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Progressive Politics in Minnesota, the Nation, and the World

Talking About Sexual Harassment At The Capitol

Posted: 11/12/17 17:21

by Dave Mindeman

Let's talk for a bit about the recent sexual harassment charges that have come to public attention.

It is a complicated subject and you can take it in many directions depending on your personal perspective. And let's face it, in our flawed society the expectations from male and female perspectives can be vastly different.

John Gilmore, a conservative Republican writer, wrote a column for Alpha News that brings up some interesting points as he criticizes everyone involved. He says that there is too much politics involved while emphasizing ONLY political points of view. A bit hypocritical himself, but interesting none the less.

The article has a Republican bias but a good self examination of the Republican response as well.

But let's discuss how these allegations are being portrayed. Sexual harassment in the work place is always an uncomfortable and unnecessary problem. Relationships are complicated enough - don't let the work place become part of that complication. That should be a basic tenet as we delve into this.

A lot of people ask the question, why now? And I would respond, if not now, when? This is not a new problem at the legislature. Many rumors abound about this issue and Twitter and Facebook have opened up whole new avenues of asking for trouble.

The timeline is interesting. As Gilmore points out, Schoen and Corning being outed at about the same time, makes it a bipartisan issue and should be solved in a bipartisan manner.

But look at the party responses. DFL Senators are in a one vote minority. Each Senator is something they cannot afford to lose - yet, the calls for resignation from DFL Senate and Party officials was swift and immediate for Schoen - and for Cornish when it happened a little later. But on the Republican side, condemnation of Schoen was immediate, but when the R was involved there was this unusual parsing of words and shifting positions. Daudt acknowledged there was a problem but seemed unwilling to commit to any action. After a day or two of fidgeting, he decided to have an outside body handle it so he could wash his hands of it politically.

Gilmore gives an interesting take on GOP Chair Jennifer Carnahan's response....

"Carnahan needlessly exposed the Republican Party of Minnesota to charges of hypocrisy in calling for Schoen to resign but not Cornish. When challenged she went silent, except to leave the state to write gibberish on the sand beaches of California while celebrating her birthday. You know that person who uses exclamation points too much, as in all the time? That's her.

Unfortunately, Carnahan is the embodiment of low level management types: full of unwarranted self confidence but manifestly without the talent to be promoted. Her incompetent leadership, tone deaf messaging and abominable press releases have given many observers cause for concern in the upcoming election cycle."

It really was a one sided response and coming from a woman, it seemed all the more hypocritical. Carnahan's public comments were woeful and very unfulfilling as a guide to any kind of remedy.

Gilmore also argues that Schoen's physical actions were more egregious than Cornish's sexual innuendos; but both of these men have a checkered history in this regard which will probably keep this story going for awhile. And which could lead to other revelations -- because you know they are not alone in this regard.

I remember when Melissa Hortman publicly stated her disdain for her "reluctance" ......"to break up the 100 percent white male card game in the retiring room." An obvious reference to ignoring and dismissing the conversations being made by women legislators on the House floor ...especially women of color.

That was a symptom of the much bigger problem of sexual harassment.

Women have not, for a long time, been taking seriously as legislators; even though by and large they get a lot more things done for their constituents than any male representative. This is not just a Minnesota thing, it is nationwide and in the Halls of Congress. It is difficult for them to get elected, it is difficult for them to be heard, and it is difficult for them to advance. The glass ceiling may have cracked but it is still intact.

One more point I'd like to make here. I do not believe that it is an accident that both Schoen and Cornish come out of law enforcement. As we have seen with the Black Lives Matter protest, officers of the law expect different treatment. They are so accustomed to deference in their job that they tend to expect it in every other avenue of life they pursue. I'm sure that Schoen and Cornish were surprised to be called out on their behavior. They are not used to be questioned about things they do - and as we generally see, they get too much benefit of the doubt on the job.

There are many aspects of this that should be examined. And I think the call for a Task Force on Sexual Harassment is a great place to start. If both Republicans and Democrats are serious about addressing this issue, then the Task Force should get support from everyone.

Maybe even Jennifer Carnahan can agree on that.
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Gun Safety Is Important - And We Are Still Failing To Act

Category: Guns
Posted: 11/07/17 08:28

by Dave Mindeman

The myriad of gun trolls that pervade the internet dismiss any argument about gun safety with a blizzard of arguments that never seem to center on what guns do.

The argument they make is that if you don't know the difference between a semi-automatic and automatic weapon, then you have no business in the debate.


Do semi-automatic and automatic weapons both kill? Do they kill large numbers of people in a short period of time? What else do we need to know? The technicalities (and there are many) that gun manufacturers have placed on the mechanics and nuances of the various weapons in this country are meant to distort what the real debate happens to be. And that debate is essentially, how do we keep weapons out of the hands of dangerous people.

The NRA and gun activists oppose any changes in any method of weapons restriction. We cannot have a CDC study on guns. We cannot ban weapons from those on the no-fly list. We cannot have an effective registry because the lobbyists refuse to allow proper records to be maintained.

Here is the main example:

The ATF's record-keeping system lacks certain basic functionalities standard to every other database created in the modern age. Despite its vast size, and importance to crime fighters, it is less sophisticated than an online card catalog maintained by a small town public library.

To perform a search, ATF investigators must find the specific index number of a former dealer, then search records chronologically for records of the exact gun they seek. They may review thousands of images in a search before they find the weapon they are looking for. That's because dealer records are required to be "non-searchable" under federal law. Keyword searches, or sorting by date or any other field, are strictly prohibited.

Records still can be found - but the intention is to make it slow and difficult. How effective are background checks going to be if records are maintained this way?

The recent "error" by the Air Force about the Texas shooter is, yet, another example of how reports on guns are not taking seriously. The NRA lobbies Congress to make things as difficult as possible.

And then there is the merging of gun records and mental health records.

Even though federal law prohibits the sale of firearms to certain individuals with a history of mental illness, history has shown that it's still too easy for dangerous people experiencing a mental health crisis to obtain firearms. Currently, laws are in place that require licensed dealers (but not unlicensed sellers) to conduct a background check prior to the transfer of a firearm to screen out these and other prohibited purchasers.

However, federal law cannot require states to make information identifying these people available to the federal or state agencies that perform background checks, and many states fail to voluntarily report the necessary records to the FBI's National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), especially with respect to people prohibited from possessing guns for mental health reasons. As a result, some individuals known to be dangerous can pass background checks and obtain firearms.

You would think that we could make these processes easier and more straightforward. But under the watchful eye of the NRA, all of these methods of maintaining records are made difficult, restricted and in some cases simply ignored by the various states - especially deep red ones.

At some point, we have to decide what type of legislator do we want to make decisions on the laws regarding guns.

What we have now is just woefully inadequate and it has made America less safe than other developed countries. Terrorism has certainly given us a set of difficult problems - but compound that with dangerous people obtaining military style weapons in a retail setting - well, I think you know what that means.

The last mass killing with a gun in Australia led to gun bans and actual confiscation. They have not had a major incident since. Weapons are highly restrictive in Europe and ownership in Japan is minimal.

We, not only have the worst record on mass killings of any other industrialized country, but we are the only nation that pushes for less control on weapons rather than more.

Nobody advocates doing what Australia did. But there are common sense measures that can work if allowed to and there is public support to do just that.

Guns are never going away in America. And that is fine. But they are dangerous and public safety demands that we address that.

Technical arguments about guns don't matter - safety does.
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Lessons of 1972

Category: 2016
Posted: 11/02/17 23:04

by Dave Mindeman

I have been involved in politics since the George McGovern campaign. You remember that don't you? The anti-war candidate. The liberal's liberal. The victim of the Nixon subterfuge. I loved McGovern. He spoke real truth to power. He believed in liberal ideals. He would fight for the poor and downtrodden. He believed that Vietnam was a massive mistake.

He took the Democratic Party by storm and carried so many young people with him to.....

ignominious defeat.

The worst political thrashing I ever saw. Lost nearly every state. Lost the popular vote 37-61. It left me stunned. Disillusioned. Hopeless.

It was not so much that my candidate lost, but the ideas that I thought were obviously the "right" ideas got thrashed as well. The country obviously did not believe in the same liberal ideas that I did. I was crushed.

But I kept going. I learned something valuable. That ideals and election politics are different things. The mandate to make policy goes to the winners -not the ones with the best ideas.

After that election, being liberal became a joke for many years. Pie in the sky liberals. Idealistic neophytes. No connection to reality. Yeah, I heard them all.

Since that time, I have worked ceaselessly on working for political change. It has happened from time to time, but never with any sense of completeness. I have learned that you have to accept setbacks. You have to accept politics as it is, not as you want it to be.

Democrats have often been ill equipped for the fight and often fight each other more than the real political enemy.

The Bernie supporters remind me of that time in 1972. You want to find some excuse for why things did not work. It was all so unfair. The system is biased against us. We need to change everything. It is all bad.

In 1972, I learned that it wasn't the system that had to change, because there are too many negative forces holding it in place....rather it was I who had to change. To stop hiding behind my sense of right and wrong and understand that politics is really nothing about right and wrong - rather it is a method of obtaining power - of simply winning with whatever it takes.

It is a game with no rules. It is unfortunate, but true.

And the only absolute necessity is for a Party to stand together against the other side. If we had a European parliamentary system, there would be more room for party nuance. To form real coalitions with votes and power. But we do not have that. This is a two party democracy with all the flaws and foibles that go along with that narrow definition.

Which is why the here and now is so important. Our democracy is at serious risk. We have a President who understands completely how things work with no rules. How to get the advantage at every turn. To manipulate people and power.

And, once again, we continue to believe that right will still win out. That justice will always prevail. And that Camelot still exists.

Learn the lessons of 1972. As Vince Lombardi put it so well -

"Winning isn't everything; it's the ONLY thing."
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