A source for news, commentary and conversation on a wide range of politics, public affairs and public policy.

Location: St. Paul, Minnesota, United States

Friday, December 24, 2004

Forgotten History Lessons

"Indefinite internment of prisoners of war is an invitation to abuse and humiliation.
Why are we repeating our horrendous mistake of the past?"

The question begs the reality that it remains the mission of this administration and its rightwing fundamentalist supporters to keep a demon alive for exploiting that demon's resources for corporate and political profit and power. If Asia proper was where the well of wealth these people lived, we'd be warring with them and demoniszing their race and religion just as we're now doing in the Middle East. The heathen are ever the excuse for imperialism.

Simple, eh?


Forgotten history lessons
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By Stanley I. Kutler
Dec. 24, 2004 | Will our history be a usable past, or are we destined to fall victim to George Santayana's famous admonition that those who forget the past are condemned to relive it?
A recent Cornell University poll found that 44 percent of Americans believe the government should restrict the civil liberties of Muslims. Only a slighter higher percentage of 48 percent believe there should be no such restrictions. And nearly 30 percent responded favorably to the ideas of requiring Muslims to register with the federal government, having undercover agents infiltrate Muslim organizations, and permitting the government to engage in racial profiling.
The poll numbers reflected more substantial support for such measures by Republicans and those who call themselves "highly religious." Republican voters supported restriction and surveillance efforts 2-to-1 over Democrats. The highly religious respondents viewed Islamic countries as violent (64 percent), fanatical (61 percent) and dangerous (64 percent). Less religious folk scored a bit lower, with 49 percent describing Islamic countries as violent, 46 percent as fanatical and 44 percent as dangerous. Small comfort.
Thomas Jefferson's faith in knowledge and education took quite a blow, for the poll revealed that those who more avidly followed television news showed a higher percentage of support for restricting the rights of Muslim-Americans. That might surprise some -- maybe. The day the poll was released (Dec. 17) also brought news of the death of 97-year-old Harry Ueno. Ueno knew firsthand about restricting the rights of ethnic minorities: He was one of more than 120,000 Japanese-Americans forcibly removed to internment camps during World War II. Most had been born in the United States, were thus citizens and, in their eagerness to "fit in," had become Christians.
Ueno and his wife and three sons were shipped to Manzanar, near California's Mount Whitney, along with 10,000 other men, women and children. Ueno worked in the mess hall and discovered that camp employees ran a black market, selling sugar intended for the internees but in all likelihood wanted for the operation of alcohol stills. Ueno confronted them and was promptly arrested and jailed. An uprising followed, and two Japanese-Americans were killed by guards. Ueno spent three years moving to different jails, including a year in solitary confinement. He was never charged with a crime or given a hearing. Ueno's story puts a human face on what apparently is a mere abstraction for most Americans. Democracy and freedom always hang by the slenderest of threads.
"Internment camps" was a lame euphemism for "concentration camps." The latter term arose from the Boer War at the turn of the 20th century, but for us today it raises images of Nazi Germany and horrifying memories of death camps, the Gestapo and the S.S. True, no ovens for humans operated in Manzanar and other internment camps, but the camps' occupants had few rights or freedoms. (Well, they could join the Boy Scouts.)
Internment is an invitation to abuse, degradation and humiliation. We only have to note the latest horrifying reports regarding the treatment and fate of uncharged prisoners at Guantánamo and at Abu Ghraib and other U.S. prisons in Iraq. Unfortunately, a few low-level convictions have served to obscure the larger meaning and issues of the treatment of prisoners of war.
Former FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, not one to hold an abiding respect for civil rights and liberties, initially opposed the military's evacuation of the Japanese-Americans from their homes. Typically, his position was rooted in jealousy for his bureaucratic authority. He believed -- quite rightly -- that he had excellent knowledge of Japanese elements (mostly aliens) with a potential for sabotage. In the days following Pearl Harbor, the FBI rounded up several hundred suspects from lists it and the military had compiled. All were Japanese nationals, most were far above military age, and among them were Buddhist and Shinto priests. No Japanese-American (citizen or resident alien) committed an act of sabotage during the war.
The Civil Liberties Act of 1988 granted $20,000 in reparations for those Japanese-Americans who survived their forcible evacuation. The amount was a pittance for their loss of nearly four years of productive life, their freedom and their dignity. The law reinforced Americans' overwhelming sense for half a century that a wrong had been committed. An exception is the recent publication of a wholly undocumented, unfair and unbalanced defense of the policy by Michelle Malkin, a Fox News commentator -- a work clearly intended to justify future internment in our current war against terror. Or is it actually against Muslims?
If our Muslim fellow Americans -- whether first, second or third generation -- ponder this poll, and remember the consequences of internment for Japanese citizens and noncitizens alike, then this America cannot be the land for their dreams but, rather, their nightmares. The rest of should take our cue from this horrendous mistake of the past. The bigots, the uninformed and the fearful among us are the antithesis of such dreams and aspirations, having forgotten their own foreign roots and their elementary lessons in civics. Just what is it they think we are fighting to preserve?
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About the writer
Stanley I. Kutler is the author of "The Wars of Watergate."

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Government Subsidies & Budget Cuts


Ed. Note: State Senator John Marty issues this occasional essay for his Apple Pie Alliance. The topic obviates too much prelude. This is an issue that should have 100% of Minnesota citizens up in arms over these government giveaways. Andy
Government Subsidies & Budget Cuts
by Senator John Marty
To the Point!**
December 23, 2004
Minnesota, like most states, has faced tough budget decisions in recent years. Road maintenance and snowplowing have taken a hit. Healthcare for the uninsured was reduced. Schoolteachers have been laid off. Yet government subsidies for private business continue unabated.
The absurdity of this extravagant government spending is obvious when looking at professional sports. Taxpayers, some of whom cannot afford healthcare or basic necessities, provide funding for wealthy team owners and athletes.
Latrell Sprewell of the Minnesota Timberwolves, recently complained about an inadequate contract offer because, "I got my family to feed." It must be a hungry family -- Sprewell is receiving $14.6 million this year.
Vikings owner Red McCombs, who will likely end up with well over $300 million in profit when he sells the Vikings, complains that he cannot make it economically without a new stadium.
Marie Antoinette's "Let them eat cake" is no more out of touch with reality than this. Even so, Speaker of the Minnesota House Steve Sviggum boldly predicted that the state will build a new publicly-funded ballpark next year as soon as it deals with a $1.4 billion state deficit through additional budget cuts.
Taxpayer funding for professional sports is just the tip of the iceberg. Federal, state, and local governments routinely give public funds to businesses. These payments are hidden through complex financing arrangements so it is not obvious to the public what is going on. Even some politicians agreeing to the deals may not fully understand what they are doing.
My home city, Roseville, is on the verge of giving as much as $47 million in public money to a retail and residential redevelopment. To put this $47 million in perspective, Roseville receives only about $10 million per year from property taxes from all residents and businesses -- the windfall to the developer is almost five times that!
Proponents explain that some of the land has soil contamination that needs to be cleaned up. They neglect to mention that the polluters are responsible for the clean-up costs. When government agencies make a serious attempt to collect money for pollution remediation, they usually succeed.
Even if the city was unable to collect from the polluters, only $7 million of the proposed $47 million subsidy is for clean-up costs. For supporters, that doesn't seem to matter. They claim that much of this is "free money".
Why? They plan to use Tax Increment Financing (TIF) for the project. Few people understand TIF, and most people's eyes glaze over if you try to explain it, even though cities routinely give TIF subsidies. In theory, TIF provides funding out of the incremental increase of property taxes collected after the development as compared to the property taxes before.
When this new development is completed consultants claim that the higher value of the property will yield an incremental increase in property taxes that totals about $27 million over the next twenty-five years. The city would give this tax money to the developer as a subsidy. City officials argue that this money would not otherwise be collected. Hence, they consider it "free money."
Not surprisingly, this isn't the whole story. Failure to provide a subsidy does not mean that no redevelopment will occur on such prime property. Several years ago, Minneapolis provided a large TIF subsidy to a developer of the south end of the Nicollet Mall. A competing developer pushed a plan to redevelop the property without taxpayer money.
When Minneapolis chose the first developer because that proposal included a downtown Target store, they justified the TIF subsidy by calculating the difference in taxes between the proposed development and the taxes from the prior use of the property. They ignored the comparable taxes that would have been collected by the competing -- and unsubsidized -- development.
These new developments, in cities across the state, cause higher costs for schools, cities, and counties. For example, the housing in such redevelopment brings additional school-age children into local schools. These students are no less expensive to educate than their peers, yet the schools will not collect a penny of additional revenue from the redevelopment to pay those expenses, due to the TIF subsidy. The same is true for a myriad of other government costs. Tax Increment Financing simply shifts the burden to other property taxpayers.
Roseville already has the most retail per capita in the state -- more than even Bloomington with the Mall of America. Is it in the public interest to spend $47 million or $27 or even "just" $7 million to add a new Costco store in Roseville?
When the state budget is cutting off chemotherapy treatment to cancer patients and laying off teachers in schools, it is indefensible to give multi-million dollar handouts to the businesses with the best lobbyists.
**To the Point! is published by the Apple Pie Alliance.
Permission to quote or reprint from To the Point! is granted if author is credited.
Copyright © 1999-2004 Apple Pie Alliance

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Harness That Anger, says Howard Zinn

Some wisdom from the wisest of progressives. The great historian/advocate
remains optimistic, as he must. Andy

The Progressive | January 2005 Issue

Harness That Anger

By Howard Zinn

In the days after the election, it seemed that all my friends were either
depressed or angry, frustrated or indignant, or simply disgusted. Neighbors
who had never said more than hi to me stopped me on the street and delivered
passionate little speeches that made me think they had just listened to a
re-broadcast of H. G. Wells's The War of the Worlds, in which powerful
creatures arrive on Earth to take it over.

But then I reconsidered: They had not been listening to H. G. Wells. There
really were strange and powerful creatures that had just occupied the United
States and now wanted to take over the rest of the world. Yes, Bush was
reelected President, and whether there was fraud in the voting process or
not, John Kerry quickly threw in the towel. The minnow called for
reconciliation with the crocodile.

The reelected Bush triumphantly announced that he had the approval of the
nation to carry out his agenda. There came no sign of opposition from what
was supposed to be the opposition party. In short, the members of the club,
after a brief skirmish on the campaign trail (costing a total of a billion
dollars or so) were back having drinks at the same bar. When, in
mid-November, the Presidential library of Bill Clinton opened, former
Presidents, Democratic and Republican, along with the current President, sat
side by side and declared their fervent desire for unity.

But someone was left out of the celebration, this insistence that we were
all one happy family, accepting the President for another four years. The
American people were not quite in agreement.

Consider this: Bush won 51 percent of a voting population that was just 60
percent of the eligible voters. That means Bush won the approval of 31
percent of the eligible voters. Kerry won 28 percent of the eligible voters.

The 40 percent who did not cast a ballot seemed to be saying there was no
candidate they could approve of. I suspect that a large percentage of those
who voted had the same feeling, but voted anyway. Is this a decisive
victory? Has the will of the people been followed? (If we were truly
democratic, then maybe the 40 percent nonvoters who were the plurality might
have their wish: No President at all.)

The President may insist he has "a mandate," but it is up to the rest of us
to declare firmly that he doesn't. Sure, he had more votes than his
Democratic opponent, but to most of the electorate, that candidate did not
represent a real choice. More than half the public, in opinion polls over
the past six months, had declared their opposition to the war. Neither major
party candidate represented their view, so they were effectively

What to do now? Harness those fierce emotions reacting to the election. In
that anger, disappointment, grieving frustration there is enormous
combustible energy, which, if mobilized, could reinvigorate an anti-war
movement that had been slowed by the all-consuming election campaign.

It is in the nature of election campaigns to siphon off the vitality of
people imbued with a heartfelt cause, dilute that cause, and pour it into
the dubious endeavor to propel one somewhat better candidate into office.
But with the election over, there is no more need to hold back, to do as too
many well-meaning people did, which was to follow uncritically in the
footsteps of a candidate who dodged and squirmed on almost every major

Freed from the sordid confines of our undemocratic political process, we can
now turn all our energies to do what is discouraged by the voting system--to
speak boldly and clearly about what must be done to turn our country around.

And let's not worry about offending that 22 percent of the country (we don't
know the exact number but it is certainly a minority) who are religious and
political fundamentalists, who invoke God in the service of mass murder and
imperial conquest, who ignore the Biblical injunctions to love one's
neighbor, to beat swords into plowshares, to care for the poor and

Most Americans do not want war.

Most want the wealth of this country to be used for human needs-health,
work, schools, children, decent housing, a clean environment--rather than
for billion dollar nuclear submarines and four billion dollar aircraft

They can be deflected from their most human beliefs by a barrage of
government propaganda, dutifully repeated by television and talk radio and
the major newspapers. But this is a temporary phenomenon, and as people
begin to sense what is happening, their natural instinct for empathy with
other human beings emerges.

We saw this in the Vietnam years, when at first two-thirds of the nation,
trusting the government and given no reason for skepticism by a subservient
press, supported the war. A few years later, when the reality of what we
were doing in Vietnam began to show itself--when the body bags piled up
here, and the images of napalmed children in Vietnam appeared on TV screens,
and the horror of the My Lai massacre, at first ignored, finally
surfaced--the nation turned against the war.

The reality of what is going on in Iraq is more and more coming through the
smoke of government propaganda and media timidity. It cannot help but touch
the hearts of the people of this country, as they see our soldiers going
innocently into Iraq, but becoming brutalized by the war, practicing torture
on helpless prisoners, shooting the wounded, bombing houses and mosques,
turning cities into rubble, and driving families out of their homes into the

As I write this, the city of Fallujah has been turned into rubble by a
ferocious bombing campaign. Photos are beginning to appear (though not yet
in the major media, so cowardly are they) of children with limbs gone, an
infant lying on a cot, one leg missing. It is the classic story of a
military power possessing the latest, most deadly of weapons, trying to
subdue the hostile population of a small, weak country by sheer cruelty,
which only increases the resistance. The war in Fallujah cannot be won. It
should not be won.

The movement here against the war must confront the horror of the situation
by a variety of bold actions.

We will take up the classic instruments of citizens in the history of social
movements: demonstrations (there will be a big one in Washington on
Inauguration Day), vigils, picket lines, parades, occupations, acts of civil

We will be appealing to the good conscience of the American people.

We will be asking questions: What kind of country do we want to live in?

Do we want to be reviled by the rest of the world?

Do we have a right to invade and bomb other countries, pretending we are
saving them from tyranny and in the process killing them in huge numbers?
(What is the death toll so far in Iraq? 30,000? 100,000?)

Do we have a right to occupy a country when the people of that country
obviously do not want us there?

Election results deceive us by registering the half-hearted, diluted beliefs
of a population forced to reduce its true desires to the narrow dimensions
of a voting booth. But we are not alone, not in this country, certainly not
in the world (Let's not forget that 96 percent of the Earth's population
resides outside our borders).

We do not have to do the job alone. Social movements have always had a
powerful ally: the inexorable reality that operates in the world impervious
to the aims of those who rule their countries. That reality is operating
now. The "war on terror" is turning into a nightmare. Whistleblowers from
the Administration itself are beginning to reveal secrets. (A high CIA
official writes of "imperial hubris" and then leaves the agency.) Soldiers
are questioning their mission. The corruption attending the war--the billion
dollar contracts to Halliburton and Bechtel--is coming into the open.

The Bush administration, riding high and arrogant, adhering to the rule of
the fanatic, which is to double your speed when you are going in the wrong
direction, will find itself going over a cliff, too late to stop.

If the leaders of the Democratic Party do not understand this reality, do
not squarely address the desires of people in every part of the country
(forget the red, the blue, the nonsensical generalizations that ignore the
complexities of human thought), they will find themselves tailgating the
Bush vehicle as it heads for disaster.

Will the Democratic Party, so craven and unreliable, face a revolt from
below which will transform it?

Or will it give way (four years from now? eight years from now?) to a new
political movement that honestly declares its adherence to peace and

Sooner or later, profound change will come to this nation tired of war,
tired of seeing its wealth squandered, while the basic needs of families are
not met. These needs are not hard to describe. Some are very practical, some
are requirements of the soul: health care, work, living wages, a sense of
dignity, a feeling of being at one with our fellow human beings on this

The people of this country have their own mandate.

-- Howard Zinn, the author of "A People's History of the United States," is
a columnist for The Progressive.

------ End of Forwarded Message

Minneapolis Governance Overhaul

The City of Minneapolis and its Charter Commission are studying that city's
core form of government. The present configuration is unusual, especially
for a city of such size and influence as Minneapolis, in that it is a strong
council-weak mayor form, creating of city government a chaotic climate with
thirteen ward councilmembers officially in charge of running the city with
the mayor somewhat relegated to running the police department and
responsible for recommending budgets.

Over the years, often by mutual consent of the Mayor and Council, the mayor
has acquired greater powers - either by ordinance or charter amendment - to
manage the city day-to-day, in concert with the City Coordinator and the
President of the City Council - the so-called Executive Committee. The Mayor
may now veto legislation, requiring a super-majority of the Council to
override. I'm sure I'm missing more than this.

Moreover, the city's parks and library system, as well as its taxing
authority, have been governed by independently elected boards never or
rarely answering to either the Mayor or Council.

Structure does not always determine the best government and changing it is
not necessarily the way to ensure efficiency or proper representation of
residents, because, ultimately, those who hold the offices make all the
difference in good or bad governance. The City Charter is much like a state
constitution for what in Minnesota is called a home-rule city, and because
of its population size, Minneapolis is considered, with St. Paul and Duluth,
a city of the first class, with even greater autonomy from state laws that
govern other municipalities.

The charter lays out the form and construct of the local government and is
created and maintained by a 15-member charter commission whose members, for
obvious reasons, are not appointed by the city's elected officials, but by
the Chief Judge of the District Court of jurisdiction, in this case,
Hennepin County. The city's voters, with rare exceptions, must be consulted
on the creation and amending of a city charter, and it can be placed on the
ballot by the commission itself, by initiative petition submitted by
citizens, or by resolution of the City Council.

Now, comes a community discussion of a major shift in the city's governance
constructs. The Star Tribune is attempting to trump the political process
more than a little bit by joining the issue early on, including a specific
proposal for a revised charter creating a mixed ward and at-large system,
with the Mayor sitting as Council President and a city manager running the
operation. Further, the three primary boards now separately elected would be
appointed and be drawn in under aegis of the Mayor/Council's policy process
and the manager's administration. The Star-Tribune suggests the Council
become part-time - a disastrous idea in a city of this size with its
overwhelming number and complexity of issues. Talk about turning city
government over to bureaucrats and lobbyists!

I'll not detail their full proposal here, but commend you to the ST's
websites where you may begin to look at it and keep track of its progress.
Click on this articles headline or cut and paste this address:

I find this entire matter fascinating for several reasons, not the least of
which is good government.

One or two quick thoughts: on the subject of split representation for
elected boards and councils, neither all-ward or all at-large local policy
bodies are a good thing. Whether the Mayor should preside over a city
council of this size in a city of this size leaving management to a city
manager is questionable, but I'm open to suggestions. I generally support
the better accountability of bringing parks, libraries and the board of
estimate and taxation in under the Council.

From 1991-1999, I served on the St. Paul Charter Commission. During my first
year, I chaired the subcommittee examining the costs and benefits of a
combination ward and at-large system of electing councilmembers as well as a
part-time city council. This was 1991. I was the author of the ward/at-large
proposal, hoping to convert the council to a balanced representation system
- in this case, a four-at-large/five-ward split. Both ballot questions went
to the voters. My proposal failed, while the part-time proposal passed.

The Star Tribune Editorial Page excoriated me (and my colleagues) then - and
again in 1993 (when I was a candidate for the St. Paul City Council) for
proposing what they assured readers would be a diminishment of voting power
for Blacks and other minority communities because going from seven to five
wards would increase the size of each ward by about 15%. I argued that it
would yield precisely the opposite effect. They now have reversed their
position. The evidence from around the country - and Minnesota - must be in.

We on the Commission researched this issue to a fare-thee-well then and in
subsequent years, when we boned up to ask voters to reconsider a scaled back
version of our proposal (say, a seven-ward, two at-large arrangement). In
every case where mixed council systems were matched against all-at-large or
all-ward types, the general balance of meeting human needs and attracting
human capital with that of large bricks-and-mortar capital investments was
significantly better and stability between parochial interest and those of
the city as a whole far more assured.

Striking a balance between issues of narrower parochial views (wards) with
those of the city as whole is a critical change heading for better
policymaking. Not only is this not elitist, it is just the opposite,
removing exclusive fiefdoms from serving as leverage for logrolling votes -
a the bane of all-ward systems, creating many more opportunities for all
classes of people to have a say in who governs them, and providing the mayor
with some competition for what is now his exclusive territory - the city

Let's address some opponents' specific concerns:

Supposition 1: Elections will cost more for at-large members. The cost of
elections are rising exponentially with or without a change in council
configuration, and should be the last reason not to consider changes that
would yield better representation and policymaking for all citizens should
the costs of elections.

Here's why representation would be enhanced not hamstrung:
With the present all-ward system, all voters in the city have but one person
to elect while the rest of the council is elected by other sections of the
city, thus keeping each ward's constituency utterly reliant on the
responsiveness of one of thirteen councilmembers and creating a virtual
kingdom with which to bargain with council colleagues on issues of
importance to a given ward. This invariably means trading votes for one
issue or project for similar support when your time comes for needing it.
Those votes are often cast without a shred of concern over the merits of the
vote vs. what that vote can do for the councilmember later on.

The current system also presents but one opportunity for any citizen to be
elected to the Council, for they may only run for the seat that represents
their residence area.

With a combination (we'll use the Strib's breakdown which is strikingly
similar in proportion to the one I proposed and they shot down over ten
years ago in St. Paul) of (at least) six wards and/or (at least) four
at-large seats, each resident gets to vote - and/or run for - five Council
seats instead of one. Further, once elected, ward councilmembers are going
to be inclined to respond to constituent concerns more quickly since the
voter can run to any one of the other four for satisfaction.

Show me the elitism in providing a five-fold opportunity for citizens of all
stripes to help influence their city's governance.

Supposition 2: Nonprofessionals will be short-changed in favor of
professional elites. Where is the evidence that such a revision will yield
that result? The St. Paul model of a part-time council was thought to
attract more "professionals", therefore be more representative of the
citizenry. It happened once for one or two elections. Some talent joined.
The rest caved in to the full time nature of the job, but it remained that
Mayor was able to assume a far greater portion of the balance of power the
strong-mayor form was designed to assure.

Oh, yes, a few so-called professionals (Doctors? Lawyers? Accountants? CEOs?
Small business owners?) might run and even be elected. But, first of all,
very few would be willing to sacrifice high-level careers for a four-year
full time stint on their City Council. You have to want to serve badly to
leave a law practice, a medical or dental practice, a corporate executive
post for scrutiny, the notoriety and significant drop in pay these men and
women would suffer. If and when they do, it will obviously be because they
are prone to public service over monetary self-enrichment. But, even then,
four years apart from their client bases and customers can leave little to
come back to.

This is hardly, I hasten to add in rebuttal of some concerns, a recipe for
southwest Minneapolitans to dominate the Council. St. Paul's history puts to
rest similar fears that Crocus Hill, Mac-Groveland and Highland Park would
be "overrepresented" in a configuration with at-large representatives.
Councilmembers - even when we had an all-at-large commission form of city
government (from 1916-1972. The strong mayor form has only been with us for
30 years) - came from everywhere in the city, many of the most powerful
hailing from the East Side, the North End and Northwest sections of the city
where residents of generally more modest means reside.

Naysayers overstate the likelihood that those with the dough will run. Good
candidates can raise the money necessary to run and win. And, again, those
from Southwest Minneapolis are not likely more active in their communities
than residents from other parts of this city. Perhaps less so.

As for the city management form, I'm not sanguine about the accountability
of this arrangement, although some administrative coordination might be
wise, especially if the Mayor is the Chair of the Council.

It is important that the old saws and elitist fears not be trotted out
unless you have pretty solid evidence that the changes can't work, in this
case for the betterment of city policy. Other cities' experience dictates
otherwise, and a mix of neighborhood types and well-placed at-large members
is not a bad thing, as I see it.

One thing that must go is the singularly archaic strong-council/weak-mayor
form Minneapolis now struggles with. Either make it a strong-mayor/council
system with a balance of power struck by a mixed ward/at-large council
configuration and the Mayor the chief executive, or if, like a parliamentary
piece, the Mayor is a councilmember, then govern with an executive committee
and a city coordinator, much as it is now with the exception that mayor
couldn't veto, merely vote along with the rest of them.

We'll keep an eye on this process here - despite being a resident of
Minneapolis' sister city to the East. I happen to love Minneapolis almost as
much as St. Paul.

Andy Driscoll
Saint Paul

Friday, December 17, 2004

Goodbye to Bill

This Friday marks another tragic day in the life of these United States - the day Bill Moyers speaks his last on NOW. The times in the Twin Cities:
9 PM, Channel 2 - repeated at 3 AM in the morning - and at 7 PM Monday, Channel 17. It is my fervent prayer (if praying is in order these days) that the principles and incredible integrity with which Bill has created this milestone in broadcast journalism can be mimicked in his successor, David Brancaccio's management of the program. David will have a long way to go before his feet are large enough to fill them Texas shoes.

It might do us all well to record this final Moyers program for posterity for we will not see the like of it again.

Thank you, Bill, from a grateful nation.


NOW with Bill Moyers
Friday, December 17 on PBS
(Check local listings at

This week on a NOW:

* Right-wing media machine. Bill Moyers reports on the intersection of
media and politics, and how Republicans have used it so successfully in

* Liberty and justice for all? ACLU head Anthony Romero talks about
life in the midst of war on terror and what it means for Americans'
civil liberties. A Bill Moyers interview.

* For NOW, he's Bill Moyers. Bill Moyers signs off after three years as
host of NOW.


Bill Moyers looks inside the right-wing media machine that the conservative
NEW YORK TIMES columnist David Brooks called a "dazzlingly efficient
ideology delivery system." The program examines how a vast echo chamber
that is admittedly partisan and powerfully successful delivers information -
and misinformation - with more regard for propaganda than fact. Founding
father to the conservative movement, Richard Viguerie tells Moyers, "That's
what journalism is, Bill. It's all just opinion. Just opinion."


Since 9/11 and the start of the war on terror, the American Civil Liberties
Union (ACLU) has been one of the leading voices in the fight for the
protection of civil liberties. They have taken on cases when no one else
would touch them, cases involving foreign nationals living in our country
whose rights were violated in the early round-ups post 9/11, or cases where
law enforcement infiltrated groups of U.S. nationals in our soil, only
because they disagreed with our government's policies. Most recently they
have been in the news for making public a series "of U.S. Navy documents
that reveal that abuse and even torture of detainees by U.S. Marines in Iraq
was widespread." Bill Moyers speaks with Anthony Romero, executive
director of the ACLU, who will talk about life amidst an ongoing war on
terror and the delicate balance between protecting civil liberties and
national security.

NOW WITH BILL MOYERS continues online at ( Log
on to the site to see a timeline of media consolidation; to find out who
owns what in the American media; to learn more about the history of the
Fairness Doctrine; to take a Freedom of Speech Quiz; to look at the
history of American civil liberties during wartime; to say farewell to
Bill Moyers; and more.

Also, respond to the NOW Online's Quote of the Week at

This week, Bill Moyers signs off as host and managing editor of PBS's
weekly newsmagazine NOW with Bill Moyers after three seasons at the
helm. NOW has been called " of the last bastions of serious
journalism on TV" by the Austin-American Statesmen and "...public
television at its best" by the Philadelphia Inquirer. Each week, the
series sheds light on a wide range of issues confronting the nation and
explores American democracy and culture through investigative reporting
and interviews with major authors, leading thinkers, and artists. NOW
continues its hard-hitting journalism and thoughtful analysis on January
7 with veteran journalist and current co-host David Brancaccio as its
new host in 2005.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Abuse of Returning Soldiers II

Yet another story of mistreated Iraq War returnees. Andy

This is amazing:
Nearly 300,000 veterans are homeless on any given night, and almost half served during the Vietnam era..”

“ of last July, nearly 28,000 veterans from Iraq sought health care from the VA.
One out of every five was diagnosed with a mental disorder, ...”

“Brown acknowledged the mental stress of war, particularly after Marines inadvertently killed civilians at road blocks. He thinks his belief in God helped him come home with a sound mind.

"’We had a few situations where, I guess, people were trying to get out of the country. They would come right at us and they would not stop,’ Brown said. ‘We had to open fire on them. It was really tough. A lot of soldiers, like me, had trouble with that...Not only were there men, but there were women and children - really little children.’”

“More troubling, experts said, is that mental problems are emerging as a major casualty cluster, particularly from the war in Iraq where the enemy is basically everywhere and blends in with the civilian population, and death can come from any direction at any time.”

The complete story:

  Homeless Iraq Vets Showing Up at Shelters
  By Mark Benjamin
 Â Â United Press International

  Tuesday 07 December 2004

  Washington, DC - U.S. veterans from the war in Iraq are beginning to show up at homeless shelters around the country, and advocates fear they are the leading edge of a new generation of homeless vets not seen since the Vietnam era.

 Â Â "When we already have people from Iraq on the streets, my God," said Linda Boone, executive director of the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans. "I have talked to enough (shelters) to know we are getting them. It is happening and this nation is not prepared for that."

  "I drove off in my truck. I packed my stuff. I lived out of my truck for a while," Seabees Petty Officer Luis Arellano, 34, said in a telephone interview from a homeless shelter near March Air Force Base in California run by U.S.VETS, the largest organization in the country dedicated to helping homeless veterans.

 Â Â Arellano said he lived out of his truck on and off for three months after returning from Iraq in September 2003. "One day you have a home and the next day you are on the streets," he said.

  In Iraq, shrapnel nearly severed his left thumb. He still has trouble moving it and shrapnel "still comes out once in a while," Arellano said. He is left handed.

  Arellano said he felt pushed out of the military too quickly after getting back from Iraq without medical attention he needed for his hand - and as he would later learn, his mind.

 Â Â "It was more of a rush. They put us in a warehouse for a while. They treated us like cattle," Arellano said about how the military treated him on his return to the United States.

  "It is all about numbers. Instead of getting quality care, they were trying to get everybody demobilized during a certain time frame. If you had a problem, they said, 'Let the (Department of Veterans Affairs) take care of it.'"

  The Pentagon has acknowledged some early problems and delays in treating soldiers returning from Iraq but says the situation has been fixed.

  A gunner's mate for 16 years, Arellano said he adjusted after serving in the first Gulf War. But after returning from Iraq, depression drove him to leave his job at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. He got divorced.

 Â Â He said that after being quickly pushed out of the military, he could not get help from the VA because of long delays.

  "I felt, as well as others (that the military said) 'We can't take care of you on active duty.' We had to sign an agreement that we would follow up with the VA," said Arellano.

  "When we got there, the VA was totally full. They said, 'We'll call you.' But I developed depression."

  He left his job and wandered for three months, sometimes living in his truck.

  Nearly 300,000 veterans are homeless on any given night, and almost half served during the Vietnam era, according to the Homeless Veterans coalition, a consortium of community-based homeless-veteran service providers. While some experts have questioned the degree to which mental trauma from combat causes homelessness, a large number of veterans live with the long-term effects of post-traumatic stress disorder and substance abuse, according to the coalition.

 Â Â Some homeless-veteran advocates fear that similar combat experiences in Vietnam and Iraq mean that these first few homeless veterans from Iraq are the crest of a wave.

 Â Â "This is what happened with the Vietnam vets. I went to Vietnam," said John Keaveney, chief operating officer of New Directions, a shelter and drug-and-alcohol treatment program for veterans in Los Angeles. That city has an estimated 27,000 homeless veterans, the largest such population in the nation. "It is like watching history being repeated," Keaveney said.

  Data from the Department of Veterans Affairs shows that as of last July, nearly 28,000 veterans from Iraq sought health care from the VA. One out of every five was diagnosed with a mental disorder, according to the VA. An Army study in the New England Journal of Medicine in July showed that 17 percent of service members returning from Iraq met screening criteria for major depression, generalized anxiety disorder or PTSD.

  Asked whether he might have PTSD, Arrellano, the Seabees petty officer who lived out of his truck, said: "I think I do, because I get nightmares. I still remember one of the guys who was killed." He said he gets $100 a month from the government for the wound to his hand.

 Â Â Lance Cpl. James Claybon Brown Jr., 23, is staying at a shelter run by U.S.VETS in Los Angeles. He fought in Iraq for 6 months with Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines and later in Afghanistan with another unit. He said the fighting in Iraq was sometimes intense.

 Â Â "We were pretty much all over the place," Brown said. "It was really heavy gunfire, supported by mortar and tanks, the whole nine (yards)."

  Brown acknowledged the mental stress of war, particularly after Marines inadvertently killed civilians at road blocks. He thinks his belief in God helped him come home with a sound mind.

  "We had a few situations where, I guess, people were trying to get out of the country. They would come right at us and they would not stop," Brown said. "We had to open fire on them. It was really tough. A lot of soldiers, like me, had trouble with that."

 Â Â "That was the hardest part," Brown said. "Not only were there men, but there were women and children - really little children. There would be babies with arms blown off. It was something hard to live with."

  Brown said he got an honorable discharge with a good conduct medal from the Marines in July and went home to Dayton, Ohio. But he soon drifted west to California "pretty much to start over," he said.

 Â Â Brown said his experience with the VA was positive, but he has struggled to find work and is staying with U.S.VETS to save money. He said he might go back to school.

 Â Â Advocates said seeing homeless veterans from Iraq should cause alarm. Around one-fourth of all homeless Americans are veterans, and more than 75 percent of them have some sort of mental or substance abuse problem, often PTSD, according to the Homeless Veterans coalition.

  More troubling, experts said, is that mental problems are emerging as a major casualty cluster, particularly from the war in Iraq where the enemy is basically everywhere and blends in with the civilian population, and death can come from any direction at any time.

  Interviews and visits to homeless shelters around the Unites States show the number of homeless veterans from Iraq or Afghanistan so far is limited. Of the last 7,500 homeless veterans served by the VA, 50 had served in Iraq. Keaveney, from New Directions in West Los Angeles, said he is treating two homeless veterans from the Army's elite Ranger battalion at his location. U.S.VETS, the largest organization in the country dedicated to helping homeless veterans, found nine veterans from Iraq or Afghanistan in a quick survey of nine shelters. Others, like the Maryland Center for Veterans Education and Training in Baltimore, said they do not currently have any veterans from Iraq or Afghanistan in their 170 beds set aside for emergency or transitional housing.

  Peter Dougherty, director of Homeless Veterans Programs at the VA, said services for veterans at risk of becoming homeless have improved exponentially since the Vietnam era. Over the past 30 years, the VA has expanded from 170 hospitals, adding 850 clinics and 206 veteran centers with an increasing emphasis on mental health. The VA also supports around 300 homeless veteran centers like the ones run by U.S.VETS, a partially non-profit organization.

  "You probably have close to 10 times the access points for service than you did 30 years ago," Dougherty said. "We may be catching a lot of these folks who are coming back with mental illness or substance abuse" before they become homeless in the first place. Dougherty said the VA serves around 100,000 homeless veterans each year.

 Â Â But Boone's group says that nearly 500,000 veterans are homeless at some point in any given year, so the VA is only serving 20 percent of them.

 Â Â Roslyn Hannibal-Booker, director of development at the Maryland veterans center in Baltimore, said her organization has begun to get inquiries from veterans from Iraq and their worried families. "We are preparing for Iraq," Hannibal-Booker said.

 © Copyright 2004 by

Even When They Do Their Jobs...

...they can’t win in this climate of intimidation.

This will be reversed, which almost always happens, but one must wonder how truly stupid the military must be to wield this wimpy hammer at all. The story about poor medical treatment of returning reservists and guardspeople is included below. It’s newspapering as it should be done.

Moreover, the question must be asked: if we’re all supposed to support our troops – why isn’t the government and military practicing what it preaches? The dehumanization of the poor, powerless pawns in the global chess game that is now U.S. foreign policy is the dirty little secret behind all the patriotic bullcrap naïve citizens are being fed daily by administration hawks and their PR flaks – the mainstream media – who would rather focus on photogenic strategies and tactics and ignore the human costs – on all sides of the war divide. This is how criminal a nation can become – to its own people.

Speaking of rooks.

Andy Driscoll

Fort Carson halts access for The Post

The base is refusing to give the paper information because of a Sunday front-page article on military medical holds. (Sunday article reprinted below),1413,36~53~2585336,00.html#

By Eileen Kelley
Special to The Denver Post

Thursday, December 09, 2004 -

Fort Carson -The Army is denying The Denver Post access to Fort Carson and to information on military activities in the wake of a Sunday article in The Post on military medical holds.

 "We have temporarily suspended relations with The Denver Post as a direct result of Fort Carson not being given fair and balanced treatment in a story that appeared on Dec. 5, 2004," Lt. Col. David Johnson, the chief public affairs officer at the base, said Wednesday evening.

 The front-page article examined claims from mentally and physically ill National Guard and Army Reserve members who say they are being denied access to quality care and are being shoved out of the military without disability pay. Congress has been scrutinizing medical holds at bases across the country.

 "All of those involved with the med-hold piece which ran yesterday are extremely disappointed with the outcome," Kim Tisor, a Fort Carson public affairs officer, wrote in a letter to reporters Monday. "Perhaps we would have been better off not commenting - it certainly would have saved us a lot of time."

 Denver Post Editor Greg Moore said the base's public affairs staff was misguided in their actions.

 "They are singling us out simply because they didn't like our story," he said. "Other newspapers and media organizations have reported on the issue. Our story was thorough, and balanced the concerns of soldiers with substantial response from the military, including from some officers who acknowledged problems with the program.

 "It's our job to investigate issues like these and explain them to our readers, many of whom have family members serving in the military," Moore added. "We hope Fort Carson officials reconsider their ban of The Denver Post. If they don't, we will appeal to senior military officers at Fort Carson and in Washington, and through any other legal or congressional channels that are available to us."

 Any commander has the authority to control access to his installation or unit, but a specific news organization can be banned from a base only in accordance with an Army regulation that provides for due process, according to a senior Army official who asked not to be named for fear of retribution.

 Johnson said the paper has been dropped from an e-mail list that distributes invitations to cover events and official statements.

 A Post reporter was told Tuesday she could not attend a formal deployment ceremony Wednesday even though other media members were invited.

 Johnson said the lack of access is not an official ban, but he later said that all Denver Post reporters and editors were - for the time being - no longer welcome at Fort Carson.

 Also last week, The Denver Post obtained an injunction to stop an investigative hearing that had been closed to the public for three Fort Carson soldiers charged with murdering an Iraqi general.


Soldiers in medical limbo
Members of Reserve, Guard stuck in "holdover"
By Marsha Austin and Eileen Kelley
Denver Post Staff Writers

Sunday, December 05, 2004 -

Army Pvt. Jessica Rich was medically evacuated from Iraq in January. Eleven months and two misdiagnoses later, she is still waiting to see a specialist who can treat the autoimmune disease hardening her muscles and attacking her joints.

 Sgt. Michael Lemke spent two months after returning from combat dealing with flashbacks of a mass grave at Abu Ghraib prison and dodging phantom sniper fire. Finally, an Army nurse asked him if he might like to see a psychologist.

 Sgt. Irene Cornett spent a year in treatment for a wrist injury that occurred when a tent rope snapped. After a bad infection, doctors fused the bone, leaving her with 10 percent movement and eligible for disability pay, according to her hand surgeon. But the officer who summarized Cornett's medical records to determine her eligibility for disability payments reported she had twice as much movement, ultimately disqualifying her from a lifetime pension.

 All three, along with more than 13,000 others nationwide, have spent time in a "medical holdover" unit, a system now under congressional scrutiny and the source of seemingly endless frustration to members of the Army Reserve and National Guard.

 Critics inside and outside the Army say "med hold" units are choked with reservists who should have been home much sooner with family or friends. Instead, they find themselves in a system that some Army officials acknowledge was unprepared to handle the thousands of soldiers wounded in combat overseas or injured while training or serving on U.S. military bases.

 Shortly after the March 2003 Iraq invasion, when casualties started returning to the U.S., "the system was immediately overloaded," said Col. Lynn Denooyer, an Army Reserve nurse stationed at Fort Carson between March 2003 and August 2004.

 Soldiers, veterans' advocates and some lawmakers say that despite recent efforts to beef up medical staffing and speed delivery of care, the Army still hasn't caught up, particularly when it comes to caring for National Guard and Reserve soldiers.

 "Clearly, the unprecedented number of guardsmen and reservists mobilized in the war on terrorism has severely taxed the system and its resources," said U.S. Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va.

Bias sensed by some

 The med-hold program was set up in March 2003 to help injured soldiers keep full-time pay while under review.

 Guard and Reserve soldiers can spend months in med-hold units, unable to return to their civilian lives, while the military decides whether they are fit to serve or must be discharged - and if so, how much pay they should receive.

 Since November 2003, 13,542 men and women who volunteered to serve as Army National Guard and Reserve soldiers have been injured on military bases or returned wounded from combat in Iraq and been assigned to med-hold units. Currently, 4,326 soldiers are in the system, according to the Army surgeon general's office.

 Past and present members of Fort Carson Army Base's medical-hold company, including Rich, Lemke and Cornett, say they've waited weeks, even months, for medical appointments, surgery or other treatments. Soldiers say military doctors routinely deny them consultations with specialists while prescribing dangerously large quantities of sleep aids and painkillers that only mask underlying medical issues.

 Some argue that the delay and substandard care are a symptom of an Army that cares more for "active" or "regular" soldiers than for the Guard or Reserve.

 "I'm National Guard - that's what happened," said now-discharged and unemployed Sgt. Virgil Travecek, 45, who waited about a year on medical hold for treatment of an injured back at Fort Carson before he was finally given a lump-sum check and sent home to South Dakota.

 "They screw you around," he said. "If you were National Guard, Reserve, you were not really a soldier. If you were regular Army, you were the best."

 The Army acknowledges that there remains a shortage of specialty doctors but insists that no preference in medical care is shown to active Army soldiers over those from the Guard and Reserve.

 "Guard and Reserve are being treated differently than regular soldiers. They're being treated better," said Col. Brian Lein, commander of Evans Army Community Hospital at Fort Carson. "We don't treat them as second-class citizens. We take great care of all our soldiers here."

 Beyond the frustration of being cooped up in a barracks, with untreated mental and physical ailments, reservists and guardsmen say the system frustrates their efforts to be medically retired, a discharge that requires an Army judgment of 30 percent disability and comes with a lifetime monthly pension and access to military perks such as commissary stores.

 Lemke described the whole process as a "pressure cooker" designed to frustrate soldiers to the point where they stop fighting for medical care and retirement the Army can't afford.

 He and others feel a deep sense of betrayal. These volunteer soldiers - waitresses, Wal-Mart managers, cooks and corrections officers - never expected to go to war.

 Once they did, they expected to be taken care of when they came home to face broken marriages, unsalvageable careers, wasted minds and crippled bodies.

 "Those who served are being kicked to the curb with little or nothing, and many of them will never fully regain their health," said Lemke. "I still find it totally incomprehensible that people wearing the same uniform I had on while fighting a war are the ones treating medical patients this way.

 "It makes me wonder, past all the flag-waving, what exactly it was I fought for."

"Cultural change"

 Col. Michael Deaton, Army deputy assistant surgeon general for force projection, acknowledged that the Army is having a difficult time getting injured soldiers to specific specialists such as orthopedic surgeons, neurologists and rheumatologists, mainly because of the remote locations of its bases.

 "Are we stretched thin in areas? Absolutely," he said. "Are we providing safe and adequate care? I think we are."

 In November, congressional staffers visited Fort Carson to hear soldiers' concerns. The following week, the Army surgeon general's office dispatched a team of officers who held a similar series of meetings with many of the then-75 soldiers in medical hold at the base.

 The Army has made "significant strides" toward improving care for soldiers assigned to med-hold units, Deaton said. It has hired 762 new staffers to exclusively support medical-hold units and is expanding programs that will allow injured and ill Guard and Reserve soldiers to get care in their hometowns, Deaton said.

 "We are making that cultural change that says we are here to take care of you, not to throw you out," he said.

 For soldiers who are injured or fall ill in Iraq or on their home bases, the system leading to medical hold begins with a diagnosis in the field.

 Upon arrival at Fort Carson, they are initially screened. If they are not declared fit for duty within 60 days, they have the option of mustering out of active duty and going home to receive medical care through short-term reserve benefits.

"Part-time care"

 Those who choose to seek more extensive care or disability pay enter medical hold. They are given treatment on the base, while boards of soldiers and doctors at Fort Carson and Fort Lewis, Wash., determine how severe their disabilities are, and whether they are eligible for lifelong payments.

 That process can take more than a year, though Army statistics show the average time spent in medical hold is 155 days.

 Soldiers at Fort Carson say they don't see doctors as often as they need to. Additionally, they complain that reservists and members of the National Guard get less medical care and are less likely to receive a full medical retirement than their counterparts in the "active Army."

 Reserve Sgt. Shelly Hays, 31, injured her back at Fort Carson last year while moving a 700-pound pump.

 She said the doctor who saw her made it clear she would receive what she described as "part-time care for part-time soldiers."

 "He said, 'I'm sick and tired of all you reservists coming in here and taking up all the (appointments) for the regular soldiers,"' she said.

 Army statistics show that reservists and members of the National Guard are less likely than active Army soldiers to receive full medical retirements.

 From Oct. 1, 2003, through Sept. 30, 26 percent of injured active Army soldiers received a disability rating that resulted in a temporary or permanent retirement with all benefits.

 Only 16 percent of Reserve or National Guard soldiers received a similar rating.

 The Army says the discrepancy is partly explained by the different roles most reservists play in support compared to the large number of active Army soldiers in combat.

 Dr. Gene Bolles, a Longmont neurosurgeon, spent two years as chief of neurosurgery for Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. He said he felt the Army's motivation in treating all soldiers was monetary, not medical.

 He has seen herniated discs go untreated, causing severe neurological problems - loss of bladder control, loss of sexual function, atrophied extremities.

 In his view, the Army needs to invest more in the care of soldiers, or Americans will face long-term costs for Veterans Affairs hospitalizations.

 "This is one of the so-called 'hidden costs' of the war," Bolles said. "We are going to end up with a lot of young people with chronic pain."

All contents Copyright 2004 The Denver Post or other copyright holders. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed for any commercial purpose


Wednesday, December 08, 2004

In-Your-Face Golden Rule from "The Creator"

From my close friend, Charlie Brennecke. Who among us can quibble with this
if they have anything of a mind? This is the toughest Golden Rule I've ever
read and one that, if essentially followed, could bring peace to all.
Hi, Andy.

I think your blogs are most interesting. They certainly stimulate the old
thinking machine and stir up the political compost heap. I¹ve been sorting
thru all the junk accumulated in the basement and came up with an item that
I originally found abandoned in a motel in Indiana forty years ago. I can¹t
claim to be the originator, but I did clean up the grammar and spelling.
Tell me what you think of it.
[[I am the Creator and overseer of everything that is, everything that ever
has been and everything that ever will be. I am of all and in all, I am in
all places and at all times, but I cannot be located. I have neither
ancestors nor offspring.

Terms that describe my Creation do not describe me; I am not like anything
else in Creation. I am what I am. Some call me God, but I reject the title
and the baggage that goes with it.

My Creation extends into all of time and space; I have made it so vast, so
complex and so dynamic that it is now, and will forever be, beyond your
understanding. I alone can comprehend it.

All of my Creation is equally precious to me. I have created no special
places, no privileged objects, and no chosen life forms. I have no
favorites. I treat all alike. My Creation is open to all who are willing to
observe; those who seek will find, those who ask will be answered, those who
knock will find the door open. There are no secret passages or occult
corners. I have hidden nothing and keep no secrets.

I do not send messengers or intermediaries to do my work. Those who claim to
speak or act for me deceive themselves and those that listen to them. I do
not divide my people into believers and unbelievers based on the recitation
of pious platitudes. I do not entertain petitions.

I require neither acceptance nor approval nor assistance of my creations,
and I recognize no adversaries. I draw no conclusions from events of the
past, and I have no plans for the future. Ideas and words mean nothing to
me; only actions count. I make no laws and pass no judgments.

In your daily experience, I confront you with many choices. When you make a
decision, you are absolutely free to take any action within your power to
carry out; not to decide counts as a decision. There are no forbidden
decisions. When you take an action to carry out your decision, I will then
determine the end result. You are absolutely responsible for the those
results. There is no appeal.

Your actions and mine together make up the seamless fabric of Creation. It
has always been and will continue to be, until I decide that my Creation has
served its purpose.

I have given you life: it has a beginning, a course to run, and an end. I
determine the beginning and the end, and closely supervise the course you
run. No thought, word or deed of yours can earn an extension. Rejoice in
life if you can; suffer it if you must. One passage through it is enough for

I have set before you the ways of life and death as I have created them. My
single commandment to you is this: Live your own life, and let others live

And keep up the good work! - - Chas B.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Important Disclaimer

For readers who may wonder whether I endorse all points of view posted on this blog, let it be know that I do not, by virtue of allowing anyone to post here, support or condemn anyone’s statements. When and if I have a comment in support or rebuttal of a post, know that I will post it here as well. If I find that postings are getting too personal or out-of-hand, I will begin moderating them. For now, I’m prepared to let debates continue.


Sunday, December 05, 2004

Plan to reduce Mid-East suffering

An important step toward World Peace is workable solutions in all the
problem areas.

I offer the following plan for the Mid-East and hope many others are posted
on this site. Contributers are welcome to add their own plan or expand and

Plan to reduce Mid-East suffering:
One of the kinder things the US can do to help the World solve the Mid-East
crisis is to buy 8,000 sq. miles of land in North or South America and
assist Israel in moving to a new home.

Costs will continue to mount if Israel stays in Palestine. No blame will be
ascribed to any group or the trajedy will continue. All groups will have
the possibility of living in peace and the cost will be worth it. {$51.2
Billion @ $10,000/acre; $50 Billion for 10,000 each to relocate 5 million

This total is small compared to the costs and suffering over the 56 years
trying to make the UN plan work.

The US has spent hundreds of billions to keep peace in the Middle-East and
trillions will be saved if Israel is moved to North or South America. The US
will foot the bill since they will be the main beneficiary.

Bob Simpson, Mpls.

School Budget Woes

[From a community observer]
"Keep in the mind, the budget is set by the legislature - the school board
is simply stuck with the frustrating job of dividing up what they get."

No, it is not true that the Legislature sets budgets for school districts. I really don't know where anyone would get the impression that the state creates a pool from which all districts must divine their share.

The only budget number supplied by the state is a per-pupil rate for school aid. Yes, the state figure raises or lower the local district obligation to make up the difference, but this, like local government aids, leaves the hard decision to the local unit to make up for. Districts can never afford to drop their taxes, because new burdens and inflation alone keep bumping up the necessary per-pupil expenditures, especially in city districts.

The state school aid formula is one source of money and districts receive their share based on per-student enrollment figures (that the state should take responsibility for all the money, paid for by a progressive tax system is another discussion). But the other major source of funding for schools comes from each district's direct property taxation power - with ceilings imposed by the Legislature. Additional revenues are raised by referenda - ballot questions where the voters decide whether to give their particular district the power to collect an additional property tax - and the only barrier to how much is the wisdom of the voters, not the state.

The tax levy authority is different from referenda authority in that the base tax rate school districts may charge property taxpayers is imposed without taxpayer approval, but those rates have, indeed, been maxed out for the last 45-50 years, so far as I can tell. Referenda, again, are always available if the political climate accommodates their success.

If sufficient state funding from a progressive source (like income taxes) came down based on real needs and fewer political agendas, we would never far fewer, if any, referenda, which too often give taxpayers the mechanism to deprive our children of their inherent right to an adequate education and thus preparation for future participation in and contribution to society rather than an uneducated burden on our social service and corrections systems.

The labyrinthine funding of public schools - especially the idiotic system of basing the financing of our children's education in major part on fluctuating property values – and not the intrinsic stability of a progressive tax - has left the children - not the system - without the resources necessary to better assure success in adulthood and citizenship.

Those are the main sources of school funding - and it's pretty much a mess, since far too many people who believe - wrongly - that they either no longer have a direct stake in the school system or they never did. Chief among these people are seniors, parents whose children have grown out of the "Keep in the mind, the budget is set by the legislature - the school board
is simply stuck with the frustrating job of dividing up what they get."system, and people who send their children to private schools. And, of course, businesses, especially whose owners and executives live outside the district.

I've always been amazed at the gall of the St. Paul Chamber of Commerce, the majority of whose all-too-powerful membership live outside the district boundaries, pay only for the schools in their home districts, and thus have no personal stake in the operation - or the products - of the St. Paul Schools. But still this outfit manages to exercise undue influence on the St. Paul district's ability to raise the revenues necessary to assure that the "products" – the district's children – emerge from the system prepared to serve as knowledgeable, well-balanced and productive citizens, parents, workers and leaders. And still the Chamber is forever stepping in to give its blessing or condemnation to any St. Paul Schools referendum as if the additional tax dollars might break the bank of the corporations who receive the services of all St. Paul public entities.

This is criminal.

Just as it has been seen as unfair that urban districts with higher populations of households without children should have to grovel for more money through periodic referendums than wealthier suburbs with kids can, the whole idea that equal access to adequate funding based on need and not property values, on need and not religious tenets, and on need and not curriculum should be our first reform priority.

Despite needing to ask voters for support for an expiring referendum, the School Board can always put a referendum on the ballot. I believe any District is limited in the number of referenda presented to voters only by political realities and their chances of passage. I doubt that limitations exist on the dollars raised or the number of ballot questions submitted. This is certainly borne out by the significantly higher funding levels and numbers of referenda submitted and passed by family-rich suburbs for curriculum enhancement and sports programming.

Again, these referenda ought not be necessary for providing the basics, and that's essentially what has happened to inner city districts versus suburban communities. St. Paul and Minneapolis are forever trying to pick up the slack in basic operations (especially with more students in our population requiring much more attention for income, nutrition, language, learning disabilities and the consequent behavioral issues attendant to all of those.

If sufficient state funding from a progressive source (like income taxes) came down based on real needs and fewer political agendas, we would never far fewer, if any, referenda, which too often give taxpayers the mechanism to deprive our children of their inherent right to an adequate education and thus preparation for future participation in and contribution to society rather than an uneducated burden on our social service and corrections systems.

The Right's pennywise, pound-foolish attempt at privatizing education right now is the most UNconservative approach to education any society could adopt, and, in every case, yields little more than larger numbers of uneducated adults drawing down on community resources instead of helping build them up through productive work, taxpaying, and leadership. This way is not the most liberal way - it's the best conservation and application of new and existing resources a society can enact. Any other alternative should be viewed as a radical attempt at controlling the learning content of all students to conform to a narrow agenda of religious fundamentalists and enriching private, unaccountable corporations at the expense of all of us who pay taxes.

And I haven't even yet touched on the incredibly negative effects of a bad public school system on a city's property values. On that issue, all taxpayers should be concerned that the system, whether they have children in it or not, be a stable, well-operated and effective teacher of all students.

This is so complicated for most people to understand, it's no wonder they often just say "No" at the polls. Most folks now involved weren't around when the so-called "Minnesota Miracle" was passed in the first term of Wendy Anderson and his majority DFL Legislature (1970). It was a major shift in education funding source from property taxes to income taxes, where it belonged, and all of the measurements for public school success jumped massively. Of course, major erosion of that system and a crawl back to the property tax base pushed hard by wealthy people, especially highly paid corporate executives, has occurred in the 25 years since and our achievement levels have reflected that regression, especially in cities like ours.

Again. It's criminal, the disparity of funding and allocation practices the powerful elite have been able to foist on the populace ever since. And with that disparity comes blaming the victim: the districts which find it impossible to conduct their mission properly with pressure from those who want the system to go private, and with deprivation of resources, can claim failure of the public schools to meet their mandate.

It is one true conspiracy.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Conversations on Fear

Today, I had the following conversation with a friend and former classmate of mine at the U. last Spring. His last name will go unidentified, because I really only want to demonstrate what I believe is a narrow view of the world of public affairs, even by a good man, a fine writer and publisher. Or is my view narrow? That’s for readers to determine. I rearranged the order which would normally be reversed in a series of emails. The first is a message I forwarded to my “other” list because my friend, William Moyers (son of Bill, for whom I’ve done some writing), who heads up Hazelden Foundation’s policy and external affairs office and is concerned about the stigma of alcoholism still prevailing, while my concern is a larger fear gripping the nation by our collective throats. First the article he passes on, then the series of messages I thought some would like to read. It may get a bit long.


Something’s missing in this red land of morality-based politics gone sour.

Fear is now the dominant emotion throughout the culture. And the politicians play it like a violin to get their own.

It will – never fear – it will come back to bite us all.


From: William Moyers
Subject: An example of stigma

Sadly, stigma still festers in the land of treatment. wcm

Doug Grow: Slamming door on the addicted Doug Grow, Star Tribune

Larry Refsland, preacher and mortgage banker, saw the house in the heart of Bluffton, Minn., and believed a prayer had been answered.

But following a town meeting two weeks ago, he's back on his knees, praying for a clarification.

In recent months, Refsland and his spouse, Patti, formed a company, Rewind Inc., with the hope of setting up a small chain of Christian-based drug and alcohol treatment houses throughout rural Minnesota. The house in Bluffton, a town of 204 people in western Minnesota's Otter Tail County, appeared to be the perfect place to begin building this dream/ministry. The house had been built in the 1970s as a home for nuns. Later, it had become an
assisted-living residence for the elderly. The owner of the property was willing to give Rewind Inc. six months free on the currently vacant property.

"It seemed perfect," Refsland said. "Everything about it seemed perfect."

Then came the town meeting. More than two-thirds of the people of Bluffton showed up and spoke as one: "Not here!"

John Dinsmore, human services director of Otter Tail County who had come to the meeting to serve as moderator, believes there is a need for the sort of facility the Refslands were proposing. As it is, many people in rural counties in Minnesota must go to the Twin Cities to get the help they need.

Still, the people of Bluffton were so opposed to the idea that by meeting's end, Dinsmore could only dryly commend the community for its solidarity.

"Not here!" isn't a phrase unique to tiny Bluffton. It's echoed in neighborhoods throughout the Twin Cities, too.

Refsland had proposed to treat people from Otter Tail and neighboring counties who had served jail time and now were seeking chemical-dependency treatment.

He had hoped Rewind would be greeted with open arms for a couple of reasons: First, he's hopelessly optimistic. Second, he thought the people of Bluffton would understand that this would be a facility that often would be serving people they know and love.

County Sheriff Brian Schlueter had underscored that point.

"Most of these people [who would be served by treatment] are our friends and neighbors," Schlueter said at the meeting.

In retrospect, Refsland isn't sure that people in Bluffton really believe that those struggling with addictions are the people who live across the street or on the farm down the road.

"I think in their minds we would be serving the people like they see on the television news programs from the Twin Cities," Refsland said. "I think they thought it would be like the people they see on 'Law and Order.' They couldn't imagine we were talking about their friends and their relatives."

Al Roggenkamp was one of the leaders of the effort to keep a treatment house out of Bluffton.

"We're all for treatment of the people who need it," Roggenkamp said. "It's just that our town is not suitable."

There is no police department in Bluffton, Roggenkamp pointed out. The Sheriff's Office is responsible for maintaining law and order in the sleepy little town and it's headquartered in the county seat, Fergus Falls, more
than 50 miles from Bluffton.

"What would happen in a crisis?" Roggenkamp asked.

Refsland tried to mollify the fears by pointing out that the treatment center would not be a halfway house, with people coming and going at will. He also said that sexual predators and people with violence in their backgrounds would not be allowed. In a last-gasp effort to win over the town, he said it would serve only women, not men.

When Refsland was asked how Bluffton would benefit from the center, he answered from his heart: "Anytime you help people, you benefit."

The Refslands believe that. For years, they've been opening the doors to their home, working with people fighting addictions. They've also been doing what he describes as "a jailhouse ministry."

Like growing numbers of people in the criminal-justice system, the Refslands believe addiction is a national health issue, not a crime issue.

Refsland has a vision of how to help treat the problem. He has a certified staff ready to roll. There's an endless list of potential clients.

And he thought he had the perfect place to begin, until almost an entire town turned out to say "Not here!"

Doug Grow is at
From: Al
Date: Fri, 03 Dec 2004 13:01:19 -0600

Andy, Andy, Andy. Sometimes you're so outrageous I'm truly amazed. Amazed that you can tie this story to the recent election. I covered a story very similar to this in Chisholm 20 years ago. The neighbors didn't want a group
home. Now you have to remember that Chisholm votes 80 percent Democrat all the time. Does this mean that Democrats are narrow-minded provincialists? I feel no fear. Do you feel fear? Or are we only fearing fear itself?

Andy Driscoll wrote:

Al, Al, Al; Never be amazed at my outrage.

Election? Where did I mention the election? Political partisanship? Where did I mention that? You’re extending my words into arenas never intended – that because I’m a political animal, I’m referring only to the crass
partisanship of cultivating fear. Not good, Al. You shouldn’t put words in my mouth of in my statements.

I think if you’ll check, you’ll find I spoke of a governing climate of fear throughout the culture. The election is both a result and a cause of some of that, but generating a fear-based life has been part and parcel of life in late-20th Century/early 21st Century USA. Fear is a controlling emotion and those who can and are willing to make it their business to manage other people’s fear have a leg up on the rest of us who cannot or won’t – unless the fear management is a fire to be fought with fire.

Fear is nonpartisan. Fear is the very core and foundation of the NIMBY syndrome – irrational hysteria over images conjured up on television that will destroy your children, your neighborhoods and property values when 99.4% of the time, nothing ever happens and people invariably forget with the passing of uneventful days and months. Fear drives the 10 O'clock News every night and the front page content of the daily papers. Fear is preached from the pulpit – both spiritual and carnal – warning that the almighty will crush you if you don’t prevent all of “those people” “out there” from controlling their bodies and their sexuality.

We’re talking here about a 60-year move away from personal and political freedom and trust of each other to a society of furtive consumers who’s only real freedom is rapidly narrowing to merely buying things.

And then came 9/11 and the unabashed exploitation of fear that comprised administration policy from then on – and led to the lies and distortion that murdered 100,000-plus innocents (not to mention the maiming of hundreds of thousands more) in other countries, doing little or nothing to the real perpetrators. All of this to retain political power and moral authority that was never there to begin with.

Surely, you don’t believe that because you say you don’t feel fear, especially as you’re writing me, that you’re immune to the fears raised daily in the media and by public officials.

Do I have fear? Damned right! But not for my life. Rarely have.

I fear for this country’s very existence – its soul. I fear what my children and grandchildren will live under as the police state clamps down on dissidence and illegally and unconstitutionally deprives common citizens their right to disagree openly with their government. And I fear that the corporate dominance of our economy and political processes is taking us down a road to very real fascism, if we’re not already there. Sound melodramatic?

That’s what average German citizens argued in 1933.

To: Andy Driscoll

Andy, You'll have to pardon me if I took "red land" as a reference to the election. Did you mean that we're communists? And pardon me if I tried to put it in context with the other 500 emails I've received from you
concerning the election.

If I go back 60 years, it must mean that the America of 1944 was when we went to hell in a handbasket. Yes, it was the end of the Roosevelt era, but you know what, I'll bet if you tried to put that group home in that little town in 1936 in the heyday of the New Deal, the NIMBY would still rule. Yes, it's fear, but it's not something new to these days.

I'll dwell on this some more, but my wife has arrived to pick me up.

Moralist Al
Ahhh, Al. Let’s not nitpick, shall we? Red-land has been around four years and has been a reference point for middle American “values” discussions, election or no election.

You’re a communist? How would I know? And who’s “we”? Al, you’re positively sounding like a Fox News spinner. Play games with the terms, if you wish. The point is – and you know it – that since WWII, what we’ve seen here is a long process of alienating the people from the government they are supposed to pick, not hate the very word or abandon their franchise to pick it.

Of course a group home in a small town like that in 1936 would get the same reception. But then, group homes were not the enlightened alternative to state insane asylums back then, were they? Seventy years ago, AA was being founded in Ohio. Recovery from alcoholism only possible in the strictest secrecy. So. Come to think of it, maybe the home would go in without telling anyone and the ruckus avoided.

The fear I speak of – and you know this, too – is far broader than NIMBY. In 1936 strangers weren’t afraid to acknowledge each other’s existence on a public street. Increasingly, since WWII, we’ve been pumped up with the
belief that no one but no one is to be trusted and no one should be caught on the streets after dark and no one should attempt to gather in dissent from their government’s policies and behavior.

That sort of fear is made worse by the incompetent newscasts most Americans have come to rely on since the war – all of them reporting little more than the few crimes that occur each day in a Metro area of 2 million people and
affecting three people at a time. If it bleeds, it leads, is the newsroom axiom, and a thoroughly distorted view of the real world where random crime and danger completely dominates the ever so earnest pretty mouths on the
tube every night.

Decades later, all people can think about is how dangerous their lives have become when nothing of the sort is true – not even after 9/11, which has been shamelessly and shamefully exploited for its fear-based manipulation of the American psyche and their subsequent votes. I’m far more fearful of my own local and federal police forces and an administration calling dissent a crime than I am of any potential terrorist, but I understand my views comprise merely half the nation’s as a whole.

It’s one thing to be fearful – of walking, talking, dissenting, even writing against the grain, but entirely another when that fear is, as it always will be, the basis of anger, even rage, and paranoia, and the violence they eget. Never have we been so violent on a per capita basis as we are now – in language, in driving, in voting, in confronting disagreement. These are dangerous times made more dangerous by those willing to keep fear alive and keep us at each other’s throats while they run our nation into the ground with greed and war.

When we all decide to stand up and stop pretending we’re not afraid of what can be done to us in the name of religion, national security and money by the powers above and by each other, when we confront the fears and decide not to let it rule us, then something resembling a unified culture under the promise of a Constitution fast becoming moth-eaten by the insects of power might actually allow us to survive. Otherwise, we can kiss the culture

We will have be come the next Roman Empire – assuming its not already too late.