll Director Charles Franklin noted, "While both parties show unusual levels of involvement in the campaign, Republicans appear to hold an advantage in likely turnout, although Democrats are more likely to have been contacted by a campaign. In a close election with so few undecided voters, enthusiasm, turnout and campaign contact with voters may make the difference."
What's going on here?
Maybe Democrats in Wisconsin are paying attention to Democrat Jonathan Zimmerman, who wrote in the L.A. Times last week...
As a liberal, I'm troubled by the prospect of voters unseating an elected official over taxes. Or abortion. Or gun control. If you can recall leaders for any political reason, sooner or later your own ox will be gored.
I'm also worried that the Wisconsin recall, which has drawn nationwide attention and money, will trigger a vicious cycle of partisan retribution. Your guy didn't win in November? No problem. Start a recall drive now.
Most of all, though, I fear that the recall threat will make our elected officials even more timid and poll-tested than they already are. Sometimes, great leaders need to take unpopular positions.(6 Comments)
The news today that an anonymous donor has dropped $7 million on former Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman's conservative political action committee is a good time to reflect on what a difference time and fine print can make.
George Steinbrenner, the late New York Yankees owner, was convicted of a felony -- conspiracy -- after he "improperly" explained a $25,000 campaign contribution to the campaign of then-president Richard Nixon. He also encouraged employees of his shipbuilding company to make donations for which he would reimburse them. That was illegal then, and it's illegal now.
For that, Steinbrenner lost his right to vote and was thrown out of baseball for awhile.
But that was then and the $7 million anonymous donation is now.
USA Today reports:
That single donation accounts for 25% of the nearly $27.5 million raised by the group between July 1, 2010, and June 30, 2011. The organization, which touts its grass-roots advocacy efforts, showed contributions from just 34 donors during that period. Eight contributors accounted for nearly 90% of the group's revenue.
As a tax-exempt group, the American Action Network does not have to publicly disclose its donors, and spokesman Dan Conston said the organization would not comment on its contributors. It was founded with help from veteran Republican power broker Fred Malek and is run by former Minnesota senator Norm Coleman.
The filings, made available to USA TODAY, show the network spent more than $25 million and used the lion's share of the money -- $17 million -- on so-called issue advocacy and grass-roots organizing. It said $5.5 million went to activity focused on candidates and other political activity. The group also distributed money to six other conservative groups, including nearly $500,000 to American Crossroads, a super PAC linked to Republican strategist Karl Rove.
It's all perfectly legal.(2 Comments)
"Half Say View of Obama Not Affected by Gay Marriage Decision" is the headline Pew went with and that certainly is true, according to the survey.
It's also true that 25 percent of those surveyed view Obama less favorably.
In both cases, it doesn't really tell us much other than people who were more likely to vote for Obama for re-election are OK with his statements last week, and those who were are less likely to vote for him aren't happy.
Of course it's also true that popular vote polls are fairly irrelevant in presidential politics, because that's not the way we elect presidents. There is no geographic breakdown of this particular poll and until we see specific polls from swing states, it's fairly impossible to judge what effect the same-sex marriage issue might have on November's vote.(5 Comments)
It's not particularly difficult to see why so many legislators have called it quits at the Minnesota Capitol this session, often citing the changing atmosphere of partisanship there.
But an exchange between two Republican House members yesterday also underscores the bitter personal animosity even among members of the same party.
Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer sent a scathing post-session e-mail to her supporters.
Usually bills get better when they come back from a conference committee.
This time, it got worse. Additional pork for St. Paul and Minneapolis was added, a shocking data privacy for the Vikings was included, the funding mechanism of the pull tabs continued, the percentage to charity got smaller, no user fees included and the general fund continues to be at risk of bailing out this project in the future. In addition, the "new" $50 million the team is "adding" to their portion is offset by the team getting the naming rights instead of the state. The Wilf family also got back in their exclusive rights to a Soccer team for the next five years or so. Quite an amazing package for the owners.
I realized that this was a set deal between the Vikings, the Governor and the bill authors and that no matter the amendments or arguments, it would get done. They had enough votes to force it through. The City Council of Minneapolis has the last vote after the Governor signs the bill.
That irked retiring Rep. John Kriesel of Cottage Grove, one of the authors of the Vikings stadium bill.
Force it through? C'mon Mary. You can disagree with the bill but don't lie about it.
At which point, Kiffmeyer didn't hold back...
Not only no clue but no courage to run again and be accountable and see what your district thinks.
Kriesel, who is set to become the head of veterans services in Anoka County, was awarded the Combat Infantryman Badge, the Purple Heart, and the Bronze Star in the Minnesota National Guard, for whom he sacrificed both legs in Iraq in December 2006.(25 Comments)
You probably have heard that Iron Range institution Tom Rukavina announced his retirement from the Minnesota House of Representatives today.
For an assessment of the icon, there isn't anyone else I would turn to on this occasion for perspective than another Iron Range institution -- Aaron Brown. And Brown does not disappoint.
A man of Shakespearean depth, he also bears Shakespearean flaws. He will often bully opponents, especially when circumstances aren't going his way, and his lack of verbal discipline has gotten him in trouble. In classic Iron Range fashion, his loyalty to friends and family has also put him in situations where there are conflicts of interest. These flaws kept him from rising higher in politics or House leadership. But as I said before, knowing the back story helps. Rukavina rose to prominence in an Iron Range political structure where these flaws were marks of courage, winning votes rather than losing them. In another era, Rukavina likely would have been a governor, or a senator, akin to Huey Long or Floyd B. Olson. Instead, he becomes the most fitting example of a political and cultural tradition that built a nation but went through the wringer as the industrial age bowed to the information age.
I consider it an honor to have run the gamut with Rukavina -- having been supported, encouraged, cursed and rebuked by him at various times, for various reasons. That's really how it is for everyone who knows him. There's a reason people tend to love or hate Tom. He does not mitigate passion and conviction. He does not modulate. He has navigated a 26-year legislative career expressing himself exactly as he is, for better or worse, consequences be damned. He believes with every ounce of his being in regular people and has endeavored to help them as best he can.1 Comments)
Shortly before midnight, the Senate passed its version of the stadium bill on a a 38-to-28 vote.
The following is a 15-hour live blog of the day.
The Minnesota House of Representatives passed the Vikings stadium bill after nine hours of debate on a 73-to-58 vote. Here's the entire bill. The major changes were:
** State will share in naming rights income and will cap state portion of construction costs. The Vikings do not like this provision.
** Provides a 25% payment of the TOTAL SELLING PRICE to the state if the Vikings sell. That percentage is reduced 1% each year. The original bill called for a payment of the PROFIT only.
** The Vikings, rather than the stadium authority, would be responsible for operating overruns once the stadium is running
The Minnesota Timberwolves have injected themselves into the debate over taxpayer money for a new stadium for the Minnesota Vikings.
Ted Johnson is the chief marketing officer of the Minnesota Timberwolves, who's asking the team's fans to put the squeeze on lawmakers for a Vikings bill because it contains money for renovating Target Center.
Supporters of the idea will quickly point out that the city of Minneapolis owns Target Center, although opponents might point that when you spend money to rescue a franchise threatening to move -- the city bought Target Center when the Wolves' previous owners were threatening to move to New Orleans in the early '90s -- you can easily get stuck with a crumbling building that's eclipsed in the music world by the Xcel Center in Saint Paul.
Target Center is losing money for the city and at a news conference last year, the head of the company that manages it said spending money fixing it up will help it be "relevant."
That's something the chief tenant -- the Timberwolves -- haven't been in years, and when its owner -- Mankato's Glenn Taylor -- was asked how much he'd contribute to the deal, he didn't answer, saying only the team will "be upfront" about how much it would contribute. That was the last we've heard of it.
And that's an important part of the equation in the stadium bill because the question of how much money a wealthy owner should contribute to a project that benefits him is very much at the heart of the debate. And Zygi Wilf, the Vikings' owner, is a very rich man, with an estimated net worth of $1.3 billion.
Glenn Taylor is no Zygi Wilf. His net worth is $1.8 billion. Only 255 people in the U.S. are richer.(3 Comments)
Gov. Mark Dayton called the Vikings stadium debate at the Capitol "a fiasco" today. It's hard to argue the point when you track the history of the stadium effort and who's in favor of what and when.
The latest wrinkle is the notion that a new stadium could be built that could, if and when money allows, get a roof later.
"We have a consultant who has worked on a number of stadiums around the country, and the financing of them," Dayton said. "And he's not aware of any stadium that was 'roof ready' that ever had a roof added to it. Why wouldn't you do it all in one piece and get it right? When will the time come to get the public support, political support, legislative support to put another $100 million, $120 million into putting a roof on? And until that happens, you have a stadium sitting empty for 355 days a year."
Presumably, Dayton is speaking on behalf of the Vikings, who have been relatively calm on the question, other than to say they don't support the idea.
Mike Ozanian of Forbes, says the Vikes are likely hedging their bets.
Seems to me the Vikings are merely hedging their bet.They understandably prefer Dayton's $975 million stadium plan but are concerned it may not get enough votes to pass given it is unpopular with taxpayers and would be subsidized by the public to the tune of $77 per ticket, per game, for thirty years. That plan includes $427 million from the team, $150 million from the city of Minneapolis and $398 million from the state, paid through an expansion of charitable gambling.
So they need backup plan endorsed by republicans, who control both chambers of Minnesota's legislature, that would significantly shrink the state's contribution and finance it with state general bonds rather than tax money from an expansion of legal gambling. According to the StarTibune, under the new proposal about $200 million in stadium infrastructure costs would get lumped in with a larger state bonding bill that would pay for repair of roads, bridges and buildings, including restoration of the Capitol. Republican leaders said the details would be worked out in coming days. But this proposal calls for a roofless stadium, which would have limit the stadium's ability to host amateur sports and special events year-round.
But it's an idea the Vikings liked the last time their stadium proposal was circling the drain at the Capitol.
It was 2006 and then the deal was a proposal to locate the stadium in Anoka County. At the last minute, the Vikings announced they were ready to give up the roof.
Anoka County officials were the ones who were reluctant to build a stadium without a roof, because they wanted to use the stadium for other functions.
Vikings owner Zygi Wilf, on the other hand, said an outdoor stadium would give the Vikings a competitive advantage over teams from milder climates, according to MPR reporter Tom Scheck's 2006 story on the subject, when the Vikings were trying to get a stadium that cost almost half then what it would now.
Lester Bagley, the point man on the Vikings stadium push at the Capitol this year, was whistling the no-roof tune.
"Green Bay has an open-air stadium. Chicago has an open-air stadium. Buffalo has an open-air stadium. Seventy percent of the fans would be covered. There are ways to heat the floors and the seats and to provide technology to keep our fans comfortable," he said at the time.
Meanwhile, one prominent Vikings stadium proponent is branching out. Cory Merrifield, who runs the Save the Vikings website, has an op-ed in the Atlanta Journal Constitution urging Georgia to build a new stadium for the Falcons.
Nowhere in our Constitution is it written that we are entitled to an NFL team. I won't try to justify the economics of the NFL. They are predatory and absurd. It's a limited market and we have to pay for a team if we want one. But what you can do is strike a balance: a public-private partnership in which Atlanta retains its status as one of the top regions in the U.S. while securing its NFL franchise for another generation.
Within minutes of the announcement -- one year ago this week-- that Navy SEALS had killed Osama bin Laden, political wags noted it'd play big once President Obama's re-election campaign began.
What many people didn't see coming, was Obama would use a more popular president to tell the story...
It's probably no coincidence, then, that today Mitt Romney invoked a less popular president to answer the ad.
"Even Jimmy Carter would have given that order," Romney told reporters at a campaign stop in New Hampshire.(2 Comments)
That's one for big soil!
Assuming Gov. Dayton doesn't veto a bill, Minnesota will have a new "official" soil: Lester.
That's great for fans of soil, but it's got the first-grade teacher whose kids (above) have lobbied for an "official mammal" in the state pretty ticked off.
Almost from the start this year, Legislative leaders have dismissed retiring teacher Dana Coleman, whose kids researched bears and put together a campaign to make the bear the official state mammal.
For the most part, Coleman and the kids got a pat on the head and assurances that while they did a great job, the Legislature is far too busy with important issues to be fooling around with official designations.
Then this week, the legislature tucked an amendment into the omnibus agriculture bill designating Lester as the official state soil:
Today, Coleman sent a letter to the busy leaders:
Un-be-lievable! Un-be-lievable! So Lester Soil State Soil isn't a 'Fluff' Bill? #2144/#1905 State Mammal Bill is? Kids working toward something they believe in, not worthy? A Senator retiring... let's pass one for her. I'm retiring... pass one for me. Un-be-lievable! Such a double standard and only goes to prove that money talks! This is not a lesson kids should learn. Things don't always work out the way you want... that's a valuable lesson learned. Under handed dealing... no! Don't play the 'fluff 'card if you aren't going to use it fairly and consistently. You as a leader and the MN House should be ashamed of and disappointed in yourselves. I certainly am of you! You haven't broken our spirit... it will only make us fight harder to prove how important this bill is to these kids! See you next session!
The story about the fireworks bill on the way to Gov. Mark Dayton has struck a chord with several MPR readers. Some of them favor allowing the sale of big fireworks to people. Some are steadfastly opposed, but all of the responses involve some "fireworks memory" of a previous time.
Joan Wilson's story, however, was particularly compelling. The Edina resident grew up in Loveland, Ohio, near a fireworks factory, she says.
My grandmother ran a daycare on their home on 10 rural acres just outside Loveland, and I spent most of my days there because my mother worked at Grandma's Daycare. There was an 8 acre stand of trees behind their home, and the infamous shacks of the "fireworks factory" were on the other side of a chain link fence behind our woods. Every so often (at least 4 times in 10 years)the fireworks factory would explode, and for about 3 to 5 days after each "accident", we were all confined to the house while a team of local volunteers would scour the area for a half mile in every direction, cleaning up body parts and un-exploded materials that rained down on the nearby residential areas. My Grandfather would stay home from work on these days so that he could help with the cleanup. I recall him coming home and vomiting extensively, whil e crying, trying to tell my grandmother about the human remains that were hanging from trees and littered about the ground. The explosions were never mentioned in the local paper, and the workers, mostly undocumented, were forgotten and replaced by the next batch of disposable workers/victims. Even as a child, I felt the true cost of our "fun" was not worth the cost in human lives and misery, and I have never been able to understand our need for such dangerous and polluting chicanery.
Supporters of the fireworks bill see it as a "freedom" issue. If people want to get hurt with fireworks, they should have the right to get hurt with fireworks.
"We need to start treating people like responsible adults and quit babysitting them," Rep. John Kriesel, R-Cottage Grove, the bill's sponsor said.
With a thin 68-to-63 vote, the Minnesota House of Representatives this afternoon approved a bill preventing public employees and governments from extending a union contract beyond the point at which it expires.
Under the legislation, which I described here when the Senate approved a similar measure last week, the contract terms could not be extended if it would provide a wage increase to an employee, or an increase in the state's insurance contributions.
The bill is aimed at Minnesota state workers who have worked without a contract for more than 10 months.
Some Republicans have claimed the state labor unions are slowing negotiations, hoping for a more labor-friendly House and Senate in November's elections.
"This is a situation where the unions have the advantage in the negotiations," said Rep. Steve Drazkowki, R-Wabasha, the bill's author. "In our public employee contracts, we have automatic reauthorization of the contract terms going forward, coupled with step and line increases and COLAs of the old contract. If the old contract had salary reductions or health insurance reductions in it, it'd be the unions coming to us to ask for this provision."
But another Republican, Rep. King Banaian, R- St. Cloud, says some state workers -- he cited faculty unions at St. Cloud State University -- will be punished for a situation not of their making. Banaian, a professor at the university, said one colleague told him he fears he won't get a raise he's waited six years to get.
"For members of smaller unions, we have to wait for our contracts to get settled, until the bigger ones get settled. We don't necessarily have a lot of control over when we get to settle. We have to wait 'our turn.' We've been working without a contract for nine months. We're still waiting. This person has earned the promotion, and even if all of us sign that, this person -- six years of work -- will not be recognized unless other people decide to settle their contracts before us."
"You're going to see more strikes... that will take years to heal," Rep. Tom Anzelc, DFL-Balsam Lake, said. "Think of your small rural communities... and ask yourself, 'is it good policy to have residents of my community to have less income or more income with which to purchase goods and services from local businesses?'"
But Drazkowski said since the last state worker contract expired, extension of contract provisions has cost the state $140 million in "unnegotiated increases."
Gov. Mark Dayton is not expected to sign the legislation, and the closeness of this afternoon's vote shows there aren't enough votes to override a veto.
NPR reporter David Welna snapped pictures of the young man introducing him today at Carleton College in Northfield. The young man was Welna's son, a student at the college where Welna graduated in 1980. Welna the elder was at the school giving the convocation address to students this morning.
"This is where I learned it's actually cool to ask questions, no matter who is on the receiving end of them," he said. "It's a search for the truth - or at least the truthiness - of the claim being made. But it's making sense of it and putting it into a narrative that makes sense to others."
Welna's roots come from what is now a declining medium - the small-town radio station. "My first brush in journalism was when a reporter from KOWO - the radio station in Waseca - came to school. I was impressed that the reporter had the moxie to take a tape recorder into bars to ask people about the news of the day and then play the tape back on a newscast. Thomas Wolfe was the hottest man in America and was giving a talk at Carleton and my brother and sister went there. It was boiled down and aired on KOWO. It didn't go over big with the station manager, but I thought it was great."
The small-town stations and newspapers of America have been the springboards of thousands of the nation's finest national reporters. "As one of nine siblings, five of whom ended up here, I was trying as much as possible to work my way through school. When I heard the Northfield News was looking for a part-time reporter, I persuaded Maggie Lee, the editor, to give me a shot. I found myself in the tiny newsroom typing up notes about the townies, that always ended up 'a good time was had by all.'"
Welna earned a Watson scholarship and spent his senior year in Argentina where he learned another valuable journalistic truth: Timing is everything.
"Thirty years ago this month, Argentina's generals tried to shore up their regime and in the middle of the night, seized the Falkland Islands," he told students. "Margaret Thatcher was not about to let that go unpunished, and as the British fleet steamed toward the region, it became one of the world's top stories, and I was one of the few reporters in the area to report it.
"I was ready to jump on the story. The chance to do so was when the BBC correspondent was being deluged with calls from the Mutual Broadcasting Network and he didn't have the time to keep up. NPR had already lined somebody up and I'd never done radio journalism. I didn't have a tape recorder, much less a telephone. I called Mutual and said although I didn't have a tape recorder or a telephone, and had never done radio, I knew the story.
"Mutual's appetite for updates was insatiable. By the time England took back the islands, I'd earned enough to pay off my Carleton debts," he said.
But Welna said he was always a public radio fan. "My parents kept their radio station turned to WCAL in Northfield," he said. "It was the first place I heard a show called 'All Things Considered,' produced by a new outfit called National Public Radio. That was before Minnesota Public Radio bought it and turned it into The Current."
He got the job covering South America and Mexico for about a dozen years before ending up in NPR's Chicago bureau.
"When I was assigned a story on whatever happened to the family farm, I ended up back in my hometown, interviewing people I'd known since childhood," he said. "What I found was although I was back in my hometown, I realized it was as interesting a place as anywhere I'd ever been."
For the last 12 years, he's covered Congress for NPR.
"There's a debate which has been raging there for decades and it's taken many forms, but it really boils down to this: What is the proper role of government in society? Is it taking on the role of doing for people what they can't do for themselves? Or is it when the government governs least, it governs best? How much responsibility do we have for the welfare of others?
There are not simple answers to these questions, which is why reporting on Congress is the most interesting assignment I've ever had.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Q: What is your attitude toward what's going to happen with the great divide? Most governments that separate wealth don't last long.
A: We're going to have a national referendum on that question. We have a faith that democracy and the wisdom of people will work things out. I see the various structures of Congress - the rules they go by - conspires to knot things up. It's true the Founding Fathers wanted the path to be difficult, but what I've seen in recent years is ultimately if you want to move forward from wherever you are, you have to find ways to compromise and find mutually agreed upon solutions.
The Democrats had a super majority of 60 and pushed through the health care law. Republicans felt free to attack that law and vowed to repeal it. That's the danger of something going through without the exercise of compromise.
At the same time, those elected officials who do compromise, often get punished at the polls. People say they're "sellouts" and can't be trusted. That's not how it was supposed to work but that's where we are right now.
I don' know how things are going to shake out after the November election. Everyone is holding their breath. Things in Congress are stalled. Most of the votes they're taking are message votes, designed to score points for November.
The debt ceiling will have to be raised, the payroll tax cut expires, the Bush tax cuts expire, the child tax credit, all of these things are going to have to be done in a lame-duck session of Congress.
It is the mood on the Hill right now that things are as bad as they've ever been.
Q: How has your liberal arts education affected your journalism?
A: I strongly encourage people not to study journalism. That's something you can learn anywhere. What is really important about a liberal arts education is the ability to learn how to write well.
I often don't know what the story is when I go in each day. To be able to jump into scientific issues, arts issues, legal issues and be able to make something of it quickly... in some ways my Carleton education was basic training for the job I have now.
Q: What's your editing process? How much back story do you include?
A: The debate is always how much prior knowledge should we include? When you get to things like the Bush tax cuts. By now, we assume - especially people who listen to NPR - have heard about them. There is a verbal shorthand we use. In many ways what we do is update the information that people already know about something. We talk about new twists. You can' report things completely out of context but there is a tricky balance with giving people the back story.
Q: What do you believe will happen with the Supreme Court decision allowing corporations and organizations to pour more money into campaigns?
Reversing a Supreme Court decision is a pretty tall order, especially with a Congress this divided. We'll know a lot more after November how much the Supreme Court screwed up or how much it didn't. I expect the challenge to the Citizens United decision to continue.
Q: NPR has come under fire for having a liberal bias. What is your position on this?
A : There's a binary approach to how news is covered. Stations on the right have a point of view that favors a conservative stance and is openly embraced. That means everyone else has to be on the liberal side of things. There are some that actually embrace the liberal view. But NPR's approach is that we try to play it straight. I try to do stories from Capitol Hill that no matter whether you're a conservative or a liberal, you'll think it's a fair portrayal. I try to have voices from both sides of an issue because I believe in what Thomas Jefferson said that a well-informed people deserves its own government.
The tendency seems to be that people are 'nichefying' and people are going to the corners to find the information that agrees with their position and there's not enough of an attitude that you're willing to listen to competing arguments and you'll come to a position based on those arguments.
I hear from lawmakers and their staffs; I know I can't sandbag somebody without hearing about it. There's never any unfailing reference point that you can look to to see what is truly unbiased, but you try to get close to the calculus.
Q: There are debates on issues such as gay marriage. How do you think these fit? The fact that it's so connected to party lines?
A: You're referring to "the social issues," where religion is often a factor. We just a big debate on Capitol Hill about the proper role of religion in policymaking over the Obama administration decision to require institutions affiliated with churches be required to provide contraceptive health services free of charge.
Quite apart from the question of deficits and a looming debt, I've lived in societies such as Argentina and Cuba, where that kind of debate was very much stifled. Given the choice between a raucous debate on the issues and then not having one, I would choose the former. If nothing else, we raise other people's awareness of these issues.
On the issue of gay rights, you're seeing Republicans - especially in the Northeast - coming around on this issue. Often it's a matter of family members who are gay.
I do feel that gay rights is in many ways kind of the big civil rights issue of the early part of the 21st century much as the civil rights in the '50s and the '60s were for African Americans, but it's a slow process. President Obama still hasn't endorsed gay marriage. He says his position is still evolving. I suspect if he's re-elected, we'll see that evolution speed up.
Q: You spent a lot of time in Latin America. Have you seen a shift toward the U.S.?
A: The shoe is on the other foot. It's the U.S. right now struggling with unemployment and debt and institutional crisis. These are the problems that racked Latin America. Now, those countries are doing very well - Mexico, excepted. To the extent that the U.S. has become mired in its own problems, it seems like there's less time to meddle in Latin America's.
I would love to go back to Latin America and revisit some of the issues back then and talk about how much things have changed. But even last weekend we heard about Secret Service agent consorting with prostitutes, but what went on there was a meeting between the U.S. and Canada and Latin American countries.
Things have come full circle; they've switched around. Latin America is doing well and it's the U.S. that's in trouble.
Last night, you may have heard, a committee at the Minnesota Legislature turned down the Vikings stadium bill. Today, from what I can tell from the Twitter feed, sports talk stations are urging people to get the pitchforks out, and Gov. Mark Dayton has taken on the role the Vikings steadfastly refuse to take on: The guy who verbalizes the threat that the team would leave for Los Angeles.
"It's a mistake to think the Vikings and the (National Football) League will continue with the status quo," Vikings stadium pit boss Lester Bagley said last night.
Bagley didn't make the explicit threat because he can't. There's no place for them to go, and you don't bluff until that fact isn't so clear.
"Dayton said that he planned to ask the Vikings for patience," MPR News reports today.
There's no need to. They don't have a choice.
This is a story that should be being told from Los Angeles as much as Saint Paul and yet public policy is being formulated by a threat that (a) hasn't been made and (b) isn't realistic -- yet -- even if it is made.
A week ago, for example, I pointed out that the "new stadium" situation in Los Angeles is, itself, a mess, with three separate possibilities and all of them years away from being settled. In the last week, it's got even more uncertain.
Today, for example, comes word that the Los Angeles Dodgers, who've recently been sold to new owners, might develop Chavez Ravine.
Nobody is saying how that might happen, but it might mean relocating the Dodgers to downtown Los Angeles, on land where one developer wants to build the football stadium Minnesota politicians seem to fear.
The Los Angeles Times says:
There would be even more potential if the baseball stadium were to be relocated downtown, as many have suggested. AEG Entertainment President Tim Leiweke, who is leading plans to build an NFL football stadium downtown, said a downtown baseball stadium would be among other possible options if the football stadium were derailed.
Beverly Hills apartment developer Alan Casden, another unsuccessful bidder for the Dodgers, had made relocating the stadium a cornerstone of an earlier proposal to buy the team in 2003.
At that time, Casden criticized Dodger Stadium for convoluted parking lots, a poor seating plan and a location inconvenient for both fans and nearby residents who bear the brunt of traffic, noise and litter in their neighborhood.
One analyst says it would take years to sort out the Dodgers' owner's plan, and further exacerbate the "you go first" situation with competing developments that has stalled any progress on a new football stadium in Los Angeles.
True, Vikings majority owner Zygi Wilf could sell the team and, theoretically, that could increase the chance the team would relocate. But Forbes values the team at $796 million, a lot more than the $600 million he paid for the team, but fairly low on the return-on-investment of a typical sports franchise, and it ranks 28th in the NFL.
How could Wilf get the value of his team to increase? A stadium deal.
There might be many good reasons for the state and Minneapolis to pony up whatever public money may be required to build a new stadium -- jobs, coolness, pride. But quick passage of a bill with questionable financing in the waning days of a legislative session to preclude a threat that isn't real isn't one of them.
"We have to get a stadium next year or the Vikings will leave," the governor said. "It's just as clear as that. We can't have it both ways. We can't not do a new stadium and have the Vikings remain here very long."
Over time, he may be right. Nobody thinks the Metrodome is a long-term solution to anything.
But the urgency of a stadium in Minnesota primarily depends on what happens in Los Angeles. By next year, Los Angeles authorities and developers could get everything squared away and agree on a master plan for a football stadium and the Dodgers' future home.
But if reports from Los Angeles are correct, even getting to that point will take years.(11 Comments)
The Minnesota Senate today passed a bill that prevents public employees and governments from extending a union contract beyond the point at which it expires. Before doing so, however, it added an amendment that eliminates police, fire, corrections, military and veterans services workers from its impact.
Under the legislation, the contract terms could not be extended if it would provide a wage increase to an employee, or an increase in the state's insurance contributions.
"It's not their fault if an agreement is not reached, " Sen. Charles Wiger, DFL-Maplewood said of state employees. "Why should they be penalized?"
"All the bill is doing is freezing things," Sen. Mike Parry, R-Waseca, said. "Everything stays as is. A contract term does not continue in effect and is not enforceable. What's happening currently with negotiations is that the negotiations are continuing, but our governor -- the Dayton administration -- interpreted the language to continue increases indefinitely. We believe that was not the intent during the negotiations of the previous contract. This bill would eliminate that. The intent is to create a level playing field, and a balance in the bargaining power."
"What the advantage is to the state escapes me," Sen. Ken Kelash, DFL-Minneapolis, said. "It's to the state's advantage to negotiate with the labor unions after the state budget is passed. You're believing the unions have an unfair advantage" he said, noting that it has more to do with the Legislature "not getting its work done on time."
"What we're trying to do is slowly but surely pull collective bargaining apart," Sen. Barb Goodwin, DFL-Columbia Heights, said. She said state employees could end up with no health coverage once a contract expires, if the cost of insurance goes up.
"You're right," Parry said. "This is something that would be negotiated in new contracts."
The bill passed on a 37-to-25 vote.
"Notably lacking from the sign is any marijuana imagery, or even the color green," a Denver TV station points out.
Instead, as you can see, it equates marijuana with alcohol, and makes the question a moral one.
Pollsters are apparently befuddled in trying to pin down where public opinion is on the issue.(31 Comments)
Among the government crowd, this video is the talker of the day...
The video, which surfaced this week, was the winner in a talent contest among 300 employees of the General Services Administration at an October 2010 "training and team-building" conference in Las Vegas.
GSA Administrator Martha Johnson resigned and two of her top deputies who attended the conference were fired this week.
The GSA employee who made the lampooning video refused to comment when the Washington Post contacted him at his Honolulu office.(2 Comments)
If the Minnesota Vikings actually do flee to Los Angeles, it'll be at least four years before they'd have a new stadium to play in.
That much was made clear today when the developer of a proposed stadium in downtown Los Angeles presented a 10,000 page environmental impact statement, ESPN reports:
If everything goes according to plan, Farmers Field would be in position to begin construction by March 2013, similar to a competing stadium proposed by real estate magnate Ed Roski in the City of Industry, which has been ready to push dirt since 2009. Both stadiums, however, need a long-term commitment from a team before construction can begin. And whenever construction does begin, Leiweke said it will be about four years until the stadium is finished.
"No one is going to push dirt until they know they have a team," Leiweke said. "If we have a full environmental impact report approved by the end of this year, we're in the same place the City of Industry is. The difference is we have a set of design drawings we've taken a risk on so we'd be a little further ahead there.
Whatever infrastructure has to be built in Minnesota for a Vikings stadium is nothing compared to what's facing Los Angeles, according to the Los Angeles Times. The report says nearly 20,000 cars would be added to the traffic-choked highways on game days.
With "unavoidable significant impacts" expected at an array of downtown freeway offramps, stadium developer Anschutz Entertainment Group plans to provide an array of traffic measures, including $10 million to upgrade a light rail station on Pico Boulevard and $2.4 million to help Caltrans add a lane to the Hollywood Freeway between the four-level interchange and Alvarado Street.
Nothing is going to happen now for at least six months. The filing of the impact report opens a 6-month window for comment.(1 Comments)
Justice may be blind but it's got ears.
Today's big legal story is a group of Appeals Court judges who are ticked off at President Obama for his remarks Monday about the possibility the Supreme Court will strike down his health care law.
Yesterday, an appeals court hearing a health care coverage case, proved that while the branches of government are separate, one can still hit the other in a food fight.
As Lyle Denniston at SCOTUSblog tells it:
At Tuesday's hearing, Judge Smith, according to CBS News, said the President's suggestion that it would be unprecedented for "unelected judges" to strike down a federal law that had won passage in Congress was "not a small matter." He told government lawyer Dana Lydia Kaersvang: "I would like to have from you by noon on Thursday...a letter stating what is the position of the Attorney General and the Department of Justice in regard to the recent statements by the president. What is the authority of the federal courts in this regard in terms of judicial review?"
Today, the Justice Department lawyer is trying to figure out how to write a letter that, basically, says "my boss doesn't know what he's talking about."
Above The Law calls it a "benchslap."
Where do I come down on this? I confess that I'm of two minds. On the one hand, in support of the benchslap, I did get a chuckle out of this (somewhat bizarre) homework assignment. On a more serious note, to the extent that some members of the public might have been misled by President Obama's statements, there was nothing wrong with Judge Smith availing himself of this "teachable moment," to remind the public that federal judges not only have the right, but the duty, to strike down laws that are inconsistent with the Constitution.
On the other hand, President Obama's original remarks amounted to silly political posturing, and perhaps they should have been ignored. It's not shocking that the president made such comments in the first place; the executive is, after all, an icky political branch, and we are in the middle of an election year. But isn't it beneath the dignity of life-tenured Article III deities to dirty their gavel-wielding hands with such ridiculousness? Should Judge Smith have simply ignored the president's ill-considered comments?(8 Comments)
Depending on whom you listen to -- if you're still listening at all -- the Vikings stadium bill is in trouble at the Capitol.
And a bill filed in the House today should stoke the flames a bit.
Filed by Bloomington stadium opponent Rep. Ann Lenczewski, it reads like this:
Section 1. ALTERNATIVE BACKUP FINANCING FOR A SPORTS STADIUM.
Construction of a new National Football stadium may not be funded from any tax imposed by Hennepin County. Notwithstanding any other law, or local government ordinance or charter provision to the contrary, any provision made in a law authorizing a new stadium that requires the imposition of a new tax or the diversion of an existing tax from its current authorized uses in Hennepin County as a backup revenue source is void, and is replaced with a requirement that a portion of the property taxes levied by and collected for the following jurisdictions be used as a backup revenue source instead:
(1) Cook County; and
(2) the cities of Fairmont, Blue Earth, Winnebago, Lake Crystal, Rochester, Moorhead, North Mankato, Worthington, Brooklyn Park, Preston, Lanesboro, La Crescent, Maplewood, Glenwood, Sauk Centre, Cottage Grove, Newport, and St. Paul Park.
The percentage of property tax remitted from each jurisdiction may not exceed... percent of its adjusted net tax capacity and the percentage must be the same for all jurisdictions. The appropriate county auditor for each affected jurisdiction shall calculate the allocated revenues and remit them to the commissioner of management and budget for deposit in the general fund. All the provisions regarding notification, administration, and use of a Hennepin County tax in the original authorizing legislation shall apply to the notification, administration, and use of local property taxes in this section.
EFFECTIVE DATE.This section is effective the day following final enactment.
Why would cities far away from a stadium location be asked to pay for a new Vikings stadium? Let's see:
Cook County -- Home of Sen. Tom Bakk, the Senate Minority Leader, who has tied the stadium to jobs.
Fairmont -- Represented by Sen. Julie Rosen, who is the chief Senate sponsor of a stadium bill.
Moorhead -- Represented by Morrie Lanning, chief House sponsor of a stadium bill.
Cottage Grove, Newport, St. Paul Park -- Represented by John Kriesel, a co-author of the Vikings stadium legislation
Preston -- Home of Rep. Greg Davids, a member of the committee that passed a stadium funding bill this week.
North Mankato -- Represented by DFLer Terry Morrow. "I do believe the team will leave if we do not pass this stadium bill," said Rep. Morrow told the Associated Press this week.
Brooklyn Park is a little tougher to figure. Sen. Benjamin Kruse, R-Brooklyn Park, leans in opposition to the stadium bill.
The bill isn't going anywhere, but it would be interesting to determine if legislators' positions would change if their constituents have more financial skin in the game.
There are few issues that find DFLers and Republicans on the same side at the Capitol these days. Sunday liquor sales is one.
Minnesota doesn't allow liquor sales on Sunday and the issue annually surfaces at the Capitol and efforts to repeal the liquor blue laws annually fail.
Today the issue surfaced at the Capitol and the repeal effort went down in flames again.
"We are seeing our commerce exported to states like Wisconsin, the Dakotas, and Iowa. The freedom to stay in business rather than being restricted by state law," Rep. Stephen Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa said as he tried to amend a bill to allow Sunday sales, sales on Thanksgiving and after 8 p.m. on Christmas Eve.
"All of the consumers I've spoken with want Sunday liquor sales. We're all adults; we should have the right to choose," Rep. John Kriesel, R-Cottage Grove, said. "It's 2012. It's about time our laws reflect that."
"It wasn't the big liquor stores that came in (to testify on previous measures); it was the small ones -- the mom and pops came in and said, 'you're going to take six days of revenue and spread it over seven days,'" Rep. Joe Atkins, DFL-Inver Grove Heights, answered
"What industry wouldn't like a deal where the government comes in and says, 'you can have a day when you don't have to worry about your competitors'?" Rep. Tina Liebling said. "This is a legal product and to not allow it is unfair to the consumer. It treats people like children. That's a silly argument and kind of insulting. They don't have to open and that's the free market, you're always talking about. Restaurants do this too. They close on Mondays."
"Think of the families," Rep. Bob Gunther, R-Fairmont said. "If someone wants to drink, they can go Saturdays to buy their liquor and drink it at home with their family. My dad drank too much. My brother probably was an alcoholic. I don't think they ever spent a Sunday drinking; they spent it with their family. Let the families have a day together, "
"If you have something against liquor, bring forward a bill to outlaw it," Drazkowski said.
"Stay home with your family. Value church and family times," Rep. Joe McDonald, R-Delano, said. "I think the blue laws are a part of Americana that everyone wants to get back to."
"Why would you come to this state if you can't get a beer?" another lawmaker said.
The amendment went down and went down hard on a 97-25 vote.
"This thing got destroyed," Rep. Kriesel said. "Government knows what's best for you. This is incredibly frustrating." He offered an amendment to offer liquor sales in border counties.
"Did you guys watch the Vikings last year? Three and 13. I think liquor is something that could solve the frustration on Sundays this year," he joked.
His amendment went down hard, too. 99-21.
What does it take to get a somnambulating Congress upset? A hoodie.
Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Illinois, took to the House floor today to condemn the shooting of Trayvon Martin.(6 Comments)
Here's this morning's audio from the arguments in the Affordable Care Act challenge at the U.S. Supreme Court:
Most of the major experts on the Supreme Court seem to be suggesting whatever way the issue goes, it'll be a 5-to-4 decision.
At SCOTUSblog, Tom Goldstein kept an eye on Justice Kennedy, considered by many to be the likely swing vote.
Towards the end of the argument the most important question was Justice Kennedy's. After pressing the government with great questions Kennedy raised the possibility that the plaintiffs were right that the mandate was a unique effort to force people into commerce to subsidize health insurance but the insurance market may be unique enough to justify that unusual treatment. But he didn't overtly embrace that. It will be close. Very close.
For the record, Justice Clarence Thomas did not ask a question at today's hearing. He has not asked a question at the court in six years.(22 Comments)
We already know that Sen. Geoff Michel misled reporters about the timetable of events when he made public the resignation of Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch for having a romantic relationship with a staffer, who we now know to be Michael Brodkorb.
Whether that was intentional or unethical and violated ethics of the Minnesota Senate will have to wait -- perhaps for years -- to find out. DFLers filed a complaint which the Senate but no witnesses were allowed to testify because doing so may make a Brodkorb-threatened lawsuit more problematic than it already.
As a result, today's hearing by a Senate committee mostly revealed to us what we already know.
Sen. Sandy Pappas cited an MPR story on the bogus timetable while reading her complaint to the Senate panel today.
"It was the responsibility of Sen. Michel to assure the situation was resolved in a timely matter," she said, noting 11 weeks passed from the time he apparently knew about the Koch-Brodkorb affair and the time he confronted Sen. Koch on it.
She called on Sen. Michel to publicly apologize on the Senate floor.
"This is Monday-morning quarterbacking," Michel responded. "The challenge... is to distinguish between ethics and partisan politics. This assignment fell to me in my role as deputy majority leader. No one would have asked for or volunteered for this assignment... so over time a group of members and a group of staff advanced a very sensitive issue in a thoughtful and thorough manner. We did our homework on the facts and the law and the human resources on this..."
Michel said his statements were not clearly misleading. "What I did was attempt to protect staff and whistleblowers from being further dragged into the situation. I tried very hard to avoid being specific about when staff came to me," he said. "I didn't try to be false or misleading and I don't think I was. If I could answer a question differently, what I should've said was, 'I'm not going to address the timeline question in any specific fashion' in order to protect staff and whistleblowers."
Michel said his intent to protect whistleblowers did not diminish the honor of the Senate.
The hearing, continuing at this hour and watchable here, doesn't have anywhere else to go. One side says he deliberately misleaded reporters and the public, one side says he didn't.
"The comment about the cover-up is political nonsense," he said. "It was Senate Republican leadership who went to Sen. Koch to confront this. When she stepped down it was Senate Republican leadership who told the public the next day, rather than wait for it to come out in dribs and drabs. This 21st century media.... you guys act quickly."
He said Koch was not willing to "resolve the conflict" -- presumably, end the affair or fire Brodkorb -- and Brodkorb refused to step down.
"There are also marriages, and families, and children involved," he said. "So we could not cut corners."
Pappas said it's "unfair" to characterize her complaints as "political."
"It wasn't me who said it was a coverup," she said. "It was (former GOP speaker) Mr. Sviggum."
Pappas tried to ask Michel who he talked to about the affair and when he talked to them, but she was told not to ask the question because it could impact litigation.
"If we cannot affirm with you who you talked to (and when)," Sen. Kathy Sheran said, "that's a problem for us."
"I'm under oath," Sen. Michel said. "Give me the benefit of the doubt."
"That's not a reasonable measure," Sheran said.
Republicans on the committee tried to kill the complaint, but DFLers vote against it. Republicans similarly blocked action to find probable cause to continue an ethics probe.
Minnesota has a lot going for it, but it's a barber shop backwater, at least when it comes to barber shops on wheels.
Minneapolis Saint Paul Rep. Rena Moran filed a bill to require the Board of Barber Examiners to allow mobile barber shops.
Back to the future, people.
There's at least one mobile barbershop business in the Twin Cities that I know of, but apparently they're not legal.(3 Comments)
The race for the White House has now officially entered the fit-stump-speeches-into-an-Eminem-song stage.(1 Comments)
We've reached the "let's raise the speed limit of I-35E in Saint Paul" stage of this year legislative session at the state Capitol.
Two Republican representatives -- Pat Garofalo and Tara Mack -- today filed a bill to raise the limit to 50.
The little patch of highway between (roughly) the Mississippi River and downtown Saint Paul (I-94) is again to be a battleground between those who want to raise the speed limit -- usually suburban legislators -- and those who want to continue the current 45 mph speed limit that nobody observes -- usually the city legislators.
Garofolo, who lost the battle in 2010, is changing his tactic this time. In 2010, he tried to have the speed limit on the road changed to 55 mph. Last year, an amendment was tucked into the omnibus transportation bill in the waning days of the session in the Senate, which was still awaiting a floor vote when the session ended.
"I don't agree with it anymore, " Sen. Dan Hall, who sponsored a similar in the Senate this, says. "It's ridiculous that Saint Paul holds the rest of the state hostage. It's the only spot on an interstate in the whole United States that's 45 mph."
In 1984, state officials agreed to the low speed limit in exchange for building the highway by upgrading Pleasant Avenue from a parkway to a highway. Trucks were also banned on the highway under the settlement with neighbors in federal court.
If the speed limit is raised to 50, it's unlikely many people would stop there -- most people go faster than that now. And the omnibus transportation bill being considered by the House now provides some measure of protection for those drivers. A provision prohibits speed limit violations of up to 10 mph over the limit from going on a driver's record
(Photo: I-35E construction through Saint Paul in 1971. Minnesota Historical Society.)(34 Comments)
Rush Limbaugh's ill-chosen word to describe a law student's testimony about the need for contraceptive coverage by insurance companies has certainly sparked the creative side of his opponents.
Earlier today, for example, I posted the video of a song called "I'm a slut." Now, a condom company -- Sir Richard's -- has created the Sluts Unite website in an effort to tap into social media, offering avatars to visitors:
The site also has provided a Slut Oath
I believe that sex represents more than just the creation of children.
I believe it is an enjoyable, healthy and a profound part of the human experience.
I also believe that the responsible use of birth control is an essential component of a mature, civilized society.
And if these beliefs make me a slut in some people's eyes, then so be it.
I will stand united with my fellow sluts, now and always.
Behind the humor, however, is a very real and passionate debate about contraception not seen since the 1960s in this country.
Today at the Vatican, the Pope addressed a meeting of U.S. bishops and said the Christian community has to understand the value of chastity.
Young people need to encounter the Church's teaching in its integrity, challenging and countercultural as that teaching may be; more importantly, they need to see it embodied by faithful married couples who bear convincing witness to its truth. They also need to be supported as they struggle to make wise choices at a difficult and confusing time in their lives. Chastity, as the Catechism reminds us, involves an ongoing "apprenticeship in self-mastery which is a training in human freedom" (2339). In a society which increasingly tends to misunderstand and even ridicule this essential dimension of Christian teaching, young people need to be reassured that "if we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, absolutely nothing, of what makes life free, beautiful and great" (Homily, Inaugural Mass of the Pontificate, 24 April 2005).
Let me conclude by recalling that all our efforts in this area are ultimately concerned with the good of children, who have a fundamental right to grow up with a healthy understanding of sexuality and its proper place in human relationships. Children are the greatest treasure and the future of every society: truly caring for them means recognizing our responsibility to teach, defend and live the moral virtues which are the key to human fulfillment. It is my hope that the Church in the United States, however chastened by the events of the past decade, will persevere in its historic mission of educating the young and thus contribute to the consolidation of that sound family life which is the surest guarantee of intergenerational solidarity and the health of society as a whole.I now commend you and your brother Bishops, with the flock entrusted to your pastoral care, to the loving intercession of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. To all of you I willingly impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of wisdom, strength and peace in the Lord.(4 Comments)
The boycott against talk-radio host Rush Limbaugh has some unexpected beneficiaries: nonprofits getting more ad time on his show. The United Negro College Fund, Big Brothers Big Sisters and the American Heart Association are among the organizations that had ads air yesterday during Limbaugh's program...
Win McNamee/Getty Images
Dozens of companies have pulled ads, including Minnesota-based Select Comfort.
Media Matters is tracking, one commercial break at a time, whose ads are appearing on Limbaugh's program in the wake of Limbaugh's remarks about a Georgetown University student. A majority of the ads seem to be coming via the Ad Council, which distributes public service announcements.(4 Comments)
A Republican and a DFLer in the Minnesota Senate have finally found common ground: Soil.
Republican Gen Olson and DFLer Patricia Torres Ray today filed SF2254, designating Lester as the official state soil.
Can you have a state soil if it's only found in a small part of the state?
The Minnesota Association of Professional Soil Scientists has already declared Lester the state soil.
The Natural Resources and Conservation Service describes Lester:
The Lester Series consists of very deep, well drained soils that formed in loamy, calcareous glacial till, on ground moraines. Slopes range from 5 to 70 percent. Mean annual precipitation is about 28 inches and mean annual soil temperature is about 49 degrees.
These soils formed under wooded vegetation that has been removed in many areas for agricultural production. Where used for crops, corn and soybeans are the principal ones. Corn yields range from 139 to 187 bushels/acre and soybeans from 42 to 55 bushels/acre, depending on percent slope and climate in Major Land Resource Area 103.
Lester soils are of moderate extent, occurring in 75 map units in 17 counties in south-central Minnesota. Total acres are over 600,000.
At least they didn't try to make frac sand the official soil.(8 Comments)
There aren't too many more vicious words one can utter -- at least by the standards I have -- than the one talk-show host Rush Limbaugh uttered about a young woman who wasn't allowed to testify in Washington about a bill limiting access to contraceptives. Slut.
Sleep Train Mattress Centers today pulled its advertising from Limbaugh's show, saying "we don't condone negative comments directed toward any group."
Sandra Fluke, a third-year law student at Georgetown University, who was the target of Limbaugh's bombast, answered in the most appropriate way possible: intelligently.
NPR's Two-Way blog says Fluke's university has also issued a statement:
"In an earlier time, St. Augustine captured the sense of what is required in civil discourse: 'Let us, on both sides, lay aside all arrogance. Let us not, on either side, claim that we have already discovered the truth. Let us seek it together as something which is known to neither of us. For then only may we seek it, lovingly and tranquilly, if there be no bold presumption that it is already discovered and possessed.'
"If we, instead, allow coarseness, anger -- even hatred -- to stand for civil discourse in America, we violate the sacred trust that has been handed down through the generations beginning with our Founders. The values that hold us together as a people require nothing less than eternal vigilance. This is our moment to stand for the values of civility in our engagement with one another."(15 Comments)
I've gone 37 years in this business without uttering the words "I'm a big fan" to guests who've come through radio stations at which I've toiled. It's not that I've never wanted to, it's just that I have a personal "no gawking" policy in newsrooms.
It's not insignificant, then, that I said it today. Twice.
The Friday Roundtable on Daily Circuit featured Dessa Wander, and writer Britt Robson.
Dessa wrote an op-ed in today's Star Tribune about the conflict between free speech and the danger of hip hop's misogyny.
When it's working, the right to free speech shelters our dissenters (a group, incidentally, that includes a bunch of talented rappers).
The question isn't whether or not to censor artists who espouse misogynistic views. The question is whether or not we support them as listeners and consumers.
At first blush, you wouldn't think that music and politics and the nature of organic movements and economics and our relationships are all related, but the two clearly pointed out how they are. There's an exchange at 27:43 that could bring tears to the eyes of someone who loves listening to incredibly smart people who make you reconsider everything you think about everything.
That's why I'm a big fan.(3 Comments)
Is it time to let Minnesotans decide what constitutional amendments end up on the ballot?
Today, a bill was filed in the Minnesota House that would -- if approved by voters -- allow citizens to put measures on the ballot if they get enough signatures. It comes from Rep. King Banaian, R- St. Cloud, who also filed a bill a few weeks ago to make it harder for lawmakers to put constitutional amendments on the ballot.
The notion is known as "initiative and referendum." The challenge for its supporters is explaining how it works.
Under the bill, a proposed law could be put to the voters if supporters get signatures from each congressional district, totaling at least 5 percent of the total number of votes cast for governor in the previous election.
The system could also be used to repeal a law via the same means. But if the law hasn't gone into effect yet, it is suspended until voters get a chance to decide whether it should.
And amendment to the Minnesota constitution would require signatures totaling 8 percent of the previous gubernatorial election.
No more than three "laws" could be proposed on any ballot, a governor can't veto a law voters approve, and a new law would take effect 30 days after the election.
The system exists in Washington state, where the governor recently signed a same-sex marriage bill. An opposition group immediately announced it intended to more than 120,577 voter signatures by June 6th to put the issue on November's ballot.
If you read nothing else today, you'll want to read Tom Weber's story about the school district in Rushford that wants to fund new school construction in a state bonding bill.
If allowed, it's a huge shift in philosophy and one that could lead to some of the most cantankerous floor debate we've seen at the Capitol in awhile.
Traditionally, new schools are funded by property taxes. There are two segments of a school district's budget: operating expenses and capital expenses. New school construction falls into the latter category and it's often accompanied by a levy -- taxpayers get to vote on whether a new school should be built.
By all accounts, the one that's there is a dump. According to Weber, the administrator in the school system has dismissed the idea of asking local taxpayers to foot the bill, because it would require a 48-percent increase in property taxes and there isn't enough wealth in the district.
There is a loophole in the current law allowing bonding money to be used when school districts consolidate. But Rushford consolidated 20 years ago.
"We do have districts out there in a similar situation as us; the buildings are literally falling down around them, and despite everything going on, we're making the best we possibly can, but there's no light at the end of tunnel for us," said district Superintendent Chuck Ehler. "And we need our state and we need our elected officials to be aware of that and be willing to be risk-takers, along with us, and say, 'Absolutely, schools are part of our infrastructure.'"
That may be, but it's not hard to see what the reaction will be in communities that just tagged taxpayers for new schools. Why should they not get other taxpayers in the state to help pay for what they're now paying?
It's also true, as a person on Twitter told me today, "we're all in this together and we all benefit from an educated population." That's true, which is why the state assumes responsibility for paying for a good deal of the "former" in the budget divisions above. But isn't it also possible that if some districts get state taxpayer help, more districts will have failed levy votes for new building construction, assuming the state taxpayers will help out?
If the Rushford proposal gets very far, that's the question that the debate will orbit.
One postscript: In July 2008, I toured the area of Rushford hard-hit by a 2007 flood that killed a half-dozen people in southeast Minnesota. My tour guides were readers of NewsCut. When we get to the part about the school, note its importance in the town's recovery from a traumatic disaster. It's a good testament that a school in a community is more than just where you learn things.
Democrats are the ones keeping birth control on the front-burner, Washington Post writer Melinda Henneberger writes this afternoon. Henneberger, who writes the Post's "She The People" column, says Democrats have found the issue is good for raising campaign cash, because public opinion is on their side.
She notes that she disagrees with most of Rick Santorum's positions on birth control, but says he's been manipulated into keeping it on the front page.
But in every interview Santorum has given on the topic of birth control -- in 2006, last summer and recently -- he always stresses that he supports Title X funding for contraception. He's also said he would strenuously oppose any state effort to ban birth control. And do we really believe that a guy who freely allows that he'd bomb Iran if they didn't let inspectors into nuclear facilities is strategically hiding his true intentions regarding the pill?
When Charlie Rose asked Santorum on CBS about what Friess had said, the candidate repeatedly tried to steer the conversation to the economy and jobs, but Rose wasn't having it, insisting that voters "need to understand how you differ from what this guy said." His response, when he finally agreed to give one? What Friess had said was "a bad joke, a stupid joke," not reflective of his own views. "I voted for Title X federal funding of birth control."
Funny she should mention that because I tweeted about that interview last week. It wasn't Rose's finest hour:(5 Comments)
There's plenty of analysis coming elsewhere on the website about the new congressional district maps, but the story is the east metro pairing of Michele Bachmann and Betty McCollum. And here's a quick snapshot of why Bachmann apparently has no intention of running against McCollum.
In the redistricting, Bachmann lost her most ardent supporters, who are now in the "new" Sixth.
Here's the "new 4th" that pits Bachmann vs. McCollum:
Check out the results from the 2010 House races in the east metro in which Bachmann defeated Taryl Clark. The deeper the shade of red or blue, the stronger the support for the Republican or Democrat, respectively. While still leaning Republican, it's never really warmed to Mrs. Bachmann.
Assuming McCollum maintains her support in Saint Paul and the inner ring, Bachmann would have had to significantly increase her support in the suburbs east of Saint Paul to have a shot at unseating the DFLer.
It's not that kind of GOP turf. Communities like Woodbury and other Washington County cities voted for Barack Obama in 2008, even while supporting a much-more-moderate-than-Bachmann Norm Coleman in the U.S. Senate race. Meanwhile, Bachmann's "old" district gave McCain the strongest showing he had in Minnesota.
But while supporting Coleman in that election, Bachmann's new "stronghold" didn't support Bachmann:
2006 wasn't much better...
It's not impossible for a Republican to win in the 4th, but the Republican strength in the district is more of the Jim Ramstad mold than the Michele Bachmann model.
Meanwhile, the "new 6th" appears to be as safe a Republican district as exists in most places in the country. It likely won't care if the person holding the seat actually lives in the district. Any parochial issues have played second-fiddle to national conservative ideals for years.(25 Comments)
John Allen Paulos, a professor of mathematics at Temple University, wrote in the New York Times yesterday that we should elect more scientists to public office.
He notes that China's President Hu Jintao has a background in hydraulic engineering, German Chancellor Angela Merkel holds a doctorate in physical chemistry and Singapore President Tony Tan has a Ph.D. in applied mathematics.
Why does this matter? Paulos argues:
One needn't endorse the politics of these people or countries to feel that given the complexities of an ever more technologically sophisticated world, the United States could benefit from the participation and example of more scientists in government. This is obviously no panacea -- Herbert Hoover was an engineer, after all -- but more people with scientific backgrounds would be a welcome counterweight to the vast majority of legislators and other officials in this country who are lawyers.
Back in 2008, Curtis Gilbert and looked at this issue in an episode of our Electionwise podcast (listen here). We spoke with Chad Kraus who had done a study on how many physicians had served in Congress from 1960 to 2004. He found that only 25 physicians had served during that time period. Lawyers made up 45 percent of Congresspeople, about 15 percent were business people, 10 percent were career public servants, followed by people involved in education. There weren't enough scientists to even bother mentioning in our conversation.
Since the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development touts our state as "the perfect environment for bioscience" with statistics like "Minnesota ranks third in bioscience-related patents per one million residents and fourth in bioscience occupational employment" -- I wanted to see if we have more scientists serving in our Legislature.
Our 2011-2012 Legislators don't look that different than U.S. Congresspeople. Legislators with business/finance backgrounds are by far the largest group, followed by educators, attorneys and those who have backgrounds in public service.
Nine members of the 112th Congress are scientists and engineers, so proportionately, Minnesota has an edge on them. Out of 201 members, we have seven scientists and engineers.
The scientific seven:
Rep. Pat Garofalo (R-Farmington) works as a network engineer
Rep. Thomas Huntley (DFL-Duluth) has a Ph.D. in biochemistry and is a retired professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of Minnesota Duluth
Rep. Phyllis Kahn (DFL-Minneapolis) has Ph.D. in biophysics from Yale University
Rep. Kate Knuth (DFL-New Brighton) is a conservation biologist with a Masters of Science from Oxford University
Sen. Doug Magnus (R-Slayton) holds a bachelor's degree in animal science from South Dakota State University
John Persell (DFL-Bemidji) studied biology at Bemidji State University and worked as a water quality specialist.
Duane Quam (R-Byron) has a Masters in Physics from University of Texas Dallas and worked as an engineer
Do we need more scientists and engineers in the Minnesota legislature? Who would you nominate?
-Molly Bloom(16 Comments)
Is there anything better than a picture of first-grade kids?
Dana Coleman, the first grade teacher in Andover whose students are championing a bill to make the black bear the official state mammal, sent the picture along today with word the stalled bill might get a hearing in Saint Paul after all in this legislative session.
"We have to WOW them in committee!" she said.
It appears she knows just the people to do that.(7 Comments)
A bill to slow the progress toward "governing by referendum" appeared at the Capitol today.
This legislative session has seen a seemingly endless filing of proposed amendments to the Constitution in Minnesota. Already in November, residents will be voting on the amendment restricting marriage to one man and one woman. It's likely a bill to add a requirement to show a photo when voting will also be added.
These bills bypass the executive branch of government -- the governor -- and, when approved, go to the ballot instead.
Today, several legislators in the House filed a bill that could stop the practice. It would require a bill to receive a two-thirds vote in both the House and Senate. Ironically, the bill would amend the Minnesota Constitution.
An amendment to the Minnesota Constitution is proposed to the people. If the amendment is adopted, article IX, section 1, will read:
Section 1. A majority Two-thirds of the members elected to each house of the legislature may propose amendments to this constitution. Proposed amendments shall be published with the laws passed at the same session and submitted to the people for their approval or rejection at a general election. If a majority of all the electors voting at the election vote to ratify an amendment, it becomes a part of this constitution. If two or more amendments are submitted at the same time, voters shall vote for or against each separately.
Sec. 2. SUBMISSION TO VOTERS.
The proposed amendment must be submitted to the people at the 2012 general election. The question submitted must be:
"Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to require a vote of two-thirds of the members of each body of the legislature to propose amendment?"
Those opposed to the recent conservative-backed amendment proposals might be quick to embrace this proposal. On the other hand, the 2008 Legacy Amendment, which dedicated money to outdoors and the arts, would've never appeared on the ballot. There were 85 votes in the House on the bill to put it on the ballot. Under today's proposed bill, it would've required 86.
A two-thirds vote would indicate widespread popularity for a measure, making the need for many constitutional amendments unnecessary. In addition to overcoming a gubernatortial objection, they're often used now by many politicians to provide political cover on controversial issues.
Two Republicans -- King Banaian of St. Cloud and Greg Davids of Preston -- joined seven DFLers as sponsors of the bill.(7 Comments)
Is it ever too early for Minnesota school children to learn just how hard it is to get something through the Minnesota Legislature?
The effort to name the black bear the state mammal of Minnesota -- described in this space yesterday -- may be dead at the Capitol.
Dana Coleman, the first grade teacher whose young charges researched bears and proposed the designation, writes to say legislative support is dwindling:
Thank you for your nice story today! I am the teacher whose first graders have the bill in the MN House and Senate to have the black bear become our state mammal. I hope you have more accurate news than I do. I wish it had bipartisan support. According to Senator Michelle Benson and Representative Peggy Scott (our authors) it has lost momentum in the House and now they aren't even going to hear it. The kids are so disappointed. If you have any ideas of ways for me to get the word out there to help our cause, I would greatly appreciate it. Thanks again for bringing this to the forefront! Dana Coleman
On WCCO Radio with Jason DeRusha today two theories were offered. First, if the Legislature fails to accomplish anything major this session, legislative candidates would point out that the Legislature wasted its time on bears. The other is the possibility that legislators fear hunters will think it's the start of a conspiracy to protect the bears.
But Ms.Coleman dismissed both theories, noting it's just a designation and that passing it would take mere minutes.
But this is fairly routine for official designations. The last "official" was the state apple. The bill designating the honeycrisp was filed in May 2005, and not voted on until the final days of the legislative session in 2006.
Prior to the great honeycrisp debate, the previous "official" item bill in the state was the official state picture, "Grace," taken by Eric Enstrom in Bovey.
It took more than a year before the bill got a vote in both the House and Senate and was eventually sent to Gov. Ventura for his signature.(4 Comments)
One of the first floor debates of any significance in the Minnesota Senate this session isn't going to be about football stadiums. It'll be something far more important: Do Minnesotans have an obligation to flee when faced with danger?
A Minnesota Senate committee this morning sent the so-called Defense of Dwelling and Person Act to the Senate floor on a party-line vote.
There are many elements of the bill (full text here), but this is the big one:
Subd. 2. Circumstances when authorized. (a) The use of deadly force by an individual is justified under this section when the act is undertaken:
(1) to resist or prevent the commission of a felony in the individual's dwelling;
(2) to resist or prevent what the individual reasonably believes is an offense or attempted offense that imminently exposes the individual or another person to substantial bodily harm, great bodily harm, or death; or
(3) to resist or prevent what the individual reasonably believes is the commission or imminent commission of a forcible felony.
(b) The use of deadly force is not authorized under this section if the individual knows that the person against whom force is being used is a licensed peace officer from this state, another state, the United States, or any subordinate jurisdiction of the United States, who is acting lawfully.
Subd. 3. Degree of force; retreat. An individual taking defensive action pursuant to subdivision 2 may use all force and means, including deadly force, that the individual in good faith believes is required to succeed in defense. The individual may meet force with superior force when the individual's objective is defensive; the individual is not required to retreat; and the individual may continue defensive actions against an assailant until the danger has ended.
In many ways, the legislation wouldn't be possible, if not for a man in Apple Valley who shot a gang friend to death.
In 1999, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that there is no such requirement in Minnesota to retreat inside a dwelling. It ruled in the case of Tony Carothers, who shot a gang enforcer six times in his mobile home in Apple Valley after an argument over $20 in a card game in 1967. He was given a 14-year sentence.
In instructing a jury, a trial court judge said Carothers had a duty to first flee a self-defense situation, but Justice Russell Anderson overturned the conviction, warning, however, that it's not a license to kill:
We emphasize that a person claiming defense of dwelling is still subject to strictures insuring the reasonableness of his or her behavior. Defense of dwelling and self-defense within the dwelling serve a defensive and not offensive purpose, and do not confer a license to kill or to inflict great bodily harm merely because the offense occurs within the home. It may be more reasonable for a person to advance towards or retreat from a danger within his or her home in different circumstances, and that decision should be left to the jury. When faced with a defense of dwelling claim, the jury must determine (1) whether the killing was done to prevent the commission of a felony in the dwelling, (2) whether the defendant's judgment as to the gravity of the situation was reasonable under the circumstances, and (3) whether the defendant's election to defend his or her dwelling was such as a reasonable person would have made in light of the danger to be apprehended.
This is the Castle Doctrine. Anderson's decision gave Minnesotans the right to kill someone invading a home, removing the obligation to flee first. The latest legislation extends the protections in the home to a person outside of it.
The bill was heading to the Senate floor last year, too, until several police chiefs and county attorneys held a news conference objecting to it.(6 Comments)
The Guardian website/newspaper in the UK apparently sent a team to Minnesota to find out how Minnesotans made up their minds about who to vote for in the primary (psst, Guardian, it's a caucus).
And by "Minnesotans," they mean about five white people on either a city block in Minneapolis or a shopping mall in Maple Grove.
(h/t: Jon Gordon)(5 Comments)
It should be some session with reporters in Georgia today when Karen Handel, who has resigned as VP of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure, speaks about her departure and, presumably, the dust-up caused by last week's defunding -- and subsequent refunding -- of Planned Parenthood. Handel's fingerprints appear to be on the original decision.
She refused a severance package, which usually comes in exchange for keeping silent about the inner workings of an organization. Bottom line: There'll be some quotable statements in Goergia today.
In her resignation e-mail, Handel acknowledges she played a big part in the decision. In an earlier interview, Komen founder Nancy Brinker said she didn't. Somebody's lying.
Here's her resignation email:
Dear Ambassador Brinker:
Susan G. Komen for the Cure has been the recognized leader for more 30 years in the fight against breast cancer here in the US - and increasingly around the world.
As you know, I have always kept Komen's mission and the women we serve as my highest priority - as they have been for the entire organization, the Komen Affiliates, our many supporters and donors, and the entire community of breast cancer survivors. I have carried out my responsibilities faithfully and in line with the Board's objectives and the direction provided by you and Liz.
We can all agree that this is a challenging and deeply unsettling situation for all involved in the fight against breast cancer. However, Komen's decision to change its granting strategy and exit the controversy surrounding Planned Parenthood and its grants was fully vetted by every appropriate level within the organization. At the November Board meeting, the Board received a detailed review of the new model and related criteria. As you will recall, the Board specifically discussed various issues, including the need to protect our mission by ensuring we were not distracted or negatively affected by any other organization's real or perceived challenges. No objections were made to moving forward.
I am deeply disappointed by the gross mischaracterizations of the strategy, its rationale, and my involvement in it. I openly acknowledge my role in the matter and continue to believe our decision was the best one for Komen's future and the women we serve. However, the decision to update our granting model was made before I joined Komen, and the controversy related to Planned Parenthood has long been a concern to the organization. Neither the decision nor the changes themselves were based on anyone's political beliefs or ideology. Rather, both were based on Komen's mission and how to better serve women, as well as a realization of the need to distance Komen from controversy. I believe that Komen, like any other nonprofit organization, has the right and the responsibility to set criteria and highest standards for how and to whom it grants.
What was a thoughtful and thoroughly reviewed decision - one that would have indeed enabled Komen to deliver even greater community impact - has unfortunately been turned into something about politics. This is entirely untrue. This development should sadden us all greatly.
Just as Komen's best interests and the fight against breast cancer have always been foremost in every aspect of my work, so too are these my priorities in coming to the decision to resign effective immediately. While I appreciate your raising a possible severance package, I respectfully decline. It is my most sincere hope that Komen is allowed to now refocus its attention and energies on its mission.
With Handel aboard, there was no way the Komen wasn't going to be seen as bowing to politics in its Planned Parenthood decision, considering that she'd run for governor of Georgia before and made her position pretty clear:
First, let me be clear, since I am pro-life, I do not support the mission of Planned Parenthood. During my time as Chairman of Fulton County, there were federal and state pass-through grants that were awarded to Planned Parenthood for breast and cervical cancer screening, as well as a "Healthy Babies Initiative." The grant was authorized, regulated, administered and distributed through the State of Georgia. Because of the criteria, regulations and parameters of the grant, Planned Parenthood was the only eligible vendor approved to meet the state criteria. Additionally, none of the services in any way involved abortions or abortion-related services. In fact, state and federal law prohibits the use of taxpayer funds for abortions or abortion related services and I strongly support those laws. Since grants like these are from the state I'll eliminate them as your next Governor.
Even if it's true -- unlikely though it seems -- that the entire Komen episode wasn't a political coup unraveling, it appears unlikely the organization can escape the political sphere it's spent the last few days desperately trying to avoid.(4 Comments)
Is this ad offensive?
In a conference call with reporters today, Michigan Senate candidate Pete Hoekstra said the ad is only "insensitive to Debbie Stabenow and her spending."
The Michigan chapter of the group Asian & Pacific Islander American Vote called the spot "very disturbing" and said the campaign "chose to use harmful negative stereotypes that intrinsically encourage anti-Asian sentiment."(5 Comments)
The more we hear about The Susan G. Komen Foundation and Planned Parenthood, the more we wonder how they ever got together in the first place.
On MPR's Midmorning, this morning, Melinda Henneberger of the Washington Post, who writes on the She the People blog, considered the deep political ties of each side involved in Komen's decision to pull a grant from Planned Parenthood for breast cancer screening.
Nancy Brinker, the CEO of Susan G. Komen for the Cure and the sister of Susan G. Komen, is a well-connected Republican.
Brinker and her husband donated $125,000 to Republicans in the 2001-2003 election cycle, shortly before President Bush appointed her ambassador to Hungary.
"Komen, maybe not so incidentally, has a new relationship with the George W. Bush Institute, which is the policy arm of the presidential library which will open next year," she said. "And Planned Parenthood has strong Democratic ties. Its president, Cecile Richards, (is) the daughter of former late Texas Gov. Ann Richards, who was defeated by George W. Bush."
How badly will Komen's decision hurt Planned Parenthood? Not much, apparently. In the 24 hours since the decision was announced, small donors contributed more than $650,000 to Planned Parenthood, nearly matching the $680,000 grant Komen pulled, according to Henneberger.(11 Comments)
This is the quote making the news today, "I'm not concerned about the very poor because they have a safety net," GOP soon-to-be-nominee Mitt Romney said to CNN this morning.
No doubt this will become an ad sometime between now and November, but there was another sentence in his interview that strikes me as equally fascinating.
"You can choose where to focus. You can choose to focus on the rich; that's not my focus. You can focus on the very poor; that's not my focus. My focus is on middle-income Americans," Romney said.
Which brings the obvious question: Can a person running for office, focus on -- that is, appeal to -- more than one group?(9 Comments)
Comedian Stephen Colbert's intended abuse of the campaign finance system to show its absurd flaws is, perhaps, one of the most brilliant pieces of journalism on the subject, partly because it could only be properly exposed via comedy.
Colbert, creator of the Super PAC, Americans for a Better Tomorrow Tomorrow, has been exposing "super PACS," which are allowed to raise unlimited amounts from unions, corporations, and individuals, and then pour the money into campaigns.
Colbert's report filing is the sort of thing that can make the usually useless Federal Elections Commission disclosure database for the PAC required reading.
Take today's supplemental disclosure report memo, for example:
January 31, 2012
Federal Election Commission
999 E Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20463
Re: Supplemental Memo To Disclosure Report
Dear Sirs and Sirettes,
Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow (ABTT) would like it entered into the record that as of January 30th, 2012, the sum total of our donations was $1,023,121.24.
Stephen Colbert, President of ABTT, has asked that I quote him as saying, ''Yeah! How you like me now, F.E.C? I'm rolling seven digits deep! I got 99 problems but a non-connected independent-expenditure only committee ain't one!''
I would like it noted for the record that I advised Mr. Colbert against including that quote.
Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow, Inc.
But Colbert's PAC hasn't produced an "ad" for the Florida primary, his last one coming just before South Carolina:
That ad cost $24,500, according to FEC documents, bringing the total PAC contributions to about $90,000.(2 Comments)
Judging by the immediate -- and limited -- reaction on Twitter, a bill to allow 16 year olds to drink in the company of parents is a winner, although it probably has little chance of passage.
State Representatives Phyllis Kahn and Joe Mullery filed the bill at the Minnesota House of Representatives today. It allows people as young as 16 to drink in bars and restaurants when accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.
The bill also lowers the drinking age (in bars and restaurants) from 21 to 18.
Why limit it to bars and restaurants? This story out of Pennsylvania offers the answer. A woman bought a half-keg of beer for her son's graduation party. Three kids were killed about a mile away. She just pleaded guilty and will be sentenced in three months. (h/t: Dennis Jansen)
Wisconsin allows kids to drink in bars and restaurants when accompanied by parents (just don't try to play a guitar). There is no minimum age requirement for kids in those situations.
But some lawmakers in Wisconsin want to set the minimum age to 18. A bill passed the Wisconsin Assembly in 2010. It was opposed by a "youth rights group," which said it's a family matter. The bill never made it into law.
You can set your legislative watch by the filing of some bills and proposed constitutional amendments whenever the Legislature returns to session. Two of them made their appearance today in the legislative "inbox."
HF1928 would add another constitutional amendment to the ballot banning the use of state funds for abortion:
State funds shall not be used to fund abortions, except to the extent necessary for continued participation in a federal program. For purposes of this section, "abortion" means the use of any means to terminate the pregnancy of a woman known to be
pregnant with knowledge that the termination with those means will, with reasonable
likelihood, cause the death of the fetus. "Fetus" means any individual human organism
from fertilization until birth.
Under federal law, abortions need to be publically funded when there arelife-threatening complications for the mother or fetus and cases of rape or incest.
In 1995, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that public funds are required to be used when necessary for abortions, because failing to do so violates a woman's privacy
It is critical to note that the right of privacy under our constitution protects not simply the right to an abortion, but rather it protects the woman's decision to abort; any legislation infringing on the decision-making process, then, violates this fundamental right. In the present case, the infringement is the state's offer of money to women for health care services necessary to carry the pregnancy to term, and the state's ban on health care funding for women who choose therapeutic abortions. Faced with these two options, financially independent women might not feel particularly compelled to choose either childbirth or abortion based on the monetary incentive alone. Indigent women, on the other hand, are precisely the ones who would be most affected by an offer of monetary assistance, and it is these women who are targeted by the statutory funding ban. We simply cannot say that an indigent woman's decision whether to terminate her pregnancy is not significantly impacted by the state's offer of comprehensive medical services if the woman carries the pregnancy to term. We conclude, therefore, that these statutes constitute an infringement on the fundamental right of privacy.
Here is the entire 1995 court ruling.
LOWERING THE VOTING AGE
Rep. Phyllis Kahn has dusted off an old proposal that changes the state and local election voting age from 18 to 16. HF1951 proposes a constitutional amendment that would allow anyone in the U.S. for at least three months to vote at the lowered age:
The question submitted must be: Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to allow persons 16 or more years of age to vote in state and local elections?
In the past, Kahn has noted that the state allows 14-year-olds to operate firearms and 16-year-olds to drive. She previously has said the voting age should be as low as 12.(12 Comments)
Is America -- or its media -- making too big a deal over this?
In an age where TV cameras follow a president everywhere, just this one photo seems to exist to fuel the discussion in some corners today about whether it's unseemly to argue with a president. Odd, though, how the video cuts away before the good stuff.
"I grew up hearing that you treat the office with respect, and people aren't buying that anymore," says Cassandra Dahnke, co-founder of the Institute for Civility in Politics in Houston.
But are we asking more of politicians than we do ourselves? Who hasn't let someone else know when they're unhappy with something they said or wrote, as apparently is the case here?
And who started the conversation above, which apparently was about something the Arizona governor wrote about a meeting with the president?
"We started to have a conversation about the economy and jobs and he kind of diverted the conversation to my book," Gov. Jan Brewer, R-AZ, told Fox.
But even by Minnesota standards, the protocol of politics is pretty passive aggressive. On the Senate floor, for example, referring to another senator as "my friend," is a sign of respect and genuine warmth. "My good friend" means "I don't like him/her that much" and "my very good friend" means "I can't stand him/her."
The presidency deserves respect, of course. But it was never intended to be an office of royalty.(5 Comments)
Of all the debates held in Minnesota over the years, few rival the traditional "last debate" at the Fitzgerald Theater for substance. Moderator Gary Eichten had a simple rule: The focus is on the ideas and content of the candidates up for election, not the ability of the audience to cheer louder than their opponents.
This week, a moderator of a national debate -- Brian Williams -- set ground rules that the audience's job primarily was to be quiet and let the candidates live and die on their own substance.
Some politicians hated that idea.(2 Comments)
Now that the Minnesota Legislature is back in session, we're getting a fairly steady diet of proposed laws, most of which will never see the light of day. Here's a look at some of the more interesting bills lawmakers tossed in the hopper today.
TEACHER BASIC SKILLS
HF1770 requires teacher candidates to pass a basic skills exam in reading, writing, and math.
HF1779 authorizes the State Lottery to put slot machines at Canterbury Park and other racetracks with the money going to construction of stadiums for the Minnesota Vikings and Saint Paul Saints.
MY OTHER CAR IS A KIDNEY
HF1792 creates a special Anatomical Gift license plate. Money raised goes to a grant program to encourage organ donation.
LICENSE TO STEEL
HF1793 requires the use of American-made steel in any public works project.
SHHH! WE'RE SHOOTING HERE
HF1816 authorizes firearms dealers to possess and sell silencers to law enforcement and wildlife management agencies. Is this an issue? The bill cites "tactical emergency response operations include execution of high risk search and arrest warrants, incidents of terrorism, hostage rescue, and any other tactical deployments involving high risk circumstances."
THE EDUCATION BEFORE THE EDUCATION
It costs about $115 got get married in Minnesota. Under HF1818, a member of the armed forces would get $75 after completing "premarital education" within three months.
THE "S" WORD
Is it a bad sign that legislators are considering shutdown legislation? HF1834 would require that any state program generating revenue, has to keep operating in the event of a shutdown.
LAWMAKERS, DON'T DRIVE TO THE LEGISLATURE DRUNK
We'll bet you didn't know that under the Minnesota Constitution, members of the Legislature cannot be arrested during the session "and in going to or returning from the same" except for treason, felony and breach of the peace, HF1838 puts "driving while impaired" under "breach of the peace."
BIKE NIGHT LIGHTS
HF1873 would provide money to give bicycling lighting to bicyclists.
SAME-SEX MARRIAGE AMENDMENT REPEAL
HF1885 repeals the proposed constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman, which will appear on the November ballot. This one is notable for who is not on the sponsor list.
HEALTH CARE FREEDOM
HF1898, which is one of several anti-health-care-law proposals, amends the Minnesota Constitution that prohibits anyone from being compelled to participate in a health care plan.
NO PLAY. NO PAY
HF1906 prevents legislators from getting paid during a government shutdown.
TESTING FOR WELFARE
This one has gone nowhere in past sessions and it's back again. HF1919 requires drug testing for welfare recipients.
Few of us probably know offhand what tax bracket we're in, but if Mitt Romney is anywhere near correct about his, it's a safe bet that most people aren't in his.
Most people are in a higher one.
Romney told a news conference today that he's "probably" in the 15-percent bracket.
What is it in dollars and cents?
The 15% tax bracket for an individual is a ataxable income between $8,500 and $34,500. For a married couple filing jointly, it's between $17,000 and $69,000 of taxable income.
"Taxable income" is really regularly taxed Income minus adjustments, deductions, and exemptions.
How does a rich guy like Romney pull off paying taxes like a working stiff?
"Because my last 10 years, my income comes overwhelmingly from some investments made in the past, whether ordinary income or earned annually. I got a little bit of income from my book, but I gave that all away. And then I get speakers' fees from time to time, but not very much.' "
Not very much would be about $362,000 in speaking fees. His net worth is about $200 million.
If just half of that is liquid (not likely) and he gets the miniscule 1% return each year, based on current rates, that's $1 million a year. That is to say: It takes a lot of work to be that wealthy and be in that tax bracket.
The 15-percent tax bracket, by the way, is one of the few tax brackets that were not affected by tax increases in the last several decades. It was unaffected by the tax increase of 1993, which targeted the wealthy.(7 Comments)
The big projects get all the ink and attention when a governor releases a bonding bill , but there are smaller projects which pique interest, too.
Gov. Dayton issued his bonding recommendations today, included therein was a fence for the Shakopee women's prison. It was built in the 1980s without a fence. The governor is seeking over $5 million for a fence. He says the population has increased six-fold. Not having a fence has also made Minnesota the butt of a few jokes. (may not be suitable for the workplace)
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c|
More seriously, Shakopee Patch describes a good reason for a fence: To keep people out:
"We have more males than females intruding," said Calvin Miller, associate warden of administration. "We had some recently pull up in a car calling an inmate's name. We don't know if that was for an escape."
One man recently walked onto the prison grounds waving a cane designed for the blind. When staff approached, he dropped the cane and took off running. One inmate thought she saw her ex-boyfriend's car driving and feared he was coming to kill her. Staff have found drugs and alcohol stashed on the grounds, presumably left for offenders, and they say their big fear is their ability to stash weapons.
"Many of these women have been in volatile relationships with people who are on the spooky side and may not be overly stable," Beltz said. "I can't harp on this enough --not having a fence is a safety issue for our staff, offenders and the public."
By the way, whatever happened to Bo Dietl, the over-the-top "security expert" featured in the comedy bit? Three years after this 2006 Daily Show episode, the New York Post reported he was one of the corrupt cops in New York who tipped off members of the Gambino crime family.
When WikiLeaks distributed classified information in 2010, Dietl called for the assassination of its founder, Julian Assange.
Richard Threlkeld was killed in a car crash in New York this morning. A few people -- news junkies, mostly -- will recognize him as a former network news correspondent for CBS and ABC News. He cut his journalistic teeth as a TV reporter in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
More than likely, though, few people will remember that it was Threlkeld who made fact-checking political candidates a standard of network news. He started doing so with the famous Dukakis "tank" ad in the 1988 presidential election.
Very little of the ad was actually true, Threlkeld pointed out in a piece that took the assertions apart one by one. But it didn't matter, because it was enough that Dukakis simply looked silly,.
Threlkeld and journalism expert Kathleen Hall Jamieson discussed the technique during a seminar at Jamieson's Annenberg School for Communications in 1992. You can find a copy of the presentation here and it's worth watching again.
During it, he lamented his company's definition of balance: that if he found falsehoods in a campaign ad for then (vice) president George Bush, he had to find falsehoods in challenger Mike Dukakis. "The problem ... you always want to find two sides of a story. In this case there was only one side of the story, and I was unsuccessful in convincing them that sometimes there's only one side of a story."
Coincidentally, Threlkeld's death came on the same day that the New York Times, which sees itself as the defining standard of journalism, caused a ruckus in the journalism community by asking whether it's OK in 2012 to point out the falsehoods of political candidates.
Also coincidentally, his death came the week that his former company, CBS, launched a new morning TV news show that it claimed -- mostly, incorrectly -- would put the "news back in morning news shows." He and Leslie Stahl were the anchors of the CBS morning news show from 1977 to 1979. It tanked in the ratings.(2 Comments)
One of the great problems of having political analysts on the payroll is that they often have to say something even when there's nothing to say. That's when they make it up and hope you won't notice.
Political analysts can be fairly bad at math, especially when they're trying to jam their reality into an equation that doesn't add up. Last night's New Hampshire results provide the examples.
William Kristol got the ball rolling last night by declaring Romney's vote total to be "worrisome," noting that turnout was down.
The problem here appears to be math. Kristol said Romney's vote total was about the same as, or a little less than, what he got four years ago. And that's true, if by "the same as or a little less than" you actually mean 26 percent more. Romney garnered 97,532 votes last night, compared to 75,546 four years ago. It was also 10 percent more than the amount that John McCain received in New Hampshire four years ago.
Kristol was working for FoxNews, but today, NPR didn't fare much better in solving the math problem.
In their weekly Political Junkie chat, political editor Ken Rudin and NPR Talk of the Nation host Neal Conan wanted to make a similar point to Kristol's (the Republicans are in trouble) and if he had to slaughter the rules of statistics, that's just what he had to do.
"If you take out all the new voters that Ron Paul brought to the caucuses in Iowa, and take out the new voters that Ron Paul brought to the primary in New Hampshire, turnout was actually lower than 2008 in both places," Conan said, before Rudin agreed with him without question. Wrong.
Let's think about Conan's qualifier for a second. Why would you remove a piece of reality under the assumption that it would reveal an underlying reality? And why would you remove "new" voters from the comparison and not remove all the "new" voters from the 2008 primary to -- inelegantly and inaccurately -- achieve a more fair comparison?
"If you take out the killings, Washington actually has a very very low crime rate," then Mayor Marion Barry once said of his famously crime-ridden city.
Similarly, one could say, if you took out 19 losses from last year's Minnesota Twins season, they actually turned in a winning season. The problem, of course, is you can't remove a piece of reality in order to create a clearer reality. The Twins were pretty bad and as noted political analyst Bill Parcells once said, "you are what your record says you are."
The last time there was a Republican primary in New Hampshire without a Democratic contest of any note was 1996. In that election, 282,697 Republican votes were cast. Last night 248,485 votes were cast for the major candidates, that's about 7,000 more than in 2008.
Is that significant? Sure, because as Linda Fowler, professor of government at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, said on Midday yesterday, New Hampshire has been turning more purple than its traditional red. So an increase in turnout is pretty impressive.(23 Comments)
Question (Note: This is not a rhetorical question): Should an employee of the House of Representatives be held to a higher standard in private business dealings? Is the recent inspection of legislators' private lives more or less serious than an employee of the Legislature owning a couple of buildings that would earn most anyone else the slumlord epithet?
I've seen firsthand the problems at the Westminster Court apartments in Saint Paul when I dropped in to interview this couple a few years ago. Squalor is the perfect word for the "problem property" that every housing expert in Saint Paul has known about for years.
"Your clients paid a lot of money and let the buildings go to heck," a judge told the landlords at a hearing taking place at this hour (the Pioneer Press' Fred Melo is tweeting it).
MPR's Curtis Gilbert got an up-close view of the place for his story today:
The radiators in the unit are unreliable, James said. And that's just one of the problems. She opens a cupboard, and little brown beetles go scurrying.
"Look. Crawling all out everywhere."
She charges into the bathroom. The toilet doesn't flush.
"I gotta flush it like this," James said, reaching her hand into the toilet tank to pull the drain plug.
The sink is clogged. Cloudy water fills the basin.
"Won't even go down, this water. It's been like that for the longest."
James said she's reported all these problems to her landlord, but nothing's been fixed. Late last year, city inspections found some 600 code violations between this building and the one next door.
The families, many of whom spend their days on the edge of homelessness anyway, face eviction because the landlord stopped paying the mortgage and the buildings are in foreclosure.
The "she" in this story is Peggy Chun, who told the Star Tribune that Saint Paul's housing code "has caused landlords and low-income tenants hardship for many years."
"She takes the money from the government and she doesn't do anything," tenant Adade Kuegah said of Mrs. Chun.
But it's the he in the story who gives it a different twist, as revealed by the newspaper:
Randall Chun earns $99,400 as a researcher in the state House of Representatives. Neither he nor his wife returned several calls to home and office.
Based on the House Research website, Chun's area of expertise in his research is services for low-income Minnesotans.
Does it make a difference that he's an employee of the House of Representatives? Should his side businesses be held to a higher standard? Or is it none of the people's business?
One of the great aspects of a long primary season, is the opportunity to hear what people -- not politicians -- have to say.
CNN has a great idea as the coverage moves to New Hampshire: Stick a microphone on the street, and allow people to speak to the candidates, although, admittedly, the candidates probably aren't going to hear it.
The New England accent is a bonus.
Ron Paul today walked off an interview with CNN when a reporter asked him why he wasn't spending more time meeting New Hampshire residents?
Ms. Bash, who was interviewing Mr. Paul a few feet away from a group of reporters, had posed a timely question: a few hours earlier, a middle-aged woman had become angry with Mr. Paul for not spending enough time talking to voters at a diner in Manchester.
The woman, an Obama voter last time who said she was open to voting for Mr. Paul, even approached Mr. Paul's S.U.V. as he prepared to drive off and began shouting at him through the closed car door to return to the diner and meet her and her mother.
People in New Hampshire are different than Iowa. They can be dangerous to a carefully scripted day.
The topic du jour in the Republican presidential race is food stamps.
Several of the candidates, the Associated Press reports, want the food stamp program ended and the money given to states instead:
Both Gingrich and Santorum faced criticism this week when they spoke of overhauling food stamps and other welfare programs by seeming to equate food stamp recipients and blacks. Gingrich said he would encourage blacks to demand paychecks, not food stamps, and Santorum said that he did not want to "make black people's lives better by giving them somebody else's money. I want to give them the opportunity to go out and earn the money."
It's a strategy that might play well in New Hampshire, a state that -- like Minnesota -- has a comparatively small number of people on food stamps. But this map, produced by the Wall St. Journal in 2011, shows the risk of the issue. Particularly in the south and many battleground states, about 18 percent of the people are on food stamps.
Could the states run the food stamp operation better with block grants? Last year, the Lawrence (Mass.) Eagle Tribune found that retailers are ripping off the program, largely because the states are terrible at monitoring it.
In New Hampshire, of the 883 stores that take food stamp cards, only 18 were disqualified from the program since 2006. The story was similar in Massachusetts, where just 228 of the 4,320 stores authorized to accept food stamps were disqualified. By 2009, 90 of those Massachusetts retailers were back on the list of authorized food stamp merchants and had collectively racked up more than $7 million in food stamp redemptions in that one year alone, records obtained from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees the $50 billion program, show.
"The biggest problem we have here in Massachusetts is that we can't prosecute because there is no state statute," said one Bay State investigator who has assisted federal agents in retailer investigations. "We couldn't even bring a case against them."(9 Comments)
In the category, "Questionable Studies From Professors," Israeli researchers have concluded that more physically attractive members of Congress get more coverage on network television.
The New York Times says:
Two Israeli professors concluded that members whom a student survey judged to be better looking appeared more frequently on television -- but not radio or in newspapers. The researchers argued that the networks were trying to attract larger audiences.
It gets even more unbelievable...
Not surprisingly, Professor Waismel-Manor and Professor Tsfati found that other factors, too, influenced coverage. Senators and representatives who hailed from larger states, were male, were black or espoused more extreme ideologies also tended to be featured more frequently. The effect of attractiveness on news coverage, the study found, was greater than the effect of tenure in office, or bill sponsorship. Frequency of news releases had no discernible effect on news media appearances. The study also examined coverage on NPR and in USA Today, and it found no correlation between the so-called attractiveness effect and coverage in those outlets.
Are we watching the same networks?
Here's who I see most of the time, these days:
Here's who the study says I saw most of the time:
That's Rep. Marsha Blackburn, who most people may not recognize because she's actually almost never on TV news shows.
Why the disconnect?
This explanation of the methodology provides a clue:
To avoid skewing the results, they eliminated, among others, members in top leadership posts and presidential candidates.
Top leadership posts? Here's a person who doesn't have a top leadership post, who nonetheless has had much more airtime than Rep. Blackburn.
Check the Sunday TV news shows sometime and see if it's not the same group of leadership members of Congress week after week after week. Why? Because most members of Congress are there for show, and a small number actually influence anything and those are the people news organizations want to talk to.
How does the rest of Congress get some crumbs of attention? Here's a little inside story:
Back in the early '80s, I worked for a network news operation in New York. It was radio, but the situation is roughly the same. My job was to get interviews with people for upcoming newscasts. Over the years I was there, listeners heard a disproportionate amount of Sen. David Durenberger of Minnesota (a state, by the way, with which I had no particular affinity or knowledge).
Why did he get on the radio so much? He answered his own phone, especially on nights and weekends..(14 Comments)
Former Gov. Jesse Ventura is in the thick of another controversy, this time with a Navy SEAL who says the governor, who claims to be an ex-SEAL, disrupted the wake of a SEAL (Michael Monsoor) with loud talk about his opposition to the wars.
Chris Kyle told a Sirius XM Network show that he punched Ventura in the face in the 2006 incident. (Warning: There is an obscenity or two in this video)
The website, The Blaze, digs into the story a bit more, where commenters aren't buying the story.
The former governor has not yet responded to the allegations.
Two separate comments from politicians and/or experts today raise an interesting question: Should you hold politicians accountable for what they say, if they say it at a campaign speech?
Appearing on CBS' Early Show today, Sen. John McCain was asked about a 2008 campaign speech in which he said of Mitt Romney, "never get into a wrestling match with a pig." Now, McCain is endorsing Romney.
"Did you not mean that four years ago or do you not mean it now?" the anchor asked.
"Primaries are tough," McCain said, not answering the question, but certainly inviting the conclusion that you can't take what a candidate says seriously on the campaign trail.
Meanwhile, PolitiFact reports today (h/t: Tom Scheck) that a spokesman for Ron Paul had a somewhat similar reaction when asked about an untrue statement the candidate delivered to a rally.
"Relax, dude, it was a rally speech to supporters, not a major policy speech or a debate," he said.(5 Comments)
Every now and again, we'll get an e-mail from somebody who objects to the reporting of anything "but the facts." Some people don't want analysis and they don't want anything but what somebody says. That would be a bad thing.
It's a bad idea for journalists to cover a campaign by merely reporting the words of candidates.
It was a fact that Mrs. Bachmann said she'd stay in the race after Iowa no matter what. But it wasn't the truth, and most every political analyst knew it. Facts vs. truth: Which should be in a headline?
"I didn't tell you what I knew to be false," she said today.
How would you headline that?(19 Comments)
CBS has now posted its video from its strange interview this morning with Herman Cain, the presidential candidate with the suspended campaign.
In an unusual move, Cain campaigned to be secretary of defense in a Republican administration, then cited as one of the reasons he's qualified for the position, the fact he'd been on a Navy ship.
But the interview also exposed Cain's inquisitors as something less than adequate. Nora O'Donnell, a CBS White House reporter, asked Cain how many people are in the military, a clearly "gotcha" question. She agreed it was, then recited statistics that appear to be incorrect.(12 Comments)
Something's missing this afternoon from the front page of the Des Moines Register's website:
It's the cleverly placed ad, purchased by Barack Obama's campaign, that was there this morning:
(From Romenesko)(7 Comments)
The best thing that ever happened to politicians may well be the ability to cite data practices law in Minnesota as the reason for their silence on controversial issues. Fewer laws, however well intended, have cast as much secrecy over the workings of local government.
A situation brewing in South Washington County is a perfect example. Last Thursday, to the surprise of school superintendent Mark Porter, the South Washington County School Board voted not to appoint him to another term, then refused to say why.
Check out the ground rules for discussing the decision as outlined by the board chair Leslee Boyd.
The vote also surprised school board members who supported Porter, who say they heard nothing in an executive session to warrant booting the superintendent, according to the South Washington County Bulletin:
"Mark Porter is a very nice man but we need to look at what we need in the future and what's the best for students, and this is how five of seven of us decided to proceed," (Board Member Marsha) Adou said later in an interview.
Kath thanked Porter for his service in a pre-written statement he read just before the vote.
"I feel the time is right to bring a new voice to lead us," Kath added, later refusing to elaborate on his decision.
Gelbmann called the non-renewal a bad move that could hamper the recruitment of a high-caliber replacement because candidates will wonder how the board operates.
Gelbmann is Deputy Secretary of State Jim Gelbmann, a Porter supporter and member of the board.
Adou told the newspaper she's concerned about "a big difference" in student achievement between Caucasian students and minority students, and said the district has not been doing as much as it should to improve teacher evaluations, two topics that would make for a fine public debate, but which the board members say privacy laws disallow.
In an editorial this week, the newspaper noted that several of those running for re-election last month, said nothing to indicate they had any problems with the direction Porter provided.
And we can't help but note that Boyd and Kath mere weeks ago were re-elected following a campaign void of any publicly expressed concern by the candidates about the district's leadership. It's real hard to believe the reasons they had for deciding not to extend Porter's contract bubbled up in the past month. That would suggest they were not satisfied with Porter but for whatever reason decided that wasn't something voters should know.
Now, certainly state privacy laws limit public discussion of detailed personnel issues, but it appears some of those five board members want to use that as a convenient excuse for not explaining and defending their vote.
Residents of the district - and, by the way, voters who elected this board - deserve far more than that. To cut Porter loose without a solid explanation is puzzling and arrogant.
In that election, the school board race was the only item on the ballot. Few voters bothered to show up at the polls.(2 Comments)
Eventually we'll know more about why Amy Koch decided to resign as majority leader, but for now we're stuck with the same story that everyone gives for leaving every job: More time with family, and/or exciting new opportunities. Here's how she put it: "I want to explore some other options. I want to spend a little time with my daughter." No surprise there, nor anything revealing.
But here's what caught my attention: Koch's assertion that she didn't think the Senate Republican caucus should be led by a lame duck. Huh? In what sense is she a lame duck?
Only in the sense that Sarah Palin was, when she resigned as governor of Alaska with a year and change left to her term. Those who care about language and the meaning of words have to speak up now, or "lame duck" - a useful term in talking about politics - will be lost forever.
The term refers to an officeholder who is on the way out because of term limits or a defeat at the polls. Here's a handy look at its origins, provided in podcast form by my colleagues Curtis Gilbert and Molly Bloom.
If "lame duck" meant what Koch and Palin are using it to mean, then every politician not planning to run again would be a lame duck. Robert Schlesinger at U.S. News and World Report made the point well a couple of years ago. Under Palin's logic, he wrote,
No president should run for a second term because they would instantly be a powerless lame duck, subjecting the country to four years of utter fecklessness. And if a president is then not going to run for a second term, they automatically become a lame duck as soon as they take office in their first term ... so they should not seek the presidency at all.
(I write this in full knowledge that there's a different word for people like me who struggle to keep language from changing: Dinosaurs. I wear the label proudly.)
It's a lesson that never gets learned: The best way to generate more exposure for speech is to try to suppress it. People who would never have given an obscure reality show a second look will tune in to "All-American Muslim," now that the Florida Family Association has pressured the Lowe's chain to withdraw its advertising.
The group's executive director, interviewed by CNN's John King, did his cause no credit by first pronouncing the word "imam" as "eye-mom." Or by allowing himself to be interviewed in close conjunction with Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., who did a credible of job of arguing his simple point: Muslims are just regular people. What strange times we live in, that making such a case seems necessary.
This week, the U.S. Department of Education declared what most everybody knows: Minnesota's anti-bullying law is among the weakest in the nation.
MPR's Tom Weber reported yesterday:
The report finds Minnesota has just two of those components in place -- the lowest number in the nation, except for the four states without any law at the time of the report's writing.
The federal report notes Minnesota is one of just three states to prohibit bullying without defining it. Wisconsin is another. Researchers note a statewide definition is crucial, given the fact that bullying means different things to different people.
While politicians have been lining up in recent years to call for stronger anti-bullying legislation, few of them did anything about it back when it was passed in 2007, even though just about everybody told the lawmakers the law was junk.
In 2007, though, kids weren't getting the attention they're getting now when they kill themselves after being bullied. Few in the media paid any attention to the anti-bullying legislation being shepherded by then Sen. Mee Moua.
At the time, I was running the Minnesota Fantasy Legislature, a "game" that was created specifically so that legislation that was being ignored got some attention. The anti-bullying legislation was one such bill.
On the day the Senate passed the bill, I wrote this:
This morning, the Senate passed SF646, a piece of legislation that requires school districts to formulate a policy on bullying. For the record, I agree with the legislation. I've seen, firsthand, what bullying can do to kids. I'm aware that the incidents of school shootings almost always have their roots in bullying. So put me down as a "yes" vote.
But that's not the part of the bill that caught my attention. It was this:
The policy shall address intimidation and bullying in all forms, including, but not limited to, electronic forms and forms involving Internet use.
I watched the Senate Education Committee testimony on this a week or so ago and while there was some rumblings from the minority party about such things as how a school committee can possibly police the off-school-premises and off-school-hours activities of students, squirreled away in their rooms at home... banging away on the Internet, for the most part the response was "we'll let the school boards figure that out."
It was a bad piece of legislation passed by legislators behaving badly by not providing any guidance or definition, even when they were told by people closer to the problem that it was bad legislation that did nothing but allow lawmakers to say they "took action" on bullying.
On the day the Minnesota Senate passed the bill, there was no debate. That day, it spent a considerable amount of time whether to rename a stretch of highway in Duluth after Walter Mondale.
The news that Herman Cain has suspended his presidential campaign must be a blow to Scott, in ZIP code 55356, who donated $1,000 to Cain last September. Or to Don in 55304, who gave the same amount in May. On the other hand, the news must have brought cheer to the homes of Tom in 55347, who donated $1,250 to Newt Gingrich last May, and of Jody in 55359, who gave Gingrich's campaign $300 in August.
You think Facebook is addictive? Not compared to the Federal Election Commission's website. If the tobacco companies could have laced cigarettes with info from www.fec.gov, they wouldn't have needed menthol to help get people hooked.
David, 55438, gave President Obama's campaign $2,000 last June. Christopher, 55430, gave Obama $50 in July and $50 more in September. Likewise, Eleanor in 55408 contributed $10, $10, $100 and $20 to Obama, all in September.
Does this seem invasive? Don't answer yet; there's more. The available information includes donors' last names, cities of residence and occupations. It's all right there. The website's features include interactive maps for the presidential and congressional campaigns; users can zero in on Minnesota or any other state to see who gave what to whom. Here's what the Minnesota map of presidential contributions looks like:
A click on one of those circles takes the user to a list of individual contributors. If you're one of them, it's sure to make you uncomfortable. If not, it's likely to blow a hole in your productivity for the day.
Now, all this information is public, and properly so. Those who give money to political campaigns know, or should know, that the information is out there. What might take them by surprise is how easy it all is to find. On file at the county courthouse is one thing; available at a click of a mouse, from anywhere, is another.
If you didn't know this before, now you do. Use this power for good.
Many state and local governments are seeing a "flood of retirements," due in part to a fear that retirement benefits will continue to diminish, according to this story in The New York Times.
The star of the Times story is Wisconsin. But Minnesota, Colorado and New Jersey are identified as three states that have both increased employee pension contributions and reduced the automatic cost-of-living adjustment on benefits.
Dave Bergstrom, who runs the Minnesota State Retirement System, told us that Minnesota is seeing a big increase in new state employee retirements. Bergstrom said 3,250 retirees were added to the rolls between Dec. 1, 2010 and Nov. 30, 2011 -- about 1,000 more than retired during the same period last year.
But Bergstrom attributes that increase to early retirement incentives and the fact that baby boomers are reaching retirement age -- not to the changes in benefits.
If you're a state employee, we'd like to hear what you're seeing. Are people retiring in your department? Are you considering it yourself? Why? Share your experiences here or in the comments.(4 Comments)
Now that Newt Gingrich is the frontrunner du jour in the Republican presidential contest, the story about his divorce from his first wife is, again, fodder for his opponents.
This tweet this morning from Roger Ebert reopens the discussion.
At least Ebert didn't say Gingrich's wife was "dying," which several retellings of the story have.
Still, it's one of the factoids of the campaign season mostly stripped of context .
What's the full story? FactCheck.org has just posted it:
So, what do we know for certain? One, Battley and Gingrich were already separated and in the process of getting a divorce when he visited her in the hospital. And two, Battley wasn't dying of cancer. Also, the "yellow pad" and handwritten list of divorce terms mentioned in the original Mother Jones story aren't mentioned in the accounts given by Battley, Gingrich or Cushman, who all were present.
But even by Gingrich's account it was an unpleasant conversation at a time when his wife was hospitalized. Beyond that, the details of what was actually discussed remain cloudy, to say the least.5 Comments)
How is running a country different than running a corporation? When you run a country, you don't get to make the rules.
Here's the response Herman Cain's attorney, Lin Wood, sent to a Georgia TV station which this evening is running an interview with a woman who claims she's had an affair with the presidential candidate for the last 13 years:
Mr. Cain has been informed today that your television station plans to broadcast a story this evening in which a female will make an accusation that she engaged in a 13-year long physical relationship with Mr. Cain. This is not an accusation of harassment in the workplace - this is not an accusation of an assault - which are subject matters of legitimate inquiry to a political candidate.
Rather, this appears to be an accusation of private, alleged consensual conduct between adults - a subject matter which is not a proper subject of inquiry by the media or the public. No individual, whether a private citizen, a candidate for public office or a public official, should be questioned about his or her private sexual life. The public's right to know and the media's right to report has boundaries and most certainly those boundaries end outside of one's bedroom door.
Mr. Cain has alerted his wife to this new accusation and discussed it with her. He has no obligation to discuss these types of accusations publicly with the media and he will not do so even if his principled position is viewed unfavorably by members of the media."
Fair game? Or is it out of bounds?
Barney Frank, the combative Massachusetts Democrat, is announcing he won't run for re-election.
Frank is one of the most quoted politicians, partly because of his unusual ability to tell his constituents when they were wrong. This exchange with a constituent was classic Barney Frank.
Rep. Frank was an old-school debater, ignoring printed speeches in favor of off-the-cuff oratory, as in this exchange with Rep. Michele Bachmann in 2009 on the question of federal funds for ACORN.
But part of the representative's style was often to to belittle those asking the occasional good question. The late CNBC anchor Mark Haines, who rarely let a speech go unchallenged by any politician, proved more than Mr. Frank's equal in 2009.
As part of the quick-fix solution to Minnesota's budget shortfall, lawmakers last spring decided to sell the state's tobacco settlement -- the windfall it made from its lawsuit against the tobacco industry in 1998 -- in the form of bonds. The state has now sold its windfall.
Basically, the state is playing the part of the people yelling out the window.
Anytime you sell future earnings, you're going to lose in the long run. The companies that bought the "bonds" have agreed to give the state a pile of cash now, in exchange for the state giving them two piles of cash later. The state will apply $640 million of the sale to erasing part of the state's budget deficit. For that, it will pay over $1.2 billion over 20 years, MPR's Tom Scheck reports.
Almost from the time the tobacco case was settled, politicians have fought over how the money would be used. Originally, Gov. Ventura and DFLers wanted to set up a public health endowment with $1 billion. The Republicans wanted to give it to taxpayers with a one-time tax cut.
The payments were to come from the tobacco companies into perpetuity and go into the state's General Fund. The first payment was about $100 million. By halfway through the last decade, it was estimated to be twice that. The state got about $169 million in 2011.
There were also six one-time payments between September 1998 and January 2003. They were to go to two endowment funds and one legislative account. They funded the Tobacco Use Prevention and Local Public Health Endowment, the Medical Education Endowment, and an Academic Health Center Account within the Medical Education Endowment, according to the House Research Department.
Over that time, adult smoking in Minnesota dropped from about 22 percent immediately after the tobacco settlement, to about 17% in 2007.(6 Comments)
You have to love the Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia for its practicality in today's decision that upholds the health care law pushed by President Barack Obama.
Before writing its opinion (available here), the justices acknowledged that what they think isn't going to matter much, anyway, since it's going to be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Since so much has already been written by our sister circuits about the issues presented by this case-which will almost surely be decided by the Supreme Court-we shall be sparing in adding to the production of paper.
The opinion and dissent then went on for 103 more pages.
That's 51 more pages than the 4th District Court of Appeals decision in September tossing out a challenge to the suit, 43 of which were spent listing the names of people, states, and organizations that had submitted briefs in that case. (See opinion)
The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals (Cincinnati) took only 64 pages to uphold the law in June (opinion here).
The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals (Florida) declared the law unconstitutional in August and it is so far the granddaddy of opinions at 305 pages (Opinion here) .
Kaiser Health News is tracking all of the various appeals of the law here.
Maybe there's a reason the naming of Sen. Larry Pogemiller as the new director Minnesota Office of Higher Education came in a news release instead of a news conference. Otherwise, someone might've asked what the deal is with the old director?
Sen. Larry Pogemiller got the job, apparently because he "sat on committees on Education, Rules and Administration and Taxes," according to the release, which describes him as the "perfect choice for the Office of Higher Education."
That might be interpreted as a slap against the choice Gov. Mark Dayton made nine months ago. Sheila Wright actually had experience in higher education.
"Her nationally recognized leadership in education will help guide our administration's efforts to restore Minnesota to its former position of national leadership in making higher education more accessible, more affordable, and more responsive to the needs of Minnesota's college students," Gov. Mark Dayton said at the time.
Eight months later, she was gone, nobody said why, and few people are asking now.
At the time of her exit, the Star Tribune reported that a spokeswoman for her office said Wright cleared out her office, thanked the staff for their service and said goodbye in a move described as "fast, but cordial."
Gov. Dayton's spokesman, Bob Hume, delivered the word to the media that Wright was out, but refused to answer the question whether Gov. Dayton asked her to resign. That sort of non answer usually is code for "yes."
There's no indication Gov. Dayton was ever asked about the odd resignation in the month since it occurred, and if she was forced out because she wasn't right for the job, what does that say about the process that got her the job in the first place?
But even his political opponents haven't made any hay out of what appears to have been a bad appointment, indicating they either don't know (unlikely) or they've agreed to keep silent about the reasons.
The only criticism of Pogemiller's new position, appears to have come from a member of his own party -- Rep. Mindy Greiling.
She may have a point, with the appointment of Pogemiller, Dayton's cabinet becomes more white and more male. Only six of 25 cabinet members are women.
Pogemiller's appointment as the "perfect choice" because of his legislative experience suggests he'll get along better with the Republican-led Legislature. But it's no secret that Pogemiller has rarely been the best pal of his political opponents, although he may have more time in his new job to take them bowling.
Photo via Hamline University
As political ads go, Duluth City Council candidate Emily Larson has hit on a great formula: No political talk, just person after person extolling the virtues of Duluth. In fact, you don't even know you're watching a political ad until the end.
(h/t: Perfect Duluth Day)(5 Comments)
Of the many problems facing America, it's hard to say where "a guitarless society" ranks on the list.
But, it's a real fear in the guitar community, PBS NewsHour reports.
It stems from the August raid of Nashville's iconic Gibson Guitar factory, because investigators think the wood used in the guitars was made from illegally logged wood, and the Lacey Act prohibits the illegal trade of plant products.
Owners and collectors of Gibson guitars are worried that the feds could similarly seize their instruments.
A couple of members of Congress have filed legislation to prevent that.
"Everybody and their bassist wants this," said Stephen George, press secretary for Rep.Jim Cooper, providing both an assurance to musicians and the political quote of the year for the rest of us.
Update: The Marty-Runbeck news conference revealed one other detail, at least: Under the Dollar Dome Deal, the Vikings would not be obliged to play there. They would have to agree to stay in Minnesota for 25 years, but the Dome would be theirs to do with as they wished. Sens. Marty and Runbeck pointed out that the old stadium has a new roof and a new playing surface - and that's true, as far as it goes. But it's hard to imagine that the roof and the field would survive any renovation.
Does it make sense to sell the Metrodome to the Vikings for a dollar? According to the Star Tribune, that's what state Sens. John Marty and Linda Runbeck will propose today. The unlikely pairing of the liberal Marty and conservative Runbeck is eye-catching all by itself. It's like sending out former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton to collect money for Haiti.
The sold-for-a-dollar strategy is often used for distressed properties. Newsweek was sold for a dollar. TV Guide was sold for a dollar. There was a haunted lighthouse in Connecticut and an abandoned hospital in Ohio that sold for a dollar. Here in Minnesota, the Shubert Theater was sold to Artspace for a dollar, and now it's been reborn as the Cowles Center for Dance & the Performing Arts.
But put yourself in Zygi Wilf's shoes. When you're dreaming of a spanking new palace, would you settle for something from the Dollar Store?(4 Comments)
One can get a pretty good feel for the political will to build a football stadium for Zygi Wilf and his Minnesota Vikings by noting the opinions of some of the not-connected-to-the-Vikings-nor-politicians people who a reasonable person might expect would support the notion.
Rick Prescott, writer of the BallPark Magic blog, for example, makes clear he's not anti-stadium -- far from it, he says -- but he thinks the notion of a stadium in Arden Hills is "delusional."
But let's be clear about one thing. It's not hard to understand why that tract in Arden Hills would be Zygi's first choice. It's a ton of vacant land, at the intersection of two major interstates, which somebody else would buy and clean up for him and yet which he would control completely. It's a developer's wet dream.
If the stadium were built there, Zygi would be able to extract money from the fan base to his heart's content. Lots of money. For every little thing. Forever. $100 for a tailgating spot on game day? Count on it. $400 for a room at his hotel? Without a doubt. Just bear that in mind if you ever feel the urge to drool over the current proposal.
But don't worry. It's not going to happen. If you've followed the stadium saga even a little bit, it's also quite easy to spot why this plan has been dead in the water from day one. And there are a whole lot of reasons:
Where will the stadium end up? Probably the Farmer's Market site, Prescott figures.(5 Comments)
Lost in all the coverage of Occupy Wall Street, is a protest that has been quietly going on over the last two weeks (ending today) in Asheville, North Carolina -- the We Do campaign.
There, same-sex couples have gone to the Buncombe County Register of Deeds Office every day to request a marriage license. Every day, of course, they've been denied.(10 Comments)
You don't often see a capital city of a state declare bankruptcy. I'm not sure we've ever seen it before.
We've seen it now, a possible indication of the growing dysfunction of state and local governments.
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania is filing bankruptcy papers today, owing to a project to renovate a city incinerator.
The move also will be a test of who pays when a city goes belly up: The institutions who lent the money or the people who work for the city?
"The people who lent us money were in the business of lending money; they knew the risk," Harrisburg controller Dan Miller told CNBC, sounding unapologetic about becoming a municipal deadbeat.
"What have you done to the unions?" CNBC's Jim Cramer asked.
"We haven't done anything," Miller said. "In bankruptcy we'll have leverage. Our prior mayor signed five-year extensions just before he left office. They're supposed to get 4 to 5 percent raises a year."
It's been a long-time coming. The city has been trying to sell assets -- parking garages, for example -- to pay the bills, but now the state is threatening to take over the city.
On a wider scale, the move signals worry that municipal bonds, the engine that finances local government projects, may not be much of a safe bet anymore.(1 Comments)
Every now and again cable news becomes relevant. It never seems to be about the news it reports, but rather the news it makes. CNBC's Rick Santanelli's "rant heard around the world" was credited in helping to galvanize the Tea Party.
And now a segment from CNN's Erin Burnett mocking the Occupy Wall Street protests is helping to build sympathy for the protesters. She's called "vapid" within the pages of Forbes.
Her mocking search for what the protest is about seems to have helped the group frame Occupy Wall Street in a broader light.
Burnett's rude treatment of an unemployed software engineer provides a stark contrast to the popular Tumblr blog We are the 99% that features a sea of photos like this one from a diverse set of Americans in rough economic circumstances.
National Review's Josh Barrow quibbles with the groups math and seeks to reclaim that turf for conservatives.
As of this morning, Minneapolis has its very own Occupation. The movement has spread to many cities in the U.S. OccupyMN is expected to last over the weekend. The group gained additional mainstream credibility when Mayor RT Rybak added a sympathetic post to his blog.
Even this guy couldn't resist taking it to the streets.
While the higher-profile support drew in more visibility, it is concerning for some who want the protest to be decentralized.
Do you think the Occupy Wall Street protests will grow into a political force akin to the Tea Party?(15 Comments)
Now that he's registering a pulse in presidential polls, Herman Cain is getting more attention when he says something.
Today he said something that will probably define his candidacy, for however long it should last.
"Don't blame Wall Street, don't blame the big banks," he told the Wall St. Journal in an interview. "If you don't have a job and you are not rich, blame yourself!"
"When I was growing up, I was blessed with parents who didn't teach me to be jealous of anybody, or to be envious of anybody. It's not a person's fault because they succeeded, it's a person's fault because they fail," Cain said.
Cain was reacting to the Wall Street protests, which he said are organized to distract the nation from the "failed policies" of President Obama.
His comment, however, may serve the same purpose because it may spawn a renewed debate over whether it's the fault of poor people that they're poor, and whether the nation's 14 million people without work have no one to blame but themselves.(20 Comments)
Mac Hammond, the head of a megachurch in Brooklyn Park, has joined the campaign of Rep. Michele Bachmann, sending people scurrying for the Internal Revenue Service's statutes on churches and politics.
"She is a sister in the Lord that is as committed to his word as any of you in here are," he told his flock., while noting that it's a personal endorsement, not a marshaling of religious forces.
Churches -- and every other tax-exempt non-profit -- are barred from endorsing a particular candidate in exchange for the tax breaks the institutions enjoy. Several pastors in Minnesota have openly defied the ban with few apparent consequences.
It's a slippery slope for the IRS to monitor. On the Sunday before the 2004 presidential election, for example, the pastor of a California church delivered an anti-war, anti-poverty sermon (which was called, "If Jesus debated Senator Kerry and President Bush"), and complaints to the IRS led to a two-year probe into whether the church had, in effect, endorsed John Kerry for president. But it took no action against the church, saying it believed it was a "one-time occurrence."
Where did the ban on church politicking come from? Then-Sen. Lyndon Johnson in 1954, according to the IRS:
In 1954, Congress approved an amendment by Sen. Lyndon Johnson to prohibit 501(c)(3) organizations, which includes charities and churches, from engaging in any political campaign activity. To the extent Congress has revisited the ban over the years, it has in fact strengthened the ban. The most recent change came in 1987 when Congress amended the language to clarify that the prohibition also applies to statements opposing candidates.
There'll be another challenge to the no-politics-from-the-pulpit rule this Sunday. The Alliance Defense Fund, a group of conservative Christian preachers, is holding another Pulpit Freedom Sunday.
A survey last year from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found about half of the public (52%) thinks churches should keep out of politics, "while 43% say churches and other houses of worship should express their views on social and political questions." That survey reversed the narrow majority in a similar polls from 1996 to 2006, that found people think churches belong in the political arena.(4 Comments)
The danger of a presidential campaign that begins the moment the last one ends is the political media needs a story line every day for four years. Today's hot story is that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie may get into the race.
The report comes after Texas Gov. Rick Perry, anointed the frontrunner by the same people who made Rep. Michele Bachmann and Gov. Mitt Romney the frontrunner before him, was embarrassed by about 1,000 delegates at the Florida Republican Party convention, who made Herman Cain the straw poll winner. Nobody not named Cain believes Herman Cain is going to be elected president.
The New York Times' Nate Silver suggests that the party is still a battle between moderates and conservatives, an intra-party squabble that seemed settled years ago.
One way to view the 2012 campaign is as an effort by the Republican Party to identify a viable, electable alternative to Mr. Romney. With other candidates, like Mr. Perry, potentially failing on the electability front, it is easy to see Mr. Christie's appeal. The fact that Mr. Christie's ideology is somewhat amorphous -- without, like Mr. Romney's, seeming slippery -- is a potential sign of strength, an indication that he may have the persuasive abilities to rally the party behind him, while also appealing to general election voters.
But as Jon Stewart pointed out last evening, Christie probably isn't the inside-Republican's cup of tea, either.(1 Comments)
When the Republican Party of Florida hosts a presidential debate tomorrow, many people will be listening to the candidates' answers, but they may be just as influenced by the audience's reaction, the Columbia Journalism Review says today.
Through a series of four experiments, the social scientists showed that when an audience cheers, applauds, or reacts favorably to a candidate, viewers are far more likely to hold a positive view of that candidate than had they watched the performance without an audience reaction.
Moments in which an audience reacts are also more memorable and more likely to be reported by the media; these moments, in turn, often become defining sound bites in a campaign season and provide a candidate momentum in the horse race. Ronald Reagan's "There you go again," (directed at Jimmy Carter) and Lloyd Bentsen's "You're no Jack Kennedy" (to Dan Quayle) are classic examples of these sorts of utterances.
"For the audience watching at home, these moments validate certain perspectives and can suggest to the audience that there is much more consensus about a particular point than there really is," Steven Fein, a social psychologist, says. "Just because people are louder doesn't mean it reflects popular opinion."
The problem primarily is also that the media captures these moments and that defines the debate. For example, when candidate Ron Paul was asked by the moderator whether a healthy 30-year-old who gets sick should simply die, some yahoo in the audience shouted, "yeah," and that's what got everyone's attention, and, hence, coverage.
But the first word in the candidate's answer was "no." Too late. The answer was defined by the coverage of the audience.
"What really concerns me is how much the media plays this as a sporting thing. It really sounds like a horse race or a baseball season," Fein says. There's this titillating quality to a lot of the coverage--all the bells and whistles and charts and 3-D things. It just cheapens the whole process and makes the emphasis on very superficial things. It becomes what reader and viewer comes to expect. With a little more substance it can make a bit of a difference, I think the audience is capable of more than more of what the media thinks they are."
Which brings up the obvious question: Is the audience capable of more than what the media thinks they are?
From Department of What Were They Thinking: The politicians of Washington Township, New Jersey thought it would be a swell idea to have a marker honoring the victims of 9/11.
But the design mostly seems to honor the politicians who thought it would be a swell idea to have a marker honoring the victims of 9/11.
"I mean, how freaking narcissistic can you be?" Dennis Ryan, a retired cop in town, said on Tuesday.
Mayor Samir Elbassiouny told the Lehigh Valley News earlier this week he did not understand why the stone's inscription was an issue.
Today, it was removed.(1 Comments)
NMA, the Taiwan animation outfit, is out with a video about President Obama's jobs speech last night:(1 Comments)
Mike Dukakis is firing back at Gov. Rick Perry for his jab at Mitt Romney last night.
Perhaps you remember the moment:
Former Gov. Dukakis tells the Boston Globe "All I know is that Perry was nice enough to compare my economic record with Romney's. But then, it would be very difficult not to do better than Romney's."
The reality? Politicians take too much credit -- and dish too much blame -- for things.
The early 1980s were a great time for Dukakis' home state but not because of anything Dukakis did. It was more the ebb and flow of an economy.
True, the state had lost lots of jobs in the '60s and '70s as the state's textile mills moved to the Carolinas.
But the explosion in jobs during the "Masschusetts Miracle," as it was called, had more to do with luck. Dukakis and other politicians rode the coattails of some small companies that struck it big with a nation entering the computer age. Digital Equipment, Apollo, Data General, Lotus Wang Labs, Prime Computer, and Polaroid were the big employers of the time.
The unemployment rate in Massachusetts then was 2.7%
Why those companies were there in the first place, however, offers a more instructional view of the economy -- and how jobs are created (rather than stolen from somewhere else) -- than punch lines at political debates attest.
The answer: That's where MIT was. And Harvard. That's where the smart people were. If they'd been in Texas, maybe the companies would've been located in Texas, too.
Today, however, only four companies in the top 10 list of employers in the state have anything to do with technology. The rest are mostly headquarters of retailers who provide low-level wages -- TJ Maxx (1) Staples (#2, that's Romney's company), BJ's Wholesale.
There is one health-care industry in the list, spawned, perhaps, by the Boston-area's hospital industry.
How much did a governor have to do with any of that? Not much, really.
Texas at the moment is hot, and part of it may have to do with political policies. Low housing prices and low taxes have encouraged companies to move there. Minnesota, for example, lost a fair number of high-paying railroad jobs when Burlington Northern merged with Santa Fe and everything moved south.
But that's not really creating jobs; that's moving jobs and while that distinction might be downplayed at the gubernatorial level, it can't be ignored at the presidential level. Taking a job from Minnesota, for example, and putting it in Texas hasn't created a job.
Lost in the assessment of the economy from the 1980s, is that its success depended on smart people with big ideas.
To the extent we're running short of jobs right now, perhaps it's because we're tapped out on big ideas.
Anybody got one?(6 Comments)
Sixty-six percent of people answering the annual House of Representatives State Fair survey say Minnesotans should not ban same-sex marriage when they vote on a constitutional amendment in November 2012.
There's nothing scientific about the survey, although some other staunchly conservative positions had support in the same survey. (Following is corrected info) Take the voter ID question, for example. Nearly 50.8% percent of those surveyed supported requiring people to show a photo ID before voting, but that's down significantly from the last two years (about 70%). Has there been a shift in the sentiment on the issue, or was this year a somewhat more liberal crowd?
A fairly large majority also called for making Minnesota a "right to work" state.
But it doesn't appear the same-sex marriage survey has been included in other recent State Fair surveys, so it's difficult to determine whether there's been any shift one way or the other.
Does any of this make a difference at the Legislature? There's no indication it does, but it may be a fairly accurate reflection on how Minnesota votes.
Here are the highlights of previous surveys, some of which predicted the future; some of which did not.
2010: 66.4 percent said the public should not fund a new stadium for the Minnesota Vikings. That was a slight increase over the previous year.
2009: A slight majority -- 47.5% -- said the state lawmakers should cut its budget before raising taxes in times of economic distress. A year later, Republicans swept into power at the Legislature by promoting the philosophy.
2008: A slight majority -- 49% -- said the sales tax should be increased to fund environmental and arts programs. A few months later, voters passed the so-called Legacy Amendment 56-to-39 percent.
2007: About 58% said the gasoline tax should be raised to pay for transportation programs. Five months later, the Legislature raised the gasoline tax over the objection of then-governor Tim Pawlenty.
2006: 57% said immigrant students who are not here legally should not get the in-state tuition rate at state colleges and universities.
2005: 57.% said ticket scalping should not be legalized in Minnesota. A year-and-a-half later, Minnesota lawmakers legalized ticket scalping.
2004: 59% said smoking should be banned in restaurants and bars. In 2007, the Legislature banned smoking in bars and restaurants.
2003: 60.8% said the education budget should not be cut during times of financial distress. Lawmakers and governors have made delaying funds to K-12 education a cornerstone of their budget-balancing plans since.(4 Comments)
At the Minnesota State Fair yesterday, a group opposed to a referendum to ban gay marriage in the state dropped glitter on a booth operated by a group that supports the measure.
The anti-gay-marriage group was given space at the Fair, which happened to be under the Sky Ride. The Sky Riders didn't have a booth so they dropped glitter, which they've been doing at events featuring referendum supporters.
A Fair spokeswoman told MPR's Sasha Aslanian the group opposed to the measure banning same-sex marriage didn't have a booth at the fair because it didn't register for one.(5 Comments)
Republicans have done such an effective job of voting and legislating as a bloc that it's unusual to see them carp at one another. But a presidential campaign will do that, despite Ronald Reagan's 11th Commandment ("Never speak ill of another Republican.")
Today, Michele Bachmann's super-PAC rolled out this broadside against Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who's stolen much of her thunder since jumping into the presidential race.
We're not sure who the narrator is in the piece, but we're pretty sure he's faking the unrecognizable accent that's a cross between Wilfred Brimley and Tom Bodett.(5 Comments)
A colleague, who has kin in Vermont, pointed out this morning that President Barack Obama isn't touring Vermont when he makes the traditional presidential "I care" visit that accompanies national disasters. Obama will tour Patterson, New Jersey on Sunday, which has been particularly hard hit in the wake of Irene.
But so has Vermont. About 13 towns remained cut off after the roads were washed away, and the National Guard was bringing in supplies of food and water, in some cases by helicopter.
Truth be told, presidential visits have no real value other than maybe giving a morale boost to people and certainly providing some favorable political footage on the nightly news. The administration has already sent various underlings in emergency management agencies to all of the states affected.
But Obama has never visited Vermont as president (his wife did last spring). And George Bush missed one state in all of his years in office. Guess which one?
The state didn't exactly put the welcome mat out for the guy.
Brattleboro, the poster community for this latest disaster, is famously weird and could make for uncomfortable questions for a visiting president. In two towns on town meeting day years ago, residents approved resolutions calling for the indictment of President Bush and Vice President Cheney for violating the Constitution. One of the towns? Brattleboro.
The last time a sitting president visited Vermont was 1995 when President Bill Clinton had no choice. He wanted to speak to the National Governor's Association and it was holding its gathering in Vermont? Why? Howard Dean chaired the NGA. He was also the governor of Vermont.(4 Comments)
President Obama made no news today when he spoke to the American Legion convention in Minneapolis.
But he really didn't have much choice but to get on a helicopter, fly to the local Air Force base, get in Air Force One to fly halfway across the country, motorcade to downtown Minneapolis, give a short speech, motorcade back, fly back, and helicopter back to the White House. Not showing up would have been political suicide. He already was criticized for not going to the VFW convention, and the perks of the presidency allow you to make political niceties on the company dime. That's the way it's been for years.
How many dimes? The White House, of course, never says. Even when it rebutted Michele Bachmann's (false) claim that a trip to India cost $200 million, it steadfastly refused to say how much it did cost.
But McClatchey Newspapers took a stab at it back in 2009.
The costs of the trips -- borne by taxpayers -- are difficult to measure, but they're expensive. When he uses the familiar blue-and-white reconfigured 747 as Air Force One, it costs $100,219 an hour to operate, according to the Air Force. And that's just HIS plane.
There also are cargo planes, used to fly in armored limousines, helicopters, staff and other equipment, as well as the Secret Service. A single Air Force C-17 cargo jet, for example, costs $6,960 an hour, according to the Congressional Research Service.
A total of 77 other aircraft were used on one multi-country trip to Asia by former President Bill Clinton in 2000, according to the Air Force Times, including 14 C-17 Globemasters, 12 C-5 Galaxys, three C-141 Starlifters and two C-130 Hercules.
Most of those wouldn't be needed for a short hop to Minneapolis so many of those costs could be discounted. There might have been a C-17 bringing the limousines here, but if it wasn't flying here, it'd probably be flying somewhere else since the pilots fly often to stay sharp.
So just using the $100,219-per-hour figure, and calculating a three-hour trip here and a two-hour trip back, suggests a minimum cost of $501,095.
There were 4,187 words in the speech today, which works out to $119.67 per word.
There are 10,000 convention delegates, according to the Star Tribune. If they'd all walked up to the ticket counter at Minneapolis St. Paul and bought a one-day, roundtrip to Washington to hear the president and allow him to stay put, it would have cost $14.5 million.
So the whole arrangement saved everyone about $14 million.(1 Comments)
A phony video purporting to show Rep. Michele Bachmann asking an Iowa crowd, "who likes white people?" has been pulled from YouTube.
Bachmann made an appearance at a Christian Music Festival in Des Moines earlier this month. This is the actual appearance:
But a blogger at On Knees For Jesus admits today that he edited the video so that her actual line -- "who likes wet people?" -- would sound like she was asking "who likes white people?".
Today, he apologized and removed the video:
"I want to apologize for misusing Stacey Robert McCain's original video (click here). I was angry so I decided to take Mrs. Bachmann's line out of context to make her seem more overtly racist in light of her recent signing of that Iowa marriage pledge that said black children were better off under slavery than in Obama's America. Whether or not I dislike Michele Bachmann, it wasn't right to deliver a dishonest blow like that. I wanted to apologize to Mr. McCain and all of you directly. This blog is dedicated to showing Christ's love through his followers. By posting something misleading, I undermine my own purpose."
Too late. Many websites took the bait. Daily Kos, the community website for liberals, was one as this cached version of its page shows.
But after it was revealed it was faked, the website pretended it didn't...
A more appropriate response would have been to acknowledge the mistake and apologize to the candidate for making it.
"I don't know how much God has to do to get the attention of the politicians," she said. "We've had an earthquake; we've had a hurricane. He said, 'Are you going to start listening to me here?' Listen to the American people because the American people are roaring right now. They know government is on a morbid obesity diet and we've got to rein in the spending."
As you may have heard, that's our congresswoman, Michele Bachmann, offering the theological interpretation of the weekend hurricane and its message that it -- and presumably the deaths of 15 people, including a young woman swept away by a raging river in Vermont -- was God's way of saying he supports Mrs. Bachmann's politics.
Maybe she was joking, but if she was, it was an odd time to make a funny.
Maybe she was serious, in which case she may be able to interpret Hurricane Gustav in 2008, which came ashore just as the Republican National Convention in St. Paul was getting underway.
It's been a fairly quiet hurricane since. Last year, Tropical Storm Nicole hit southern Florida and the Gulf in late September. It was about the same time Minnesota was experiencing extreme flooding. It was also the same day President Obama opened a new round of Middle East peace talks, the U.S. changed commanders in Iraq and the Minnesota tea party held a judicial candidate forum.
Some weeks earlier, Hurricane Earl threatened New England -- the first time New England had been threatened since Hurricane Bob in 2001 (New England has been very, very good up until recently, apparently) . But Earl veered away at the last minute. Why? Who knows, but the planned New York City mosque cleared a legal hurdle, nine people were killed in a Connecticut warehouse shooting, Alex Rodriguez hit his 600th homer (is God a Yankees fan?), and a judge overturned a gay marriage ban in California.
Of course, we've seen and heard this sort of stuff before. When a national convention of Lutherans was voting on whether to allow non-celibate gays in the pulpit in Minneapolis in 2009, lightning hit a nearby church. That, a non-Lutheran preacher said, was not a coincidence, although he didn't explain what the Electric Fetus record store did to deserve a tornado.
If lightning hitting a church is pretty powerful sign, there won't be much time for politicians to do anything other than explaining the deep meaning because it happens a lot (h/t: Michael Wells).
A Google search, for example, reveals that it happened Wednesday night in Cleveland, the same day the Indians put in a claim for Jim Thome of the Twins.
It happened in Rocky Mount, NC a week ago Sunday, when a Baptist Church was hit.
And in Limestone County, Alabama, a church burned after being hit by lightning. Unusual? Sure. About as unusual as the three other churches that burned after being struck by lightning in the last year in the same county.
By the way, yesterday was the four-month anniversary of the tornado outbreak in Alabama, which killed 247 people, including four in -- wait for it -- Limestone County.
"Obviously she was saying it in jest," Bachmann spokeswoman Alice Stewart said in a statement about the congresswoman's assessment of the weekend tragedy.(8 Comments)
In our neighboring state of Wisconsin, Wausau has banned Republicans from marching in this year's Labor Day parade, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. The parade is sponsored by Marathon County Central Labor Council.
"Usually they've been in the parade, but it seems like they only want to stand with us one day a year, and the other 364 days they don't really care," said Randy Radtke, president of the council.
In a statement, Radtke added that the parade is intended to celebrate working men and women and what the labor movement has given them: weekends, a 40-hour workweek, child labor protection and a safe working environment.
"It should come as no surprise that organizers choose not to invite elected officials who have openly attacked worker's rights or stood idly by while their political party fought to strip public workers of their right to collectively bargain," Radtke said.
Rep. Sean Duffy, a Republican, took exception.
"Having walked in this parade in past years, Congressman Duffy was hoping that for a moment, we could set our differences aside and simply have some fun in a family-friendly event," he said in a statement posted on WAOW.com.
(Photo: The 2010 Wausau Labor Day parade via Flickr)(21 Comments)
"Citizen Input" by Dave Glad via MPR's Flickr pool
The proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage is dominating political talk at the State Fair reports MPR's Sasha Aslanian. Passion is strong on both sides of the issue, political observers estimate campaign spending could reach and even surpass $10 million before voters cast ballots next year.
You could double that campaign spending and would still be unlikely to sway voters from the position they currently hold on same-sex marriage.
NYU's Patrick Egan has studied similar measures addressing same-sex marriage in 33 states since 1998 and found that campaigns to change public opinion on the issue are ineffective.8 Comments)
A campaign is underway by the conservative-leaning Employment Policies Institute to raise awareness about debt reduction. The group's Defeat the Debt effort says that of all members of congress, "over three-quarters lack an academic background in business or economics." The number is based on an examination of college degrees held by members of the U.S. Congress.
Is this the educational background you'd like to see of congress?(12 Comments)
How can a (so-far) failed politician and author generate buzz for her book? Or, how can a talk-show host build credentials to help establish himself as a replacement for Larry King?
I don't mean to suggest that either Christine O'Donnell or Piers Morgan went into their taped interview with premeditation, intending the confrontation that ended with her walking off his show. But I do mean to suggest that the aborted interview did no harm to either of them - that, in fact, many more people will be watching the interview on CNN than would have been if the interview had gone off smoothly.
(As Murray remarked to Ted on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," "That's right, Ted. It's just a matter of giving the public what they want.")
It's depressing, but this is the way it goes these days. The incentives work in the wrong direction. At least Morgan had the grace - or maybe it was only comic timing - to follow her departure with, "Anyway, it's a good book."
Here's the video.
NPR got itself in the middle of the storm when it focused on Marcus Bachmann's gay conversion therapy clinic last Monday (listen to the story here), the network's ombudsman says today.
Bachmann, the husband of presidential candidate Michele Bachmann, runs a mental health clinic that includes counseling for gay clients. ABC News produced this expose a few weeks ago.
In the NPR story, it was this quote that got the listeners calling and e-mailing:
"So these two men represent two sides of a debate that's been raging in psychological circles for more than a decade," said the reporter, Alix Spiegel. "One side feels that therapies which seek to make gay people straight are invariably harmful, the other, that those therapies can help gay people who are profoundly uncomfortable with their same-sex attraction."
That, the ombudsman said, created the appearance of two sides of a story deserving of equal balance -- or so those complaining said. Ombudsman Edward Schumacher-Matos said the story deserved more depth, but he defended tackling the question of therapy designed to make gay people not gay.
All this suggests that what many people think of as "conversion" therapy is really not. The lines are blurry between conversion and identity therapy and between real and effective change in sexual orientation, identity and priority. A story that helps us understand the differences might uncover that in the public debate, many of us are talking past each other. I am curious, for example, to know what really it is that Bachman's husband practices, or what kind of therapy Wyler underwent.
Wyler himself says in the piece that while he didn't feel right living a gay life in Los Angeles, far from his family and church, he understood that it was right for others. I took that to mean that he didn't denounce being gay, or think it was wrong.
Gay rights advocates understandably demand that, rather than trying to change individuals, it is religion and society that must change, which indeed has been happening. But that doesn't help conflicted individuals who are in this world we live in now. To dismissively say that these individuals should just find another religion is to be discriminatory and ignores the profound importance of a given religion in many people's lives.
There's another more common mistake in the story -- "Can Therapy Help Change Sexual Orientation?" It asked a question in the headline that it didn't answer in the story.(5 Comments)
The video of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie defending an appointment to the New Jersey Superior Court is starting to catch fire on the Intertubes.
Sohail Mohammed, 47, was sworn into the job last week, despite criticism that a Muslim judge could lead the way to the influence of Sharia law.
Christie didn't mix words about what was at work in the criticism.
Christie is rumored to be interested in running for president someday.
"So now it's for sure --he ain't running," a local commenter on Facebook noted today.(5 Comments)
One of the difficulties of covering the debt crisis in Washington is politicians are better at giving stump speeches than providing solutions.
"We need solutions and not deals," Rep. Tim Huelskamp told CNBC this morning.
On the debt he said, "We gotta find a way to bring that down."
Those are exactly the kind of things that a politician would say if he's running for office and giving a speech at the Rotary Club. But they're not (a) a solution or (b) a way to bring that down which are what you're supposed to provide once you're elected to office.
The representative said his solution is "cut, cap, and balance." Cut the spending immediately (he didn't say what), cap future spending (he didn't say where), and pass a balanced-budget amendment (he hasn't filed such a bill, though it's worth noting that Speaker John Boehner has added such an amendment to his solution.).
Huelskamp called his proposal "a compromise."
"How can you say it's a compromise if no one else is going to bite?" a CNBC anchor asked.
"Where's Harry Reid's compromise?" Huelskamp responded, which -- if you look carefully -- doesn't answer the question asked.
And while Huelskamp is a Tea Party member, this method of communication is favored by almost all politicians currently engaged in this "crisis;" allegations rather than answers, stump speeches rather than details.
Give credit to CNBC's David Faber, one of the few CNBC on-air questioners with a spine, who insisted on details to the stump speech, pointing out , for example, that half of the stimulus package that Huelskamp objects to was tax cuts that Huelskamp embrace.
But it was a wasted effort ...
Huelskamp said the problem is Washington's status quo, which he unintentionally demonstrated, though perhaps not in the way he imagined.
You can watch the full interview here or just wait until the next politician is interviewed about the debt crisis.
We've often referred to the standoff between Minnesota -- and now, national -- politicians as "a game of chicken," but what's the psychology behind playing this game?
The Associated Press has gone to the scientists to figure it out. The most interesting observation in the article -- which you can find here -- is it helps if one size is crazy. I'll leave it to you determine if we should check that off of our list of requirements met.
Another way to win: throw the steering wheel out the window and make sure the other side knows it and will be forced to flinch. Shapiro thinks that's happened in Washington, but American University international studies professor Joshua Goldstein disagrees.
Goldstein, who has written a book chapter about the chicken game in diplomacy, said the side that has the least to lose is more believable when it threatens to ditch the steering wheel and go for broke: "It gives the weaker party more negotiating power."
In this situation, tea party followers have more credibility in their throw-the-wheel-out threats and President Barack Obama, who wants to be re-elected, can't play consequences-be-damned, he said.
The game of chicken "has to be dangerous in order to give people the incentive to cooperate. It helps if you are crazy or if you pretend to be crazy," Goldstein said.
Now, if anyone knows of an expert in the science of "kick the can," let me know.(2 Comments)
In the wake of last night's call by President Obama for people to contact their congresspeople to urge a solution to the country's debt crisis, a lot of people apparently are. The U.S. House of Representatives Web site has crashed. Its front page is available, but the individual member sites are not.
Getting through by telephone isn't much easier. An e-mail from the House call center said the phone lines to the Capitol are jammed:
"Due to the high volume of external calls, House telephone circuits serving 202-225-XXXX phone numbers are near capacity resulting in outside callers occasionally getting busy signals," the email said.
In an age of voicemail, when's the last time you heard a busy signal?(6 Comments)
The Washington Post is reporting this afternoon that presidential candidate Michele Bachmann benefited from a federally-back home loan program she's railed against on the campaign trail.
Just a few weeks before Bachmann called for dismantling the programs during a House Financial Services Committee hearing, she and her husband signed for a $417,000 home loan to help finance their move to a 5,200-square-foot golf course home, public records show. Experts who examined the loan documents for The Washington Post say they are confident that the loan was backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.
Bachmann bought a home in the upscale Stillwater community on Aug. 29, 2008, as she campaigned for a second congressional term, paying $760,000 and financing $666,999, records show.
Three experts who examined the mortgage documents say it appears the Bachmanns put down about $93,001 or 12 percent. Experts said the downpayment would have been fairly common in 2008; most lenders now require at least 20 percent.
The couple's previous home was still on the market at the time and had two loans outstanding. When the house sold a few months later for $334,423, the Bachmanns paid off whatever remained on two prior equity loans for $100,000 and $200,000, records show.
Did the Bachmanns benefit from a program the congresswoman wants to scuttle for other would-be homebuyers?
"The Congresswoman's personal financial disclosures will speak for themselves," her spokesman said. She hasn't released them yet.
In the beginning was the Gang of Four, a group of radicals close to Mao Zedong in the last years of his life. One of those radicals was Mao's wife, Jiang Qing. The Gang of Four - not to be confused with the post-punk rock band of the same name - was blamed for many of the excesses of the Cultural Revolution, a major spasm of repression that helped China remain a basket case longer than it needed to be.
After Mao died in 1976 the gang was arrested and put on trial. That pretty well ended its influence -- except in the United States, where any group of people trying to accomplish any policy initiative now is known as "the Gang of X," where X equals the number of people involved.
The current plan to resolve the federal debt stalemate is the work of the Gang of Six. In 2005, an attempt by a different group of senators to resolve a crisis over filibusters and avoid the "nuclear option" was ascribed to the Gang of 14. One member of that Gang of 14 was Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who also happened to be a member three years later of the Gang of 10, which tried to reform energy policy.
The Gang of Three comprised a trio of New York state senators who wanted to exert political influence out of proportion to their number. The Gang of 18 represents scientists opposed to global warming skeptics. And a third Gang of Four - after the original Chinese gang and the rock band - isn't even made up of people, but of giant Internet firms (Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google).
Seems like a strange legacy for a quartet of deceased Chinese Communist hard-liners. I'm sure they'd find it comforting, though. Otherwise, the Cultural Revolution would be, like, a total loss.(2 Comments)
The New York Times is reporting on a handful of spending requests by members of Congress that campaigned on less spending and smaller government.
Rep. Michele Bachmann's support for the $700 million to build a new Stillwater bridge is one of the examples reporter Ron Nixon focused on. He examines the reasoning behind the request and how it isn't technically an earmark.
On the Minnesota-Wisconsin border, local officials and members of Congress have pushed for a new four-lane bridge over the St. Croix River that was co-sponsored by Representative Sean P. Duffy, a Wisconsin freshman Republican, and Representative Michele Bachmann, the three-term Minnesota Republican who is running for president.
Opponents labeled the bridge an earmark, but Mr. Duffy and Mrs. Bachmann said the bridge was critical to handle increased traffic that an 80-year-old bridge nearby can no longer handle alone. They defend the spending by arguing that it was not an earmark since there were no specific costs listed in the bill itself, nor is it a financing bill. The legislation calls only for a bridge to be built.
Nixon doesn't mention the broad support among regional Democrats and Republicans for a new bridge.
Do you view the Stillwater bridge request as an example of government pork?(10 Comments)
Gov. Dayton's office has released an official photo of this morning's budget signing, with an appropriate, on-message expression of distaste on the Democratic faces.
After all, a person shouldn't smile when he's doing something loathsome.(3 Comments)
When I worked in the newspaper editorial business, we had a cute name for the kind of piece we'd have to write on a day like today: STW, or "Shoot the wounded." It acknowledged, implicitly anyway, that we weren't performing a particularly courageous or useful function. Other people were the ones who had to stay up all night, take risks, make deals, put their careers on the line. We had the luxury of getting a good night's sleep and then coming down out of the hills once the fight was finished to pick over the remains and second-guess the decisions of others.
(There are other kinds of stock editorials, so routine that we made up acronyms for them. One was the DMM; it stood for "Drink more milk," and referred to any kind of editorial that urges a noncontroversial civic good. I hear that the same kind of editorial is referred to in Wisconsin as an EMC. Get it?)
I did not stay up all night to monitor the legislative process that now has brought our sorry shutdown to a close. But the news this morning has been fascinating. My vote for the best quote of the morning goes to Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook: "Gov. Dayton reluctantly took your plan. He took your plan on tobacco bonds. He took your plan on borrowing from our kids. You didn't have to tax those millionaires. You win, and Minnesotans lose."
That is what's called staying on message. The Democrats will do everything they can to make sure you hear, over and over, that the plan the Legislature passed is a Republican one. Most of them won't be quite as descriptive as Rep. Michael Paymar, DFL-St. Paul, who said, "I'm going to go home and take a long, long shower to wipe the stain of this legislative session off of me." For my taste, that's a little over the top.
Trying to spin the story in the other direction, House Majority Leader Matt Dean, R-Dellwood, adopted the role of statesman: "Every red vote is a vote to continue the shutdown. We need to get Minnesota back to work. We need to stop pointing fingers."
So there you have them, the core messages we'll be living with for a while: "You keep pointing at me," "I'm only doing what you made me do," "You wanted to keep Minnesotans out of work," "You make me want to take a shower." Sigh.
Unfortunately for the Democratic message, Gov. Dayton and Secretary of State Mark Ritchie were unable to control their facial muscles during the bill signing this morning. They did what politicians do when signing bills: They smiled. Oops:2 Comments)
The #mnshutdown is over.
The slow processes of restarting government begins. One of the 22,000 laid-off state employees rejoices.
Woo hoo!! Just went into CFLOP to start calling people back!! CAN'T WAIT to see my coworkers! #mnshutdown
Governor Dayton continued to project a tone of compromise.
Gov Dayton says #mnshutdown didn't help state's reputation but "$1.4 B in cuts would have been worse"
While there seems to be a general sense of appreciation that the government and government services will be back to full swing, the deal still stings for some.
Recriminations and finger pointing resume.
Put it on a stick and fry it.
AFSCME says state workers relieved to be going back to work, rips GOP #mnleg. Union says it will ramp up tax the rich campaign at State Fair
Posted at 3:22 PM on July 19, 2011
by Michael Olson
Filed under: Politics
The Minnesota Senate and House are meeting this afternoon. Gov. Mark Dayton called the special session with the goal to end the longest shutdown of the state government by reaching an agreement on a budget.
We are covering the details of the bills on the Shutdown 2011 blog.
Given the divergent approaches to governing seen among state leaders, is there anything in the bills you think that should be prioritized, or is there something there that you think should be opposed that would have a chance of getting support?
It ain't all good in Gould, Ark. Political discourse in the small tornado-prone town has reached a low point. A point so low, it probably violates the U.S. Constitution.
A fracas between members of the city council and the mayor resulted in the passage of an ordinance that forbids the formation of a group without the approval of the city council.
This comes after other restrictive ordinances, reports the New York Times. The council attempted to reel in the perceived outsized influence of the Gould Citizens Advisory Council, an organization the mayor is active in, by passing an ordinance that would forbid the mayor to meet with groups inside or outside the city of Gould.
The advisory council, which calls itself a nonpartisan group that educates voters and raises money for public causes, says it will continue its work. But the City Council, in one ordinance, accused the group of "causing confusion and discourse among the citizens" by harshly criticizing local officials at public meetings. (NYT)
One council member says the ordinances should be re-written with "more constitutionally sensitive wording."
The other day in one of our meetings, a member of the MPR News staff suggested that the next person who used the phrase "kick the can" should suffer corporal punishment. Or maybe it was capital punishment. Either way, the talk got me to thinking.
I'm pretty sure that the dime-store political analysis - "All we did was kick the can down the road" - has nothing to do with the actual game of Kick the Can. The phrase conjures the image of a boy walking down a road, kicking a can ahead of him as he goes. It is a metaphor for pointless action that postpones a problem instead of solving it, unless somewhere down that road there's a recycling station.
But maybe we should think of the budget negotiations as a game of Kick the Can, instead. I looked up the rules, and it turns out there are a few similarities:
1. Like the state budget negotiations, Kick the Can is a game of one against many. One player is "It," and everybody else hides. By now, I'm guessing that Mark Dayton has an intimate understanding of how it feels to be "It."
2. There is a deadline. "It" has to count to 30, or 50, or some other agreed number, while the hiders seek cover behind trees and parked cars. If, by the deadline, the hiders have not finished their work of finding a place to hide, nothing much happens.
3. The game is addictive. Players have been known to disappear for long periods of time while the rest of the state is holding dinner for them.
Now we're at the part of the game when the players have yelled, "Come on, Mom! We're almost done! Just let us finish this one game and then we'll be in, we promise." And Mom, trusting soul, has ladled out the soup and started making plans to open the state parks.
The soup is starting to cool, Mom is wondering whether she's been had, and pretty soon the voters are going to be in a mood to ground somebody.(4 Comments)
Who was it who said that success has a hundred fathers, but failure is an orphan? In the wake of the Minnesota budget deal, voters may be looking to file a paternity suit. It sounds as if most political leaders whose fingerprints are on this agreement are trying to make clear just how repulsive they personally find the thing.
Allow me to make a prediction: Gov. Mark Dayton's emphasis on agreeing to a deal he did not agree with is going to come back to haunt him. Finely parsed distinctions between one preposition and another do not come from a place of political strength, as John Kerry learned with "I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it." It smacks of hair-splitting, like Bill Clinton's "It depends upon what the meaning of the word 'is' is."
In Washington, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell floated a plan to give President Obama authority to raise the debt ceiling over Republican objections because a) he knows it has to be raised, and b) he wants his party to be able to avoid the blame for raising it. Not exactly Nathan Hale stuff, but very much in bipartisan step with the spirit of our times. Here in Minnesota, Dayton's own party shows no interest in agreeing - on, with, to or about - his initiative.
It may be petty to point this out, but we came from people who understood the value of standing up for things - of pledging "our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor." Are we still the sort of people who could put our names on a dangerous political document, and hang the consequences? Discuss.
And no, I did not just compare the budget deal to the Declaration of Independence.
It's all over but the legislating and the voting and the second-guessing. The governor and his negotiating partners in the Legislature emerged from a three-hour meeting to say they have a deal. So now they'll make a little legislative magic and presto - we'll have a functioning state again.
The downside is that the problem will be back in about a week. The funding mechanisms in the deal don't solve anything, they just move numbers around. As the most popular phrase in politics goes, they've just kicked the can down the road. In other words, we'll soon be able to go fishing - but we're still up a creek.
Do kids even play Kick the Can anymore? Or is there an app for that?
So who would you rather be right now, in the state shutdown saga? The Democratic governor, or the Republican leadership in the Legislature? All the buzz for the past couple of hours has been about the crisis possibly being over. Now the Republicans are heading into a meeting with the governor where they will have to say ... something. Do they accept the deal, including the governor's conditions? Or do they try to hold out for something better? And if they do try to hold out - for example, by hanging onto just a little social policy, or a teensy cut in the state workforce - what then? Will they get stuck with all the blame for the shutdown past Day 15? Discuss.
Meanwhile, up-to-the minute coverage on the news stations and MPRNews.org continues.(17 Comments)
As far as I know, there's no response yet from the Republican leadership to Gov. Mark Dayton's announcement that he's ready to accept one of the GOP's pre-shutdown offers. But the time had clearly come for some kind of resolution: The beer supply was in jeopardy. To make sure you've got the latest on the story, go to the MPR News Shutdown Blog and keep your mouse on the Refresh button.
We will pay, sooner or later, for our growing acceptance of hidden cameras and other deceptive practices in newsgathering. The latest target is the Christian counseling business owned by Michele Bachmann and her husband, Marcus Bachmann. Previous targets of such tactics have included Planned Parenthood, National Public Radio, ACORN and the Rev. Tom Brock.
The ethics grow murky when journalists misrepresent themselves to get a story. Sometimes it may be the only way, but at other times it's just the easiest way. When is it justified - to expose hypocrisy? To report on a threat to health and safety? To get good film for Sweeps Week?
"If you talk to three different ethicists, you'll get three different responses," says Prof. Jane Kirtley, who teaches ethics at the University of Minnesota's journalism school. There is no clear line, she said, but she articulated the danger well: If we tell readers that we lied to get a story, how can they trust that we're telling the truth about everything else?
Lots of media organizations would turn away in a huff from a reporter who wanted to carry a hidden camera and a faked identity into a mental health clinic. So why is it better or more ethical to publish the work of an activist/freelancer who did the same thing? That's becoming the pattern. ABC News didn't send an investigative reporter to get this story -- but used its "investigative correspondent" to present the story and supplemental material, after John Becker of Truth Wins Out did the dirty work.
In the Bachmann Clinic case, the bar is arguably lower because one of the owners is running for president. If the clinic is using "reparative therapy" to undo the sexual orientation of gay clients - and swimming against the tide of credible professional opinion - that's news. It would probably be news even if Michele Bachmann were not running for president, because the clinic gets public funds.
But as Prof. Kirtley points out, now that everybody has a mass communications device in his pocket, mainstream media have little to trade on but their own credibility. We should be careful about giving it away.
In the meantime, let's take a minute to enjoy the old days, when the mainstream media really knew how to use hidden cameras:
Andrew Huff via Flickr
One of the early answers to Today's Question echoes a theme that we'll probably see more of as the shutdown drags on:
"I am going to need a new job come November," writes Maria Swora. "I was getting help through a workforce center. Now my career counselor is out of work. My need for a job is such that I am willing to relocate. If this drags on, I may have to."
I never wanted to live anywhere except Minnesota. But last weekend I drove to Iowa and discovered a few features of life there that seemed suddenly ... appealing. This may seem a mite premature, but just in case Minnesota never gets its groove back, shouldn't we have a Plan B? Mine might be Iowa. Here are a few reasons that living there might not be so bad.
1. Wind energy. Almost as soon as you cross the state line, you get a glimpse of what turbines look like in a state that does wind power whole hog. Vast wind farms seem to stretch from one horizon to the other. Smaller turbines power individual homes and businesses here and there, and altogether the graceful machines produce as much as 20 percent of the state's electricity.
2. A state budget surplus. Did you get that? A state budget surplus. (For the Minnesota reader, a state budget surplus occurs when the state government's revenue exceeds its expenses - in other words, when it has enough money to meet all of its financial obligations and even has a bit left over.) Today's commentary is an editorial from the Ames Tribune. Money quote, so to speak:
In fact, the Cyclone State is now sitting on a $480 million surplus. ... the approved budget will use roughly half of that total, leaving about $265 million sitting in the bank at the end of fiscal year 2012. It's important to note that this surplus is in addition to the state's rainy day fund, which has a healthy $430 million in it.
3. The Decorah Eagles. If you spent the second quarter of 2011 watching the Raptor Resource Project's webcam, you know what I mean. If not, start watching the project's Facebook page now so you'll have a comfortable perch when the next nesting season starts in the fall. You'll never want to watch another reality show.
4. The Iowa caucuses. Voters in Iowa get first crack at the presidential contenders every four years. More often than that, actually; Jimmy Carter basically lived there for a year. The preliminary event, the Ames straw poll, is just a month away. In short, Iowa voters get all the attention from the national candidates that they could possibly want, and then some. Minnesota mostly gets ignored, except when a national political convention comes to town. But by then everybody's mind is made up, anyway.
5. Grant Wood. If you Google "Iowa painter," he pops right up in the first or second spot. If you Google "Minnesota painter," you get a series of listings for house painters.
6. The Bridges of Madison County. There used to be 19 of them; today there are six. I haven't seen them, but they must be pretty nice to be so famous.
This is a partial list. I didn't even mention John Wayne's birthplace, the Coralville Reservoir or the Iowa Writer's Workshop. Let alone Nordic Fest at Luther College. And no, none of that is the equal of Minnesota, when Minnesota has its head screwed on straight. As it will, once again. Any day now.
The words "corporate jets" came up again in President Barack Obama's news conference today.
"What we have talked about is that starting in 2013, that we have gotten rid of some of these egregious loopholes that are benefiting corporate jet owners or oil companies at a time where they're making billions of dollars of profits," he said.
It's a recent conversion for the president, who has identified corporate jet travel as something for fat cats. How did these fat cats get the break? President Obama gave it to them.
He signed the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization and Job Creation Act of 2010. Among its components was the ability of corporations to depreciate the cost of a corporate jet 100% in the year it is purchased, rather than over five years. The net effect is about a 40% reduction in cost.
Now, the president refers to this as a "tax loophole."
The beneficiaries of the loophole are corporate jet manufacturers Gulfstream (about 7,000 are employed in Georgia) and Cessna (which has made Wichita a company town).
Their trade group is fighting a perception problem, reports the Atlanta Journal Constitution:
The industry argues that it does not necessarily conform to a "fat cat" generalization. Most business flights carry midlevel staffers rather than chief executives, and many fly into airports without commercial airline access. One of the more common purchases is the Cessna Citation Sovereign, priced at roughly $17.5 million.
"People would be very surprised if they knew how many small-turbine and piston powered aircraft are used by businesses every day all across America," said Steve Champness, president of the Atlanta Aero Club. "Corporate aircraft give American businesses an advantage over the rest of the world."
The companies, however, seem to acknowledge that they can't prove a link between the accelerated depreciation and the number of jobs in the industry, a fact which also might undermine the notion that tax breaks are linked to jobs at all.
Mark Schmitt, senior fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, writes in the New Republic that the "corporate jet" focus sends the wrong message when it comes to taxes:
Call it economic populism on the cheap. By narrowing in on a single sharp example -- jets, Paris Hilton, Bermuda inversions -- these metaphors let Democrats grab a bit of the pitchfork tone of populism, while still protecting their ability to fly up to the Hamptons over the weekend on a donor's plane to assure their hedge-fund supporters that they certainly don't mean them, the dear friends whose contributions to economic dynamism they so admire and respect.
Modified, limited populism is probably the worst of both worlds. And in so narrowing the scope of the argument, Democrats also misrepresent the substance of their policies, in self-destructive ways. Their metaphors make it sound like taxes are more of a penalty for the grossest extremes of fat-cat America, rather than obligations that all of us share, relative to our ability to contribute. The insistence that any tax increases should affect only households earning more than $250,000 is similar. It leads, predictably, to families with two incomes just edging over the quarter-million mark protesting that they aren't really that rich and shouldn't be punished.
So where do all of these fat cats fly to? The Wall St. Journal last month created a database of corporate flights. But most of the database doesn't include flights in 2011 because corporations have elected to block their aircraft from being tracked.
After MPR reporter Sasha Aslanian's story aired today about the problems being faced by people who depend on a child care subsidy, we received several stories from people who have described the impact of the state shutdown.
The most compelling comes from Leslie Eck of Saint Paul:
I am a single mother of a soon-to-be-three-year-old girl. I had my daughter during my junior year of college and her father abandoned us when she was two weeks old. I graduated from the University of Minnesota just over a year ago with a B.S. in microbiology; however, I couldn't have done it without a little help from Minnesota.
I used public assistance including WIC, food stamps, Medicaid, and childcare assistance to help subsidize my family's cost of living while finishing my degree. I have been employed as a contract laboratory worker at 3M now for a year, and I am almost completely independent from any form of state assistance, except for child care.
As a contract worker, I only make 50-60 percent of what 3M pays the contract house toward my hourly wage. In other words, I don't make a lot. I work 50+ hours a week without receiving overtime pay in hopes that I will earn my keep and a permanent position within the company.
Because of the extensive hours I need to work to pay my bills, I use a daycare center with longer hours rather than home daycare (which would be much cheaper, but couldn't meet my busy work schedule needs).
Now, with the shutdown darkening our doorstep and no more child care assistance coming in, I will have to pull my daughter from her center (which I love and she has been going to for over two years. Other mothers will understand how painful this is!), and count on my mother, who is on unemployment and laid off from her job, to help me with the cost of care.
I find it infuriating that so many people accuse working families using childcare assistance as being "free-loaders" and using other citizens' hard-earned money via income taxes to subsidize our lives. Without child care assistance. I couldn't even work to pay my fair share of taxes, let alone contribute to the economy by paying my bills.
Think of it this way: the taxes I end up paying from my paycheck go right back into my own child care costs.
I am working diligently towards my goal of a non-contract, full-time position so I no longer need any form of assistance to pay for my living expenses. But in the meantime, I could use a little help from my neighbors in the great state of Minnesota. I try hard to give back to my community in so many ways. I am a volunteer at clinics and nursing homes through my church. I plan events in my neighborhood, and I am doing my best everyday to make ends meet for my family.
So I am asking people in Minnesota who still care about these issues to stand up for your neighbors, family, and friends who need help. My family is not the only one suffering through this shutdown.
We heard from another listener from East Bethel on the shutdown coverage:
I hear over and over about people that are angry about the state shutdown. Why do I never hear from those that are happy the state isn't able to spend its taxpayers' hard-earned dollars? I hear from only those grabbing money from their neighbors' pockets, why aren't we hearing from those who resent being statutorily thieved from?
And that's where we are in the shutdown debate.(19 Comments)
The winners and losers in the Minnesota government shutdown were on display in downtown Saint Paul today.
Winners: There was no waiting at high noon today at the restaurants and fast-food joints in the city's Town Square and plenty of tables available in the usual free-for-all in the seating area.
Losers: Restaurants and fast-food joints. Not since the disastrous Republic National Convention in 2008, have the locals seen such a drop-off in business. The manager of a coffee shop told me this morning business was about half what it usually might be.
Why the impact? The Minnesota Department of Public Safety, the Driver and Vehicle Services office, the Department of Agriculture, and the office of the attorney general are among the bigger state agencies located in downtown Saint Paul.(15 Comments)
Former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty's presidential campaign is out with a new commercial, scrapping the speeches and glitz of previous commercials and stressing Pawlenty's role in Minnesota's 2005 shutdown.
The ad makes no mention that one of the reasons the 2005 state shutdown lasted as long as it did, was Pawlenty's insistence on a tax on cigarettes, which he called a "health impact fee."
Nor does it contain Pawlenty's quote after the shutdown ended: ""Government is going to grow. Government does important things. We just want it to grow within reason and grow at a rate that's sustainable"(3 Comments)
Apparently, we're going to hear a factoid about South Carolina from now until its presidential primary on January 28 -- that South Carolina knows how to pick a winner when it comes to Republicans. That, allegedly, is why Republicans are schmoozing up the state.
NPR's Debbie Elliott passed the nugget along today in her piece about presidential politicking in the state.
South Carolina's "first in the South" primary has a track record. The state has picked the eventual Republican nominee in every race since Ronald Reagan in 1980.
We'll spot you Reagan, South Carolina, but beyond that, how big of a deal is this fact? Not very.
Consider two realities. Incumbent presidents are rarely tested within their own party and primaries are virtually irrelevant. Aside from Reagan's victory in 1980 (Strom Thurmond backed Reagan so the election was over early), that takes 1984, 1992 (George Bush was not seriously challenged by Pat Buchanan), and 2004 (the race was uncontested). '
That takes 4 primary results off the board.
In 1988, Reagan's VP defeated Bob Dole in South Carolina. A sitting VP clearly enjoys an advantage.
In 2000, George W. Bush beat John McCain, but it took a dirty tricks campaign to do so. Before the election, a phony poll was created to call voters and ask them, "Would you be more or less likely to vote for John McCain...if you knew he had fathered an illegitimate black child?"
That leaves 1996 (Bob Dole over Pat Buchanan) and 2008 (John McCain over Mike Huckabee).
So since 1980, South Carolina has selected the eventual nominee in a contest that wasn't a foregone conclusion or decided by dirty tricks twice. Big deal.
All that said, Elliott's piece on the role of The Beacon -- and the character therein -- in presidential politics was pretty fine.
A roundup of editorials on the state shutdown:
The Pioneer Press editorial today comes out squarely on the side of GOP lawmakers:
While tax revenue will be up nearly 6 percent this year, Dayton wants spending to increase 12 percent. This kind of spending is unsustainable. The Minnesota State Demographic Center predicts a 4.1 percent annual rate of revenue growth between 2010 and 2020. Meanwhile, with very little total population growth, the 65+ population is about to skyrocket - increasing more in this decade than it has in the last 40 years combined. So what we are facing is the lethal combination of low workforce growth, low revenue growth and high growth in entitlement spending.
The governor is silent on this, the issue of our time. Silent, perhaps, because the holy grail of the left, taxing the rich, can't possibly solve the problem.
It's easy to blame one side or the other, the Worthington Daily Globe says...
It's easy to play party politics like those in St. Paul are doing, but one can't blame just
Republican lawmakers or Gov. Mark Dayton for this gridlock. Republicans, for instance, are united against a planned tax increase on the state's highest earners; Dayton, for his part, for too long seemed more worried about planning for a shutdown than calling legislators together in an attempt to avoid one.
That's pretty much how the Bemidji Pioneer sees it:
Minnesota is the only state to have its government shut down this year, even though nearly all states have severe budget problems, and some have divided governments.
In whatever manner the impasse is solved - sooner rather than later - the Democrats and Republicans have accomplished their basic partisan desires with the blame game. They have made both of their houses look bad.
In its editorial today, the Rochester Post Bulletin finds fault with both sides, too, but generally comes down on the side of the DFL:
It's time to ask ourselves, "What kind of Minnesota do we want?" We prefer to live in a great state that offers world-class public education, good roads, quality health care for everyone (including the poor, the elderly and the handicapped) and protects our natural resources.
We're convinced that the vast majority of Minnesotans are willing to pay a little bit more to guarantee a better quality of life for themselves and future generations, but the Republicans believe otherwise.(3 Comments)
The most surprising aspect of Chris Lapakko's one-man protest on the lawn of the state Capitol is that it's a one-man protest. Lapakko, 28, of South St. Paul, works in the Department of Public Safety's driver and vehicle services division.
Of the 22,000 state workers thrown out of work by the government shutdown, he was the only one to pitch a tent on the Capitol lawn. Judging by the video he uploaded (Warning: Some obscenities), he didn't spend the night, but he'll be back by day.(1 Comments)
There was big news in Washington today when the Federal Election Commission approved agenda document 11-38, draft A as amended by 11-38B with technical and forming changes on a 5-to-1 vote.
Did you ever think you'd live long enough to see this day?
It means Stephen Colbert can form a "Super PAC."
Colbert sought a "media exemption" from campaign finance laws, allowing him to use airtime, staff and other resources from his Comedy Central show on campaign activities such as TV ads. He wouldn't have to disclose the spending.
But the FEC said the material couldn't be shown on other Comedy Central programs, because that would constitute an in-kind contribution from the Viacom Corporation, which owns the network.
Colbert floated the idea as a parody of Tim Pawlenty's PAC ad, which invoked dozens of images but said virtually nothing. He adopted the theme, "Making a better tomorrow, tomorrow."
News Cut reader Doreen Clark has penned a letter to the state of Minnesota, informing it that it is fired.
After long contemplation and personal struggle with my "Minnesota Nice," I have decided that this is not working for me - so, you are fired.
I have thought long-and-hard about the great things our state has to offer, including our beautiful parks and our state workers that continue the outstanding Minnesota work ethics tradition that we are known for. You have decided the things we take pride in are not vital. I disagree, so yes, you are fired.
I thought about my own job description and, boy are you lucky to have worked as long as you have. Consider yourself fortunate. In this economy, I am sure there are many that would take your pay, settle the budget and actually do what they were hired to do. Yes, you are fired.
What is your job description anyways, state? Did it include shunning those that looked to you for support? If so, then that is one check in your corner. If, on the other hand, it included securing a budget, which by all accounts it probably did, this is why we are having this frank discussion. Also, I have found your people skills lacking. You're fired.
At my job, I have people I am accountable to and I can't just walk away or throw a fit if I disagree. But, I am sure you know this. Do you think that good business rules don't apply to you?
As we finalize this separation agreement, I want you to know that everyone in this state IS vital. And, it hurts to hear you say that some are not. Have you ever heard the saying,"actions speak louder than words?" Your words are loud and clear and unacceptable. You are fired.
I think that it is time that you reflect and time is running out.
Play nice on the playground (if it's not closed), do the job you were hired to do and apologize to the state of Minnesota for having to listen to your childish squabbles at our expense - or yes, you are fired!
The Department of Human Services has sent its employees this memo on how to get unemployment during the shutdown:
If there is a state government disruption of services we know that thousands of state employees will be applying for unemployment benefits. At the same time, there are roughly 114,000 fellow citizens who are currently requesting unemployment benefits every week. In order to make the application process go as smoothly as possible for you and to ensure that those currently receiving benefits experience no disruption of service, we have prepared instructions for state employees who may need to apply for unemployment benefits. Those instructions can be found at the www.BeReadyMN.com site and also on the UI website at http://www.uimn.org/ui/shutdown/index.html .
Here is a brief summary of what you will find at those websites:
** UI works the same for state employees as it does for all other workers in the state. There are no special provisions.
**You should not apply for unemployment benefits until you are actually unemployed and have worked less than 32 hours in a Sunday through Saturday week - this means you should not apply for benefits until the week of July 3rd.
** Your unemployment benefits application will be effective the Sunday of the week you apply.
** There is no advantage to applying early.
** In order to manage the volume of applications, there is a schedule for applying next week based on the last digit of your social security number. The schedule can be found at http://www.uimn.org/ui/shutdown/index.html
** Our online self-service system will be available on July 4th (our staff will not be working on the 4th, however, due to the holiday.)
We encourage you to apply for unemployment benefits online. Our online self-service system is faster and easier and we expect our phone system to be very busy during the week of July 3rd.
No matter what state you live in, apply for unemployment benefits with the State of Minnesota - www.uimn.org.
If you are not working due to the shutdown, you are considered laid off for unemployment insurance purposes.
State employees who are not working due to the shutdown will not be receiving vacation pay or severance pay.
Select "direct deposit" for your payment method if you can. Direct deposit has a quicker initial set up time than the debit card option.
Thank you for your cooperation.
Losing a job and a paycheck for who-knows-how-long is certainly the toughest part about being a state employee-victim of a crisis not of your making. But finding out you're not an essential cog in the wheel of Minnesota can't be a lot of fun, either.
The Department of Human Services this afternoon let their "non-essential" employees know they're non-essential employees by telling them that if they were essential, they'd know by now.
As you know, Governor Dayton filed a petition with the court identifying critical activities that should be continued in the event of a shutdown beginning July 1. All agency operations would be discontinued except for those determined by the court to be critical activities. In the context of a possible shutdown, "critical activities" are generally those that must remain uninterrupted or conditions that would create a potential immediate threat to public health and/or safety.
We view all positions to be vitally important to the work we do and we value the work you do as a DHS employee. However, I can let you know at this time notices have been delivered to staff who are serving in critical positions. If you did not receive a notice and if a shutdown is not averted, you are not to report to work or perform any agency work on or after July 1, 2011 for the duration of the shutdown, unless you are otherwise notified that you are to return to work.
We will provide more information as it becomes available. Please keep informed through your local news resources and visit Be Ready MN (https://www.bereadymn.com/) daily for updates. Answers to questions will be posted as they become available. In addition the Employee Emergency Information Line (651-431-3023; Relay Service 1-800-627-3529) will be updated regularly.
We truly appreciate your patience and cooperation during this difficult time and look forward to this situation being resolved soon.
While much has been made of the size of Minnesota's budget shortfall -- it's one of the highest deficits as a percentage of the state's overall budget -- we are hardly alone. Forty-six states have reduced services as a result of budget woes, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
Minnesota's projected 2012 budget shortfall of $3.8 billion is 20.3% of the state's general fund budget. Five states have it worse: California (27.2%), Nevada (37.4%), New Jersey (36%), Oregon (25.5%), and Texas (20.5%).
What are they doing about it? Here's a look:
California - Gov. Jerry Brown caved on his quest for a compromise of budget cuts and revenue increases last week. He needed four Republicans to agree. They wouldn't. A budget was approved today relies on forecasts that the economy will improve and California will reap $4 billion in additional revenue just because of it. According to the Los Angeles Times, a 23% cut in funding means "cash grants for the needy would fall, a program to help thousands of teen mothers get an education would be suspended and hundreds of millions of dollars would be siphoned from mental health programs." Universities are taking big cuts and raising tuition. Seventy state parks will close.
Nevada - The Republican governor reached a budget deal earlier this month that extends $620 million in temporary taxes that were to expire tomorrow. But 70 percent of the state's business will get a tax break. Room taxes at hotels will go toward education. Teacher tenure was eliminated as was seniority in deciding which teachers will be eliminated. Employees hired after the first of the year will not get retirement health insurance.
New Jersey - Lawmakers are expected to vote on a budget today that is $1 billion more than the governor wants. Democrats are relying on revenue estimates that are too rosy, according to the governor. The Democrats' budget would restore money for education, boost tax relief to the working poor and prevent steep cuts to Medicaid, according to the Newark Star Ledger.
The governor will veto the measure and Democrats do not have the Republican votes to override him. He has also promised to veto the millionaire's tax, an income-tax surcharge on residents making more than $1 million a year, which Democrats are pushing in a bill separate from the overall budget.
Like Minnesota, the two sides are risking a government shutdown on Friday. If New Jersey goes toes up, Minnesota won't be getting much national attention if/when it shuts down Friday morning.
Oregon - One of the major sticking points is the size of the state's public safety budget. Under the newly inked deal, the Register-Guard reports, "an $18 million hole in the state's $1.4 billion budget for prisons would be filled partly through a bill that would save money by capping the length of prison sentences for probation violationsand partly through debt savings on state bonds that were never sold, as well as some other piecemeal savings." Democrats and Republicans split the difference on their stances on the bill.
"It's a compromise," said Rep. Dennis Richardson, a Central Point Republican and the GOP's point man on the budget. "Neither side was going to let the other leave with exactly what they wanted. ... This allows us all to go home. It's time."
The budget raises some court fees to fund the judiciary budget.
Earlier the state cut funding to the state's seven public universities by 17 percent -- a 5 percent decrease from the governor's recommend budget.
Texas - A bill passed last night cutting $4 billion in state aid for Texas school districts, according to the Houston Chronicle. Republicans say the school cuts and others in a state budget that slashed $15 billion were necessary to avoid raising taxes. Supporters argue that school districts are bloated in administrative salaries and costs and could spend some of that money in the classroom.
The state did not raise taxes and did not touch $10 billion in reserve funds.
It appears that a bill that would have required local law enforcement to allow officers to ask anyone they detain about their citizenship status would fail. The lawmakers did pass a bill making it a crime for TSA agents to "grope" airline passengers, however.(1 Comments)
Tom Petty is reportedly upset that Rep. Michele Bachmann played his song, "American Girl," at the conclusion of her announcement that she wants to be president of the United States.
It's an appropriate song beyond the title, perhaps, because American Girl, itself , has been fact-checked over the years, and meaning attributed to it has generally been wrong. Mrs. Bachmann, as NPR suggested today, is a fact-checker's dream.
One urban legend has suggested it's about a woman committing suicide at the University of Florida. That's wrong.
So what is the song about? Nothing, really. It was inspired by cars whizzing by his apartment. They sounded like waves at the beach, he said. Oh.
In selecting a song written in 1978, Mrs. Bachmann continues a political cliche: Using old songs while presenting oneself as a candidate of fresh ideas.
In the last presidential election, for example, Hillary Clinton used Bachmann-Turner Overdrive's "Taking Care of Business," a song from the early '70s (She also used "American Girl"), Mike Huckabee went with Boston's "More Than a Feeling," Chris Dodd chose the Temptations "Get Ready", and John McCain went with ABBA's, "Take a Chance on Me." Those are all songs from the '70s or mid-'60s. They all lost.
What were they trying to tap into if not music associated with some of the cruddiest years in our nation's history?
Barack Obama, meanwhile, alternated between the Black Eyed Peas, "Yes We Can," Bruce Springsteen's "The Rising" and U2's "City of Blinding Lights." Those were all songs that were popular in the same decade as the election.
There might be a lesson there.
The Department of Human Services in Minnesota has sent out guidelines to their employees about what to do to prepare for a state shutdown.
We were particularly impressed with the suggested script for recording voicemail messages:
"Hello this is __________. Due to the shutdown of state government I am away from work indefinitely. I will return to work when the Legislative funding for the continued operation of the Minnesota Department of Human Services is enacted into law. For more information, please monitor news reports or see our website at www.dhs.state.mn.us."
If you're a regular News Cut reader, you know we can't pass this up.
Even if you're not a Minnesota state worker, write the voicemail message script you'd like to hear if you were calling the state.
Post it below.
Don't let me down.(11 Comments)
Don't politicians know how to Google?
Michele Bachmann invoked the name of John Wayne, a son of Iowa with whom she shares a spirit, she says.
How can a presidential candidate possibly go wrong identifying with John Wayne?
Answer: by getting the wrong John Wayne. The John Wayne that was from Waterloo, was John Wayne Gacy, notorious serial killer.
John Wayne the actor, born Marion Morrison, was from Winterset, Iowa, which is about 167 miles away.(7 Comments)
Legislative leaders and the governor have taken a vow of silence on the budget negotiations that may or may not be making progress toward averting a shutdown of state government later this week.
The battle for the hearts and minds is now taking place in the inbox of state employees. House Speaker Kurt Zellers and Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch sent this e-mail to state employees today:
Dear Valued State Employee:
As Speaker of the House and Majority Leader of the Senate, we want to personally let you know that we do not want a government shutdown. Our best opportunity for resolution is in the next 72 hours. This is a serious time for you, for us and for our state.
The budget that passed the Minnesota Legislature in May spent $34 billion. It represents a 12% increase over the $30 billion this same tax structure brought in for the past two years. If we include the $2.3 billion of federal stimulus dollars that supplemented our current budget during the recession, this $34 billion budget represents a 6% increase in spending. All without raising taxes.
The governor vetoed all but the agriculture budget. He originally wanted to spend $37 billion, and later revised his budget. However, he has yet to provide key details for each part of that budget.
Since the governor vetoed the Legislatures budget bills, we have made three substantive compromises. We funded K-12 education, public safety and courts at the governors requested levels; withdrew our request for tax cuts; and allocated additional resources to higher education, environment, and flood and disaster relief. All were rejected by Governor Dayton.
We also asked to be called to special session - something only the governor can do - so that we can pass bills and avoid an unfortunate, unnecessary and potentially costly shutdown. The Governor has said he will not call a special session.
We, like you, know what it is like to sit around the kitchen table, pay the bills and balance our household budget. We know that our balanced budget includes difficult decisions for state agencies. But you can be sure about one thing: Our budget keeps state agencies open on July 1 and state employees will continue getting paychecks beyond June 30.
We agree with the Pioneer Press editorial from Sunday, June 26 that characterized Governor Daytons negotiations as This is not a compromise. This is hostage taking. Governor Dayton promised as a candidate to not shut down government, and he reiterated that pledge during his State of the State Address this year.
We take him at his word, and we will work everyday to help him keep it. We remain resolved to working with Governor Dayton to complete the state budget by June 30 and to keep state government open.
Speaker Kurt Zellers
Majority Leader Amy Koch
The letter counters one sent a week ago by Gov. Mark Dayton:
This weekend you received notices that, unless a budget is enacted by July 1st, state government will shut down most of its operations. Most of you would be laid off or placed on an unpaid leave of absence until government operations resume. This was an extremely difficult decision for everyone involved; however, we had no choice but to begin planning for this possibility.
As a precaution, we have identified the most critical government services, which we believe must continue even in a shutdown. Today we have submitted this list to the Ramsey County District Court, which ultimately will decide what services will continue past July 1st, if a shutdown occurs.
I consider virtually all services provided by the state to be essential, and all of them have been established by previous governors and legislatures to serve and benefit the people of Minnesota. My decisions were not based upon personal preferences or policy considerations. Rather, they were instructed by the words of the Minnesota Constitution, which states clearly: "No money shall be paid out of the treasury of this state except in pursuance of an appropriation by law." (Article XI, Sect. 1.) Thus my decisions were based entirely upon which functions of state government are so critical to protecting the lives and safety of the people of Minnesota, or which, if terminated, would cause such disorder or severe statewide economic impact, that they should be made exceptions to the Constitution's clear prohibition.
I know that I speak for my entire cabinet when I say that we greatly value you and all of our state's dedicated employees. We deeply appreciate your hard work and the high-quality services you provide to millions of Minnesotans. It is precisely those Minnesotans, those services, and your ability to deliver them, for which I am negotiating.
I will continue to do everything I possibly can to reach a compromise and a balanced budget agreement in time to avert a shutdown. I believe that you - and everyone in our state government - provide very important services to Minnesotans, and I will continue to defend you.
The last several weeks have been, and the next few weeks will be, extremely difficult for you and other state employees. I thank you. Like you, I look forward getting to resolving this crisis as soon as possible and moving ahead to our shared commitment to build a better Minnesota.
My best regards.
Update 4:31 p.m. - The Minnesota Department of Health sent this memo around later today:
Speaker of the Minnesota House Kurt Zellers and Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch today sent an e-mail to state employees about budget negotiations and the possibility of a government shutdown. We have heard from a number of employees who received it, but we also know that some did not. We believe it was intended to be sent to all state employees and that they did not choose to send it to only some. For those employees who have not yet received it, they may still get it.
The email was sent to publicly available email lists, and was not coordinated through the state's central system. The Governor's Office and the MDH incident Management Team are aware of the e-mails. We know that some of employees have asked whether they should do anything in response to the message. We are not advising any particular action.
You can view the letter at http://minnesota.publicradio.org/collections/special/columns/news_cut/archive/2011/06/silent_before_microphones_legi.shtml.
Update 4:44 p.m. MAPE, the professional employees union, has sent this news release:
"Today State Representative Kurt Zellers and State Senator Amy Koch sent out what many of our members have termed an inappropriate, 'political' letter to state employees. Speaker Zellers, do you not remember that it was Representative Keith Downey, a member of your caucus, who said that when it came to the state workforce, it is important to 'starve the beast?'
Do you both not remember that throughout the recent legislative session, your members, in both houses, continually attacked hard-working, dedicated state employees by authoring and passing bills that cut state employees' jobs, wages, healthcare and pensions?
We support Governor Dayton - and do not trust what tricks your party will pull during a legislative session. Leadership is about compromise and fairness for the common good, not ideology that allows the rich to get richer. You are jeopardizing our members' livelihoods and financial well being by not compromising with Governor Dayton.
Senator Koch and Representative Zellers, make no mistake about it - our members believe to their core that the budget impasse and upcoming shutdown rest squarely on your shoulders. It is troubling that you would choose to harm the middle class rather than have the wealthy pay their fair share in taxes. Meet with the Governor and get the job done, don't waste time on insincere and insulting letters.
As an aside, we would also like to know how you got the emails of the state workforce to spam them, and why it appears that the email address it was sent from has bounced back responses from our members."
Ostensibly, the story on Saturday was the "glittering" of Rep. Michele Bachmann, the latest target of gay rights activists. On Saturday, a woman tried to toss glitter at Bachmann at the RightOnline conference of conservative activists and bloggers in Minneapolis.
Upon further review, however, the most impressive part of the video is the synchronized security forces who made the woman disappear as if it was a magic show.
By the end of this year, the national debt will be more than the country's GDP, but it won't be the Fiddlin' Foresters' fault.
President Barack Obama, in this video about cutting waste, targeted the Fiddling Forest Rangers. He said the government pays to operate their Web site. "I'll put their music on my iPod, but I'm not paying for their Web site," the president declared.
Within hours after the release of the video, the foresters -- and their fiddles -- were history.
Who knew cutting waste could be this easy?
But if a Web site dedicated to the Fiddling Foresters is a waste of government money, why does the government even have the Fiddling Foresters, the official "old-time string band of the US Forest Service?" From their doomed Web site (the cached version):
The band has performed at national conservation meetings, state fairs, the 2002 Winter Olympics, other international events and seminars, the National Western Stock Show, teacher workshops, elementary schools, national celebrations, open houses and various Forest Service meetings and events. They travel with complete costumes, sound system, stage lights, rear-screen projection system with PowerPoint visuals and video, props, and instruments. Depending on the occasion audience members often receive a tri-fold brochure that highlights appropriate conservation messages and the performance program.
The president Obama appointed VP Joe Biden to root out the waste, and he ordered an aggressive first step -- no more Web sites.
Starting right now, there is a freeze on all .gov URL's. This means no one can get a new one without a written waiver from the federal CIO, Vivek Kundra. Facing this constraint, agencies will focus on their current infrastructure, adding content and functionality to existing websites.
Vivek Kundra is the country's chief information officer. By the way, he's got a Web site -- cio.gov. Which do you think had more page views: Kundra's or the Fiddling Foresters?
How much does this really save? Hardly anything. The Fiddling Foresters hadn't updated their Web site in months, so no one was being paid to update it. That pretty much leaves the cost of the domain name -- a $10 per year savings. Assuming a $13.8 trillion deficit, we only need to shut down 138 billion government websites to get out of this jam.
In today's announcement, there was no mention of the blockbuster story from the Los Angeles Times today. The biggest cash airlift -- nearly two dozen C-130 planes stuffed with money -- in the history of the country has resulted in what may be the biggest theft of government money in history:
This month, he Pentagon and the Iraqi government are finally closing the books on the program that handled all those Benjamins. But despite years of audits and investigations, U.S. Defense officials still cannot say what happened to $6.6 billion in cash -- enough to run the Los Angeles Unified School District or the Chicago Public Schools for a year, among many other things.
For the first time, federal auditors are suggesting that some or all of the cash may have been stolen, not just mislaid in an accounting error. Stuart Bowen, special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, an office created by Congress, said the missing $6.6 billion may be "the largest theft of funds in national history."
How many Web sites will the government have to shut down to get its $6.6 billion back?(19 Comments)
Sen. Linda Scheid, a DFLer from Brooklyn Park, has entered hospice after an extended fight against cancer. There's really not a lot to say at a time like this that isn't already obvious. But a glance at her Caring Bridge guest book reveals quite a few entries from lawmakers past and present, from both the DFL and GOP, each written with a love and obvious respect that provides its own measure of comfort to the state.
Sen Scheid publicly revealed her cancer in March 2007. It was in the middle of a debate on a bill from Sen. Linda Berglin that established expenditure limits and insurance rate restrictions on health care. Sen. Berglin said the market-based means of controlling health care costs "doesn't work."
Sen. Scheid says she didn't like the bill because government health care doesn't work.
Despite her moving speech and acknowledgment of her illness, the bill passed the Minnesota Senate. It never got a hearing in the House.
Former presidential candidate John Edwards cheated on his dying wife, fathered a child with a campaign staffer, and may have illegally diverted campaign funds to help keep the affair quiet.
And if that's not bad enough, he also checks his smartphone for messages while driving...(2 Comments)
As a son of the Bay State, I always enjoy it when politicians hit the Freedom Trail in search of a photo opportunity to somehow relate the beginning of the American Revolution to their campaign. They frequently don't know what they're talking about, which is ironic because the whole point of the existence of the Freedom Trail is for people to understand how the Revolution started.
Step forward, Sarah Palin...
1. Paul Revere didn't warn the British not to take away our arms. He was riding to warn Samuel Adams and John Hancock that the British were on their way to arrest them.
2 Paul Revere didn't ring any bells. He was on a horse. However, after he was arrested he was released by the British when bells began ringing and shots were fired.
3. He didn't ride his horse through town. He took the water route to Charlestown and then picked up the horse. The patriot leaders weren't in town, that's why he had to ride to warn them. They were hiding in outlying areas.
These factoids tend to trip up presidential candidates. A few months ago, Michele Bachmann got the state wrong when she started talking about the beginning of the Revolution...
Assuming she's following the entire Freedom Trail, her next stop should be the USS Constitution, which people probably know better as Old Ironsides. On a slow news day, we're rather hoping someone asks about the history of the ship.
Gov. Mark Dayton today vetoed all of the budget bills the Legislature sent to him and the game of "chicken" is on in earnest. The state needs a budget by July 1, or it will have to shut down for the second time in its history.
"It's too early to worry about that," some experts say. But that's the same thing they said in April when the Minnesota Twins came out of Florida and promptly fell on their faces. Moral? It's never too early to expect the worst, especially when Republicans and Democrats are as far apart on the basic expectations of government as they currently are.
Remember, too, that last January, one House committee was already hearing about government shutdowns. It wasn't too early then, either.
What can we expect in a state government shutdown? Let 2005 be our guide.
1) Forget about saving any money.
Government shutdowns don't save the government money. On the contrary, they're pricey. For example, after 10 days, state workers are eligible for layoff pay. Many will burn vacation time to keep a paycheck coming in, but even then they don't see the cash right away. They won't actually get it until the budget is passed. But it will cost the state about $2 million a day. And the cost of preparing for a shutdown is considerable, even if the state doesn't go toes up. In 2001, it cost $2.7 million, even though the state didn't shut down.
State workers often need that second paycheck in July to make the mortgage payment. Many will not be able to make it.
2) Schedule a driver's license exam now.
Put driver's ed on the fast track. The driver's license testing stations will likely close right away. Licenses and tabs could probably still be renewed.
3) Closed rest areas
This won't be that big of a deal, although you can count on seeing lots of visuals on TV and newspapers. There are only a few dozen rest areas in Minnesota anyway and, besides, truck stops and convenience stores are all located off major highways and they have restrooms.
4) Plan your vacation somewhere else.
State Parks will close. But because the July 4th weekend is so important in Minnesota, the Legislature would likely pass a natural resources budget first. Still, you'll have to decide whether it's worth the gamble. Wisconsin is lovely at this time of the year.
MnDOT (the Department of Transportation) would likely be the hardest hit. Construction projects might shut down. Potholes won't be filled. If there are hazards on a highway that couldn't be removed, the roads would be closed. Roadsides won't be mowed. The traffic cameras would be shut down. The Highway Helpers will disappear.
About three or four thousand MnDOT employees would likely be furloughed.
6) Battered women and children endangered?:
Some battered women and children shelters could close after several days. State grants which fund them wouldn't be authorized. A judge would likely determine whether some services are "essential," and would need to be funded.
7) What's essential?
In 2005, the state deemed these functions to be "essential" and, thus, funded:
• Medical care of inpatients and emergency outpatient care;
• Activities essential to ensure continued public health and safety, including safe use of
food, drugs, and hazardous materials;
• Continuance of transportation safety functions and the protection of transport property;
• Protection of lands, buildings, waterways, equipment and other property owned by the
• Care of prisoners and other persons in the custody of the government;
• Law enforcement and criminal investigations;
• Emergency and disaster assistance;
• Activities that ensure the production of power and the maintenance of the power
• Activities essential to the preservation of the essential elements of the financial system of the government, including the borrowing and tax collection activities of the government;
• Activities necessary to maintain protection of research property.
It's possible that the Legislature could pass a "light's on" bill in a special session, continuing funding at current levels. But that's more likely if a broader framework for an agreement on budget issues has been reached or is at hand. Passing a "light's on" bill, however, takes the pressure off reaching deals. There isn't a lot that politicians at the Capitol agree on, but "light's on" is usually one of them. They hate "light on" bills.(30 Comments)
The Minnesota Majority, Taxpayer's League of Minnesota and other conservative groups held a press conference on the state budget at noontime today. A few reporters showed up but it's been awhile since the groups have been able to attract much of a crowd at its Capitol mall events.
As you can see, the big "visual" was the Dayton soup truck. What attracted more attention around the Capitol today? The real thing:
|Gene Pelowski, Jr.||
|Gregory M. Davids||
|Mary Liz Holberg||