Dana Milbank’s article highlights the Left’s lack of intellectual gravitas.

Rubio’s emotional, and at times inaccurate, response to the policy change shows why Obama’s move to normalize ties to Cuba after more than half a century is both good policy and good politics. It’s good policy because it jettisons a vestigial policy that has stopped serving a useful purpose, and because it is a gutsy move by Obama that demonstrates strong leadership and will help revive him from lame-duck status. It’s good politics because it will reveal that the Cuban American old guard, whose position Rubio represents, no longer speaks for most Cuban Americans.

It apparently didn’t bother Milbank that President Obama didn’t negotiate a deal with Cuba. Apparently, Milbank likes the thought of giving up leverage without getting anything in exchange.

This wasn’t a negotiation. It was a capitulation. It sold out Cubans at a time when Cuba’s supporters were hurting and getting worse. Venezuela’s, Iran’s and Russia’s economies are tanking thanks to $60/bbl oil. That’s way less than they need to keep their economies afloat. Without Russia’s and Venezuela’s support, Cuba’s dictatorship dies the minute the Castros croak.

This paragraph is laughable:

But Rubio was responding with his gut, which has been seasoned by the unwavering dogma of Cuban exiles. He began his remarks with the phrase “As a descendant of Cuban immigrants and someone who’s been raised in a community of Cuban exiles,” and he observed that “Cuba is close to home for me, both because of my heritage, also because of the community I live in.”

Apparently, Mr. Milbank frowns on people with actual expertise, which explains his fawning over President Obama. President Obama didn’t bring expertise on issues. He just brought a cocky attitude and a certainty that, though he was devoid of expertise, he knew how to right America’s wrongs.

By comparison, Sen. Rubio understands the history and plight of the Cuban people. He’s gained valuable insight while sitting on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to supplement the insight he had before joining the Senate. This, in Milbank’s mind, disqualifies him from speaking intelligently on the subject.

This is the perfect illustration of the Left appreciating trash-talking narcissists more than they appreciate people with topical expertise. It’s the perfect illustration of the Left’s foolish priorities.

There was a time when Gloria Borger was a serious journalist. After this week’s lovefest, it’s clear that she should be shipped to MSNBC, where undisciplined progressive hacks go for their final acts. Check out this slobbering Obama lovefest:

In case you haven’t noticed, President Obama has been flexing his executive muscles lately. On paper, it’s a head-scratcher. After all, he lost control of the Senate in the last election. His popularity is hovering near an all-time low. And, of course, he’s a lame duck.

Only no one seems to have told him. It’s as if he has shed his Clark Kent-ish demeanor for the more flamboyant cape. He’s no Superman, to be sure, but he’s spending an awful lot of time lately trying to get off the ground.

If Ms. Borger lavishes more praise on President Obama, she’ll be in danger of reminding people of the Obama rallies of 2008 where people fainted from excitement while listening to him. She’s acting like a giddy schoolgirl when she’s around her first crush.

With an introduction like that, it isn’t wise to think we’ll get anything useful from the rest of her article. After reading this crap, it’s safe to say that she lived down to my expectations:

And all that pent-up energy, ambition and action, barely two months after losing control of the Senate. Can this be no-drama Obama? “Anyone would become annoyed and frustrated if you were accused of being a wuss,” says a senior Democratic policy adviser. “And it’s always better to be on offense than defense.”

Everyone knows the old saying that there’s no such thing as bad publicity. Actually, there is such a thing as bad publicity. Similarly, it isn’t always better to be on offense. President Obama’s actions have been exceptionally stupid from a political standpoint.

In the latest Fox News poll, 60% of registered voters surveyed disapproved of his handling of immigration, compared with 36% who approved. Apparently, the people polled didn’t get Ms. Borger’s gushy memo that President Obama is Superman. Further, it’s worth questioning whether doing things the people don’t like is helping the Democratic Party for 2016.

At this point, Republicans should pray that President Obama should continue acting this obnoxious. If he continues acting like a spoiled brat who thinks that this nation’s laws don’t apply to him, he’ll sink the Democratic Party for 2016.

It wasn’t exactly a state secret that Obama had a lot on his to-do list after the election. The thinking, according to a knowledgeable source: He felt constrained and frustrated by his tactical responsibilities to Democrats in trouble. Don’t rock the boat. Don’t make Democrats take hard votes. Don’t even campaign in red states. So he didn’t. And, as it turns out, the restraint helped not one whit.

So now, with the clock ticking, he’s moved from party cheerleader to the head of the executive branch. It’s Katie-bar-the-door, with or without the Congress. ‘Tis the season for a presidential list, and he’s checking it twice — as his legacy looms. Everything he is doing redefines the very notion of a lame duck.

The things President Obama is doing through executive orders will be immediately undone by executive orders when Republicans retake the White House in 2017. That’s if they last that long. It’s quite possible the courts will put a thumping on his most exotic executive actions long before then.

It isn’t like President Obama hasn’t gotten thumped repeatedly by the Supreme Court. At last count, they’ve ruled unanimously his executive power grabs 13 straight times and counting.

President Obama is making the 2016 election about him, mostly because he’s a narcissist. He can’t help himself. Little Ms. Borger apparently hasn’t figured it out that he’s toxic. People want him to exit the stage. It’s apparent that, in most people’s minds, the 2016 election can’t get here soon enough. It’s time for President Obama to go. While he’s leaving, I’d appreciate it if he took Ms. Borger with him. We need real journalists, not over-the-hill cheerleaders.

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In 2013, the DFL said that they were raising taxes on “the rich” to pay for property tax relief for the middle class. I wrote here about how that failed…miserably:

The Princeton School Board in a split vote on Dec. 16 increased the school district tax levy by 25.16 percent for taxes payable 2015 to fund the 2015-16 school year.

This was a departure from the board’s originally proposed 33.87 percent hike. The total levy will be a little more than $6.091 million, a $300,000 increase over this year’s levy. The original proposal would have increased the levy $724,000.

A 25% increase in property taxes isn’t property tax relief for the middle class. That’s a gigantic, crippling middle class tax increase. Thank God the Princeton School Board exercised some restraint. If they hadn’t, the property tax increase would’ve been almost 34%.

I wrote this post to question why this historic property tax increase was needed in light of the DFL’s constant reminder that they paid back the school shift and raised per pupil spending. If I had $5 for every time the DFL, ABM or the Dayton campaign ran an ad talking about making an “historic investment in education”, I’d be wealthy. Either the DFL’s “investment in education” isn’t as historic as they’ve repeatedly said or the Princeton School Board is spending money recklessly.

Actually, there is another possibility. It’s quite possible that the DFL’s historic investment in education shafted outstate schools to pay for increased education spending in urban and suburban school districts. It wouldn’t be the first time the DFL shafted outstate school districts. Just ask Rocori if they’ve gotten fair treatment. (Hint: they haven’t.)

This fall, the DFL insisted that it didn’t shortchange rural Minnesota. The DFL insisted that they’d paid off the school shifts while increasing education funding. The DFL insisted that they’d raised taxes on “the rich” so they could cut property taxes for the middle class. The article in the Princeton newspaper is proof that a) the DFL still shortchanged rural Minnesota, b) the DFL’s tax-the-rich policy didn’t lead to middle class property tax relief and c) the DFL’s supposedly historic investment in education is more campaign rhetoric than reality.

Finally and most importantly, the DFL’s spending spree didn’t shrink the achievement gap nor did the DFL increase accountability in education. The DFL eliminated the requirement that teachers pass a basic skills test that the GOP first passed.

Rep. Thissen said that the DFL legislature should be called the education legislature. I’ve got a better idea. Let’s call them the ‘they shafted us again legislature.’ After all, the DFL’s spending did nothing to improve educational outcomes.

Where’s the Financial Audit for FY14?
by Silence Dogood

Fiscal year 2014 ended June 30, 2014. It takes some time to reconcile the books for the year and perform an audit. The website for the Office of Finance and Administration contains Annual Reports for several previous years.

For those who have access to SCSU’s Sharepoint website, you can access Annual Reports all the way back to FY 2002.

The MnSCU Audit Committee met on November 18th, 2014 to review and approve the release of 2014 audited financial statements as required by Board Policy.

From the Audit Committee Agenda:

From the agenda, it is clear that the audited financial report for SCSU was scheduled to be taken up by the Audit Committee. From the Audit Committee document, it further states:

The week of November 24th, 2014, the audited financial statement for SCSU (i.e. the Annual Report FY 2014), became available to the public. As of December 19th, 2014, nearly four weeks later, the audited financial statement for SCSU is not available on the website for the Office of Finance and Administration. It has also not been forwarded by the Administration to the SCSU Faculty Association. Hopefully, the Annual Report FY 2014 will appear on the agenda for the Meet and Confer scheduled for January 15th, 2015.

Unfortunately, this is yet just another example of a lack of sharing of information by the SCSU administration. However, after glancing at the audit report, it is quite understandable why they don’t want to have it discussed. Here is the link to the audit report for those that can’t wait for SCSU’s administration to post it:

It’s a sixty-page document, which is a real page-turner—NOT!

When I wrote this post, I forgot something that needs highlighting. Last fall, the DFL constantly reminded us that they’d paid off the school shifts and that they’d increased funding for education.

Apparently, the Princeton School Board didn’t get the memo. That’s odd because the DFL budget went into effect July 1…of 2013. If the DFL increased K-12 funding and paid off the school shifts, Princeton shouldn’t need to raise their property taxes. The Princeton School District especially shouldn’t need to raise their levy by 25.16%.

Then-Speaker Thissen issued this statement about the DFL’s “historic investment” in education:

The House DFL Education Budget invests in what works: fully funding all-day, every day kindergarten and investing $50 million in early learning childhood scholarships. All-day K and early childhood education are proven tools to improve test scores, close the achievement gap, and prepare students for future academic success. The House DFL Education Budget also increases the basic funding formula for K-12 schools by four percent over the biennium, an increase of over $315 million, or $209 per pupil. The school shift payback will be included in the House Taxes bill.

After reading that statement, it’s amazing that the Pope didn’t declare Speaker Thissen a candidate for sainthood.

Seriously, let’s summarize. The DFL raised taxes by $2,100,000,000 initially with the intent of paying for property tax relief for the middle class and to make “historic investments in education.”

What Minnesotans got in return were some middle class tax increases, virtually nothing in terms of property tax relief and big property tax increases to pay for K-12 funding. Minnesotans didn’t see the achievement gap close. Minnesotans didn’t notice a change in school boards’ spending habits, either.

The harsh reality is that Minnesotans got ripped off by the DFL’s tax increases, the DFL’s paying off the K-12 school shifts or from the DFL’s “historic investments in education.”

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Daniel Henninger’s column is one of his best columns. Here’s the premise Henninger starts with:

Last week more than 300 former Obama staffers signed an open letter urging the famous Harvard Law School professor to run in 2016. Days earlier, two big progressive groups, and Democracy for America, also pressed the first-term Massachusetts senator to seek the party’s presidential nomination.

The implicit logic of the Draft Warren movement is that after eight years of the Obama presidency, the American people want to move…further left.

However intriguing that proposition, the real problem for the political pros behind Draft Warren or even the Ready for Hillary super PAC is that the Democratic left’s high-publicity wing insists on doing stupid things in public that turn off more voters than they turn on.

From there, Henninger’s column turns into a laundry list of foolish things that Democrats have done. Here’s an example:

As designed by the U.S. Justice Department, campus investigations of sexual-abuse accusations under Title IX are subject to a weaker standard of due process. The left argues that justice for victims requires this exception to legal norms. But Democrats can’t claim to be surprised if their disruptions of American notions of guilt and innocence before the law cause some people to distance themselves from the party.

In October, 28 members of the Harvard Law School faculty—their politics ranging from left to right—signed an open letter to Harvard’s administration asserting that what the school calls its Office for Sexual and Gender-Based Dispute Resolution “lacks the most basic elements of fairness and due process.

”Hopefully, Democrats won’t change their ways. The progressive/Elizabeth Warren wing of the Democratic Party is utterly wedded to pushing the envelope further and further to the extreme. It’s gotten to the point that that part of the Democratic Party is so far left that it can’t see main street America.

It’s best to think of that part of the Democratic Party as the purist wing of the Democratic Party. They definitely aren’t that bright.

Another sign of public fatigue for Democrats was the spectacle of Colorado Senate candidate Mark Udall’s “war on women” strategy becoming an object of mockery, not from the right, but everyone else. A party turns stupid when it keeps pushing obsessions that push people away.

The Obama administration’s resolute opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline has cost the party the support of the Laborers International Union’s 500,000 members, plus their families and relatives. Would a smart party do that?

It’s clear that hardline progressives don’t have the capacity to see straightforward issues through multiple perspectives. Instead, they’re proving their intellectual rigidity by insisting everyone obey them.

That rigidity is stupid in an iPad-filled society.

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The DFL’s insistence that they’d delivered property tax relief is BS. It always has been. This article is additional proof that the DFL was lying about property tax relief:

The Princeton School Board in a split vote on Dec. 16 increased the school district tax levy by 25.16 percent for taxes payable 2015 to fund the 2015-16 school year.

This was a departure from the board’s originally proposed 33.87 percent hike. The total levy will be a little more than $6.091 million, a $300,000 increase over this year’s levy. The original proposal would have increased the levy $724,000.

The disgusting thing about the DFL’s property tax increase is that voters didn’t get to approve the increase. Thanks to some legislative trickery a few years ago, this property tax increase was passed by the Princeton School Board.

What’s especially disgusting is the rate increase hike. The Princeton School Board trimmed down the tax increase from 33.87% to ‘just’ 25.16%. Raising people’s taxes by $300,000, especially in a small community like Princeton, will get noticed. Hopefully, regular people in Princeton will run for the school board to replace these taxaholics:

School board members Deb Ulm (chair), Eric Minks, Chuck Nagle, and Howard Vaillancourt voted yes.

It’s time for Princeton to take control of their schools again.

Marco Rubio’s op-ed utterly demolishes President Obama’s decision to normalize relations with Cuba. In his op-ed, Sen. Rubio correctly states that President Obama’s decision will have long-lasting, negative consequences — for us and the oppressed Cuban people:

The opportunity for Cuba to normalize relations with the U.S. has always been there, but the Castro regime has never been interested in changing its ways. Now, thanks to President Obama’s concessions, the regime in Cuba won’t have to change.

The entire policy shift is based on the illusion—in fact, on the lie—that more commerce and access to money and goods will translate to political freedom for the Cuban people. Cuba already enjoys access to commerce, money and goods from other nations, and yet the Cuban people are still not free. They are not free because the regime—just as it does with every aspect of life—manipulates and controls to its own advantage all currency that flows into the island. More economic engagement with the U.S. means that the regime’s grip on power will be strengthened for decades to come—dashing the Cuban people’s hopes for freedom and democracy.

Cuba’s economy has been circling the drain for 2-3 years. Venezuela and Russia, its 2 biggest supporters, have hit tough times, too, thanks to rapidly dropping oil prices. At exactly the time when Cuba is collapsing from within, President Obama threw them a lifeline with this initiative.

Already, a Minnesota representative is planning a trip to Cuba:

ST. PAUL, Minn. – A Minnesota congressman who has long advocated for changes to the United States’ Cuba policy says a decision to normalize relations with the island country is a “monumental step” in the right direction. Democratic Rep. Rick Nolan praised Wednesday’s announcement that the U.S. would re-establish diplomatic ties to Cuba. Nolan traveled to Cuba in 1977 during his first stint in Congress and was involved in a past deal to release U.S. prisoners held there.

Nolan says he hopes to travel to Cuba next year to meet with officials there.

Another Democratic member of the Minnesota delegation, Betty McCollum, described the announcement as “a new beginning.” She says she would continue working to end a U.S. trade embargo with Cuba. McCollum spent time in Cuba last summer.

Apparently, Nolan and McCollum, like President Obama, are willing to ignore Cuba’s disgusting human rights abuses. Apparently, they haven’t thought things through nor have they put a high priority on human rights. Sen. Rubio has:

While my personal ties to Cuba and its people are well known, this is not just a personal issue. American foreign policy affects every aspect of American life, and our people cannot realize their full promise if the world becomes more dangerous because America retreats from its role in the world. Moreover, the Cuban people have the same rights that God bestowed on every other man, woman and child that has ever lived. All of those who are oppressed around the world look to America to stand up for their rights and to raise its voice when tyrants like the Castros are trying to crush their spirits.

It’s amazing that the ‘party of the little guy’ supports the dictators who trample the little guys for criticizing the Castros’ oppressive dictatorship. What isn’t surprising, though, is that Rick Nolan is ignoring the Castros’ reign of terror. He’s always been soft on human rights and friendly towards oppressive dictators.

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The Composite Financial Index—Where’s FY14?
by Silence Dogood

On the MnSCU system website, you can find a table showing the Composite Financial Index for all of the MnSCU institutions. A portion of the document showing the MnSCU universities is shown here:

From the MnSCU website you can also find the definition of the Composite Financial Index (CFI) and the four component measures that make it up:

To know about as much as you probably need to know—higher is better.

The first figure above lists FY13 as the last entry in the table. FY14 ended June 30, 2014 so more than five and one-half months into FY15, the results for the CFI for FY14 are not available. If this information was ever meant to be used to help make decisions, clearly timeliness is important! Nearly half a year into the next fiscal year is not timely! About the only use for information, which comes so late, is for historical purposes! Perhaps MnSCU is taking lessons on openness and transparency from SCSU.

A wise person once told me:

“Bad news can wait.”

So, we are left to wonder just how bad is the bad news! At the Budget Town Hall Meeting on November 13th, 2014, we got a hint when Vice President for Finance and Administration Tammy McGee stated that SCSU’s CFI was 0.07.

Inserting the value for FY14, a plot of the CFI for SCSU is shown in the figure below:

In looking at the plot, one might wonder what contributed to making the CFI value for FY12 so large? When we dig into the data a bit further, it is easy to see that FY12 is anomalously large because SCSU was building ISELF (the Integrated Science and Engineering Laboratory Facility), which was the largest bonded project in MnSCU’s history. As a result, the CFI for FY12 was grossly inflated because of the infusion of nearly $45,000,000. In other words, in FY12, SCSU’s financial health was really not as good as it appeared. Especially, when it came as enrollment was declining significantly, it hid the magnitude of the effect of the enrollment decline.

A closer look at the table for the CFI for the various MnSCU universities shows that only Southwest has a CFI less than 1.00—that is until SCSU posts its 0.07 for FY14. At that time, SCSU may have the lowest CFI at a university in MnSCU by a wide margin!

It is also interesting to note that Minnesota State University, Moorhead, which has significantly higher CFI numbers than SCSU (except for FY12, when the ISELF funding inflated the value), suffered a 9.5% enrollment decline from FY11 to FY13, which led to budget reduction amounting to 10% of faculty and staff including retrenchments. It also led to the “early retirement” of MSUM’s President. So maybe the CFI is not as useful predictor of the economic health of a university as previously thought. One can only hope because from FY10 through FY14, SCSU has had an 18.0% FYE enrollment decline. Adding another 5% drop for FY15, SCSU’s enrollment will have dropped an unprecedented 22.1% in five years.

Coupled with a $9,542,000 budget shortfall for FY15, it is clear that the university is in store for some serious changes. Coming only four years after the university was ‘reorganized’ can only mean that the reorganization was not as successful as President Potter continues to say that it was.

“Open” And “Transparent” Need To Be More Than Just Words
by Silence Dogood

Most Deans regularly meet with Department Chairs and Program Directors within their school or college to pass on information from the administration. In some cases, these meetings are called “Dean’s Advisory Councils” or DACs. However, these meetings are not intended to replace Meet and Confer meetings between the Administration and the Faculty Association, which are contractually described in the “Master Agreement” between the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities Board of Trustees and the Inter Faculty Organization.

On November 5th, 2014, Dean Mark Springer held his weekly DAC meeting with the Department Chairs/Program Directors of the College of Liberal Arts and the School of the Arts. Two budget documents were shared at this meeting. A portion of the ‘notes’ from the meeting is reproduced below.

The second spreadsheet, which was reportedly produced by Academic Affairs, is reproduced below:

The date on the top of the form is 10/16/14. This document shows where the administration is planning to make some of the cuts to the budget for each of the schools and colleges to respond to the $9,542,000 budget shortfall for FY15.

This document came to light when the notes and handouts for the November 5th, 2014 DAC meeting were emailed to faculty in the College of Liberal Arts and the School of the Arts on December 10th, 2014. The first question is why should it take five weeks to get this information out to the faculty. It is important to note that there were several DAC meetings in the meantime so one has to wonder why the delay?

However, the second and more important question is why was this information was not shared by the administration at Meet and Confer or a Budget Advisory Group Meeting? Why, instead, was it shared at a DAC meeting? There was a Meet and Confer on October 30th, 2014 and Budget Advisory Group Meeting on November 13th, 2014. There was even a Budget Town Hall meeting on November 20th, 2014. As a side note, the slides from the Budget Town Hall meeting are still not available on the SharePoint website as promised during the meeting.

The Meet and Confer scheduled for November 20th, 2014 was cancelled because of the lack of items for the agenda. So there have been multiple opportunities for the administration to share their ideas about how to deal with the budget shortfall. Unfortunately, most faculty have had to find out about these cuts from a DAC meeting and not via the appropriate way to share this important information, which is through Meet and Confer. Sharing this information is not just a good idea, it is, in fact, required by the Master Agreement because the Faculty Association has the contractual right to respond before the Administration acts on matters like budget cuts. Unfortunately, responding becomes something of a moot point when you hear about it more than five weeks after the fact and the decisions have already been implemented.

Last November, SCSU participated in a Trust Index Survey conducted by the Great Place to Work Institute. Suffice it to say that the results for the senior administration were not outstanding, to say the least. The results of two of the questions are shown below. The blue bar represents the score of those taking the survey and the red bar represents an average of the “100 Best Places to Work.”

The second question does not have a comparison because it was a question that was generated locally. The results demonstrate “management” does a poor job of informing the “company” and management does a poor job of sharing information openly and transparently.

Clearly, what was found to be true a year ago seems to still be true today. This is also despite a year of “listening sessions” and working group meetings. The administration still seems to give lip service to the concepts of being “Open” and “Transparent.” Unfortunately, their lip service does not seem to translate into action.

A wise person once told me: