Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Well, Wardlow, what do we do now?

Zellers: Well, Wardlow, what do we do now?

Wardlow: Ffffft. Ffffffffft. Aaaaamssss Grrrrrrru.

Zellers: Ask Gruenhagen?

The dark wilderness of loserdom

James Kunstler yesterday:
I prefer to be direct. Sarah Palin represents a dangerous force in American culture that is startlingly similar to the grandiose hyper-patriotic militarism that Hitler brought to Germany during his rise to power. We have better things to do in this nation than go down some twisted path of vengeance-seeking in the name of lost glory. I hope that Sarah Palin's competitors on the right will stand up to her American fascist themes and call her out for what she is: a half-educated TV performer unqualified for high political office. The true shame of this country is that we have to take a clown like Sarah Palin seriously.
That's the conclusion Kunstler makes after describing the manipulation of the German people by the Nazis (playing on Germans' feelings of humiliation and promising deliverance back to lost greatness). He goes on to say this about the Palin campaign:
This is exactly the theme of Sarah Palin's campaign. A large segment of the American public has entered the dark wilderness of loserdom. They've lost jobs, incomes, and even their homes. They can't support a family, can't afford to gas up their God-given cars, can hardly even afford to buy food - though many of this group have been programmed, tragically, to get much of their food from hamburger and taco dispensaries that "free market" America has generously dotted the landscape with. They are ashamed, especially living in a nation where liberty is supposed to enable you to get a leg up in the world, to be self-reliant, to make something of yourself. Hence, they imagine themselves to have somehow been deprived of liberty (and honor!) which they must now get back.
This is, of course, the Tea Party. Palin, and Michele Bachmann, too, are Tea Party darlings because they are manipulating people in the same way, and for the same ends, as the Nazis did.

Kunstler provides about as succinct a description of it as I've ever read.

Friday, May 27, 2011

It is only meet and right that we do so

Observing the one week anniversary of Bradlee Dean's plunge from the heights

The more that is revealed about Bradlee Dean and Jake McAuley's little medicine side show, the more it seems like Jim Jones meets Hare Krishna (see esp. the section on preaching activities).

That Dean seeks the status of a cult figure can hardly be doubted; he and his wife Stephanie Joy call themselves (Biblical) overseers of their "ministry." Most readers here have seen a lifetime supply of photos of Dean himself, but many of you have not seen a photo, on the website, of Stephanie Joy.

According to the webpage at the link, Stephanie Joy, who looks like an extra for the movie adaptation of Margaret Atwood's A Handmaid's Tale, leads the "virtues program for the girls." The Deans are quite open about the religious tyranny they would like to see imposed in the United States.

Like most cults, it relies on a cadre of useful idiots, manipulated by the Deans, to raise money. These are the "street teams." These teams have been in the news quite a lot this last week:

When Julia Miller pulled into the BP station on Lexington and St. Anthony in St. Paul last month, she was immediately approached by a young man from an organization called You Can Run But You Cannot Hide International.
The fellow told Ms. Miller that the organization was raising money for "suicide prevention." But as City Pages' Nick Pinto's story at the link reports, the real purpose of the organization is stated in its most recent tax-exempt organization return:

"To reshape America by redirecting our youth morally and spiritually through education. (Hosea 4:6) The ministry's street teams spoke to over 250,000 people last year concerning their spiritual destiny and our nation's religious history."
Pinto also makes this observation about Dean's "ministry":

Soon [after Dean's dive into the tank last week] the major news outlets were discovering what many bloggers have known for years: Dean and his ministry are spectacularly homophobic. Dean has called for gays to be arrested and jailed, and has said Muslim extremists are "more moral" than American Christians because they call for the execution of homosexuals.
We need to put Dump Michele Bachmann (for there is a connection between Michele Bachmann and Bradlee Dean) and Ripple in Stillwater right at the top of the list of bloggers who have been on Dean's case for a long time.

It isn't only gas stations where the street teams set up their card tables; it was Walmart, too. But who are these people? Dean's non-profit filing helps us out again:
According to Dean, all of his petty grifters have religious credentials, including ordination. Maybe Judy ordained everybody, but Judy's not talking.

The dénouement of a cult's life is usually bizarre and sometimes violent. I'm not predicting that here, but it is worth taking a look at this photo of Jake McAuley, also from their website:

Thursday, May 26, 2011

He's even starting to look like Luca Brasi

Here's just part of what the Republican goodfella has to say today:
It's apiece with the Republican party's smear campaign against Mark Dayton. And Brodkorb is orbiting around Tony Sutton as they peddle it today.

The photo is from The Uptake, and the tweet is from Luca himself.

The crème de la crème

A wing nut's wing nut

Governor Dayton has observed that part of the problem with the Legislature is its Republican freshman class – the newbies as Mitch Berg calls them – and their extremism. The fact that Berg praises them is Exhibit A in the case that proves the Governor's point. But let's look at Exhibit B: Doug Wardlow, freshman representative from Eagan.

Here's Wardlow's smarmy and insipid examination of Brian Rusche of the Joint Religious Legislative Council on the Governor's budget; Wardlow is a member of the House tax committee. Watch and count how many times you cringe.

You really do have to wonder if Wardlow was born such an arsehole, or whether he has to work up to it every day by chasing the paperboy off the porch and giving every pedestrian he sees the finger while driving to work. It's the old argument: nature vs. nurture.

Wardlow asks a series of ideologically-loaded questions – really just assertions – baiting Rusche. But Brian Rusche is a patient man, measured and thoughtful in response to the mumbling, fumbling and truculent Wardlow.

Wardlow asks, "If we give the government money to do good stuff, it reduces the amount of money given to private charity, huh?" A question in the form of challenge, but one you often hear from Wardlow types. I've even heard some go so far as to say that we need to give churches all the social responsibility as a salvation-earning opportunity for their parishioners. With a church full of Wardlows, I wouldn't hold my breath.

Bradlee Dean's sidekick, Jake MacAuley, also challenged the governor on health care at a news conference (I don't have a link at the moment), saying it was the church's responsibility. Watch the video in this post, and then decide how willing you are to let Bradlee and Jake be responsible for people.

Wardlow also asserts that taxes just go to a "bunch of bureaucrats." Welfare cheats or bureaucrats, Doug, which is it?

In truth – and here's a funny little secret – some of the tax money goes to Wardlow. No, I don't mean his salary and per diem as a legislator, I mean the attorney's fees he earns from eminent domain awards. It's just another case of the government creating a private sector job.

But back to the main point: Wardlow, a genuine Cicero Lite, is one of the avatars for the Republican freshman class. Even better is the fact that he is a Republican legacy. That would favor the nature side of the argument.

The video feed is from the House, but The Uptake cut and published the clip. Thanks also to Two Putt for calling it to my attention. Update: And thanks to Karl Bremer for a link the song.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Today in Gilead

As Governor Dayton considers the anti-abortion bills that have been presented to him, I offer this story of a woman who nearly died because of one doctor's "principled choice":
My two kids at home were going to lose their mother because someone decided that my life was worth less than that of a fetus that wasn’t going to survive any way.
Go read it, because that is the health care the Minnesota Legislature seeks to impose on women in this state.

Update: Governor Dayton did veto the bills before him, saying that, "Our place is not between a woman and her doctor."

Here’s part of Mitch’s problem, right here

Civilly sacred places. Somebody who writes – without a trace of irony – such an oxymoron should be stricken permanently from the list of people who have useful things to say. But it's part of the wrap-up of Mitch Pearlstein's latest tut tut in the Strib.

A sacred place is a church, a synagogue, a mosque, a mountain, or even a tree that is dedicated to the worship of a deity. You can look it up. So, Mitch, which one these is not like the others: church, synagogue, state capitol, mosque? Take your time, Mitch. Here's a hint: a state capitol is not a place of worship.

Pearlstein's silly rhetorical flourish is contained in a piece criticizing the mad monk Bradlee Dean. But really, he's just trying to find moral equivalence in both sides of the gay rights issue. Rather like Katherine Kersten and Tom Pritchard are trying to do, too. It's pure David Brooks. Here's Driftglass discussing Brooks trying to distance himself from another group of brain stems, the birthers:

In fact, at no point does Bobo bother to mention the words "Republican" or "Conservative" at all, nor the fact that the cultivation [ ] of this grotesque crop of hate, bigotry and ignorance -- this methodical hate-iculture of the dark side of the American soul -- has been a the mainstay of David Brook's very own Republican Party for as long as Mr. Brooks has been alive.

There are too many photos of Bradlee Dean and his zany boys with, inter alia, Tim Pawlenty, Michele Bachmann, and Tom Emmer for Republicans to walk away from him now. Too many years of them being promoted by Mitch Berg and the Patriot. Too late Mr. Pearlstein: the Republicans own Bradlee lock, stock, and barrel. It's the Bradlee Dean Amendment going on the ballot now.

Here's the, um, guts of Pearlstein's argument:

It also can be demanding to argue against what many Americans view as a simple question of justice and equality.

"Tell me again," a supporter of same-sex marriage might ask an opponent, "how does my getting married threaten your marriage?"

Such questions are not the kind that can be answered superficially -- if they're to be answered compellingly.

Just as proponents' claims in the name of justice, equality and fundamental human rights cannot be effectively countered without a nuanced sense of history, human nature, the well-being of children and the complicated rest.

All that being the case, there simply is no way for the opponents of same-sex marriage to prevail if they are seen as motivated, not by what they genuinely see as the best interests of society, but rather by insufficiently good hearts.

To this difficult mix, one might add the understandable reluctance of most same-sex marriage opponents to engage in any substantial conversation on the subject whatsoever, given the strong possibility of being demagogically labeled a lousy excuse for a human being, no matter their generosity of spirit.

Much the same holds, I would argue, when it comes to various other family issues, especially as they touch on questions of race. [emphasis mine]

Poor Mitch has spent many sleepless nights, apparently, trying to figure out how to explain the moral rightness of laws against miscegenation! Mitch's argument is, by the way, more or less the natural law nonsense that spawn of Mitch, Katie, spews. (They're not really related; Katie just works for Mitch these days.)

Mitch finishes with this laugher:

One of the sterling developments of the last half century-plus is that the number of such fools throughout America is radically smaller than it had been.

But that doesn't mean we're free of everyone -- often mislabeled as conservatives -- whose ideas of freedom and decency are corruptions of all that is good and holy about our country.

And when they do show up and spew in civically sacred places like state capitols, my conservative colleagues and I need to be first in condemning them.

You're just a little late to the party, Mitch. And it will take more than a column to get all the manure off your shoes.

Monday, May 23, 2011

And the horses you rode in on

Amy, Kurt, and Junior rode off to wherever they came in from having accomplished one thing in this legislative session: the adoption of a constitutional amendment initiative that would, if approved in a referendum, reduce the liberties of Minnesota's citizens. A signal achievement, indeed.

Well, two things actually. Kurt, especially, helped introduce Bradlee Dean and his zany pals to the mainstream media.

Three things, now that I think about it. They managed to piss off Mitch Berg.

Wow, they really are good.

Laser focus on jobs? Producing a budget that balances cuts and raising some revenue, as the citizens of the state want? Well not so much.

And yet, like the cultist Bradlee Dean, all they can do is complain about being called cultists.
Horsepersons graphic by Avidor

We Famous!

Thrill to the Sons of Liberty rapping We Famous and then mocking journalists.

And then recall:

When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom. (NIV)

Proverbs 11:2

Sorry, couldn't resist.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Shoot First: stick a fork in it

It must be a burden for these guys to be the gladsome messengers here of the fact that Shoot First is moribund.

http://robdoar.com/senate-leadership-kills-stand-your-ground/ (Rob Doar)

http://www.shotinthedark.info/wp/?p=20205 (Mitch Berg)

A nasty session spoiler for the slingers.

If the Foo shits, Katie, wear it

Katherine Kersten doesn't like being called a bigot. Well then, silly, don't be one. Here's how Katie opens her apologia this morning:

First, we must reject the name-calling that has marred the debate to this point. Same-sex-marriage supporters' constant mantra has been that Minnesotans who support one man-one woman marriage are motivated by bigotry. Gay-marriage proponents make this claim even about people who merely support letting Minnesotans vote on the issue [never mind that we don't let people vote about, inter alia, slavery or other matters of equal protection].
The Star Tribune's recent editorial on the marriage amendment was typical. "Don't put bigotry on the ballot," its headline ran.
Ouch. That had to hurt. Even Scott Gillespie & Co. think she's a bigot. But I'm not, says Katie, we're just ordinary right thinking people:

But people who support one man-one woman marriage are not bigots. They argue, very reasonably, that marriage is rooted in nature -- in male/female sexual complementarity -- and that children need both a mother and a father. They say that's why it has been the bedrock institution of procreation and social order in virtually all times and places.
Same-sex-marriage supporters' attempt to tar this view as "bigotry" seems designed to shield them from tough questions as they campaign to redefine the world's fundamental social institution. Labeling your opponent a "bigot" is the ultimate rhetorical mudball--a classic slur intended to silence and intimidate rather than to facilitate an exchange of ideas.
Kersten reports as the great naturalist here, having studied fauna from around the world. In her studies, she undoubtedly found that all the other primates, and the animals on her farm growing up – one bull, one cow; one rooster, one hen – and even the humble wild turkey form a single male/female bond for life.

Wearing her religious historian hat, she concluded that the rumor of Solomon having all those wives and concubines was untrue. Besides, even if it was true, all of Solomon's children undoubtedly had the love and attention of a devoted father.

As an anthropologist, Kersten has apparently found evidence that one man – one woman marriage is the only way that children have ever been produced since the beginning of time. And that children need a mommy and a daddy so much that divorce should be forbidden, shelters for abused women should be closed and those women returned to their husbands, and that women proved not to be virgins on their wedding day should be stoned.

If it seems that we've been through all of this here before, and recently, too, we have: last week, responding to Jason Lewis' column on the same subject.

Katie cloaks herself as a "naturalist" today, but on Easter Day she said religion was the reason we should discriminate against gays. That's really where Katie's heart is.

Kersten wants to take the word "bigot" off the table in the upcoming debate. Just as, I'm sure, the people who owned slaves and believed in the religious justification for their doing so felt put upon by the label. Or the people who didn't think women should get the right to vote.

But the very best part of the column is this:

One last point: In the coming debate, we must have zero tolerance for intimidation tactics. Bullying has become standard operating procedure for many same-sex marriage activists. Their attack last year on Target Corp. is now held up as a national model by those attempting to silence same-sex marriage opponents.
Gay people have never been bullied or intimidated, only subjected to the mildest rebuke. People like Tom Pritchard and organizations like the Minnesota Family Council have worked hard on securing anti-bullying legislation in Minnesota. Well, not really.

Then, of course, in a category all his own is God's Goon, Bradlee Dean, a member of the Mudball Hall of Fame, who has advocated jailing and executing gays. Look it up; you'll get about a million Google hits. Bradlee has been in the news lately.

I tell you what, Katie: you reign in Tom Pritchard, Bradlee Dean, (I almost forgot) Archbishop John Nienstedt, and well, yourself and then we'll talk about labels. Deal? In the meantime: bigot.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Bradlee Dean raptured!

The Lord saw fit to take him today, and he's apparently the only one, too!

In spite of his promise to talk about his House of Representatives "prayer" on the radio today, he wasn't on KTLK or WWTC, or whatever it is it calls itself these days. I am also informed that he wasn't mentioned on Mitch Berg's lineup card either, although frankly I haven't bothered to look. Now Bradlee will be able to compare notes with Martin Luther.

Gee, I wonder if the Heavenly Hoover got Jake? That would make two.

Zellers says it didn’t really happen

Bradlee Dean is a figment of everyone's imagination; he doesn't exist, and he certainly didn't "pray" at the request of Republican Rep. Ernie Leidiger in the Minnesota House of Representatives. According to Speaker Zellers, so let it be written, so let it be done:

Republican Speaker Kurt Zellers, who took the unusual step of publicly apologizing to House members Friday after the prayer, said the omission wasn't out of line because no quorum was present when Dean spoke.

That means that in the record Zellers is publically apologizing for something that didn't happen. Seriously.

If Zellers had said, "We're removing this because Bradlee Dean is a creep and his remarks were an insult to the House," I'd say, great. But it's an insult to everyone, perhaps especially the members of the House who were there and had to listen to Dean, to pretend that you can just make it go away because there weren't enough people there to count.

But Kurt and Ernie and the Republicans own Bradlee Dean, and this video isn't going to go away.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Call in and ask Bradlee Dean

Bradlee Dean is going to talk about his "prayer" at the Minnesota House on the radio tomorrow. I think this is going to be his KTLK (100.3 FM) debut, too. There is a call in number: 1-866-233-0747. This is your chance to get acquainted with Bradlee. I have some questions you might ask:

I'd like to go to Old Path church some Sunday; where is it?
Where were you ordained?
Did you renounce your U.S. citizenship when you became a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven?
What did Sens. Hall and Gazelka say to you that made leave the Capitol and not hold the press conference you promised?
Where did you get that track suit? I didn't know they made double knits anymore.
I'm sure you have more.

From darling to pariah in the blink of an eye

From Paul Demko at Politics in Minnesota:

While reporters waited upstairs [for the presser that Dean had called to deal with the outcry from his offensive remarks in the House this morning], Dean arrived in an SUV [undoubtedly the biggest one available with fire decals on the sides] outside the front of the Capitol. He reportedly spoke with Tom Prichard, head of the Minnesota Family Council. Before heading up the Capitol steps, Dean was called over to a vehicle occupied by Sens. Paul Gazelka and Dan Hall. After talking for several minutes, Dean returned to the SUV.

And then he drove away.

Can't you see Gazelka and Hall sitting in the car, sweating, engine running, wipers going, straining for a glimpse of Dean?

Hey, Bradlee, c'mere a minnit. Doan gowin dere, know what we're sayin'?

Luca Brasi disclaims responsibility for message death

"There won't be no witnesses left at trial," Brasi says

Here's Doug Grow on the Republican trainwreck in the legislature:

But in the last two weeks, [Republican] leaders either lost control of their own caucuses, or failed to understand how late-session pushing of the party's social agenda would overwhelm their budget message.

Not surprisingly, Republicans are not publicly accepting the idea that they've lost control of the message.

Michael Brodkorb, for one, refuses to accept the notion that the Republicans fumbled when they unleashed a flurry of social legislation.

Brodkorb is the man who wears two hats: communications director for Senate Republicans and deputy chairman of the Republican Party. At least some DFLers believe he has one of the strongest voices in the Senate, a suggestion Brodkorb denies.

You can't blame Michael for being modest here. I wouldn't want responsibility for this massive pile-up either.

Politicizing prayer

Bradlee Dean, in his vestments (track suit), strode to the podium. Today, it was rumored, the Marriage Discrimination Amendment would be up for a vote. And with Reverend Dean delivering the invocation, the message seemed clear: we're not happy with simply putting this amendment on the ballot, we want to rub your noses in it too.

The Right Reverend did not disappoint. He let fly with some marvelous remarks, ending it with a dollop of questioning President Obama's faith.

Under the GOP legislative leadership, even opening invocations have been politicized. Traditionally, the invocation has been a nondenominational affair. Members would invite religious leaders from their districts to lead the legislative bodies in a moment of reflection at the start of day. This session, it has become a flashpoint for controversy, triggered by those who would push their own brand of Christianity.

Lest we forget, there's an earlier incident in the Senate that's directly related to what happened today. It's also yet another reason why Dean should never have been invited (as if his comments suggesting gay people should be jailed or even executed weren't enough reason.)

Earlier this session, Sen. Terri Bonoff was rightly offended at Pastor Dennis Campbell's prayer earlier this year that excluded Judaism. Pastor Campbell's history of bashing Islam, linking it to illegal drugs and attempts to destroy the Constitution? The GOP said: We had no idea, never heard of it, we're as shocked as you are!

Where did Pastor Campbell go for support, solace, and a chance to tell his side of the story? Well, Bradlee Dean's radio show, of course! And at the time, Dean and his sidekick Jake McMillian had some prophetic words:
Campbell explained his decision to conduct an overtly Christian prayer. “One of the things that I really tried to keep in mind was that I was not praying to the Senate, we were praying to God,” he said. “One of the Senators, the Jew, did you notice he quoted from the Old Testament? — and, by the way, Jesus was a Jew — one of the Jews said, ‘If you pray to God, that’s good enough.’”

Campbell continued, “Well, then atheists could be offended. That’s not going to solve the problem and not having prayer at all is not going to solve the problem because we are going to have one freedom after another taken away.”

Dean and McMillian discussed DFL Sen. Terri Bonoff who had first protested the sectarian prayer offered by Campbell. Dean suggested that his ministry should try to take her out in 2012.

“Maybe what we need to do is get her name eradicated,” Dean said. “She’s looking to get rid of who we are as a people, well then why don’t we help her possibly leave.”
Dean's antics today are an extension of the crusade to impose one version of religious belief on the state of Minnesota and its government. According to Rep. Ernie Leidiger, who invited Reverend Dean to deliver the invocation, "he called and asked if he could speak." Old Ern had no idea, he only knew one side of the man.

Ignorance cannot be a viable excuse. Bradlee Dean is a radio show host, about to move his "Sons of Liberty" show over to flagship talker KTLK. GOP apologists have long winked at Dean's virulent rhetoric while maintaining some public distance. Well, not everyone - Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer spoke at his fundraiser, Sen. Paul Gazelka appeared on Dean's radio show earlier this month.

Why, I thought they were just a school anti-drug program! I take pictures with a lot of people! I had no idea, never heard of it, we're as shocked as you are!

The after the fact denunciations and apologies from Speaker Kurt Zellers were welcome, but a bit too late. It's become clear that those who cloak their bigotry in religion are either welcomed by Minnesota Republicans, or they are using the Minnesota GOP as a tool. Either way, it's disgusting.

Follow me on Twitter @aaronklemz

Well Ern, you really put your foot in it this time!

The word is out that you are the one who put Bradlee Dean up for the opening prayer spot in the House this morning. That's Ernie Leidiger from Mayer, first term Republican from District 34A. A real peach of a Republican. Speaker Zellers says he was aghast at what came out of the pretend preacher's mouth; we'll assume for sake of argument that he didn't know your boy Bradlee. But you certainly did.

It would be impossible to think of a more impolitic choice for the Friday of the last week of the session. With a gay marriage ban amendment hanging in the balance in the House. What were you thinking, Ern? Really, were you thinking?

Ern is the reason that the leadership in any legislative body hates the back benchers. Ern's move could be a balance tipper in the House on the amendment. Even if it's not, opposition to the amendment was given some great video footage this morning for the campaign against the amendment in coming months.

We owe a vote of thanks to Ern and Bradlee; you're the best.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The B-actor barbarians

Matt Dean didn't even get a horse; he's pretend galloping behind these three. The callow Republican leadership thought it could get some costumes and sweep in off the exurban steppes and everything would go their way.

Perhaps it was yesterday when Valkyrie Koch was sitting with Junior, the Deputy, in the governor's office that it occurred to her, Holy s**t, we're not going to finish on time! We have a boatload to do, and no damn idea how to do it. We farted off the commissioners all session; that's not looking like it was a good idea. Well, we were distracted by voter ID, abortion, gay marriage, guns; it isn't our fault, really.

Then, remembering the time back in eighth grade when it was midnight on a Sunday and her Creationism diorama, due the next morning, was hardly started, she decided to pull the same tactic, only it wasn't Mom and Dad she asked for help (or tried to blame); it was the governor.

Mom and Dad probably got up sleepily and rummaged around in little brother's bedroom and found some toy dinosaurs and Lego men and made it work, but Valkyrie Koch is going to find that this is a different kettle of fish altogether.

I know I'm on a roll with the mixed metaphors, but work with me, just for today.

The session-long braggadocio has been cheap, entirely suitable for B-actors, but entirely unsuitable for legislative leadership.

Cartoon by Avidor (a guest at DL tomorrow night 5/19)

An Unserious Man

As the day dawned on Monday with the Minnesota Legislature having a full plate of things to do, one man (actually nine of them; more on that in a moment) remained strangely aloof, sucking noisily and contentedly on the barrel of a tiny pistol.

Who is this man, you ask?

Why, it's Tony "up against the wall, little Billy" Cornish, of course. And he's so contented because of the bill, HF1717, that he introduced on Monday:


Section 1. Minnesota Statutes 2010, section 144.651, is amended by adding a subdivision to read:

Subd. 16a. Data collection prohibited; firearms. Health care providers must not inquire or authorize any designee to inquire of a patient or resident regarding the person's use, possession, or access to firearms or firearms ammunition.

And you thought Shoot First was a bad idea.

You really have to wonder whether some of the nine Republican authors (which include Mark Busgens) ever had an encounter with a "health care provider" who observed, "Gee, you seem really depressed; I'm afraid you may harm yourself. Do you have access to a gun?" And were offended by the question.

Jim Abler is one of the chief authors, too; he's a chiropractor. Under the law, Abler wouldn't be able to ask a patient – after noticing a lump under the patient's armpit – whether his discomfort may stem in part from the fact he is CARRYING A GUN.

Let's not forget John Hoppe, Assistant Majority Leader; that's assistant to Kurt Zellers who, it perhaps goes without saying, COULD USE SOME HELP RIGHT NOW.

Okay, let's be frank. All nine of these guys are like jake turkeys, nowhere near the action and looking for something to do. This, apparently, is the best they could come up with.

Any residential facility dealing with patients with mental health issues, the Alzheimer's intake department, the paramedic trying to assess an agitated individual, or a triage nurse who first talks to a gang member who walks into HCMC with an apparent gunshot wound not be able to ask about gun possession under this bill.

This is, it also goes without saying, completely – criminally – insane. It is also pretty good evidence of where the heads of the bill's authors, like Shoot First aficionado Tony Cornish, really are.

A thump of the tail to Alec.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The kids in the hall

You cannot make someone negotiate with you. Anyone who has ever dealt with a child knows that.

The governor has said all session, "Bring me a budget and we'll talk." The best the Republican House could do today was bring up the governor's plan, and say, "We don't want that." Not a surprise and frankly not very good theater.

Well, what do you want, kids? Like kids everywhere, they're not sure yet; they just know they don't want what you want.

Not only are they unsure of what they want, there's another bunch of kids down the hall in the Senate who have to be agreed with first before they can bring anything to the governor. Tomorrow (Wednesday) is the middle of the last week of the (regular) session. The likelihood that the Republican leadership is going to bring in anything considered and comprehensive is very small.

The kids in the Senate aren't behaving any better:

During an afternoon press gaggle, the Republicans repeated their complaints that talks with Dayton's department heads have made little or no progress.

"We have six days left and have a great deal of work to do, but the work can get done if the governor will step up, step into his leadership role and engage on this budget discussion," Koch said.

She said she believed the budget bills will begin moving toward final Senate approval within "a day or two. We need to start moving. We're running out of time." [Gee, no kidding, Amy!]

Update: Demonstrating that bad blood isn't merely flowing between Dayton and the Republican leadership, Senate Democrats late in the day blasted their GOP counterparts of bad-faith, amateurish, negotiating over budget bills.

"It's hardly negotiating," said Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk, saying committee chairmen haven't been given the power to negotiate with department heads -- an accusation the GOP earlier levelled [sic] at the commissioners.

"It's so ridiculous, such a charade," said Sen. Scott Dibble.

"They're going to have to compromise," Bakk said "I would say it's their move and for anyone to think that it's not doesn't understand how the give-and-take process of negotiation needs to play out."

The Republicans, you will remember, bragged how about how far ahead they were of anything the DFL ever did in putting together a budget. (It was outlined in Aaron's post that was lost in the Great Blogger Burp.) And earlier in the session, the Republicans didn't even really want to hear from the commissioners on budget matters.

Sen. Koch says that the governor should step up and into his leadership role; she really means cave in to the Republican leadership and help her out. He has already offered compromise; it is perhaps dawning on the in-over-her-head Koch and the Deputy that the whole thing is going to come crashing down around them shortly. In spite of their puffery, the end of the session has been managed badly.

Strictly amateur: that sums it up pretty well.

Equality marches on at the Capitol

There were two rallies at the Minnesota Capitol yesterday, May 16th. It was African American Day, and there was also a rally against the gay marriage ban amendment pending before the House (the Senate already passed it). There was a lot of energy and clapping and cheering. Here’s a brief slide show of the events.

The music is a clip from Percy Grainger’s Molly on the Shore, performed by the Michigan State Band.

Drinking Liberally: the art of the political cartoon

This weekend is Art A Whirl in northeast Minneapolis. One of the patrons at the 331 Club asked me if we were doing an Art A Whirl edition of Drinking Liberally, and I thought that was a really good idea.

So this Thursday, May 19th, we'll celebrate the art of the political cartoon with guests L.K. Hanson and Ken Avidor. We will be at the 331 Club from six to nine PM; the program with L.K. and Ken is going to crank up around seven. They will bring some examples of their work to show and talk a little about the process of taking an idea and making a memorable image.

Just to whet your appetite, here's a cartoon by each artist.

This is a recent work of Ken's – "commissioned" by the Cucking Stool – to describe what it is like to try to reason with the Republican leadership in the legislature. It's called The Valkyries. I haven't written the post that goes with it yet. Ken is a blogger (Dump Michele Bachmann); Ken has been recognized as one of the top 100 creative people in town by City Pages. He's also done some freelance courtroom sketching at the Tom Petters trial, and apparently will during the trial of Frank Vennes, too.

Here's a favorite of mine by L.K. Hanson. It appeared in the Star Tribune a year and a half ago. The Manager of the Department of Opinions at the Strib assured us this is not Katherine Kersten, our beloved Katie. L.K.'s work is featured in the Star Tribune regularly; I hope somebody will ask him about one of my favorite features from years gone by, Farley goes to the Fair.

A great show is on tap for Thursday with a great couple of guests. Oh! I almost forgot; there may be a third guest artist, depending on how the root canal goes.

I hope to see a lot of you Thursday night.

Last stop before the floor

The Marriage Discrimination Amendment has one more hurdle to jump before it gets to the House floor. It must pass through the House Rules and Administration committee, and is scheduled to be heard there at 8:30 AM Wednesday. This is not a mere formality, there is a very real chance to stop it in the Rules committee, at least for this session.

The Rules committee is split 14-11 between the GOP and DFL. This means that flipping getting one "no" vote and one non-vote from the GOP would deadlock the committee 12-12, assuming that all DFL'ers vote "no." And there are cracks in the facade of unity in the GOP caucus on this issue.

It started a couple of weeks back when freshman GOP Rep. John Kriesel announced that he opposed the Marriage Discrimination Amendment. Yesterday, in a story about Kriesel's opposition, the South Washington County Bulletin reported that Rep. Denny McNamara wouldn't commit to voting it either. McNamara's comments are those of a politician who really, really doesn't want to comment on an issue. He's not the only one. Rumor is that there are more than a handful of GOP politicians who really don't want to vote for the amendment, but feel tremendous pressure to do so.

Rep. McNamara serves on the Rules and Administration Committee. He could be one of the votes needed to stop the Marriage Discrimination Amendment from reaching a vote on the floor. Freshman GOP Rep. King Banaian, who has broken with his caucus on higher education funding, also serves on the Rules committee

These folks (and everyone else on the committee) need to hear from you, especially if you are a constituent.

If you're able to make it to the Capitol, the Rules and Administration Committee hearing will be at 8:30 AM Wednesday in Room 10 of the State Office Building. A number of organizations are mobilizing to pack the hearing with opponents, and you can be one of them!

If you can't, here is the contact information for folks on the Rules committee. Let them know that you want them to vote against sending the Marriage Discrimination Amendment to the House floor.

Follow me on Twitter @aaronklemz

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The time is now

(Note: be sure to read Spot's riposte to Jason Lewis's column justifying marriage discrimination below this post too.)

The Senate floor debate on the Marriage Discrimination Amendment was utterly predictable. In the face of impassioned pleas from opponents, supporters sat silently and let Warren Limmer do the talking for them. Then they voted. Geoff Michel was "proud" of his caucus.

Soon after the vote, the very same Minnesota Poll that showed 80% of Minnesotans favored Voter ID returned a 55%-39% verdict against the Marriage Discrimination Amendment. Eighteen months is a long time from now and polls are fickle things, but this was hardly good news for those pushing an amendment.

Limmer's argument, repeated over and over and over - "let the people vote." "Let the people decide." Last month, I argued that the only way to blunt the force of this argument was to offer a countervailing constitutional amendment to guarantee marriage equality. Saturday, a number of DFL'ers introduced a bill that would create marriage equality through statute. Good on them. It's past time to stake out a position other than "we already have discrimination in law, isn't that enough?"

But there's still an opportunity to make this point clearly - offer a side-by-side Marriage Equality Amendment as a floor amendment if the GOP persists in attempting to write discrimination into the constitution. The goal: call the bluff of the GOP on the "let the people decide" argument. If we're really going to let the people decide, let's offer them the option of marriage equality alongside marriage discrimination.

There is one problem. According to the 2011-12 Permanent Rules of the House, a constitutional amendment may not be offered as an amendment to a bill on the floor. Of course, rules are made to be broken, or at least suspended. A debate over a Marriage Equality Amendment as a side-along amendment can be forced through a motion to suspend the rules on the House floor. According to the House rules, motions to suspend the rules are considered under motions and resolutions, the last order of business for the day after the general calendar. In other words, the time to have this debate is the day before the Marriage Discrimination Amendment hits the floor. Since the amendment has one last stop in the House Rules committee at 5 PM Monday, Monday's floor session is the perfect time to have this debate. And then, for good measure, a similar motion can be brought again at the House Rules committee hearing if it fails.

And yes, it would fail. There's no way 2/3rds of the House would allow suspension of the rules. But it would provide a powerful counterpoint to the "let the people decide" argument on the House floor and on the campaign trail next year.

Show up at the Capitol at 11:30 AM Monday to rally against the Marriage Discrimination Amendment, details here.

Follow me on Twitter @aaronklemz

A fundamentally bilious argument

Update: I dashed this post off on Saturday night shortly after the Lewis column was published on the Strib web site. I should have mentioned that Lewis was writing in support of the bill to add a constitutional ban to gay marriage in Minnesota.

The fundamentally bilious Jason Lewis makes a fundamentally bilious and silly argument about equal protection in his column in the Strib on Sunday, May 15th. Here's part of what Lewis says:

Under state law, same-sex marriage is currently prohibited in Minnesota, and previous court rulings have opted for traditional marriage as well. Nevertheless, what proponents fear is what happened a state away when the Iowa Supreme Court arbitrarily struck down a Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA. Apparently unable to control their legislative appetites, the justices (three of whom have been recalled) found that gay couples were "similarly situated compared to heterosexual persons" with respect to the purposes of the law governing marriage.

Moreover, plaintiffs need not be in identical circumstances for Iowa's bizarre new test of legal uniformity to apply. If so, the court asserted, "nearly every equal protection claim could be run aground under a threshold analysis ... rather, equal protection demands that the law itself must be equal." This is breathtaking activism.

Especially so given that the explicit purpose of DOMA was to make clear that same-sex unions were not "similarly situated." The Iowa law, not unlike Minnesota's, made no classification on the basis of race (the real intent of "equal protection"), gender or even sexual preference as long as civil marriage consists of two individuals of the opposite sex. That is, anyone may marry under the law.

Why, implies Lewis, the Iowa Supreme Court was clearly off its rocker, thinking that homosexuals were similarly situated to heteros. They're queers, for crying out loud! The difference is obvious! Lewis doesn't really explain how it makes a difference for marriage purposes, though. Some people, like Katherine Kersten, have tried to justify it on the basis of procreation as a marriage activity, which it is, of course, but there are a lot of marriages that don't, or don't want to produce offspring, or didn't plan to, anyway, but got a little carried away) and a lot of non-marriage coupling that does.

It's really a perfect equal protection case, though. Lewis makes the odd and entirely inaccurate claim that equal protection is only about race. Sorry Jason, it's about a lot more than that: discrimination on the basis of religion, ethnicity or national origin, age, sex, voting – that's not even an exhaustive list. Equal protection concerns itself whenever two groups of people are treated differently without a sound policy basis for doing so.

Some courts are concluding that They're queers for crying out loud! is not a sound policy basis.

What is that policy basis, Jason? Gay marriage will destroy "regular marriage?" It seems to be doing that pretty well on its own. Gay marriage would actually increase the number of marriages.

We've already addressed the procreation business.

Gay marriage will attract people into gayness? That doesn't seem likely based on current science or just plain observation.

Gay couples are likely to remember their anniversary date better and make you look foolish, Jason? Well, that's possible.

Moses and the Apostle Paul were agin' it. As Rep. Steve Simon point out, that's not a good reason in a civil society, which we are, although it'll slip away if people like Katherine Kersten, Tom Pritchard, and Bradlee Dean have anything to say about it.

More people can file joint tax returns and apply for spousal insurance benefits? It'll cost money, says Jason. Well sure, but it cost the South money when it had to give its slaves, too. The region fought abolition for that reason. Keeping a group down for just economic reasons is the essence of an equal protection claim.

Lewis' backstop is Let the People decide! That's a superficially attractive idea, until you consider the application of civil rights law in the south, or the rights of a Muslim man accused of a crime, or the right of a Catholic or a Jew or a woman to compete for a job if their skills are equals to others. As a practice, we don't vote on civil rights and liberties.

Whenever a court rules against a conservative on a social policy civil rights, it must be because the judges were a bunch of "activists." Lewis spits that term out like he spits out "collectivist."

But it's just name calling. And two can play that game.

Deputy Dopey strikes again

Word comes to the remote precinct where coyotes abound that its state senator, Geoff Michel, the Deputy, was a chief author of SF149 which passed the Minnesota Senate today. The bill was carried mostly on Julianne Ortmann’s broad shoulders, but the Deputy and a couple of others were in on it too.

It is a bill that in essence destroys class action suits for consumer fraud in Minnesota. Here’s the pertinent part of the bill (this is from the Revisor’s page; it is possible that the bill was amended on the Senate floor, but I don’t think it was):

Private remedies for Unlawful Trade Practices Act, Prevention of Consumer Fraud Act, False Statement in Advertisement Act.

Civil actions pursuant to subdivision 3a for violations of the Unlawful Trade Practices Act (sections 325D.09 to 325D.16), Prevention of Consumer Fraud Act (sections 325F.68 to 325F.70), or the False Statement in Advertisement Act (section 325F.67) or other laws against false or fraudulent advertising may be brought only by persons who purchase or lease goods, services, or real estate for personal, family, household, or business purposes. Each such person seeking to recover damages for violations of these sections, either in an individual action, a class action, or any other type of action, is required to plead and prove on an individual basis that the deceptive act or practice caused the person to enter into the transaction that resulted in the damages. No award of damages in an action covered by this subdivision may be made without proof that the person or persons seeking damages suffered an actual out-of-pocket loss. The term "out-of-pocket loss" means an amount of money equal to the difference between the amount paid by the consumer for the good or service and the actual market value of the good or service that the consumer actually received.

Please read the highlighted sentence. Ordinarily, the only way that you are entitled to “plead” something in court is if you make an appearance and pay the filing fee. The plaintiff’s filing fee in Hennepin County is somewhere north of $300.

Let us assume for the sake of argument that a company defrauded 100,000 residents out of $300 each. That’s $30,000,000. To administer the payment of a judgment in that amount – even if was obtained in a class action – under this bill, there would apparently have to be a pleading of some kind entered on behalf of each claimant – and perhaps a filing fee paid; the bill doesn’t say – and maybe a hearing on each individual claim. A pleading is only an allegation, after all. To prove something, a court has to take evidence and make a ruling.

Who is going to go through all that effort, and maybe pay an unrecoverable filing fee, for $300? And that, boys and girls, it really what this bill is all about. It isn’t as though class action rules in court don’t already provide ways to be sure that a declared class includes only legitimate claimants, because they do.

This is just another example of how the Deputy and the rest of the Republicans in the Senate care as much about you as they do, say, poor people who need health care.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Spot dares you, Michele Bachmann

Many of you are no doubt aware of the gauntlet thrown down by a New Jersey teenager to Michele Bachmann to discuss – debate, if you will – Rep. Bachmann’s curious, bizarre, and downright child-like understanding of the Constitution that the representative is under oath to protect and serve.

Frankly, I don’t think Bachmann is up to it. Even if she brings Bradlee Dean along as a second.

But if she is, Drinking Liberally-Minneapolis/St. Paul will bring New Jersey high schooler Amy Myers to the Twin Cities to go toe-to-toe with Rep. Bachmann.

Name a Thursday night, Rep. Bachmann, and we’ll try to put it together.

Actually, I dare you. 331 Club in Minneapolis; we’ll see you there.

Would a photo ID?

(Note: There were some hiccups at Blogger yesterday, and the last two posts to the blog were lost: one by Aaron and one by me. Aaron's post had been linked by Politics in Minnesota, and we're sorry for anybody who came over here and looked in vain for the post. I had a backup copy of mine; here it is. I don't know if Aaron has the time to reconstruct his or not.)

1) Prevent a felon who is not “off paper” from voting?

No. (There is nothing on a driver’s license about civil rights status.)

2) Prevent a resident alien from voting?

No. (A driver’s license says nothing about citizenship. A little more about this one in a moment.)

3) Prevent someone who has moved but still has an ID from his or her old place from voting in the old precinct?

4) Prevent someone who got mugged in the last week and had his wallet or her purse stolen from voting?

Yes. (A spouse or neighbor could vouch for this person under current law.)

5) Prevent your aged mother or father who recently moved in with you from voting?

Yes. (You could vouch for your parent under current law.)

6) Prevent your daughter who recently moved in with you because of an abusive spouse from voting?

Yes. (You could vouch for her under current law.)

7) Prevent people who are homeless or move frequently from voting?

            Yes. (But who really wants the riffraff to vote, anyway?)

The answers to all of these questions can be gleaned from a study of Sen. Limmer’s (he’s really making a name for himself, isn’t he?) SF509, particularly Section 21 of SF509.

The bill says that you can only prove identity and residence with a single photo-id document. If you’ve been following this issue, you know that virtually all of the “voter fraud” cases identified by the people so worried about it are disqualification or residence issues, not identity issues. None of the first three examples listed would be cured by requiring both elements in a single document, and it clearly disenfranchises the people in examples four through seven.

Here’s one of the really good parts of Limmer’s deep thinking, though. One of the documents that will be acceptable is a good ‘ol current Minnesota license, so long, of course, as the address is current (or if you have the renewal or change of address paper issued, too). But a driver’s license isn’t proof of citizenship. The bill proposes to take care of that by requiring a Social Security number on a driver’s license application. (See Section 5 of the bill.)

You need to be a citizen to get a Social Security card, right? No, not really.

Can you imagine, though, what would happen if you required real proof of citizenship to apply for a driver’s license? Sen. Limmer’s pelt would be on somebody’s wall, you can bet on that.

When you get right down to it, SF509 and its House companion HF210 are the real fraud here. It’s hazing of voters; it’s disenfranchisement, plain and simple. It will add substantially to the cost of elections and do nothing to actually enhance their “integrity.” For every person it prevents from voting for a legitimate reason, it will prevent thousands of legitimate voters from casting a ballot.

Photo from Ann Coulter's website

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Katherine Kersten's religious hypocrisy

It was a real craw sticker, all right

There has been something sticking in my craw about Katherine Kersten’s Easter Day cudgel – other than Katie herself, of course – but I couldn’t put my finger on it. It came to me today, as if in a vision.

(I wrote, incidentally, about the Easter column here, here, and here.)

You will recall – unless you’ve been better at repressing the details that I have been – that Kersten took the occasion of celebrating Easter to moan and wail about, well, let’s let Katie tell it:

The left and much of our opinion making elite want to delegitimize and privatize religion for two reasons.

First, they don't like the idea of truth -- the idea that there is, in the nature of things, a blueprint for human flourishing. They don't like the notion of moral parameters that limit our actions on matters such as cloning, stem cell use, abortion or marriage. They believe that man can make himself: that there is no "floor" to the universe.

Second, our elite's fundamental political impulse is toward collectivism. They believe the state holds the solution to every problem, and that wise social engineers can be trusted to do what's best for the rest of us.

So have you got it? Religion should be right out there on the public square, loudly proclaiming its message.

Unless you don’t agree with that message.

Almost five years ago, Kersten wrote a column complaining about religion in the public square. There’s been a lot of drivel by Katie under the bridge since then; she may have even forgotten the column. But I didn’t.

The occasion for complaint about the very public nature of religion was the consideration by the United Methodists at a conference in St. Cloud of support for gays and lesbians:

In the past, Methodist leaders have often focused on racism and sexism. This year, however, gay issues jumped to center stage. The Minnesota Annual Conference outdid itself, passing nine petitions on various aspects of the topic. The conference went on record as supporting both gay marriage and the ordination of gay clergy.

Kersten used the column (which has bitten the electronic dust at the Strib long ago, but you can read several paragraphs of it at the link above) to bash the Methodists and other mainline Christian denominations for their social activism.

Katie believes in using your religion if you do so conservatively, but not if you use it liberally.

I concluded my post on Kersten’s Methodist bashing this way; these are still words I like:

Spot says to the Methodists, stick to your guns, so to speak. If the choice is living out the words of Jesus Christ in the world, or sinking into self-absorbed ascetic wankery, the Methodists have made the right choice.

Another dud from the Deputy

Poking around the Revisor of Statutes website is often illuminating and well, just plain fun! Instead of boring old budget stuff, you can read about some of the truly amazing and bizarre things that legislators believe. Like, for example, Rep. Kurt Bills yearning to return to the days of the gold standard. Last year, you could read about then Rep. Tom Emmer’s Tenth Amendment shenanigans like the Minnesota Incandescent Light Bulb Freedom Act, or his plan to let the legislature void any federal law it wanted to. (The current Speaker of the Minnesota House, Kurt Zellers, is on board with a similar idea, too, by the way.)

But let’s highlight another dud from the Deputy (Geoff Michel) this session, SF380, the subject of which is the right to engage in an occupation. (Astonishingly, there are other chief authors of the bill, including DFLers Ann Rest and Linda Scheid.) In the House, the bill was dropped in the hopper by Rep. Keith Downey, HF779. This is an all-Edina proposal!

According to the bill, and I am not making this up – you can look it up, as Yogi Berra said – if you are charged with say, the unauthorized practice of law or medicine, all you have to do is say, “Gee, your rule that I go to law school or medical school is burdensome to me, prove why it’s necessary.”

“I beg your pardon?” replies the Board of Medical or Law Examiners.

But then the Board must prove it, and it has the burden of showing – by "clear and convincing evidence" – that the licensure is necessary to protect against “present and recognizable harm to the public health and safety, and the regulation is the least restrictive means for furthering that compelling governmental interest.”

It may comes as a surprise to Michel – and it almost certainly does to Downey – that the scope of the practice of law, medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, the sale of insurance or real estate, barbering, cosmetology, or any other licensed occupation can already challenged both administratively and judicially. As with all legislative and administrative rules, however, the presumption is that the legislature or the administrative authority intended to and did act lawfully.

The idea, however, that it is up to the licensing board to prove to every guy who decides to set up shop to pull teeth in his garage that it is really necessary to license dentists is proof beyond a reasonable doubt that Michel and Downey are both mad as hatters.

If you look at the legislative history, you will see that this stinker was removed from the agenda by the Senate Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety. If a bill could die from embarrassment, this one did.

But it stands as an avatar for the quality of thinking of the legislative delegation from Edina.

I don't know where the photo came from originally, but I got it here.

Authoritarianism on the march

Deformed: Authoritarian undercurrents in education, Part IX

The attempt by plutocrats to take over American primary and secondary education isn't taking place in a vacuum. The past 30 years have seen the infiltration of corporatism and plutocracy into nearly every aspect of life. Education, “The big enchilada” of privatization, as the uber-captialists told Harper's Jonathan Kozol, is one of the final sectors to feel their sting. In such an historical narrative, the hidden payload of increased authoritarianism carried by education deform bears a special danger to democracy. According to political scientist Walter Dean Burnham American politics and social thought is dominated by an "hegemony of market theology."

Even Democrats are prone to exploiting and practicing authoritarianism, as Paul Rosenberg recently wrote at DirtyHippies.org, though President Obama is viewed as a liberal, he has governed in an authoritarian manner, either hoodwinking liberals or pulling them in with an appeal to their own authoritarian tendencies:
“The big picture take-away here is that authoritarianism has gained such a pervasive foothold among the American ruling class that it is no longer even possible for a substantively non-authoritarian political position, actor, organization or movement to be recognized as such. Non- (or even anti-) authoritarian spoofs, set-pieces and fantasies by authoritarian actors of one stripe or another have completely taken over the roles of their authentically anti-authoritarian counterparts, and this is every bit as true of Obama as it is of the Tea Party, however much they may differ from one another in any number of other ways.”
The loss of a populace able to think critically, who have been held in existential fear by social dominators and the learned helplessness inculcated by authoritarian parenting and teaching methods, makes the nation less able to return to a path of rational discourse and behavior.

Now the people most able to lead us out of fear-driven thinking are under pressure like never before. Experienced public primary and secondary

teachers are under a ferocious attack from both political parties and the establishment, and are resigning in droves. Teachers are under an unwarranted and libelous attack from the practitioners of education discourse. President Obama himself recently applauded the laying off of all the teachers at Central Falls High School, Rhode Island, for not meeting NCLB rules. It just so happens that Central Falls is also the poorest city in Rhode Island.

The unanimity of the anti-teacher sentiment is breathtaking. Even the leader of the nation's largest teacher union, Randi Weingarten of the American Federation of Teachers, made it clear she would do nothing about the mass teacher firings. The president has said he wants to close 5,000 “low performing” schools across the country; In early March Education Secretary Arne Duncan warned that fully 82 percent of the nation's primary and secondary schools could be technically defined as failing under No Child Left Behind next year, subject to their destruction.

Scapegoating teachers serves four purposes for the authoritarian plutocrats. First, it outrageously blames school teachers for the ills of society, primarily poverty, diverting attention away from their own culpability in the nation's unequal distribution of wealth, and the effects of that disparity. Second, it reduces organized labor's political power by reducing the ranks of teachers' unions, whose members overwhelmingly belong to the Democratic Party. Third it replaces professional, unionized teachers with partially trained, inexperienced youngsters which hampers the critical thinking skills of students. Finally, it diverts enormous amounts of public money spent on education into the plutocrats' hands.

As state after state closes neighborhood public schools and lays off teachers, billionaires like Bill Gates start yet another group, funded with tens of millions of dollars, to covertly advocate for policies which unfairly scapegoat teachers. A few months ago the Gates, Walton and Bradley foundations created a new organization called Mediabullpen.org, to catalog and rate media coverage of education reform, from their own perspective, of course.

Every new charter school adds to authoritarianism, even if it is a progressively administered school staffed by liberal secular humanists who teach acceptance and tolerance for all. The ghettoization of caring parents and high achieving students into their own charter schools deprives the left-behind schools and students of their positive influence. School choice causes a segregation of students along myriad lines. Likewise the funneling of poor and minority students into authoritarian schools like those run by KIPP both deprives those students of a well rounded education and habituates them to authoritarian modes of behavior. Children who should be getting extra attention instead are getting discipline. The schools and teachers in high poverty areas should be supported not demonized. The answer to low test scores in low income families should not be to close down their neighborhood schools, further fracturing their communities.

Bought and paid for education deformers claim their goal is a “great school” for everyone, but the tenets of their free-market ideology require competition and, more importantly, failure. How many children and schools should be sacrificed in order to fatten plutocrats' wallets? In order to pretend that the process of educating children is like any other industrial process? If “No Child Left Behind” meant what it said talk of free markets would not be part of education discourse.

In the end the destruction of community, evisceration of public schools, de-professionalization of teachers, narrowing of curriculum, perversion of education discourse, and authoritarian pedagogy have the potential to devastate democracy itself. According to scholar Henry Giroux education represents a clear path out of our civilizational downward spiral:
“...education, while being one of the many sites that disseminates the discourses of imperialism, nationalism, militarism, and violence, has the potential—and indeed, it is the solution—to identify, challenge, and destroy these unethical ideologies that threaten human freedom, peace, and democracy in America and around the world.”
With the collapse of almost all traditional authority in America, including the news media, citizens more than ever require critical thinking skills to help them cut through all the noise and static. Therein lies the most invidious aspect of the current education reform movement because, in the final analysis, it is not just individual schools and students that are placed at risk by the authoritarian impulse and faddish classroom experiments, it is our democracy itself.

Note: This is the final installment of this series on education reform and authoritarianism. Below are links to the first eight installments. Thanks for reading, and I welcome your feedback.


Part I:  Deformed: Authoritarian undercurrents in education
Part II: The danger to education and democracy posed by authoritarianism
Part II:  School choice birthed in authoritarian racial animus and market fundamentalism
Part IV: Education deformers' achieve political success through a culture of lying, repetition, and compliance, not logic, reason and evidence
Part V: Deformed schools: Reduced diversity, authoritarian education styles, narrowed curriculum, and harming of critical thinking skills
Part VI: Collapse of authority breeds authoritarianism
Part VII: Replacing democracy with authoritarianism
Part VIII: The authoritarian journalism of education reform

Monday, May 09, 2011

More GOP solutions: mint Minnesota money

All that's old is new again

That $5.1 billion budget deficit? Don't worry, it's just fiat currency. That stuff is practically worthless anyway.

Friday, GOP freshman Rep. Kurt Bills introduced HF 1664 that would make gold and silver coin legal tender for debts, eliminate all state taxes on the sale of gold or silver, and create a commission to study the creation of an alternative currency for the state of Minnesota. Bills, an economics teacher at Rosemount High School, appears to be Minnesota's agent in a strategy of pushing "constitutional tender" bills at the state level to challenge the Federal Reserve bank.

Proponents of these bills argue that gold and silver are the only constitutional forms of payment, that gold and silver have inherent value lacking in fiat currency like Federal Reserve notes, and that the dollar is heading for an inevitable hyper-inflationary death spiral.

Of course, the purpose of Article 1, Section 10 of the U.S. Constitution was to prevent multiple state currencies. The "inherent value" of gold and silver is even more volatile than the value of Federal Reserve notes. And the purpose of these bills seems to be explicitly deflationary, crippling the ability to borrow and lend.

Others who have more stamina than me might watch Glenn Beck, follow Ron Paul, and be more aware of the thoughts of the gold bugs. But it's hard for me to take it so seriously, since it is just more of the same apocalyptic thinking as the May 21st folks, survivalists, the Y2K people, etc. There is a powerful psychological pull in the belief you are in a select group of people who see the truth, while the rest of world is blithely ignorant of impending disaster. Unfortunately, it's also a terrible basis for setting monetary policy.

There's a more practical side to these bills. It would provide a huge windfall for holders of gold who would otherwise be subject to capital gains taxes on the sale of gold. Minnesota taxes capital gains as regular income, which means that HF1664 would represent a big tax break for holders of gold. And in a bizarre turn of legislative language, HF1664 would hold any agent of the state personally liable for damage equal to 100 times the amount of tax that was collected.

If you didn't notice the series of Star Tribune articles about the gold coin industry that ran over the weekend, you should check them out. Turns out the industry is full of ex-cons who have a terrible record of ripping off investors. Imagine how HF1664 would supercharge this unregulated industry by allowing them to promise favorable tax treatment. Even if it didn't abet the shady grey market of gold coin dealers, bills like this favor the very wealthy who hold significant amounts of precious metals as a hedge. HF1664 represents an attempt to protect the wealth of the rich in case of the economic rapture. The rest of us in the cash economy will be left behind.

This is a very old debate. I couldn't help but go back and re-read William Jennings Bryan's classic "Cross of Gold" speech. In 1896, the debate at the Democratic National Convention was between populists like Bryan who sought a resolution in favor of "bimetallism" and banking interests who argued for the gold standard. Here's a section that is as relevant today as it was 115 years ago:
Mr. Carlisle said in 1878 that this was a struggle between the idle holders of idle capital and the struggling masses who produce the wealth and pay the taxes of the country; and my friends, it is simply a question that we shall decide upon which side shall the Democratic Party fight. Upon the side of the idle holders of idle capital, or upon the side of the struggling masses? That is the question that the party must answer first; and then it must be answered by each individual hereafter. The sympathies of the Democratic Party, as described by the platform, are on the side of the struggling masses, who have ever been the foundation of the Democratic Party.

There are two ideas of government. There are those who believe that if you just legislate to make the well-to-do prosperous, that their prosperity will leak through on those below. The Democratic idea has been that if you legislate to make the masses prosperous their prosperity will find its way up and through every class that rests upon it.
I think we know which idea Rep. Bills favors.

Follow me on Twitter @aaronklemz

(Image: TYPICAL GOLD BUGS, published in Harpers Weekly, July 11, 1896)