Friday, September 30, 2005

Blogs: what's really happening

Frank Johnson of the U.K.'s Daily Telegraph hits the nail on the head regarding the mass media and the blogosphere, in a wonderfully long statement that drifts dangerously close to becoming a run-on sentence:
The only way to follow anything that happens in the United States today is not to rely on what drifts back into the British media from the overwhelmingly liberal American establishment newspapers and national television bulletins: almost the sole source for, say, the BBC. Instead we must search America's blogs and websites.
(Hat tip: Julie Quist. Also noted awhile back in The Hedgehog Blog.)

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Politicians now have yet another way to have their ears to the ground, to feel the pulse of their constituents, and to figure out which way the wind is blowing — at least amongst the wired populace. is like a cross between the mn.general Usenet bulletin board and City Pages, with Scoop-like features that let readers comment and contribute. It's arty and hip (read: left-leaning), with very cool photography of these Twin Cities and an attitude.

Blog readers will especially enjoy the MNSpeak Aggregator, the aggregator for the rest of us. (An aggregator is software that pulls content from many web sites, using RSS, and displays it in one place, so you don't have to click down a long blogroll or bookmark list.) By visiting it, you can quickly survey 200 or so Minnesota blogs, including 44 political blogs from the left, right, and Centrisity. It's a nice collection if you don't want to (or have the inclination to) roll your own. I am doing something similar on my education web site, Minnesota Education Reform News.

We now return to our regularly scheduled, technobabble-free programming.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Focus on Plymouth

Illustration: North Star Liberty

This September has been busier than usual here in Plymouth, what with the rematch of high school football rivals Wayzata and Minnetonka, back-to-school curriculum nights, the jam-packed Plymouth on Parade day approaching on September 24, and oh yeah, Gov. Tim Pawlenty's appointment of State Sen. David Gaither (R-Plymouth) as his new chief of staff.

BPOU activists — Republicans, DFLers, and others — are scrambling to prepare for a fall special election to fill Sen. Gaither's Senate seat until the 2006 general election. All concerned have painted a big red target over the fair city of Plymouth and the northern precincts of Minnetonka, where one of only three seats in the evenly divided Minnesota Senate will be up for grabs. First-term Senator Gaither and his Republican supporters were planning on defending Gaither's Senate seat next year, but now all bets are off and the schedule has been moved up significantly.

The blogosphere is abuzz with speculation: Eva Young is taking a special interest in the race. GOPWingman at The Wind Beneath the Right Wing apparently had some inside info on the Gaither appointment. (For the latest on the SD 43 Senate race, do a Google Blog Search ...and stay tuned right here to North Star Liberty.)

Judy! Judy! Judy!

SD 43's annual golf tournament, held under yesterday's brilliant if breezily cool sunshine at Elm Creek golf course in Plymouth, turned into a launch of Judy Johnson's campaign for the Gaither Senate seat. Johnson is Plymouth's effective and popular mayor and President of the Minnesota League of Cities. She has excelled in her current nonpartisan office (even some of her neighbors had no idea she was a Republican) by setting a more cooperative tone on the City Council, and overseeing a vibrant, growing, and well-run city. She intends to run a strong campaign for the SD 43 Republican endorsement and work hard to keep the district's seat in the Republican caucus. Although the endorsement is up for grabs until the soon-to-be-announced endorsing convention, possible contender Bruce Lambrecht is now said to be out of the race, and SD 43 co-chair John Knight is co-chairing Johnson's Senate campaign, with SD 43's other co-chair, Planning Commission member, and civic activist Frank Weir serving as Johnson's campaign treasurer.

Minneapolis blogger Eva Young had this advice for any would-be DFL candidates for the SD 43 seat: oppose the Twins stadium tax. So who might the Dems run in 43?

Terri Bonoff is a member of the Minnetonka Planning Commission and co-chairwoman of the Hopkins School District's Legislative Action Coalition. According to Eva Young, "Terri is running as a candidate who believes that abortion should be legal, and also opposes the Bachmann amendment and supports full equality under the law for gays. Terri mentioned she has a gay brother - so this issue is personal for her."

Tony Wagner, Director for Carlson Wagonlit Travel and Minnetonka City Councilmember.

Buck Humphrey, son of former Minnesota attorney general Skip Humphrey, would connect with Gold Coast DFLers via his work on the Kerry campaign.

The Strib reported today that Minnetonka mayor Karen Anderson has already said no thanks.

With Sen. Mark Ourada (R-Buffalo) planning to resign by year's end to take a job in Washington, D.C., and Sen. Dave Kleis (R-St. Cloud) running for mayor of St. Cloud in the Nov. 8 election, the DFL has a golden opportunity to increase its majority in the Senate by three more seats.

The "other" Johnson

That "other" Johnson in Plymouth, state Rep. Jeff Johnson, is vacating his House District 43A seat to run for Attorney General. The Senate District gave the rising star a set of heavy elephant bookends to help decorate his new office — which will hopefully move from the State Office Building to the Capitol, down the hall from Gov. Pawlenty's office. With Judy Johnson now running for Senate instead of the House, Plymouth Republicans are vetting a new 43A candidate for 2006.

Ron Abrams

For his part, HD 43B Rep. Ron Abrams, elected to the House in consecutive terms since 1988, thanked SD 43 activists in advance for working hard to keep their Senate seat in the Republican caucus, and to keep him happy with a Republican "A-side" colleague in 2006.

CORRECTION: I incorrectly identified John Knight as co-chair of Judy Johnson's campaign. Plymouth City Council member Tim Bildsoe is Johnson's campaign chair.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

EdWatch celebrates wins

It was billed as a lecture by Constitutional law professor John Eidsmoe, but it was also a reunion of EdWatch education reform troops, conservative legislators, financial supporters, and friends.

The Eidsmoe event was held at the super-sized Grace Church and conference center, and Divine Grind coffee shop, and surely-there's-a-bookstore-in-there-somewhere, in Eden Prairie. EdWatch received around 130 pre-registrations, but after the extra chairs were brought in for the walk-ins, there must have been close to 200 packed in the meeting room to hear Dr. Eidsmoe. I spotted many EdWatch members who where the feet at the Capitol in the years-long campaign to replace the fuzzy Profile of Learning with new Academic Standards (including the mom who went toe-to-toe with Paul Spies, ah those were the days).

Pediatrician Karen Effrem is an EdWatch speaker and seemingly tireless lobbyist for education reform, and against overzealous early childhood education and coerced mental health screening and medication of school children. She recognized several Congressmen who supported EdWatch goals in Washington: Republicans Rep. Mark Kennedy, Rep. John Kline, and Rep. Gil Gutknecht. She also thanked Minnesota Rep. Jim Knobloch (R-St. Cloud) for supporting EdWatch on medical and mental health issues; Rep. Mark Olson (R-Big Lake) for opposing the Profile of Learning and championing the American Heritage Education Act over several legislative sessions; and Sen. Michele Bachmann (R-Stillwater), to a standing ovation from the audience, for her many years as a passionate, articulate voice (as a constituent and a legislator) for the EdWatch agenda. Appearances by Cheri Pierson Yecke, the godmother of Pawlenty administration education reforms, and commentator Katherine Kersten, early Profile of Learning opponent, would have made the evening complete.

When Dr. Eidsmoe became available to speak at the EdWatch event, there was some debate about the format: venue, admission, what kind of food to serve (dinner? dessert? lunch?), etc. The eventual combo was a winner: a sparkling new conference center with plenty of capacity, coffee and dessert (the apple tart-y thing was pretty darn good), tickets for $15. EdWatch's presentation of legislative wins, meaty policy briefs from Michael "PowerPoint Master" Chapman and Allen Quist, the superb main speaker Eidsmoe, talking shop with EdWatch board members, the chance to rub elbows with conservative stars like Bachmann and Olson and bow-tied emcee David Thompson (AM 1500 KSTP radio and frequent guest on "At Issue," KSTP-TV), and a co-sponsorship and on-air promotion from AM 1280 The Patriot and AM 980 KKMS radio, all converged for a stimulating evening, and hopefully some financial support from those in attendance.

With a full-time lobbyist in Washington, D.C., a continued presence in Saint Paul, and an increasing presence in other states, EdWatch is soldiering on for knowledge-based education reforms, parental rights, and liberty.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Republican State Convention 2005

On Saturday at 7:30 a.m. I found myself in the middle of the crowds arriving at the Xcel Energy Center for the Promise Keepers convention. Thousands were beginning to make their way to the registration tables, some already with coffee, most with well-worn Bibles in hand.

But I wasn't there for the Promise Keepers convention. I was there for the state convention of the Republican Party of Minnesota. I immediately began wondering whether I had just paid $10 to park in the ramp for a meeting that wasn't happening until next week.

After asking a security guard for directions, I found my way up to the second floor of the adjoining Saint Paul RiverCentre convention center. Fortunately, the Republican Party seemed to have a better sense of direction that day than I did. This was clearly the kickoff event for the 2006 campaign, a rah-rah session for party delegates, precinct chairs, and BPOU leadership. So here begins my grassroots coverage of the 2006 campaign.

Governor Tim Pawlenty hosted a coffee-and-doughnuts reception before the convention was called to order. Gov. Pawlenty was greeting folks in an impromptu receiving line, which I regret that I did not join. I sighted state Sen. Steve Smith (R-Mound) there too.

I ran into other party faithful from Senate District 43 (Plymouth), my home district. One of them, Rep. Jeff Johnson, with more than a dozen of his deep blue-shirted campaign volunteers, was campaigning for the office of Attorney General. I will be campaigning for this neighbor of mine, as well as a few others I'm sure, during the next fifteen months. I re-introduced myself to a face from the Bush Cheney '04 campaign, state eCampaign head Larry Colson (well, we only met once at a MOB event at Keegan's).

I saw Rep. Phil Krinke, (R-Lino Lakes) candidate for Congress in the Sixth District, before the convention. Sen. Michele Bachmann (R-Stillwater), also a candidate for that seat, had a table nearby, but was at home celebrating her wedding anniversary. Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer and State Auditor Pat Anderson were chatting it up with delegates, very accessible and rubbing elbows as usual.

On the convention floor, chairs were lined up for the several hundred delegates. Sen. David Hann (R-Eden Prairie), whom one insider told me is "the smartest guy in the Legislature," sat in front of me with my friends from SD 42. A vocal duo sang patriotic songs to a piano accompaniment. The convention was called to order by recently-elected state party chairman, Ron Carey. The chair of the state Teenage Republicans, Nora Jensen, led the Pledge of Allegiance to two huge American flags hung on the wall behind the podium. The vocalists led the singing of the Star Spangled Banner and God Bless America. Chuck Knapp of KTIS-FM led a brief but spirited invocation.

These "odd year" conventions are truly for the party faithful, with little significant business and even less controversy (nothing to rival the epic, into-the-wee-hours, 2002 gubernatorial endorsement clash between Tim Pawlenty and Brian Sullivan). The four-plus hours this year were filled mostly with routine committee reports, highlighted by speeches from Republican elected officials (lots of Republicans elected to statewide office, it was noted with satisfaction), and the kickoff of the latest state and national voter identification and get-out-the-vote efforts.

Tim Pawlenty

The centerpiece address was given by Governor Pawlenty, who continued the "I Am a Conservative" message delivered in a letter to party activists a week or two ago. Pawlenty reached out to former rival Sullivan, who is now National Committeeman from Minnesota, with praise and thanks. This gave Sullivan a chance to feel the love from his applauding supporters (they are still out there, still somewhat irked at Pawlenty's cigarette "fee" and his pursuit of state-run casino revenue). For his part, after his endorsement defeat, Sullivan rolled up his sleeves and helped to elect Pawlenty, and has since worked behind the scenes to strengthen the party.

For those bleary-eyed delegates who weren't getting Pawlenty's early-morning message, his campaign volunteers distributed a flyer during his address, printed on bright red paper, titled "Conservative Reform for Minnesota." Even grumpy right-wingers must concede that Pawlenty has brought the state (and the governor's office) a long way since the days of feather boas, "my governor can beat up your governor," Playboy magazine interviews, and jokes on the David Letterman Show about "drunken Irishmen" from Saint Paul. So far during Pawlenty's first term, he has:
  • Turned a $4 billion deficit, second only to California's, into a surplus in two years, without raising taxes (not counting the cigarette fee)

  • Made Minnesota more pro-life by requiring a 24 hour waiting period, ensuring that expectant mothers receive information about fetal pain, and funding groups that provide positive alternatives to abortion

  • Allowed law-abiding citizens to carry firearms (this law was actually passed a second time after being challenged in court)

  • Oversaw the replacement of the Profile of Learning with rigorous, knowledge-based academic standards; and moving toward (Pawlenty claims "implementing") performance pay for teachers, also known as Q-Comp

  • Supported a constitutional amendment to define marriage as between one man and one woman

  • Slowed the growth of government, including merging or eliminating state agencies and reducing the number of state general fund employees (Lt. Governor and Transportation Commissioner Carol Molnau had more to say about this later)

The governor also paraphrased Ronald Reagan, saying that the First Amendment "was designed to protect people of faith from government, not to protect government from people of faith." Reagan's original quote:
To those who cite the First Amendment as reason for excluding God from more and more of our institutions and every-day life, may I just say: The First Amendment of the Constitution was not written to protect the people of this country from religious values; it was written to protect religious values from government tyranny.

Sixth District Congressman Mark Kennedy

Kennedy gave warm greetings that turned into a rousing campaign speech for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Sen. Mark Dayton. Kennedy touched on the themes he would emphasize if elected, not least of which would be as a Republican counterweight to that "other" Senator Kennedy.

U.S. Senator Norm Coleman

Coleman was also away visiting family, so he sent his greetings via a staffer.

Lt. Governor and Transportation Commissioner Carol Molnau

Molnau gave some very lively greetings, conveying the fun she was having at the convention and on the job. She told a funny story about the chandelier in the Capitol dome, which is lit only on special occasions and if "something happens" to the governor (that is, if he dies). So Molnau said that the first thing she does when coming to work is look up at the dome. If it's dark, she heads over to the Transportation Building. Molnau also told some great stories about reducing the size and complexity of MnDOT, while undertaking an ambitious construction schedule, much to the delight of the audience.

Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer

Kiffmeyer emphasized her work to ensure fair elections, and encouraged all Republicans to work as election judges in 2006.

State Auditor Pat Anderson

Anderson gave a speech not about campaigns but about underlying principles like accountability. I am a big fan of Anderson's work to make state agency spending more transparent to the taxpayers.

Speaker of the House Steve Sviggum

Speaker Sviggum gave a very enthusiastic speech about Republican achievements, and gave attendees many reasons why they should "feel good" about being Republican.

Senate Minority Leader Dick Day

Day, who once encouraged everyone to drive past freeway ramp meters, assured delegates that there would be no special session. He almost apologized to social conservatives for his promotion of the racino at Canterbury Park, but listed his talking points in favor of it anyway. (In a mailing to supporters, Rep. Mark Olson (R-Big Lake) makes a very interesting case that voting against the expansion of gambling actually has the effect of expanding gambling sans state regulation, given the current agreements with Native American tribes, as casinos such as Mystic Lake continue to expand to meet market demand. But Olson, a conservative, is torn on the issue and is asking for constituent feedback.)

State Rep. Jeff Johnson

Johnson promised to show up for work every day as state Attorney General to protect children like his own two young sons. He complained that criminal prosecutions by the AG's office under Mike Hatch have been neglected, putting children at risk.

U.S. Senate Candidate Harold Shudlick

Challengers to the presumptive endorsee are always welcomed with respect by Republican delegates, but Shudlick's address was basically an attack on Mark Kennedy without offering much reason to vote for Shudlick, other than the oft-repeated platitude "a vote for me is a vote for you." This graceless performance made it difficult for delegates to imagine endorsing Shudlick over Kennedy — or anyone else.

Ironic moment of the day: when the RNC staffer's PowerPoint presentation reached the slide demonstrating the triumph of 2005 technology over 1975 technology, the embedded video would not play until after several attempts, advancing the slides forward and back, exiting out into the PowerPoint slide sorter view, and other frantic mouse-clicking. The video, featuring Ronald Reagan presiding over voter ID and GOTV efforts using not much more than stone knives and bearskins, was well-received once they got the 2005 technology figured out.

Joke of the day: How many Democrats does it take to screw in a light bulb? None: they expect the government to do it.

More coverage, with links to speech audio, at Residual Forces.

Saint Paul Pioneer Press, "GOP unites as Pawlenty launches '06 campaign."

UPDATE: I have been informed that Michele and Marcus Bachmann were there after all, at the back of the room. Convention Rule #1: all of the interesting conversations happen at the back of the room, in the hallways, and next to the free food.

Remember 9/11/01

PBS was the only broadcast television network to air special programming today relating to the anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. They aired the final three-hour episode of New York: A Documentary Film, which replays the events of the World Trade Center attack with heartbreaking clarity, and then a one-hour show, "9/11-Clear the Skies," an account of the nation's air defenses on that fateful day.

The attacks in New York, Washington, D.C., and in the skies over Pennsylvania were attacks on America and on all Americans.

See Residual Forces for a great 9/11 remembrance in the form of videos and links to many articles and entire sites about the 9/11 attacks and their victims. Remember.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Flood buckets

The United Methodist Church Committee on Relief (UMCOR) has mobilized United Methodist churches around the world to provide relief to the victims of Hurricane Katrina. UMCOR's projects include assembling "flood (cleanup) buckets" and personal hygene kits for flood victims. These projects give relief efforts a practical, from-our-family-to-yours dimension. Instructions are available at your local United Methoist Church, and at the UMCOR web site.

We made assembling our flood buckets a family project last Friday. It helped to make Katrina, and the suffering of its victims, more real for us and our kids. We spent in the neighborhood of $60 per bucket for two buckets. Some of the bottled items are called for in smaller sizes, so that everything fits in a five-gallon bucket with lid. We had to go to three different stores to find the entire list, but it was such a minor inconvenience to help two families suffering from this disaster.

Flood buckets

On Sunday, our pastor has challenged the entire congregation to donate one flood bucket or hygene kit per family. He has secured a truck to transport the completed kits to the Gulf Coast next week.