Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Name Calling in Politics - A Rant

Contributed by Katherine Foley

It's a sin of which I am guilty, but is it possible to engage in today's political climate without resorting to name calling? If I were a gambling woman I would be willing to bet that many liberals do not consider themselves socialist. I'd be willing to bet that many conservatives are thoughtful about their beliefs, not raging bigots. I'd be willing to bet there is not a thoughtful, politically involved person who actually emulates or resembles Hitler. 

But my favorite of all the names that the left and right fling at each other is, "hypocrite." You see, we're all hypocrites - everyone of us. It's part of the human condition that we don't always hold ourselves or our loved ones to the same standards that we apply to those in the "out group." If we are going to actually engage in meaningful dialogue, should we not resort to being the proverbial pot calling the kettle black? 

I would suggest that everyone's a little bit racist. It's an evolutionary instinct to distrust people who are different from ourselves. I would suggest that we all have formed opinions without being fully aware of the facts and that we've all said things that we were aware were less than true. It's true that not all of us are running for president, and not all of us have a pulpit from which thousands, if not millions, of people can hear what we have to say. However, let us not fall into the pattern of dismissing someone we identify as opposition by over-generalizing them or their beliefs.

I don't know how many times I've vehemently disliked someone, only to get to know them and discover that they are an amazingly worthwhile person to know. Whether this is because I judge people to harshly upon first impression or because I am willing to accept that I was wrong about someone or something, I don't know. But if I can do this in my personal life I should surely be able to do the same in my political life. 

Opposition either strengthens our own position or demolishes it. We should not be afraid to be proven wrong, or have too much pride to admit if someone else is right. Let us not call people names as a quick way of discrediting their position. If you think someone is factually inaccurate, correct them. If you think someone has said something ignorant or acted in an ignorant manner, correct them. Calling them names will only expand the breach between your points of view - and that is what's wrong with politics today. 

We should be building bridges, not using dynamite to widen any chasms that legitimately exist. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Vikings Stadium: Proponents Warn Against Opponents' Free-Riding Mentality

PAM’s Response to SaveTheVikes.Org

The Vikings’ proposal to build a stadium in Arden Hills has created many a heated opinion among the residents of SD50. The overwhelming majority of the active members of SD50’s DFL are opposed to the stadium, and some of those people are even Viking fans.

But lately the website SaveTheVikes.Org intimated that most people who support the Arden Hills stadium proposal are employed, whereas those who oppose the plan are unemployed and are upset “because the government isn’t giving them enough.”

“As with any public hearing we do expect to hear from opposition on a Vikings stadium and given the time slot, the advantage goes to opponents. We typically see those who are unemployed or on a fixed income advocating against a new stadium because the government isn’t giving them enough. All while the majority of the Vikings 2.5 million fans are working." (sic throughout) cite

That’s right – opponents are unemployed socialists who oppose a tax-payer supplemented stadium who want a bigger handout,* while proponents are hardworking (dare I say, “free market”) Vikings fans. They fail entirely to mention Zygi Wilf or his net worth, which he has declined to make public but which is estimated to at least exceed $1.

“I thought you'd appreciate this.”

You thought correctly, Mr. B. Thanks for sharing! Thanks also for the foresight to take a screen shot of the website, in case they modify it later.

*Apparently government money is okay (to help the wealthy in the form of stadium funding or an absurdly low capital gains tax), it's government ownership and control that’s offensive

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Tonight I Fell In Love

Contributed by Katie Foley

Tonight, whilst browsing when I should very well have been sleeping, I discovered Alan Grayson. He's fantastic. At the very least, I have a new celebrity crush.  However, given the totality of the circumstances, I wouldn't be surprised if tonight I dreamt 1990's Disney-animated dreams, in which Mr. Grayson and I dance in the moonlight while Elton John and/or Phil Collins croon/s in the background about Love. 

The point is, I recommend browsing through the links on his website if you work in a cubicle or just have some time to kill on-line.

The best of what I found by him, however, was the following, which he is credited as having said on November 22, 2011

 “Last time, the [Republican] nominee was named McCain.  Now the person who is leading in their race is named Cain.  You have to consider the possibility that it’s because of the name.

“You have to consider that possibility.  It might just be the name.

“And what is that story?  I mean, think about it.  Why would they be so attracted to somebody named Cain?  As I recall the story, he killed his brother with the jawbone of a donkey, which probably meant he wanted to blame it on the Democrats.

“And then when God said, ‘Where’s your brother?’, Cain said, ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’  As if he had no idea.

“And that is actually the fundamental question that separates us from them, right?  Am I my brother’s keeper?  Our answer is, ‘Yes, we are.’  We are.”  

Well said, Mr. Grayson. Well said.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

SD50 Volunteers at Habitat for Humanity Event

Saturday dawned breezy but clear, with blue skies and a warm November sun. Around a dozen volunteers from the SD50 DFL found themselves enjoying the unseasonably warm weather by helping a new family feel welcome to the district. 

After many inquiries, Todd Olin finally found a project that could use volunteers from SD50. That project was to help with a Habitat for Humanity build right in Columbia Heights. Nile Harper* generously provided t-shirt commemorating the event and DFLers, Habitat for Humanity workers and the Homeowners spent a lovely Saturday painting, sanding, staining, sodding, hammering, sawing, cutting, measuring, building and laughing. 

As the party of openness and advocacy for the underprivileged, it is important that the community perceive the DFL as the party willing to go out in the community and make its members feel welcome. I, for one, look forward to a future full of volunteer events such as this one. 

Thanks also to Deb, Deb and the Rjolstads for providing food! I can't recall who provided the baked goods (Betty?) but thanks to you as well!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Let’s Talk About Sex - Part I

Contributed by Katie Foley
Intercourse. Coitus. Making love. F^#$ing. Whatever you call it, sex has been a hot topic for much of human history. Whether it's because I am twenty-something or because I read between 2 and 5 romance novels a week, I often find myself involved in discussions of cultural attitudes toward sex.

Rape Culture in America

A couple of weeks ago I attended a forum discussion entitled, “Dismantling Rape Culture, Dismantling Capitalism.” The forum was hosted by the Socialist Alternative at Mayday Books in Minneapolis.1 A presentation opened the discussion, during which the speakers sought to establish sexism (and racism, ageism, homophobia, xenophobia, etc) as a tool that Capitalists use to execute their “divide and rule” style of governance. By wedging apart natural economic allies, Capitalists are able to prevent the working class from uniting in a meaningful way, in a way that would invalidate the Capitalists’ exploitation of their underpaid employees. 

One of the hallmarks of sexism is the idea of traditional gender roles.  Have women, throughout the 200,000 years of human history, always been ideologically limited to being barefoot and pregnant in front of the hearth? What gave rise to what are now known as “traditional” gender roles?    

The answer to the first question is a resounding “NO!” For 95% of human history we are hypothesized to have subsisted in hunter-gatherer or forager societies. It is hypothesized that gender roles as we would define them did not exist in a hunter-gatherer society. The society was egalitarian, with all members contributing to the benefit of the whole. Some of the tasks associated with male physical strength were performed by men in these equalitarian societies, but it was because of their strength and not their possession of external genitalia. Furthermore, child bearing was not the “blessing” it is today because it was a huge tax on resources for a hunter-gatherer society to raise to maturity another human being.  For that reason, infanticide was not uncommon and hunter-gatherer societies tended to be very small communities of people.2

Barefoot and Pregnant 3

 Around 10,000 years ago humans stopped relying primarily on hunter-gatherer techniques and began cultivating food to grow. This allowed the establishment of permanent settlements which in turn provided for the first surpluses in human history. The need to manage these surpluses arose and a governing class and/or managing class developed.  Those in “power” were then able to manipulate the surpluses in a way that allowed them to accumulate wealth. The ability to accumulate vast amounts of wealth during a lifetime brought with it the issue of inheritance. How does a powerful man ensure that his land, possessions and other forms of wealth are secured and going to be enjoyed by his progeny? Enter sexism.

In a time before paternity testing, the best way to ensure that the baby a woman carried belonged to any particular male was for that male to have been the only possible father.  Monogamy was a tool “unilaterally enforced against women” to ensure that there were no questions about a child’s paternity. Suddenly a woman’s virtue was prized above any other contribution she may make to society and the ruling classes cosseted and protected their female offspring until they could marry her off, thus continuing the cycle of isolation and repression followed by procreation.
Women were kept cosseted at home, producing a child every once in awhile if she was a good wife who performed her “wifely duties.” Since women were home anyway it only made sense to utilize them as keepers of the household, whether she was a poor women doing all the child-rearing and household work, or an upper class woman whose job it was to ensure the smooth running of the household by the hired help.  Women bought into their own oppression by judging harshly other women who failed to adhere to society’s strictures, something that still occurs and is a phenomenon to which anyone who has spent any time with high school girls could attest.4
To this day exists the ideal of the virtuous whore, a woman who is aware of and appreciates her own sexuality, but who does not herself engage in promiscuous behavior.  It reminds me of an advertising campaign that attempts to unify the advertising axiom “Sex sells” with the ideal of abstinence.5 This idea could likewise be summed up by a line from Coyote Ugly, “The trick is to look available but not be available.” Yet even though we are still trying to idealize the nexus between sensuality and chastity, a woman who is sexually assaulted often faces probing questions about which (potentially) risky behaviors she may have been engaging in prior to the rape.  
Control your fate or someone else will.”6
Women, it seems, are in charge of their own sexual destiny.  This includes whether she will be the one in six women who is a victim of rape or attempted rape.7 To that end, a young lady we’ll call the “reasonably prudent woman” is expected to act with a certain degree of circumspection in her social dealings. For example, as a college student I knew to never let my drink out of my sight, going so far as to [mildly] physically assault a friend who had failed to babysit my keg cup. I have walked with my keys between my fingers, or alternatively, with a lanyard sporting a canister of “bear spray” around my neck. I know not to dally alone on a dark street and have insisted on accompanying more than one friend home from the bar, lest they find themselves walking alone at night.
To some extent people are in charge of themselves and there are cautious behaviors one can adopt to help protect against being victimized. But the first question that comes to mind after hearing that a woman was raped should not be anything along the lines of “Well, what was she wearing?” Focusing on what actions women can take to not be raped can force those who are raped to feel as though they could have avoided the situation if they had only ………what? Not been a woman who came into the consciousness of a man who would not take “no” for an answer?  Followed the advice of the illustrious NYPD and wear pants so as not to attract any potential rapists she may come across as she lives her life?  This type of sanctioned advice is not only insulting, it is disingenuous.  Rape is seldom about sex but about power.  If it was about sex, rape would all but disappear during winter months, since snow suits are not in the least provocative. Rape is a serious issue, yet the best solution I’ve heard is to carry a mace key chain and wear pants.
I recently went to the theater and then out for a few cocktails with the friend I assaulted in college for losing sight of my cup (among other things). While observing the dance floor, her and I noticed a particularly sketchy looking man dancing with a very young looking woman.  I looked closer and asked my friend, “Does her hat say ‘I like to party’?” To which she replied, “Yeah. I hope she likes to get raped too…” We both laughed, but then I was disappointed at myself for having fallen back into my college, it’s-your-job-not-to-be-raped mindset when the issue of how to destroy this mentality has been percolating in my brain for weeks. We have to stop “blaming the victim” in order to confront the fact that we have systemically reinforced sexism in America through how our culture addresses rape. This will not, however, be an easy accomplishment since there is not a person among has not blamed the victim either explicitly or impliedly at some point in their lives.

In order to function, capitalism needs poverty. Poverty is certainly not unique to the human existence, nor to capitalist economic systems in particular.  However, we apply our "blame the victim" mentality not only to the issue of rape, but to te issue of poverty as well. We tell people that have to "work harder" or "pull themselves up by their bootstraps." Many in our society are unabashed in their view that the impoverished are morally deficient. Maybe instead of seeking examples of how the poor are lazy or lack the requisite work ethic to "make it," we should be critically discussing the systemic forces at work that prevent most impoverished people from ever rising above their poor diets and mediocre housing. When people dare suggest that perhaps the poor are facing an uphill battle, the Right cries, "Class Warfare!" again implementing their "divide and rule" style of governance. If we could eradicate this "blame the victim" mentality we could not only go a long way toward eliminating sexism, but a long way toward meaningful discussion on how to address the issue of poverty.

Perhaps we need to change the conversation, shift the paradox in some way. Women should not be compelled to feel as though they alone are responsible for not being a victim of sexual assault, just as men should not sleep with a woman and then fear she may misconstrue the exchange as nonconsensual. The culture and attitudes surrounding rape exemplify the larger issue of sexism in our society and the "blame the victim" mentality spans across multiple social issues. By continuing to judge each other harshly, by blaming those who are victimized rather than those who do the victimizing, we are we are perpetuating the sexism that is used to drive a wedge between people with economic interests in common. People vote against their economic interests solely on the basis of wedge issues such as abortion, a women’s rights issue, which in turn perpetuates the cycle of poverty. By changing the conversation surrounding rape we can loosen the grip sexism has on our society, which would take us one step closer to spanking those greedy Capitalists where it hurts most, their bottom lines.  

1 Like many people, I experimented with being a Socialist in college – going so far as to help bake and decorate cupcakes for a Socialist Alternative fundraiser. Though I have since moved back into the fold of a mainstream political party, I remain networked through Facebook with many of my former Socialist comrades, which is how I came to know of the event.
2 I’ve never studied anthropology, but this is among the more fascinating aspects of human social history.  This is a great scholarly article on the subject, though it’s a bit dense.  You could, of course, always Wikipedia the subject. Also, here is the SparkNotes on the famous book, The History of Sex
 3 Much of the information in this section is uncited, and for that I apologize. Blame intellectual laziness if you’d like, but the information is derived from the presentation and various books I have read along the way.  For Example, I recommend Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond. If you do not feel I have been factually accurate, please tell me so that I can either correct or verify the statement.
The movie Mean Girls is pretty great and is a believable example of how terrible women can be to one another.                                                        
7 Rape statistics are difficult to measure as rape is the most under-reported crime in America. See for a discussion on the modern history of rape, statistics related thereto and a discussion of the evolution of the legal definition of rape and sexual assault.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Liberté, égalité, fraternité

Contributed by Katie Foley

In another nod to the fact that GOP candidates for president don’t “get it,” Herman Cain explained to Bob Schieffer of CBS’ Face the Nation that he stood by his earlier comments that the Occupy Wall Street protesters and the tens of thousands around the nation participating in solidarity protests are simply “jealous” of those whom they are protesting.  He described the protests as “un-American” and an example of “class warfare.”

On the same program, Mr. Newt Gingrich, another GOP presidential nomination “contender” voiced his opinion “that a ‘bad education system’ that taught ‘really dumb ideas’ was to blame for the protests.”

First I’ll address the idea that these protests are un-American.  The Founding Fathers, you know, those men about whom the Tea Party and others of their ilk tend to wax poetic, created this country from the smoldering ashes of revolution. Protesting the government, in their case the English government, is at the very heart of our nation’s founding. Therefore I fail to see how exercising rights important enough to have been in the First Amendment could be construed as un-American.

As for the idea that the protesters are laboring under the mistaken assumptions imparted upon them by their crappy public school educations, how do you explain all of the well-educated participants? My exposure to a “bad education system” got me a 28 on my ACT and two higher education degrees by the time I was 25. How do you explain my participation?  Or was it the silly ideas of  “personal liberty,” “work hard, be rewarded,” or “you too can have your American dream” I was taught that have left me cheering for the occupations taking place around the nation?

Perhaps, for some people, the claims of Misters Gingrich and Cain are correct.  Maybe some people are jealous of bankers’ “golden parachutes.”  It’s possible that drastically reducing public school funding has left many of those protesting with less-than-adequate educations. But more than likely the people protesting Wall Street, claiming to be the 99%, would not include “jealousy” among the emotions they feel. 

For example, I’m not jealous of Herman Cain’s net worth of $18 million USD, I’m just exhausted from working three jobs to pay for my peanut-butter-and-jelly diet. I’m not jealous of Herman Cain’s wife and two grown children, I just regret that working three jobs leaves me no time to date. I’m not jealous of his M.A. from Purdue University, I just resent that, in this economy, my J.D. is worth less than the paper upon which the degree was printed. 

I’m not jealous that Herman Cain used to be CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, I’m just dismayed that my J.D. has gotten me to where I am able to deliver Chinese food for minimum wage. I’m not jealous that Herman Cain has a pulpit from which to preach his offensive brand of politics, I’m disillusioned by the fact that people are taking a man who has never been elected to public office seriously.

I’m not jealous that Wall Street stock brokers drive BMWs and Mercedes, I’m distraught that I barely make the car payment on my Chevy Cobalt each month.  I’m not jealous that the wealthiest 1% can afford haute couture or designer clothes, I’m just bitter that I have to budget a trip to the Goodwill. I’m not jealous of those who live in Beverly Hills mansions or estates in the Hamptons, I’m just perturbed that $300 rent credit to clean the building I live in has been a godsend this past six months. 

I’m not jealous that Wall Street banks were bailed out by the government, I’m just disgusted that conservatives still have the nerve to call ours a “free-market system.” I’m not jealous of people fortunate enough to have pulled up their bootstraps sufficiently to land them in a prestigious career, I’m just enraged by the idea that the rest of us just need to “work harder.” I’m not jealous of people who have such wonderful health insurance coverage that they fear a single-payer system, I’m just incredulous that Obamacare protestors want to keep government out of their Medicare. I’m not jealous of all of the press the Tea Party got by demanding “their America” back, I’m just incensed that it took so long for the so-called “liberal media” to even begin covering the Wall Street protests.

I’m also angry that I do not have the funds or credit to visit my mother in Florida.  I’m frustrated that I don’t have the funds to replace the clothes I bought ten years ago while I was in high school. I’m disturbed that I have been so hungry that I’ve eaten the food off of the plates of strangers while I’m clearing their table. I’m resigned to the fact that receiving an $80 grocery gift card from my step mom causes me to weep with gratitude. I’m stunned that the GOP insists that there is nothing wrong with the current economic system, when in actuality the whole global monetary system is at risk. I’m reluctant to exercise my Constitutional right to peaceably assemble because I’m not sure I can take the time off work to participate in Occupy Minnesota. I’m also fed up with the fact that the movement is being deliberately misunderstood by people like Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich. 

But most of all, I am determined to keep working my ass off so that I can make my life work on my own terms.  I am relieved to have friends and family that love and support me. I’m optimistic that this movement could lead to the type of change that Obama promised and then failed to deliver, and I’m invigorated that the 99% have finally rose up to strike fear into the hearts of their oppressors.

So you see, I’m a lot of things, jealous is just not one of them. So, Misters Cain and Gingrich, along with all of you other conservative talking heads who want to discount the movement as nothing more than lazy, unemployed hippies who want everything for nothing, I have only one thing to say to you and your need to deliberately misconstrue the growing desperation of the working/middle class: you had better be right, because I’ve read about something like this before, and I can tell you that it didn’t end well for those in the upper classes.   

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Letter to the Red States

This is a classic (published here as early as 2005) but I've been thinking a lot about States' Rights.  This letter implies secession, but what I'm thinking is less an act of war and more an act of "be careful what you wish for."  I think we should roll back federal government, just in the way the Tea Party is suggesting.  If we allow states more authority, or delegate them more responsibility, under the Tenth Amendment, I have no doubt that the blue states would remain good places to live.  

I can't speak to the veracity of any claims contained herein, but it gets me thinking just the same. I hope you enjoy this "oldie but goodie."  

Dear Red States... 

We've decided we're leaving. We intend to form our own country, and we're taking the other Blue States with us. 

In case you aren't aware, that includes Hawaii, Oregon,Washington, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois and all the Northeast. We believe this split will be beneficial to the nation, and especially to the people of the new country of New California. 

To sum up briefly: You get Texas, Oklahoma and all the slave states. We get stem cell research and the best beaches. We get Elliot Spitzer. You get Ken Lay. 

We get the Statue of Liberty. You get Dollywood. We get Intel and Microsoft. You get WorldCom. We get Harvard. You get Ole' Miss. We get 85 percent of America's venture capital and entrepreneurs. You get Alabama. We get two-thirds of the tax revenue, you get to make the red states pay their fair share.

Since our aggregate divorce rate is 22 percent lower than the Christian Coalition's, we get a bunch of happy families.  You get a bunch of single moms. 

Please be aware that Nuevo California will be pro-choice and anti-war, and we're going to want all our citizens back from Iraq at once. If you need people to fight, ask your evangelicals. They have kids they're apparently willing to send to their deaths for no purpose, and they don't care if you don't show pictures of their children's caskets coming home. We do wish you success in Iraq, and hope that the WMDs turn up, but we're not willing to spend our resources in Bush's Quagmire. 

With the Blue States in hand, we will have firm control of 80 percent of the country's fresh water, more than 90 percent of the pineapple and lettuce, 92 percent of the nation's fresh fruit, 95 percent of America's quality wines (you can serve French wines at state dinners) 90 percent of all cheese, 90 percent of the high tech industry, most of the U.S. low-sulfur coal, all living redwoods, sequoias and condors, all the Ivy and Seven Sister schools, plus Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Cal Tech and MIT. 

With the Red States, on the other hand, you will have to cope with 88 percent of all obese Americans (and their projected health care costs), 92 percent of all U.S. mosquitoes, nearly 100 percent of the tornadoes, 90 percent of the hurricanes, 99 percent of all Southern Baptists, virtually 100 percent of all televangelists, Rush Limbaugh, Bob Jones University, Clemson and the University of Georgia. 

We get Hollywood and Yosemite, thank you. 

Additionally, 38 percent of those in the Red states believe Jonah was actually swallowed by a whale, 62 percent believe life is sacred unless we're discussing the death penalty or gun laws, 44 percent say that evolution is only a theory, 53 percent that Saddam was involved in 9/11 and 61 percent of you crazy b*****ds believe you are people with higher morals then we lefties. 

By the way, we're taking the good pot, too. You can have that dirt weed they grow in Mexico.

Peace out,

Blue States

Thursday, September 29, 2011

You're Invited!

Contributed by Katie Foley

As a politically-active, hippie lawyer, one of the organizations I receive emails from is the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).  I recently received this gem, inviting me to a free discussion:

St. Paul: Organized with our ally OutFront Minnesota, this next event will cover the significant progress that is being made within the LGBT community, from the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" to the rapidly evolving legal struggle for marriage equality. Featuring Sharon McGowan, Attorney, Appellate Section of Civil Rights Division at the U.S. Department of Justice and Anthony Winer, Professor of Constitutional Law at William Mitchell.
Advances in LGBT Equality in the Age of Obama
Wednesday, October 12, 7:00 p.m.

William Mitchell College of Law, Mitchell Auditorium, 578 Summit Ave.
This event is free and open to all.
Refreshments will be provided.

Since this is an event "open to all" I thought I would advertise it on the blog where like-minded and/or interested people could be made aware of it.  It's in my calendar, I hope to see some of you there!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

I'm Already Afraid - What Else D'ya Got?

Contributed by Katie Foley

As a political hack and diligent signer of on-line petitions, my inbox is daily flooded with political messages and alerts.  The AFL-CIO wants me to "Take a Stand."  Paul Thissen tells me what it'll take to "[Clean] Up Their Mess." The DFL advises me that there will be "Consequences." Barack and Michelle Obama have invited me to lunch. 

These are causes, organizations and candidates I support, yet these emails immediately get moved to the trash bin. Lately Liberals have been struggling to rally around a coherent message that really moves people to action.  "Hope" and "Change" rang in the hearts of so many in 2008 because we had only just begun to suffer what would take government economists months to admit was the "Worst Recession since the Great Depression" - a phrase I am so sick of hearing I could puke.  Let's call it what it is . . . painful. 

Though the official unemployment rate is 9.1% nationally,

"Combined, the 14 million officially unemployed; the "underemployed" part-timers who want full-time work; and "discouraged" people who have stopped looking make up 16.2 percent of working-age Americans."  

These are unfortunate numbers for any of us who fall into any of the above three categories. Life is a sea of uncertainty, with pride subservient to necessity. In a mere four years, 25% more young people between the ages of 25 to 34 have moved back in with their parents, 45% of whom would be living in poverty if they lived alone.  Recent numbers show that 1 in 6 Americans is living in poverty.

These are our people and I daresay that the last thing they need in their lives is more fear.  Yet the DFL has the audacity to tell me there will be "Consequences" for the actions of our political rivals, warning me of the political potholes in my future – that could possibly be avoided if I could spare $5.

We live during an era characterized by fear and uncertainty. I find it hard to believe that the DFL is attempting to employ more fear, more uncertainty to achieve its goal of regaining Democratic control of government.  If I am any more fearful or uncertain I may simply stop leaving the house. Unfortunately, it’s hard to cast a ballot from underneath my comforter.    

Aside from the cognitive dissidence of trying to motivate through fear a group of individuals who are fearful enough, studies have shown that it is conservative brains that have over-developed fear centers.  Liberal brains, on the other hand, can better process complexity.  I have also heard that Democrats are stronger proponents of GOTV efforts because if we can get people to show up then they will likely vote in our favor.

We are the party of science. We know that the issues we face are complex.  We understand that one must consider the source when it’s Exxon-Mobile assuring us that “fracking” is perfectly safe.  Though we may be willing to capitulate that evolution is a “theory,” we are more willing to accept that Genesis is a far-out story, not an accurate accounting of the Earth’s creation. If science tells us that we can better grasp complexity, and statistical analysis shows us that the biggest struggle for Democrats is getting their supporters to the polls, let us convince people to show up to the polls in 2012 by imparting upon them the viability of our solutions to the complex issues we face. 

We are also the party of inclusion.  When we can truly reach out to our friends and neighbors we have the ability to make them hopeful and optimistic about the future.  We need to use our ability to understand complexity, analyze the facts, evaluate scientific evidence and rearticulate what we’ve concluded to those around us to convince the populace that they have a stake in the next election, that all is not lost if we can form a cohesive plan and then stick to it!   

I know that, more and more, winning elections has become about who can raise the most money and spend it in the most effective manner.  A candidate for the U.S. House has to raise $10,000 a week to be competitive in an election.  That's a lot of fundraising!  In the post-Citizen's United world, where a Super-PAC is not PAC Man on steriods, being the party of the down-and-out can be a difficult place to raise funds.  But so far GE, GM, and Apple do not get to cast a ballot come election time. 

Fundraising is important, but so is taking an honest approach to complex issues.  Liberal and Progressive candidates and causes need to start treating us like adults, or at least stop trying to motivate us with fear.  Fear works for conservatives because they are a more fearful lot. Liberals, however, need to be told why a particular approach or idea is the best.  Stop telling me about some vague “Consequences” and tell me “Why Our Job Plan Will Work.”  Instead of inviting me to lunch with the leader of the free world (if it sounds too good to be true....) tell me what Obama is going to do to live up to his own rhetoric during a second term. 

Let’s use our time and energy to develop a message that gets at an issue’s complexity and yet is easy enough to recall during that chance political discussion in the supermarket check-out. Let’s stop invoking fear and start invoking facts. Let’s get people invested in the election through appealing to their intellect, not their quaking centers of uncertainty. Let’s be clear and concise about why Democrats can fix things, not about why we’re better than those jerks over there. 

Friday, September 16, 2011

Barb Goodwin to Sleep with Fridley and Columbia Heights Mayors

Now that I have your attention, I should probably clarify what I mean by the headline.

Senator Barb Goodwin plans to raise awareness for the Lee Carlson Center for Mental Health and Well-Being by participating in the Center's "RoofRaiser."

Tonight (Friday, September 16) Barb and Fridley Mayor Scott Lund will be kicking off the RoofRaiser event at Bob's Produce in Fridley.  If you can't make it to Bob's Produce, join Barb and Columbia Heights Mayor Gary Anderson at Top Valu Liquors in Columbia Heights. All monies raised during the event will benefit children, adolescents and families struggling with emotional health issues.

Come out to Bob's Produce between 4-5 for "kick-off music, finger foods, Dunn Brothers Coffee, and DQ Blizzard samples."  Or, come out to Top Valu Liquors from 4 - 8 for "Brats, Polish and and Hot Dogs sold by the CH Booster Club" along with an appearance by the Vikings Cheerleaders.  Participants will be ascending to the roofs at 6 p.m., where it is my understanding they will spend the night.

This is a great cause and a great opportunity to support Barb, who was our District's fierce defender in the Senate, bringing sense, reason and sometimes levity to the craziness that was our last legislative session.

For more information, or to donate to the cause, check out these websites:

Thursday, September 8, 2011

You're Goddamned Right I'm a Liberal.

Contributed by Katie Foley
It is a relatively well known fact that the so-called “grassroots” Tea Party movement is actually a front for corporations and their boards to rally the masses using their own prejudices, insecurities and uncertainties to vote against their interests in the name of some vague promise of a return to “liberty.” 

People who could not place where they’ve heard the name "Mussolini" decry liberal leaders, including their own president, as alternately fascist and socialist, Nazi and communist.  They hold signs depicting the leader of the free world in “white face,” either unaware or uncaring of the gross racism implied by the image.

And yet wealthy men have paired up with opportunistic politicians to rally a base of people who are too caught up with the frenzied atmosphere of uncertainty surrounding them to realize that they are being manipulated into speaking out against the very things from which they benefit.  Mothers with children on Medicaid showed up to rallies opposing “Obamacare,” claiming they weren’t going to allow the government to interfere with their health insurance.  Poor people who have seen their property taxes spike and energy prices soar, while not getting an adequate pay raise for years, speak out against increasing the tax rate on the richest 1%, claiming that doing so is “un-American.”

During last night’s GOP debate, Mitt Romney proposed that to help the middle class, he would eliminate the taxes on interest, dividends and capital gains.  This would not help the 7.7% of Americans that do not have a savings or checking account, which includes 20% of the population earning less than $30,000/year. As for a cut in taxes on dividends and capital gains, this will benefit the people who are already in the upper echelons of American society.  At least 75% of the income of the top 400 earners in America is derived from dividends and capital gains. Meanwhile, minimum wage earners and people living pay check to pay check have very little to invest, therefore deriving no benefit from Romney's proposed tax cuts to help the middle class.

But “tax” has become a dirty word and the idea of cutting taxes, by which I mean any tax aside from the cigarette tax, has become the de facto “will of the American people" even though polls consistently show that more than 60% of us would be willing to see taxes raised on the wealthiest Americans.  Yet, the GOP's big plan to jump-start our economy is simply more of the same - tax breaks to the rich who, rather than reinvest in their business or community, fund political campaigns designed to ensure their money will not go anywhere besides where they want it to, whether that be to their furrier, jeweler, or directly to their off-shore account in some tax haven somewhere. 

The beliefs of the Tea Party are consistently decried as lies, or are at least acknowledged as less than the truth.  Leaders of the homophobia movement regularly get caught in an intimate but homosexual embrace. So-called grassroots movements are revealed time and time again to be nothing more than a well funded corporate battering ram, designed to increase the corporate bottom line while leaving in its wake the destruction of countless American dreams. And yet they still claim the moral high road.

Why do we allow this happen?  Why do we allow them to take the moral high road time and time again when they are actually engaging in appalling behavior that is damaging our country? Why do we keep letting them dictate to us the content of our American dream, instead of standing up to correct the record?  We let them use our willingness to allow women to be in charge of their own reproduction distract the populace from the lying, cheating and stealing that is going on right in front of them.  We allow complicity in the conservative destruction of the American dream because we keep thinking that people elected to serve the general welfare could not possibly be so self-involved, or that the people who elect them will make an informed decision instead of a gut-reaction to hyperbole laced talking points the next time around.   
We need to stop letting Conservatives win by using vague words, asserting part-truths, and preying on our all too human emotion of fear. Let’s call out the Tim Pawlenty’s for their unlawful actions that they boldly brag about while campaigning.  Let’s call out the Mitt Romneys, who despite his lack of neckties will never be able to relate to the “average American.”  Let us not be intimidated when they screech about the liberal bias of today's "gotcha" media, when Rupert Murdoch is one of the main financiers of the Tea Party movement.

Liberal and liberty have the same root word, and yet we consistently let them paint us as the enemies of liberty.  Enough is enough! By being the friends of liberty we are the friends of the American people and therefore we are friends of the Republic that derives its sovereignty from the people.  We are for the people, and it’s time we were a little more assertive about that fact.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Let's give Conservatives precisely what they want

contributed by Katie Foley

It may surprise you to hear this, but I have a friend who is a conservative, Yankees fan. (It's the latter I find most upsetting.)  Recently he said to me, "Oh, yes, I forgot that it's all still Bush's fault..."

This got me thinking. I decided that, if anything, a good degree of fault lies at the feet of Liberals and Democrats. We keep thinking that Conservatives want to govern when all they really want to do is fear monger and assure the wealth and privilege of themselves and their friends. Like an abuse victim we keep coming back thinking, "This time it'll be different, it'll be better. [They] won't hurt [us] again."

The most dangerous time for the victim of abuse s/he leaves. At this point of our political discourse, I'm willing to assume the risk. The South wants less government intrusion? Then the North should stop sending them money. People want the Federal Government to adhere to the text of the Constitution? Fine, let's stop Social Security, Medicare, farm subsidies, and the Federal Criminal Code. People want states to have more authority under the 10th Amendment? Fine, no more DOMA, no more Federal scheduling for "controlled substances", and no more "Leave No Child Behind". 

At this point I'm all for giving Conservatives precisely what they wish for. Let's have this fight on the State and Local level and let's have the Fed leave us alone. You don't want to play nice? Well then it's on.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Habitat for Humanity in SD50!

From the desk of Todd Olin

Below is an email I got from Mr. Todd Olin.  If you are interested in becoming involved with this project, please let me know at  I will then let Todd know you're interested so he can add you to his list. All said we'll need between 10-15 volunteers, so clear your calendar and get ready to do some community service!

Hi Everyone,

If you’re receiving this email, that means that you signed up to find out more about the Habitat For Humanity volunteer event on November 5th. This is a fantastic opportunity for DFLers in SD50 to make a difference right here in our community. Political organizing is a vital part of our commitment to improve our society, but the ideal of service that we hold so dear is bigger than politics. Projects like these let us put our ideals directly to practice and improve peoples’ lives.

The event on November 5th is a rare opportunity to work with Habitat for Humanity on a Saturday—they rarely have weekend events. The project will run from 8:30 to 4:00 (with a break for lunch, of course). No construction or other experience is required—and there is plenty for everyone to do no matter what age or ability.

I will contact everyone again in the coming month to provide more details about the specific project we’ll be working on and to confirm the final list of volunteers. So for now, please just stay tuned.

People will definitely see us doing this work and remember that DFLers get out and practice what they preach!

Todd Olin

Friday, August 12, 2011

A Perfect Night for a Picnic

Contributed by Katie Foley

The annual SD50 picnic took place on Wednesday, August 10.  Mother Nature was more than accommodating - the temperature was in the upper sixties, a light breeze kept the mosquitoes at bay, and the clouds in the sky were more reminiscent of rabbit tails than rain. 

The result of perfect weather and well executed marketing meant that around 110 people showed up to Kordiak Park to enjoy some good food and great political engagement.  In attendance were Congresswoman Betty McCullum, Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, Kathy Olson on behalf of State Senator Barb Goodwin, State Representatives Kate Knuth and Carolyn Laine, Congressional District 4 Chair J.P. Barone, Senate District Chair Bill Krueger, candidate for New Brighton City Council Graeme Allen, and representatives from the Minnesota Health Plan and Amy Klobaucher Re-election campaign.

I thought that though all of our civil servants gave fantastic speeches, Mark Ritchie’s was the one that really hit home.  He mentioned that in 2008, 2.92 million people voted in Minnesota (“I know, I counted…”).  Two years later, during the 2010 gubernatorial and midterm elections, there were 800,000 fewer ballots cast.  He argued that in order to ensure DFL/Democratic victories in 2012 we need to make sure those 800,000 voters show up to the polls.

According to Mr. Ritchie, somewhere between 30,000-40,000 Minnesotans turn 18 every year, so we need to make sure they are engaged in the political process. He also mentioned that new residents and new citizens might need us to help them understand the intricacies of Minnesota's political process, the caucus system in particular. I think he had a salient point. We need to identify those who could benefit from our experience and help them become engaged.  There should be campaign issues that reflect the concerns of today's youth, giving them a stake in the process and encouraging them to exercise their fundamental right to vote. History shows that if we can get 800,000 more people to the polls it is likely they'll vote Democratic.

Betty McCullum remains as fierce an advocate for liberal issues as ever. Carolyn Laine assured us that though she is not 100% recovered from her horrible reaction to a prescribed medication, she is “fine” and appeared ready to get back in the proverbial saddle on behalf of her constituents. Kate Knuth candidly stated that it was an incredibly difficult session, but that she was very encouraged by the energy that appeared in the form of Wisconsin Solidarity demonstrations and protests to the upcoming Amendment vote that could Constitutionalize discrimination in Minnesota by defining marriage as a fundamental right that only applies to some couples. 

J.P. Barone was as entertaining as we’ve come to expect.  He mentioned that the Special Redistricting Panel created by the Minnesota Supreme Court is required to have its final decision regarding the redistricting plan ready by noon on February 21, 2012.  To that end, Mr. Barone wanted to remind us that though we will soon be surrounded by new faces in our new districts, we are still part of the same family.  This is a cheesy metaphor, perhaps, but apropos nonetheless.  We need to remember that we have a lot to fight for in the upcoming elections.  We cannot let our insecurities and/or old habits interfere with the job that needs to be done. Or, as J.P. stated, we need to remember to use the best ideas from everyone, regardless of whether they reflect how we’ve “typically” done things. He also *finally* presented SD50 Chair Bill Krueger with the plaque commemorating his receipt of the Distinguished Party Service Award which was given to him at the  Bruce Vento dinner back in October of 2010.

Though Senator Barb Goodwin was unable to make it, she sent her regards through Kathy Olson.  Graeme Allen spoke about his upcoming bid for a seat on the New Brighton City Council.  One of the things he spoke of is the conservatives that have lately infiltrated the City Council.  He stated that though they speak out against state workers and have caused to be laid off many city employees, they voted to have the city provide them with health insurance.  As Mr. Allen pointed out, this is supposed to be a public service thing, “we don’t need to give ourselves health care.”   Though it is this blogger’s belief that Mr. Allen needs to embrace the political practice of kissing babies, I look forward to helping him on his campaign and would like to encourage others to do as well.

SD50 Central Committee member Todd Olin mentioned an upcoming Habitat for Humanity event taking place in our district on Saturday, November 5.  He will be providing more details in the future which I will happily pass on to anyone interested. And finally, thanks are due to Steve, Deb, Val, Rick, Kathy, Betty, Mildred, Jim and Kristen Hopwood, Graeme, Jered, and anybody I've accidentally omitted, whether you're a member of the planning committee or you helped set-up and/or tear-down. Without volunteers we are nothing but ideas without action, so thank you for showing up and giving yourselves to the cause!


Monday, August 8, 2011

Women's Rights: There Are Still Battles to be Fought and WON

Contributed by Katie Foley

This weekend I met a stunning young woman from a primarily Buddhist, South Asian island nation.  She has been educated in the United States, earning both her Bachelor’s degree and Master’s degree from a state university.  She is now doing whatever she can to extend her stay in the U.S. because she knows that if she returns to her island home it is likely her parent’s will have picked a husband for her. 

It’s only natural for a flaming liberal and rabid feminist such as myself to contemplate at length the state of Women’s Rights, not only in this country but world-wide.  Women have come so far since we were finally given the franchise in 1920 [1], a *mere* 133 years after the Constitution was adopted by the Constitutional Convention. [2] Thanks to World War II, when women were needed to produce supplies for the men fighting the war, women learned the satisfaction to be gained from financial independence.  However, I know for a fact my grandma had to hide that she was married from her employer lest she be fired for being derelict in her house-wife duties.

But even though we have entered the second decade of a new millennium, there are still innumerable strides to be made in order for women to gain the full equity of U.S. citizenship.  It’s no secret that women earn substantially less than men for comparable work, 78 cents on the dollar according to the latest census data. [3] Even if women find themselves in a position of equality with men they are still expected to present themselves as feminine and desirable, perhaps even demure.  This is true of women in any professional capacity, from lawyers to doctors to politicians such as Michele Bachmann.  I may not agree with her politics, or even think her completely sane, but I resent that she has to strive to appear feminine amidst what must be an exhausting bid for the GOP nomination. 

The continued subordination of women is not limited to cultural or economic phenomena. In February of this year the GOP in Congress wanted to limit abortion funding by inserting the word “forcible” before the word “rape” in federal legislation. [4]  This implies that there may be some types of rape that are okay, as long as they are not “forcible.”  Then again, I cannot think of a way that rape could be anything but forcible, given that the common law definition of rape is “unlawful sexual intercourse with a woman…through force and against her will.”

Now, thanks to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care act, women will have access to free birth control, including the “morning-after” pill, through their private insurers.  Those of us who have been perturbed for years by the fact that insurers were more interested in ensuring old men can still get erections than helping women with family planning [5] find the new mandate to be a step in the right direction for women’s rights and women’s health.  In fact, studies indicate that as many as 2/3 of women believe contraceptives should be covered by private insurance plans.  Yet the vociferous right-wing has indentified this as nothing more than a battle tactic by the culture warriors on the left. This is not about women’s health, it is just liberals looking to impose their immorality on the pocket books of private insurers. [6]

The last example I'll give of the stagnation of progress for Women’s Rights advocates was in the form of a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court.  The Court failed to allow a sex discrimination case against Wal-Mart to be certified as a class action, splitting 5-4 over the issue of whether all of the women alleging employment discrimination on the basis of sex had a common claim, a requirement in class action law suits. [7] What this means is that each woman will have to individually litigate the issue, a daunting and expensive task when you’re fighting a global super power such as Wal-Mart.  The bottom line is that Wal-Mart will be able to continue its *alleged* practice of employment discrimination on the basis of sex because the likelihood of being sued successfully for having done dropped significantly with the Supreme Court’s decision. 

I don’t pretend to know the solution to the problem of the continued efforts of those in power to subordinate women.  I don’t know what we can do to liberate women in South Asian island nations and the Middle East from the religious and cultural chains that bind them.  What I do know is that what we have been doing has not been enough, and for a nation committed to “Equal Protection of the Law” we are sadly lacking in the area of Women’s Rights.  Just as all people should be allowed to marry who they want regardless of gender, women should not be told to be more feminine in the work place and should have insurance coverage for family planning. Women should not have to fear a forced marriage or wonder whether the rape they experienced was “forcible” or not.  As the old Cheris Kramarae quote says, "Feminism is the radical notion that women are people." Women are over half of the population, it’s time to make the less-than-half part of the population truly acknowledge and value our humanity. I will not let my uterus dictate where I go in life.  No other women should have to either.