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.