Monday, January 31, 2011

Maybe it's just me

But I can't help but notice that over 80% of the sponsors of House File 7, which repeals Minnesota's Local Government Pay Equity Act, are male legislators who have hired female legislative assistants. The purpose of this groundbreaking 1984 law is "to eliminate sex-based wage disparities in public employment in this state" by requiring that those doing comparable work be paid comparably. Used to be that a governmental employer could classify women as one job title at a lower rate of pay and men as another, paying much more -- even if the job duties were identical. This proposal does away with that small step toward pay equity. And as you might expect, it's a GOP proposal by primarily men. Men whose legislative offices are run by women.

But you just have to wonder how those women are going to react when their job titles are changed to "administrative assistants" and their pay cut 20%? After all, administrative assistants - primarily women - aren't as valuable as legislative assistants, important jobs held by men. Going to make for some uncomfortable staff lunches, I'd bet.

Let's hope this idiotic, sexist, backwards legislation goes nowhere.

Pictured: Representative Steve Drazkowski (R-Mazeppa) telling his Legislative Administrative Assistant that besides that cut in pay, she's going to have to start fetching coffee for all the men in the office.

Takin' away our freedoms revisited

I'll bet some of you were thinking that we were joking in that earlier post about the loss of freedom that comes with traffic laws and the need for some Tea Party freedom lovin' deregulation of our streets.

Nope. From Georgia, we hear of State Representative Bobby Franklin Of Marietta, who has proposed the "Right to Travel Act." From the bill:
Free people have a common law and constitutional right to travel on the roads and highways that are provided by their government for that purpose. Licensing of drivers cannot be required of free people, because taking on the restrictions of a license requires the surrender of an inalienable right.
Harking back to the Magna Carta, the bill continues:
In England in 1215, the right to travel was enshrined in Article 42 of Magna Carta:
It shall be lawful to any person, for the future, to go out of our kingdom, and to return, safely and securely, by land or by water, saving his allegiance to us, unless it be in time of war, for some short space, for the common good of the kingdom: excepting prisoners and outlaws, according to the laws of the land, and of the people of the nation at war against us, and Merchants who shall be treated as it is said above.

From what I can tell, Representative Franklin is a bit of a flake. A rundown of the bills he's submitted can be found here. But please don't share the link too widely, we here at the Cucking Stool don't want to go giving the Minnesota GOP any ideas.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

His name is written in the Book

Bradley Dean Smith, that is. But it’s not the Book of Life I’m talking about, it’s the Big Book of Reverends maintained by Wright County. A clerk in the license bureau there told me that Smith signed the book on May 22, 2008. And he’s Bradley Dean Smith in the book, not Bradlee Dean. In order to sign the book, and therefore have the civil authority to marry people, you must be ordained or licensed by a denomination, or have “authority from the minister’s spiritual assembly.”

The latter is the route that Smith apparently followed, listing as his spiritual assembly Sky Ministries – His Present Glory, Newport, Minnesota. “Sky Ministries” has a “heaven above,” “big guy upstairs” kind of a ring to it doesn’t it? Well, in this case, it refers to Judy Sky, the senior minister at the church. Really. So Bradley got his authority from Judy.

Hang on to that name; we’ll come back to it later.

But hasn’t Smith been in the “youth ministry” business for a decade or more? The earliest Form 990 non-profit return to the IRS for Dean’s youth ministry that I can find is for 2002. The return says that the principal purpose of the organization is a “religious youth ministry.” And it is a very curious return, indeed. Here is the top of the first page:

2002 990ez ycr heading

The hand-written language on the top just identifies it as an amended return, no big deal there. That happens all the time. But what is noteworthy is that it indicates that it is a short period “final return” for YCR, as if it was winding up and going out of business. And sure enough, YCR said it was closing up shop:

dissolution recitation by ycr

No forwarding address! But maybe there was! Shortly after this winding up, winding down, and jumping off the corporate cliff, Smith joined the Kingdom of Heaven. He even got a new picture ID for voting purposes:


They’re apparently very worried about voter fraud in the Kingdom of Heaven, too!

Smith and YCR attempted to slip the surly bonds of earth at about the same time. Smith and YCR did both return from taking a spin on Comet Kohoutek in 2008; Smith files as a minister in May, and YCR incorporates (or reincorporates) in April. It is the interim period between blast off and returning to earth that is especially interesting, and which has been the subject of some attention, already.

Also in 2008, in July, Old Paths Church, Inc. was incorporated in Minnesota as a nonprofit, with the same address as YCR in Annandale; Jake MacAulay is listed as the agent for both.

YCR and Old Paths are obviously related entities; in 2008, YCR gave or contributed just under $44,000 to Old Paths or an unincorporated entity with the same name; the figure for 2009 is $37,700. It’s funny, though, that no Form 990 non-profit returns can be found for Old Paths Church, Inc., even though according to YCR itself Old Paths received substantial money from YCR in 2008 and 2009, and the two organizations engaged in “joint ministry activities.” There ARE a number of religious Old Paths organizations, so it is possible that the monies were paid by YCR to another Old Paths, but YCR’s 990s are not transparent on the subject. In any event, there doesn’t seem to be any Old Paths Church entity that has filed a Form 990, from anywhere in the country.

So, did $81K plus get raptured, or what?

In the next installment, I’ll write about “YCR, The Missing Years,” and the taking of tax free ministerial housing allowances by Bradley Dean Smith and Jake MacAulay.

Karl Bremer and Andy Birkey did a lot of early spadework on this story; my thanks, well our thanks, to them.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Cognitive dissonance at the Star Tribune

Kudos to Star Tribune reporters who set out a few days ago to see what $2 billion in withheld state money has meant to Minnesota schools. The story "Money woes test school quality" is not pretty:
  • In Willmar, students share and check out textbooks instead of bringing them home.
  • In Rochester, some school areas are cleaned only once a week and some staffers bring blankets because of low thermostats.
  • In Two Harbors, the school week was cut to four days, staff took two-year salary freezes and leaders put off replacing buses that rack up 450,000 miles a year in the state's most spread-out district.
  • In Perham, a roof leaks directly onto the school secretary's desk. Says Superintendent Tamara Uselman: "Patch and go and pray for the best."
There are many other indignities. Biology classes with 40 students that don't have enough specimens for experiments. Classrooms with literally not enough chairs for all the students. Clearly budget cutting has taken a toll on our schools. I'm sure if you canvassed all Minnesota public schools you would find similar situations, perhaps many even more dire. $2 billion is a lot to cut out of schools.

One thing you'll never see in a news story like this in the Strib is a connection to the continuing attacks on school teachers as the bane of public education, even though there are usually two or three attacks like that weekly in their own paper. It's not like the two subjects are unrelated. After all, if a teacher stands in front of a standing-room only classroom without necessary supplies in physically uncomfortable conditions that might have some bearing on the achievement of students.

Which brings us to today's editorial endorsing the activities of MinnCan.  The editorial is unremarkable except for its authoritarian style - it doesn't make any arguments about how the things that MinnCan is proposing might improve education. Given the supposed concern for "achievement gaps" in which the editorial is couched, it is notable that not one word is expended either on poverty or lack of funding being important issues. It's clear that the editorialist either doesn't read his/her own paper, or is just not a serious person.

Finally, how unethical is it for Star Tribune editorial writer Denise Johnson to have taken part in the birthing of MinnCan and not revealed that conflict of interest in the editorial, even if she didn't write it? As authoritarian leaders know, anything is okay as long as you get away with it.

* * * * * *

For more on the Star Tribune's dishonest and authoritarian education coverage see my Authoritarian Journalism, and Propagating a dishonest narrative.

Takin' away our freedoms

I've always wondered when the Tea Party penchant for hyperbole would eventually trickle down to curse the everyday losses of our fundamental freedoms. Like when you have to follow the traffic laws. Stop lights that stay red when no one's around except you, that whole speed limit thing, those ridiculous rules about licensing -- they really are just more frog-in-the-boiling water moments in the slow march toward slavery. But now we have a man from Missouri who sees the cabal of communist judges, prosecutors, and court scheduling clerks for what they truly are: agents of oppression of the highest magnitude.

When the jack booted thugs gave Ray Wolf citations for traffic violations, he used his rights as an American to go to court to fight them. As often happens, there were some scheduling issues that didn't sit right with Mr. Wolf. When he sent some pointed letters to the court requesting a continuance of his hearing, Mr. Wolf took the opportunity to inform them that he was on to their dastardly communist plot:
To let you know I use the word “Judge” lightly in your case. Your asshole (traffic cop) wrote me that ticket, committing constructive treason, and perjury of his oath, as you are about to do. If I come down there you damn sure won’t want me in your courtroom. I know you have people in the courthouse guarding your sorry “Communist” ass. I told you I am currently “Out OF STATE” and I demand a continuance. This is no longer a request!
The gentleman continued to provide the court with other examples of their treason, but the judges didn't take too well to the letters. He was eventually tried and convicted of tampering with a judicial officer in violation of Missouri law. At trial, his defense counsel employed the argument that we often hear when extremists are called out on their over-the-top rhetoric: I didn't mean it that way! He argued:
These are words, that Jeffersonian style words which have been used to inspire people. However, this was not the purpose. This is for shock.

These things like liberty, tyrants, blood, this is just firing language that's used to shock and awe people. It's the type of language that gets Americans to stand up and throw British into the ocean. It's the type of language used by Martin Luther King because you've talked people into walking from Selma, Alabama all the way to Montgomery knowing that the highway patrolmen were going to beat the crap out of them when they hit the bridge.
The appeal of his conviction was eventually denied, and you can read the entire opinion here.

But the prosecutor at trial did get to deliver what must be one of the best lines ever in a closing argument:
I might have missed some days in history class in high school, but I don't remember Thomas Jefferson ever telling you, "You can take that arrest warrant and shove it up your Communist ass."
I stand in awe.

Via Above the Law

Drinking Liberally: Much Warmer Edition


Well, not at warm as Joel Lueders drawing of the 331 Club, but a lot warmer than last week.

By the way, Joel has landscapes, cityscapes, and a lot of other things in this style that he has available on his website. Check it out.

But back to DL: we meet tonight from 6 PM to 9 PM or so at the 331 Club in Northeast Minneapolis. Tonight, the whole group will be meeting in executive session to discuss DL business, that is, politics.

In future weeks – that bears repeating – in future weeks, (no guest is coming tonight, so read carefully, people) we have some guests coming:

February 10th – Wy Spano, Almanac regular and chair of a public leadership program at the U. of Minn. in Duluth.

February 24th – David Schultz, also an Almanac regular, and professor of political science and election law at Hamline and the U. of Minn.

March 10th – Mayors Coleman and Rybak will be appearing together to talk about the legislative session, LGA and more.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Bradlee Dean’s application for martyrdom IV

He showed us his scars

This showed up on a YCR blog in the last day or two:

I came into the auditorium, dreading having to sit through a boring lecture…or so I thought! When Bradlee Dean began to speak to our school of 1,800 students, it was electrifying. Although I was sitting in the back corner of the room, it was as if there was no one else there, and every word was spoken directly to me.  Bradlee did not come across like the same-old sophisticated speaker who doesn’t know what he’s talking about. He spoke with such passion and truth that it was impossible NOT to walk away unaffected! He did not beat around the bush and say things “nicely” so as not to hurt the “poor youth” who “have it so rough.” No - he loved us enough to tell us “No!” and mean it. He showed us his scars [emphasis added] and I could not get the truth he spoke out of my heart and mind.

What? Stigmata?

One question that ought to be popping into your minds, boys and girls, is what is Bradley Dean Smith doing talking to 1,800 students? And what is he talking about? Did he come by himself, or did he bring the whole Singing Gantrys Band?

It if was a public school, and it most likely was, he probably snuck in under false pretenses:

When he was writing for the Minnesota Independent (it may have been called the MInnesota Monitor back then), Jeff Fecke wrote an article about Smith’s stealth tactics in gaining entrance to public school audiences. Here’s what Smith said at a YCR annual meeting a few years ago:

“We passed out over 100,000 [religious] tracts in public high schools because God said. Not because some tyrannical government wants to try telling us what we can say and what we can’t say, because we know what the Constitution says,” said Dean. “We know who the problem is, nothing’s changed in two thousand years.”

Dean’s ministry may not believe in the separation of church and state, but they seem well aware that public school administrators do.  And they have repeatedly run afoul of school officials and students in recent years for promising to run a program on abstinence and drug abuse, and mentioning God only when in front of students.  And by doing so, they’ve been able to earn thousands of dollars per event from public schools that later express surprise about the group’s brand of hardline Christianity.

Here’s one example of Smith’s tactics and his message:

In 2003, in Benton, Wisconsin, Dean and his band, Junkyard Prophet, performed at Benton High School for students in grades 7-12.  According to an article in the Dubuque Telegraph Herald, Dean “condemned homosexuality and the teaching of evolution in schools” in the process of speaking about abstinence and drug use.

“They had a captive audience for their message, and that wasn’t right,” said Benton Principal Gary Neis, according to the article.  Neis later would call an assembly to apologize to students for the group’s decision to stray into religion.

“They talked about influencing and brainwashing people. Be wise to the fact that is what they were doing. They were using the same tactics,” Neis told the students.

Here’s another:

A year later, in Tennessee, Dean brought his group to speak and perform at Roane County High School.  And the story was much the same.

According to the Oak Ridger, “RCHS Principal Jody McLoud apologized for any controversy or heartache the assembly generated. In addition to homosexuality, race and obesity [now, that one’s rich], the materials reportedly also included such topics as suicide, drugs and premarital sex.”

“They encouraged bigotry and hate-mongering toward children that may not share their religious beliefs or who are struggling to find an identity or self-esteem,” said Laura Dailey, a parent of a Roane County High student, according to the article.  The school district was forced to deal with the controversy by reiterating its policy that “forbids religious statements in schools.”

Jeff also got some insights from Sara Robinson, who along with David Neiwert, is one of the best fundamentalist-eliminationist watchers out there:

Writer Sara Robinson, who has followed the fundamentalist movement for the weblog Orcinus, said that she thought the group was “organized very specifically to get either drug treatment money or abstinence money.”  And she said that she wasn’t surprised that Dean, a former addict who now claims drug addiction is a myth, would feel okay about using bait-and-switch tactics to gain entry to schools, and access to taxpayer money.”

Robinson, who was raised as a fundamentalist Christian, said Dean’s group reminded her of speakers she had heard as a child.

“There was a person in the movie The Cross and the Switchblade named Nicky Cruz, who was a gang leader in New York, and [evangelist] David Wilkerson,” she said.  “They were huge on the church circuit.  There have always been these people who have sold their testimony.  That’s the … tradition that [Dean is] working at, he’s readapted it for the 21st century.”

Robinson said that Dean’s road from addiction to religion was commonplace in the fundamentalist movement.

“It’s very common in religious movement to find addicts because it scratches the same itch,” she said.  “It lets them keep their demons at bay.  There is a heavy bliss state that is addictive all on its own.  And there’s also the good two-minute hate,” she said, saying that anger at “others” was a powerful draw for fundamentalists.

It is apparent that YCR is an organization designed to hoover up public money (tax free) so that talentless and unschooled hacks can pay themselves handsome salaries while complaining about the provision of health care services to the poor. Disgusting is the most charitable word I can think of to describe it.

Here’s the link again to Jeff Fecke’s article. Please read it. There are many more examples of Smith’s abusive behavior in it.

Thanks to Avidor for some of the links.

Here are links to part one, part two, and part three in the series.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Education deform ushers in new era of school segregation

Education deform roundup for January 25

1) Two new social scientific studies show how the implementation of school "choice" has resulted in an alarming re-segregation of America's schools.  Kevin G. Welner, writing at the Washington Post's Answer Sheet blog sums up the studies: "...charter schools across the country [were found] to be substantially more racially isolated than traditional public schools." Study 1, and study 2.  Writes Welner, author of the second study:
Our study provides a comprehensive examination of enrollment patterns in schools operated by private corporations and finds these schools to be segregated by race, family income, disabilities and English language learner status. As compared with their local public school districts, these schools operated by Education Management Organizations, or EMOs, are substantially more segregated, and the strong segregative pattern found in 2001 is virtually unchanged through 2007.
2) Also from the Answer Sheet blog, Diane Ravitch writes about  "The pitfalls of putting economists in charge of education":
"...don't you think there is a certain kind of madness in thinking that economists who never set foot in a classroom can create a statistical measure to tell us how best to educate children? It seems some will never be satisfied until they have a technical process to override the judgments of those who work in schools and are in daily contact with teachers and children. I don't know of any other nation in the world that is so devoted to this effort to turn education into a statistical problem that can be solved by a computer. It is not likely to end well."
3) Adam Bessie, writing at, advises "Let's Not "Reform" Public Education, tells the familiar tale of how "The corporate reformers have reached the hearts of the public, blinding them with a beautifully rendered fiction."

UPDATE: Waiting for Superman left out of Oscar competition, called "one of the biggest snubs in [documentary category] history," despite commissioning "as well-run an Oscar campaign as you can have for a documentary."

Monday, January 24, 2011

Bradlee Dean’s application for martyrdom III


Torquemada in sunglasses

Here’s Part One and Part Two in the series.

Here is yet another interesting and illuminating paragraph from Bradley Dean Smith’s recent apologia:

Americans are to look out for one another; to watch each other’s backs; and to love one another enough to hold each other to the truth. How foreign this is to those who don’t uphold American values, and you know who they are by the things they write, say, and do, whether ignorantly or intentionally. Are these reporters writing to unite or to divide the American cause?

If you look up narcissist in the dictionary, you’ll see Avidor’s sketch of Smith right next to the definition. Smith is a paragon of virtue, capable of explaining issues of morality and constitutional principles anywhere, anytime. He is the essence of the “American cause.” Don’t believe it? Just ask him.

Even the casual reader can see that Smith claims that anyone who criticizes or questions him is foreign, ignorant or ill intentioned. Smith is messianic; to question him is un-American. It’s his truth that we all need to be held to – an anti-gay and anti-Muslim truth.

Smith, and his sidekick Jake MacAuley, are Exhibits A and B in the case for the separation of church and state.

If a theocracy ever comes to the United States, you can bet your hindquarters, boys and girls, that won’t be St. Francis calling the shots; it will be guys – and they will be mostly guys – like our Torquemada in sunglasses.

Bradlee Dean’s application for martyrdom II

The Judeo/Christian/Constitutional message

The first post with this title is here.

Here’s some more of the overheated blather in Bradley Dean Smith’s epistle to the “American people”:

As we ponder the awful price of freedom, let me ask you, America, why do you allow these supposed reporters to encourage disarray and an anarchy attitude? The state-run media is being used to promulgate propaganda - the new immoral way instead of the old righteous way (Jeremiah 6:16). They have it backwards and they are guilty of attempting to sink their own boat. In truth, they are enemies to their own people and country. 

Instead of them looking to this ministry’s Judeo/Christian/Constitutional message as a lighthouse for safety and solidification, they stay out in the dangerous and tempestuous sea, only to destroy themselves and take down as many as they can with them when the ship goes down.

If you want to see if you are helping the boat (your country) stay afloat or if you are guilty of attempting to sink it, simply read the Bible and your founding documents. You will see the clear correlation so you can know for yourselves where you stand or fall. Then and only then can you make the distinction between those who are lying to you and those who are telling you the truth. Although truth does divide for righteousness’ sake, let that truth and that alone unite us as “We the People,” for it is truth and light that gives us distinction throughout the world. Forget it not. God bless.

You will remember if you read the first installment that Smith does not mean really all of the American people when he says “America.” Rather, he has a very special subset of citizens in mind:

What defines an American anyway?  Just because you were born here does not make you an “American.”  To be an American is to line up with who we are as a people and as a nation. A true American’s job is to uphold, preserve, and defend the Constitutional Republic that our forefathers gave us. That is what our president, our representatives, and our military swear (on the Bible) when they take their oaths of office. George Washington said, "Religion and morality are the essential pillars of civil society." We are to fight to uphold our pillars as a nation, not tear them down.

Americans are to look out for one another; to watch each other’s backs; and to love one another enough to hold each other to the truth. How foreign this is to those who don’t uphold American values, and you know who they are by the things they write, say, and do, whether ignorantly or intentionally. Are these reporters writing to unite or to divide the American cause?

One of the “supposed reporters” is almost certainly Karl Bremer, who has been looking into the tax-exempt status of Smith’s “ministry.” The “ministry’s” treasurer made a complaint to the Washington County Sheriff (Karl’s blog is Ripple in Stillwater) about the disclosure of public information about YCR on the blog. Andy Birkey is one of the other “supposed reporters” who has been doing likewise; the news organization Andy works for received a letter from YCR’s lawyer reciting a self-serving version of the “facts” concerning “Glen Stole,” a non-profit tax fraud scheme promoter and YCR’s business relationship with “Stole.” After reciting his version of events, the YCR attorney lets Andy and Co. off with a warning:

ycr lawyer clip

In other words, accept what we say, or we’ll sue for defamation.

However, in America – “big” America, not Smith’s “little” America – there isn’t a news organization (or an individual) out there who must simply accept a version of facts from a politician, public officeholder, law enforcement official, or other public figure – or his or her mouthpiece, for that matter – as the, um, gospel. The real First Amendment, not the one conjured by Smith’s fevered imagination, protects speech based on the investigation, inferences, interviews, and good faith hunches of reporters.

It would be a sorry situation indeed if all reporters could do is read press releases or letters from lawyers and accept them as true.

Since the YCR lawyer holds himself out as the source of facts about Smith, YCR, and Glen “Stole,” and he says that he does so “under penalty of perjury,” he ought be willing to travel to Minnesota and be examined under oath about his assertions. And Smith and YCR should waive the attorney-client privilege to let the truth of his assertions be tested.

If they are unwilling to do that, the letter must be ignored, both in fact and in law.

The photo is from Smith’s Facebook page.

MinnCan con launches today

Expect a flurry of disinformation and crappy reporting today as MinnCan opens its campaign against Minnesota public education. Here's a roundup of my reporting on the new organization:

MinnCan success will be disaster for public education

The ConnCan con: MinnCon next?

Education deformers crazy mythology

The anti-democratic politics of Minnesota's largest philanthropies

A lesson in Plutocracy

Education deform movement ubiquitous yet invisible

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The poisonous gas cloud

As predicted, the poisonous gas cloud, formerly known as Jason Lewis, settled into the low spot on the Strib’s Sunday op-ed page usually occupied by Katherine Kersten, where, Scott Gillespie apparently hopes, he will provide a breath of fresh air. Kersten is, of whom it may be said in an act of generosity, a scribbler of limited reach; although, one has to admit that she has mined the narrow seam of her subject matter for much longer than most of us expected. Now, Kersten and Formerly Known As (or “FNA” for short) will pass the sputtering torch of anti-intellectualism back and forth weekly.

For his debut column, FNA selected an entirely new subject: states’ rights, or as they used to say in the Old Confederacy, stats’ rats. Yes, boys and girls, FNA has ushered in a brand new golden age on the Strib’s op-ed page. Congratulations, Scott!

We can undoubtedly look forward to FNA weighing in on subjects like the confiscatory tariffs protecting Northern manufacturers to the detriment of the Southern planters, or the tyranny of the federal revenuers against honest men just trying to make a living selling corn likker, or even FNA’s description of his interview with Haley Barbour telling FNA that Jim Crow “didn’t seem so bad” to Haley growing up in Yazoo City, MS.

Here’s the premise of FNA’s column:

In short, the genius of the framers was to craft a system of governance that would account for the diversity of human beings by allowing separate jurisdictions -- known as states -- to compete for the governed.

Free market geniuses those Framers! And all this time you probably thought it had to do with geography, the arable land, water transportation, access to markets, and new land purchased or conquered and made available for expansion by the federal government, and governed by it until Territories became states. After all, there were thirteen states when the Framers set up shop; there are fifty now. The only real competition between states to “account for the diversity of human beings” was over how to count some human beings, if at all.

This is not a marketplace of ideas we’re talking about; it’s a marketplace of human beings.

One of FNA’s conceits is thinking that all the Framers were of one mind, and that it is FNA’s mind. This is called projection, and it is why conservatives and religious fanatics are usually so comfortable together; indeed, it is why there so much overlap between the two groups. If you can borrow the mind of the Framers, or the Almighty, to think like you do, well, then the rest is easy.

Most of the rest of his column is just FNA dribbling in his lap, but there is one point I would like to make. FNA says that the Civil War amendments no way, no how were intended to incorporate all that infernal federal law:

For instance, while the Civil War amendments were appropriately designed to eradicate all forms of state racial preferences, they were not (contrary to a century of judicial activism) meant to "incorporate" federal review over every imaginable dispute.

If we were to take FNA at his word, it would mean that McDonald v. City of Chicago would have had the opposite result. It was the U.S. Supreme Court’s reading – misreading, I think – of the Second Amendment to find that it included the individual right to pack heat, and applied to the states, that resulted in the invalidation of Chicago’s gun control ordinance.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Bradlee Dean’s application for martyrdom


bdeanIn a recent demi-polemic (that’s a small polemic) blog post, Bradly Dean Smith rails against his unfair treatment at the hands of the media. While the media in question are not named, he’s pretty clearly referring to Karl Bremer who writes at Ripple in Stillwater and Andy Birkey who writes at the Minnesota Independent. These two have been raising questions about the tax exempt status of You Can Run But You Cannot Hide International and ministerial “housing allowances” given to members of the staff, including Smith and Jacob MacAuley.

He even seems to suggest – although, truly, it is hard to tell – that Karl and Andy are part of the “state-run media.”

Smith says that the state-run media don’t understand the First Amendment:

The state-run media has [sic] been taught that to say whatever you want is “freedom of speech.” Not true. Freedom of speech lies within the confines of our “empire of laws,” as president John Adams defined it, not outside of them. In other words, you have the right to say that which promotes freedom and liberty, not lawlessness and an anti-American sentiment. Isn’t that why our forefathers stood against King George? Yes, it is.

How much will the American people tolerate before they figure out that freedom of speech does not destroy, but promotes freedom, liberty, unity and looking out for the other guy? True Americans do not try to destroy one another. Here lies the state-run media’s problem.

You will never read a shorter description of the causes of the Revolutionary War, nor one so entirely uninformed.

Here’s a translation of Smith’s definition of freedom of speech:

You may say what you want, so long as it is not critical of anybody who claims to be a patriot [or a spokesman for God].

If you can’t say something nice about Bradlee, don’t say anything at all!

I mean, who really needs the First Amendment when somebody like Smith is prepared to tell us the facts every week, without shading or opinion:

As the American people know, I am not offering up my opinion week after week, but rather I am speaking from our two pillars, “religion and morality.” Though I am on national radio, I do weigh myself in the light of my responsibilities before God and man, in which I must stand up and give an account on that final day. This, by the way, is the reason that I do not give my opinion, but rather, the facts. “Facts are stubborn things” - and I am sticking to them, like it or not!

One can imagine the theocracy that Smith would be happy to usher in, and the treatment of dissenters in it, if his view of freedom of speech held sway. His views on gays and non-Christians (other than his brand of Christians, that is) are well known.

Who are these “American people?” Well, they’re people who agree with Smith, not the rest of us:

What defines an American anyway?  Just because you were born here does not make you an “American.”  To be an American is to line up with who we are as a people and as a nation.

Goose step to Bradlee’s drum or you’re not an American. (It’s either line up, or it’s up against the wall!) This is poisonous, eliminationist rhetoric; it needs to be called out and condemned at every opportunity.

There is much more in Smith’s ill-considered and perhaps panicked apologia. I’ll have more in coming days.

Graphic by Avidor.

Update: Here are part two and part three of the series.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Siggy asks

sigmund-spot tonedVhy do you tink zis iss, Liebschen?

At least two recent studies show that more guns equals more carnage to innocents. One survey by the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine found that guns did not protect those who had them from being shot in an assault — just the opposite. Epidemiologists at Penn looked at hundreds of muggings and assaults. What they found was that those with guns were four times more likely to be shot when confronted by an armed assailant than those without guns. The unarmed person, in other words, is safer.

Photograph by Tild.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Drinking Liberally: jumper cables night

jumper cablesI’ll buy a beer for the first three people who come through the front door tonight with their jumper cables draped over their necks.

Drinking Liberally meets tonight (Thursday, January 20th) from six to nine at the 331 Club in Northeast Minneapolis.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Remainder table!

Sales of Tim Pawlenty’s memoir, Courage to Suck It In, are underwhelming. 4765 so far.

Let’s hope this guy is getting the big bucks for being the spear catcher here:

We're obviously very pleased with the early response to Governor Pawlenty's new book,” said spokesman Alex Conant. “There's a lot of excitement about the Governor's message, which is helping drive strong turnout at our book signings and a lot of media interest in his story.

Republicans race to the bottom on environmental regulations

Under the guise of streamlining and reform, Republicans in the Minnesota House are considering a bill that would weaken Minnesota's ability to regulate pollutants more strictly than the federal government. Minnesota currently has environmental standards for mercury, atrazine, and other pollutants that are more stringent than the federal standards. If the first bill introduced by the new Republican majority becomes law, it would make it more difficult to adopt future regulations exceeding federal standards.

This week, the House Environment and Natural Resources Committee has conducted a series of hearings around HF1. Among several significant changes to environmental regulations, one key provision requires regulations that exceed federal standards justify why the federal standard "does not provide adequate protection for human health and the environment."

This requirement would gut Minnesota's commitment to environmental protection, particularly in the area of water quality. When it comes to drinking water standards, Minnesota has adopted federal standards. But for standards intended to protect aquatic life and the environment, Minnesota currently has a number of "federal plus" standards. These are examples of what HF1 would flag as excessive regulation and require additional documentation.

For example, Minnesota has adopted standards that are more stringent than federal standards on mercury in water and has adopted standards for several pesticides (atrazine, alachlor, acetochlor, and metolachlor) where there are gaps in federal rules. The issue of mercury is particularly important to Minnesotans, who have become increasingly aware of mercury contamination of the state's waters because of restrictions on the amount of fish that people can safely eat. This issue is so important that even Governor Pawlenty supported it:
In 2005, the federal EPA proposed the Clean Air Mercury Rule, a set of regulations that would ultimately cut coal-fired power plant mercury emissions about 70 percent by 2018 and establish a mercury pollution credit trading regime. In response, Tim Pawlenty, the Republican governor of Minnesota, said, “The goal the federal government has set is too low and too slow.”

The goal of Minnesota’s phased plan is higher and faster than the EPA’s: 90 percent reduction from its six largest coal plant units by 2014. Those six units release about two-thirds of the state’s mercury emissions.
Requiring special justification for any standard in excess of the federal standards creates a presumption that the federal standards are a ceiling (maximum) on regulation. In fact, they represent a floor - a minimum standard that all states must meet while they are free to adopt stricter standards. Minnesota's adoption of strict mercury emissions standards is an excellent example of why a state would choose to exceed federal requirements. Our waters are a crucial state resource and mercury contamination is affecting this vital resource.

This change would not immediately affect existing regulations, but the requirement that the state review its water quality standards every three years means that existing water standards are still vulnerable. One specific example is reconsideration of the sulfate standards for wild rice bearing waters in Minnesota. The inability of mining projects like Polymet to meet the stricter standard for sulfates in wild rice waters has led to a push for revising or eliminating the rule. HF1 would aid that effort.

Follow me on Twitter @aaronklemz

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Education deform roundup: Campbell's law strikes again

1) As per Campbell's Law, the Atlanta public school system has been "put on probation" by an accreditation agency. The district apparently has been torn apart by a test cheating scandal:
"The board had become divided after the launch of an investigation of allegations of cheating on standardized tests. After months of bickering, four members filed a lawsuit in October alleging that the board's chairman and vice chairwoman were improperly elected to the leadership positions. They had to give up the positions as part of a settlement..."
 2) Still not convinced the US is a plutocracy? Dissent magazine, in a piece on venture philanthropydiscusses how education discourse and policy is controlled by billionaires:
"...public schools should be run by officials who answer to the voters. Gates, Broad, and Walton answer to no one. Tax payers still fund more than 99 percent of the cost of K–12 education. Private foundations should not be setting public policy for them. Private money should not be producing what amounts to false advertising for a faulty product. The imperious overreaching of the Big Three undermines democracy just as surely as it damages public education.
3) U.S. Schools Are Still Ahead—Way Ahead.  Leading academic says "America's alarm about international rankings of students overlooks some critical components of our education system."

Jim Crow

After years of working on issues of racial profiling, police brutality, and drug-law enforcement in poor communities of color as well as working with former inmates struggling to "re-enter" a society that never seemed to have much use for them, I began to suspect that I was wrong about the criminal-justice system. . . . Quite belatedly, I came to see that mass incarceration in the United States has, in fact, emerged as a comprehensive and well-disguised system of racialized social control that functions in a manner strikingly similar to Jim Crow. [emphasis added]

That’s from a book by Michelle Alexander that you can read about here.

But what about Minnesota?

However, the rate of racial disparity in Minnesota’s custody populations (as measured by the ratio of the Black per capita incarceration rate to the White rate) is among the highest in the nation. Four national studies of prison populations in the 1980s and 1990s found that Minnesota’s Black-to-White incarceration-rate ratios ranged from 19:1 to almost 23:1; in each study, these were the highest ratios of any state. More recent data from the Minnesota Department of Corrections, combined with Census population data by race, shows steadily falling Black:White prison ratios – the ratio declined from about 18:1 in 2001 to 11:1 in 2006. And recent national data show even lower ratios, when jail inmates are included and Hispanic inmates are counted separately rather than included in the Black and White race categories. On this basis, Minnesota’s Black:White incarceration-rate ratio for 2005 (the most recent year with data) was 9:1. Of the 48 states reporting both prison and jail rates by race in 2005, 10 states had higher Black:White ratios than Minnesota, and three states had approximately the same ratio.

This is the real race to the top that Minnesota in engaged in. These data are from 2005.

It is also unclear whether the picture is getting any better:

One of the most recent ones was published in November of 2009, and was entitled "What Explains Persistent Racial Disproportionality in Minnesota's Prison and Jail Populations?" In it, professor Richard Frase of the University of Minnesota Law School stated that "Studies of state prison populations in the 1980s and early 1990s found that Minnesota's black per capita incarceration rates were about 20 times higher than white rates—the highest ratio reported for any state. Minnesota has done better in more recent studies," says Frase, but the fact is that "Minnesota [still] has one of the highest black/white incarceration ratios" of any state in the nation.

Just for kicks, take a guess at which state is among the most racially segregated?

Monday, January 17, 2011

So Martin Luther King and Barack Obama get together to talk


From Harper’s Magazine; click the image to go to the original site. Go on, give them the traffic. You know you should.

Tim “Day Late and a Dollar Short” Pawlenty

Stick a fork in him

David Schultz sums it up:

However, even without these two events [Michele Bachmann throwing her tin foil hat in the ring and the shootings in Tucson], his chances were slim. Consistently I have stated that he has little chance of being a serious candidate for the presidency. I also said that two years ago when I said he had no prayer as McCain’s VP. Why? Simply Pawlenty has no buzz and no originality. Pawlenty is a “me too” [or three or four] candidate. Others talk about tax cuts, social conservatism, or what have you, and Pawlenty does the same. Palin does a book, Pawlenty does a book. Romney touts his skills as a pro-business governor, Pawlenty touts his skills as a pro-business governor. Pawlenty is always behind others, never able to find a message or theme that lets him stand out from others. Instead, he seems to a candidate in search of a message, a voice, an appeal. He stands below undecideds among GOPers.

For those of you interested in a trip down memory lane, here’s an encounter between Governor Gutshot and Grandpa Walnuts at the RNC in St. Paul.

Edmund Burke: Sharia lover

Raise your hands, boys and girls, if you’ve ever heard of Edmund Burke. Most of you, I’m glad to see. He is most conservatives’ favorite Englishman, the one who owns the best-thumbed section in Bradley Dean Smith’s copy of Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations. But Scott Horton posts a passage from Burke that Smith – also known as Bradlee Dean – has probably not quoted:

On one side, your lordships have the prisoner declaring that the people have no laws, no rights, no usages, no distinctions of rank, no sense of honor, no property; in short that they are nothing but a herd of slaves to be governed by the arbitrary will of a master. On the other side, we assert that the direct contrary of this is true. And to prove out assertion we have referred you to the institutes of Ghinges Khân and of Tamerlane: we have referred you to the Mahomedan law, which is binding upon all, from the crowned head to the meanest subject; a law interwoven with a system of the wisest, the most learned, and most enlightened jurisprudence that perhaps ever existed in the world. We have shown you, that if these parties are to be compared together, it is not the rights of the people which are nothing, but rather the rights of the sovereign which are so. The rights of the people are every thing, as they ought to be in the true and natural order of things.

Here’s the lede in Horton’s article:

In America today, one of the lines of fringe political argument holds that the country is imperiled by the steady encroachment of Sharia law. The recent decision by a Canadian subsidiary of Campbell’s to introduce a line of halal soups was recently cited as evidence of Sharia’s growing influence. More accurately, however, it points to the growing market demand for halal products in the parts of Canada where the soups are being offered to consumers. Against this background, it’s interesting to note that the father of Anglo-American conservatism, Edmund Burke, had a broadly positive assessment of Sharia law. [emphasis added]

Sharia law had incorporated the concept of equality under the law before Anglo-American common law did. There is a lot of horrifying stuff in Muslim religious edicts, but the Books of Moses ain’t no slouchs in that department, either.

Martin Luther King’s last speech

He was assassinated the next day.

MLK’s last speech

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Well, Sarah, Katie can play the victim card, too

Well, Bilious Bleat & Bray™ – who is not a victim, but plays one in the newspaper – says that liberals are so hateful because they think all of the poisonous right-wing hate speech and gun sucking had something to do with the attempted assassination of a congresswoman, the killing of six people, and the wounding of a dozen more. Why, it’s so unfair! He was just an crazy saxophone player.

But here are a few grafs in an article in the same issue of the Strib in which BB&B writes:

Those who see premeditation in the acts Loughner is accused of committing can cite, for example, his pleading of the Fifth Amendment or the envelope the authorities found in his safe that bore the handwritten words "Giffords," "My assassination" and "I planned ahead" -- or how he bided his time in the supermarket, even using the men's room. Those who suspect he is insane, and therefore a step removed from being responsible for his actions, can point to any of his online postings, including:

"If 987,123,478,961,876,341,234,671,234,098,601,978,618 is the year in B.C.E then the previous year of 987,123,478,961,876,341,234,671,234,098,601,978,618 B.C.E is 987,123,478,961,876,341,234,671,234,098,601,978,619 B.C.E."

What the cacophony of facts do suggest is that Loughner is struggling with a profound mental illness (most likely paranoid schizophrenia, many psychiatrists say); that his recent years have been marked by stinging rejection -- from his country's military, his community college, his girlfriends and, perhaps, his father; that he, in turn, rejected American society, including its government, its currency, its language, even its math. Loughner once declared to his professor that the number 6 could be called 18.

As he alienated himself from his small clutch of friends, grew contemptuous of women in positions of power and became increasingly oblivious to basic social mores, Loughner seemed to develop a dreamy alternate world, where the sky was sometimes orange, the grass sometimes blue and the Internet's informational chaos provided refuge.

He became an echo chamber for stray ideas, amplifying, for example, certain grandiose tenets of extremist right-wing groups -- including the need for a new money system and the government's mind-manipulation of the masses through language.

We don’t even need to mention a society that so casually and cheerfully will sell powerful handguns to – literally – any nut who walks in off the street.

But my object today is not even to quarrel with Katie; it is to remind her in that in other contexts she has said that violent video games will turn us all into stone killers, and that pornography will turn us all into slavering sexual predators.

Remarkably, however, according to the likes of Katie, using explicit language like take out, take down, eliminate, Second Amendment remedies, armed and dangerous, watering the tree of liberty (while wearing a sidearm at an Obama speech), and using gun sight imagery to identify real political adversaries – including the grievously wounded congresswoman – has no effect at all.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Closing public schools diminishes democracy, increases plutocracy

As the George W. Bush presidency showed, it's much easier to be a destroyer of things than a productive creator. Conversely there is some truth to the notion of "creative destruction" embodied in the theory of capitalism. But in order to have a true picture of the value of destruction it is imperative that we have an honest evaluation of what it is that is being destroyed. What other way would there be to judge whether the destruction of long-held assets is outweighed by the value of what replaces them?

In the case of public schools, education deformers are quick to call for the closing of so-called "underperforming" schools, which almost always happen to serve poor and minority students. When was the last time you heard that an affluent school, perhaps in Edina, Eden Prairie, or Hopkins was slated to be closed? Never that I can remember. Deformers such as the editorial writers at the Star Tribune are so anxious to destroy public education in the name of saving it that they don't even stop for one minute to consider what else might be destroyed in their rush to shutter public schools.

Only a blind ideologue or the ignorami at the Star Tribune would imagine that the only function of public schools is to help students pass standardized math and English tests. One thoughtful writer at, Christopher Lawrence, has nicely summarized the democratic values embodied at local public schools that are being destroyed by the education deformers:
Public schools have benefits beyond individual student achievement. As state institutions, they function as a conduit for the flow of money into poor communities. Public schools serve as community centers. Often, they are important employers in neighborhoods ravaged by unemployment and poverty.
They employ local residents as aides, custodians, and other staff. In most cases, local communities enjoy a remarkable degree of influence over their neighborhood schools, even the "failing" ones. Of course, public schools are notoriously inefficient and prone to a certain degree of graft and nepotism, but even this, ultimately, benefits the local community. In any case, this level of graft is chickenfeed compared to what goes on in many privately run charters.
The move to charters has severed the economic ties between poor communities and their schools. Instead of redistributing state funds to the community, school reform directs the money to privately owned charters, outside educational entrepreneurs and overpaid directors.
For example, in her book "Making Failure Pay," Jill Koyama points out that under NCLB legislation, failing schools are required to divert already scarce funds to private tutoring companies. When "failing" schools are closed and replaced by charters, the organic relations with the local community are severed and poor communities lose yet another source of support. The new schools answer to corporations, not the community.
In short, each public school closed equals a victory for plutocracy and a diminishment of democracy.

Uriah Heep

That’s who I thought of when I read Kevin Diaz’s puff piece on Tim Pawlenty.

And I don’t mean Uriah Heep the cult rock band.

I was thinking of Charles Dickens’ Uriah Heep, the evil schemer in the novel David Copperfield. This is Heep describing himself:

"I am well aware that I am the umblest person going [...] My mother is likewise a very umble person." Everything, for Uriah Heep, is "umble" (a.k.a. humble).

But you see, Uriah Heep is really just a self-absorbed plotter who tries to steal the law business of his boss, Mr. Wickfield, and Wickfield’s daughter, too! And he would have succeeded, too, except for the intervention of Mr. Micawber. Heep cannot imagine that Mr. Micawber would betray him, since Heep hired him on; it is against Micawber’s financial interest to turn on Heep. But he does, because Micawber is an empathetic man.

But back to the Diaz piece for a moment; here’s the lede:

Coming in the midst of a nationwide call for civility in the aftermath of the Arizona shootings, former Gov. Tim Pawlenty's moderate tone and calm delivery may have given him a fresh purchase on his national ambitions.

Well, he’s umble, all right; anybody will tell you that. He’s always tried to project the nice guy persona. But what the Mr. Micawbers in the room will also tell you is that Pawlenty bears more than a passing resemblance to Uriah Heep. Personal ambition is always Pawlenty’s paramount concern. His stewardship of Minnesota echoes the efforts of Heep to ruin the business of Mr. Wickfield; Heep’s after power, money and the daughter. Pawlenty is after the presidency.

Accounting shifts, a couple of billion in IOUs to the state’s public schools, remaking the state’s budget without regard to the Legislature, making taxes more regressive and cutting higher education, a state trashed, these are all part of the Pawlenty legacy.

It seems a rather steep price to pay for the personal ambitions of one umble man.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Stool went dark

Google reports today that there was “suspicious activity” on my gmail accounts and on the blogger account for the Cucking Stool. In fact, the blog was offline for a while late this afternoon. Order has been restored, at least for now.

If anyone has difficulty with the site, please send me an email at blogspotdog (at) gmail (dot) com.

Are education deformers cruel, ignorant, or both?

While the plutocrats at the Minneapolis Foundation blame teachers for the poverty of their students, real teachers are on the front lines, and they are not happy. Here's a letter from a New Jersey teacher that appeared in the comments at the New York Times:
As a teacher in a low income, mostly white, school district, 'the poor' are not an abstract concept to me; they are my students. I see first hand what poverty does and it's not just - as the wealthy imagine - give you less money, My students are homeless, sleeping on benches. My students have arrest records, from blowing things up or burning things down. Their parents are in jail, or abandoned them, or they abuse them, or - on the other side of the spectrum - they work three shifts. The kids are poorly fed and poorly supervised. They don't sleep properly and are often up until 3:00 playing some video game. They should be on medication but their parents can't afford it; recently my student with Bipolar disorder came in off the wall, late, with no explanation why. Her mom had apparently abruptly taken her off of her medication because she 'didn't like the side effects' and now they're searching for another doctor to proscribe another medication (this is what she says) and 'that might take a few weeks.' For some reason, this is a common story in the school--parents taking their kids off medication abruptly with no transitional plan. I don't know why. But it's horrible for the kids. Of course many kids don't have health insurance and medication is expensive, so there are many kids who can't take ADHD medication when they need it badly, or have migraines (a very common occurence) but take ibuprofin, or have asthma. Many families (not all) don't value college and their goal is for their child to graduate high school; a D- is fine. This is stated point blank. And it's true, if your goal is either to just graduate or to go to community college, which after all, is all they can afford.

Our school, based on their very low property taxes, is literally falling apart. We have rat, mice and cockroach infestations, no supplies, no technology other than ten year old computers. The room is freezing right now (heat is very poor--cold air comes out of the vents!) and in May it'll be boiling hot--no air conditioner or fans, no circulation.

This is poverty.

The kids look around and say, "We suck."

This is the message they get, all the time, at home, at school.

Our wealthy politicians abandon them with their top down slogan-based attack on teachers, as though threatening and bullying us will somehow magically get the kids to perform better on corporate tests (as if the tests matter, but that's another story). As if we teachers are not already in the trenches and we need to be whipped to do our job--that's the wealthy approach: ignore the very existence of poverty, ignore the very serious effects of poverty, which are global, and pretend that all we need to do to solve the problem is threaten to fire teachers. Yes, that'll eradicate poverty and its impact. Their other solution is to pull out the cream of the crop, the ones without arrest records and without violence, with parents who feed them and are able to get them medication, and put them in a privately funded charter, spending far more per child than we can, and then, IF they do better (many don't) they tout this as some sort of solution. Um....what about the unlovely poor? What about them? What about the students I teach.

We cannot ignore poverty or pretend there are easy quick fixes such as threatening teachers (of all people). This is a very, very serious issue with enormous repercussions. Poverty is a host of problems, not merely 'no money.' It's difficult to read that Mr Obama has hired yet another Corporate/Wall Street insider to stand at the helm. Surely there are bright people who haven't worked in either Chicago politics and/or worked on Wall Street. The media - besides you, Bob- very often abdicates its responsibility. Yesterday it reported glowingly on what a hard worker this guy is. Wow. And there are no other hard workers out there? To illustrate how hard a worker he was, they said they could ask him a question at 4:00 am because he was awake and at work. Well, I'm awake and working at 4:00 am, and my poor students are awake all the time. And the ones with functional parents who work three shifts--well, they know the meaning of 'hard work.' I'm disgusted by our politicians of both stripes and their race to plutocracy and abandonment of their duty to most of the nation as civil servants.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

What’s a little snow? Drinking Liberally tonight!

331_Club by Avidor

We’ll be at the 331 Club in Northeast Minneapolis from six to nine tonight (January 13th).

There’s an event tomorrow you’ll want to consider, too. At the Midtown Global Market tomorrow night, from five to seven P.M. Rep. Keith Ellison will be holding a special Congress on your Corner event. It will be not only a chance to greet Rep. Ellison, it will also be a chance to sign a book of condolences.

Congressman Walz is holding a similar event in Mankato, from eleven A.M. to one P.M. tomorrow.

Sketch by Avidor.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Just in time for the memorial service

Offered without comment, the first pro-gun children's book.
"Come join 13-year-old Brenna Strong along with her mom, Bea, and her dad, Richard, as they spend a typical Saturday running errands and having fun together. What's not so typical is that Brenna's parents lawfully open carry handguns for self-defense. The Strongs join a growing number of families that are standing up for their 2nd Amendment rights by open carrying and bringing gun ownership out of the closet and into the mainstream."
Advance purchases here, and don't forget that it makes a great gift for the home school kids:
Home School Teachers:
This book is an excellent text to use as a starting point on the discussion of the 2nd Amendment.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Singing Kum Bah Yah, off key

To all of the tea baggers, Palinites, Glenn Beck worshippers, Radio Rwanda listeners, Second Amendment remedy types, and all the other assorted apologists for gun violence everywhere: just save your goddam breath.

We don’t need you explanations and your inane blandishments, and frankly, they’re juvenile and offensive.

Prayers for the families of the tragedy? Closing the barn door after the horse is gone. Considering your behavior and your rhetoric earlier would have been a lot more helpful.

Jared Lee Loughner? You own that sucker: lock, stock and barrel.

If you follow the link, you’ll see that evidence is emerging that Loughner planned nothing less than a political assassination. John Wilkes Booth and Gavrilo Princip were undoubtedly crazy, too. But they got their ideas somewhere. Just like Jared Lee Loughner.

You cannot incite people, even the mental defectives, and then walk away guilt free.

We had no idea. Imagine that?

You people make me sick.

Gosh, imagine being a family member? How awful!

But Spencer Giffords, the father of the assassin’s target, doesn’t have much trouble fixing the blame.

Inexplicably, the lonely, alienated nut strikes again

It wasn’t this guy.

Nor was it this guy.

Not this woman, either.

Him? Nope.

Well, not this time, anyway.

But it is surprising that a lonely, alienated nut showed up at one of these places:

sarah's target

Except, of course, it isn’t.

The entire Tea Party apparatus is geared toward appealing to the lonely, alienated nut. Lonely, alienated nuts are its core. Everyone who harbors a grievance and resentment  because he thinks he hasn’t gotten a fair shake in life, or is unlucky in love, or whatever, is a candidate.

To bring this a little closer to home, there was a guy who looked very much like the patriot above who is pressed against the police tape, gun on his hip, who appeared at the foot of the Capitol lawn at the Tea Party rally in St. Paul last April.

Do we have politicians in Minnesota who support the Affordable Care Act, immigration reform, and oppose Arizona’s S.B. 1070-type legislation? Of course, but let’s not name them just now.

Most of the photos, which have appeared around the ‘net for a while, were cribbed for this post from Tbogg.

It's Personal

The shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 18 others is a personal affront to all people who believe that political work is an act of public service.

Speculation about what motivated the shooter will preoccupy the media, law enforcement and others. The narratives deployed to make sense of this senseless act are ready-made and were deployed within minutes of this tragedy. Was the shooter deranged, apolitically violent? Was he animated by violent political rhetoric? Is he a bad apple in a barrel of 308 million? Is he the inevitable product of the easy availability of guns?

But the causal chain that led Jared Loughner to that Tucson Safeway will unwind over time, and probably won't fit neatly into any of these stories. Not that this will stop the 24-hour news cycle from deploying them, or politicians from using them, or advocates from pushing the story that protects the interests of their clients.

There have been a number of recent reminders of the risks associated with public service and advocacy work. The death of Judge John Roll at the hand of Jared Loughner. The incendiary packages sent to Janet Napolitano and Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley. The violent assault on a Florida school board by shooter Clay Dukes. The foiled assault on the offices of the Tides Foundation by Byron Williams. It's logically fallacious to tie these disparate acts of violence into one seamless story, but impossible to ignore one central message: people might try to kill you if you engage in political work.

For much of my life, I've been politically aware, but not involved. I still walk the line between observer and active participant. But as a student in the Masters of Advocacy and Political Leadership program at University of Minnesota-Duluth I've met, been influenced by, and become friends with many fine public servants. Some of these people have sought and achieved elected office. Most of them work behind the scenes, in campaigns, doing constituent service work, accompanying elected officials to events. Because of that, the news that Rep. Giffords' aide Gabriel Zimmerman was one of the killed really hurts this morning. So many of the people I've met through MAPL play similar roles. It could have been any of them.

These folks who choose public service work as a calling deserve respect for many reasons, but today we are reminded that one of these reasons is that public service is a courageous act.

In the wake of this tragedy, public servants must call upon that courage to persevere in the mission of serving the people. The "Congress on Your Corner" event that turned tragic is a model for the direct constituent contact that citizens want. Governor Mark Dayton's spontaneous decision to turn the podium over to his opponents at the Medicaid opt-in signing is another model of respect for opposing political views. It will take fortitude to remain committed to open access and constituent contact in the wake of the Giffords shooting.

There will be policy and procedural changes to improve security, I'm sure. But the message I want to send today to those who do the work of serving the people is that you are appreciated and your everyday courage is valued.

The founder and co-director of the MAPL program, Wy Spano, defines politics as "how we care for each other." On this day, reflecting on this definition gives me comfort and hope.

Follow me on Twitter @aaronklemz

Star Tribune editorial pines for mass public school closings

Newspapers have a storied history in the US. Once they were openly partisan, but today they must feign an attitude of "objectivity." The new norms caused many papers, if they hadn't already, to assume a beneficial attitude towards the communities they served and that made them profitable. Certainly the Star Tribune in Minneapolis, at least for the years when it was owned by the Cowles family, considered itself a positive civic actor. No more. Now the paper, in a deceitful, mean-spirited and ignorant editorial, is essentially calling for the mass closing of so-called "poor performing" schools in Minnesota.

So onerous and cavalier is the editorial that it can't even quite bring itself to tell the truth about what it is advocating. But make no mistake: The paper is calling for mass public school closings. The federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) act will be the lever that "forces" the closings. I say "forces" in quotes because school districts can refuse to comply with NCLB rules, but the consequence is losing federal Title 1 money that serves poor students.

To understand how many schools might be ripe for closure consider that a report from the Center on Education Policy shows the number of schools not making adequate yearly progress (AYP) - the metric used for the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) - soaring to 54 percent of Minnesota's schools in 2008-2009. And that number has been growing - in 2005-2006 it was 31 percent.

NCLB policy states that after six years of not meeting AYP a school must one way or another be destroyed. Yes - they call it "restructuring" but it really means destruction. In a year or so Minnesota will have a long list of schools that have not met AYP for six years. Will we have the stomach to destroy schools that have served as community hubs for decades? Despite there being no evidence that closing traditional schools does anything positive for academic achievement or for narrowing achievement gaps, the Star Tribune sure hopes so.

If nothing else reading the Star Tribune editorial illustrates the main reason the newspaper's own opinions are unsigned: it saves the authors from embarrassment. Not only does the editorial misinterpret its main source, it makes leaps of logic that would shame a third grader. If the paper were arguing for something trivial, like a new stop sign somewhere, the incoherence might still not be acceptable but it wouldn't be so pernicious. But when you are making an argument to destroy neighborhood assets that have been built up over decades it is unforgivable. The editorial states that educators
"...need to use proven educational models and throw out methods that don't yield results, while getting tougher about closing schools and starting over when necessary."
The level of ignorance is breathtaking. Who would argue against using "proven educational models"?? But after more than a hundred years of public education in the US, and two decades of charter school experimentation, can anyone really say we haven't done the research into finding out "what works" ??

Unfortunately for the editorial writer, what we've actually learned is that high-stakes testing, competition, and market-driven reforms do NOT work. And we know why: Collaboration is key to successful education, not competition.  In competition there are winners, but more importantly, there are losers. Which students do we allow to "lose" in education?

Might there be other reasons why students fail at particular schools? The editorial refuses to even consider the idea that student or family socio-economic status (SES) might have something to do with educational outcomes, even though the most credible research shows those factors control about 70 percent of measured attainment. Closing a school might make editorial writers at the Star Tribune feel better, but it does nothing to improve the SES of student and parent populations. 

Admittedly using evidence and reason to argue have long since gone out of style in the opinion pages of the Star Tribune, so this editorial's special awfulness is only one of scale, not substance.