Monday, January 31, 2011

Less Water, More Whiskey Please! *

Contributed by Katherine Foley
Last night Senate minority leader Tom Bakk was gracious enough to appear at SD50's new winter fundraiser (which, by the way, was a huge success!).  He first spoke about the evils being perpetuated by the Republicans in Saint Paul and then allowed for a little Q&A.  Though he was saying things that Democrats love to hear, I was struck by the complete lack of an articulable plan to ensure that Democratic priorities become Minnesotan priorities.

Time and time again I hear people wondering what the plan is.  Platitudes serve their purpose but they do not fill the 20% hole in Minnesota's budget. The way I see it, Democratic leaders are serving the party's faithful water. Water is good.  It is refreshing, delicious and life-giving.  Water, however, does not get you drunk.  After the beating we took in November many of us are sick of water - we're craving a big ol' shot of whiskey.

For example, Democrats love to talk about how tuition rates are out of control, which adversely affects the ability of low-income students to pursue higher education. Tuition at the University of Minnesota has doubled in a decade. [1]  Lenders provided $95 billion in student loans federally in 2008-2009, and tuition has increased since then.[2] But when one member of the audience asked how Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MNSCU) gave bonuses to their administrators while simultaneously laying off employees and raising tuition, Bakk did not seem to have any concrete comfort to offer.  It seems that Bakk, like many Democrats, wants to value higher education without offering any real solutions to how to keep tuition from continuing to skyrocket.  

K-12 education is another priority area for Democrats.  Anybody familiar with the public education system knows three things.  First, public education achievement is on the decline.  American students are quickly falling behind their global peers, ranking 14th, 17th and 25th in reading, math and science respectively. [3] Second, teachers are grossly underpaid, with median teacher salaries at less than $45,000 at all levels. [4] Third, where teachers were traditionally responsible for passing on knowledge, they have become more and more responsible for developing the next generation of American citizens.[5]  Accountability not only for imparting knowledge but for creating an ideal learning atmosphere has become the norm for 21st Century teachers, yet we pay them less and give them fewer resources from which to develop an atmosphere conducive to student achievement.  Meanwhile, Democratic leaders are telling us that additional cuts to the K-12 system could be devastating, without proposing how to prevent said cuts from happening.    

Democratic priorities are not limited to issues of education.  We love to talk about "creating jobs."  I've gotten to the point now where I envision Mark Dayton standing on the capital steps and bellowing, "Let there be jobs!" to be the best approximation of any real "jobs plan."  We are quick to point out that tax cuts to businesses do not create jobs (as Republicans love to claim) but instead create additional incentive for businesses to drive up profits by lowering costs.[6] Yet we still concede tax cuts to corporations and other businesses while claiming we are going to "tax the wealthy."  Meanwhile, people are still out of work or underemployed and are praying to whatever god will listen to create some meaningful jobs since the mortals we have to deal with on Earth cannot seem to come up with any real plan.  

While we're on the subject of taxes, let's talk about how we need to "generate revenue." I like to fancy myself a reasonably intelligent person, so I'm going to call this what it is: more taxes!  We want to tax - whether we're raising existing taxes (cigarettes, I'm looking at you), "taxing the wealthy", or taxing goods and services previously untaxed (clothes and legal services, for instance) the fact of the matter is that the government wants a bigger slice of the proverbial pie.  But they won't tell us which parts of the pie they are going to take.  They have a lot of ideas but none that they will stick with.  Tom Bakk mentioned that adding a tax on clothes would generate something like $330 million a year.  That's great, but it's only 4.5% of the solution.  We are going to need our Democratic leaders to commit to more than adding a tax to clothing.  What they don't realize is that they've gotten us to accept they are going to take more money, but they won't even tell us where they are going to take it from. 

Finally, I asked Senator Bakk about the recent news related to the threat of judicial backlogs giving rise to Speedy Trial claims which would allow many alleged criminals to go free without ever having faced trial.[7]  I asked how Democrats planned to address this issue in light of the deficit and whether there were any reforms in criminal sentencing or the criminal code in the mix to ensure persons accused of violent crimes are answering for their charges within a Constitutionally alloted period of time. His only suggestion was to remind Republicans and the voting public that the courts are a part of the larger "public safety" structure and that cuts to the courts could adversely impact public safety.  

"Keep tuition down," "Make K-12 a priority," "Create jobs," "Generate Revenue," "Keep the public safe," these phrases are all water.  I would like to add to the list concepts such as "fairness" and "equality" as well as the idea that the public sector is somehow supposed to "compete" with the private sector.  These are all water - they can sustain you but they cannot lower your inhibitions enough to do something really stupid, like accept more taxes as inevitable. The Democratic party faithful are at the bar, poised to drink whatever our leadership are prepared to serve us. It's true that we would prefer to be served a quality single malt Scotch, but we're willing to swallow Canadian Mist if that is what is available. Unfortunately, Democratic leadership cannot even seem to muster up Canadian Mist; they just cannot answer the hard questions.  How, specifically, are you planning to keep tuition costs from continuing to rise at such staggering rates? What, in particular, do you see as needing to be taxed to save Minnesota from it's crippling budget deficit?  How do you envision jobs in the public sector as competing with jobs in the private sector?  We're ready for the shot - we just need you serve it up.    

*My apologies to any recovering addicts, various religious adherents, and non-drinkers who are alienated by my metaphor.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Obama Regains Public Support Despite Mid-Term Losses

Contributed by Danny S.

Evidently, President Obama has improved his standing with the American people considerably since the November 2010 mid-term election in which Democrats suffered major losses at the congressional and state levels.[1]  The swing of public opinion in favor of the President is impressive, given the level of so-called voter anger that allegedly was being directed at the Democratic Party in those elections.  The complete trajectory of the President’s job approval ratings is available at

Please see:    

Since January 1, 2011, public opinion polls show that President Obama has bounced back in terms of his standing with the American public.[2]  Indeed the latest Associated Press-GfK poll was the first public opinion poll in a string of recent polls that show the President has recovered a bit in terms of public support since the bruising mid-term election.[3]  The Associated Press-GfK poll found that President Obama’s job approval rating is now at its highest since the health care reform act was enacted 10 months ago.[4]

The Gallup Poll daily tracking numbers released on January 20, 2011, show the President’s public approval rating at 51%, while disapproval of the President has slid down to 42%.[5]  More impressively, the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows that 53% of the public approves of Mr. Obama’s job performance.[6]  The NBC/WSJ poll reveals that Mr. Obama’s standing has improved by eight points in just a month.[7]  This approval rating is the highest in the NBC/WSJ poll for Mr. Obama in many months.[8]

A recent Politico article mentions that at this particular moment in their respective first terms, former Presidents Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton were mired in the mid-40s range, as far as public approval of their job performance was concerned.[9]  The Politico article points out that this comparison in terms of job ratings is “a good sign” for the President.[10]

Additionally, the findings of the latest NBC/WSJ poll are mirrored in two other recent public opinion polls from this week: The ABC/Washington Post poll and the CNN/ORC poll.[11]  The ABC/Washington Post poll puts Obama’s approval rating at a healthy 54%.  The CNN/ORC poll shows that Obama’s job approval is a consistently similar 53%. has President Obama's average job approval listed as 50.2% approve as of the afternoon of January 20, 2011.  Of course, includes the sometimes questioned poll results of Rasmussen Reports.  Rasmussen Reports is the only survey that has shown the President with a net-negative rating in 2011.  Even Rasmussen Reports has President Obama's job approval at 49%, while it has his disapproval listed as 50%, just one point higher.  Please see:

Of course, the President’s approval varies slightly from day-to-day and in different polls.

The entire Democratic Party has reason to be optimistic about these numbers, especially the number of people who now view Democrats in a favorable light (“53 percent favorable”).[12]  The latest NBC/WSJ poll also shows that Democrats have “a net-positive rating from the American public.”[13]

Here is a summary of the recent Obama job approval ratings mentioned in this entry:
1.)  The Gallup Daily Tracking: 51% approve; 42% disapprove.
2.)  The NBC/Wall Street Journal: 53% approve; 41% disapprove.
3.)  The CNN/ORC: 53% approve; 45% disapprove.
4.)  The ABC/Washington Post: 54% approve; 43% disapprove.
5.)  The Associated Press-GfK: 53% approve; 46% disapprove.
6.) 50.2% approve; 44.7% disapprove.

All of the Republicans eagerly predicting doom and gloom for the Democrats and President Obama in the 2012 Election must be disappointed.  This latest batch of public opinion polling shows that it is too early to predict who will win the 2012 Presidential Election.  Indeed this batch of data shows that the President’s job approval ratings have rebounded.  And, generally, when an incumbent President has an average job approval rating at 50% or above, the incumbent wins.

[5], on January 20, 2011

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Tim Pawlenty - It's not you, it's your underlying premise

Subtitled: An Analysis of Former Governor Pawlenty's January, 2011 Appearance on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (January 12, 2011 episode; interview avialable in full here:

Contributed by Katie Foley

Never have the words "former governor" given me more pleasure than when used in relation to Tim Pawlenty.  Jesse Ventura was embarrassing, like an uncle who gets over-drunk at a wedding reception and then talks at length about his bowl movements.  Tim Pawlenty, on the other hand, was a straight up sleaze-ball and I doubt many Minnesotans miss him.  
Unfortunately, the rest of the country does not know T-Paw as well as we do.  Hoping to drum up support for a presidential bid, he has been touring the country and introducing himself to the rest of the American public. He has even wrote what has become the requisite pre-presidential campaign memoir, his entitled Courage to Stand: An American Story, published by Christian publisher Tyndale House.  (Side note: Aren't all of our stories "American Stories"?)
As part of his book tour, T-Paw was appearing on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. The interview, however, happened in the wake of the shooting of an Arizonan Congresswoman  and Jon Stewart seemed to be feeling particularly philosophical. The result was that, aside from its initial mention, the book was not brought up again. 
Rather than discuss Tim's "American story", Jon challenged him to answer whether he agrees with the claims being made by key conservatives, mainly that our march toward tyranny is a much greater threat under Obama than it has been under any other president of recent history (particularly Bush).  For the most part, Jon asks only this question in different ways for the rest of the interview while Tim declines to answer. 

Tim first dodges the question by responding that we should not do anything that would "chill" First Amendment speech, to which Jon replies, "I don't mean it from a Free Speech standpoint, I mean it from a reality standpoint." 
Tim next states that we need to wield our freedoms and rights responsibly using the information we're given, going so far as to state, "an informed citizenry is the key to democracy, and you've got to have accurate, good information to make good decisions."    (If he's aware that accurate information is the key to democracy then he must know that Fox News is not really news and that he didn't leave Minnesota with a balanced budget. This makes him a liar, not just another delusional conservative.) 

Jon tries to latch onto the importance on a well-informed citizenry, asking if the current rhetoric is "a cynical attempt by the right to whip up a voting block, or do people really believe there has been a fundamental change in our government towards tyranny and socialism?" 
Tim dodges again, declining to answer Jon's direct question, instead deciding to talk about the 2008 Republican National Convention, held in Saint Paul during Pawlenty's tenure.  He describes the area around the convention as a "semi-militarized zone" set up because protesters "mostly on the left" were "yelling and screaming and in some ways creating a security threat."    
Jon responds by saying,  "I don't think you can conflate 18-year-olds, who've written a lawyer's name on their arm running around with bandannas with Newt Gingrich, with Rush Limbaugh, with the leaders of the Republican party..... What I'm asking you is, fundamentally, does the Republican party believe we are as close to tyranny and socialism as the tone of their rhetoric would insinuate?" 
Again Tim dodges like a pro, explaining how conservatives like him feel that government is crowding into places typically reserved for "individuals" and "private markets" and "charity" and "entrepreneurial activity" and "faith organizations".*  Eventually Stewart is able to get Pawlenty to agree that fear drives the public and the television cut of the interview ends with Jon wondering whether the fear being perpetuated on the right reflects the real fears of real people.  
It is too bad that the T.V. version ends here because the most poignant portion of the interview follows the the commercial break.  Tim incorrectly tries to restate Jon's underlying premise, claiming that Jon is trying to say that the right has been more vitriolic than the left.  Jon clarifies, saying that he just wants to know whether the right truly believes we are closer to tyranny under Obama than ever before.  The rest of the interview is both men trying to prove that their own underlying premise is the correct underlying premise.  
Tim tries to prove to Jon that the right is acting no different now than the left did then (under Bush).  Jon tries to prove to Tim that you cannot reconcile a plan to cut the deficit with a plan that allows only for tax cuts and cuts in government spending.  Tim tries to prove that the growth in government spending cannot be sustained so we need to cut government spending.  Jon tries to prove that real tax rates are the lowest they've been since the 1950's.  Tim tries to prove that government is out of control and so we need less of it. Jon tries to prove that less government is not necessarily indicative of more liberty. Tim tries to prove that we need to use blanket numbers to measure what is and is not sustainable. Jon tries to prove what Minnesota has been trying to prove to Tim for the past 8 years, that you cannot use a sledge hammer where a scalpel is needed (he actually uses the metaphor!) and that you cannot use "blanket figures" because we don't live in a "blanket world." They are both talking, just not to each other.     
The reason this is so important is that this is one of the major obstacles blocking constructive political discourse today.  At the root of the differences in political ideology are very different underlying premises.  For example, if you truly believe that human life begins at conception then it logically follows that abortion is murder.  However, this underlying premise is not accepted by many in the choice movement.  
Likewise, if you believe that the only moral Truth is offered by a particular religion, then of course morality is universal - we all just need to adhere to the correct religious Truth.  If, however, you believe moral truths can vary by belief, culture and region then you will never accept the premise that there exists a single, universal, moral Truth.  We must accept that different people are operating with different underlying premises.
But accepting that different underlying premises exist is not enough.  We also have to stop trying to prove to the opposition that our underlying premise is the correct underlying premise.  This argument is not constructive and does not help to solve the problems of society.  Whether life begins at conception doesn't really matter to an abused and pregnant young woman who cannot count on help from the government or anybody else to ensure her child has better opportunities than she did.  Whether the government or a charity is providing the food does not matter to a starving army veteran living on the streets.  Whether health care is provided by the state or through a private insurer does not matter to a person who is near-fatally wounded in a car accident.  It takes a village to raise a child, there's no reason for people to go hungry in America and an accident should not bankrupt a family. If we can agree on things such as this the underlying premise becomes less important.
The problem is that this process would require people to be honest with themselves and others about their beliefs, about which underlying premises motivate them. As stated best by George Orwell, "In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act."  Mr. Pawlenty, I invite you to begin the revolution in order to achieve the "informed citizenry" that you claim to be the "key to democracy."     

*This is an example of what an associate of mine recently stated, "Republicans want government small enough to fit into your bedroom."  Apparently interfering with the Constitutional and contract rights of same-sex couples is okay but telling an insurance company that they cannot drop coverage when somebody becomes expensive to cover is tyranny.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Minnesota Republicans Propose Cutting LGA and Higher Education

Contributed by Danny S. 
Minnesota’s Republican legislators have proposed cutting about $200 million from state funding for Minnesota colleges and universities.  The budget proposals of the state GOP include plans to lop off $460 million in aid to local governments across the state, possibly resulting in higher property taxes for homeowners if the local governments decide this is necessary. 

Please see: 

Proposed cuts to funding for higher education will be framed as necessary to fix the state’s budget deficits.  Before accepting this premise, questions about Republican budget proposals should be asked by the public and other lawmakers who have not signed on.  For instance, will proposed cuts to higher education affect the future economic growth and competitiveness of Minnesota?  Additionally, if enacted, will the proposed cuts lead to higher tuition rates for Minnesota’s families and students?  Moreover, will the quality of education and programs at Minnesota’s institutions of higher learning suffer? 

Republicans have argued that they can balance the state budget by only making cuts. 

Again, please see: 

It appears, however, that the current plans of the new Republican leadership fall quite a bit short of cutting the amount necessary to balance the budget.  Even with their proposed $1 billion in budget cuts, the Republicans would need to find ways to cut a further $5.1 billion from the budget (if Governor Dayton agrees to the $1 billion in cuts). 

Even if we—as residents of Minnesota—accept the conclusion that these short-term cuts are required for reducing the state budget deficit, we should examine whether these cuts would undermine the role of higher education in Minnesota.  Would these budget cuts harm the quality or level of instruction at colleges and universities?  Would cuts to higher education funding affect access to higher education for Minnesota’s middle-class and working-class students?  And if these cuts to higher education funding would lead to higher tuition rates and fewer students who enroll in colleges and universities, how would having a less educated workforce and population affect Minnesota’s future economic growth and development?  Would less economic growth, in the future, affect incoming revenues collected through taxes, thereby creating a need for further tax increases and cuts? 

Unfortunately, the MN GOP’s reluctance to consider other ways of balancing the budget may lead to a situation in which the State of Minnesota is harmed both economically and socially.  Indeed a less well-educated workforce may mean that fewer individuals have the resources, knowledge, and connections to start new companies, and this, in turn, would mean that fewer Minnesotans could find well-paying jobs.  New, or start-up, businesses do most of the hiring in the United States, not established corporations—which, actually, have trimmed corporate payrolls considerably in recent years.  The MN GOP may be taking the residents of MN down a road of less prosperity and opportunity.  The economic growth and the social accord that exist when people have opportunities to gain an education or to be employed may be disrupted by a more dismal future brought about by the ill-advised and ill-timed policies of the MN GOP. 

Given former Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s decision to veto DFL budget proposals over a period of 8 years, leading in part to a massive budget deficit in MN, one would think that Minnesota’s new Republican leadership in the legislature would want to balance the budget carefully.  That appears to be wishful thinking today.  In the coming weeks and months, Governor Dayton and the newly-elected Republican leadership in the state legislature will wrangle over the particulars of the budget.  It will be unfortunate for the State of Minnesota if budgetary discussions and solutions consist of cutting the funding for higher education.    

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Pro-life...until birth

Subtitled: A Pro-Life Rant

Contributed by David Stanton, PhD

Today (January 16) is National Pro-Life Sunday.  But there is something about the so-called "pro-life" agenda that makes me angry.  What makes me angry is that for "pro-lifers" the lives in question are only the lives of unborn children.  How can you be pro-life for only the unborn, but be against feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, giving shelter to the homeless, and medical assistance to those most in need?  They are not pro-life, they are simply anti-abortion.  

Though every so often a pro-life group will give “token” support to end of life issues or other life related subjects, “if you don’t get the abortion issue right, you get it all wrong”.  I know I am in a smaller subset within the Democratic party because I am pro-life, but I am frequently looked down upon by my fellow Catholic believers because I am not so myopic as to believe that only one segment of the population, the unborn, is in need of action by people of good will everywhere to be a true pro-lifer.

I cannot remember the last time a rally was held for the homeless, the hungry, or those without medical care by a nationally organized group of pro-lifers.  I cannot remember a group of pro-lifers supporting a candidate that was against the death penalty, and actively for providing access to shelter, healthcare, and clothing, and by definition – working to protect the lives of the “least among us”.  In over fifteen years at my parish a bus has never been provided for parishioners to go to a rally to ensure pro-life issues have support and physical presence of those purporting to be “pro-life” other than various abortion rallies and prayer vigils.

But this is where my fur really gets ruffled.  Both the Old and New testaments articluate a number of important things that people of faith need to do.  A brief summary of these includes: feed the hungry, cloth the naked, comfort the afflicted, care for the sick, and make disciples of all.  Missing from this list and any scripture passage I can find are: take public positions that support a candidate who passes the right “litmus” test – being against abortion; treating anyone not in a particular political party like they are not part of the church (faithful parishioner); and being willing to accept and endorse a candidate that is in the “right” party, regardless of his/her morality.

When a Republican was elected to replace Senator Kennedy in Massachusetts I received a number of e-mails from fellow Catholics with phrases like –  "Yeah!  Let's gas up the bus and go!"  I sent back an e-mail asking if they were aware that this particular Republican consistently voted as a choice candidate and and the response was,  “Please don’t e-mail me anymore”.  Apparently, to be in the other party, you not only need to be blind, but ignore any inconvenient truth as well.

The Catholic Church has taught since its beginning that War is immoral except for purposes of self-defense, and then only in very limited circumstances. The innocent die at a higher rate than those in uniform during any war, yet, there is no organized pro-life group working to end Bush's war of choice. America has the highest infant mortality rate (after birth and not including abortion statistics) than any of the major industrialized nations in the world, but there is no pro-life outcry or organized message groups working to end this tragedy.  A child born in an inner city in America has on average, a 60-70 percent chance of being shot or killed before he or she reaches age sixteen, yet there is no pro-life voice for making this go away. 

I am proudly pro-life when it means doing all the things Christ tasked his followers to do. I am proudly pro-life when something I do protects a human life at any point from Conception to natural death. I am proudly pro-life when I participate in activities that ensure healthcare for all, public safety in the community, sheltering those in need, comforting those who experience loss in their lives (especially that which results in a lower or dramatically changed quality of life), and when I can help prevent a person from being “terminated by the state” in a prison somewhere. Every life has value, every life has meaning and purpose, and no life should ever be allowed to end unnaturally for those who are truly pro-life.

It is disingenuous at best to claim all life is valuable from conception to natural death, and then proclaim exceptions to the rule – such as poverty, gun violence, or  felons convicted of capital crimes. 

Of course, if a person is truly pro-life, they would be working just as hard in all aspects to protect life, not just in those areas where the fundraising is easy and lucrative.  Think about it.

Administrator's note:  As a woman who supports choice, I feel it necessary to remind all that being pro-choice is not the same as being pro-abortion.  Though I agree with David that there should be more to the "pro-life" agenda than fetuses and the occasional geriatric or Terri Schiavo.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

An Open Letter from the CEOs of Big-Box Mart Corporate America, Inc. and Mega-Conglomero Corp.

This bit of satire was contributed by Natalie Preston

To: The States, particularly the "blue" ones
Re: How to make the Corporation comfortable in your state
January 15, 2011
Dear States,
As the new year begins we have noticed that states are having a difficult time creating the atmosphere needed to make the Corporation feel comfortable establishing a headquarters in your state.  At first, we were hurt by your selfish inaction.  Then, at our bi-annual retreat in Dubai, it occurred to us that it might not be entirely your fault.  We decided that you could benefit from a brief tutorial in what a state needs to make a corporation feel welcome and appreciated. 
Skilled and/or Educated Workers It cannot be stated enough how necessary workers are for the Corporation to succeed.  We prefer skilled and educated workers (though a home-grown ethic of hard-work and malleability will suffice).  The reasons for this should be fairly obvious, namely that educated workers are easier to train, they advance more quickly through the ranks of the Corporation and they make fewer mistakes.  By working our employees 39 hours a week we are able to harvest their talent without having to discuss complex employee benefit terms, saving everyone time and a nasty head ache.  We like our workers to be healthy as well. That may not be as obvious since we’ve gotten pretty good at skimming our health care obligations, but we recommend state-wide exercise campaigns and initiatives so that we can have a healthier population from which to choose our workers.  
"Right to Work" Laws - We have really been pushing you to enact so-called "right to work" laws, claiming that we are doing so because of the Freedom of Association guaranteed to us in the U.S. Constitution.   But we are going to let you in on a little secret, it's really about unions.  Unions just do not benefit a state looking to make the Corporation feel comfortable.  They force otherwise non-influential people to join together under the wing of a powerful labor organization, which prevents the worker's individual voices from being heard.  And we absolutely listen to what our workers want to tell us.  We would never fire an employee for daring to dissent or to question the Corporation's judgment. Rumors that the bottom of the suggestion box is in fact a garbage can have been greatly exaggerated. We believe in individual liberties such as the Freedom of Association so strongly, that we would actually be willing to fund a program similar to D.A.R.E., teaching children at young age about the dangers of unions.  And since our program would actually be well funded, we imagine it will also be much more successful than D.A.R.E. has proven to be.  
Culture – We define culture to broadly encompass all the things that could convince our future workers to move to your cities and live their lives. We don’t feel like we’re asking much.  Schools should be excellent.  Health care should be accessible.  Public transportation should be everywhere.  Housing costs should be low, but with the ability to rise as incomes do.  Pollution should be at an absolute minimum.  Need we go on?
Environmental Regulations – Flexible is the perfect term here.  Though we want the environment to pristine before we arrive, we would prefer to not have to overcome any environmental regulations when it comes to disposing of the Corporation's waste.  We are, we think, the perfect example of self-regulation.  Just because you don’t tell us we can’t doesn’t mean we will.  We are not saying that we want to pollute your pristine environments, but if pollution is low to start with, then really, will you even notice?  Certainly not immediately.  It will take you a while and the human being is a remarkably adaptable animal.  In our lab tests, some have even survived with…,but we digress. The simple fact is that these regulations are not benefiting anyone.  Remove them.
Taxes –  Taxes make a corporation feel very unwelcome.  Along with skilled/educated workers, "right to work" laws, culture and lax environmental regulations/enforcement, we've found that offering corporate welfare really gets the Corporation's attention.  Being able to enjoy the benefits of a state without having to pay for said benefits would really be ideal.  For example, Mississippi, taxing at 3-5%, is  headed in the right direction. A state like Minnesota, which taxes at 9.8%, clearly thinks far too highly of itself.* In fact, we have no clue why any corporation would headquarter in Minnesota.  None at all.  The decision makers at Target Corp., 3M Co., Medtronic, Best Buy Co. Inc., Thomson Reuters, United Health Group, U.S. Bancorp, Hormel Foods and of the other major corporations with headquarters in Minnesota must be nuts in the head.  But again we digress, our point here was simple: fewer taxes mean more corporations in your state.
We are, of course, still disappointed that states have not realized and met these criteria on their own.  It shows a certain amount of self-absorption that is really quite startling.  We feel that this tutorial will help you understand how you have gone wrong.  We will take the swiftness of the actions you take to rectify your failings into account when next assessing your states.  Don't get caught up on the accusatory hysteria of "corporate greed" and the selfish cries of "tax breaks for the middle class!"  Remember that this is simply the liberal media trying to test your faith in the Corporation.     
Also remember, the Corporation will always be working for you.
The Expo's Best Guess at
 Appearance of Corporate Overlords
Your Unnamed Corporate Overlords

* author note: Minnesota is consistently ranked in the top 5 of CQ Press's list of most livable states.  Mississippi has ranked 50th for 9 of the past 10 years; see

Friday, January 14, 2011

If possible, Rep. Michele Bachmann Gets Stranger by the Minute

Contributed by Danny S., 1/2011

Suggesting she may run for President in 2012, Michele Bachmann has kicked off some extraordinary speculation regarding her perennial political ambitions.  A few serious contenders may exist for the 2012 Presidential Race on the Republican side: Governor Mitch Daniels of Indiana and Jon Huntsman, U.S. Ambassador to China, for instance.  Michele Bachmann cannot be considered one of them.  Bachmann has been dropping hints that she may consider a run for the highest office in the land.  According to the, Bachmann has been implying that she is considering a run.  Indeed Bachmann will have a busy travel schedule this winter, visiting Iowa, which, coincidentally, holds the nation’s ever-so-important, and first-in-the nation, Presidential caucuses every four years.

Please see:

Also see:

Why Does Bachmann Have No Chance?
Bachmann seriously has no chance of success in this current endeavor of hers. First, consider that Bachmann suffers from the allegorical foot-in-mouth disease, as can be witnessed by viewing her serial gaffes on YouTube or reading about these mistakes on  Perhaps her most noteworthy political miscue happened when she gave an appearance on “Hardball with Chris Matthews” a few years ago.  In that interview on Hardball, Bachmann speculated—without proof—that President Obama may hold so-called “anti-American views.”

Please see:

What does it even mean to say that an American politician holds anti-American views?  Do we think that British or German politicians have anti-British or anti-German views that need to be examined?

Secondly, Bachmann is not a Senator or Governor, and she truly has little experience that counts as preparation for leading a nation as large and diverse as ours.  Indeed, consider the background and resume of Mr. Huntsman.  It can be located on the following U.S. Department of State web page:

According to the Huffington Post, Huntsman may run.

If he does, he will almost assuredly beat Michele Bachmann and her ilk in the Republican primary (if Republican voters have any sense at all).

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Darwin's "Survival of the Fittest" Warped by Big Business

Contributed by David Stanton, PhD

Comcast and NBC are in the process of creating one of the worst applications of Darwin's theory since the creation of Rush Limbaugh (a cross between a squirrel and a monkey).  No longer is it the survival of the fittest in nature, but it is the survival of the strongest and most menacing in Corporate America.

Many of you may not have noticed, but two of the largest communications companies in America are about to merge. Instead of many small media outlets, and consumer friendly access, this merger will result in the restrictions on media flow, an increase in costs to the consumer,  and a reduction in available programming accessible on the internet without cost to the user.

One example, Netflix has been charged higher rates to offer streaming movies and television programs. Who or what entity is doing the charges? Comcast/NBC and it is an effort on their part to reduce the number of views on their programming to increase their ability to charge the consumer higher rates for the same services currently available free to consumers.

Comcast has been an unfriendly corporate entity for a long period of time, and for many markets throughout the United States, has been one of the highest cost internet/cable companies. In the Twin Cities, competitors like Dish Satellite can save consumers up to 40% or more when bundling services. This is not good for Comcast and NBC's bottom line so they are working to reduce consumer choices, increase pricing for what they determine should be available to consumers, and another stroke is taken against freedom of expression in America.

Imagine in the not too distant future an America where the Supreme Court has given permission for corporations to support anonymously whatever candidates they choose, the FCC has given permission for reducing the number of separate outlets available for free speech, and the result is limited access for opposing viewpoints, opposing candidates, and soon we too can have a one party government - just like the old Soviet model.

If you don't want to see or be in this kind of world, contact your Senators, write the FCC, and be loud - we want our country, warts and all.  We do NOT want our country to be manipulated by "big brother".  Remember, for evil (or corporate takeovers) to survive, people of good will need do nothing.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The GOP is wrong about marriage - and it's going to cost them!

Contributed by Danny S. on 01/10/2011

According to The Nashua Telegraph and numerous other sources, some of the New Hampshire Republicans intend to repeal the law that grants same-sex couples equal marriage rights in New Hampshire.[1]  Separately, in the Midwest, the Minnesota GOP also intends to introduce an amendment that would ban same-sex marriage under Minnesota’s Constitution, according to a StarTribune article that quoted Sen. Warren Limmer, a Republican from Maple Grove.[2]  Indeed, all throughout the United States, many Republican leaders and officials appear to be making the prevention of same-sex marriage and other rights for LGBT people a key issue and a crucial part of the Republican Party platform before 2012.[3]  Meanwhile, Sarah Palin appears to have taken a softer stance on her once-stated opposition to rights for LGBT people.[4]  Additionally, political leaders in other states, such as Rhode Island and New York, are moving forward with efforts to recognize same-sex marriage.[5]

Given the overwhelming support among younger voters for the legalization of same-sex marriage, a legitimate question appears to be whether the GOP’s renewed focus on anti-gay legislation and amendments may actually harm the GOP.[6]

Indeed, it seems that the GOP may soon be at odds with public opinion on this issue.  The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life has recently stated that the level of public support for same-sex marriage has continued to rise in the United States.[7]  Before that, in an article published by The New York Times, a CNN poll was described at length, and that CNN poll showed that a majority of all Americans supported the legal recognition of same-sex marriage.[8]  If you would like to take a look at that full CNN poll, please see the full CNN poll results in this PDF Report:  

Additionally, an Associated Press poll released in September of 2010 also showed that a majority of Americans now favor same-sex marriage.[9]

Moreover, that same article published by The New York Times described the research of the authors, research which now shows that a majority of people in 17 states favors same-sex marriage.[10]  The authors say that the number of people who support same-sex marriage is higher if the CNN poll numbers are to be trusted.[11]

The GOP’s electoral chances in the future may hinge on turning out enough “base” GOP voters to win key swing states, while not alienating the independents and moderates who usually decide elections.

The problem for the GOP is that independents and moderates are becoming increasingly supportive of equal civil rights for LGBT Americans.[12]  Indeed political independents seem to side much more with rank-and-file Democrats on marriage equality than with rank-and-file Republicans, according to a CNN PoliticalTicker post.[13]  Additionally, moderates are increasingly supportive of same-sex marriage, according to an article published by ABCNEWS on Americans’ “changing views on gay marriage” and other topics.[14]

Moreover, the second problem for the GOP, with its political strategy of denying civil rights to LGBT Americans, is the number of younger and middle-age voters who support same-sex marriage and reject the approach of civil inequality for Americans.[15]  A CNN post stated that almost 60% of Americans under the age of 50 believe “gay rights are protected under the Constitution.”[16]  According to the full CNN poll report, which can be found at, 61% of Americans under the age of 50 believe that “gays and lesbians should have a constitutional right to get married and have their marriage recognized by law as valid.”  Meanwhile, according to that same poll, only 41% of those Americans “50 and older” believe that gays and lesbians should have a right to marry under the Constitution.

In 2012, we will see whether the GOP’s anti-gay efforts can produce electoral success.  Additionally, we will watch the state ballot amendment fights to determine whether the champions of intolerance can create a political climate that allows for the passage of additional anti-gay marriage amendments.  In 2012, and particularly later in the decade, it seems increasingly unlikely that the GOP’s focus on preventing same-sex marriage will work for it.

The polls mentioned here are only a few in a long line of polls that have shown a notable increase in public support for the legal recognition of same-sex marriage.[17]

Finally, with growing public acceptance of same-sex marriage and further demographic changes, it seems increasingly unlikely that the social conservatives who oppose same-sex marriage will win fights at the state level to deny same-sex couples the rights everyone else has.


Saturday, January 8, 2011

Arizona Institutes Death Panels

Contributed by Katie Foley, 1.2011

A friend of mine alerted me to this story - you can find the news story here:
Or Google it!

Yes, you read the title to this post correctly.  Arizona's latest version of Medicaid has removed 98 people from transplant lists in an effort to save "one-tenth of one per cent of its $825 million budget deficit" (note: Minnesota's is $6.2 BILLION) .  The reason for the change was that the the surgeries were both too costly and too unlikely to be successful.  That's right - the overwhelmingly Republican legislature (at least two to one) did a cost/benefit analysis and 98 Arizonans lost.

The woman mentioned in the story itself was waiting on a double lung transplant, having been born with cystic fibrosis.  The following is utter speculation on my part, but I would bet that she is on Medicaid because she would be unable to obtain affordable individual coverage due to her (undoubtedly) expensive pre-existing condition.  So, the 27 year old was forced to rely on the flimsy coverage provided by her "red state" while using whatever money she could earn with the 25% of her lung tissue remaining to purchase expensive but life-saving drugs.

Health insurance has become literally the difference between life and death in this country.  I'm not sure that a "state-run" system would work, I honestly don't know enough about the economics of the issue to take a really strong stance for or against any proposition.  But maybe the republican claims that democrats were going to kill my grandparents was to hide the fact that they were killing a 27 year old woman in Arizona.  Or maybe it's never been about my grandparents or any woman in any state, maybe it was "all about the Benjamins".  Of course, now that such a big stink has been made some "top Republicans" are claiming to have received "bad information."

You can call it whatever you want, but I call it unbe-frickin-lievable.  As for the 27 year old CF patient - I call that another example of the right's pro-life-until-birth agenda.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Original Intent

Contributed by Katie Foley, 1.2011

I have spent a lot of (borrowed) money on classes related to Constitutional Law.  When it comes to constitutional interpretation there are two main roads you can travel to arrive at your interpretive destination.  The first road is Living Document Road, upon which travelers believe that the meaning of the Constitution changes over time as society and technology change.  For example, information about contraception was considered obscene prior to the mid-1900's and therefore not subject to Constitutional protection.  But over time society's view about contraception has changed and therefore information about them is no longer viewed as obscene (unless it is offered as part of a comprehensive sex education course).  Living Document Road is traveled most often by liberal constitutional scholars.

The other road is Original Intent Road.  Travelers on this road believe that if a legislative scheme, such as "Obamacare", would not have been in the "founders'" intent in writing the Constitution the government lacks the power to create such a scheme.  Conservatives, most recently and vociferously the Tea Party, are people who prefer to travel on Original Intent Road.  For example, it makes perfect sense to argue against the establishment of a mosque "near" Ground Zero because this was a nation founded by "Christian men" on "Christian principles" and therefore the First Amendment doesn't apply to non-Christians.  (To tell you the truth, I'm not sure I can come up with any way that argument makes sense...)

It seems that lately conservatives have claimed the monopoly on Constitutionality.  Having just ridden into power on the backs of those Constitutional scholars collectively known as the Tea Party, Republican U.S. House leadership chose to read the sacred text out loud at the start of their session.  Apparently it's a very long and boring document.  In fact it would kind of be like reading your cell phone contract out loud because the Constitution is, in fact, a contract of sorts.  There is a great account of the process here:

When the Constitution's final word was uttered (it's "intervened"), only 42 representatives remained.  The rest of them all had to use the bathroom or had gotten really important phone calls.  But of more interest in light of the fact that many of the Republicans arrived in D.C. via Original Intent Road is that the Constitution read aloud was not the original Constitution.  They read the Constitution "as amended", meaning that little things such as the 3/5ths Compromise - the portion of the Constitution that states slaves are only 3/5 of a person for apportionment reasons (Article 1, Section 2, Paragraph 3 ) - was not read.  They also didn't read the 18th Amendment, the Prohibition Amendment, since it was superseded by the passage of the 21st Amendment.

So apparently conservatives believe in Original Intent, unless it's embarrassing.

NEXT DAY NERD NOTE: Today on Midday with Gary Eichten (MPR, 91.1 FM) there was a discussion about the Framers,  They mentioned another original intent that is overlooked in a big way by the right and, since an amended portion of the Constitution, went unread in the House.  Originally, Senators were to be selected by state legislatures, the intent being that the Senate would be a more prestigious body if chosen by a more elite group of citizens.  The reason for this is that our illustrious founders were big time elitists.  It was not until the passage of the 17th Amendment in 1913 that Senators began to be selected by the general electorate.  They founders were progressive elitists, a species Republicans purport to abhor.  The Constitution is every American's document, not just conservative Americans'.  
Link to MPR story and interview: