Archive for the ‘Government’ Category

Talking Minnesotan – 5/21/10

1 of the 10,000 lakes
Image =”1 of the 10,000 lakes” Uploaded on May 18, 2010 by Venkat Raja

It’s been a fun week in Minnesota. People have been talking about the weather and that’s how Minnesotans know everything is right with the world. It just so happens that the weather this week was nice and sunny. Yup the talk was all nice, unless of course you happen to follow politics. Mn political conversations were … well… politics as usual. The Right hates the left and the left hates the Right and the newspaper commentors hate teachers and nurses hate hospital administration and hospital administration hates unions and the unions hate politicians and the politicians just keep smiling and talking about the wonderful progress they’ve made.

Mr.Veto likes to fill up prisons so he vetoed sensible bipartisan legislation that would change current laws to keep bongwater from being counted as drug weight. Citypages covers the story with Bong water bill dries up with Tim Pawlenty’s veto. You have to read the comments.

Pioneer press puts it all into perspective Time to face it, Minnesota: Tim Pawlenty is seeing someone else

He goes on long trips without explanation. He comes home and criticizes my appearance, even as he pays greater attention to his own image. Where there once was fondness and love, now all I get is, ‘Your taxes are too high! You’re spending too much! You have to cut back!’

As if the RNC convention wasn’t a big enough bust Minneapolis now wants to get itself a convention.
Bob Collins has a poll going and so far people seem to think it’s a good thing. Huh.

Speaking of Bob, he has this to say “I’m not sure what creeps me out more, that a 40 yr old was pretending to be a gay hockey teen. Or that ppl folo a blog by a gay hockey teen” about this story Minnesota gay teen hockey blogger outed as 40-year-old man.

I couldn’t agree more.

Did you see this? Last-minute lake rule looks fishy I almost gave the story it’s own post just to use a headline about “bait and switch”.

Anyway, what’s going on this weekend? Here is a nice music roundup. I’ll probably update the post with some happenings links as the day progresses, but for now I’m out of time. So let’s wrap it up with a little bit of Dessa. She released her new video today “Alibi”.
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J2_aY9gYTF0[/youtube]

How Green Was My Garden: Gardening, Social Media & Bacon go to the Fair

Social Media Breakfast MSP 26 is being hosted at the Minnesota State Fair Progress Building on Friday May 21st from 8am to 10am discussing Urban/Organic/ Gardening & Farming.  Your venerable  blogger (yes me) will be trying not to embarass herself as the moderator of a very good panel of guests assembled to discuss how they use social media to promote their businesses, sell their products and connect with their communities.

Panelists include:

* Susan Berkson, Minneapolis Farmers Market (MPLS Farmers Market on Facebook)
* Debbie Morrison, Sapsucker Farms www.sapsuckerfarms.com
* Barbara Hegman, PlantJotter www.plantjotter.com
* Lee Zukor, Simple Good & Tasty www.simplegoodandtasty.com
* Kirsten Saylor, Gardening Matters www.gardeningmatters.org

Generous sponsors include Organic Valley and Mother Earth Gardens. At the event will be a mini-market with several vendors and organizations displaying their messages and wares. Please stop by for some bacon and lively discussion of how farmers, growers, advocates, markets and more are using social media in the vibrant world of sustainable growing.

Boom! Goes the Neighborhood: Spring means unexplained explosions return to South Minneapolis

For at least four Spring/Summers a series of unexplained explosions have rocked the Longfellow/Seward neighborhoods of Minneapolis.  911 Operators have been inundated with phone calls from concerned residents whose homes are shaken from these loud earth-shaking sonic booms.

These explosion noises began four years ago during  very hot summer and I shrugged them off as transformer explosions as they seemed to correspond to power failures as well.  But they have continued every season since.  A discussion with the Minneapolis Police Department reveals that there has been an ongoing investigation into the source of the explosion noises and while they have been able to rule out certain causes such as a natural source (river/sewer, etc) they have been unable to find a reason, person, cause responsible for them.

The explosions got much more attention when St. Paul was host to the Republican National Convention with Homeland Security very much involved in the investigation, setting up nighttime surveillance by the river.  Obviously neither they, nor the Minneapolis Police Department are willing to divulge specific details regarding the ongoing investigation but the explosions continue so they have been unable to “solve” the case.

While this is disturbing for someone like me, who lives two blocks from the Mississippi River which is the location from which these explosions are originating, between Lake Street & Ford Bridges, I am reassured by who is working on the case. The attention the Bomb Squad and MPD Third Precinct investigators are giving to this matter is the best for which Minneapolis and St. Paul residents (they are just across the river after all) can hope.  They have been thorough and Inspector Lucy Gerold & Sergeant Wally Krueger have been extremely responsive to my inquiries, living in one of the neighborhoods most affected.

Frustrating investigators is that the explosions can only be heard and they have been unable to discover much evidence, which is why they have asked for cooperation from anyone who may be able to help. If you see anything suspicious by the West River or East River Parkways at night you are asked to call police and if you hear the explosions you are also asked to first check  if you can see anything (a light flash, smoke, etc) then call 911 to report from where you think the explosions originated. Pinpointing the location will help investigators and responders.

Saturday, May 15th, the response to the explosions (there were two, one at 10:15pm and another at 11:30) was swift and this time the State Patrol helicopter was sent to the riverfront to circle to determine whether they could see any activity or evidence.

As Twitter expands you will see greater buzz there in response to these noises.  If you search my historical stream (@quick13) you will see a history of how often they have occurred with tweets like “another explosion tonight” dating back over two years.  Last night someone even created a hashtag for them: #bignoisempls.

The explosions follow a pattern, usually beginning at a specific time, like 10pm and if there is a second one, following at a specific time after, like 11pm or midnight. If the first explosion is at midnight then the second explosion is at 1am or 2am. There is always a regular interval pattern, and there are almost always two or three explosions. One explosion is usually louder than the other.  Rarely there are three explosions in one evening.

There is concern there is something dastardly behind these explosions, but after four summers of enduring them, I am beginning to believe there is a more innocuous explanation.  But then again, in today’s world we have too many reasons for doubt, especially when it comes to things being blown up.  Whatever happens, after four years of having disturbed sleep makes me hope that the investigation can be resolved, if not for my own personal health, but that of the foundation of my home, and perhaps the foundation of the fine City of Minneapolis.

Talking Minnesota – 4/27/10


Photo “into every life some rain must fall” Uploaded on April 26, 2010 by JustACoolCat

Minnesotans have been talking, but I haven’t been listening. Spring has arrived early in the Land of 10,000 lakes and with an early spring comes early allergy symptoms. For me this has included a fever, chills, burning eyes, and plugged up ears to name a couple symptoms. Weeeeeeeeeeeee. Luckily rained all weekend temporarily knocking the pollen out of the air.

In a bit of sad news Gordy, 400-pound gorilla, dies suddenly at Como Zoo, we just saw Gordy a few weekends ago and he was in rare form guarding his territory and chucking clumps of dirt at the onlookers and other goriallas. It’s a shame to see him pass.

Over the last week there’s been much hoopla about how much we trust the government, apparently not very much is the answer.

MPR ran a show and liveblogged Live-blogging Midmorning: The people and their government

A new study by the Pew Center sparks a debate on the role of trust and mistrust in American political life. Less than a quarter of Americans polled say they trust their government. Some experts say people in this country rarely express confidence in Congress and the executive branch. Others note a disturbing trend of increased polarization in government and among voters.

I found this comment interesting and it makes me want to meet the author.

While a doctoral student (management and psychometrics) in the mid-1970’s, I had the opportunity to read many of the management, sociological and behavioural theorists from 1870 on. Much of what I read has come too-much true.

Max Weber: the longer an organization exists, the larger and more complicated it becomes. TRUE! Example: existence of several competing intelligence agencies.

Max Weber: over time, a “bifurcation of interest” develops between an organization and its clients. The organization considers itself more important than its clients, AND what’s good for the organization differs from what’s good for its clients. TRUE! Example: campaign contributors versus voters.

C. Northcote Parkinson: every year, it costs more to perform the same amount of work. TRUE! Example: how much the Federal budget grows (removing natural and financial disasters) every year while income doesn’t.

Lorimer and Lorsch: organizations must maintain the optimal balance of differentiation (territory of task and professional discipline) and integration (pull together as a team). Hyper-differentiation turned territory into fiefdom while hypo-integration never pulls everyone together to work toward a common goal (consistent with Weber). TRUE! Example: Republicans versus Democrats on any topic. Intelligence agencies AGAIN.

We need the wisdom of the past to inform our vision of the future.

Bill J
Posted by Bill Jolitz | April 22, 2010 10:53 AM

Speaking of government, our own Minnesota brings a little bit of the crazy Republicans push for Minnesota sovereignty

Senate Republicans introduced a constitutional amendment Wednesday that would make Minnesota the first state to require a two-thirds majority vote in the legislature to approve federal laws affecting the state. “Minnesotans enjoy inherent, natural, God-given rights,” the bill states, and “Citizens of Minnesota are sovereign individuals, subject to Minnesota law and immune from any federal laws that exceed the federal government’s enumerated constitutional powers.”

Read it. You’ll be shocked to discover that the comments quickly turned to racist undertones.

In a story that could easily have turned totally racist (has it been published somewhere else) Minnpost points us to a new ruling Duluth wins round in lawsuit over casino money

A federal judge has sided with the city of Duluth in a high-stakes legal battle over sharing revenue from slots machine in a downtown casino.

The Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa stopped sharing the money last year and was demanding that the city return $75 million it had shared over the past 25 years.

But the ruling by U.S. District Judge Ann Montgomery says the band must resume sharing its slot-machine revenue with the city of Duluth and provide back payments to the city

Word on the Rez is that this unpopular lawsuit could cost RBC head Karen Diver in the next election.

Citypages has a fascinating report on the behind-the-scenes happenings of the Minneapolis Civilian Review Authority
Dave Bicking: How politics ousted the Civilian Review Authority’s loudest member

Let’s wrap it up with some music, Minnesota’s own Spaghetti Western String Co. Live at Orchestra Hall .

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3NoT-OHlj44[/youtube]

Saint Paul to lose Bicycle Advisory Board

In a story by the East Side review , Bon voyage, BAB? , it’s reported that Saint Paul’s Bicycle Advisory Board wants to disband and form a new transportation board.

St. Paul Ward 4 City Council member Russ Stark – also a bicycling enthusiast, as well as another onetime board chair of the BAB – presented such a resolution to the full council two weeks ago.

While he desires to dissolve the BAB, Stark’s hope is simply to start fresh with a similar citywide body, one devoted to deliberating and championing not just cycling but all manner of individual and mass transportation. And it appears the rest of the council has backed his move to approve a new transportation committee of the St. Paul Planning Commission, one that can consider transportation issues from the absolute beginning when the city takes a look at zoning, neighborhood issues, or major infrastructure investments.

Stark’s proposal calls for a new committee with eight St. Paulites interested in:

• transit, including bicycle and passenger rail

• pedestrian/walkability issues

• freight and logistics industries, including trucking, rail, and airports

• accessibility representatives or people with disabilities

• commercial corridor representatives, such as business owners

• downtown building or business representatives

When asked about disbanding the board, current head Rob Barbosa stated

“Some of the board members are extremists,” Barbosa says, “and they don’t understand there’s a grass roots process” to getting stuff done.
“I told Russ that I’m all for moving BAB into another organization that has more teeth. I would say that BAB is dysfunctional,”

I’m not certain how a new board with a broader objective would have any more power than the BAB or be more effective in representing bike transportation, but I suppose the devil is in the details.

A Friday Caption Contest

How about a little poking fun at our government to lighten up your Friday?

GOP stooge and general smart aleck @Kwatt tipped me off to a picture in this post, Pawlenty, teachers at odds over funds.


Original Image courtesy of AreaVoices CapitolChat

So many possibilities.

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Yes, but how will it matter?

In the latest federal funding flap Governor Tim Pawlenty is calling for a change in how teachers become certified.

Strib reports

Pawlenty said he will ask the Legislature to act on a bill that would make it easier for people to find “alternative pathways” into teaching, something he said would give the state “the ability to get the most highly effective teachers” in the classroom.

There’s been much talk about letting the “experts” do the teaching meaning allow people with knowledge in a particular field enter into teaching without having to go through the normal process of a college degree and state certification. I admit this has it’s appeal. One example would be my soon to be brother-in-law whom has a PHD in Physics and wants to give up corporate life to teach science, but is put off by the additional schooling. I can see not wanting to go back to college once you already have a PHD. On the other hand teachers are taught skills beyond their subject area and the licensure process requires extensive knowledge related to teaching that extends far beyond the subject.

That said, is this really the problem?
I have to wonder if perhaps our governor is not seeing the forest for the trees. From what I hear for every open teaching position in Mn there are hundreds of applicants. Would adding more teachers to that mix really help?

I can’t help but wonder, how exactly does this give Minnesota “the ability to get the most highly effective teachers” in the classroom?

My understanding of the job search process for Mn teacher’s makes me think this will simply add more teachers to the mix that either A) won’t get jobs for years or B) will be shuffled from place to place as more tenured teachers take positions due to funding/position cuts.

Thoughts?

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A Monday call for Justice

As I read the news this morning I noticed two stories near each other that although about different topics seemed to be calling for the same thing, justice.

There seems to be a constant tug-of-war happening within our society pitting the need for more police power against the need to preserve the rights of the citizens. To call this tug of war a delicate dance would be like calling a bull in a china shop a remodeling experience, while both may be true to some extent, neither captures the lopsided nature of the situation.

The firt editorial, Editorial: Strong forfeiture safeguards needed makes the case for reforms on the State’s forfeiture laws.

Changes are also needed to restore the power balance between authorities and individuals. It’s too far tilted toward police right now. Lawmakers are weighing several bills, but reforms won’t be adequate unless they include these key elements:

•Property should be forfeited only if there’s a conviction. This would not stop authorities from seizing property, as some law enforcement representatives claim. It would protect innocent people suspected of wrongdoing, yet still deprive criminals of ill-gotten booty.

•Forfeiture funds should go into the state general fund, which would break the financial incentive for police to seize property to help their agencies, though it would also reduce their funding somewhat. (Gross sales of forfeited goods or cash totaled $3.8 million in Minnesota in 2008, down 21.4 percent from 2007.) Some law enforcement representatives’ objections to this are disingenuous. They argue that these funds are absolutely critical to police operations, but at the same time insist that this is not an incentive to seize valuable property. It doesn’t add up.

With recent abuses of these laws brought to light many stories have surfaced about innocent parties losing property due to the extreme nature of the forfeiture process and the high costs of fighting the system, few are willing or able to spend thousands of dollars fighting to get a few hundred or a few thousand dollars back.

The second story is something I have also written about and that is the use of cell phone tracking and historical usage without a warrant. In the article by Steve Chapman: If you carry a cell phone, you can’t hide he notes it “raises issues about privacy and unchecked government surveillance”

That gadget, you see, is called a cell phone. For years, the cops may have been using it to keep close tabs on you without your knowledge, even if you have done nothing wrong.

They don’t have to get a search warrant — which would limit them to situations where they can show some reason to think you’re breaking the law. All they have to do is tell a judge that the information is relevant to a criminal investigation and send a request to your service provider.

He then puts this into some historical context

Privacy protections can become meaningless if we don’t adapt them to new inventions. Today, we take it for granted that the FBI can’t listen to our phone conversations without a search warrant. But in 1928, the Supreme Court said the Fourth Amendment did not apply to anyone “who installs in his house a telephone instrument with connecting wires … to project his voice to those quite outside.”

Not until 1967 did the court correct that blunder. It ruled that “the Fourth Amendment protects people, not places,” including those things a person “seeks to preserve as private, even in an area accessible to the public.”

Maybe it still does. Or maybe not.

It seems to me that average law abiding people have been growing weary of the recent trend to treat em all like criminals, take their stuff, lock’em up, and let God sort’em out attitude that seems to permeate the criminal justice system.

These law enforcement lobbyists and representatives are better off listening to the public’s concerns and working with them rather than using the same old tired fear mongering fallacy that crime will run rampant if the public doesn’t fold to their demands.

Normal law abiding citizens have learned to fear those that are supposed to protect them and it’s time our elected officials realize this is more than just a bad case of the Mondays.

Who has the power?

Strib reports “AG’s office asks PUC to turn down Minnesota Power’s rate request.”

The Minnesota attorney general’s office on Wednesday asked the state Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to reject Minnesota Power’s $81 million rate increase request.

In a filing with the PUC, the AG’s office noted Minnesota Power requested the new hike on Nov. 2, 2009, just one day after the PUC granted the utility a $20.4 million rate increase.

“What’s unusual about this is that this company essentially turned around before the ink was even dry on their last rate increase then filed for another increase for $81 million,” said Ben Wogsland, a spokesman for the attorney general’s office.

Did you get that? They were given a 20 million rate increase and then immediately asked for an additional 80 million.

What is up with that?

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q_j0vcc70Ig[/youtube]

The Buckthorn invasion continues

You’ve heard of Buckthorn right? The beautiful, yet nasty shade tree that is often used as a hedge is quickly becoming the invasive plant scurge of Minnesota and in many cases it is already threatening our native ecosystem.

A bill that would allow cities to make Buckthorn removal mandatory has been put on hold.
Strib reports

A bill that would let cities require property owners to battle the invasive shrub has advanced in the House but stalled in the Senate. Among the concerns? That for one property owner in particular — the state — clearing the plant could consume more resources than are available.

The bill is sponsored by Rep. Paul Gardner, DFL-Shoreview, but is the inspiration of an 85-year-old North Oaks woman who has gamely battled buckthorn on her property and has channeled her considerable energy to getting it out of her wooded city.

“The injustice is even if you clear your property yourself, [your yard] still can be reseeded by people who have the buckthorn and have ignored it,” said Joan Brainard, noting that birds spread the seeds.

Gardner’s bill would have taken a larger swipe, by giving cities statutory authority to “adopt an ordinance to eradicate buckthorn on all public and private property within its geographic boundaries.”

Sadly, considering the State budget woes, it was probably a wise move to table the bill for now.
I can attest to the nastiness of trying to remove this plant. It grows along my fence lines and removal has been a growing issue for my since I bought the house 3 years ago, not only do the berry seeds have an incredible rate of turning into a tree, but the wood is notoriously hard and quickly dulls chainsaw blades.

Have you done battle with Buckthorn?

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