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DWI legislator on MN House public safety committee

by Dan Burns on December 22, 2014 · 0 comments

mncapitolAnyone who thinks that after the post-shutdown spanking they got in 2012, Minnesota Republican legislators are now ready to be part of legitimate governance, needs to think again. I strongly encourage you to click and read the whole thing.

In keeping with Speaker-elect Kurt Daudt’s idealistic policy on matching a legislator’s real-world experience with committee assignments, Representative Nick Zerwas (R-Elk River) has been appointed to serve on the Minnesota House Public Safety and Crime Prevention Policy and Finance Committee.

The former Elk River City Council member and Elk River High School graduate, who is completing his first term in the Minnesota House of Representatives, was stopped for speeding Aug. 2 along Interstate 94 in Maple Grove.
A New Hope police officer stopped Zerwas during a Toward Zero Death traffic enforcement detail after seeing his car go by at a high rate of speed from the Boone Avenue ramp to Westbound 694, according to the officer’s incident complaint report…
Zerwas pleaded guilty to one count of fourth-degree DWI and was sentenced to 30 days in the Hennepin County workhouse. All but two days were stayed, and for those two days he performed community service.

(Bluestem Prairie)


Minimum wage hike brutal for Minnesota jobs

by Dan Burns on December 21, 2014 · 1 comment

Minimum_Wage_3That’s what the rich man’s whimpering, groveling propagandists claim, so it must be true, correct? Aren’t they the great minds of our era? Such grotesque interference with the awesome power of the markets is bound to be catastrophic, right?
The first installment of the state’s minimum wage hike took place in early August.

Minnesota’s unemployment rate slipped to a seasonally adjusted 3.7 percent in November, down slightly from October and far below the national jobless rate of 5.8 percent.
Minnesota employers added 6,600 jobs in November, the Department of Employment and Economic Development said Thursday.
The state unemployment rate is at its lowest level since May 2001, the department said.

It’s too early to tell, whether there will be big savings in public assistance as another result of this. But it seems likely.

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A solid win for unions

by Dan Burns on December 19, 2014 · 0 comments

fistAnd those have been disgracefully few and far between, for way too long now.

On December 12, 2014, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) announced its adoption of a final rule to modernize and streamline the process for resolving union representation disputes. The long overdue rule, taking effect on April 14, 2015, will reduce a number of obstacles working people face when trying to form a union to better their workplaces. (Click on the link) to learn more about these obstacles and why this commonsense NLRB union election rule was needed to help ensure a fair vote in the workplace.
When workers want to vote on whether to form a union, they should have a fair chance to do so. However in recent decades, when employees decided to hold an election on whether to form a union, they could typically encounter significant uncertainty and obstacles that make the process unfair. After workers petition the NLRB for an election, it could take months and even years before they get to cast a vote. Such delays cause unnecessary conflict and disruption in the workplace.
Modernizing the NLRB election process for forming a union creates a level playing field. Employers and workers alike are entitled to a process that cannot be manipulated to gain unfair advantage and is clear, precise, and efficient. Workers will now a fair chance to vote their preference.
(Jobs With Justice)

This is really good, but the way the deck is stacked against organized labor right now, in so many ways, it’s just a fraction of what’s needed. Anything that helps unions needs to be fought for, but so do legislative efforts, at all levels, just generally on behalf of the non-rich. A lot of efforts. Traditional labor unions are not likely to again be what they were decades ago – the basis of the middle class – any time soon. Quite possibly never.
Also, just being realistic:

The National Association of Manufacturers and the National Retail Federation are considering lawsuits to prevent the NLRB’s rule from taking effect. Given the anti-worker tilt to many courts, they have a decent shot, just as business groups were able to block a previous NLRB rule calling for employers to put up a poster explaining workers’ rights under federal law.
(Daily Kos)


Kurt DaudtThe majority party in the state House of Representatives gets to decide committee assignments, even for minority members. Junior members don’t get all the committee assignments they prefer, but by longstanding practice, the minority gets to choose its lead member on a committee. Apparently, incoming speaker Kurt Daudt thinks kicking DFLers is more important. Or maybe he’s the obeisant servant of corporate special interests. I don’t pretend to being a mind reader.
Whatever the motive, Daudt has started his speakership with a childish act. Committee assignments were announced today, and Daudt removed Rep. Jean Wagenius from the House Environment and Natural Resources Committee, despite her designation as minority lead on the committee by House Minority Leader Paul Thissen.


Cuba inertia is not forever

by Eric Ferguson on December 17, 2014 · 0 comments

The thing about inertia is that it isn’t indefinite. It lasts only until acted upon. So sanctions on Cuba have been sustained by inertia, but now have encountered a countervailing force, a realistic president. C-SPAN has President Obama’s statement. Of course, some find it more fun to switch off C-SPAN and watch the nonsense flow on Fox News, where the first reaction when the president was done speaking was that Cuba once pointed missiles at us. Yes, in October 1962. I guess the Cuban Missile Crisis hasn’t ended in some heads. Oh yes, the supported an invasion of Cuba by Cuban exiles the year before, but Fox left that out.
I was amazed when one of that Fox talking heads — I didn’t catch the name, someone on Outnumbered — said she had brought up Cuba’s human rights abuses. Well, maybe some Cubans thought the victims deserved it, like conservatives have responded to the report on the CIA’s use of torture. They did mention a bunch of Cuban political prisoners were released, breezed over like it was nothing. Hey Fox, that’s not nothing. Obama just got 50 political prisoners sprung from jail.
A thought that struck me as the president was speaking, once I gathered the gist and realized this was a big deal in policy terms, was that’s really good, but again, why couldn’t he have announced this BEFORE the election!?!?! Listening further, it seems likely nothing could be announced until the prisoner exchanges were worked out, and presumably Cuba didn’t care about getting it done in time to give Obama a win before the US election. In case someone is thinking the Democrats have just lost Florida for a long time to come, yes, Cuba policy has been controlled by Florida Cubans who are pretty one-issue about removing the Castro regime. However, as Kos points out, younger Cubans actually support normalization. So no matter how much calcified conservatives may howl, there is little political risk to Obama’s actions. Yes, congressional Republicans will scream, but how much were they going to seek common ground on anything anyway? Getting to watch them try to scare the public about communist missiles from 50 years ago will be a nice sidelight to bringing rationality to a piece of foreign policy.


CANNAB~1As you must have seen somewhere, a number of marijuana initiatives passed, including legalization for non-medical use in Alaska, Oregon, and Washington, D.C.

When historians look back at the movement to end the war on drugs, they might very well point to the 2014 election as the moment when it all got real.
With marijuana legalization measures passing in Oregon, Alaska and Washington, D.C., and with groundbreaking criminal justice reforms passing in California and New Jersey, there’s no longer any denying that drug policy reform is a mainstream — and quite urgent — political demand.
(Drug Policy Alliance)

(Though wingnuts in the U.S. Congress have of course intervened in DC, and it’s unclear what the practical outcome will be.) Moreover, as part of the recent budget deal, the feds are now prohibited from interfering with medical marijuana programs in states that have, or will implement, them.

In Colorado, the results of legalization can be summed up in one word: SUCCESS. And in Minnesota:


State officials on (December 1) announced the two companies that will grow, process and sell medical cannabis to Minnesotans next year under the state’s new law.
LeafLine Labs and Minnesota Medical Solutions were chosen from among 12 applicants. They’ll distribute the medication through eight sites across the state, the Minnesota Health Department said.
State officials hope to have the products ready for sale by July. Minnesota Medical Solutions said its cannabis greenhouse in Otsego will be up and running this week.
Lawmakers passed the strictest medical marijuana law in the country earlier this year. It prohibits smoking of the drug and requires instead that it be manufactured in pill or oil form.
Medical marijuana will only be available to patients suffering from about 10 conditions including ALS and cancer.

Yes, the most restrictive law in the country, and even getting that was only slightly less difficult than, for example, getting a typical Tea Partier to understand that he’s just being the rich man’s exploited dupe. And as things stand, many medical users will have to go an unconscionably long way to make legal purchases. Meanwhile, Alaska – Alaska – an electorally red state despite its total dependence on federal $ originally generated in blue states like MN, has seen the light, as in that pleasing orange glow when one’s favorite pot pipe is in use.

Like any reasonable and fundamentally intelligent person, Gov. Dayton has shown himself open to changing his mind, when impelled by valid evidence and argument. Remember that he didn’t even much want to hear about medical marijuana, originally. There’s no reason not to keep pushing for better policy.


The December edition of Democratic Visions had its cableTV premier in the southwest suburbs this past Sunday.  My wife commented that host Tim O’Brien and guest State Senator John Hoffman (DFL, Champlin) were far more interesting than what she had been watching on ABC – Barbara Walters’ annual, celebrity pondering special spotlighting her choices of the year’s most fascinating people.   Indeed, the former Anoka-Hennepin School District Board member, first term Minnesota State Senator and suburban dad was more interesting than Baba Wawa’s picks that included Taylor Swift, Chelsea Handler, Oprah Winfrey, Scarlett Johansson, George R.R. Martin and David Koch.  Yes THE David Koch.


The new edition of Democratic Visions also concerns itself with California’s upcoming ban on plastic bags and my reluctance to hang around DFL politicians and worker bees who seem in constant need of giving and receiving hugs and back pats.   I’m Scandinavian-Lutheran and have gone through life fully satisfied with a handshake.   Humorist Jon Spade, as my clinically depressed, motivational coach (and a public speaker) attempts to help me.


After looking at our lefty volunteer-driven, 29-minute long, indulgence, do yourself a favor and read  The Unforgiven Sins of Bill Maher,  by Invenium Viam.  The essay is posted here on MPP.   I place Mr. Maher in league with the late, great Christopher Hitchens.  Invenium Viam (who ever she/he is) is also a damn fine, if more polite, scribe.


Democratic Visions Cable TV Schedule

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 cable casts.

Minnetonka, Hopkins, Edina, Eden Prairie and Richfield – Comcast Channel 15 –  Mondays at 10:00 p.m., Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m and Sundays at 9 p.m.,

Bloomington – BCAT Cable 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.

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Lima climate talks were a dud

by Dan Burns on December 16, 2014 · 1 comment

Amargosa_desertEven many serious environmentalists were happy with the recent U.S.-China emissions agreement. (Though some beg to differ.) So there was hopefulness, going into the recent round of world climate talks. Which turned out to be pretty much of a fizzle.


After two weeks huddled in sweaty, sweltering tents (yes, many a “greenhouse effect” joke was made), the various negotiating blocs found themselves unable to agree on a handful of major issues. So in overtime sessions over the weekend, the stickiest of the sticking points were stripped out from one draft text after the next, until very little remained.
Green groups and citizens from vulnerable, developing nations bemoaned the lack of commitment and urgency.
“The text went from weak to weaker to weakest, and it’s very weak indeed,” said Samantha Smith, WWF’s chief of climate policy.
“Make no mistake: Lima delivered a pathetically weak outcome, because developed countries like the U.S. are failing to meet their obligations,” said Brandon Wu, a senior policy analyst at ActionAid USA. “A tiny bit of progress does not make up for decades of inaction on both emissions cuts and providing finance for poor countries.”
Others complained that the U.N. process lags woefully behind public momentum for ambitious climate policy. “There is still a vast and growing gulf between the approach of some climate negotiators and the public demand for action,” said Winnie Byanyima, executive director of Oxfam International.

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Anti-choice zealots fire up for more

by Dan Burns on December 14, 2014 · 1 comment

prochoiceIt won’t be long.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Republicans plan to reignite debate over the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which passed in the House in 2013. Contrary to the argument put forth by proponents of the ban, the “science” underpinning the measure — that fetuses can feel pain at 20 weeks gestation — has been debunked. But that’s not expected to stop Republicans from pushing a bill that might finally have a chance in the Senate.

Fanatics in Ohio already tried to get a six-week ban. It didn’t get through the state legislature. But they’ll try again, there and in a lot of other places.

An appeals court struck down an Arizona law that tried to, for all practical purposes, ban medication-induced abortion. We’ll probably find out this week, if the U.S. Supreme Court has decided to take up the case. (Update: SCOTUS has declined to hear the case.)

Here is a useful discussion about maybe trying to add some different emphasis to the mix.

We need to see abortion as an urgent practical decision that is just as moral as the decision to have a child—indeed, sometimes more moral. Pro-choicers often say no one is “pro-abortion,” but what is so virtuous about adding another child to the ones you’re already overwhelmed by? Why do we make young women feel guilty for wanting to feel ready for motherhood before they have a baby? Isn’t it a good thing that women think carefully about what it means to bring a child into this world—what, for example, it means to the children she already has? We tend to think of abortion as anti-child and anti-motherhood. In media iconography, it’s the fetus versus the coat hanger: that is, abortion kills an “unborn baby,” but banning it makes women injure themselves. Actually, abortion is part of being a mother and of caring for children, because part of caring for children is knowing when it’s not a good idea to bring them into the world.

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Kline’s buddies should pay to fix pension funds

by Dan Burns on December 12, 2014 · 2 comments

271_19344293946_1831_nRep. John Kline (R-MN) may be getting more backlash than he anticipated, for his key role in advancing a plan that would drive retirees into poverty. The Kline-Miller plan has never been introduced into the House or Senate on its own; this is a despicable effort to sneak it into law as part of a must-pass budget bill. (As of 630 this morning, it’s still in the bill, as far as I could determine.)

Problems with pension funds are primarily due to the foul machinations of Big Finance, who have been essentially stealing them.

No one disputes that there’s a retirement crisis, but the crisis was no demographic accident. It was manufactured by an alliance of two groups: top executives and their facilitators in the retirement industry – benefits consultants, insurance companies, and banks – all of whom played a huge and hidden role in the death spiral of American pensions and benefits.
Yet, unlike the banking industry, which was rightly blamed for the subprime mortgage crisis, the masterminds responsible for the retirement crisis have walked away blame-free. And, unlike the pension raiders of the 1980s, who killed pensions to extract the surplus assets, they face no censure. If anything they are viewed as beleaguered captains valiantly trying to keep their overloaded ships from being sunk in a perfect storm. In reality, they’re the silent pirates who looted the ships and left them to sink, along with the retirees, as they sailed away safely in their lifeboats.

This article, from Rolling Stone, details how the same is being done to pensions for public-sector workers.

So, how about making the crooks pay to fix the ones that are in trouble? Better yet, Big Finance could do it voluntarily, and get a good start on trying to repair its public image. But it won’t; arms will have to be twisted, and John Kline is not a politician with the integrity and decency to try to make that happen.