Archive for the ‘Activism’ Category

After I wrote this post, I was invited onto Dan Ochsner’s Ox in the Afternoon radio program to discuss the alarming disparity between the ISD 742 estimates and the bid that was put together for Sarah Murphy and Claire VanderEyk.

During the campaign to pass the Tech bonding referendum, the ISD 742 school board said it would cost between $85,800,000 and $96,800,000 to temporarily fix Tech for 5-10 years. When Ms. Murphy and Ms. VanderEyk toured the facility, they took notes on what was in disrepair and needed fixing. Since they’re both architects, they’re qualified to determine what’s in need of repair, what’s structurally deficient and what’s in good repair.

Ms. Murphy and Ms. VanderEyk are both Tech alums so they’d like to preserve the building if that’s possible. That’s why they took their notes to a contractor to see how much it would actually cost to repair the existing Tech campus. Saying that their estimate came in at less than $97,000,000 is understatement. It came in at $15,696,000, which is approximately $100,000,000 less than the School Board said it would cost to build a brand new Tech High School.

It’s worth noting that the new Tech High School would be able to hold 1,800 students, which is significantly more than it needs. It’s also worth noting that the School Board wanted $46,500,000 in bonding authority to fix Apollo High School, which is less than 50 years old. (Tech is over 100 years old.)

Considering the fact that the bid put together for Ms. Murphy and Ms. VanderEyk to refurbish and repair a 100-year-old building was less than $16,000,000, it isn’t a stretch to think that it wouldn’t cost $46,500,000 to repair Apollo. In fact, it isn’t a stretch to think that both projects combined could be done for less than what the Apollo renovation would’ve cost.

As I said in the earlier post, I’m not arguing to do nothing. That ship has sailed. It isn’t returning to port. What I’m arguing for is to rethink the entire project and see if we shouldn’t adopt a more taxpayer-friendly option that still helps students attend a high school where they can prepare for a college education and a productive working career.

Simply put, I’m arguing to kill last fall’s plan once and for all. It isn’t needed and it can’t be afforded. It’s that simple.

Since the terrorist attacks in San Bernardino, CA, various people have said that Muslim organizations should condemn terrorists and terrorism. Some organizations, like the Minnesota chapter of CAIR, aka the Council on American-Islamic Relations, got proactive and quickly condemned terrorism.

Jaylani Hussein, the executive director of CAIR’s Minnesota chapter, said “The Muslim community stands shoulder to shoulder with our fellow Americans in repudiating any action that harms innocent civilians.”

My initial reaction to Hussein’s statement is … that isn’t enough. It isn’t close, in fact. Has CAIR ever reported suspicious activities by radicalized Muslims? Does CAIR admit that specific Muslims are terrorists? How many tips have CAIR’s members called into the FBI or other law enforcement agencies?

Most importantly, has CAIR bit its lip when it saw radicalization happening? If they didn’t speak up, why didn’t they say something? Is it because CAIR, especially its leadership, isn’t capable of spotting radicalization?

Condemning terrorism is better than nothing but not by much. If CAIR leadership and their members aren’t reporting on radicalized Muslims, then they aren’t part of the solution. In his speech to the nation on Sept. 20, 2001, President Bush told nations that if they weren’t with us, then they were against us. I’d submit that the same principles must apply to people, too.

If CAIR or other Muslim organizations don’t help spoil terrorist plots, then they’re part of the problem. They aren’t part of the solution.

Prof. Mark Jaede has a lengthy history of being a DFL activist/operative. I first came face-to-face with it during the state government shutdown in 2011 but I’d heard of Jaede’s activism before that. This year, Prof. Jaede has taken his activism to a new level when Prof. Jaede complained publicly about this LTE. Specifically, Prof. Jaede complained that the St. Cloud Times editorial started by asking “Why are Muslim leaders silent?” in the aftermath of the Paris terrorist attacks. Later in the editorial, the writer got more specific, saying that there “has been no such response from Muslim leaders around the world to express their condemnation of terrorism and to let the global community know the difference between the religion of Islam and extremism.”

Yesterday, Prof. Jaede posted something to SCSU’s discuss listserv. In his post to the discuss listserv, Prof. Jaede admitted that he’d done “something I have never done before. I wrote to a newspaper asking them to take down a letter to the editor.” Here’s Prof. Jaede’s letter to the St. Cloud Times:

I am writing in regard to the above-referenced letter that appeared today in the online edition of the Times.

The letter is not merely an opinion piece. It makes a claim of fact that is patently false. Muslims all over the world have denounced the terrorism of ISIS. Muslim leaders here in St. Cloud have denounced it, and the Times has printed their statements. Why would you print this letter when you know it to be both false and likely to further anti-Muslim bigotry in our area? And why have the comments been turned off? Responsible readers can’t even point out the falsehoods.

Much as I have disagreed with many opinion pieces in the Times, I have never before been moved to write to object to the publication of a piece. This letter crosses the line. It goes beyond free speech to libel against an entire religious community.

Please take it down, or at least publish a disclaimer pointing out the falsehood of its central claim.

Mark Jaede
St. Cloud

It’s one thing to ask a newspaper to “at least publish a disclaimer” highlighting the inaccuracies of the LTE. It’s another to ask a newspaper to unpublish an article that’s been posted on their website. That’s called censorship, which is prohibited by the First Amendment. Prof. Jaede said that “this letter crosses the line” by going “beyond free speech to libel against an entire religious community.” The remedy for crossing that line isn’t to censor the writer. It’s to impeach them with your own LTE.

Methinks it’s time for Prof. Jaede to refresh his understanding of the First Amendment.

Lots of people, including some journalists, think that Sen. Bakk is pro-mining. He might be but there’s a respectable case that can be made that he’s a tepid supporter of mining. Brian Bakst’s article says that “Bakk is a leading legislative proponent of the PolyMet copper-nickel mine.” Look at what he’s done to push for making PolyMet a reality. Better yet, let’s see what Sen. Bakk hasn’t done to make PolyMet a reality.

Let’s start by determining which side Sen. Bakk is on. Bakk said “I just want to take as long as it systematically takes in order to get those permits awarded. And I should want it expedited more than anybody else.” That’s a weasel-word quote. Let’s be clear. Sen. Bakk hasn’t lifted a finger to streamline the permitting process. Likewise, Sen. Bakk hasn’t criticized Gov. Dayton for proposing another review of PolyMet, this time by the Minnesota Department of Health. Thus far, the MPCA and the DNR have required environmental impact studies. Then special interests have requested a programmatic environmental impact statement. Now, they’re pushing for the MDH to do another EIS, supposedly to determine whether PolyMet would cause any health issues.

What’s really happening is that environmental activists are using the current regulatory system to delay the building of PolyMet. Then there’s this insane statement:

[Bakk] said any actual or perceived shortcuts “could potentially weaken the state’s position in a lawsuit.” Environmental groups, who are wary of the new kind of mining, have signaled they’ll explore litigation if permits are granted.

That strains credibility. Environmental activists have their lawsuits ready to file. This isn’t a case of them waiting to see how things go before determining whether to file a lawsuit. It’s a matter of waiting for the most opportune time to file their lawsuit. I’d be surprised if they don’t have the lawsuits written. Likewise, I’d be surprised if other like-minded organizations don’t already have their friend of the court briefs written.

Why isn’t regulatory reform a priority for the DFL? This isn’t about whether these projects will get reviewed. It’s a matter of whether they’ll get reviewed into oblivion. Reviewing PolyMet for 10 years isn’t justice. It isn’t being thorough. It’s attrition through regulation and litigation. Sen. Bakk has essentially defended an unjust status quo system.

Defending a system that favors the special interests over hard-working blue collar workers isn’t justice. It’s the epitome of injustice.

Saying that Sen. Bakk is a pro-mining advocate is questionable. His inactions say otherwise.

Tonight, I was stunned and disgusted when Sen. Bakk told the Almanac Roundtable panel what he hoped would come from the possible special session. I was especially startled when Sen. Bakk said “I lived through the 1981 downturn on the Range when waves and waves and waves of Iron Rangers moved to the northern suburbs and had to settle there when most of the mines had to shut down. We’re on the cusp of this again this time and I think that the state coming to their aid and giving them extended unemployment benefits, to give those families some time to make some decisions and maybe get a little closer to see if our federal government will act as some of this unfairly traded steel is coming into this country just to build a bridge for those families because once they run out of unemployment, they’re in a situation of probably having to relocate their families.”

There wasn’t anything in his statement that talked about rebuilding the Iron Range economy. There wasn’t anything in his statement that talked about turning the Iron Range’s economic slide around. His sole focus was on giving families more time to relocate out of his district and Sen. Tomassoni’s district.

The Republican panelists tonight were Sen. David Hann and House Majority Leader Joyce Peppin. The DFL panelists were Sen. Bakk and Rep. Thissen. When Majority Leader Peppin talked about finding a long-term solution to the Iron Range’s economic problems, House Minority Leader Thissen said that that isn’t what special sessions should be about, that that’s what regular sessions should be about.

It’s beyond ironic that Rep. Thissen, Sen. Bakk, Gov. Dayton and the DFL legislature didn’t lift a finger to provide a long-term solution for the Iron Range when there were DFL majorities in the House and Senate and a DFL governor. It’s almost as if the Iron Range was an afterthought, something to worry about only during election years.

When Majority Leader Peppin talked about Gov. Dayton ordering another environmental review, this time involving the Minnesota Department of Health, and cutting through the red tape, Sen. Bakk criticized her, saying that taking a “shortcut” would hurt them when the inevitable lawsuits came. Sen. Bakk didn’t consider the possibility of transforming Minnesota’s environmental review process so that the review is thorough but that it doesn’t last 10-15 years to complete.

This is proof that the DFL’s top priorities are appeasing the environmental activist obstructionists, growing government and appeasing the Metro DFL. They haven’t proven that they care about Iron Range families. Sen. Bakk admitted as much.

I wrote here that the poverty rate is 18% in Hibbing and 24.1% in Virginia. To have Sen. Bakk essentially give up on a once-prosperous region is beyond sad. It’s disgusting.

Eleven years ago, I published my first post. Back then, I didn’t think about whether I’d blog another year, whether blogging would be a passing fad. I certainly didn’t think of blogging as a way to contribute to the political dialog even though that’s what I wrote about.

The first year of LFR, I wrote about the Orange Revolution in Ukraine. That’s how I got introduced to the MOB, aka the Minnesota Organization of Bloggers. Back then, I was fascinated by the various liberation revolutions, including the Cedar Revolution in Lebanon, which started in the aftermath of the Purple Thumb Revolution in Iraq. That revolution intensified with the assassination of Rafiq Hariri, the former prime minister of Lebanon.

I remember writing about the first election in Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban. As I recall, the first person to cast a vote in that election was an elderly woman. I remember thinking that Mullah Omar must’ve been pulling his beard off. One of the Taliban’s specialties was treating women like chattel. Another of their specialties was to ostracize women from open society. In a single page of history, both of those Taliban ‘specialties’ were vanquished in the minds of the Afghan people. It didn’t mean that the war was over. It was just a symbolic point in history.

It’s amazing the lessons I’ve learned through this writing. One blog that I got a kick out of was called Give War a Chance. It isn’t that I want the United States military to be constantly at war. It’s that I’ll admit that Islamic Jihadists have been at war with the United States since the overthrow of Teheran. I recall Rudy Giuliani’s response to whether 9/11 was the jihadists’ declaring war on the United States. He said that it wasn’t, that they’d been waging war with us since 1979. Then he said that 9/11 was the first day that the US joined the war.

I’ve learned that presidential leadership makes a difference. President Bush wasn’t a great president but he was infinitely better than President Obama in the one category that matters. He put policies in place that actually put the terrorists on the run. People got bored with hearing him say that he’d deployed our intelligence assets to gather information that led to entire terrorist networks getting rolled up. He said he did that because he’d rather take them down where they lived rather than clean up the messes from terrorist attacks where we live.

That program led to the capture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, aka KSM, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. After capturing KSM, the Bush administration kept his capture quiet. They studied the laptops in an attempt to study the networks KSM was in charge of. That helped them capture entire networks of terrorists. When President Obama took over, he replaced those policies with drone strikes. Killing terrorists in drone strikes made for a nice headline every couple of months but it didn’t help us gather intelligence that kept us a step ahead of the terrorists.

That’s how the Obama administration was surprised by the rise of ISIS. They didn’t know much about that group of terrorists. They certainly didn’t know ISIS was as lethal as they are. As a result of not gathering intelligence in Iraq, the administration let ISIS establish a caliphate that’s let ISIS conduct lethal terrorist attacks in Paris.

Think of this post as LFR’s highlights of international events. Throughout the years, I’ve stuck my fingers into more than a few other things. I’ll write about some of them in Part II.

Daniel Stavrum’s LTE in the St. Cloud Times efficiently rebuts Sarah Starling’s diatribe on who voted against the St. Cloud Tech bonding referendum. One of Ms. Starling’s first accusations was that “about 8,000 of you went into our schools, many of you looked our children in the eyes, and told them they did not deserve a higher quality of education because you don’t want your property taxes to increase.” That’s shredded by one of Mr. Stavrum’s first points.

It’s the point Mr. Stavrum made when he said “Let’s be clear. I favored the school levy approval. But I voted no for several reasons. First, we were not given enough detailed information on the new school nor what improvements Apollo needed, nor the plans for old Tech.”

Later, Ms. Starling said “We have failed our children and our entire area’s future. People refuse to live in the St. Cloud area because our schools are horrendous – yet we refuse to improve them. To the people who voted no, why don’t you care about our community?” I wonder how she’d respond to Mr. Stavrum’s saying “Finally, I was amazed by the reduction of polling places from 65 to 13. The Times Editorial Board called this a “mistake.” No, it was a deliberate strategy to disenfranchise rural and elderly voters who might tend to vote no. For example, I live in a rural township, my normal polling place about 1 mile away. The levy plan, however, had me and my neighbors driving nearly 14 miles to vote. Area voters aren’t stupid. School district officials shouldn’t treat them like they are.”

I wrote this post on Sept. 13. I wrote then that “For instance, the school district combined the 2 projects (refurbishing Apollo, building a new Tech HS). The way it’s worded, you can’t vote down the Tech proposal and vote for the Apollo refurbishing. That’s a sly way of forcing people who want to refurbish Apollo to vote for the Tech project, too. That’s a sly way of forcing people who want to build a new Tech HS into voting for the Apollo refurbishing.

It’s pretty obvious why it’s set up this way. That isn’t the same as saying the school district should get away with forcing taxpayers to vote for both projects if they only support one of the projects. This is a scam propagated by the school board. This isn’t a mistake. It’s a feature! It’s intentional.”

I’d like to personally thank all of the Daniel Stavrums of the world for voting against the $167,000,000 bonding referendum. It’s the only way we’ll get the ISD 742 School Board to interact with St. Cloud taxpayers.

Since Sarah Starling has taken it upon herself to speak for ISD742 students in this LTE, I, as one of the leaders of the Uppity Peasant Brigade, will reply. First, Ms. Starling melodramatically said “about 8,000 of you went into our schools, many of you looked our children in the eyes, and told them they did not deserve a higher quality of education because you don’t want your property taxes to increase.”

My first question of Ms. Starling is simple but it’s one she won’t answer. How does she know that 8,460 of us uppity peasants went into ‘their schools’ and told their children that “they didn’t deserve a higher quality of education” because we didn’t want our property taxes increased? How does she know that we didn’t vote no for other, more practical, reasons? As far as I know, Ms. Starling hasn’t asked a legitimate portion of the people who voted no to understand why we voted the way we did.

It’s apparent that she doesn’t read LFR. It’s apparent that she didn’t notice that I was quoted by Kevin Allenspach in this St. Cloud Times article, either. That’s where I said “We didn’t have the opportunity of asking whether there is a cheaper way of doing these things. What’s the enrollment model? Are we over-building or under-building?” said Gross, who is 60 years old and has lived in the same St. Cloud house since 1962. “There were no town hall meetings asking for input from the citizenry. That’s the opposite of representative democracy. But I’m not an expert. The district is having forums in these last few weeks, but that should’ve been done before they had a proposal together. At this point, the horse is out of the barn.”

After that first accusation against the Uppity Peasant Brigade, Ms. Starling makes these ill-informed and hyper-melodramatic accusations:

You voted against providing more secure entrances and updated technology. We have failed our children and our entire area’s future. People refuse to live in the St. Cloud area because our schools are horrendous – yet we refuse to improve them. To the people who voted no, why don’t you care about our community?

First, it’s disappointing that Ms. Starling didn’t know that technology is part of the operating levy.

Next, it’s disheartening that Ms. Starling didn’t affix blame on the School Board, led by Chairman Dennis Whipple, for attempting to keep this a low profile event. When the St. Cloud Times publishes an Our View editorial in mid-September asking where the school bonding campaign is, that’s an indicator that the School Board wanted the bonding levy to pass but didn’t think it could pass if the Uppity Peasants Brigade started asking the right questions. The simple truth is that 15,853 citizens voted, with 8,460 citizens voting no. The simple truth is that approximately 5,000-6,000 voters show up for most school board votes or special elections.

According to Chairman Whipple, citizens had surpassed that average by 11:00 am on election day. By objective-minded people’s opinions, turnout was fantastic for a single-issue referendum. Ms. Starling apparently doesn’t think that but that’s the truth.

Finally, it’s time that Ms. Starling understood that lots of citizens voted against the referendum because the School Board didn’t even have the decency of telling the taxpayers what the new Tech High School would look like. They couldn’t because, according to Barclay Carriar, 80% of the building wouldn’t be designed until after the referendum vote. Asking people to vote for a $167,000,000 blank check without telling them what that money would pay for is indecent.

It’s telling that 27% of Democrats think that ‘deniers’ should be prosecuted. It’s frightening, though, that New York State has taken it a step further by investigating Exxon Mobil for refusing to play ball with the popular scientific theory.

According to the NY Times, the “New York attorney general has begun an investigation of Exxon Mobil to determine whether the company lied to the public about the risks of climate change or to investors about how such risks might hurt the oil business. According to people with knowledge of the investigation, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman issued a subpoena Wednesday evening to Exxon Mobil, demanding extensive financial records, emails and other documents.”

This is a serious investigation only in the sense that state attorneys general have subpoena power and the resources to make life miserable for the companies they ‘investigate’. Otherwise, this isn’t a serious investigation. The accurate terminology for what the NY State Attorney General is doing is ‘leading a fishing expedition’. Another term that might be used is that Gen. Schneiderman’s hunting for someone’s scalp, a trophy to brag about during his re-election campaign.

I seriously doubt that Schneiderman can prove anything about the science. If he can’t prove that climate change exists to a judge, then he should lose the entire case because, according to the NY Times, the investigation intends to prove how much climate change “might hurt the oil business.”

The fact that people think the government should prosecute ‘climate change deniers’ should be sufficient motivation to vote out Democrats in 2016 and beyond. These people are nuts and vindictive.

This St. Cloud Times Our View editorial cites some things that’ve gotten questioned on this blog. When the Times says that the “price of a new Tech was $113.8 million, and Apollo’s improvements tallied $46.5 million”, that isn’t accurate. If the Times wanted to say that the ISD742 School Board said that these figures are accurate, that’s one thing.

I cited Barclay Carriar in this post because he said “What a lot of them don’t recognize is, with the cost of designing a building, 80 percent of it isn’t going to be designed until after the referendum. And the plans we’ve got now are still tentative.” Hypothetically speaking, that means they couldn’t have more than a rough estimate of the school’s cost.

If the School Board doesn’t let interested taxpayers see the blueprint of the new Tech, they’ll face an uphill fight. That’s because people now know that a) the combined enrollment of Tech and Apollo is roughly 2,700 students and b) the projected capacity of the new Tech and the renovated Apollo will be 3,600 students.

This morning’s editorial asks the question “So how do district leaders, elected and professional, craft another referendum that addresses so many potential points of disagreement?” The answer is simple. They shouldn’t try. On a project this big, they should immediately commit to listening sessions before attempting to draft another question. Specifically, the listening session should include a healthy percentage of people who voted no this past Tuesday.

If the School Board changes a few things, then presents essentially the same plan with a smaller price tag, it’s possible they might prevail but it’d be hardly worth it. It wouldn’t be worth it because they wouldn’t have won over a spirited bunch of people who opposed the referendum for multiple substantive reasons.

It’s especially worthwhile to note that 15,853 people took time to vote on this referendum. According to Dennis Whipple, the chairman of the ISD742 Board, most referenda have a turnout rate of about 18%. In this instance, the turnout rate was 31%. They turned out because they were upset. They felt like they were taken for granted. They thought that they were talked down to.

If Chairman Whipple and the Board treats the taxpayers like ATMs again, they’ll face an uphill fight on getting a new referendum passed.

Most importantly, they will have wasted the opportunity to build a little trust with voters.