Recent Posts

Minnesota

Corporatocracy and the State Auditor

by Invenium Viam on June 8, 2015 · 1 comment

This is the end, beautiful friend
This is the end, my only friend, the end.

I’ll never look into your eyes, again.

                                      The End, the Doors

 

 

“Two people went into a back room in the middle of the night, behind closed doors, and made some decisions,” State Auditor Rebecca Otto told Eric Eskola and Cathy Wurzer on Almanac last friday night. “And so only those two people know why they did it. … This is about trying to strip and gut a constitutional office … that is the people’s office.”

 

It’s also about stripping Minnesota Senators, duly elected by their constituencies, of their legislative powers.

 

It’s also about stripping the power of self-government from the people — who elected those Senators to their Constitutional offices — to choose the kind of state government they want by electing people to represent their well-being and interests at the seat of government.

 

And it’s about a brazen corporate power-grab of the powers of a constitutional office that answers directly to the taxpayers for how money is spent and how the business of government is conducted.

 

This, friends, is what a corporatocracy looks like. Did you think that when it came is would look like the Hollywood dystopia of Logan’s Run, or of Blade Runner? It will never look like that.

 

It will look like what we’re seeing in this covert attack on the State Auditor’s office: the loss of self-government to powerful moneyed interests.

 

Think about that for a minute. Two individuals took it upon themselves to circumvent the processes of government, to bypass the Minnesota Senate, and to thwart the will of the people who elected them, thereby to achieve purposes that are detrimental to the residents and taxpayers of the state.

 

At least now we know from the Star-Tribune story posted Sunday, June 7, who the two malefactors are: House Majority Leader Kurt Daudt and Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk. Strib reporter Ricardo Lopez had this to say about it:

Approved by the House, the measure — which would gut the role of the state auditor, Democrat Rebecca Otto — had never been heard in the Senate. Yet that night, Sens. Sandy Pappas and Jim Carlson, leaders of that bill’s conference committee, were being instructed by Bakk’s chief of staff, Tom Kukielka, to approve the controversial change.

 

“Do it,” Kukielka said, according to one senator’s recollection of the conversation. Pappas and Carlson told the Star Tribune that Daudt and Kukielka had insisted the change was a crucial part of top leadership’s final agreement. [emphasis mine]

 

And while Rebecca Otto, speaking in the person of State Auditor, may have been unable to ascribe motivations to the pair, former State Auditor and later Governor Arne Carlson in his blog post Raw Politics and the Office of State Auditor was less reluctant in his willingness to call a spade a spade:

Now, why would Senate Democrat leadership accept a Republican proposal to virtually eliminate the office of the State Auditor which is held by a Democrat incumbent?

 

The answer likely has little to do with the issue of privatizing the office by permitting local government to contract out their audits and all to do with the incumbent’s stance on mining leases and, particularly, the proposed copper mine located in the Iron Range of northern Minnesota. It should be remembered that in addition to an audit responsibility which charges the State Auditor with oversight of the more than 20 billion dollars spent by local governments, the State Auditor also serves as a constitutional officer elected by the people of Minnesota. As such, she serves on the State Executive Council, the State Board of Investment (pension investments), Land Exchange Board, and a variety of other state boards. One major issue that regularly arises is the management of state lands including the issuances of mining leases.

 

In politics as in life, the simplest answer is probably the right one. Arne Carlson has been around politics a long, long time. And while State Auditor Rebecca Otto is right that only the two individuals who entered that room at 3:00 a.m. in the dark of night can know what words were spoken between them, it’s clear that their motivations must have proceeded from an equally dark intent — one not meant to see the light of day. Otherwise, why did the House and Senate leaders feel the need to sequester themselves so completely, so that not even their aides and the committee chairs could know what was said? Could it be, merely, as Daudt claims, to rubber stamp a set of budgetary provisions (see esp. Sec. 3. [6.481] COUNTY AUDITS.) already approved by the House? Could it be as innocent, as Bakk claims, as allowing the remaining counties in the state to conduct their own private audits as 28 others are now doing and as requested by the League of Minnesota Counties — a claim now disputed by that organization’s spokesmen?

 

As former Governor of Louisiana and former US Senator Huey Long liked to say, “That dog don’t hunt.” Was that set of provisions in the budget bill really worth circumventing the entire Minnesota Senate and the voters who elected them? Was it worth forcing the budget committee leaders to include the language in a bill they knew had not been vetted by their colleagues? Is it worth gutting a constitutional office that is one of the pillars of good government in Minnesota and a defender of the taxpayers interests nationally recognized for excellence?

 

Could something as simple and innocent as what is being claimed by the two majority leaders really be worth all that? And is it worth the fight that Speaker Daudt is now making to keep the language in the budget bill regardless of the Governor’s demands that it be excised and ignoring the warnings of legal scholars that the provisions are not constitutional?

 

No, it doesn’t pass the smell test. There’s surely a hidden agenda here. It seems much more likely that there were promises and offers made that weren’t in the best interests of the people of Minnesota, but were in the interests of a few power brokers at the capitol, otherwise the thing would never have been done the way it was. We may never know what those promises and offers were, but we can be sure that they are the prime movers working behind the scenes of this debacle.

 

This is not what Democracy looks like. But it is what Corporatocracy looks like. Be warned.
 
Comments below fold.
 
…READ MORE

{ 1 comment }

Philander T. Overman: The State of the State

by JeffStrate on April 14, 2015 · 0 comments

Shortly after the midterm election in November, Philander T. Overman shared his thoughts about where the State of Minnesota was headed with a divided legislature and DFLers holding down the constitutional positions of Governor, Secretary of State, Attorney General and State Auditor.  Mr. Overman did so on Democratic Visions, the no budget community access, cable TV show provided by lefty volunteers out of the SW ‘burbs.  Mr. Overman, dear possums, is not the kind of conjecture oozing pundit on the blandly safe Almanac, nor is he the kind of tart, informed blogger that propels Minnesota Progressive Project.  Philander T. Overman is a rank-and-file, average Minnesota citizen.  He’s the kind of guy that crowded into Menard’s yard and garden section this weekend to buy potted petunias for the patio and wishes he had purchased tickets for the Twins home opener.    You may find a reconsideration of his post-election thoughts to be of interest.  My link to Overman is through Jon Spayde, his St. Paul based agent and mentor.

 

 

{ 0 comments }

Jewish Voice for Peace MN Panel on Israel

by JeffStrate on March 2, 2015 · 0 comments

JVP Panel 12.13.2015

Members of Jewish Voice for Peace Minnesota formed a December 13th panel to discuss their journeys as Jewish people to speak out on behalf of Palestinian rights in Israel at. From the left: Marc Trius, Allan Malkis, Marisa Katz, Ilana Rossoff and Andy Berman. The forum was sponsored by Women Against Military Madness and Middle East Peace Now.

Five local members of Jewish Voice for Peace, a national campaign for Palestinian justice in Israel, are featured on the current edition of Democratic Visions, the political issues program I produce out of the southwest suburbs.

 

The JVP Minnesota members were panelists at a December 13th forum at the Southdale Library in Edina.  Video clips of the forum combined with additional perspective shared later by lead panelist Andy Berman arc into highly personal stories about being Jewish and coming to reject Israel’s political, economic and military actions towards Gaza, the West Bank and Palestinians.

 

Andy Berman began the forum with this statement:  “I suspect that a common theme we’ll be hearing today is that our solidarity with the Palestinian people and all our work for peace and justice, is deeply rooted in our Jewish identity.”

 

Panelist Marc Trius was born in Russia but grew up and was educated in Haifa, Israel.  He speaks poignantly of situations that turned him into a critic of the Israel government and its defense force with personal anecdotes; one of them is about a picnic held in a park where once stood Palestinian homes.

 

Marisa Katz grew up in Georgia “with a proud Zionist family history and background.  ” Katz attended Jewish summer camps and as a high school student took a study trip to Israel.  She says that she found Israel fascinating but came to feel that the visit was less about education and more about recruiting future citizens.  During college in Ohio Katz recounts that she began to read and discuss other perspectives.

 

Ilana Rossoff grew up in New Jersey.  Her father is a Reformed Rabbi.  She says that she began asking why reported wartime body counts for Israel were significantly lower than those for its enemies in each conflict.  Andy Berman and Allan Malkis have long lived in Minnesota but grew up in New York City.  Each tells how he has measured the devotion of their respective families to the Jewish traditions of working for social justice and peace against the record of Israel in the mid east.

 

The Jewish Voice for Peace Minnesota forum was held before the announcement of Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s March 3rd address to the United State’s Congress.  The panelists focus on their respective and evolving personal takes on Israel rather than Iran’s nuclear program and the Israeli elections.  But, as pro/con posturing over the Netanyahu-Boehner show has been amplified by main stream media, Democratic Visions has provided five small but resonant voices a broader reach.

Click here to link to the 23-minute long Democratic Visions presentation which is an edited representation of the 90 minute forum.

The complete, on-line video presentation is available on Vimeo at Bill Sorem Videos.

 

DEMOCRATIC VISIONS ON CABLE TV

Eden Prairie, Richfield, Minnetonka, Edina and Hopkins Comcast Channel 15 – Sundays 9 p.m., Mondays 10 p.m., Wednesdays 5:30 p.m., Saturdays 2 p.m.

Bloomington – BCAT Channel 16 — Tuesdays at 2:00 p.m. & 10:00 p.m.; Fridays at 9:30 p.m.; Saturdays at 7:30 a.m. & 2:30 p.m.

Minneapolis – MTN Channel 16 — Sundays at 8:30 p.m., Mondays 3:30 a.m., 9:30 a.m., 2:30 p.m.  Program is streamed at the MTN website during cablecasts.

Champlin, Anoka,Ramsey, Andover – QCTV Channel 15 — Fridays 8 a.m.,Saturdays 6:00 a.m., 10,30 a.m.,10:30 p.m.

Segments and full half hours of Democratic Visions are archived on YouTube.

{ 0 comments }

Oil pipelines, oil satire, T2P2 and Mike Gelfand

by JeffStrate on January 13, 2015 · 0 comments

 

The first of nine public and evidentiary hearings this month on the proposed Minnesota reach of the Sandpiper Pipeline convened on January 5th at St. Paul’s River Center.

 

Ballrooms A and B, combined, are as large as Iowa and more than 200 citizens showed up to listen and/or speak.  I was there for about an hour with my video camera; the session went on into the night.  The hearings are being conducted by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission and provide ample time for pro and con opinion and, under oath, experts, scientists, State DNR and MPCA regulators and Enbridge Oil, Inc. officials to clarify information.

 

The approximately 600-mile long pipeline would carry Bakken crude oil from North Dakota to Superior, Wisconsin.  About 300 miles or more of it would pass through Minnesota.   75% of Enbridge’s proposed Sandpiper alignment in Minnesota would be constructed within existing pipeline corridors.  There are alternate pipeline alignments in the discussion at least one of which would run entirely within existing pipeline corridors.   Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy (MCEA) attorney Kathryn Hoffman and others say that 25% of the Enbridge favored alignment goes through sensitive peat and bog lands, forests and lake and stream watersheds.  MCEA and citizen groups including Honor the Earth and Friends of the Headwaters oppose the Enbridge plan.

Kathryn new1_2

It gets complicated being that the review and approval/denial process involves studies, reports and claims being generated by the Minnesota Department of Commerce, the MN DNR, MPCA, Enbridge, organized labor and others.  MCEA and Friends of the Headwaters have jointly filed a suit in Ramsey County requesting a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the thing.  Add in just a few of the operating acronyms – EIS, PUC, EPA, FOH – and It gets very complicated for the un-baptized.   But on the current edition of Democratic Visions, Kathryn Hoffman, Tim O’Brien and the Dem Vis graphics/editor guy admirably service we non-wonks.

 

The O’Brien and Hoffman discussion is followed by a satirical, animated short crafted by Vancouver-based editorial cartoonist Dan Murphy.  Murphy’s targets are Canada’s oil executives, pipeline politicians and its image, now dripping with tar sand oil.

 

As grandson and grandmother characters, Brandon Boat and Maggie Sotos from The Theater of Public Policy (T2P2) weigh in on the generation gap among Minnesota Democrats in an improvised sketch and humorist/provocateur Mike Gelfand speaks of the distracted drivers in his neighborhood.

 

Democratic Visions is an independently produced public access television monthly that can be viewed on flat screens in the following cities –

 

SW ‘burbs — Channel 15 in Eden Prairie, Richfield, Minnetonka, Edina and Hopkins – Sundays 9 p.m., Mondays 10 p.m., Wednesdays 5:30 p.m., Saturdays 2 p.m.

 

Bloomington – BCAT Channel 16 – Tuesdays at 2:00 p.m. & 10:00 p.m.; Fridays at 9:30 p.m.; Saturdays at 7:30 a.m. & 2:30 p.m.

Minneapolis – MTN Channel 16 – Sundays at 8:30 p.m., Mondays 3:30 a.m., 9:30 a.m., 2:30 p.m.  Program is streamed at the MTN website during cablecasts.

{ 0 comments }

Minnesota winter1I wrote this for DailyKOS, where you can also comment and recommend it. I write this because I really do think we in Minnesota have come up with better campaign strategies.

 

If you look at Yougov survey of state rankings, then you will see that Minnesota is ranked 18th in scoring on progressive issues. Minnesota was behind Wisconsin and Michigan. Yet Minnesota is doing better in elections. Why? While even Minnesota can improve what we do, I do think that we have significant differences from national trends in campaigning.

Proud to be a Democrat, Proud of Democratic Leadership and Proud of Democratic Policies

 

When Democrats are proud to be Democrats and proud of Democratic policies, then we win. Minnesota did lose significant house seats in rural house districts where there is less spoken in that strong kind of pride. Minnesota was especially strong on comparing itself favorably to Wisconsin, where Minnesota’s choice of Democratic policy and leadership has really helped the Minnesota economy. Duh, Obama is one of our greatest speakers. How did we ever get talked into not using him? On every poll, Democratic policies score higher, why wouldn’t one run on winning numbers?

 

People Power vs Money Power

 

Doorknocking is the key to success. Whenever possible the Minnesota Democrats hit every door in highly-Democratic, high-turnover districts. Minnesota held key seats in areas where that strategy was used. In rural areas, getting to every door is not easily done, so this strategy cannot be used there. The money power is getting scary high with state races now going to a million dollars with outsider money. Yet 20 dedicated people doorknocking every weekend can hold against the money. We say thank you to our dedicated people often, they are the heroes of our party.
…READ MORE

{ 1 comment }

DFL excitement in the SW ‘burbs

by JeffStrate on November 3, 2014 · 1 comment

 
The troops at the DFL Coordinated Campaign Office in Hopkins were visited by Senator Amy Klobuchar, Lt. Governor Candidate Tina Smith and State Senators Melisa Franzen and Terri Bonoff. The elected  luminaries were there to cheer the hardworking southwest suburban candidate teams on. Those candidates included Congressional District 3 DFL endorsed Sharon Sund and MN House Candidates John Applebaum (44B -Mtka, Plmth), Cheryl Youakim (46B-Hopkins, St.LP) and Yvonne Selcer (Mtka, Eden Prairie). Rep. Selcer has the most competitive race.
 
No one expected anything less than full throated but seasoned cheer leading and they got it. All were in top spirits. Yvonne Selcer reminded the gathered that her 202 vote victory two years ago was only possible with lots of volunteer shoe leather during the last two days of that campaign.  Right winger Kirk Stensrud and big check writers have been at it again with toxic mailings in an attempt to take back House District 48A, northern Eden Prairie and southern Minntonka.
 
This internet only video is from Democratic Visions.
 

{ 1 comment }

Bill Maher in Northfield

by JeffStrate on October 18, 2014 · 1 comment

Bill Maher with new best friends at the Grand Event Center, Northfield on October 7, 2014.

Bill Maher at the Grand Event Center in Northfield on October 7, 2014 to tape his Flip-a-District scheme for his HBO series.

Our colleague Bill Sorem at the Uptake informs me that Bill Maher’s “Flip-a-District” show that was taped in Northfield and premiered on HBO Friday October 17 is available free here for non HBO subscribers.

Click on the link, close the window over the page. Then click on the “Minnesota Town Hall” icon below the SPREAD THE WORD banner. A promo trailer is listed as, “Bill Maher in Northfield.”

 

This episode of Real Time with Bill Maher was produced at the Grand Event Center in Northfield which elder Carls, Olys and townies knew as the Grand Theater. When I lived in Northfield, The Grand offered respite from the academy with flicks like “Help,” “The Train,” “Ship of Fools,” and “The Sand Pebbles.”

 

Lefty activists in Minnesota’s Second Congressional District had won Maher’s well-publicized national contest to enlist Maher (television’s smartest liberal comedian working without a platoon of writers) to defeat a deserving-of-defeat Republican congressional troglodyte.  CD 2 lefties won Maher’s challenge because of John Kline’s lock-stepping Republican record and a shrewd and creative pitch using social media and stunts like hiring a plane to tow a “Flip-a-District” banner over exurbia.

 

Lordy Lordy, would that CD 3 lefties trash their pale picnics, coffees and lets hug one another validation banquets to consider the kinds of events that the farm, suburban and college town libs south of Twin Town are up to.  They deal with Kline, we deal with Paulsen.  DFL endorsed Mike Obermueller may not upset Kline in the Second – he was totally ignored during Maher’s Northfield chat fest – but in a rambling manner the event lightened our heavy brows with wit, nudge-nudge winks, vinegar and sparring. For an hour we were not unlike the British during one of their election seasons. This in a state whose political spirit these days is largely muffled by political correctness snipers, patronizing candidate effluent, unimaginative political party managers, pollsters, strategists and blizzards of pornographic hate mailers.

 

Maher’s guests were not from the limp, local mainstream media “A” list of, political pundits – no Sarah Janacek, Larry Jacobs or the curiosity that is Ember Reichgott Junge.  Adolescents John Rouleau, executive director of the Minnesota Jobs Coalition and Katie Kieffer who has authored a book about Obama waging war against millennials on Maher’s red panel were anchored by grown-up Steve Sviggum, ex-Speaker of the House and famous Kenyon Norwegian-American and mumbler.  The blue panel counted the Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi; Minneapolis-based Daily Beast writer, Ana Marie Cox; and the mayor of her city, Betsy Hodges.

 

The blues prompted most of the cheers. Taibbi couldn’t contribute much but the fox that is Miss Cox, has a bite and is most cool.  Hodges has clearly recovered from the shell shock of being mayor and dealing, now as a mayor, with Kenwood NIMBYs, North Side transit equity troops and Met Council suits prior to the pro Municipal Consent vote on SW Light Rail.   I was impressed with her levelheaded, fact-based interjections into Maher’s gab cloud.

 

The exchanges meandered a bit in front of an overbearing, cheap, vinyl banner screaming: REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER but were good-natured entertainment and understood as such by Mr. Swiggum and the others.  The gambit did raise awareness of the deeds (and lack of them) of cipher John Kline.  Mr. Obermueller, in the HBO presentation, is not mentioned once and can now commiserate with CD3 DFL endorsed congressional candidate Sharon Sund who is not seen or mentioned once on the home page of the DFL CD 3 website.   None-the-less, Flip-a-District will very likely produce more interest in and votes for Mr. Obermueller.   Courage Sir.  And Sharon, you’ve got my vote!

{ 1 comment }

Otto Vote Had No Sulfide Mining Effect

by Grace Kelly on August 13, 2014 · 9 comments

Even though Matt Entenza never talked about the sulfide mining issue, there was a suggestion of sulfide mining advocates voting against Otto. Otto had recommended that sulfide mining companies put up the equivalent of rental deposit on the risk of harm to health and environment. The sulfide mining effect would show up in Congressional District 8. Dayton’s percentage between state wide and CD 8 drops by 3%. Simon’s percentage between state wide and CD 8 drops by 10%. So Otto’s drop of 6% is between those two numbers. I conclude that there was no effect based on sulfide mining.

 

Steve Simon was having a name recognition problem against two perennial candidates, so he has lower numbers and more variation. Simon was considered safe although I must admit those numbers were closer than I felt comfortable with.

 

This table was generated with a 93% of the precincts counted.

 

otto analysis

{ 9 comments }

What Otto Winning Over Entenza Really Means

by Grace Kelly on August 12, 2014 · 4 comments

Rebecca_Otto_Matt_Entenza.jpgBoth Rebecca Otto and Shawn Otto exemplify grace under pressure. Still under shock of an unexpected opponent, they rallied and organized an outpouring of support. Shawn personally ensured that every request of mine was fulfilled. Every one I know said the same. So every DFL event and parade became focused on persuading for Rebecca Otto. It also helped that Rebecca Otto had done great work, that was easily documented with awards and online-published papers.

 

DFLers responded strongly because Entenza threatened the whole DFL endorsement value.

 
I think Entenza thought he could run in the primary because of Mark Dayton. Entenza’s challenge was vastly different than Dayton’s challenge. Mark Dayton’s primary run had been clear when he entered the governor’s race because Mark Dayton had never been a person who flourished in endorsement politics. Yet Dayton was still a good election candidate. At every point, Dayton was clear and honest about his intentions, running against DFL opponents in a fair way. Entenza is great at insider politics, yet he snubbed insider politics. Entenza did not give notice. The way that Entenza made his case was not considered fair by DFL standards. Quite frankly, DFLers talk about the Entenza challenge in way one talks of a friend who unexpectedly changes on you.

 

So this race became about the people power of the DFL vs the money power of Entenza. In the dead of summer, in a race that normal media would not cover well, the DFL had to rally its votes. And they did. DFL endorsements are valuable and important.
…READ MORE

{ 4 comments }

Republican Seifert Back to Stealing Reserves

by Grace Kelly on August 8, 2014 · 4 comments

marty seifert theifThe one time that people really count on government is during an emergency. Our emergencies include tornadoes, droughts, floods, heavy storms, mega fires, oil train spills and toxic accidents. We are more exposed to all emergencies more than before. To be able to respond, government needs a reserve of money. Republican candidate for governor, Marty Seifert wants to spend money on transportation. Since a Republican can not ever raise taxes, he has to steal or borrow the money. So he is stealing money from the reserve. Republican thinking is that a nice shiny road is preferable to saving lives in an emergency. Scumbag is the safest language I can use, but it does not adequately state the despicability of this move.

{ 4 comments }