Friday, April 30, 2010

Michael Brodkorb: but this is different!

Two years ago, Michael Brodkorb, then a serious journalist with his blog Minnesota Democrats Exposed, attended the DFL Third Congressional District endorsing convention. I, Louis the Sun King, chatted with him briefly about his occupation of a seat in the press section.

Michael said that it was Meet and Right that new media be given access to conventions. (It was also reported that Brodkorb (now the MNGOP Vice Chair) and Republican officials were in the visitors’ gallery at the DFL convention last week.) Here is a little video taken by the Uptake (not involving me) at that convention with Michael expressing these sentiments:

But two years changes everything:

But now that Brodkorb is GOP State Deputy Chair, his party has taken just the opposite stance.  DFL officials report that they are being refused admission to the GOP party convention scheduled to begin tomorrow in Minneapolis.  GOP Communications Director Mark Drake has even refused press credentials to The UpTake calling the non-partisan nonprofit that has streamed debates, thousands of hours of the legislature and every moment of the Norm Coleman/Al Franken Election Contest trial a "partisan DFL organization.”

UPDATE: Well, the Uptake apparently sneaked in. You can watch live here.

Are Palin and Emmer “friends?”

Superstar quitter Sarah Palin endorsed Tom Emmer for governor yesterday:

"A family man who wants to leave his kids a better future, a 'hockey dad' who once played for the University of Alaska-Fairbanks Nanooks, a patriotic commonsense conservative who wishes to serve for the right reasons – that’s Tom Emmer, and I ask you to join me in supporting him for governor of Minnesota," Palin said in a Facebook message Thursday afternoon.


She really went all out, didn’t she? You never could have gotten that whole message in one Tweet. One has to really respect the effort.

starve the government You have to wonder, though, how some likely Emmer supporters got word of the endorsement.

‘Droid, Palm, Blackberry, iPhone? Well, probably not iPhone.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

What do you mean by “birthday?”

James Kunstler imagines examining Lloyd Blankenfein in a congressional hearing:

If I was questioning Lloyd Blankfein in a hearing room:

JHK: Is English the principal language that Goldman Sachs conducts most of its business in?
Blankfein: I... do you...? Well, the context... I... do you have an exhibit number....
JHK: How old are you, Mr. Blankfein?
Blankfein: I, uh... do you mean counting from conception, uh...?
JHK: No, just from your last birthday.
Blankfein: I, uh, well, um... I... fifty-five.

You really should read it all.

Speaking of dim bulbs

Faithful readers here will remember posts about Tom Emmer’s Incandescent Light Bulb Freedom Act (to permit the state to ignore the federal incandescent light blub prohibition) and his bill for a constitutional amendment in Minnesota to permit the state legislature to nullify federal law.

But here’s a comment from Emmer about the feds looking into whether Arizona may have taken on an issue that doesn’t belong to it:

“I think what Arizona has done is a wonderful first step,” he said.

“I’m very disappointed at the federal government that seems to be now taking issue with the state of Arizona for doing what most of us expect should be done,” Emmer said. “Enforce the laws, and if you don’t like the laws, then change them.”

I am not sure exactly what else to say. Other than Emmer seems like a delusional and inbri---, well, never mind, demagogue lurching across the landscape, spouting whatever hypocritical nonsense comes into his head.

But we’ll try. Shorter Tom Emmer:

The states don’t have to observe federal law, but they are entitled to selectively enforce what they think (or want to believe) is federal law when it suits them. Then, if the feds disagree, they can change their own laws, which the states are then free to ignore if they want.

Got it?

Normal police contact

I heard Brit Hume over on Fox the other day questioning whether there was anything wrong with the new Juan Crow law in Arizona. Hume emphasized the point that citizens would only be asked for their papers during normal police contact, i.e. if the police had already stopped you for something else. In the course of that stop police could ask you for your papers if "REASONABLE SUSPICION EXISTS THAT THE PERSON IS AN ALIEN."

As reprehensible as the proposition of being asked to prove your citizenship is, consider that in Arizona police roadblocks are perfectly legal, and conducted routinely and incessantly. I've been through quite a few of them myself. In each case the officer looked over me, my passengers, and our car, and waved us through. Is there anything more subjective than that?

By this method EVERY driver and car has the potential, indeed likelihood, of normal police contact. In this context Arizona really is a police state, and the new law looks like an attempt to identify and deport or jail every undocumented immigrant.

Although the US Supreme Court has ruled roadblocks constitutional, the Minnesota state supreme court ruled that our constitution is more protective of individual rights than the federal one, and that roadblocks are NOT permissible here.

One born every minute

"If you're playing a poker game and you look around the table and can't tell who the sucker is, it's you." -- Paul Newman

How wonderful. A secret deal for the building of a taxpayer-funded football stadium, yet to be even made public, is set to be rolled out two weeks before the end of the legislative session. All the public is permitted to know about it is that their cash-strapped cities will be given the "honor" of showing how much they’re willing to bankrupt themselves to kiss Ziggy Wilf's ring participate:
A stadium bill garnering bipartisan support is expected to be introduced next week at the state Capitol. It gives cities and counties the option to vie for the team, potentially pitting municipalities against one another for the right to call themselves the home of the purple and gold.

"We're planning on rolling something out next week," co-sponsor Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, said Wednesday.
The legislative session ends on May 17. "Next week" leaves at most two weeks to examine, comprehend, and debate a large, contentious piece of legislation. One does wonder how this even comes close to meeting the deadlines that the legislature has established for itself. The deadline for favorable committee action was March 12. Of course, there are procedures in place to waive the deadlines for those special circumstances when emergencies arise.

I'm probably not alone in wondering over the next weeks why it is that the rejection of the GAMC fix - intended to help secure health care by the state's poorest, but quickly falling apart - by hospitals across the state is not an emergency, but the fleecing of taxpayers to pay for Mr. Wilf’s stadium is.

Tea Party – Stop Illegal Immigration!

Illegal immigration activist Robert Erickson stops by the Tea Party at the Minnesota Capitol on April 15, 2010.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The unconstitutional video cabinet location

Alternate title: Who was Jay Near, and what does he have to teach us?

Update: Post syllabus

When it tried to evict The Uptake the day after it signed a lease with it, the State of Minnesota committed act of prior press restraint, unconstitutional under Near v. Minnesota. The Capitol’s Department of Administration was acting at the behest of some of the mainstream media organizations who already had space in the press corps area in the basement of the Capitol.

Most of you are familiar with The Uptake, the “citizen video news service.” I’ve provided video for The Uptake, most recently from the Tea Party rally at the Capitol on April 15th, although I think most of the stuff we shot that day has wound up here. (Links are in the sidebar.) Anyway.

The Uptake assigns “citizen journalists” to cover events around town, often ones that do not attract MSM television coverage. In addition, The Uptake streams hours and hours of committee hearings, floor debates and press conferences from the Capitol. (Watching this, by the way, is a lot like watching NASCAR races: lots of watching things go around and around, with the occasional spectacular crackup.) The Capitol stuff used to be done, to some degree anyway, by public television, but it apparently decided its viewers were better served by a stream of do-wop reviews, self-help gurus, and a steady Saturday morning diet of painful Julia Child send-ups. Anyway, again.

The Uptake has had a video cabinet in a hallway in the Capitol press corps warrens for some time. But on the untimely death of a member of the MSM, the people who manage the press corps area told The Uptake it could rent some space if it was willing to clean out the rotting corpse. Kidding.

Mainstream media cutbacks created the vacancy. Last year, Fargo-based Forum Communications laid off one of its two Capitol reporters, relinquishing the $28-a-square-foot office it split with KARE. This session, the Post-Bulletin took half of what Forum left behind, but the rest remained unused.

You can see what is coming here, can’t you? Here’s a little more from David Brauer:

Although The Uptake is credentialed by the state House and Senate, the Post-Bulletin regards the group’s press-room presence as illegitimate. Or at least it did. Since the controversy broke, the paper’s managing editor, Jay Furst, has blogged about “raising legitimate questions” about the inclusion of ideological journalists in workspace. When we talked, he emphasized engaging the debate rather than settling it, and says he'll accept Admin's decision [as though he had a choice; very magnanimous of him].

Furst didn’t want to have to share space with the riff raff; that’s really what this is about. Especially progressive riff raff. There were some TPT reporters who felt the same way.

Most media organizations have an editorial function as well as a news function, however, the Post-Bulletin included.

The long and the short — well long, at 370 words so far — of it is that the the Capitol’s administrative staff cancelled the lease with The Uptake the day after it was signed.

As an interim solution to the situation, it has been agreed by The Uptake and the administration that The Uptake can have its spot in the hallway back.

Still with me? Good. The long preamble was necessary to understand the point of the post.

In 1925, the Minnesota Legislature passed the Public Nuisance Law, which permitted the courts to shut down “malicious, scandalous, or defamatory newspapers.”

There was a fellow named Jay Near who published a newspaper that pretty well fit the bill under the statute, and the law enforcement in Hennepin County tried to shut the Saturday Press down. One of Near’s favorite causes, though, was trying to expose the relationship between local Jewish gangs and public officials — and there certainly was some of that.

Near lost at both the trial court and the Minnesota Supreme Court level. Near was not assisted or encouraged by the mainstream media of the day. (It would be interesting to go back and see what the Post-Bulletin or its predecessor newspapers thought about the case.)  Near appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, and he found a champion in Robert McCormick, the publisher of the Chicago Tribune. Weymouth Kirkland — a pretty famous name in legal circles — and the Tribune’s lawyer, argued the case before the United States Supreme Court.

Weymouth won a reversal for Near, and the case has stood ever since for the proposition that no prior restraint against the press can survive constitutional scrutiny. The opinion, Near v. Minnesota, is a landmark and founding principle in freedom of the press law.

Justice Louis Brandeis, in hearing the case, said that Near was attempting to expose “combinations between criminals and public officials” while observing that such combinations did, in fact, exist.

Near v. Minnesota is directly applicable to The Uptake situation. Just like the situation that Jay Near faced, the local MSM — at least parts of it — don’t support The Uptake; we can attribute a number of motives for this, some benign, but also some that are not so benign: protecting cozy relationships with politicians, staffers, and communication directors.

By cancelling the lease — the day after it was signed — the state also engaged in a transparently unconstitutional act of prior restraint. It obviously did so on the basis of complaints from the MSM about renting the upstarts some space.

The space in the Capitol for the press was not created for it to establish a guild hall. And although it would obviously come as a big surprise to some members of the Capitol press corps, the press is not the beneficiary of freedom of the press in the First Amendment. The people are.

In preparing this post, I relied on dim memories from a room in Fraser Hall, the opinion linked above, and Anthony Lewis’ terrific book, Freedom for the Thought that We Hate.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Tea Party at the edges

Here’s a couple of interviews taken at the edges of the Tea Party rally at the Minnesota Capitol on April 15th.

UPDATE: I asked the first interviewee about the role of Phil Gramm in the Tea Party. I meant, of course, a different former Texas Congressman: Dick Armey. The interviewee didn’t catch it either; perhaps we both knew who were talking about.

She thought so little,

They rewarded she,
By making her a bidder
In the race LG.

The Gilbert and Sullivan fans in the room will recognize the paraphrase from a patter song in H.M.S. Pinafore.

The “she” is Annette Meeks, and the “so little” she thought of is the office of lieutenant governor.

It is really hard to see why anybody would hire a lieutenant governor who thought the job should be abolished. But Meeks did. Maybe right after inauguration she would commit a public act of ritual suicide on the Capitol steps. Or maybe self-immolation, Buddhist-monk style, as a protest.

Update: The Strib Hot Dish has more, here.

Song of the South

In a move designed to confer some of the charm of the Old Confederacy on his bid for the GOP endorsement for governor, Tom Emmer — a faux Jefferson Davis himself — picked Annette Meeks as his running mate.

As a former deputy chief of staff for then-Congressman Newt Gingrich, Meeks will no doubt add her own brand of Dixie dust to the campaign.

Update: As a commenter points out in the MPR piece linked above:

In 1998, Meeks wrote a book for a conservative think tank that called for the elimination of the Lieutenant Governor post.

Perhaps her first job will be to fall on her sword.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Tea Party rally veers into the rhubarb

Here’s just a little more from the Tea Party rally at the Minnesota Capitol on April 15th, 2010.

I agree, by the way, with the guy in the red shirt at the end when he talks about Martha Stewart and complains, somewhat indirectly, about the federal obstruction of justice statute.

You can go two for two, today, Susan

Susan Gaertner dropped out of the race for governor today, presumably saving herself the filing fee for the primary. She could get a twofer for the day in the good decision-making department by agreeing to set aside the conviction of Koua Fong Lee.

The prosecution expert in the trial convicting Lee was apparently the guy who is in charge of supervising the oils changes for the St. Paul police department’s cruisers. But the evidence is mounting that Lee did try to stop his car:

Jim Cook, an expert hired by an attorney for the victims [who are now suing Toyota after the disclosure of all of the cases of unintended acceleration have come to light], says the filaments on the brake lights of Lee's car "exploded" inside the bulb, indicating Lee had hit the brakes and the lights were on for at least a second or two before impact.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

A Tea Party Commerce Clause conversation

One of the talking points at the Tea Party rally at the Capitol on April 15th was, in the words of Sen. Mike Parry, that the federal government had “overstepped their bounds” in enacting health care reform. I asked several people if they knew that health care reform and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 were based on the same clause of the Constitution of the United States, namely, the Commerce Clause.

Nobody believed me of course, including this fellow.

He proudly declaimed the Preamble to the Constitution for me, but he apparently never got as far as Article 1, Section 8. Pity.

It may seem odd that a major piece of civil right legislation, especially the public accommodation (food and lodging) sections, would be based on the Commerce Clause, but it is. The Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment protects persons from state conduct, not purely private conduct.

In order for the Congress to outlaw the refusal to serve blacks at a lunch counter in Greenville, South Carolina or the refusal to put blacks up in a motel in say, Georgia, it relied on its authority to regulate activity that affects interstate commerce. The free flow of persons and goods among the several states clearly affects interstate commerce.

It won’t come as a surprise that howls of indignation arose, claiming that the federal government “overstepped their bounds.” This is the Lester Maddox territory that Nick Coleman discussed this morning in his column.

And it was, in fact, a motel in Georgia that tried to overturn the law. In a case titled Heart of Atlanta Motel v. U.S., the Supreme Court ruled — unanimously — that the Congress had the authority to regulate purely private conduct when it affects interstate commerce.

If the Congress can require a white man in the South to serve a black customer at a lunch counter on Commerce Clause grounds, you can be quite sure it has the authority to regulate one of the largest sectors of the U.S. economy, and to require that individuals purchase health insurance. It is ludicrous to suggest otherwise.

Parenthetically, every once in a great while the title of a case is a metaphor for what it is about; racial discrimination was indeed the “heart of Atlanta” in 1964. One of my other favorites is Loving v. Virginia, the case that struck down state bans against interracial marriage.

A thief cannot give good title

Or, more simply, you can’t sell what you don’t own. And the corollary is that you should not try buy what someone else doesn’t own.

Like a smart cell phone that someone finds lying around, apparently in a bar. Especially when it is a gee-whiz model that is rumored to exist but isn’t even on the market yet. And even more especially when the phone contains identifying data about the phone’s user, and it isn’t the person trying to sell the phone to you.

But that’s what happened when a new Apple iPhone went missing in California:

The authorities in San Mateo County in California are considering whether to file criminal charges in connection with the sale of a missing next-generation iPhone belonging to Apple.

The San Mateo district attorney could act by early next week, according to people involved in the investigation. The office has the option of filing felony charges.

According to California law, if property doesn’t exceed $950, a case will be classified as a misdemeanor, but since the technology blog Gizmodo paid $5,000 for the device, a felony charge would be possible.

Gizmodo’s defense that “it didn’t know it was stolen” strains credulity because — remember — the phone had never been offered anywhere for sale. And why would it have information about a user other than the person selling the phone to Gizmodo?

Gizmodo was willing to pay $5,000 for a cell phone because it was stolen, and a valuable and unavailable prototype to boot, and Gizmodo knew it. The fact that Gizmodo gave it back may help the company, but part, probably most, of the phone’s value was its trade secret features, and these cannot be given back. It probably also matters whether the physical phone was given back returned before or after Gizmodo was contacted by law enforcement.

Receiving stolen goods is what this is called.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Et tu, Keith

In a development that I have been expecting for a while, Rep. Keith Ellison switched his endorsement from Matt Entenza to Mayor R.T. Rybak. Rep. Ellison announced some time ago that he would support Entenza through the convention, but that he intended to support the endorsed candidate.

When Entenza withdrew this morning, the stage was set. The announcement was made on the convention floor and a press release was circulated to the delegates.

A brilliant tactical move by Team Rybak.

This is what is all about

There is buzz at the DFL convention today and an article in the Star Tribune this morning about the potential impact of a new group at the convention:

Shortly after the initiative was rolled out by Take Action Minnesota last fall, two representatives of TAM, Greta Bergstrom and Ryan Greenwood, came to Drinking Liberally to describe it to those in attendance. Here’s the video that was shot that night.

Friday, April 23, 2010

DL handicaps the DFL state convention

At Drinking Liberally last evening (April 22nd), I solicited a few opinions on this weekend’s DFL state convention and the governor’s race. We’ll have to dig this out out of the vault after the primary in August and again after the election in November.


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Governor Emmer, the federals

. . . are massing at the border.

What? Where?

Everywhere but the northern border, Sir.

That’s our border with Canada.

Yes, everywhere but there, Sir.

Why? What did we do?

Lots of little things, I suppose, Governor, but I think the last straw was probably when you signed the bill to nullify the Internal Revenue Code in Minnesota.

As we had every right to do. We’re sovereign, remember? It says so right in the Minnesota Constitution in an amendment that I authored.

The federals apparently don’t see it that way, Governor.

[voice rising] Okay, let’s not panic! Options, General Parry?

Um, you’re the Governor.

Fat lot of help you are right now, General Parry.

Just respecting the chain of command, Sir.

All right. Call out the Guard.

Do you mean the National Guard? Sorry, Governor, most of the Guard is in Afghanistan.

Are you s***ting me?

Afraid not, sir. We could call out the NRA.

You mean the guys who sit around in camo lawn chairs and talk about shooting Mexicans? Please.

It looks like we’re completely defenseless.

No! Wait! I have an idea. We have a company of seasoned soldiers at Historic Fort Snelling. They’re even under my command, sort of.

Governor, there’s maybe a dozen of them at any one time, fifteen or twenty, tops, and they shoot 19th century muskets. They don’t even have musket balls.

But they have cannon, too, don’t they General Parry?

But no cannon balls, Governor, except maybe a dozen or so all rusted together. And you have to remember, Governor, these people are history buffs; they undoubtedly know what happened the last time somebody tried to nullify federal law. I don’t think we can count on their loyalty, Sir.

What do you recommend, General Parry?

Well, Governor, remember what I said about the northern border? Got your passport? You need one after 9/11.

Damn. I burned it in an act of defiance of the federal government. Probably not the smartest thing I’ve ever done.

[under his breath] Nor the dumbest. [full voice] Anyway, Governor, good luck; I’m outta here.

Tea Partiers: Republicans with the vapors

A lot has been made about the new political force called the Tea Party. But they’re really just a vocal minority in the Republican Party. Here’s just a little more from the interviews that I did at the Tea Party rally at the Capitol on April 15th.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Race To The Top fraud

While Arne Duncan, Al Sharpton and Newt Gingrich tour the talk shows and the country pushing president Obama's education initiative Race To The Top - which focuses on creating more failed charter schools and inferior teacher training - the liberal Economic Policy Institute did an in-depth analysis of the applications to the US Department of Education and the awarding of $600 million in the first round of funding  (which went to Delaware and Tennessee).

Some states are so traumatized by their non-selection that they are desperately trying to find out what went wrong - and going so far - as Tim Pawlenty is doing in Minnesota - of seeking to change state law to have a better chance of winning funding in the second round of grants, due in June. But what would that change look like?

According to EPI the change that would be needed is unknown, because the US Department of Education didn't really follow ANY criteria in the awarding of the first round grants - and that, in effect, the winning states were chosen arbitrarily:
The 500-point system has six major categories, seven general categories, and various subcategories. By assigning numbers to each one, “the Department implies it has a testable theory or empirical data to back up its quantitative method.”

But it doesn’t have either, and, therefore, assigned the numbers subjectively.

“Further examination suggests that the selection of Delaware and Tennessee was subjective and arbitrary, more a matter of bias or chance than a result of these states’ superior compliance with reform policies,” it said.
And, it said: “The necessary subjective judgments required both for category selection and weight assignment makes a fair competition practically impossible, even if the competition is undertaken with great care.”
We might have guessed that, given the people pushing the policy - but now we know for sure. How many ways does Barack Obama have to prove that he wants to destroy the movement he rode in on?

UPDATE: I should have mentioned that, according to MPR, Minnesota's application for Race funds was outsourced to McKinsey and Company, and that the state only paid $100,000 of the $500,000 fee, the rest coming from the Gates, Bush and Minneapolis Foundations. Ironically the state's portion was paid out of federal stimulus funds.

Karen Stout wins latest Spotty!

the_spotty Regular readers know that I have written quite a bit lately on “school reform” Karen Stout, a research associate at the University of Minnesota’s Institute on Community Integration, had an excellent op-ed in the Star Tribune yesterday about this subject. Karen wins a Spotty™ for this thoughtful article. Here are just a few grafs:

Just what is the [Secretary of Education] Duncan agenda, and does it hold up to the scrutiny of research -- the highly touted mantra of the current and most recent regimes? Besides the emphasis on science, technology, engineering and mathematics -- privileging some knowledge over other -- substantial points were awarded for improving teacher and principal effectiveness based on performance, promoting charter schools, turning around low-performing schools, and developing and adopting common academic standards. Note the emphasis on those things which can be measured, however reductionist those measurements might be.

But data underrepresents reality. Jaron Lanier, sometimes called the “father of virtual reality,” and the author of a book just out called You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto, Alfred A. Knopf (2010), discusses this very issue. There is an article excerpted from the book in the February issue of Harper’s Magazine, entitled The Serfdom of Crowds. There was one passage, well, there were several, that caught my attention:

. . .  Education has gone through a parallel transformation [to Facebook’s transformation and degradation to the concept of “friendship”], and for similar reasons. Information systems need to have information in order to run, but information underrepresents reality. Demand more from information than it can give and you end up with monstrous designs. Under the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002, for example, U.S. teachers are forced to choose between teaching general knowledge and “teaching the test.” The best teachers are thereby often disenfranchised by the improper use of educational-information systems. [italics are Spot’s]

What computerized analysis of all the country’s school tests has done to education is exactly what Facebook has done to friendships. In both cases, life is turned into a database. Both degradations are based on the same philosophical mistake, which is the belief that computers can presently represent human thought or human relationships. These are things computers cannot currently do. Whether one expects computers to improve in the future is a different issue. In a less idealistic atmosphere it would go without saying that software should be designed only to perform tasks that can be successfully carried out at a given time. That is not the atmosphere in which Internet software is designed, however. When technologists deploy a computer model of something like learning or friendship in a way that has an effect on real lives, they are relying on faith. When they ask people to live their lives through their  models, they are potentially reducing life itself.

Ms. Stout continues:

What a boon for the testing industry, while teachers, who have no say over what happens outside of school, will have their jobs dependent on something for which they ultimately have only minimal control.

And what the kids bring to school is critical, as has been discussed here a number of times, including a post called A tale of two schools. And by the new contributor here, Rob Levine, in a post on his own blog, The Triumph of Conservative Philanthropy, quoting from, I think, HuffPo [I should go back and look it up, but you can, too]:

While Barack Obama blithely goes about blaming teachers for the children who do poorly in their schools - all the while cheering the destruction of those same schools, Diane Ravitch goes about her lonely duty of debunking the Washington consensus on education. In the words of a blogger whom she quotes, citing poverty as a key reason for poor educational performance:

"We can't fire poverty." Since we can't fire poverty, we can't fire students, and we can't fire families, all that is left is to fire teachers.

Indeed. Ravitch concludes:

It would be good if our nation's education leaders recognized that teachers are not solely responsible for student test scores. Other influences matter, including the students' effort, the family's encouragement, the effects of popular culture, and the influence of poverty...

This strategy of closing schools and firing the teachers is mean and punitive. And it is ultimately pointless. It solves no problem. It opens up a host of new problems. It satisfies the urge to purge. But it does nothing at all for the students.

There will probably be another post or two about Ms. Stout’s Spotty™ winning article. Remember, a Spotty™ is awarded to the author of a letter to the editor, an op-ed piece, or a blog post or comment that Spot wishes he had written himself.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Drinking Liberally: the pre-convention edition

331-profile-front Which is farther away from St. Paul: Mankato or New Prague? Does it make a hill of beans worth of difference?

What about Richfield or Virginia?

Is it better to be the daughter of a farmer or the son of a drugstore owner?

Or the son of teachers or a union miner?

Is there anyone in the governor’s race — on either side of the aisle — with better retail political skills that Tom Rukavina?

Which of the candidates currently in the legislature voted against the GAMC “compromise?”

Administrator vs. legislator?

Running mates?

Thursday night at Drinking Liberally will be your chance to discuss these questions and more. We’ll meet from six to nine at the 331 Club in Northeast Minneapolis.

Draft Tebow

And let God build him a stadium.

Technorati Tags: ,

Monday, April 19, 2010

Candidates marking each other’s trees

Mayor Rybak goes to the Capitol to announce an endorsement by the Mayor of St. Paul.

Margaret Anderson Kelliher goes to Minneapolis City Hall to announce an endorsement by a city council member in Minneapolis and one in St. Paul.

Just before leaving for the convention, the candidates will show up at each other’s home and scrawl hurtful campaign slogans on their respective opponents’ front sidewalks.

After that? You may want to avert you eyes.

Powerstooge denial

Yesterday John "Ass Rocket" Hinderaker posted on the Powerlineblog that President Obama had declined to attend the funeral for the Polish president killed in the plane crash a few weeks ago, and had instead elected to go golfing. Of course, Obama had planned to go to the funeral, but couldn't because a volcanic eruption in Iceland had forced the cancellation of all air flight over Europe.

It's funny that Hinderaker knew that Obama had golfed 32 times since taking office, but was unaware that the president was planning on attending the funeral but had to cancel because of events beyond his control. Let's add up the denial involved with this position: First, it denies that Obama wanted to go the funeral; second, it denies that he planned to go to the funeral; third, it denies there was a volcanic eruption in Iceland, and finally, it denies that air travel has become impossible over Europe.

Behold the Republican intellectual.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Sen. Mike Parry speaks out on nullification

Newly minted state senator Mike Parry from Owatonna was one of the few legislators in attendance at the Tea Party rally at the Capitol on April 15th. I asked him about his support for gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer and about Rep. Emmer’s authorship of a bill to amend the Minnesota Constitution to authorize the legislative nullification of federal law. (Lest you think that Marty Seifert provides the anchor of sanity here, you need to know that Rep. Seifert has authored a similar bill.)

Emmer’s bill hasn’t gotten a hearing, of course. It’s a waste of paper, unless your audience is the Tea Party crowd. And Parry’s answers were pure Tea Party.

Sen. Parry supports the idea of the permissible state nullification of federal law, even if the federal laws being nullified are civil rights laws in Mississippi. It’s “their state,” after all, says Sen. Parry.

As has been discussed here before, by both MNO and me, the recent health care reform bill and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 are both based on the grant of authority to the Congress by the Commerce Clause in Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution.

Further Update: Jack Balkin, the law professor at Yale, has a post today about the Heritage Foundation, which proposed the individual mandates in the health insurance reform bill in the first place. Now the Heritage Foundation is against the individual mandate, but in the process of making its argument, demonstrates why it is constitutional.

Sen. Parry and many of the Tea Partiers — and let’s not forget Tom Emmer, Marty Seifert and Tim Pawlenty, too — have a childish understanding of federalism and the way that constitutional disputes are resolved.

Update: I put this in a comment, but it is getting buried. Apparently, Mitch Berg is claiming that The Uptake crew at the Tea Party rally, including me, did not identify itself to potential interviewees. But here is a brief video clip of the introduction to the interview of Mitch himself.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

They courageously ran away

Outstate GAMC patients were out of luck, in luck, back out of luck, sort of in luck, and now out of luck again:

A revamped state health care program for about 37,000 of the poorest and sickest Minnesotans will start June 1. But with funding cut to one-fourth of the projected costs, it appears that only five of 17 qualifying hospitals have agreed to provide the care -- none outside the Twin Cities area.

You’ll remember that the governor “unallotted” the GAMC program last spring; the Legislature voted to restore GAMC early in the session by substantial margins; Governor Gutshot vetoed the bill and every Republican in the Legislature turned and ran; the veto was sustained. Then, a “compromised” bill emerged; the one described in the linked article.

You mean a compromise bill, don’t you Spot?

No, grasshopper, I mean compromised. Principles were compromised by the legislators who voted for this sham. Paul Thissen, who voted against it, said this:

Members, there is a fine line between compromise and caving in.  We are not on the right side of that line this time.

The evidence of rightness of Paul’s remarks is starting to come in.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Constitutional scholarship

I went to the Tea Party rally at the Capitol yesterday afternoon. I shot some video for The Uptake; I’ll provide a link if they post any of it. There was one special little clip, however, that I will share here; I hope to do that over the weekend. Look for it.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

I am Minnesota Public Radio

Today the Star Tribune reports that Stephen Hemsley, the CEO of UnitedHealth received $102 million in compensation in 2009. Earlier Huffington Post reported that he also holds $744 million in unexercised stock options.What kind of guy is Hemsley? Well, earlier he got caught backdating stock options that bilked stockholders, and had to return $190  million in options. He previously was Chief Financial Officer at Arthur Andersen, the firm that covered for Enron while it made off with grandma's retirement funds.

His bio at Wikipedia describes him as "a trustee of the University of St. Thomas, Minnesota, and as a trustee of Minnesota Public Radio."

Doesn't that say it all about Minnesota institutions? St Thomas is the  Ann Coulter loving university in St Paul, and MPR is the Allina-protecting Pravda on the Mississippi, so it really is in keeping with the character of those two institutions to have a professional skimmer like Hemsley at the top of their organizations. Far from being atypical, Hemsley is representative of the kind of flexian plutocrats who run Minnesota's premier media, educational and social institutions.

UPDATE: Business Week says that Hemsley is a Trustee of Minnesota Public Radio, but MPR's website doesn't list him as one. Maybe he recently quit the board, or recently joined it - the trustee list on the MPR website is dated October, 2009. EVEN MORE: Well, now we know Hemsley was on the board of MPR at least from 2002 to 2004.

Note: This is Rob’s first post here. It is also cross-posted at his blog, The Triumph of Conservative Philanthropy.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

DL: the returns are in the mail edition


After your drop your tax returns in the mail on Thursday the 15th, stop by Drinking Liberally at the 331 Club in Northeast Minneapolis. We won’t have a guest, so there will be plenty of time to visit. We’ll be there from six to nine or so.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

And in the really big news this week

I’ve been able to persuade, cajole, badger, and generally hoodwink Rob Levine into posting on the Cucking Stool once in a while. As the editor of the, Rob was an “early adopter” of the ‘net as a way of aggregating and distributing news. Now, he’s doing some research for a book, and he is also the author of the blog The Triumph of Conservative Philanthropy.

I’ve linked to Rob often, and I suggested to him that it would be easier — for me, anyway — if he’d just post over here from time to time and tell us what’s on his mind. And he agreed.

The list of contributors will soon grow to three. On behalf of both MNO and me, welcome Rob.

A tale of two schools

Last spring, two of Edina’s nine schools did not meet “AYP,” or Adequate Yearly Progress under the No Child Left Behind Act. Here’s a description of the schools and the categories in which they failed from a press release by the district:

Two Edina schools failed to meet the AYP targets. Edina High School did not meet the mathematics proficiency target for the black students subgroup. South View Middle School did not meet the reading and mathematics proficiency targets for the students eligible for free or reduced price school lunches subgroup. For the second consecutive year, the Edina District failed to meet the AYP reading proficiency target for students eligible for free or reduced price school lunches. As a result, federal law requires the Minnesota Department of Education to designate EPS as in need of improvement. [italics are mine]

I can write without fear of contradiction that the Edina schools rack up some of, if not the best, student achievement scores in the state, year after year. (And we won the boys’ state hockey tournament this year, but we don’t need to go into that.)

Edina is more diverse than you might think. At Cornelia Elementary School, twenty-five percent of the students come from homes where English is a second language. Cornelia students go to Southview for middle school, starting in the sixth grade; there is one high school in Edina. The district also has many school choice and open enrollment students, again concentrated at Southview and the high school.

You know, there is probably a minority achievement gap in the Edina schools. If so, it’s a  case for Teach for America’s 200 hour teachers, according to the proposed statute. Perhaps the authors of the alternate teacher certification bills can call the Superintendent, Ric Dressen, see what he thinks, and ask him how many the district is going to hire. Well, maybe not.

It is absurd — of course — to think of sending teachers with their learner’s permits to Edina. But there are a lot of people, including some in the Legislature, who don’t think twice about sending them to schools with concentrations of the poor.

Personally, I think this is outrageous. It is also a dodge of the Legislature’s obligation — in the Constitution — to provide for the existence of uniform public schools across the state.

Monday, April 12, 2010

I suppose it would have killed them

To do a television broadcast of the Twins home opener in the spiffy new Target Field, that is. It was sold out, so that the hoi polloi couldn’t have gotten tickets, even if they could have afforded them. They’ll just have to support the Twins one Hennepin County purchase at a time.

I hated the Dome for baseball, and I’m glad the Twins have a new ball park, which by all accounts is a jewel. The eye witness accounts, anyway. I am sure that I’ll make my way down there at least a few times this summer.

But I have to admit that the jocularity of Bud Selig, Jim Pohlad, and Mike Opat in the announcing booth with John Gordon and Dan Gladden was like having them spit in my face.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Katherine Kersten: Sex Defender

Irony is always especially delicious when it involves Katherine Kersten. She has bemoaned the role of a permissive culture in child sex abuse many times.

In her aperiodic column in the Star Tribune today, however, a genuine “wails to rails” classic, Katie is full of righteous indignation that the Catholic clergy sex scandal, which has led to the Vatican’s door, is such a media story. Imagine! To save some of you a little work, here’s how she winds up:

The Catholic Church remains one of the last and strongest institutional voices to oppose today's fashionable catechism of political correctness. In this respect, it differs from mainline Protestant denominations, which have generally opted to play catch-up with the culture.

The media's sensationalistic crusade against clergy sexual abuse is not so much about protecting children as it is about discrediting the Catholic Church. If media pooh-bahs' [that one’s correct; plural possessive of pooh-bah] one-sided outrage can hobble the church's moral authority and sap its financial base, they will have removed a major obstacle to their agenda's triumph.

The media are trying, with the tacit approval of the dissolute Protestant church denominations, apparently, to destroy the Catholic Church’s mortal authority and “sap” its financial base?

Katie used to be a writer for the “X-Files.” You knew that, didn’t you?

The Catholic Church is doing a fine job of hobbling its moral authority all by itself, not only by because of the abuse, but because of the cover-up.

Rob Levine had another terrific post this week about the role of authoritarian upbringing in creating new little conservatives:

Certainly there are more cases of abuse than the 3 million reported cases. Stories like this one, Papal ally accused of 'ritual beatings': German bishop accused of hitting child with carpet beater at church-run home, have become commonplace. The accused Bishop, it turns out, is part of a "hardline conservative group of German Catholic Church leaders, to which the Pope belonged before his appointment to the Vatican."

[   ]

In the Catholic church, in particular, with the worldwide sexual abuse perpetrated by Catholic officials, and the accounts of physical abuse by those even close to the Pope himself, the abuse of children seems to be as much about controlling the abused and accustoming them to authoritarianism as it is about sexually-repressed Christian leaders.

Rob’s observation strikes at the crux of the matter; it’s authoritarianism that Kersten is really defending, embodied in the conservative Catholic hierarchy: “one of the last and strongest institutional voices to oppose today's fashionable catechism of political correctness.”

The abuse grows out of the authoritarianism. That is why the numbers of reported abuse cases in the Catholic Church are so much higher there; not because, as Kersten suggests, Catholics are better record keepers.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

You got a funny way of showing it, Lady

A letter in the Star Tribune today:

As one of the delegates to the Minnesota Republican Party's Second Congressional District convention who supported the resolution asserting the right of states to secede from the union, I feel compelled to respond ("Secession movement," Opinion Exchange, March 31).

Some may believe such a resolution is unpatriotic and un-American. On the contrary, it is my very love for America and our Constitution [italics are mine] that moved me to speak in favor of this resolution.

The Constitution of the United States became the law of the land when it was voluntarily ratified by the sovereign member states as prescribed in Article VII. The states freely agree to be governed by the Constitution, which clearly spells out the powers delegated to the U.S. government, reserving all other powers to the states and to the people. If the union is insoluble, why would the federal government feel compelled to be constrained by the Constitution? What recourse would the states and the people have if the federal government acted outside of its constitutional authority? The right to secession serves as a reminder of the rule of law by which the states have agreed to be governed and provides a protective check to ensure fidelity to the Constitution.

The union is a free association, and although the secession of any member state is unlikely, the right to secede without being threatened with violence needs to be recognized.

Emily Conley, Belle Plaine

What recourse would the states and the people have if the federal government acted outside of its constitutional authority?

Well first of all Emily, you might check with Article III of the Constitution, since it seems to fall readily to hand, and also with Marbury v. Madison, an early Supreme Court case that held that the court had the power to declare acts of the federal government unconstitutional:

The justices held, through Marshall's forceful argument, that [  ] the Constitution was "the fundamental and paramount law of the nation" and that "an act of the legislature repugnant to the constitution is void." In other words, when the Constitution--the nation's highest law--conflicts with an act of the legislature, that act is invalid. This case establishes the Supreme Court's power of judicial review.

Sedition, of course, sounds so much more romantic.

The union is a free association, and although the secession of any member state is unlikely, the right to secede without being threatened with violence needs to be recognized.

This is part of the Kool-Aid kredo (yes, I know how to spell it; don’t write in) that goes back to, well, the Civil War. The opening paragraphs of the Mississippi Secession Resolution state:

Whereas, The Constitutional Union was formed by the several States in their separate soverign [sic] capacity for the purpose of mutual advantage and protection;

That the several States are distinct sovereignities [sic] [written by an early Tea Partier, no doubt], whose supremacy is limited so far only as the same has been delegated by voluntary compact to a Federal Government, and when it fails to accomplish the ends for which it was established, the parties to the compact have the right to resume, each State for itself, such delegated powers;

That the institution of slavery existed prior to the formation of the Federal Constitution, and is recognized by its letter, and all efforts to impair its value or lessen its duration by Congress, or any of the free States, is a violation of the compact of Union and is destructive of the ends for which it was ordained, but in defiance of the principles of the Union thus established, the people of the Northern States have assumed a revolutionary position toward the Southern States;

As Lori Sturdevant said, we had a war about that. And the Union not only threatened violence, it brought it. The United States is not a voluntary association; it was entered into voluntarily, but we’re all in it now for the duration. People who say otherwise are not constitutionalists; they are insurrectionists.

Here are the last couple of sentences from the Gettysburg Address, pronounced by President Lincoln, over, among many others, the dead of a decimated Minnesota First Regiment that had made a suicidal charge off of Cemetery Ridge to give the Union Army time to reinforce the center of the line: a pivotal movement in a pivotal battle in the Civil War. It may well have saved the Union.

It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Col. Colvill (there’s a town in Minnesota named after the colonel) and his men must be spinning in their graves over bilious, poisonous effluent such as Ms. Conley’s letter.

If Minnesota has the right to secede over a health care bill, or nullify an act of Congress over incandescent light bulbs, presumably Mississippi can secede over civil rights.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Sigh. Yeah, I can hear you now

Is there anyone besides me who is thrilled that the cell phone coverage at the new Target Field is poor?

"I had some friends that were really jealous that I was there," said Twins fan Heidi Ruen. "And I promised to post some TwitPics on Twitter and Facebook, but I couldn't even get them to text."

She kept trying, but couldn't get a signal out of the stadium.

"I was a little frustrated, but then again I was in awe of the ballpark," she said. "So I was like, I'll just enjoy the game."

Just. Enjoy. The. Game. What a concept.

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Another great Drinking Liberally guest!

Alternate title: Let them eat oatmeal!

331-profile-frontTomorrow night, April 8th, Galen Robinson will be our guest at Drinking Liberally. Galen and the gang from Mid-Minnesota Legal Services brought suit against the Pawlenty administration last spring for its unallotment of funds for a special nutritional program for indigent Minnesotans.

Galen obtained an injunction against the governor at the trial court level; the case was appealed to the Minnesota Supreme Court. It's been argued, and we're waiting for a decision.

Tomorrow night will be your chance to find out about the litigation and the important constitutional issue it involves, and the implications it has for the budget in Minnesota. We won't be pressing Galen for a prognostication of the outcome, however.

As always, we'll be at the 331 Club in Northeast Minneapolis from six to nine PM. My interview with Galen will start around seven.

Hello, I must be going!

There is a commenter here, Alec Timmerman, who is an inner-city teacher in St. Paul. In response to the post yesterday, The Alice Seagren Paperwork Reduction Act, he posted a long comment, which I commend to you all. Here’s his pithy conclusion:

I teach at a school that is only 5% white. The best kids in the world. Ever. We have the best teachers in the world. It takes most of them a couple years just to get over the culture shock when they are rookies. It takes a couple years before students learn to trust that they aren't just going to leave them, like so many other adults. We have great teachers. We certainly could use more. We don't need gimmicks. Our jobs are hard enough. Coming in without training is unethical treatment of the students.

When I was much younger, I thought that the value of experience was highly overrated.

But it is a conceit of Teach for America to believe and to claim that its barely trained and largely untested (in a classroom) recruits are just the ticket for inner-city classrooms. And there is plenty of conceit to go around when it comes to describing Teach for America. If you look at S.F. 2757, or H.F. 3093, you will see that the description of programs (Teach for America, really) to be approved is sprinkled with words like these:

research based;
results-oriented approach;
best teacher practices;
intensive preparation (that’s the 200 hours, or five weeks);
intensive peer coaching;
high quality, sustained, intensive, and classroom-embedded staff development (does anybody have any idea what that means?)

If that doesn’t sound to you like it was written by some marketing flak at Teach for America, you aren’t paying attention. And as mentioned before, the House and Senate versions of this hymn of praise to Teach for America are nearly identical. Does anyone have any real doubt that the bills were written by Teach for America itself?

Of course, the peer coaching and mentorship that the bills tout are to be conducted, inter alia, by guys like our commenter Alec, who clearly has time on his hands to baby sit.

It sounds like there would be a lot of, um, “intensivity” going on for people who aren’t going to stick around for more than a couple of years anyway. In the Stanford study that was cited here earlier, the researchers found that the Teach for America recruits caught up to the regularly-licensed teachers after they were in the schools (Houston elementary schools in this case) for a few years, but by the time they caught up, they were gone.

Please read again the quote from Alec that opens this post.

But it shouldn’t come as any surprise to anyone – certainly not the authors of these bills – that the Teach for America recruits are in it for the short haul. All you have to do is look at the Resources for employers and grad schools page on the Teach for America site:

Teach For America corps members and alumni are smart, goal-oriented individuals who have a proven track record [albiet a short one!] of outstanding achievement and exceptional leadership skills. After their two-year teaching commitment [italics are mine], our alumni work in all fields - education, policy, law, medicine, business, the nonprofit sector, among them – and assume leadership roles in their professional and civic lives.

There are several free and easy ways you can get your opportunities in front of interested Teach For America alumni and corps members.

Ah, yes; Teach for America must be quite a resume builder!

And next year, Alec can field questions from students about where all the former teachers went.