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If there’s anything that can be gleaned from Juan Williams’ article, it’s that he’s exceptionally gullible. Here’s what I’m talking about:

Last week, however, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) invited me and a few other columnists to his office to deliver a message: The paralyzed, polarized government is not due to the president’s failure to win friends in Congress. Nor is it because Reid is a “dictator.” In his view, the stalled Senate is the result of an intentional strategy pursued by the Republicans.

Reid pointed to constant filibusters by the GOP minority. Republicans also refuse to allow the use of unanimous consent to move along Senate business, he charged.

Reid asserted that after President Obama was first elected, the GOP met with Frank Luntz, the political adviser, who told them to block everything Obama and Democrats tried to accomplish and then tell voters that Obama was a failure and government could not get anything done.

First, let’s address the issue of whether Reid is a dictator. There’s no question that he is. Since Republicans took over the House of Representatives in the 2010 elections, Sen. Reid hasn’t brought a single bill passed by the House of Representatives come up for a vote in the Senate. Many of the bills sitting on Sen. Reid’s desk got overwhelming support, some getting more than 350 votes in the House.

There’s no justification for Sen. Reid’s actions.

Second, Sen. Reid’s legislative tactics are best described as my-way-or-the-highway. Republicans rarely get to offer their amendments. When they do, which is rare, they’re shot down on a party line vote.

That sounds rather dictatorial, doesn’t it?

Next, let’s tackle the part about Republicans blocking everything President Obama proposed. In 2009-2010, Democrats had a filibuster-proof Senate for well over a year. They didn’t have the ability to block anything President Obama proposed. Further, there’s overwhelming proof that Democrats ignored the people’s will. That overwhelming proof comes in the form of the worst “shellacking” in recent midterm election history. It isn’t just that Republicans won 63 seats in the House. It’s that they flipped 680 seats in state legislatures, too, which helped them flip 19 legislative majorities and 5 governorships.

Wave elections are rare enough. Wave elections of that magnitude don’t happen much more than once a century. They only happen when the people get utterly pissed with DC. That’s what happened in 2010. Democrats ignored the people on health care reform. People were reading the bills, then reciting them to Democrat politicians at August townhall meetings. Many of those who spoke out had never taken the political process seriously. Many of those who spoke out were women.

Harry Reid didn’t care what they said. He passed the ACA, aka Obamacare, anyway.

Most of the people who spoke out for the first time in their lives didn’t know Frank Luntz. They didn’t listen to Republicans. They attended TEA Party rallies that were filled with like-minded people who simply wanted politicians to pay attention to them. Many of the TEA Party activists that were created were upset with Republicans, too, though not nearly as upset as they were with Democrats.

Finally, people don’t need Republicans telling them that HealthCare.gov failed. They didn’t need Republicans telling them that the IRS was attacking the organizations that simply wanted their voices heard. They didn’t need Republicans telling them that the VA crisis was proof that the federal government is inept.

Reid’s frustration led him to announce last week that he is considering a vote to change Senate rules and break the power of the GOP filibuster. After the midterm elections, he wants to expand on the so-called ‘Nuclear Option,’ approved by the Senate last year. Under that rule, only 50 votes are required to confirm most judicial nominees. Reid is considering applying the same standard to bills.

Reid isn’t frustrated. He’s pissed that Republicans haven’t rolled over to President Obama’s demands. Further, the question must be asked how President Obama’s policies have worked. Thus far, President Obama’s policies have failed, whether we’re talking about the economy, the ACA, foreign policy or national security.

Finally, let’s look at the destructive role President Obama plays in this mess. Let’s remember him inviting Republicans to the White House for their ideas on the Stimulus bill. When Eric Cantor made some suggestions, President Obama brushed them aside, saying that “We won.” The tone was set. Harry Reid’s marching orders became clear at that point. His job was to shove as many things down Republicans’ throats as possible.

Now Sen. Reid is peddling the BS that all he wants to do is legislate. That isn’t credible coming from the man who’s repeatedly called the Koch brothers un-American, who’s lied on the Senate Floor that he has word that Mitt Romney hasn’t paid taxes in over a decade and who’s been President Obama’s protector since 2011.

The Senate will be a far better place the minute Harry Reid is run out of office. He’s a despicable low-life who isn’t capable of doing what’s right for the nation. He’s only capable of doing what he’s told to do by the worst president in the last 75 years.

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President Obama is getting eaten alive by an avalanche of crises simultaneously. I’ve never seen a president getting eaten alive by this many crises. Richard Nixon had Watergate. Reagan had Iran-Contra. Bill Clinton had Monicagate. George Bush had Katrina.

President Obama’s crises are crises of his own creation. The IRS scandal happened because he used the IRS as a weapon against his political adversaries. The border crisis happened because he told the world that he wouldn’t enforce the borders. The Iraq/ISIS crisis happened because he told the terrorists that he was giving them the heart of the Middle East. Benghazi happened becausse he campaigned on the foolishness that al-Qa’ida was dead or dying, therefore, they didn’t need to beef up security at the Benghazi compound. The VA crisis happened because he ignored the administrative corruption and the cooking of the books.

It’s getting to the point that the American people, including some DC reporters, have noticed that President Obama isn’t into governing or solving problems. When President Obama meets with Gov. Perry this week, it won’t be good enough to show he cares. (That’s a phrase Rep. Cuellar, D-TX, kept using in his interview with Megyn Kelly tonight.) President Obama needs to reach a solution by working with Republicans. If he doesn’t solve that crisis, he’ll be exposed as just another cheap politician who isn’t interested in solving problems.

Further, if he continues to get slapped by the courts for his extremist unconstitutional agenda, he’ll be seen as the biggest scofflaw in presidential history. If the Justice Department doesn’t start prosecuting criminals like Lois Lerner, President Obama and Eric Holder will become known as the most lawless president/AG duo since Nixon and Mitchell. I didn’t think that that was possible.

President Obama’s crises are policy-driven crises. He’s made one policy mistake after another. Those policy mistakes have caused crisis after crisis. They’re proof that President Obama is the worst president in US history. This isn’t about the color of President Obama’s skin. It’s about his ideology.

The border crisis is turning the American people off to immigration reform. While they like the thought of immigration reform in the abstract, they’re against the lawlessness that’s led to this crisis. The American people won’t sign onto a policy reform until they’re the administration is serious about enforcing the new laws.

At this point, people from across the political spectrum don’t believe President Obama will enforce law. What’s worse is that they’ve seen that Democrats in Congress and the Senate will protect him even when he’s been exposed. The IRS scandal and Benghazi are proof of that.

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This past Thursday, President Obama once again characterized the IRS scandal as a “phony scandal”, saying that it’s the type of thing that Washington manufactures rather than dealing with what he thinks they should deal with. He’s right that there’s a phony in Washington, DC. Unfortunately for Americans, it’s the president.

During his visit to Minnesota, he visited Rebekah Erler. According to this article, Ms. Erler had written President Obama:

With 2 1/2 years remaining in his term, President Barack Obama has been blocked by Congress and is running out of steps he can take on his own to achieve his goals. So the White House is trying to maximize Obama’s exposure to “real Americans,” hoping that more intimate and less scripted interactions will remind struggling citizens why they voted for him in the first place.

A poignant letter from one of those Americans prompted Obama to fly to Minnesota to spend time Thursday with Rebekah Erler, an accountant and mother of two whose tale of financial struggle made its way to Obama’s desk, one of the 10 letters from Americans that Obama reads each night.

As he joined Erler, 36, for burgers under dim neon lights advertising beer at Matt’s Bar, her quest to do right by her family despite economic headwinds animated the president’s rallying cry for Washington to pay attention to the plight of the American middle class. It’s a popular theme for Democrats in a midterm election year.

The President’s problem is that Ms. Erler isn’t someone whose letter simply caught President Obama’s attention. As Paul Harvey used to say, here’s the rest of the story:

Erler, whose LinkedIn profile shows she was once a field organizer for Democratic Senator Patty Murray, wrote to Obama earlier this year to express her frustrations about the economy.”

Chalk it up as just another visit with a “real American” who happens to be a Democratic activist and field staffer for Patty Murray. Nothing says visiting with real people like having a choreographed lunch with a Washington insider.

Janet Beihoffer, the MNGOP National Committeewoman to the RNC, wasn’t impressed:

“President Obama is so out of touch with reality that he thinks a former Democrat campaign staffer speaks for every Minnesotan,” said MNGOP National Committeewoman Janet Beihoffer. “By using a former political staffer to further his argument, Pres. Obama turned a policy debate into partisan political theater. In Minnesota, we value an honest debate about the facts, not slick, choreographed stunts like this. If this is how the party of Obama, Franken, Nolan and Peterson operate there is no reason for Minnesotans to send them back to Washington.”

Calling this “partisan political theater” and a “choreographed stunt” is calling it like it is.

President Obama’s staff should be fired for this stupidity. If nothing else, they should’ve found a real Minnesotan who isn’t this tied into Washington, DC. This stunt is all downside and no upside. Now President Obama looks twice as fake as he did before.

The first rule of holes is to stop digging if you’re in one. Apparently, President Obama didn’t learn that. Perhaps, he needs to talk with real people instead of staging choreographed photo-ops.

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President Obama is still convinced that he can bamboozle the American people. To a certain extent, he’s right. What’s discouraging, though, is that he still thinks he’s America’s king, not America’s president. President Obama’s press team is doing its best to sell him as a man who cares about the middle class. Meanwhile, Al Franken didn’t want anything to do with President Obama’s visit to Minnesota.

I can’t blame Sen. Franken for not associating with President Obama, especially a day after the Commerce Department admitted that the Obama-Franken economy shrunk by 2.9% in Q1 of 2014. If I were Sen. Franken’s campaign manager, I’d tell him to distance myself from President Obama, especially after the Supreme Court issued its 13th straight 9-0 rebuke of an unconstitutional presidential power grab.

I’d especially want to distance myself from the arrogant man that insisted that the IRS scandal is just Washington being Washington. How dare that arrogant SOB tell us that Lois Lerner’s targeting of TEA Party organizations is just Washington being Washington. How dare that arrogant SOB tell us that Lois Lerner’s targeting of a sitting US senator is Washington being Washington.

President Obama is the most corrupt president in US history. Whereas President Nixon told the FBI that they didn’t need search warrants, President Obama thinks that obeying the Constitution is optional. Further, President Obama thinks he’s king of the United States, rewriting the law he signed over 30 times.

That isn’t a public servant. That’s the profile of a narcissist. If I had a $10 bill for every time President Obama said that he had a pen and he had a phone and that that’s all he needed to govern, I’d be wealthy. That’s what autocrats say, not presidents. At least, presidents prior to President Obama never said they’d ignore the legislative branch.

President Obama’s arrogance is displayed another way. RNC spokesman Michael Short issued this statement criticizing President Obama and Sen. Franken:

“While President Obama is out surveying the economy his policies have failed to rejuvenate, hopefully he will take the opportunity to consider a different approach. Instead of pushing for more policies that make it even harder to create jobs, the President ought to call on Harry Reid and Al Franken to take up the dozens of House-passed jobs bills languishing in the Democrat-controlled Senate. As we saw with yesterday’s news that the economy shrank more than originally thought during the first three months of 2014, it’s clear President Obama’s policies still aren’t working and the country needs a new direction.”

President Obama has made it clear that he thinks his failed policies will provide the solutions families need. He couldn’t be more wrong about that. The sooner his policies are repealed, the sooner the economy will start doing what it’s always done, which is grow at incredible rates.

I’ll borrow a Reagan line to illustrate my perspective. A recession is when your neighbor is unemployed. A depression is when you’re unemployed. The recovery will start when President Obama is unemployed and his policies are dismantled.

It isn’t surprising that Sen. Franken hid during President Obama’s visit. I’d hide from President Obama’s track record of lawlessness, corruption and incompetence, too. That’s the last thing I’d want to be associated with.

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Chuck Todd, NBC’s Chief White House Correspondent, apparently hasn’t figured it out that the initial IRS scandal isn’t the only IRS scandal. Here’s what he said on the matter:

On Monday, the IRS Commissioner testified before Congress. A week after the IRS told Senate investigators that two years of e-mails disappeared in a computer crash back in 2011. While this certainly doesn’t make the Obama administration nor the IRS look very good, it’s important to remember what this actual story is about because it’s gotten lost.

The question at hand is whether explicitly political organizations should be filing as tax exempt social welfare groups under the tax code and both political parties are pointing blame. Republicans say that just conservative-sounding groups were targeted by the IRS.

The thing is that the IRS targeting of TEA Party organizations is just part of the scandal. Another facet of the scandal is Lois Lerner’s illegal activities, starting with her sending confidential donor information of the National Organization of Marriage to the Human Rights Campaign.

Another facet of the scandal is how her emails were suspiciously ‘lost’. That’s actually a big deal because the only plausible explanation for 2 years of Ms. Lerner’ emails disappearing is that they were intentionally destroyed to hide incriminating facts about how she was using the IRS to terrorize President Obama’s political opponents.

In fact, it was learned Wednesday that Ms. Lerner used her position within the IRS to get a sitting US senator audited.

People that think this scandal is about whether 501(c)(3) organizations “should be filing as tax exempt social welfare” organizations have their head in the sand. This scandal is mostly about whether the Obama administration is using the IRS to terrorize its political enemies. Whether the tax code should be fixed is trivial in comparison.

When the IRS targets the president’s political opponents, it’s frightening because the IRS has the ability to destroy people’s lives. When the IRS attempts to limit organizations’ ability to participate in the political process, that’s trampling on those organizations’ constitutional rights. When a high-ranking official attempts to have a sitting US senator audited, That’s about as corrupt as it gets.

In fact, I’d argue that that’s more corrupt than Watergate. Here’s part of what Article 2 in the Articles of Impeachment brought against President Nixon said:

He has, acting personally and through his subordinates and agents, endeavoured to obtain from the Internal Revenue Service, in violation of the constitutional rights of citizens, confidential information contained in income tax returns for purposed not authorized by law, and to cause, in violation of the constitutional rights of citizens, income tax audits or other income tax investigations to be intitiated or conducted in a discriminatory manner.

It clearly states that Nixon tried to obtain “confidential information” from the IRS. Lois Lerner didn’t resist HRC’s request for confidential information from NOM’s filing with the IRS. Ms. Lerner handed them over without hesitation.

If Chuck Todd thinks that Lois Lerner’s allegedly illegal actions aren’t the focus of this scandal, then he isn’t qualified to be a journalist. That doesn’t mean, though, that he isn’t the closest thing MSNBC has to a journalist. In all seriousness, though, I suspect Todd would like to take that statement back.

Finally, I wish Lois Lerner was never a government employee. She’s done tons of damage to average citizens over the past 5 years. If we had a real attorney general, she’d already have been indicted for her treachery.

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Each week, I wait for James Taranto’s Best of the Web column. It’s consistently witty and informative. This week’s column definitely fits that description. Predictably, Taranto’s column focuses on the VA Hospital crisis/scandal. First, he notes how the Obama administration isn’t living up to other liberals’ expectations:

Paul Waldman, Greg Sargent’s deputy, sees broader ideological implications. “If Democrats are going to argue that government can be a force for good, their most basic responsibility is to make government work,” he writes. (An odd statement. It seems to us making government work is the “most basic responsibility” of anyone who chooses a career in the public sector, regardless of ideology.)

This administration has developed a reputation for making speeches on important matters, then hoping that the issue fades or is replaced by another scandal. The Obama administration isn’t known for identifying problems, then quickly fixing them.

As deserved as Waldman’s criticism is, Paul Krugman is more deserving of criticism. Taranto lets him have it with both barrels:

There was no ObamaCare in January 2006, when former Enron adviser Paul Krugman wrote this:

I know about a health care system that has been highly successful in containing costs, yet provides excellent care. And the story of this system’s success provides a helpful corrective to anti-government ideology. For the government doesn’t just pay the bills in this system–it runs the hospitals and clinics.

No, I’m not talking about some faraway country. The system in question is our very own Veterans Health Administration, whose success story is one of the best-kept secrets in the American policy debate.

Krugman’s words ring especially how in 2014, when there’s verifiable proof that the VHA is sorrupt and inefficient. Unfortunately, it isn’t known for its quality of care or its timely customer service.

Taranto wasn’t finished quoting Krugman on the virtues of the VA:

Ideology can’t hold out against reality forever. Cries of ”socialized medicine” didn’t, in the end, succeed in blocking the creation of Medicare. And farsighted thinkers are already suggesting that the Veterans Health Administration, not President Bush’s unrealistic vision of a system in which people go ”comparative shopping” for medical care the way they do when buying tile (his example, not mine), represents the true future of American health care.

Krugman is right that “ideology can’t hold out forever against reality.” Unfortunately for him, it’s his ideology. Let’s let Mr. Krugman choke on this reality:

[Desert Storm Veteran Paul] Baker said he has had treatments at several VA hospitals across the country but his worst experiences have been at the Audie Murphy VA hospital in San Antonio, where he’s been forced to wait several months for a simple procedure.

“I’ve waited up to four months to get an appointment to see a doctor and another three months to get a test done,” Baker said. “Then you got to wait another four months to get the results back to see the doctor just to discuss what the procedure is going to be.”

With his health deteriorating, Baker has been fighting to get his benefits increased, waiting three years just to get a hearing to make his case.

Let’s hear Mr. Krugman recite the virtues of the VA hospital system. Let’s hear him talk about VA hospital efficiency. Let’s hear him talk about what a great untold story the VA hospital system is. Let’s hear him defend the position he passionately wrote about.

Mr. Krugman is a blind ideologue. Now he’s a discredited ideologue. Let’s hope he’s soon a ridiculed, discredited ideologue.

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One of the biggest whoppers in Bill O’Reilly’s confrontation with President Obama came when the president said that there wasn’t “even a smidgen of corruption” within the IRS. Jay Sekulow, the attorney representing a couple dozen clients who were hurt by the IRS’s corruption, wrote this op-ed in opposition to President Obama’s whopper-telling:

While the easy and immediate response is to ask the president whether senior IRS officials typically assert their Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination when there’s not even a “smidgen of corruption,” his statement actually has deeper problems.

First, it is not remotely appropriate for a sitting president to make such a declaration in the midst of an ongoing criminal investigation.

Given that the FBI hasn’t even interviewed the victims of IRS targeting, it’s safe to say the president hasn’t seen all the evidence.

How can we trust the results of an investigation when Barbara Bosserman, one of the lead attorneys, is not only a large donor to Obama’s campaigns, but the president himself has publicly issued to that attorney his opinion about the outcome?

President Obama’s whopper that there isn’t “even a smidgen of corruption” within the IRS is insulting. It’s also disturbing on multiple levels. It’s bad enough that a presidential administration has effectively weaponized the IRS. It’s worse that President Obama can’t tell the truth.

He started by sounding scandalized by the IRS’s conduct. It didn’t take long for that schtick to end. When the IRS scandal was supposedly just in the Cincinnati office, President Obama condemned the IRS. When the allegedly rogue agents from the Cincinnati office testified that Washington was calling the shots, President Obama and Elijah Cummings changed their tone instantly. It wasn’t long after that that President Obama started talking about phony scandals.

Mr. President, it isn’t a phony scandal when Lois Lerner pleads the Fifth rather than testify what criminal activities she was involved in. Her guilt is obvious. The documentation is overwhelming. As an attorney, you’d know that. As a corrupt politician, however, you can’t admit that.

Third, he downplays the extent of the wrongdoing. In addition to the initial targeting scandal, we know the IRS leaked confidential information to friendly leftist media outlets.

The fact that the Justice Department hasn’t started a grand jury investigation into this shows how corrupt DOJ is. The information leaked was confidential information contained in a conservative organization’s filings to the IRS. It’s disgusting that President Obama would attempt to spin this criminal activity as anything but criminal activity.

Saying that there isn’t a smidgen of corruption within the IRS when this much corruption is part of people’s sworn testimony is awful.

Considering the overwhelming proof of massive, systemic corruption and President Obama’s insistence that corruption doesn’t exist, there’s just a single conclusion that thoughtful people can make. That conclusion is that President Obama didn’t hesitate in lying about the IRS corruption.

Rep. John Persell’s LTE is pure spin. Here’s an example of Rep. Persell’s spin:

Over the past few weeks I’ve received several letters from people having a hard time signing up for health insurance on MNsure, Minnesota’s health insurance marketplace. MNsure has had some problems along the way since opening for business on Oct. 1, and Gov. Mark Dayton is rightfully holding the responsible MNsure contractors accountable.

That’s the type of spin I’d expect from a DFL legislator who voted for MNsure. What Rep. Persell didn’t mention is the type of problems MNsure’s had. He certainly didn’t mention who families who had a family policy provided by their employer now have 3 policies, one for the husband, another for his wife and another for their children.

Rep. Persell didn’t mention the fact that the MNsure board didn’t tell April Todd-Malmlov to put a higher priority on securing families’ sensitive data before putting together the Paul Bunyan advertising campaign. The MNsure board didn’t tell Ms. Todd-Malmlov she shouldn’t take a 2-week vacation to Costa Rica while MNsure was riddled with crises.

Those aren’t problems. They’re crises. What’s worst is that they’re crises that the legislature, in the form of the MNsure Oversight Committee didn’t even see fit to call hearings for. Instead, Rep. Atkins kept appearing on shows telling Minnesotans that everything was fine and that they shouldn’t worry.

Rep. Persell definitely didn’t tell Minnesotans that their deductibles had skyrocketed thanks to Obamacare/MNsure. In light of the fact that Rep. Persell didn’t want to tell the whole truth about MNsure, he certainly didn’t tell people that most of the people who bought health insurance through MNsure were people who lost their insurance when President Obama and Gov. Dayton told Minnesota families what coverages their families needed. Thanks to their hubris, 140,000 Minnesotans had their health insurance policies get canceled.

Here’s another part of Rep. Persell’s spin:

Let’s not allow those issues to overshadow the reason for MNsure’s online insurance marketplace.

It’s disgusting that Rep. Persell won’t tell Minnesota families that the MNsure board told the IT companies which software they had to use. I’m kinda old-fashioned in that I believe in hiring experts, then letting them tell me what’s needed. I don’t believe in hiring experts, then telling them how to do their jobs. That’s the essence of hubris.

The price of providing uninsured Americans with emergency medical treatment has contributed to increased costs for both routine medical procedures and health insurance premiums. As a way to lessen those costs, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was passed in 2010.

That’s an outright lie. The ACA was passed because it was an ideological trophy that progressives and socialists tried passing for over a century. Rep. Persell says it was to cut health care costs. That’s an outright lie, too. The ACA doesn’t cut costs. It’s increased out-of-pocket expenses for the vast majority of people purchasing health insurance through the health insurance exchanges.

This is what people should expect from the DFL this year. They’ve passed one counterproductive policy initiative after another. They raised taxes by $2,300,000,000. They enacted MNsure. They raised taxes on “the wealthiest 1-percent”, then they raised taxes on the middle class, too. Then they raised taxes on small businesses.

That means their policies have produced the latest version of the middle class squeeze. At a time when families need inexpensive health care options and tax relief, the DFL passed legislation that limits families’ health care options and middle class tax increases.

That’s the definition of being out of touch with Main Street Minnesota.

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Friday night, Rep. Joe Atkins, one of the DFL co-chairs of the MNsure Oversight Committee in the legislature, did his best to stick with the DFL chanting points. One of his chanting points was repeating the fact that Minnesota’s health insurance rates were the cheapest in the nation.

It’s true that the health insurance premiums offered through the MNsure exchange are cheaper than the premiums offered through other state-run exchanges or those offered through HealthCare.gov. It’s equally true, though, that those premiums are more expensive this year than they were prior to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare.

Another DFL chanting point that Rep. Atkins hinted at was that everyone agrees that these new policies have “much better coverage” than their old policies had. This is a point that Republicans should fight the DFL on because it’s a fight they’ll win with ease. The DFL thinks that better coverage means 27-year-olds having ambulatory coverage with their new policies. Another thing that the DFL thinks is better, aka more important, coverage is 55-year-old men and women having pregnancy care.

I’m betting most people think better coverage means lower co-pays or deductibles. I’m betting that they think better coverage means being able to keep the physician they’ve had for the last 15-20 years. I’m positive that people think better coverage means networks that include going to the same hospitals and clinics that they’ve been going to for years.

Rep. Tony Albright highlighted the fact that Gov. Dayton and the DFL legislature didn’t provide the leadership needed to get through the crises MNsure went through. He especially highlighted the fact that the MNsure Oversight Committee didn’t meet last fall even though MNsure had major data security issues.

That’s fertile ground because, while April Todd-Malmlov was terminated, the DFL legislators haven’t explained why they didn’t hold any oversight hearings after the various difficulties were encountered. That’s fertile ground because most people think that the DFL legislators on the committee knew about MNsure’s problems but said nothing about it to protect Gov. Dayton from taking a major political hit.

One thing that’s certain is that Gov. Dayton can’t escape blame for this because a) he insisted on creating MNsure, b) he didn’t speak out about fixing MNsure’s problems until after the Malmlov vacation scandal broke and c) he was the primary chearleader for establishing the exchange.

It isn’t difficult for most people to figure out that the person actively fought for the creation of the exchange should get blamed when the exchange has a series of major crises, including questionable prioritizing (running Paul Bunyan ads months before people could buy a policy) or taking a nonchalant attitude towards data security.

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An Attempt at Restoring Academic Integrity
by Silence Dogood

At Meet and Confer on October 18, 2012, the Faculty Association (FA), almost six months from the initial meeting on May 2, 2013 to discuss transcript adulterations where the evidence that a student had registered for a course is removed from their academic transcript, officially asked for the data for all “poofs” (a term coined by Provost Devinder Malhotra) granted from FY07 to FY12 including the reason for the request and the person who approved the request for removal from the transcript. The FA also asked for a committee to be formed that would include faculty to review all future drops. Provost Malhotra said that this matter was an administrative prerogative and he would not consider participation of the faculty.

The Faculty Association was later informed by the administration that the data requested was stored in multiple locations and multiple formats and would be prohibitively expensive to obtain. What the administration agreed to provide was an analysis of a representative sample of one year’s data. The administration stated that for FY 2012, there were 1,197 academic petitions submitted requesting a change in status. Data provided by John Palmer in his report of May 10, 2013 indicated that out of the 1,197 cases where academic petitions were submitted between July 1, 2011 and June 30, 2012 (FY12), a subset of 237 cases (19.7%) were selected for further review.

Late in Spring Semester, a copy of the original data set without identifying information was obtained. Identifying information was removed so that it would not violate FERPA (Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act). It is important to note that this data was not provided officially by the administration. Until the Palmer report, the only data provided by the administration was provided by President Potter at Meet and Confer on February 21, 2013 when he listed the number of grades that had been changed from “F” to a “W”. President Potter seemed quite pleased to cite how small a percentage these represented out of the total number of grades reported. What is curious is why President Potter was answering a question that was not asked by the Faculty Association.

At the last Meet and Confer of the year on May 2, 2013 (coincidentally the same day one year earlier that this issue had been brought to the attention of the administration by the faculty), John Palmer, who had been tasked with the process of analyzing the data, began his report with about 5 minutes left in the meeting. At 5:00 p.m., Provost Malhotra (who was chairing the meeting) said “in the interest of time what we’ll do is we’ll put this item back on the agenda for Meet and Confer next time we meet.” With Meet and Confer over, he and President Potter got up and left the room.

What is surprising about these events begins with the fact that Associate Provost Palmer has always provided a written report prior to giving his review. In this case, he was reading his report without providing a written copy. Later, it was learned that he was directed not to provide copies of the report because “the Provost had not had time to review the report.” Eventually, John Palmer’s report was forwarded to the Faculty Association on May 10, 2013.

Dr. Palmer’s report contains a large amount of information about the 1,197 academic petitions submitted and much information has been gained. Despite the disappointment of not having complete data going back to FY07, it was a beginning in good faith to understand scope of the “issue.” The administration is loath to call it a problem. However, whatever you call it, the process is certainly not complete. The administration promised information for FY13, which has yet to be shared.

On July 1, 2013, John Palmer was removed from his position as Associate Provost of Faculty Relations (something that almost everyone on campus knows but something that has yet to be announced to the campus). With John Palmer’s departure, the investigation of transcript adulterations has essentially ended without providing data for FY13. It is apparent that, in the eyes of the administration, the “issue” is closed. I guess I wouldn’t want to keep talking about disappearing grades that at first I had said was not a problem, then had admitted it was a ‘small’ problem.

Excuse me! Disappearing grades is a HUGE PROBLEM. Whether you call them ‘drops’ or ‘poofs,’ the idea that the record of registration is removed from a student’s transcript without the faculty member’s knowledge is simply unacceptable. And yes, even the administration’s own data shows that in over 30% of the cases, faculty are not consulted.

So the issue has now shifted from trying to understand the scope of the problem of disappearing grades to finding a way to create a process going forward that will insure the integrity of the faculty member’s role is assigning grades and the administration’s responsibility of maintaining a record of the grades assigned. A document was brought to the Faculty Senate on September 10, 2013 by Professor Jack McKenna, Chair of the Academic Affairs Committee:

Proposed Joint Committee on Late Withdrawals and Drops

On January 14, 2013, Provost Malhotra’s memo Re: Petition Process for Late Withdrawals and Drops lists 10 individuals as “decision makers.” John Palmer’s Summary Analysis dated May 10, 2013 lists 16 people as “Authorized Decision Maker (ADM).” Even with “guidelines” provided by Provost Malhotra, this number of individuals, whether it is 10 or 16, making enrollment transcript change decisions cannot help being inconsistent.

This spring, the Academic Policy Working Group (a joint administration/faculty advisory committee) brainstormed with Assistant Dean of University College Nancy Mills several mechanisms for dealing with late withdrawals and drops. No formal proposal as to the process was agreed to at the time. However, the suggestion was for a committee to review all late withdrawals and drops for the purpose of standardizing the process and providing consistency in the decisions being made. It was suggested that a committee of five individuals be formed for the purpose of developing a process and basis for making these enrollment decisions. A suggested makeup of the committee was suggested: Assistant Dean of University College (Nancy Mills); A Dean or Assistant/Associate Dean (selected by the administration); Director of Financial Aid (Mike Uran); Faculty Director of Advising (Steven Klepetar); and a faculty member (selected by the Faculty Senate). Additionally, a member from the Office of Records and Registration would be a non-voting ex-officio member. The committee would provide a report of summary data at Meet and Confer each term.

From the minutes of the Faculty Senate on September 10, 2013: 013 8.c.1-8.c.3)—McKenna spoke to Faculty Senate.
Motion to approve the formation of a grade change policy working group to make policy and recommendations, comprised of six members: Assistant Dean of University College, a Dean or Assistant Dean appointed by Administration, Director of Financial Aid, Faculty Director of Advising, and two faculty members appointed by Senate—(Karasik/Hubbs). Amended and passed unanimously.

Motion to change one faculty to two faculty appointed by Senate—(Hubbs/Hergert). Passed

The amended motion passed the Faculty Senate unanimously—something that does not happen too often!

The motion was presented to Provost Malhotra by FA President Steve Hornstein on Monday, September 16, 2013. The motion was also presented at Meet and Confer on October 9, 2013, where Provost Malhotra said he would respond “within ten days.” Why it should take from September 16, to October 23 to respond is a mystery to me. However, all editorial comments aside, the faculty await the Provost’s response by October 23, 2013.

There are many definitions of integrity; a popular one says that integrity is the “adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.”

It’s time for the administration to step up and do the right thing. The removal of the record of registration of a student in a class is something that should not happen as a routine matter of course. It is something that should happen only in extreme circumstances. If this is not the case, then the very foundation of the academic integrity of the university is called into question.

President Potter and Provost Malhotra, form the Academic Petition Review committee and begin the attempt to restore academic integrity to SCSU.

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