consultants are sandburs

Monday, May 25, 2009

PLAYOFF BALL - A great photo, several ways to look at it.



The photo is by Kevin Kolczynski/Reuters, from NYTimes, here.

During the "regular" season, the play cannot be too aggresive because the human body cannot take it over a far-too-long schedule. In the NBA playoffs, however, you see defense as intense as in the college playoffs. What do you say about the conference finals, about this photo?

Any one of four teams remaining in contention could win the championship - things are that balanced. If you get the big paycheck, your job is to have your hands on the ball, if you don't get the big paycheck your job is to have your hands on someone getting the big paycheck. If you get the big paycheck, you get to wear team color rubber band wrist wear. How many years of college ball are represented in the photo? Take Howard, Garnett, Kobe, LeBron, and McGrady - zero years of college ball among them, and it would be a difficult team to beat - yet now the NBA requires at least one year of college by closing the draft to new high school graduates. Going into the playoffs everyone talked about the finals matchup, Kobe and LeBron. It could be Dwight and Carmelo, we see that now.

Will the T-wolves ever reach an elite level, or is small market a burden they will not overcome? Will the Knicks ever again be a high quality team? Given enough years, well beyond my life expectancy, the answers are probably yes and yes.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Doubting dogma --- Sibel Edmonds and Aubrey Immelman have comparable Memorial Day posts.

Sibel Edmonds on her new "123 Real Change" web outlet, here.

Aubrey Immelman on his continued "congressional candidate site," here.

Sibel Edmonds, the whistleblower who got no press attention or respect.

Aubrey Immelman, the congressional candidate who got no press attention or respect.

(Then we in Minnesota are specially blessed - having Colleen Rowley, who was both whistleblower and congressional candidate; and who in each capacity ended up ignored and disrespected by our gloried mainstream media interests).

Is lack of respect attached to the message, not resonant enough with proper news and opinion, in the minds of those owning our free press?

Is it father-knows-best thinking, the best thing being telling us "what we should be told, what it's best for us to be told," never mind what we truly need to know? (What civilized, cultured and critically thinking adults might ask and want reported and analyzed.)

Is it the Few Good Men Nicholson film character saying, "You can't handle the truth;" the Sutherland character in JFK, alluding to a bigger host of questions than having answers - "The question is not who killed JFK, but why was he killed?"

Decide things on your own.

Get into the thought process of doubting dogma.

Read both posts.

Look at the items each links.

________UPDATE________
Immelman biographical info, here.

Edmonds, take a pick, a three-for-a-dollar sale, here, here and here. She has just started the blog so it's no task to read it all. Her blogger profile is accessible from the blog.

Isn't that a great photo of Nicholson from the film? I bet his character, when not Marine Corps comandant at Guantanemo at one point carried the nuclear football for the Pres.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Pawlenty should issue a certificate for Franken as winner. Coleman owes Franken cash -- CREW says, Norm, not from campaign loot.

There's Strib reporting on the seemingly unending saga, here and here. Have a look. From the first of those two links:

[N]ational Democrats pressed Gov. Tim Pawlenty to sign an election certificate as soon as the Minnesota Supreme Court rules on Coleman's appeal.

Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, signed a letter urging Minnesota's Republican governor to allow Franken to be seated if, as Democrats expect, the state's high court rules against Coleman.

"To allow this process to continue into the federal courts for no other reason than to deny for as long as possible the seating of another Democratic Senator would make what has been a bad situation for Minnesotans even worse," Kaine said. "I urge you to do everything in your power and influence to bring this process to an end."

Coleman and other Republicans have suggested he might take his election challenge into the federal courts if the Minnesota Supreme Court upholds a three-judge panel that ruled Franken the victor by 312 votes.


It has been a bad situation for Minnesota voters. Norm Coleman dragging it out into the federal courts would make it worse. Pawlenty should do the right thing, issue the certificate, but he's who he is, and will not.

Strib reports, Pawlenty vetoed the Motor Voter bill; showing who he is; showing he wants fewer rather than more voters to participate - the fewer, the better his chances of more of the same.

ANOKA COUNTY - Shortened library hours as a sign of hard times; plus public-spirited people who deserve mention.

From the library's "What's Happening" webpage:

Open hours of service at all Anoka County Library branches will change beginning Sunday, May 3. The change represents a 13-percent decrease in hours for the library system and is in relation to reductions in funding to county governments.

The new schedule will be:

Monday Noon - 8:00 pm
Tuesday 10:00 am - 6:00 pm
Wednesday Noon - 8:00 pm
Thursday 10:00 am - 6:00 pm
Friday 10:00 am - 6:00 pm
Saturday 10:00 am - 5:00 pm

Though the number of open hours is being reduced system-wide, the hours are consistent across all Anoka County Library buildings and are designed to be easy-to-remember and convenient for the majority of library users. Anoka County Library Board President Cathy Montain said, "At a time when residents use libraries even more, cutting hours was an extremely difficult decision. The Anoka County Library Board based the new hours on extensive data gathered about customer use, best practices for energy conservation, and the most efficient use of staff." Montain expects the change in open hours will last at least through the summer. Other adjustments may be made at the beginning of the school year to respond to additional budget challenges.

24-hour access to the Library’s website and catalog, online resources, and request and renewal services will continue as usual. These resources are available to anyone with a current Anoka County Library card and personal identification number (PIN). Residents who do not have a card are urged to join nearly 300,000 other card holders by stopping at their local Anoka County Library to sign up for a card. Identification, such as a driver’s license, is required. For more information about the library’s hours or services or to access online resources, please visit the website at www.anoka.lib.mn.us.


Additional "What's Happening" page news - Friends of the Library donate; and, "The Consul of Mexico in St. Paul, Minnesota, Ana Luisa Fajer, recently presented a gift of Spanish language books for children to Anoka County Library. The Library was one of more than 100 libraries, schools, clinics and community centers to receive a gift of books. The Consul's book project is intended to helps area library users learn and practice Spanish." This is very good. I recall not taking advantage of high school Spanish language classes, a mistake, and now I can only muddle through in one language, English.

Web access for the Library is very helpful, including renewal opportunity, and while those reading this probably do not need help navigating the Internet they might know others who could use guidance and a boost to give it a try; and passing on this "What's Happening" info might be helpful - the library provides beginner's tutoring:

Adults can learn to use the Internet at several branches of the Anoka County library. Taught by librarians, the one-hour private classes give participants a basic introduction to the Internet. There is no charge for the classes, but pre-registration is required.

Call the individual branch libraries listed below for specific class times or for more information.

Centennial 763-717-3294
Crooked Lake 763-576-5972
Mississippi 763-571-1934
Rum River 763-576-4695



PEOPLE TO MENTION - THE LIBRARY BOARD -&- FRIENDS OF THE LIBRARY

The board:

Cathy Montain, President
Ellen Ward, Vice President
Jane Daniels
Robert Hayden
Norma Jean Falink
Diane Letendre
Adrienne Yeager

Board agendas and minutes of past meetings are online, here.

###

Friends of the Library, 2008 Board members:

Len Powell
Doug Zbikowski
Diane Racette
Karla Gedell
Kari Lohse
Chris Wysocki
Betsy O'Berry
Nancee Halling
Bob Overturf
Dennis Shanley
Kim Halberg


NEXT, there is the library staff - bright lights in the County's service to residents --- in the past I have used the library's "contact us" access to suggest items for the collection, there's a page for that but you have to give your user ID, and now with hard times upon us I have one item on interlibrary loan, a service that substitutes for adding to the collection when the County is cash-strapped. Beyond that, older books might be less appealing as collection additions, and the library has a helpful contact-and-usage notes page, here, indicating:

Purchase Suggestions
For newer titles (published in the current or previous year) please fill out the Anoka County Library Purchase Form located in the Catalog under "Contact Us." (Use Interlibrary Loan for titles older than one year.) Feature films may be requested only after they are made available to the general public in DVD or VHS formats. Note: You will need to enter your library barcode number and PIN to access the form.


Finally, while I have criticized Dan Erhart in the past, he has been steadfast over time in his support of the library, and he deserves positive recognition and praise for that.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Blue Man posts on Gov. Tim Pawlenty and higher education. Have a look.

It is a must read item on lying during campaigning. Here.

This photo is a message to the Guv.

Just because you can do it does not mean you should, or that it's impressive when you do.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

RAMSEY TOWN CENTER - COBORNS - BANK OF ELK RIVER. It is official now, the Town Center BER branch will be opening mid-July, 2009.

A marriage of convenience, at least that!

Earlier, I mentioned buried in a paragraph that Bank of Elk River might ultimately locate a branch at the Ramsey Town Center Coborn's store - and I said then, wrap up the litigation, get it done, the people want it, the people need it.

It is now official, although I have not seen any "official press release" paperwork from either the grocery outlet or the bank.

The Business Journal report discloses:

Friday, April 10, 2009 - Elk River bank to open in Ramsey
Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal
- by Jennifer Niemela Staff Writer


The Bank of Elk River received approval to open a branch in a Coborn’s grocery store at the Ramsey Town Center.

The Elk River-based bank will open the branch in July, said Pat Dwyer, president of the bank.

The approval marks the end of a conflict between The Bank of Elk River and Community National Bank, based in Lino Lakes, over which bank would be allowed to open a branch in the Ramsey Town Center, Dwyer said. The Bank of Elk River applied with the Minnesota Department of Commerce to open the branch 18 months ago. However, Community National Bank, which financed the Ramsey-based Ramsey Town Center, claimed sole rights to operate a bank in the complex, he added.

A judge decided Community National Bank did not have exclusive rights to operate a branch there, and The Bank of Elk River’s application was approved by the Department of Commerce in March, Dwyer said.

Sara Mauch, a spokeswoman for Community National Bank, had no comment.

The new branch will employ four or five full-time workers, Dwyer said.

Vanman Architects and Builders Inc., based in Golden Valley, is designing the branch. Construction of the facility will cost about $150,000, Dwyer said.

jniemela@bizjournals.com | (612) 288-2138

You might think it quaint, but Bank of Elk River has chosen to populate their website pages with the image suggesting they are as good as the people they employ - an interesting concept in the days of workforce retrenchment and use of temp-staffing:



The Vanman firm did the work on the main downtown Elk River expansion, a year or so ago, in downtown Elk River - not on the river, but between Highway 10 and Main Street, just west of where Main Street crosses the BNSF tracks, (by the old Otsego bridge - across Main Street from that intersection), and near to where the Diamond City Bakery is located.

This means you don't need to plan a bakery bread trip, to play the cash machine - but the bakery is well worth the trip to Elk River, even for those of us living in Ramsey!

FYI: The Bank's branch location in the Ramsey Coborn's store will be adjacent to the pharmacy and the customer service - cleaners location at the west Coburn's main store entrance, and the Coborn's store manager said it will be "a full service outlet," originating loans etc., (i.e., not just a quick-stop outlet as at the Bank's Walmart location in Elk River).

Three years earlier would have been even nicer, but we who are loyal Bank of Elk River customers look forward to this expansion step, at a time when other financial outlets are restrained and less aggressive about public service branch expansions.

Friday, May 15, 2009

How you gonna keep Daddy down on the farm after he's seen DC?

Daddy Warbucks.








From here, there is this:

Q&A: Lawrence Wilkerson
Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, the former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell, on the presidential importance of "getting the American people off their too-pampered butts."

Mother Jones: Of all the things the Bush administration leaves behind, what's the hardest one to fix?

Lawrence Wilkerson: The executive branch precedents that he, Cheney, and David Addington have established—which severely disturb the balance of power among the three branches of government. Candidates for the Oval Office can say, now, that they will reverse these precedents, but once in the presidential seat they will be very reluctant to relinquish power. This is not good for our republic.

MJ: What's the easiest?

LW: Our diminished reputation—close Guantanamo, denounce torture, restore habeas corpus, and declare, as John Kennedy did, that America is back to her time-honored tradition of not starting wars.

MJ: What would you say have been the president's most notable policy failures, foreign and domestic?

LW: Foreign policy failures: Iraq, Iran, North Korea, Syria, Lebanon, the trans-Atlantic relationship, the special relationship with the United Kingdom, the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, the neglected relationship with Japan, the now-collapsing relationship with South Korea due to beef and the failure to ratify the KORUS FTA, and the nonrelationship with Russia.

Domestic failures? A profligate management of fiscal affairs and a collapsing economy; no action on the huge unfunded liabilities the nation confronts—Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security leading the way—emergency disaster relief as in the responses to Katrina and Rita; no action whatsoever—other than negative action—on the nation's energy needs for the future coupled with a sustainable environmental protection program, including actions to begin to deal with planetary warming; and absolutely no tax reform worth a farthing—in fact, the tax system is worse now than ever in our history.

MJ: Is the damage caused by any of these failures irreparable?

LW: The damage the Bush administration accelerated majorly with regard to the economy will endure for a decade or more, and the lack of action on energy and the environment may be devastating.

MJ: Which problem created by the administration most urgently needs addressing?

LW: Energy and the environment and the economic morass the Bush administration leaves behind—a morass that clearly has its beginnings well before Bush but, as I said, was majorly accelerated by him.

MJ: What lessons about leadership should the next president glean from the past eight years? What are the dos and don'ts?

LW: Leadership from the Oval Office—and sustained, effective use of the bully pulpit—is essential to getting the American people off their too-pampered butts and into meeting successfully the long-haul challenges of fixing major problems in the very fabric of our republic's life, both domestically and in our international relations.

MJ: What legacy of the Bush administration will still be felt 50 years from now?

LW: Lack of positive action on energy and the environment and profligate and irresponsible spending with no commensurate action to deal with looming liabilities.

MJ: How are we safer and how are we less safe than we were on September 10, 2001?

LW: To give the administration some credit, we did make a significant shift in focus under this administration, once it was awakened by the attacks of September 11, in the struggle against global terrorism—which had been transpiring since the fall of the Shah in Iran in 1979. We moved from a strictly law enforcement focus to a more robust focus that included the military instrument in an effective way in Afghanistan. However, the lack of an accompanying strategy to use the other elements of our national power—predominantly our ideas through an effective public diplomacy—has almost nullified the other gains. So, on balance, I believe we are about in the same place with regard to the dangers of global terrorism. That is to say, we will be attacked again because though we have made tactical progress in disrupting our principal enemy, Al Qaeda, we have not made strategic gains in eliminating the reasons for such a group to exist and prosper. In fact, we have lost ground strategically. If any effort in the world has gained ground strategically, it has been the effort by moderate Muslims in the world to denounce and cease support for Al Qaeda. That effort has prospered despite US lack of attention to supporting it in meaningful ways and despite US actions, such as in Iraq, that made that effort all the more difficult to carry out successfully.


Then there is this, same Col. Lawrence B. Wilkerson:

First, more Americans were killed by terrorists on Cheney's watch than on any other leader's watch in US history. So his constant claim that no Americans were killed in the "seven and a half years" after 9/11 of his vice presidency takes on a new texture when one considers that fact. And it is a fact.

There was absolutely no policy priority attributed to al-Qa'ida by the Cheney-Bush administration in the months before 9/11. Counterterrorism czar Dick Clarke's position was downgraded, al-Qa'ida was put in the background so as to emphasize Iraq, and the policy priorities were lowering taxes, abrogating the ABM Treaty and building ballistic missile defenses.

Second, the fact no attack has occurred on U.S. soil since 9/11--much touted by Cheney--is due almost entirely to the nation's having deployed over 200,000 U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and not to "the Cheney method of interrogation."

Those troops have kept al-Qa'ida at bay, killed many of them, and certainly "fixed" them, as we say in military jargon. Plus, sadly enough, those 200,000 troops present a far more lucrative and close proximity target for al-Qa'ida than the United States homeland. Testimony to that fact is clear: almost 5,000 American troops have died, more Americans than died on 9/11. Of course, they are the type of Americans for whom Cheney hasn't much use as he declared rather dramatically when he achieved no less than five draft deferments during the Vietnam War.

Third--and here comes the blistering fact--when Cheney claims that if President Obama stops "the Cheney method of interrogation and torture", the nation will be in danger, he is perverting the facts once again. But in a very ironic way.

My investigations have revealed to me--vividly and clearly--that once the Abu Ghraib photographs were made public in the Spring of 2004, the CIA, its contractors, and everyone else involved in administering "the Cheney methods of interrogation", simply shut down. Nada. Nothing. No torture or harsh techniques were employed by any U.S. interrogator. Period. People were too frightened by what might happen to them if they continued.

What I am saying is that no torture or harsh interrogation techniques were employed by any U.S. interrogator for the entire second term of Cheney-Bush, 2005-2009. So, if we are to believe the protestations of Dick Cheney, that Obama's having shut down the "Cheney interrogation methods" will endanger the nation, what are we to say to Dick Cheney for having endangered the nation for the last four years of his vice presidency?

Likewise, what I have learned is that as the administration authorized harsh interrogation in April and May of 2002--well before the Justice Department had rendered any legal opinion--its principal priority for intelligence was not aimed at pre-empting another terrorist attack on the U.S. but discovering a smoking gun linking Iraq and al-Qa'ida.

So furious was this effort that on one particular detainee, even when the interrogation team had reported to Cheney's office that their detainee "was compliant" (meaning the team recommended no more torture), the VP's office ordered them to continue the enhanced methods. The detainee had not revealed any al-Qa'ida-Baghdad contacts yet. This ceased only after Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, under waterboarding in Egypt, "revealed" such contacts. Of course later we learned that al-Libi revealed these contacts only to get the torture to stop.

There in fact were no such contacts. (Incidentally, al-Libi just "committed suicide" in Libya. Interestingly, several U.S. lawyers working with tortured detainees were attempting to get the Libyan government to allow them to interview al-Libi....)

Less important but still busting my chops as a Republican, is the damage that the Sith Lord Cheney is doing to my political party.

He and Rush Limbaugh seem to be its leaders now. Lindsay Graham, John McCain, John Boehner, and all other Republicans of note seem to be either so enamored of Cheney-Limbaugh (or fearful of them?) or, on the other hand, so appalled by them, that the cat has their tongues. And meanwhile fewer Americans identify as Republicans than at any time since WWII. We're at 21% and falling--right in line with the number of cranks, reprobates, and loonies in the country.

When will we hear from those in my party who give a damn about their country and about the party of Lincoln?

When will someone of stature tell Dick Cheney that enough is enough? Go home. Spend your 70 million. Luxuriate in your Eastern Shore mansion. Shoot quail with your friends--and your friends.

Stay out of our way as we try to repair the extensive damage you've done--to the country and to its Republican Party.


Contrary to that, there are those who in a way know Daddy's gone, but they hope and hope:





Oh Daddy I - I'll love you for ever and ever!

KAZEMINY - My Google Alert for him [and his storied ties to our Norm Coleman] is lighting up like a pinball machine.

"Lighting up like a pinball machine" is a generational term. Hopefully even the younger readers here, if any, know the meaning. Beyond that, here are the links about the FBI's apparent widening of its probe of Norm Coleman - Nasser Kazeminy fiscal ties:

Wonkette, (linking to PiPress - with a you-have-to-see-it animated gif image reworking of Norm's Hofstra student radical days yearbook pic, and comment about the Palin clothing-gate situation - but w/o noting that it was Norm's landlord's credit card that was used for Palin dress-ups during the RNC in St. Paul, with the entire Norm Coleman - Jeff Larson landlord-tenant bona fides thing itself being a related but separate ethics and wrongful-gift question).

PiPress.

Strib.

Minnesota Independent.

TC Daily Planet (good luck in not getting their worthless log-in screen intercept-&-nuisance).

TPM.

AmericaBlog.

Kos.

BloggersForChange.


_________________
NOTE: Google News is giving me a "503 server error" message, even on several retries. When you log onto Google News, do this: search = Norm Coleman Nasser Kazeminy (and that will get you a fresh list of all the hits). They probably are having a data storm on their news servers from the Twin Cities area at this point in the morning. Perhaps Norm's or Nasser's IT guru groups have instigated a denial of service flaming, or such, if sophisticated enough to do so [remember, the ones who left the donor data open to public access and then cried and whined over "hacking" into Norm's campaign site - those gurus].

Finally, I got through with that Google to G-News, and it listed first 1-18 of 225 hits; with these additional sample items beyond the Google Alert posts listed above:

MinnPost.

MSNBC.

City Pages.

Have a "Google look." There's more.

AND -- It was Leo Durocher who said, "Nice guys finish last." Does that mean Norm must be a nice guy? Relative to Franken, at least, and relative to the recount issues between them. (Actually, however, it was Barkley who finished last, so Norm's of the hook for at all being nice, which is more fitting to and in line with the general impression he leaves with people.)




_____UPDATE_____________
Coleman's several questionable involvements can be labeled; suitgate; DeepMarineGate; RemodelGate; and LarsonGate; the first two being the Nasser Kazeminy items - suits as gifts, $75,000 as payments - Kazeminy to Coleman; the remodel having been a press topic as in what did it cost and from where did he get the cash, (but I have seen no probing questions of whether sweetheart contracting pricing/deals, etc., were at play); and lastly the Jeff Larson connection aka "rentgate" where Coleman got discount housing in DC from GOP operative Larson while having Larson's wife on the official Coleman payroll for something, if I recall properly, like $100,000/yr (and - note: Larson's credit card reportedly was used in Palin purchasing in St. Paul during that family's RNC dress-up effort, hence, a natural but hard to pin down question is whether Larson ever fronted credit for our Norm at TC stores as Nasser K. allegedly did).

What this new batch of stories adds to what's been known is: (1)an allegation that one or more confidential sources told press members that the FBI is questioning beyond the Deep Marine payment allegations and into suitgate matters; and (2) that Coleman has now formally requested to use money people gave to further his running for Senator not for that campaigning, but instead for his [not Laurie's] various legal costs of the various "...gates" he's involved himself in with the claim that each, and consequent watchdog group complaints, touches his official Senatorial function/campaigning and is thereby a justified redirection of the loot.

That latter thread is the more interesting and informative - diverting money if the FEC will let him.

Rachel Stassen-Berger of PiPress, here, reports on the effort and links to the pdf copy online of the Coleman request for FEC blessing of the money diversion, this link:

http://saos.nictusa.com/aodocs/1063452.pdf

Cynthia Dizikes of MinnPost reports on the diversion effort, and after setting out what things Coleman would have FEC approve diverting money to, she states:

Coleman’s main legal argument is that these issues emerged from his role as a U.S. senator. Under Senate Ethics rules, senators can only spend campaign funds "to defend legal actions arising out of their campaign, election, or performance of their official duties."

Brett Kappel, a lawyer for Vorys, Sater, Seymour, and Pease LLP here, told MinnPost in December, "There is a long line of FEC advisory opinions allowing members of Congress to use campaign funds to pay for legal fees.”

“I think a lot will depend on what, specifically, he asks for,” Kappel said. “I would expect they would allow him to use campaign funds associated with the [personal finance forms] investigation but will have less success with other legal fees."

At the time, Kappel referred to last year’s FEC advisory opinion for Sen. David Vitter, R-La., as an applicable precedent. In that case, the commission approved the use of campaign funds to pay for Vitter's legal fees associated with a Senate Ethics investigation into a prostitution allegation. They did not approve the use of campaign funds to pay legal fees associated with Vitter being called as a witness in a prostitution prosecution.

In Coleman’s request, his team said that his case “differs significantly” from Vitter’s case, which “had little to do with his status as a federal officeholder.”

In contrast, the Coleman team argued that the former senator “was targeted in the two lawsuits just before the 2008 election because of his position as a senator and candidate, and for no other reason whatsoever.”

Whether the Commission will accept that rationale remains to be seen.


Yeah, although each is in the GOP Vitter's case differed, and we need not imagine Coleman romping somehow in diapers with paid lady companions - something Vitter did and was allowed to move funds around to defend consequent legal difficulties, not from the activity but from its being outed [by Larry Flint apparently] to public attention. And unlike William Jefferson [a Louisianan like Vitter but in the Dem camp] Coleman was not discovered with a refigerator stuffed with unexplained amounts of cash - despite claimed Kazeminy largesse via the Houston Deep Marine firm, nobody's yet located any such refrigerator, safe deposit box, shoebox under the bed at the Larson basement in DC, etc. - at least not yet.

But, Vitter is a precedent for how loose the FEC will let politicians play with cash, once they make a request. Strib's coverage of the FEC request to divert money, reported here, sucinctly explains:

The request comes as Coleman is locked in an expensive court battle with DFLer Al Franken over the disputed U.S. Senate election. They have created committees to pay for some of the expenses of the recount and trial.

The Minnesota DFL pounced Tuesday on Coleman's request to spend campaign funds on legal fees and other costs related to the lawsuits, which were filed shortly before the Nov. 4 election. "Donors to former Senator Coleman believed that they were donating to his campaign, not to help defend him from his personal legal problems," said a statement by DFL spokesman Eric Fought.

But in the letter to the FEC seeking an advisory opinion, Ginsberg said the expenses were not personal but incurred as a direct result of Coleman's being a federal officeholder and candidate. The letter said the costs came from monitoring the lawsuits and responding to allegations and media inquiries.

"Senator Coleman was targeted in the two lawsuits just before the 2008 election because of his position as a senator and candidate, and for no other reason whatsoever," Ginsberg wrote.

Link to office at issue

While the FEC does not allow campaign funds to be used for purely personal expenses, it has allowed their use for legal expenses related to a candidate's office or campaign.


So for the detailed rationale Coleman's laywer Ginsberg argues, read the FEC pdf document that Stassen-Berger linked to, again, online here.

Additonal coverage of the will and application to divert campaign money to personal use for argaubly allowable reasons, is here, here, here, Rollcall reporting here, here, Chris Steller of MinnIndy reporting here, Steller and MinnIndy again here, the AP here, Joe Bodell of MinnProgressiveProject here, Kos here, and while the list is representative rather than exhaustive, lastly, TPM under headline, "Chutzpah" noting here:

You'll love this one. Norm Coleman has told the FEC he ought to be able to use campaign funds to pay his lawyers for answering questions from TPMmuckraker about corruption allegations involving Coleman and his wife. That's all fine and dandy, but we never got a response to our multiple inquiries, not even once.

Late Update: TPM Reader PK figures what happened: "His lawyers probably advised him not to answer the questions and charged him a whopping amount for that bit of advice."


[with TPM's related recent archive links omitted, so see the site for that follow-up]

Nothing I saw indicated whether Coleman was seeking to recoup legal fees accrued in advancing then backing back from these two uniquely-Coleman things HuffPo has reported, here and here. Saying he'd sue Franken over "defamation" and stepping aside for the GOP gentleman who would potentially sit in judgment of Norm's behavioral norms, each of those is a needless reach, and he should eat the cost of such stupid meanderings as simply and purely "his own damned fault."

Also, the independent effort to raise yet more citizen-funded challenge-the-recount-forever-and-ever bucks for general GOP purposes [their "stymie 60 Dems" Senate nose-count desires] as well as Norm's personal wannabe continued in DC motives; all as reported by CQ-Politics, (but later made unavailable) but cached here, with a link to a YouTube video, seems to be outside of the presently filed FEC juggling request.


AND all that reporting is separate from new reporting about how the FBI's been asking this-and-that, here-and-there, besides earlier asking thus-and-so elsewhere. However, the FEC's approval of fund shuffling, if given, just might be stretched toward instances of Norm talking to the lawyers about the FBI talking to folks, etc., etc.

It is not as if that would not be a concern to him, something he'd be indifferent toward, letting chips fall where they may.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Sibel Edmonds has a blog. John Ashcroft is in no position now to silence it.

Here.

Google her if the name is not familiar. Background, here.

Anyone who's bumped heads with Ashcroft and Hastert has earned her spurs.

We in Minnesota should give her the "Colleen Rowley Citizenship Award."

MAUREEN REED - An update.

For starters, she's not Tinklenberg, so that's one plus.

She has gotten blog attention for a Senate Dist. 14 appearance; Political Muse, Blue Man, and Aubrey Immelman having noted the session - see the Muse link for video.

Immelman noted Steve Kelly attended the event with Reed. He has earned respect, and if he is supportive of the Reed candidacy that would be helpful. As a current candidate aiming to challenge Pawlenty, he has his own race to consume his main attention. However, presuming he and Reed share policy concerns and his present position with the U.Minn. Humphrey Institute and past Med. Board service may have overlapped Reed's tenure on the Board of Regents and her policy roles in medicine so that he knows who she is and the "cut of her jib"; then that says much in Reed's favor.

However --- We wait. We see.

Kelly has a Wikipedia entry, past legislative bio, and Humphrey Institute bio online.

Getting a Wikipedia entry for herself is yet one more thing Reed needs to put in place as she moves onward as a (true and sincere) Sixth District candidate.

With a background as a Regent, and projecting her concern for "jobs" in Minnesota would include a regard for the importance of broadband growth and other technological advances similar to Kelly's, I will guess, (in the absence of anything defining her on the record so far beyond vague speaking points); that she values higher education and especially the hard-earned reputation for post-graduate excellence the U.Minn. has achieved, is well positioned on technological imperatives, and is sympathetic to and not unmindful of the difficulties young scholars face in today's times. So far, so good; but again, we wait and see.

Those projected thoughts, however, are things I would want to hear her specifically articulate, and not merely presume them to be so.


Hence, AGAIN -- she's not Elwyn Tinklenberg - she's not Michele Bachmann - so she's already a few steps ahead of her opposition. (Even with that as faint praise.)

She has a pulse. She has a brain. Every other word is not "Oberstar" when pursuing her occupational alternatives.

Does any reader know, has she ever registered anywhere as a lobbyist?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Stress testing the 19 major US financial institutions for a worse than forecast two year scenario.

Several financial and general press reports have been filed. However, there are other resources to study.

Ron Paul and crowd might accord little faith to the Fed, for political and ideological reasons that might have substantial though debatable validity. Beyond that caveat, here are the links:

First, Bernanke, yesterday, and you have to love the location: speech at Fed Bank of Atlanta 2009 Financial Markets Conference, Jekyll Island, Georgia.

Second, last week's Joint Press Release - Joint Statement; Fed, Treasury, FDIC, and Comptroller re the SCAP (Supervisory Capital Assessment Program.

The Bernanke - Jekyll Island speech referenced IMF and other opinions, describing how premises underlying separate studies and access to bank data differed; key IMF pages being here, here and here.

IMF background links are here, here, and here.

Finally, given how some have said AIG operated "like a hedge fund" in its lax attitude to the magnitude of counterparty risk it underwrote and assumend, there is the Bank of Canada "Hedge Funds and Financial Stability: The State of the Debate" paper of Sept. 2007, here.

That's a sampling, without any claim of it being comprehensive or unbiased.

For those wanting something else, and fitting into the Ron Paul world view, I have and will be reading via interlibrary loan through Anoka County's library system, the Bemidji Public Library's paperback copy of "The Creature from Jekyll Island," at 600+ pages.

Shorter and easier to read, one of the local library's copies of Ron Paul's "The Revolution - A Manifesto." Nothing about workers uniting or losing chains, a different manifesto in that sense, but the two texts meet in the upcoming "End the Fed," to be released, written [ghosted yes/no] by Ron Paul.

See: here, here, here, here, here, and here, for more. If you don't end it -- Audit it? Gain transparancy?

Google Books has a number of historical books on banking before the Fed was formed, and contemporaneous or shortly subsequent to the establishment of the Fed during the Woodrow Wilson "progressive" years, those items being out of copyright and downloadable from Google Books.

It's a load of reading, but they are the guys who print our money and manage and engineer its "supply-side," hence, they are either part of the cyclical problem or part of a solution, and there is the presently web-widespread Jefferson quote some offer as real, and some say is spuriious - see, here.

___________
If you believe that Federal Reserve notes as "legal tender" are suspect and problematic, please lessen your problems by sending me whatever holdings of such notes you possess.

You will feel better if you do. Trust me.

MAUREEN REED -- Dilitante? Fluff? Stalking Horse? DFL-REAL on issues? Where's the web-fundraising outlet, to raise cash and form a defining message?

The Reed pic is from MPR. Here, AND more importantly, from here.

SO WHO ARE WE REALLY DEALING WITH? Go figure. It is sometihing of a mystery, so far. Issues do matter, and what's her stance and how is it different from the IP persona she had as side-man to Peter Hutchinson; her "George Burns" to his "Gracie Allen?"

By comparison, Tink already has renamed and retooled his web persona for the 2010 run, and clearly was ready to announce formally within days of Reed's announcement -- this screenshot:


He's hit the ground running, but the "infrastructure" for that [recall that he's heavily into "infrastructure" as is his chum, Oberstar] was already largely in place.

Reed is, like Tinklenberg, one in MN 6 with an unavoidable IP background and standing, yet wanting shelter in and help from the DFL.

That's about all she's allowed out, thus far.

She has to quickly move to define her DFL bona fides, if any, or fall by the wayside.

Where is she on the choice issue? Try that query for openers. Is she Janet Robert's neighbor and cohort against choice; or straddling the same fence Tinklenberg's been on since the last run where he softened and fuzzed up a bit his formerly clear and resonant anti-choice committment and credentials? Is she a "Tink clone" that way? Is her purpose to be a real candidate, and begin raising cash like one while phoning likely caucus attendees to sound them out and test the waters? Or is she there as woman candidate, along with Tinklenberg as male candidate, to possibly discourage other women with differing stances on issues and differing backgrounds from declaring?

Basically, what has Reed to offer voters beyond a history working along with Hutchinson on arguably scuttling Mike Hatch's close bid to be our governor, vs The Pawlenty of the State of Minnesota, squeaking by on the narrow margin he held?

That's not much to offer DFL faithful, is it?

When Paul Thissen declared himself a candidate for Governor, he had an impressive professionally organized web-campaign in place, as noted here and here.

It showed he was serious.

About running.

About defining himself for who he was and is, up-front, quickly, and impressively.

Where is Ms. Reed? Why the apparent inaction?

Is she wanting time to distance herself from the second-on-the-IP-ticket from the positions ON THE ISSUES that Hutchinson ran on in 2006 - where he was well-defined, if not appealing to the more liberal of DFL people? Is that the game?

Is she still uncertain and floundering over how to "market" the product as genuine DFL: which has been one of the problems Tinklenberg has had - or is she searching for how to be all things to all people - while offending none?

Good luck, either way, but lady get off the dime.



________UPDATE________
Reed is an MD, hence she clearly is a brighter bulb than Bachmann, a borderline theocrat-lawyer, and Tinklenberg, a career politician-lobbyist-expreacher, but put on you hip waders if it's not going to get any better than this reported "Happy Days Are Here Again" [or will be soon because I am a can-do optimistic American promising to "work hard"] refrain:

“We are living through the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, with staggering numbers of people unemployed, health care out of the reach of many folks, and thousands of Minnesotans losing their businesses and homes,” said Dr. Reed. “While these problems are tough, I’m running for Congress because I know two things are true. First, Americans can solve tough problems. Second, a bright future is not accidental. We create a bright future when we put rhetoric aside, focus on the real problems, and work hard together. This is exactly what I’ve done all my life. The future I see is one of business expansion, job growth, home ownership and lower health care costs.”

Platitude trumps attitude? Content is bad - Keep the tank empty?


Even Tink can do better than THAT. However, read this. Tink on his website, after losing last go-round. Other than saying he intends this time to trash Bachmann and win via a from-the-start negative campaigning effort, who is Elwyn Tinklenberg?

Not strongly vocal enough last time, so be the Howard Beale of this campaign cycle?

Go figure.



_______FURTHER UPDATE________
Bachmann has not been unmindful of developments, and has already moved to defuse the Howard Beale tactic, should it grow legs; this emailing:


from: News from Michele Bachmann
reply-to: newsletter@michelebachmann.com
to: 4crabgrass@gmail.com
date: Mon, Apr 27, 2009 at 3:04 PM

subject: How many vile attacks against me do you think $250,000 can buy?
.................

Dear Friend:

It's called www.bachmannwatch.com.

It's the Democrat Congressional Campaign Committee's (DCCC) latest attempt to discredit every word out of my mouth and to paint anyone who disagrees with the liberal agenda sweeping through Washington as an extremist.

If you get a chance, check it out. It's incredible how fast and loose they are willing to play with the truth. We thought we saw the height of their spin machine last October, but, really, it looks like this is just the beginning.

[...]

Now, it may just be a coincidence that my opponent from the 2008 election just made $250,000 in contributions to the DCCC - who knows? But, a quarter of a million will buy a lot more than one negative, mud-slinging, misinformed website. I need to be prepared for this being just the first hit of many.

Can you help me fight back?

I really could use your help to prove to the Democrats that it is not extremist to:

* Control Washington spending, putting taxpayers first.

* Protect the dominance of the American dollar.

* Demand that the Federal Reserve make its spending transparent to the taxpayers footing the bill.

* Treat dangerous terrorist detainees as dangerous terrorists.

* Defend the unborn from a culture of abortion-on-demand.

* Ensure that parents have the right to determine if their teenagers can access the morning-after pill.

* Call for Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano's resignation because she publishes are report that considers veterans a threat to security and labels pro-lifers, gunowners, and those who oppose amnesty for illegal immigration as "right-wing extremists."

Can you make a contribution to help me keep fighting for you?

I WANT TO HELP, MICHELE!

Can you share this email with five of your friends and ask them to help me too?

The Democrats are gunning for me because I refuse to shrink from a fight. With your help, I can keep fighting for your freedom, for your pocketbook, and for all that the Constitution has secured for the American people for generations.

Thank you for your generous support and your prayers.

Sincerely,

Congresswoman Michele Bachmann



It is piling deep and doing so early. You may need hip waders for the three of them. So hold onto your checkbook. Don't do anything foolish.

Don't pour kerosene on anyone's solicitation candle.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Everybody loves a winner.



Enough said.

The story circulating is Elwyn Tinklenberg wants another shot at losing to Bachmann. Is he the "Gerald Ford" of the Sixth District?

While he's been in and out of government service over the years, Elwyn Tinklenberg has never been elected to anything beyond city council and mayor of Blaine, Anoka County, Minnesota. If he were to run again for mayor of Blaine, I would endorse that.



While omitting from his official resume his appointed time as an Anoka County official, a curious omission that this cycle likely will be corrected, voters should be interested in what he did then. Officially, he touted being Blaine's mayor, Jesse Ventura's appointee, and a former preacher. That's not mentioning the years between 1996 and 1999.

Being Blaine's mayor ended in 1996. Being appointed by Ventura - part of Tinklenberg's strong roots with his pack of IP cronies - was from 1999-2002 when he was, by appointment, the IP's head of MnDOT.

What Tinklenberg did when the door revolved from public office to private sector will always be a part of the man - who he's been, what he's been, what he did for his money.

And he's touted himself as being a "Blue Dog."



Gerald Ford was president, while having never been elected to any office beyond by the folks of Grand Rapids, Michigan and environs. He was a career politician, his entire life, never distinguishing himself in the private sector. He was a part of the more conservative part of his political party. He stayed loyal over time to the GOP and never messed in third party posturing or mischief.

And Ford was a bland and uninspiring individual - a backroom House member with years of seniority, but not an inspiring icon of anything. As a weak personality, he was not the kind of dynamic person you'd readily endorse with your hard-earned cash paid over as a campaign donation.

And when he ran for president - he lost.

With regard to Ford, however, the man did have the decency to only run and lose once.


There are similarities and differences.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Sad, sorry saga in the Sixth. So, who's the fourth for bridge?

- click a screenshot image to enlarge and read -



MinnIndependent, online today, here and here. Bachmann, Reed, Tinklenberg and a fresh face, yet to be named - this quote:

[Sixth District DFL chairperson Nancy] Schumaker says there’s also been discussions with a third potential DFL candidate, but she won’t reveal the identity of that person. “There is a possibility,” she says.


Let's hope for the fresh face. (See original items at MinnIndependent, for comment threads.)

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Some of the communities hiring lobbyists have done so before and are simply shuffling their lineup or adding to it.

I waited a day or two with this post, as the underlying story Strib carried, an AP wirefeed, struck me as very troublesome. The Crabgrass headline is from that story. The story concerns a trend - spending local government money to try to get a better result in a game where money is spent not on directly useful goods or services for constituents, but on lobbyists - on an effort to heist a subsidy from a differing level of government via specialists.

Strib reports at length, (with this opening excerpt):

WASHINGTON - They're furloughing many city workers for eight days this summer. They've cut staffing by about 5 percent. Now officials in Tracy, Calif., are trying another way to help make ends meet in these tough economic times: They've hired a Washington lobbyist.

It's an idea that seems to be spreading. Senate lobbying records show that dozens of cities and counties signed up with lobbying firms in the first three months of this year. Their goal is to get a greater share of the money flowing out of Washington, from a record federal budget to the $787 billion economic stimulus package.

Some of the communities hiring lobbyists have done so before and are simply shuffling their lineup or adding to it. But others are getting into the lobbying game for the first time.

"This is a new venture for the city. This is a relatively conservative community and has a high degree of self-reliance, but we also understand there's also a great opportunity for all communities, Tracy included" said Leon Churchill, city manager for the suburban community about 60 miles east of San Francisco. "The opportunity was too immense to bypass."

The city paid $10,000 to Patricia Jordan and Associates in the first quarter. Disclosure reports filed with the Senate show the firm lobbied lawmakers and the Federal Highway Administration on a highway spending bill.


[emphasis added]

That is a story about lobbyists.

Here is a picture of a leech:

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

A tale told in three screenshots. A year ago today, Craig "Captain Fishsticks" Westover of the GOP perhaps had his finger on a party pulse.


Using Westover's own former blogging persona, the good Captian [shown above] who for years was at his Blogger-helm wrote May 5, 2008, at MinnPost per this screenshot [shown below]:



You may recall Aplikowski defining his niche in the GOP by labeling Jim Ramstad a "RINO" while also having little desire to let the Ron Paul people have a say a year ago.

Why all this, now, in Minnesota's Sixth District?

The third and last screenshot gives an answer.

Albert Lord is the face of unabashed student-lender greed. Now there is more local and US-PIRG online attention on Sallie Mae and our young.

photo from here

Though Albert Lord as paradigm is unmentioned in the few links this post addresses, Crabgrass has noted him before, here; with sound links on the Student Loan Crisis, here.

Now this, locally, Jim Hightower, Southside Pride, May 2009 - noting basically that student loan current practices are NOT by any measure victimless crime:


Time to end a banker boondoggle that hurts students
What do you call it when arrogance, avarice and absurdity combine? Well, one name for it would be “Sallie Mae.” Despite the sweet name, Sallie is not a person. It’s a giant financial corporation that is America’s largest provider of student loans. It began in the 1970s as a government entity, but in 1997 it was privatized. Along with such other private lenders as Wells Fargo and Discover, Sallie Mae has used the “Family Education Loan Program” to milk windfall profits from college students.

The program is a corporate boondoggle, because the only thing it privatizes are the profits the lenders pocket through hefty fees they levy on students. The industry’s losses, on the other hand, are socialized, for the government covers 97 percent of any loans that students fail to pay. Because this absurd subsidy of private lenders rips off taxpayers while overcharging students, Obama has proposed ending it in favor of expanding the government’s far-more-efficient and less costly program that loans directly to students.

Cutting out the middleman would save taxpayers more than $9 billion a year, while giving college kids a much better deal. Going through private lenders is all the more absurd today, because a government bailout is all that is keeping them afloat. Any money they lend is not private capital, but ours. Why keep subsidizing them to loan our money? Logic, however, is not a concept that bankers even want to grasp, so they are hiring top-gun lobbyists and rallying anti-government ideologues to oppose Obama’s plan—and keep their boondoggle going. Obama is right to halt this multibillion-dollar rip off and to redirect it to help students. For more information, contact PIRG, a national grassroots group: www.uspirg.org.


The PIRG movement - Public Interest Research Group - has been with us for decades, the aim being to focus public attention upon issues that clearly are in the public interest (and which are usually wrongly attended to because there's money in it for special interests that conflict with what's best for the public).

The site Hightower's item links to does not go into history, but has a terse but helpful "about us" page.

Wikipedia has the history, with a Minnesota flavor, a Ralph Nader flavor:

The first PIRG was a public interest law firm started by Ralph Nader in Washington, D.C. and was much different from the modern conception of PIRG. The State PIRGs emerged in the early 1970s on college campuses across the country.

MPIRG (Minnesota) was the first state PIRG to incorporate (on February 17, 1971), and today is one of the few to remain independent from USPIRG and the Fund. Following the lead of Minnesota, students in Oregon (OSPIRG) and then Massachusetts (MASSPIRG), and finally many other states and Canadian provinces incorporated chapters of PIRG. The PIRGs are responsible for many of the Bottle Bills across the country.

After students organized on college campuses for nearly 10 years, the different State PIRGs established the D.C. arm U.S. PIRG to advocate for change on the National level. Nearly simultaneously, the PIRGs founded the Fund For Public Interest Research (FFPIR), the fundraising and citizen outreach arm of the PIRGs. The Fund hires canvassers to go door-to-door or stand on street corners and fundraise for their respective organizations by signing up members and collecting donations (or membership dues). There are roughly 60 Fund canvass offices across the country.


The US-PIRG page specifically on student-and-higher-education issues,is:

http://www.uspirg.org/higher-education

Go there for access to the extensive links list, click the following screenshot for intro info:



Finally, there are specific US-PIRG pages on higher-education issues, (undergrad mainly with maintaining grad school excellence and threats to it a separate issue), see, here, here and for a four-point analysis of the Obama "answer," here.

Why I continue to dislike Elwyn Tinklenberg; or "LOBBY REFORM" via a screenshot from US-PIRG




Click to enlarge and read the screenshot. Go to the actual US-PIRG page that was the source of the screenshot, here, if you want to follow up on the links; also, see the intro page on "money-&-politics," here.

So, where is MinnesotaPIRG, about Elwyn? Missing in action, but their approach is to focus on two issues at a time, and it is hard to fault their choices, here, and to say they should be looking at a currency colored revolving door.

Monday, May 04, 2009

This president is well spoken, and clearly not a tool of Wall Street

Strib carries the AP report, here, Obama quoted:

The changes in the role of Wall Street and the huge profits that came from that risk-taking could mean other adjustments as well, Obama said in an interview in this week's New York Times Magazine.

"That means that more talent, more resources will be going to other sectors of the economy," he said. "I actually think that's healthy. We don't want every single college grad with mathematical aptitude to become a derivatives trader. We want some of them to go into engineering, and we want some of them to be going into computer design."

"Wall Street will remain a big, important part of our economy, just as it was in the '70s and the '80s," he said. "It just won't be half of our economy."

"What I think will change, what I think was an aberration, was a situation where corporate profits in the financial sector were such a heavy part of our overall profitability over the last decade," he said.

"I think it's important to understand that some of that wealth was illusory in the first place," he said.


Was he saying the best and brightest were engaged in smoke and mirrors? Deception even? Flim-flam that P.T. Barnum would envy?

Sunday, May 03, 2009

On the other hand, this is just one more thing for Norm Coleman to worry about right now.

And if anyone deserves to worry, it is the man who was the Bush-Cheney toady, who figuratively danced on Paul Wellstone's grave, and dishonored Minnesota by chairing the Truman Committee without looking at Carlyle Group or other war profiteering.

The headline sentence is taken from a TPM report on the Minnesota DFL having filed an FEC complaint against Coleman over possible use of campaign money for personal use - a complaint related to the Nasser Kazeminy situation (where allegations are that $75,000 of Kazeminy sugar daddy cash was funneled to the Coleman spouses; the amount being that only because someone in Texas quelled a final $25,000 aimed that way to make an even hundred grand).

Here is a TPM screenshot, from April 23, with this late Crabgrass report due to my not keeping up with email and only now seeing the April 24 Google Alert I had set for "kazeminy" giving me the link.



Click the image to enlarge and read it. In addition to the above-excerpted TPM item, TPM posted the entire Melendez - Cassutt press release of April 23, including the text of the FEC complaint.

Go to that TPM link for detail.



Say Goodbye, Norm.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Everyone's pension fund took a hit. So, why are these people saying they're special? Who invested the cash in what, when, and why? Explain yourselves.

Teachers Union throwing its weight around, throwing legislators around, wanting to loot the fisk:




Sure teachers are nice people. But not fiscally special. Why should the legislature give their pension fund a humongo amount of taxpayer cash?

Strib reports online:

Minnesota teachers seek $223M bailout for pension fund
They're asking the Legislature for between $207 million and $223 million over four years to restore their pension fund to economic health.
By NORMAN DRAPER, Star Tribune - update: May 1, 2009-11:37 PM


Now, at such an inopportune time, teachers say their retirement fund needs a bailout.

Through their Education Minnesota labor union, retirement association and education lobbying organizations, they're asking the Legislature for between $207 million and $223 million over four years to restore their pension fund to economic health. The proposal, part of the overall pension bill making its way through legislative committees, won't kick in until 2011, an acknowledgement that the money simply isn't there this year.

"We do recognize that it's difficult for school districts and the state [to pump more money into the pension plan]," said Laurie Hacking, executive director of the Minnesota Teachers Retirement Association (TRA), which manages the pension plan. "That's why we delayed it for two years."

Already, the pension bill has made its way through committees in the House and Senate, and is awaiting action by the finance committees in both chambers.

Pension funding advocates argue that the $18 billion pension fund has been hit hard by the stock market slump, and needs to be replenished if it is to stay healthy in the years to come.

Critics, most notably the Minnesota Taxpayers Association, argue that the timing for such a request -- as schools are being shuttered, teachers laid off and workers in other sectors getting smacked with salary and benefit reductions -- couldn't be worse. They also note that, as part of the proposal, many teachers will get an improved retirement benefit.

"It's just astonishing how tone-deaf Education Minnesota is, how they are pushing this now," said Mark Haveman, executive director of the Taxpayers Association (which is not connected to the Taxpayers League of Minnesota).

But Hacking and Tom Dooher, Education Minnesota's president, say taxpayers are off the hook for at least the improved benefits part of the plan, which lower the age at which teachers can get full retirement benefits from 66 to 62.


Here is one item that really galls me:

Plus, Hacking said, lowering the age at which teachers can get full retirement benefits protects schools from older teachers who are just marking time until they can get their full retirement benefits. The average full retirement benefit for a Minnesota teacher is $2,203 per month, Hacking said.


If "older teachers who are just marking time" is a problem then fire them.

Don't reward "marking time," ever, because it is wrong and wrong is not right. Wrong is wrong. That is the lamest dumbest thing I have seen a person alleged to have said in months. Super dumb. It is not a convincing thing to say give us two hundred million because we've membership that's marking time, and giving us two hundred million is the way to deal with that situation.

Hardly.

There are better ways to handle those marking time, such as:



Strib continues:

Haveman warned that the proposed increases aren't enough to fully fund the retirement plan, and that costs and the need for public contribution to teacher retirements could grow well beyond the four-year funding request.

Part of the problem, Haveman said, is the nuts and bolts of the pension proposal are so difficult to grasp that it has fallen under the radar screen of most legislators. The proposal, so far, has been on a quiet route through the legislative committees, though the price tag makes some legislators nervous.

"It's not doable; we don't have the money," said Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, and the sole Senate Republican on the Legislative Commission on Pensions and Retirement. "That doesn't just make Republicans nervous. I've seen a lot of DFLers squirm. It's really the problem child in that entire pension plan."

Brian McClung, spokesman for Gov. Tim Pawlenty, said the governor's office is still examining the pension bill, but added that "we've got a multibillion [dollar] deficit to solve, so this isn't a year to tack on big amounts of additional spending."

[...]

The MTRA comprises 77,000 teachers, 5 percent of whom teach in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) system. Another 34,000 are inactive members, who no longer teach but are eligible for retirement benefits.


If the only answer to why did their pension fund take a hit is they had a bozo in charge who put too much into morgtage backed bonds, and lost a bundle, again, that is not unique.

Why is this Laurie Hacking person not facing up to that possibility, portfolio mismanagement, where an answer might be, if Hacking is the mismanager, to change faces at the management desk and while at it, at the trading desk?

Bring in a new batch of consultants, with judgment better than the last batch. Don't reward failure with a two hundred million dollar sop, eliminate failure, as feasible, starting with elimination of decision makers who've underperformed.

Failure - you weed it out, you do not bail it out.

So, aside from being a big force in the DFL, 77,000 DFL voters as the Strib noted the membership number - and there is the DFL having a majority in both houses; aside from that, what merit is there to this power bloc wanting to will the legislature to give them a bundle of taxpayer cash, in these hard times, when taxpayer cash is in such short supply?

If the only answer to why should the legislature do it is because the teachers union owns the legislature, that's not cause to capitulate, it is cause to question the political alignment that allowed these people to gain that position, a position where they might have the gall to make this shabby move without any public disclosure of where the fund money went and why, and without any assurances that the fund management has been realigned, with old faces "marking time" at the fund replaced with diligent new ones.

Simply put, having the power of DFL bloc voting does not make it right. This is one time Pawlenty having a line item veto is good, IF he uses it to scuttle this offensive cash grab. In hard times. When children of taxpayers cannot afford to go to the University of Minnesota because it costs too much.

STARBUCKS - Make mine a union latte, please?

Here, Strib online reports:

Slammed by slowing consumer demand and laying off workers by the score, Starbucks Coffee found fresh reason for grief Friday when the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) said it found evidence of labor violations at its Mall of America stores.

The board's announcement followed a three-month investigation of complaints made by barista Erik Forman, who has campaigned to unionize the Seattle-based coffee chain.

"Our right to organize has been under assault since the inception of the campaign," said Forman, a barista at one of the two Starbucks shops at the Mall of America. "We can only hope that Starbucks does the right thing."

The Mall of America fracas is only the latest in a string of charges the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) has filed against Starbucks since launching its campaign, and comes amid a moribund period for the onetime darling of the caffeinated Internet age.

After recording years of seemingly unstoppable growth, the national chain that boasts 16,862 locations saw its profit fall sharply with the onset of the recession. It laid off 6,700 workers in January. Profit fell 77 percent in its most recent quarter, the company said this week. Store openings will fall short of this year's plans, and some 300 locations will close. That's after 600 store closings last year, including 27 in Minnesota.

Forman's complaint, originally filed three months ago, alleges the company interfered with employee efforts to promote membership in the IWW Starbucks Workers Union, a group begun five years ago that now claims 300 members, some of them former employees.

"We've certainly found merit to allegations that Starbucks violated the National Labor Relations Act," said Marlin Osthus, attorney for the NLRB.

The allegations include prohibiting union postings in nonwork areas, removing union postings in nonwork areas, and instructions to employees to not speak about the union inside the stores, among other things.


The Wobblies, are they still around? It appears so, see here, here and here. This one, alleging dismissal of a Starbucks worker for blogging is particularly galling to me, because I recently went through an examination of aspects of free speech on a blog, and in general.

Actions aimed at chilling free speech are unAmerican - Free Speech is an essential Constitutional right.


######
THE IMMEDIATE QUESTION: What about the Minnesota chain with offshore ownership ties, Caribou Coffee? Any reader out there with organizing effort info regarding Caribou? Or is Caribou a big happy family?