Gas Prices Rising

Regular unleaded at $2.99 at Lake and Excelsior

Supply disruptions caused by the devastating hurricane have driven up gas prices all across the country.

At this point, it's petty to complain about this minor inconvenience when people are still dying. However, the rising gas prices are an example of how we are all connected to a larger system. With world-wide supply so tight already, there is no one who can pick up the slack.

I agree with the decision to release some of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. This is what it's for.

But this is also a signal that it's time to get serious about conservation. Supply will still be tight when shipments are restored, and another disaster or terrorist attack could jack up prices even more. Better to be prepared.

Update: Today (9/1) the price of gas at this station was up to $3.09/gallon this morning. This evening, it was $3.19/gallon. That's 20 cents in 24 hours!

Kos diarist and energy industry consultant Jerome a Paris examines the economic and geopolitical impact of Hurricane Katrina.

The Oil Drum has a very scary report from an anonymous Gulf oil industry insider. The insider's company is looking for their oil rigs. They can't find tens of them. The Coast Guard confirms that at least 20 oil rigs are gone. She says this will take hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil a day off the world market for months as they work to reset the wells.

The Oil Drum also has a link to a CNN report on the gasoline shortages due to parts of the Colonial and Plantation pipelines being knocked off line. These pipelines supply gasoline for much of the East Coast.

Robert Fitzgerald interview

Sick of me cross-posting yet? No? Good. Here's an interview with independent U.S. Senate candidate Robert Fitzgerald.


Help New Orleans

Please help hurricane victims in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.

Donate to the Red Cross.

Update: Ugh. This is horrible. Worse than I thought. It won't be as bad as the tsunami, but it's bad enough. Watching New Orleans destroyed in slow motion is heart-breaking. I hope the Army Corps of Engineers can stop the flooding soon, and maybe save the city. It doesn't look good at this hour, though.

Latest Census report

Poverty rate nears 13%: Fourth annual increase. By "fourth annual increase", we should note that millions more people have been thrown into poverty every year Bush has been in office. In other words, a rising tide sinks most boats. Alleviating poverty should be a primary measure of a president's economic performance. Bush fails miserably, yet I wonder whether he even cares: as long as the rich get richer there's no point in figuring out what to do about the poor. That is, besides keeping them mired in debt peonage by preventing them from declaring bankruptcy, anyway.

The Census Dept's press release and press briefing have some more detailed information, including the fascinating tidbit that America's Gini coefficient has been increasing for a decade. Which partly explains why the United States is down near the bottom at #76 (right between Senegal and Turkmenistan) in this list of countries by income inequality . Bush's America: where the poor still have abundant opportunities to get even poorer.

Roberts vs. Future

The New York Times Magazine has a truly fascinating peek into the issues that might face Roberts during his tenure on the court.

Seeking: Clarity on Iraq

President Bush's cliche-ridden rejoinder to Cindy Sheehan is, as David Frum puts it, Another Lost Opportunity. As a point of comparison, check out an article by Andrew F. Krepinevich, Jr. in this month's Foreign Affairs called simply, How to Win in Iraq.

Summary: Because they lack a coherent strategy, U.S. forces in Iraq have failed to defeat the insurgency or improve security. Winning will require a new approach to counterinsurgency, one that focuses on providing security to Iraqis rather than hunting down insurgents. And it will take at least a decade.

Such clarity would become the President. Have a look at what Wes Clark has to say, too. He sounds a similar bell in his recently released plan Before It's Too Late in Iraq.

Both authors make points that are painfully obvious, even from way up here in the cheap seats. To pull out now would compound the original error of invading. If we hope to achieve anything before we are forced out either by a loss of support from the American public or through the continuing incompetence of our elected leadership we need to begin to employ all of the tools at our disposal - Military, Political, Diplomatic - in a manner much more consistent with the lessons learned by other imperial nations waging wars against entrenched insurgencies. But if our elected leadership cannot or will not begin to clarify and act on a winning strategy - we must not send more soldiers to die.

Take him out

Legal Fiction: Other Religious Leaders Who Advocated Assassination.

Needlenose: Pat Robertson on Dictators (two different kinds).


Kombat Keyboard Award

Congratulations to John Hinderaker for being awarded the Kombat Keyboard Badge with Double Chickenhawks.

To be eligible for the Komat Keyboard, one must have risked nothing to advocate the Iraq war, while promoting it vociferously. However, to win the coveted Kombat Keyboard with Double Chickenhawks, one must go above and beyond the call of duty. For this, we salute you, Mr. Hinderaker.

Nothing bothers war-floggers more than being called a chickenhawk, because there's a little too much truth in packed into that little three syllable word, as Aaron Kinney points out in Salon:

It looks like Shapiro and Goldberg need some context. Contrary to what Shapiro says, we don't disagree with the principle that "those who do not serve in the military have just as much of a right to speak out about foreign policy as those who do." The problem is that we have a "chickenhawk" epidemic on our hands, beginning with an administration that's top-heavy with people who lust for war but haven't served in any themselves....

The other important bit of context here is the military's shortage of soldiers. Now that the ranks are thin, where are the war supporters who are willing to follow former professional football player Pat Tillman's lead and abandon a life of privilege to sacrifice for his country? People like Goldberg and the editors of The Weekly Standard may throw the word "sacrifice" around at Washington cocktail parties, but whether they'd be willing to sacrifice a family member to install an Iranian proxy in Iraq is another issue altogether.

Which other Minnesotans are eligible for this illustrious award?

Minnesota blogs I've seen recently

Here's a couple Minnesota blogs I've been checking out lately. Some of them haven't updated in a few days, but I hope they will soon.

A Nod To Nothing a fellow nerd blogging about life and politics from Eagan.

Minneapolis Upside Down is creating a slate for The Worst Government Money Can Buy in Minneapolis -- the most ineffectual, pathetic, and/or corporate-friendly Council-members in the city. Up next is Ward 10. Will my man Scott Persons make an appearance?

Minneapolis Confidential has it in for Ward 6's Dean Zimmerman, do-nothing Green.

Middlebrow Minnesota doesn't update much, but when he does it's worth reading.

Northstar Politics -- surely it's a mistake that NSP isn't on our blogroll already?!?

Knowledge -- Brian Hokanson, formerly blogging at Frozen Tundra and now attending the U of M, has a new gig, with a couple of guest posters. He's aiming at a more in-depth style. I'll be checking in regularly to see how it turns out.

The Cucking Stool provides a cure for the "common scold". Read this if you want to know what a razor-tounged Dalmatian from Edina has to say about Minnesota politics, and credulous columnists like Katherine Kersten. Funnier than it sounds.

Update: The Minneapolis Observer is also sporting a new look and now has link-able Ballot Box posts.

Minneapolis to Crawford

Minnesota Stories:Cindy Sheehan's plight resonated strongly with Minneapolis mom Alex. She and her young daughter Ella journeyed from Minneapolis to Camp Casey in Crawford, Texas and shot some video. This footage is from Aug 12-13, 2005. The whole family is down there now and you can follow along at EllaGoes.typepad.com.


Scott Persons: Corporate Tool

The Minneapolis Ward 10 primary is coming down to two frontrunners: Ralph Remington and Scott Persons.

Persons has the best funded campaign and came out strong at the DFL Ward 10 convention in April. His supporters dressed in identical yellow shirts, leading one wag to dub them the Persons Pod People. However, Remington charged to an upset victory, scoring 44% to Persons's 35% on the fifth and final ballot.

Since then, Persons has continued to rack up the bucks from developers while Remington scored a number of union endorsements. Remington refuses to accept money from people who do business with the city.

The race has gotten pretty heated, but even so I was disappointed to see Persons label unions a special interest:

"If Ralph is concerned about conflicts of interest, is he going to not take PAC money from labor unions?" Persons asked. "You'd be voting on labor contracts at the City Council. If you are really concerned about conflicts of interest, then you should forego those contributions as well."

Remington said he has been a theater union member for 15 years, and taking union donations is different from developer donations. "I have always stood up for the rights of working people," he said. "I am one of them."

Labor unions are special interests? That's some way to talk for a member of the party that claims to represent working people.

Then I found out that Scott Persons started a "community" group to support the 35W Access project as-is. The current design of this project expands Lake Street to seven lanes. This is appropriate for Woodbury, not the heart of Minneapolis.

I can understand feeling ambivalent about a project that's a done deal. I can understand coming to terms with the project and trying to make its damage to Lake Street as minimal as possible. I can even understand wanting a rationalized 35W exit system for South Minneapolis, and working to make it as good as possible.

But forming a group to support 35W Access as-is? Who is this guy?

I know that Scott Persons would be an effective City Council member. Unfortunately, he'd be very effective at getting things done in Ward 10 that I disagree with. Has he ever seen a new development he didn't like? Scott Persons is the developers' best friend.

Chris Dykstra on Almanac

Different Political Panel
"Two well-known bloggers join the political panel this week. John Hinderaker (powerlineblog.com) and Chris Dykstra (newpatriot.org) join Sarah Janecek and Ember Reichgott Junge on the couch."

Watch the video [Quicktime, 31 MB]


Let Marcus Speak!

Wednesday night's Minneapolis Mayoral Debate turned into an incredible eruption of chaos and democracy. Rybak and Mclaughlin are the guys you hear about, but Marcus Harcus and Farheen Hakeem completely stole the show. It was amazing. Watch the video here and read the Star Tribune article (which doesn't do it justice): Surprises jolt Minneapolis mayoral debate

Nation Still Sane

Poll: Many Back Right to Protest Iraq War

An overwhelming number of people say critics of the Iraq war should be free to voice their objections - a rare example of widespread agreement about a conflict that has divided the nation along partisan lines.

Nearly three weeks after a grieving California mother named Cindy Sheehan started her anti-war protest near President Bush's Texas ranch, nine of 10 people surveyed in an AP-Ipsos poll say it's OK for war opponents to publicly share their concerns about the conflict.

"Part of the Constitution is the First Amendment," said Mike Malone, a salesman from Odessa, Fla. "We have the right to disagree with the government."

The jury is still out on what percentage of Americans back the right to blog against the war.


Lethal Contradiction

USA Today: 'We will stay, we will fight and we will win'
President Bush responded Wednesday to calls for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq with an emphatic vow to stay there "until the terrorists have nowhere to run."

The Mercury News: Explosion of violence kills 39 on eve of constitution vote
[Hard-line Sunni cleric] Qubeisi said the Sunni group and Sadr agreed that no political process would be successful as long as U.S. troops remained in Iraq.

Meanwhile, Alex and Ella are returning to Camp Casey in Crawford, TX for the third (!) time - this time Dad gets to go, too. Watch for video of their first two trips next week on Minnesota Stories.

What noble cause? What task?

Jeff Huber makes an important point:

Mister Bush, standing at the podium, preparing to address a chapter of Veterans of Foreign Wars on the need to "stay the course" in Iraq. I couldn't resist. I turned the TV off.


But I heard and read plenty about his speech this morning. Long on abstract platitudes like "honor the sacrifices," "stay on the offensive," and "finish the task." Short on specifics like what exactly the "task" is or by what measures we might consider it "finished." And certainly no revelations on why we started it in the first place.

This gets to the heart of Cindy Sheehan's question. What is the noble cause we are fighting for in Iraq? What is the task we must finish? How will we know when it is done? When it's finished, are all our troops going to come home? At what cost (American and Iraqi) will we continue to fight? How many American deaths is too many...2,000? 3,000? 10,000? 33,000? 57,000? 400,000?

Until Bush defines the "task" succinctly with measurable milestones, America will not believe him when he says we must finish it.

P.S.: Kevin Drum provides a good list of things Bush could do to shore up support for the war. He notes, "[Y]ou can't announce a big speech and then say the same old thing over and over again. It ain't working."


Apology transcript

"Dear everybody, I, Marion G. Robertson, do sincerely apologize for issuing a fatwa calling for the death of Hugo Chavez. During our war on terror, it is obviously reckless to advocate terrorist acts against Presidents of functioning democracies.

Some of you reminded me that respect for life is a key tenet of Christianity, one that I must have lost in my drive to make piles of money. Indeed those Ten Commandments -- whose erection before courthouses I fantasize about constantly -- seem to indicate that murder is not even allowable by God. I really didn't know what I was doing, inciting people to break the Sixth Commandment. On behalf of the Christian Broadcasting Network, I acknowledge my error and promise to go back, and, y'know, read the Bible and stuff so I can stop being a sad goggle-eared hypocrite.

Oh, also, my lawyers tell me that I can now nuance the phrase 'take him out': it does not actually mean to kill Hugo Chavez, but to take him out of the country to another undetermined place. Yes, I was advocating kidnapping, not murder, do you not recall the brilliant success of the Xi'an incident?

Finally, if my attempt to incite terrorist acts really is in violation of the Inter-American Convention Against Terrorism, just please remember I didn't actually put up any money for the deed. I know this is a bad time to quibble, but I wasn't actually financing terrorism, just advocating it. So keep sending me money, I promise I will use it only for my harmless new Hugo Chavez Funeral Countdown feature."

Bullshit Detector

It's the must have accessory for any Bush speech:

Bill Moyer, 73, wears a "Bullshit Protector" flap over his ear while President George W. Bush addresses the Veterans of Foreign Wars. (AP Photo/Douglas C. Pizac)

Wiseass has courteously provided easy-to-follow instructions and templates for building your own.

The Pen and Sword

Commander Jeff Huber, US Navy (Retired), has a new blog called The Pen and Sword that is well worth a look. Check out today's post: Irony: Dead and Loving it. And read all the posts called Pavlovs Dogs of War covering the mindset of career military officers. Interesting stuff.

Gary Hart on the silent opposition

There is an old timey saying that if you have one finger pointed at the person you are blaming, you've got three fingers pointed at yourself. Much of the anti-war energy and opinion of the Democratic Party has been justifiably focused on pinning down Bush and the cadre of group thinkers that ushered us into Outhouse Iraq. But we are far past the stage when simply focusing on past bungles suffices as a reasonable political stance, or course of action. Democrats must demand more from their leaders. If you are cleaning up a mess, it's usually best to start with your own side ofthe street.

Gary Hart is the first Democrat I have read to convict the silent opposition party:

History will deal with George W. Bush and the neoconservatives who misled a mighty nation into a flawed war that is draining the finest military in the world, diverting Guard and reserve forces that should be on the front line of homeland defense, shredding international alliances that prevailed in two world wars and the Cold War, accumulating staggering deficits, misdirecting revenue from education to rebuilding Iraqi buildings we've blown up, and weakening America's national security.

But what will history say about an opposition party that stands silent while all this goes on? My generation of Democrats jumped on the hot stove of Vietnam and now, with its members in positions of responsibility, it is afraid of jumping on any political stove. In their leaders, the American people look for strength, determination and self-confidence, but they also look for courage, wisdom, judgment and, in times of moral crisis, the willingness to say: "I was wrong."


Union busting

Sorry to beat a dead horse, but if you had any doubts that Northwest set out the break the mechanics union, read this cheerleading New York Times article. NWA has been planning for 18 months to crush the mechanics.

P.S.: Props to Tom at Curly Tales for scoring some love from Mother Jones. MoJo was of course the fire-breathing labor activist who helped bring you the cushy working environment you enjoy today.

Shape of Earth: Views Differ

Intelligent Falling scientists demand equal time for "flat earth" theory.

How else to explain this New York Times headline?

Secular Iraqis Say New Charter May Curb Rights
President Bush, however, asserted that the Iraqi document guaranteed women's rights and freedom of religion.

Genocide is news

Genocide is news. However, it is apparently not worthy of a commercial.

The superficial "news" media make me sick. They are hurting America.

No hedge fund manager left behind

At last I have my answer to Why A Booming Economy Feels Flat:

Normally, as employees are able to produce more in each hour of work, the result is greater cash flow that can be divvied up between workers and owners or investors. In the long run, rising productivity means rising wages and living standards.

But in the short run, "most of the gains in the economy have gone into profits rather than wages," says Mr. Behravesh.

The latest numbers from the Labor Department, in fact, show average weekly earnings for US workers have fallen by 0.5 percent in the past year, after adjusting for inflation.

In other words the gains from the (supposedly) expanding economy are accruing almost entirely to those who least deserve it: the brokers and money-gamers; the CEOs and hedge farmers. Workers get nothing -- less than nothing if you figure in their vanishing pensions and escalating health care costs -- even as their productivity increases. And in case you think I'm just ranting from out in left field, let's not forget that even Treasury Secretary Snow admitted that "that less educated people have seen their incomes and wages grow more slowly." Since we know by the very presence of a grinning Yale-educated imbecile in the White House that American education is not a meritocracy and is closely tied to class, Snow's statement, decoded, means that poor people are getting screwed.

Meanwhile, let us reflect upon how blueblooded pasty-faced hedge fund managers earn their money: "I got into this business," says one hedge guy—is he stifling a yawn? -- "so I could make money while I sleep."

A funeral march

Nick Coleman's Sunday column about the mood of the striking mechanics captured my feelings well.

This isn't a labor strike. Labor strikes have winners and losers. This is a funeral march. At the end of a funeral march, there are no winners or losers.

There is just sadness.

Maybe that's why the striking Northwest Airlines mechanics look more grief-stricken than angry: They walked away from jobs they were losing anyway. It's like a man abandoning his burning home by saying, "I think I'll take a walk and get some fresh air."

Better to die standing on a picket line than on your knees.

"If we didn't strike, my job would be gone anyway," said Ken Dodge, 57, of Eden Prairie, who, despite 27 years at the airline, figures his job would be among the many Northwest wants to eliminate. "I find it all hard to believe."

Thankfully for the mechanics, they are skilled workers. Many of them have already been looking for new jobs and shoring up their finances:

Mark Herboldt, 39, a lead mechanic at Northwest, is among those who plan to find other work during the strike. In June, he got his general contractor's license. His plan is to spend mornings walking the picket line and afternoons renovating houses.

Herboldt also has in-depth knowledge of the inner workings of hydraulic motors -- a skill he has used in the past to make some extra money repairing large vehicles and construction equipment.

"It's important to remember that there are some talented people out here with a broad range of experiences," said Herboldt, who spoke Saturday while carrying a sign outside the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. "Just because we're on strike doesn't mean we'll be out of work."

They will probably be worse off than as unionized mechanics at Northwest Airlines, and many of them will probably leave the area, a sad loss for Minnesota. But they will survive.

Anyone who believes Northwest isn't out to break the union is kidding themselves. Zack Stephenson at MN Publius notes that NWA spent $100M on training replacement workers (via MPR). $100M would've bought a lot of compromise.

No, it will go something like this.

1. ) Northwest will last out the strike with replacement workers and scabs, already making less than they did as union mechanics.

2.) The union will give up. Most of its members will already have taken another job.

3.) Northwest will announce it is moving nearly all maintenance operations to Malaysia.

4.) Northwest will then lay off most of the replacement workers.

Update: Regarding the mood of the mechanics, check out the NWA forum at US Aviation. I think this post succinctly caputures why the mechanics are striking:

In this situation, however, the mechanics are being asked to vote themselves out of a job because NW wants to outsource a much larger portion of maintenance work. It would be quite difficult for me to vote away my job so that I can go to work fixing VW's while someone in Malaysia does the D checks on 747-400s that I used to do.


Clean campaigning

Always nice to see.

This is from the CARAG neighborhood in the 10th Ward, near my home.

Operation Minnesota Nice

A very close friend of mine is starting the Delano Chapater of Operation Minnesota Nice. It's a good thing, especially given the fact that Minnesota is deploying 2,600 national guardsmen in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. It is the largest deployment of Minnesota's citizen soldiers since WWII.

I opposed this war on strategic grounds. I believe George Bush should be impeached for the lies told to build the case for it and the corrupt bungling of the occupation. My views contrast very sharply with those who support the President at any cost, or who simply believe invading Iraq is the right thing to do to protect America. Civil dialog on this issue is rare.

Joining with each other to pack relief boxes for the troops is an opporutunity to get to know each other a little bit again. A soldier working in the field to do the country's bidding is not inherently ideological. That's your neighbor, your family member, your kid's classmate, out there trying to stay alive. For anybody who has ever said, "I oppose the war, but support the troops," this is an opportunity to put your money where your mouth is. For those of you who think supporting the troops means plastering you SUV with patriotic bumper stickers and yellow ribbons you bought at Wal Mart, this is an opportunity to put up or shut up.

So go to a packing party. Leave the cliches at home. Bring an open mind and lots of goodies. Talk. Pack. Look each other in the eye. It's at neighbor to neighbor gatherings like these where policy is really made.


Breaking the union

There are only a few hours to go until the deadline for the Northwest mechanics' strike.

Curly Tales has the best blog coverage of the Northwest strike that I've seen:
Countdown to getting your attention!
Strike Imminent I
Strike Imminent II - Hired Goons!
Strike Imminent III - Bush/Cheney
Strike Summary - The Big Picture

The big picture post is a good place to get up to speed with what the mechanics are facing.

I'm convinced that NWA management is not compromising because they want to break the union. After a long, failed strike the union will be powerless and NWA will be able to maintain their planes in Southeast Asia on the cheap with no problems.

Every strike I hear about fills me with a sense of dread. The odds in a strike have always been against the workers. Today's federal labor regulations tilt the tables to management under the guise of fairness. Companies are allowed to cooperate to break a strike, but unions are not. In the best of times, complaining to the National Labor Relations Board is a multi-year slog through bureaucracy that few individuals can handle, so corporations are free to act with near impunity to try to destroy the union.

Even the right to organize is a right in name only. Elections are contested and dragged out, while organizers are fired.

This leads to the pathetic weakness of unions today. And no one cares, unless they strike. And they usually lose. How depressing.

(For more on the sad state of the labor movement in the US, check out Which Side Are You On?: Trying to Be for Labor When It's Flat on Its Back by Chicago labor lawyer Thomas Geoghegan.)

Melendez, Carey spar on MPR

MN GOP Chair Ron Carey and DFL Chair Brian Melendez faced off on MPR's Mid Morning yesterday (Audio). The overal tone was conversational. It is a fair interview, I thought, with both sides getting some tough questions. [Note to MPR: Why as the DFL website inexplicably left off of your list of Web Resources associated with the story? Not good. I have asked them to fix this.]

Most interesting to me was the tone each Chair struck. Brian's core message was one of positive, populism: opportunity, accountabiltiy, prosperity, fair play.

Mr. Carey gave us a preview of the basic Republican pitch. Taxes bad. Democrats Bad. Bad Democrats, Bad! Any negative reality is a result of not getting what they want, not having enough control. What struck me about Carey's pitch is how little it maps to any kind of reality we know. This should give democrats a little lesson: Keep focusing on the facts. The Republican story that the GOP represents the party of small government and fiscal responsiblity is quickly exposed for the fairy tale it is when confronted with a small dose of reality.

In fact, Carey stumbled badly when confronted with the republican party's profligate spending.

First Carey says that Democrats are the party of big government:

Ron: I think the process sometimes from the DFL standpoint they have four candidates all have different credentials but they are all singing from the same page in the hymbook, basically, of "more government." And I think that's a clear distinction between the Republican candidates and the DFL candidates. I think the voters will have a clear choice next year.

Of course the Republicans, with more control than at any time in modern history have overseen an enormous expansion of government. You want big governemnt? Vote Republican.

In the same vein, Carey stumbled badly in logic and fluency when he attempted to respond to the following:

Miller: It used to be that the republican party stood for fiscal conservatism. But new research shows that pres. bush is the largest spending president since LBJ. Evidence shows that domestic spending, not even defense spending, has gone through the roof. He hasn't vetoed one spending bill. Ron Carey, does that make you comfortable that the Republican Party can no longer be associated with fiscal conservatism?

Ron: We are still the party of fiscal responsibility. The pressure is great, especially from, again even in congress, even when you have the majority, it's hard to get a majority to agree to cut spending. And that's something I personally .. I am a big detractor of pork. (further exchanges) ...We need to get back to fiscal responsiblity back into government.

Miller: But republicans say that, but the republicans are in charge. And they are not neccessarily doing that are they?

Ron: It's a matter of, um, uh, We are in charge in a numerical standpoint. It's something I was talking to the governor about recently, is that even though you have a numerical majority organizationally, having a majority philosophically is often times challenging. That's happened for both, challenge, for democrats and republicans, whoever has the organizational majority, getting this in the state house at this point in time is difficult, we have 68 republicans and 66 democrats. Trying to get all 68 republicans to agree on any one state bill is very difficult.

Melendez: If you look at the state level. Tim Pawlenty has presided over tremendous tax increases even though he doesn't admit it. Property taxes are going up while services are going down. I don't think that's fiscal responsibility and I think the Republicans need to own up to the fact that they have now become the spend and claim you're not taxing party.

Ron: I rember I think it was Senator Dean Johnson that, uh, was proposing in his caucus an 11% tax increase. We are already the 4th highest taxed state in the country and the democrats here in the state want us to be #1. You know it's one of those things, where, yes it's not a perfect system and the republicans are not perfect and able to get everything we want because we don't have total control but the democrats alternative and their proposals are more spending, so, I, if you look at the democrats for them to criticize us that we're not fiscally responsible, that is, uh, rather, uh, well, a surprising charge to have made.

Republican duplicity on this issue will hurt them badly in the next election cycle.

Note to Brian: It's ok to kick Randy Kelly out of the DFL. One of the qualifications for membership in any political party is that members don't spend their time endorsing candidates for other political parties. Democrats can and should vote on legislation sponsored by officials from other parties if that legislation supports our party's ideals. But a DFL endorsed candidate can't reasonably expect to actively campaign against the party and remain in the party. Kelly endorsed Bush and is campaigning for Norm Coleman, ergo, he obviously doesn't stand with the DFL. He stands with the Republicans. If he wants to be a Republican, let him be a Republican. Nothing wrong with that. But the DFL should reserve the right to act for, and not against, its interests.

Note to Ron: How old are you? You think the democrats have controlled the Minnesota Governorship for most of your lifetime? Can I suggest a historical review?

Note to Readers: I transcribed the interview. This is not my chosen profession. I tried very hard to catch every word, but I know I missed some.


Abu Ghraib revisited

What should the government do about the hidden Abu Ghraib photos and videos?

What is in them? The Congressmen who were allowed to see them last year emerged ashen-faced and talked of unspeakable horrors. Seymour Hersh has reported that they contain images of young boys being sodomized.

General Meyers says they are so horrible that releasing them would cause deaths (see also Salon's War Room post).

I believe it. Bad things happened there, very bad things. We never got to the bottom of it, and the world remembers.

The Bush administration and the military have never owned up to the failure and inhumanity that the tragedy of Abu Ghraib represents. A few grunts have been punished, but generals in the chain of command were promoted. Donald Rumsfeld was praised. The architect of the legal case for torture was made Attorney General. And armchair generals and pundits minimized, excused, and even justified what when on there. In a very real way, America never owned up to what we were responsible for at Abu Ghraib.

Would America be shocked to see these new photos?

Deep inside, I am worried that we wouldn't be. The right wing and their media machine have so successfully rationalized the abuses of Abu Ghraib to promote their Cult of Bush. I'm afraid even video of soldiers sodomizing teenaged boys wouldn't make a mark. In their eyes, America can do no wrong.

And another piece of our national soul would be chipped away, cheapened by these men and women who crave power above all else, above all morality.

Lonely teardrops from Mr. Republican's grandson

Bob "Zero Tolerance" Taft fights back tears (and the angry ghost of his grandfather):

I am here today to publicly apologize to the people of the State of Ohio for my failure to provide complete financial disclosure statements to the Ohio Ethics Commission as mandated by law. I accept total responsibility for my mistake, and I'm sorry.

And here I was thinking that the man's astonishing 19% approval rating was caused mostly by Coingate, a rollicking farce of standard-issue Republican greed and thievery. Hell, seems only yesterday that John Rowland (R-CT) was forced to resign for similar reasons. What is up with these Republican governors who must piss upon the public trust so readily? I'm even getting a bit of cognitive dissonance, since no matter how much I despise Tim Pawlenty, I know I'll never catch him fishing around in my grandma's purse or accepting shady hockey tickets. (I also wonder why a wealthy blueblood like Bob Taft even needs to get free golf matches, etc., surely he can just pay his fair share? At least poor people steal for a reason.)

Anyway, in a coupla weeks I will likely be visiting at least one sacred Ohio Republican shrine (including the animatronic Charlie Taft oracle), and I shall report back with my findings.

Great Recruitment Video

Green Day, Wake Me Up When September Ends

Cindy Sheehan Vigils

Did anyone go to a vigil for Cindy Sheehan? Boston's Steve Garfield posted a video of the vigil in his corner of Massachusetts, set to "Song for Cindy Sheehan". (I'm not really much for folkie political songs, but I didn't mind this one.)

I've been meaning to post about my friend Alex's journey to Crawford with her daughter Ella. They're back in Minneapolis now, but you can read all about it on EllaGoes.typepad.com. Their family went to a vigil here last night and they posted a few pics.

This woman's son is currently in Iraq driving convoys around Tikrit.

Camp Casey Flickr group
Grace at Camp Casey - 7 min. documentary


Lost cat?

Does this cat need a home?

This young cat has been hanging around 31st and Emerson in Uptown all evening today (Wednesday, August 17). She has a red collar with metal stars on it, but no nametag. She's just been fixed; the stitches are still visible. And she's very friendly.

Hopefully, she is an outdoor cat or she just got out and lives nearby, and her owner will find her.

But if you know anyone in Uptown who is missing a cat of this discription, please email me, or just come look for her.



Touched by his pharyngeal arches

Pharyngula is an arch science blog by a rural Minnesota biologist who is fighting the good fight against those vestigial "intelligent design" crazies. You know those folks who should have died out in the nineteenth century, but reappear among us wishing to confuse impressionable kids by teaching religion in science classes. We used to call them "creationists" or "blinkered scripture zealots" didn't we?

In any case, despite Pharyngula's best efforts, I still retain my fervent belief in the flying spaghetti monster. I know that my noodly master is Real because He has His own wikipedia entry. [Whereas pharyngula does not.] [But I'm adding him to our blogroll anyway, because this red-blooded patriotic Minnesotan is researching the effects of alcohol on fish.]


The Nicer, Cleaner Mark Kennedy

Mark Kennedy seems to have picked up a few tricks from the Bushies over the years. If you don't like the truth, just take out your black pen and cross it out. Or better yet, hit the delete button. Instant better reality.

Kennedy website edits newspaper clippings

The headline on Mark Kennedy's U.S. Senate campaign website, over excerpts from an Associated Press article, said he is "A Common-Sense Get Things Done Guy," and the AP material under the headline made the case that the Republican congressman voted with Democrats on 10 key issues this year.

Missing from the story were 13 sentences in which Democrats and political analysts accused Kennedy of disguising a career of extreme conservative voting by only recently casting a few votes with Democrats as he prepares for a U.S. Senate race. No link was supplied to the original version of the AP story, so readers who came to this article via the Kennedy website might think that they were getting the AP's portrayal of the candidate as a bipartisan moderate.

Isn't that special? If it works for Kennedy, it can work for me too. Mitch Berg, over at Shot in the Dark wrote a very complimentary piece on me once...in it he says:

Chris Dykstra is right and his critics pretty much wrong.

Awww shucks, Mitch, you shouldn't have. And thank you Congressman Mark Kennedy! Thank you for teaching me and my kids such a gol darn good trick! What a Putz.


On Roberts redux: Yes, no, maybe

Here I was all ready to give Roberts an easy ride. Then I hear he has developed amnesia regarding his stint on the steering committee of the Federalist Society. Roberts also "forgot" the time he spent as a lobbyist for the cosmetic industry. Doesn't that just feel like a load of crap? Throw that in the oven and you have the exact recipe for baking a fillibuster.

On the other hand, along comes a sweet little story about how Roberts Donated Help to a Gay Rights Case. That crunchy sound eminating from the east is the sound of ultra-conservatives squirming.

Perhaps the biggest Roberts endorsement I have read is Anne Coulter's dire warning against stealth nominees. Generally speaking, if Coulter is against it, I'm for it. More will be revealed.

Dobson a few cells short of a full deck

James Dobson compares embryonic stem cell research to a Nazi medical experiment. His response to his critics is equally unhinged.

Novak earns release

Say good bye to the cryptkeeper. Novak blows a gasket on air. Then CNN suspends him. It's about time.


Cash and carry

Spendthrift Nation: Americans have stopped saving for a rainy day:

Instead, they are living paycheck to paycheck, depending on credit cards to get them through emergencies, and hoping that the rising value of their homes will give them a retirement nest egg.

This personal economic chasm is showing up in the national savings rate, which has been declining for years. Tuesday, the Commerce Department reported that the personal savings rate fell to zero in June, the lowest since a one-month buying binge in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. The United States is on track to record a savings rate for the year below 1 percent, which would be the lowest since the depths of the Great Depression, when the rate turned negative.


"[A] large proportion" of Americans are not saving and have never saved, [Dallas] Salisbury acknowledges. "That's largely a function of income.... They're just barely managing to survive as it is, and they don't have enough income to save."

A recent Consumer Federation survey found the lack of savings was especially troublesome to women. More than 70 percent said they worried about their finances in the last year, and two-thirds said that unexpected expenses - things like the furnace breaking or the car needing to be fixed - were the cause of that worry.

That's because they had little or no money set aside. More than 40 percent of all women had less than $500 in the bank. For those 25 to 34 years old, the percentage without a rainy day fund jumped to 55 percent.

As far as I know, the definition of personal savings is pretty simple: income minus expenditure (let's leave the bubblicious real estate market aside for now). So if it's at the lowest level since the Great Depression, surely there is some sort of dysfunction in the American economy? This is especially alarming, since if people aren't saving, and pensions are less stable than ever, and our President keeps pushing that daft Social Security "reform", then what sorts of desperation and fear will we see when Generations X, Y, and Z attempt to retire? Or will retirement itself become a quaint forgotten notion, something achievable by only the very wealthiest among us? Let's fight for better wages and benefits today (and therefore better savings habits) and maybe our heirs can avoid a landscape of forty nonagenarian greeters cueing the electric eye and bumrushing us at every Walmart sliding door.