It’s Friday, almost 10 a.m., and I’m still plowing through news items. Though there is really serious news, including tax policy analysis, today’s crop includes massive silliness — tea baggers, more Michelle, and silliness from Wisconsin. Enjoy!
Tag Archives: RNC
News Day: RNC acquittals / More Michelle / MN tax and budget wrangling/ Ethanol, books, coffee, more
I’m writing on the fly this morning — literally — and hoping to post when we land in Newark, so advance apologies if I miss any late-breaking news. I’m out of town until Wednesday, so Monday-Wednesday blog posts may be shorter, later, or just a little different.
Not guilty for RNC protesters Two more RNC protesters were acquitted by a Ramsey County jury Thursday. That continues a solid winning streak, with no protesters yet convicted at trials. The jury evidently found police testimony not credible. Another RNC trial is still going on, with Sean McCoy facing misdemeanor charges of parading without a permit and fleeing a police officer. Some lawyers from the National Lawyers Guild suggest that St. Paul city attorney John Choi should just throw out all of the remaining misdemeanor cases. (He’s already decided that hundreds of arrests lack a basis for prosecution.)
News Day: RNC court puzzles / One in ten MPS kids homeless? / Battle of the budgets / AIG awful / FMLN wins in El Salvador / more
RNC court puzzles In Minneapolis, the scheduled appearance of government informant Andrew Clark Darst (“Panda”) on criminal charges including burglary and assault from a January episode, didn’t happen. The Minnesota Independent reports: “Apparently owing to scheduling conflicts for attorneys involved in the case, the legal matter was dealt with in an impromptu hearing earlier in the day.” The upshot: no jury trial, meaning no public testimony. Instead, in a highly unusual arrangement, Darst agreed that a judge will decide whether or not he is guilty based on written court records. The ruling is scheduled for next Monday.
News Day: Homeless in Minneapolis / Reprieve for schools, library / Molotov cocktail sentence / Media gluttons / EFCA / more
Not now, but soon If I can find some time later today, I hope to get to a slightly longer look at the MN tax incidence survey, which shows the increasingly regressive nature of MN taxes, and also write a couple of paragraphs on the difference between the push for a smart power grid and the decidedly dumb proposals for marching massive power lines across seven states. Stay tuned!
End in sight for recount? After seven weeks of trial, mostly devoted to the Coleman side’s case, Al Franken’s lawyers say they will wrap up today, after calling 70+ witnesses. Could the end be in sight? Well, Coleman now gets a chance to grab the stand again and put on rebuttal witnesses, and his lawyers won’t say whether or how long they will go on.
News Day 2/24/09: T-Paw ready to eat the pizza / Wind on the wires / Coleen vs. Big Bob / Mpls school desegregation, and more
T-Paw will take the money Governor Tim Pawlenty said Minnesota will take all the money it can get from the $787 billion economic stimulus plan, even though he has called it “a meandering spending buffet.” Continuing the food metaphors on Monday, , writes Kevin Diaz in the Strib, T-Paw said “For every dollar we send out … we only get 72 cents back. So, if you’re buying the pizza, it’s OK to have your slice, even if there are some anchovies on it.” Only a few of his GOP counterparts are still talking about turning down the stimulus money, reports NPR, including Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, who objects that the stimulus package is “filled with social policy.”
Wind on the wires: Bigger isn’t better Wind power is great green energy, but the proposals for 130-foot transmission towers marching across MN are a bad idea. Here’s my explanation of what’s wrong with the proposed $12 billion grid, and where to look for a greener solution.
Burris blowing it Illinois Senator Roland Burris has failed to mount an effective PR defense, according to Politico, after new allegations about his involvement with disgraced former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Both an Illinois prosecutor’s office and the Senate Ethics Committee are now investigating charges that Burris failed to disclose conversations with Blagojevich’s brother about raising money for the governor, when he testified under oath in impeachment proceedings. Burris admitted the conversations in a February 5 affidavit, and then, on February 16, admitted that “he actually tried to raise money for the governor at the same time he was expressing interest in the Senate seat.”
Ditching desegregation Minneapolis wants out of the Twin Cities’ desegregation district, writes Norman Draper in the Strib. the West Metro Education Program began in 1989, with Minneapolis and 10 suburban districts planning to promote racial integration and narrow the achievement gap. WMEP has two magnet schools: the Interdistrict Downtown School in Minneapolis and the Fine Arts Interdisciplinary Resource school in Crystal. Minneapolis superintendent Bill Green said the schools have had little impact on the achievement gap and have done little to change racial disparities between Minneapolis and the suburbs. The Minneapolis school board is scheduled to vote on the proposal March 10.
RNC back to court As the RNC8 defendants go back to court this week, with motion hearings before a new judge, FBI whistle-blower-turned-activist Coleen Rowley is set to file notices of claim against Sheriff Bob Fletcher, Ramsey County and the State of MN, reports Chris Steller in MN Independent. The complaints focus on “aggressive ‘police state’ action during the RNC ,” and on Big Bob’s refusal to comply with requests for information since then. Rowley knows her way around a Freedom of Information Act request. While she’s fililng them now, it was her job to respond to FOIA requests as an FBI agent in the 1980s.
Fast trains on fast track High speed rail gets $8 billion under the economic stimulus package, reports Brian Naylor at NPR, and MN may be among the beneficiaries. While California is ready to roll with bonding already approved, the Minneapolis-Chicago corridor is one of the half-dozen priority corridors identified by Transportation Sec. Ray LaHood.
Scholarship aid for state budget? The fed stimulus bill includes more money for Pell Grant scholarships, raising the max from $4731 to $5500 in 2010-2011. Because MN state grants and Pell grants are tied together, that won’t mean more money for low-income MN students, reports Jenna Ross in the Strib. Instead, it will mean the state grant fund will save money as the fed funds make up a larger part of the MN grant package. Unless the legislature changes the grant formula, the MN treasury, rather than low-income students, will benefit by $60 million from the increase in fed scholarship money.
MN Job Watch With MN unemployment claims up more than 60% in January 2009, compared to January 2008, WorkForce Center employees are seeing the psychological impact on people who have worked all their lives and now face unemployment and no job prospects, reports Lisa Peterson in the Daily Planet. While 80 percent of MN unemployment claims are made on-line, that doesn’t work smoothly for everyone:
Applying online can be tricky, though, especially for those who may not have the tools to navigate the system. For example, one question refers to whether an applicant was “Laid Off,” “Terminated,” or “Discharged,” which frequently confuses applicants, especially those with limited language proficiency. Simple errors can delay benefits for days if not weeks.
In Plymouth, a four-month lockout by the Progress Casting Group’s foundry continues, with no end in sight, reports Larry Sillanpa for Workday MN.
“We’ve got a lot of guys who have worked there for 30 years or more, one’s been there for 47 years,” said Hill, who has been Shop Chairman for 10 years. “45 percent of the workers have 10 or more years.”
Now all 200 of the AFL-CIO-affiliated members are out of work as scab replacement workers do their jobs.
News Day 2/23/09: Oscar-free zone / Stormin’ Norm / Bonding basics and blunders / World news and more
T-Paw playing fast and loose with bonding rules In theory, MN can’t borrow to pay for current spending. The tobacco bond borrowing is an end run around that prohibition, based on a fiction that the state is just borrowing against future tobacco settlement revenues. In fact, explains Steve Perry in MinnPost, other states have already found that tobacco bonds don’t sell well, and MN is marketing the bonds as general obligation bonds. The Department of Revenue says that $987 million in bonds now will cost $1.6 billion in payback.
Your chance this week! The St. Cloud Times reported on the first town hall forum on the state’s budget woes, with more than 250 people mostly agreeing on one part of a solution: “Raise taxes. Cutting the budget and services is not the best way to solve the problem.” Hearings started Thursday in Mankato, Rochester and St. Cloud, and continue across the state this week, including metro-area meetings.
Last-minute RNC lawsuits As the deadline for filing civil claims related to the RNC expires this week, expect more lawsuits. In an RNC-related suit last week, Betsy Raasch-Gilman charged that Sheriff Bob Fletcher failed to provide “all private and public data” on her. The State Department of Administration had already issued an advisory opinion that Big Bob failed to comply with state law, reports Randy Furst in the Strib.
And on Friday, St. Paul city attorney John Choi announced that no charges will be filed against 323 people arrested on the final day of the convention, but that 20 arrests are still being investigated.
Sinking Strib ship A bankruptcy filing says that Strib gross earnings plummeted by almost one-third in two years, down to $203 million in 2009 from the $303 million earned in 2007. The Strib survival plan, reports Braublog includes a demand that pressmen take a 23-50% pay cut, chopping $6-12 an hour from wage rates.
Secret meetings on health care reform According to the NYT:
Since last fall, many of the leading figures in the nation’s long-running health care debate have been meeting secretly in a Senate hearing room. Now, with the blessing of the Senate’s leading proponent of universal health insurance, Edward M. Kennedy, they appear to be inching toward a consensus that could reshape the debate.
Unfortunately for single-payer advocates, the NYT predicts this will mean “a requirement that every American carry insurance.” And Republicans, predictably, are not participating in the talks, though business is on board.
Around the world in 90 seconds In Mexico, the Juarez police chief quit, reports BBC. The border city, torn by drug war violence, saw a police officer and a prison guard killed just before Roberto Orduna quit. Gangs had issued a notice that they would kill a cop every day unless Orduna quit, and he said this was the only way he could safeguard police lives. Orduna took over in May after his predecessor fled to Texas following death threats.
In Afghanistan, , a tribal militia of “men and boys, armed with old riffle and true grit” in southeastern Paktia province is protecting people against Taliban and Al Qaeda forces. The government and the U.S. plan a “Public Protection Force” to provide “community defence initiatives,” but insist it is different from the militias. In Pakistan, reveals the NYT, U.S. Green Berets are training Pakistani Army and paramilitary troops in a now-no-longer-secret task force.
Sri Lankan Tamil Tiger rebel planes bombed the capital, reports the NYT. Though this is the first air attack on the capital, the last six weeks “have seen a surge in civilian casualties, with up to 2,000 killed and 5,000 wounded as the government attempts to rout the rebels.”
In Somali, Islamist insurgent suicide bombers killed 11 African Union peacekeepers at an AU military base in Mogadishu, reports the BBC. The al-Shabab group said its members carried out the attack, as part of its continuing armed struggle against peacekeepers.
Corn vs. clean cars You might think that corn growers and ethanol producers would like legislation requiring lower emissions. Not so, reports Ron Way in MinnPost. The Corn Growers Association opposes clean car legislation, claiming that 18 flex-fuel and biodiesel cars and trucks are banned in California because of the clean car law. But wait — Rep. Andy Welti, DFL-Plainview, called CA car dealers and discovered that “the vehicles that the Corn Growers said are not available were in fact available and being sold.” When confronted by this information in the committee meeting, the Corn Growers lobbyist … had nothing to say.
Stormin’ Norm Since he continues to lose every battle in court, Norm Coleman now wants to recount ALL absentee ballots — that’s right, all 290,000 votes cast, not just those that were rejected, reports Jason Hoppin in the PiPress But wait — the PiPress editorial page goes even further, calling for the election to be thrown out entirely, and a new election held. That’s just what we need to do — hold a clean election, and throw out the results. Politico reports that the Republican National Committee has sent Norm a quarter of a million to pay legal fees in the recount battles.
Save northern MN land, string powerlines across south? As the DNR proposes using the dedicated sales tax funds to protect 187,000 acres of forest and wetlands in north-central MN through the Upper Mississippi Forest Project, private developers propose stringing hundreds of miles of intrusive high-power transmission lines across the rest of the state. More on this tomorrow.
Let’s make people miserable and lose money, too! A successful Anoka county program for meth-addicted moms is targeted by state budget-cutters, reports Brady Gervais in the PiPress. Not only would this particularly short-sighted and mean-spirited budget cut eliminate a successful program that helps addicted mothers kick the habit, find jobs and learn parenting skills — it would also lose money in the long run. Gervais writes that, “By reducing the need for social assistance and child protection services, the program is estimated to save between $8,400 and $16,800 per participant, according to a recent study by Wilder Research.”
Million Dollar Mile Oops, make that $9.2 million — for a one mile bike path in downtown Minneapolis. The Strib’s Pam Louwagie blows the whistle.
News Day 2/19/09: Housing plan in MN / “Nation of cowards” on race / Carstarphen leaving SPPS? / more …
What part of “no” don’t you understand, Norm? The three-judge panel yesterday “just said no” to the Coleman campaigns latest request to reverse a previous ruling. Writing in MinnPost, Eric Black reminds us that, like every ruling in the case, this one was unanimous.
Mortgage relief on horizon Dan Olson on MPR talked to local homeowners and U of M law school housing expert Prentiss Cox about the Obama mortgage relief plan. The plan provides some refinancing by some lenders, and extends relief to some homeowners who are “under water” — so long as the gap between their home value and amount owed is not too great. Cox faults the plan for failing to provide a “cram-down,” a provision that would make banks agree to take a loss on a mortgage when the home is worth less, and write a new mortgage for a lower amount.
Many big banks, including Wells Fargo, suspended mortgages while waiting to hear about the president’s plan. According to the NYT, one in ten home mortgages is either delinquent or in foreclosure. The plan will provide incentives to lenders to rewrite mortgages, changing the interest rate to make them more affordable. It will increase available credit through $200 billion in backing for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. And it will offer some homeowners who are current on their mortgages but cannot refinance because they lack enough equity an opportunity to refinance at the current low interest rates. The plan also calls for bankruptcy rule changes to let judges reduce mortgages on primary residences to fair market value.
Take a look at the White House summary of the plan here. And for a critique that says the plan is “comprehensive, but not aggressive” enough, see Simon Johnson in The New Republic.
Over at the legislature According to AP, GOP lawmakers are proposing–and DFLers are “open to looking at” –a five percent pay cut for legislators, which would cut base pay to $29,600, saving the state a whopping $338,000 a year. Let’s see – that’s less than one percent of one percent of the $4.8 billion deficit. Hope they don’t spend a lot of time debating that one. Another bill would require MN students to stay in school through 18 or through high school graduation, rather than the current compulsory school attendance through 16, writes Jake Grovum in the Strib. Critics say it would cost a lot and that schools aren’t very good. Wisconsin, South Dakota and 16 other states already have 18-year-old attendance laws. And in what we can devoutly hope is a lost cause, the Vikes are still trying to get public money for a nearly one billion dollar stadium this year, reports Mike Kaszuba in the Strib.
“Nation of cowards” on race Attorney General Eric Holder spoke yesterday at the DOJ African American History Month program. Among his remarks:
One cannot truly understand America without understanding the historical experience of black people in this nation. Simply put, to get to the heart of this country one must examine its racial soul.
Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial we have always been and continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards. Though race related issues continue to occupy a significant portion of our political discussion, and though there remain many unresolved racial issues in this nation, we, average Americans, simply do not talk enough with each other about race. It is an issue we have never been at ease with and given our nation’s history this is in some ways understandable. And yet, if we are to make progress in this area we must feel comfortable enough with one another, and tolerant enough of each other, to have frank conversations about the racial matters that continue to divide us.
Read the whole speech here. It’s well worth reading, thinking about, and responding to his call.
Sez who? A day after a study showing a 97% thumbs down on NCLB from MN principals, the Strib reports that a DC-based think tank said MN is too easy on enforcement of NCLB rules, and that WI has the loosest interpretation of all 50 states. What the press reports don’t say is that the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation is a conservative think tank, led by Chester Finn, “one of the education policy gurus of the conservative movement” with ties to the Manhattan Institute, the Hudson Institute, Center of the American Experiment, and National Association of Scholars.
Carstarphen looks south St. Paul School Superintendent Meria Carstarphen is a finalist for the Austin, Texas superintendent’s job, reports Emily Johns in the Strib. She’s in her third year with SPPS, has not yet signed a new contract, and has her Summit Avenue house up for sale.
RNC 8 on Democracy Now You can hear from RNC 8 defendant Luce Guillens-Givens and attorney Jordan Kushner on Democracy Now. Not much that’s new, as the judicial process continues, except for criminal charges against one of the FBI informants.
News Day 2/18/09: Criminal charges for FBI snitch / 46 St. Paul teachers reassigned / Principals dis NCLB / more …
FBI RNC snitch charged in attack Andrew Darst, who spied on the RNC Welcoming Committee for the FBI, faces felony charges of first- and second-degree burglary and a misdemeanor assault charge, reports Randy Furst in the Strib. Court documents say that Minnetrista police responding to a call to a home at 2:18 a.m. on January 11 found the door ripped off its hinges, and that Darst “appeared to be full of rage and anger” and said he “wasn’t comfortable with the people his wife was with” in the home.
The FBI, of course, won’t confirm that Darst is an informant, but he was listed as a potential prosecution witness in a previous RNC trial, and RNC 8 lawyer Bruce Nestor confirms that he is listed as such in FBI documents. Although mug shots are usually public, a Hennepin County clerk said that Darst’s mug shot would not be released, on instructions from the FBI.
NCLB forces reassignment of 46 St. Paul teachers As part of forced restructuring at Humboldt Junior High and Arlington High School, 46 teachers were ordered to different assignments last week, with letters from the district saying that “this assignment change is not related to any issue of misconduct, nor should it be construed as a failure on your part.” Emily Johns writes in the Strib that dozens of teachers rallied outside district HQ on Tuesday, protesting lack of input into the restructuring process as a whole. District plans include the already-in-place transformation of Arlington into a sciene, technology and math magnet school, funded by a $6 million federal grant, and future plans to combine Humboldt junior and senior high schools into a single small 7-12 school and to extend the school day at both schools.
The restructuring is mandated by NCLB, but most MN principals think that NCLB itself is destructive, according to a report released yesterday by Minnesota 2020.
There are about 1,800 principals in Minnesota. Each oversees a school that has been affected by the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law. While NCLB was created in Washington D.C., it has permeated education down into each classroom. NCLB has forced principals to make draconian choices to meet NCLB requirements, choices made more difficult in Minnesota’s atmosphere of declining funding and diminished results.
Some 97% of the 740 principals responding to the survey said that “NCLB’s main goal – 100 percent proficiency in tests by 2014 – is unattainable.” In addition, principals said that NCLB has forced them to spend more time and resources on “teaching to the test” and to divert resources away from arts and other subjects. They feel that NCLB has affected community perception of schools, and that its requirements for special education students and ELL students are particularly unrealistic.
The NCLB test, MCA-II, is an ineffective measure of student development. Only 15.5 percent of principals say the MCA-II is an effective assessment of student achievement. More than 96 percent said that an assessment that measures student growth over many years is more useful than the MCA-II.
“The job of an educator is difficult enough without having to work with a program that has dubious results,” concludes MN 2020.
T-Paw backtracks on carbon Are MN legislators actually surprised by the Pawlenty administration’s abandonment of green principles? Ron Way in MinnPost reports that they are, as T-Paw administration officials waffle on carbon emissions, green jobs, and clean car legislation.
David Thornton, assistant commissioner for air quality at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) told legislators no further action is needed to reduce carbon emissions and that millions of tons of carbon emissions from coal-fired Big Stone II and Excelsior Energy could actually reduce greenhouse gases. His assertions fly in the face of not only common sense but also other reports by previously Pawlenty-approved expert Bill Grant of the Walton League and the MN Climate Change Advisory Group. Thornton said the new plants would replace older, more polluting ones — but Thornton said the utilities told MCCAG that the opposite was true.
Fur, feathers and fins report What is it with all of the animal news? From the horrific chimp attack in Connecticut to discovery of 26,000-year-old saber-toothed cat bones in southeastern MN, animals are in the news this week. In the Twin Cities, the Animal Humane Society euthanized more than 120 cats found in a St. Anthony mobile home, deciding they were too sick to survive, though Animal Ark takes issue with that assertion. In Alaska, a BBC team used underwater cameras to film grizzly bears catching salmon, and reports that “Most bears will do anything to avoid getting their ears wet.” In Scotland, reports BBC, a lamb head-butted a golden eagle.
In MN, the MPCA found mercury levels in fish increasing since the mid-1990s, reversing a previous, and healthier, downward trend, reports Dennis Lien in the PiPress. The pollution probably comes from outside MN, as mercury travels thousands of miles after being produced by coal-fired power plants.
MN Job Watch As Minnesotans get laid off at a rate of about a thousand a day, many are being pushed to sign documents waiving their right to sue their employers, reports Martin Moylan at MPR. The waivers are required in exchange for some kind of severance benefits, and prevent future lawsuits about anything from work-related disability to discrimination. Attorney Stephen Cooper warns:
“An employee often thinks, ‘Oh this is something that serves both our interests. This is just a mutual way to both agree we’re both protected. That is very seldom the case. Usually the only person being protected in those documents is the employer.”
Saving drowning homeowners President Barack Obama will announce a housing bailout plan today in Phoenix. Two groups of homeowners are in trouble, reports the New York Times: about three million who are already behind in monthly payments and also about ten million whose houses are “underwater” — worth less than they owe on their mortgages. The Obama plan will target the first group, with $50 billion from the already-allotted financial bailout money going to reduce their monthly payments. The NYT analysis is that the Obama plan bets on underwater homeowners staying with their homes and mortgages rather than walking away, at the risk of wrecking their credit ratings.
Recovery.gov – your turn! The new White House website, recovery.gov, ” features cool graphs, interactive maps, projected timelines of when the money will start pumping into the economy, and a place to share your stories and offer comments,” according to the Daily Kos. And if you feel the need for a little more information before telling the government what to do, check out Baseline Scenario’s Financial Crisis for Beginners.
Afghanistan: Civilian deaths up, more troops On the heels of a U.N. report of a 39% increase in civilian deaths in Afghanistan last year, President Obama cited “a deteriorating situation” and authorized deployment of up to 17,000 additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan, reports the BBC. The troops will add to 19,000 U.S. troops under U.S. command and another 14,000 serving under NATO command. U.S. commanders in Afghanistan asked for 30,000 additional troops.
The U.N found militants to blame for 55% of 2,118 civilian deaths in 2008, and documented Taliban assassination and intimidation campaigns against anyone associating with the government and against schools. The New York Times reported that, while most of the 39% of civilian deaths attributable to U.S., NATO and Afghan forces come from air strikes, there are other significant problems:
The newly released United Nations report singled out Special Forces and other military units operating outside the normal chains of command, which, the survey said, frequently could not be held accountable for their actions.
Special Forces groups like Navy Seals and paramilitary units operated by the C.I.A. often conduct raids in Afghanistan, and often at night. Such groups typically operate outside the normal chains of command, which means that their presence and movements are not always known by regular field commanders.
Give us national healthcare! A New York Times-CBS poll shows that 59% of the country wants the government–not insurance companies–to provide health insurance, and 49% say the insurance should cover all medical problems.
The poll sampled attitudes on a wide variety of topics, and the report compares responses now to attitudes 30 years ago. Among the other findings:
Today, most Americans (60%) say they get most of their news from television, with newspapers a distant second (14%), followed closely by the internet (13%), and radio (7%). Thirty years ago, a Los Angeles Times Poll found Americans were equally as likely to get most of their news from newspapers (42%) as television (41%). The internet was not available as a choice in the 1979 poll.
Wal-Mart up, Wal-Mart down “Stronger Dollar Knocks Wal-Mart” said the BBC, but “Wal-Mart Profit Tops Expectations” headlined the New York Times. The different spins reported the same numbers: Wal-Mart reported an 8% drop in quarterly profits as the higher value of the U.S. dollar affected overseas earnings, but sales were still up and there still was a profit, as Wal-Mart continues to do better in the recession than almost anyone else.
Let them eat arts T-Paw’s plan to turn the Perpich Center for Arts Education into a charter school may have bipartisan support, writes Norman Draper in the Strib. Make that bipartisan support for killing the Perpich Center, which has been a proud national model of a statewide arts school and a center for arts education that sends staff to assist in arts education across the state and provides training sessions and resources for arts teachers from across the state. This is not a slam on charter schools – the fact is that the Guv’s move means cutting all the funding that enables Perpich to provide arts education for students and teachers, leaving it with state funding that pays only a per-pupil allotment equal to the funding formula for every other public school student. “Converting to a charter” in this case means taking away state resources, with no way to replace them. The Strib quotes Rudy Perpich, Jr.: “As my parents said, ‘Arts are always the first thing to be cut.”
Free–at last, sort of, at least for a while The jury deadlocked in the federal trial of RNC protester David McKay, accused of Molotov cocktail making and possession. While a March 16 retrial date has been set, the judge let McKay go free on bail. Writing in the PiPress, David Hanners reported that jurors apparently deadlocked over McKay’s claim that he would never have had anything to do with Molotov cocktails, but for the goaoding of federal informant Brandon Darby. McKay’s attorney said he was “a kid who came here to throw trash in the street,” not a bomber.
First-hand history recovered Almost a century after Lakota Chief Martin White Horse dictated stories about his community to Florence May Thwing, the typewritten document detailing 100 years of Lakota (Sioux) history has been re-discovered in a trunk by Thwing’s great-granddaughter. The winter count includes an entry for each year from 1790 to 1910, reports MPR:
(1835) In the year of stars moving in the sky.
(1845) In this year the Sioux Indians were starving and dying for lack of food because there had been no buffalos in their country for a long time. So they took the head of an old buffalo and painted it red, and placed it in a tepee and worshipped it with much singing and other things, and asked this buffalo head to send them buffalos to where they are located inside the boundary line. Their prayers were successful and many buffalos came to the place where they were camped, so the Sioux had again plenty of food.
MN Job Watch Macy’s announced Monday that it will cut 7,000 jobs, about four percent of its workforce, AP reports in the Strib. According to the Strib/AP report, Macy’s is centralizing, and its central buying, merchandise planning, stores senior management and marketing functions will be located primarily in New York. No word yet on any job cuts in MN, but Macy’s already closed its regional HQ in Minneapolis last year, cutting about 950 jobs, and announced the closing of its Brookdale store last month.
In Eden Prairie, ADC Telecommunications announced a general hiring freeze and plans for unspecified layoffs, reports Leslie Suzukamo in the PiPress. ADC announced layoffs of 160-190 MN workers in October as part of a global reduction in force. The Eden Prairie-based company has about 10,500 workers worldwide, and announced a quarterly loss of 17-23 cents per share.
TPM says RNC Chair Michael Steele is coming “straight outta Hooverville,” with his bogus claim that: “Not in the history of mankind has the goverment ever created a job,” saying “This is such transparent nonsense it’s hard to know where to start … Has Steele every heard of government road building? Defense spending? … ” Ann Markusen writes in MinnPost that “Few elements of the forthcoming stimulus program would pump money into the economy faster and more efficiently than the funds to states to refresh depleted unemployment insurance, social safety nets, and college aid programs.”
(Under)counting the homeless January is the wrong time to count homeless people, reports Madeleine Baran in the TC Daily Planet, but that’s the time mandated by the federal government. In a related article, Session Weekly reports that one in eight Minnesota households spends more than half its income on housing, and that the average cost for rentals is now higher than $900/month. All that, as Twin Cities home values fell 10 percent last year, according to Jim Buchta in the Strib.
“What part of justice do you want us to stop doing?” That’s the question posed by MN Supreme Court Chief Justice Eric Magnuson in a highly unusual news conference making the case for increased state funding for the court system. “Flanked by county attorneys, sheriffs, public defenders and district judges, Chief Justice Eric Magnuson said the entire court system in Minnesota is already $19 million short and will suffer under a 10 percent budget cut,” reported MPR’s Elizabeth Stawicki.
“Trespass, worthless checks, traffic and ordinance violations, juvenile truancy, runaways, underage drinking, consumer credit disputes, property related and small civil claims. Imagine we take all that off the table because we can’t do it,” Magnuson said. Dakota County Attorney Jim Backstrom spoke on behalf of Minnesota prosecutors and said in addition, the courts won’t be able to process harassment cases, putting many people in the state at risk of harm.
In the Strib, Rochelle Olson reported that Magnuson pointed out that courts account for only two percent of the state budget and that judges are not getting raises, though union employees will get contractual raises. He said the courts need an additional $43 million, not the cuts that the Pawlenty administration has asked for.
Pawlenty spokesperson Brian McClung responded that courts need to “reexamine their priorities” and cut budgets.
“Report says security at RNC was a success” Ya think? While the Strib headline makes nice, Grace Kelly at the Minnesota Progressive Project blog pulls no punches, noting that “Over $100,000 of St Paul money was spent on an RNC Commission consisting of carefully government-connected people,” to produce what she terms “a whitewash.” Over at the Minnesota Independent, Paul Demko offers “What a riot: Outside panel presents mild critique of RNC policing. Read the report on the St. Paul city website
Preventing the next recount? Instant Run-off Voting, approved by Minneapolis voters by a 65-35 margin in 2006, won again yesterday in court. Implementation has been delayed by a MN Voter’s Alliance court challenge, but Hennepin County District Judge McGunnigle ruled that they “have failed to demonstrate that IRV is either unconstitutional or contrary to public policy.” MVA said it will appeal.
Jeanne Massey, chair of FairVote Minnesota, which has backed IRV, said:
There is now great awareness about the need for runoff elections in our state contests that are highly competitive, because we have a strong third party presence in the Independence Party, and we no longer have majority winners in our high-stake elections.
In St. Paul, the Strib noted, the Better Ballot Campaign petitioned for a referendum on IRV, but decision on the referendum was postponed, pending the outcome of the Minneapolis lawsuit.
IRV provides that if no candidate gets a majority of the votes, the lowest candidate is eliminated and those voters’ second choice candidate gets their vote. If that doesn’t result in a majority, the next-lowest candidate is eliminated and their votes redistributed. The process is repeated until one candidate gets a majority of the votes.
Ice-cold electricity Grand Meadow Wind Farm started selling electricity December 4, reports the PiPress, and is now fully operational. Xcel Energy’s first wind energy facility is a 100.5 megawatt wind farm east of Austin. The Minnesota Municipal Power Agency and Avant Energy of Minneapolis also have projects under development. By 2020, MN law requires at least 30 percent of power from renewable resources.
MN Job Watch Ecolab announced a thousand layoffs yesterday, including 100 in Minnesota. Jessica Mador at MPR reports that the MN cuts will be divided equally between Ecolab international HQ in downtown St. Paul and a research center in Eagan.
[Company spokesperson Michael] Monahan said the restaurant and hotel-related segments of the company’s business have been hardest hit by the downturn. He said the company is still growing in health care, pest elimination, and fast food industries, as well as in Latin America.
A SCHIP in time? Congress passed a bill to expand the Children’s Health Insurance Program on Wednesday. The bill, previously vetoed by King George II, has the “enthusiastic support” of President-elect Obama, reports the NYT, which says Obama will likely sign the bill soon after his inauguration. First, the Senate must sign the bill. The main point of difference between Senate and House, says The Daily Kos, is the Legal Immigrant Children’s Health Improvement Act (ICHIA), eliminating the current five-year waiting period for legally residing immigrant children.