The Week in Commentary
A Republican meteorologist looks at climate change
Paul Douglas, a Minnesota meteorologist and author, identifies himself as a Republican and argues that "acknowledging that the atmosphere is warming doesn't make you a liberal."
"No, you're not imagining it: we've clicked into a new and almost foreign weather pattern. ...
"Some TV meteorologists, professionals skilled at predicting short-term weather, are still in denial. Why? Some don't like being upstaged by climate scientists. We've all been burned by weather models, and some (mistakenly) apply the same suspicion to climate simulations. Others can't or won't take the time to dig into the climate science.
" 'It's all political,' one local TV weather friend told me recently. No, it's science. But we've turned it into a political football, a bizarre litmus test for conservatism. Weather and climate are flip-sides of the same coin; you can't talk about one without understanding the other.
"My climate epiphany wasn't overnight, and it had nothing to do with Al Gore."
"Powerful piece. Thank you for giving rational Republicans some ammo with which to push back the shrill rhetoric of denial." -- John Washington, Scottsdale, Ariz.
"While we may disagree on some aspects of government rule, as a Democrat I agree with the science and the logic behind human involvement in climate change. Just do the math and we are responsible for adding something to what is developing into a potential disaster." -- James Huffer, D.C.
"This guy has a clean energy company, and talks about Republicans and the evils of drilling. He is as political a left-wing hack as you can get. Clue, he badmouths climate scientists who have evidence to the contrary." -- Fred Blackwell, Roswell, Ga.
"Do you believe the current climate is ideal and that even if we could (we cannot) we should try to maintain the climate where it is? The climate models are invalid. We would be far better served to learn to deal with a changing climate, whatever the reasons for the change." -- Richard Bunce, Oak Island, N.C.
Brodkorb case can be a cautionary tale for employers
Sara Gullickson McGrane, an attorney, looks ahead to a sensational sex-discrimination case and offers a few tips to employers who would like to avoid any such experience in their workplace.
"The Minnesota Senate appears to be in for a bit of a wild ride as former employee Michael Brodkorb goes on a fishing expedition to prove discrimination based on his recent firing. If anything, his tactics may produce a net full of Asian carp -- a flash in the media pan, but not necessarily a gratifying meal.
"To land the big one (Brodkorb is asking for $500,000 in damages), the former legislative staffer must prove individuals at his same level were treated differently by the same decision-maker when they engaged in substantially similar conduct. That is a high legal standard to meet, even if Brodkorb tries to widen his net to individuals on both sides of the aisle.
"In addition, Brodkorb's attorney said the expedition will involve deposing women to determine if they had affairs with legislators and yet maintained their jobs. Brodkorb and his team may find it difficult to convince the courts that they should investigate his claims of affairs and dissimilar treatment between male legislators and their female subordinates. ...
"Companies can't control whether they get sued, but they can be prepared in the event it happens by being consistent so fishing expeditions like this don't land the big one."
Homelessness is a big problem with lots of solutions
Kenza Hadj-Moussa, a staffer with the Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless, takes note of recent successes in reducing homelessness and appraises the kind of effort that would be necessary to end it.
"Last month, the city of Minneapolis released the news that street homelessness has been reduced by 40 percent since 2010. ... This is no accident. It's the result of coordinated action by the city and county, downtown businesses, faith communities and nonprofits.
"There is more than a glimmer of hope. Whether it's serving a meal, or welcoming affordable housing to the neighborhood, Minnesotans are resolving to do their part. There are local, state, and federal plans to end homelessness. Our problems -- even the big ones -- have solutions.
"To promote those solutions, it is necessary that our leaders concentrate on reforming systems and not the people in them, and on fixing problems instead of focusing on fears. They must also be willing to give credit where it's due, whether to state or local units of government, businesses, workers, or any of the people who want to contribute to our state."
"Despite the down economy over the last few years, it's nice to see there is still progress achieved for ending homelessness." -- Alex Eaton, Minneapolis
A Minnesota anthropologist considers the politics of identity
Jose Leonardo Santos, a social scientist, considers the political battles in Minnesota against the context of classic anthropology.
"Watching the Minnesota Legislature line up amendment proposals so that people can tear each other to pieces reminds me of a useful anthropological concept. Sir E.E. Evans-Pritchard called it 'segmentary-opposition' when he noted it among Nuer tribes. ...
"Anybody remember pounding on a little brother? All good and fine. But when some kid from school picks on him, all of a sudden you come running to the rescue. That's family. ...
"It works at various levels: family, school, neighborhood, East/West side, region of country, and so on. These are identities that separate us or unite us, depending on the situation. Right now, the Republican candidates are at each other's throats. In November, however, they'll be ganging up on President Obama. ...
"Each side feels threatened by the other and brings in all its allies. The result is a no-surrender feud. Here's the part that bugs me. Aren't all of us threatened by this whole economic-crisis thing? Why hasn't that brought us together?"
"'Aren't all of us threatened by this whole economic-crisis thing?' Of course not. The top 1 percent got a huge bailout and are doing quite well. The economic crisis has enhanced their wealth and their political power. Only by uniting against them can the 99 percent get our fair share." -- Rick Varco, St. Paul
Whoever your boss is, you work one day out of three for government
John LaPlante, a senior fellow at Center of the American Experiment, assesses the burden on American taxpayers and says we ought to be concerned about getting our money's worth.
"In 2012, Americans will work eight hours a day, five days a week, from the beginning of the year until April 17 to pay for the spending incurred in their name by federal, state and local governments. That's one of the findings of the Tax Foundation's latest calculation of 'Tax Freedom Day.'...
"If you account for deficit spending, Tax Freedom Day comes on May 14. That is within one week of the record date of May 21, 1945 -- a time in World War II just after the United States had finished defeating Nazi Germany and was closing in on the Japanese homeland. ...
"Like debt, government spending can be good or bad, wise or foolish. Incurring debt to buy something that will help you permanently increase your income by 30 percent is wise; running up long-term debt for something that's here today and gone tomorrow is not wise. Like debt, government spending can make us better off. But it can also impose costs far greater than any benefit it delivers."
"Eventually, we will have to enact measures to reduce the deficit. These measures will necessarily have to include higher revenues. Initially, they may be called user fees, offsetting receipts or other euphemisms, but they will raise revenues." -- Rollie Whelan, Minneapolis
"Rather than arguing dogmatically for a higher or lower level of total spending, it would be nice if we could focus a little and argue for and against the value of different kinds of spending, and then to focus a little more on the value of different ways of spending within budget categories." -- Mark Nietzel, Minnesota
"By just talking about taxes and not what we get from government, this piece is obscuring a hugely important point. The author acknowledges the need for some spending, but without detailing it I doubt most people could come up with many of the things we get from our taxes. Without taxes, and hence government spending on public goods, much of the idolized private sector would not exist. We can argue about how much we should be spending and on what policies, but we must never lose sight of the fact that government provides us with the public goods, from safety to education, that make a private sector economy a reality." -- Scott B, St. Paul