Monday, March 27, 2006


Across the Great Divide has moved. Please visit the new location.

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Sunday, March 26, 2006

Tenting and Blogging Don't Mix

Sometime contributor Gustave Axelson describes a trip to Denali in today's Strib. His story on sharp-tailed grouse appears in the current issue of Minnesota Conservation Volunteer.

Now I know why his posts are so few and far between.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

My Day at the Convention

I've just returned from my Senate District 45 DFL Convention, and few things have been made clear. Here's the short version for skimmers:

1. Despite the crowded field vying to replace Martin Sabo, it wasn't hard to pick a candidate. Keith Ellison is mine.

2. I'm no closer on the governor's race, though wasn't it interesting I avoided making eye contact with Mike Hatch as he worked the room?

3. I love Ford Bell, but I really want to retire Mark Kennedy, and I think Amy Klobuchar is more likely to do it.

5th Congressional District Race
The DFL nominee in the 5th is a lock on going to Washington, so hopefuls are coming out of the woodwork. Looking at the line of candidates waiting to speak today, you'd have thought this was a convenience store and the Powerball had surpassed $200 million.

Most of the candidates showed up, plus former Hennepin County Board Chair Mark Andrew, who is still exploring and hasn't formally declared. (Presumably Polinaut's list which was updated yesterday and is at least two candidates short, will be current on Monday.)

I didn't see big differences on the issues among the candidates, so this was more a swimsuit and talent competition...

No shows: Jon Olson, Anne Knapp. Therefore, no comment.

The City Council Krewe: Paul Ostrow and Gary Schiff should plan on keeping their Minneapolis jobs. Schiff's energy program has us lessening our dependence on "foil oreign." Oy.

Sabo Lite: Mike Erlandson not only has his boss's blessing, he has his boss's charisma.

Personal stories: Gail Dorfman and Rebecca Yanisch both shared personal stories to underscore their passion for office. Dorfman's son is gay and Yanisch told of a nephew who signed up for the National Guard so he could pay for school and was immediately shipped to Iraq. It may not be original, but I liked her line about how kids shouldn't have to risk dying to go to college.

Hometown team: Ember Reichgott Junge and Jorge Saavedra. Junge was stumping in her old junior high and had solid support. She's a tad too Up with People for me. I'm told she'll go to primary with or without the endorsement. Chilean immigrant Saavedra will be an attractive candidate somewhere, sometime, but this isn't the time.

Surprising firebrand: Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer declared himself a candidate when Sabo was still presumed to run, and this is all the thanks he gets. After hearing him speak, I consider him the Ford Bell of the Fifth. I'd take off points for the notecards in his hand, but his words and passion ranked right at the top.

Across the Great Divide Candidate: Keith Ellison had started to speak when I was in the hallway being buttonholed by a J N-P supporter. The ringing strains coming from the cafeteria pulled me in. Other candidates had programmed pauses in which to insert applause; Ellison was the only one to consistently receive it. Yes, he was the first to speak, but discounting hometowner Junge, he was the only Congressional candidate to win his own delegate.

In general, I'm not a big fan of the "I will fight for..." campaign rhetoric Ellison employed. But that's because it often turns out to be just rhetoric. And real fighters aren't very effective on the everyday work of governing.

But the party needs fighters with a clue. I think Ellison qualifies. We don't need a safe candidate to attract swing voters in this district. We need someone who can make us glad we're progressive. I won't belabor this. Just say I knew Paul Wellstone. Paul Wellstone was a friend of mine. And Keith Ellison did a passable Paul Wellstone.

Governor's race
I was most undecided about this race and wanted to hear from Steve Kelly, because he's the indistinct choice for me. We got his wife as proxy instead. By the accounts of people who know him, he's a nice, smart, decent, hard-working man. I want all those things, but I also want someone who will free Tim Pawlenty to take a full-time position with the Taxpayers League or the Minnesota Family Council. I still don't know whether Kelly is the man.

I do know Becky Lourey isn't the woman — though if she had a snowball's chance, I'd stand with her. But the voters didn't buy her once and Republicans have gotten even nastier since. Their campaign ads would have Lourey standing with Cindy Sheehan and Sheehan with Michael Moore and Moore with Osama, and before you know it, too many voters will think she exploited her son's death in Iraq so she could be Governor.

Mike Hatch did show and gave a stemwinder speech largely focused on health care. This may be a good strategy, since health care polls highly with voters. He has a clear record advocating for the consumer and making health care more affordable and accessible. Hatch has the perfect makeup for Attorney General, and he may have what it takes to beat Pawlenty. But then he has to govern, and unless his health care plan covers personality transplants, in a few years we might be looking back fondly on the Ventura administration.

Senate race
Klobuchar sent her daughter and husband. Bell came in person. He got off a good line about Bush wanting to fix Social Security. "Well, I'm a veterinarian, and 'fix' has a very specific meaning."

Ford, if you can help sharpen Amy's positions on the war and health care, you'll have done a good thing.


Across the Great Divide has moved. Visit our new location now at
  1. Remember to re-bookmark the new site,
  2. If you subscribe via an aggregator such as Bloglines, resubscribe with my new feed.
  3. If you want new posts emailed, you can subscribe via Feedblitz. See the SUBSCRIBE box on the new home page. You'll receive one email of any posts for the day.
  4. If you're away from your bookmarks, just remember It will redirect you to the new location.
Archives will remain here until I can resolve problems with this site.

Friday, March 24, 2006

More on Minvolved

Wege has an update on the Minvolved demise.

Say It Ain't So, Sponge!

Whenever I checked my Bloglines feeds, Minvolved was the first place I looked. This morning, I may have clicked in for the last time:

We have always done blogging as a hobby. Each morning, we get up at 5:00, blog until the kids get up and then call it a day on the internets. We have always been pretty aware of the fact that we’re a made-up sponge so we try not to take ourselves too seriously.

That being said, there have always been one or two lines in the sand that, if crossed, would cause us to quit blogging. One of them has just been crossed. We won’t go into detail, but when the sponge family gets brought into the mix by an email or two, we’re done. We have plenty of other ways to get our kicks out and this is no longer one of them.

There were a lot of reasons Minvolved was a worthy blog, and more reasons to expect it to get even better. Creator Sponge brought an interesting mix of perspectives to his progressive political views: Veteran, family man, Okie immigrant, music and poster art lover, comedian and watchdog. He was also broadly read, prolific and generous, capable of a pithy shot one time and well-documented extended critique the next.

Now, we see his principles and discipline at play in the decision to suspend what he calls a hobby, but what looked to this reader more like a calling.

Minvolved had recently sharpened its focus to Minnesota and launched a new publishing platform and format. It had reined in some of Sponge's previous acerbity without losing its backbone. It was more than another progressive voice, it was becoming a community resource.

His decision is totally his business and we should leave it be, but what happens to Minvolved concerns all of us. If we just wave good-bye, we'll have lost more than a blog.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

The Grenade in the Tent

Here's a classic cinematic moment: An armed grenade rolls into the tent and a ragtag bunch of antagonists momentarily freezes as they simultaneously realize it's too late to toss it back.

Who will cover it and sacrifice himself? The young lieutenant with the family back home? The alcoholic corporal? The clown and general f*ck-up? The quiet black private? The hardened sergeant who's due to ship out in a week? You can play the variations yourself.

Tuesday at the state capitol, a grenade rolled into House Tax Committee tent, and if legislators don't come to their senses about "gay marriage," everything is going to get blown to hell.

The Heritage Amendment, or so-called 3/16ths bill, started as a movement to dedicate a portion of the state sales tax to environmental and wildlife preservation. It has since has added arts and culture to the mix — and, importantly, asks the monies be drawn from new revenue, aka, a tax increase.

Enter the grenade in the form of the "Marriage Amendment." Checks & Balances (free subscription required) has the story, and the explanation of what occurred gets a bit wonky:

It appears Rep. Ron Erhardt (R-41A, Edina), the author of the Motor Vehicle Excise Tax amendment, attempted to insert a poison pill into the bill when he moved to include the Gay Marriage Amendment in the bill. Even though he did not vote for the Gay marriage Amendment he has created a major situation for the Republicans. If the 3/16th bill, with the Gay Marriage Amendment tacked onto it, makes its way to the floor, Republicans will be forced to vote for a tax increase in order to get another vote on Gay Marriage. If anyone tried to remove Gay Marriage from the 3/16th bill it will again force a vote on Gay Marriage. And if the bill dies of its own weight then this will mean Republicans decided that Gay Marriage was more important then concerns of the Hook and Bullet community.

It is true the social conservatives vote in large numbers, but so do the hunters and fishermen and women and the later is larger constituency group. Usually Republicans try to satisfy both rather than alienate one over the other.

It looks to me like anyone who wants to gum up legislation they don't like can roll that old grenade on the table and leave only two choices: Run or be blown to bits.

The War on Easter

The St. Paul City Council has taken down an Easter display in its offices, allowing the War on Christmas crowd a fresh complaint to work over until Thanksgiving.

Heck, even Eminem celebrates Easter.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006


Funny that I should start Drinking Liberally  after finally starting to drink conservatively. And after two weeks and two candidates, maybe it's significant that my beverage of choice is Two Hearted Ale.

Tonight was Amy Klobuchar and last week was Ford Bell, subjecting themselves to a nouveau Nordeast bar and a pack 'o libruls, plus one conservative blogger. (Boy, am I glad I'm not still trying to wear my too-tight blue oxford dress shirts to bars.)

Both candidates charmingly played the kinder card. Bell came after a child's concert. Klobuchar stayed late, but exercised the daughter-reading-Sense and Sensibility-together escape clause.

Either would be a distinct improvement over Mark (I'm 3% Independent of the President) Kennedy.

Bell seemed a bit gawky when he arrived, the teetotaler at the orgy. But he requested a Bell's Best Brown off the chalk board, and when it came time to discuss issues, he changed personas — no longer the ill-at-ease socializer, but a man with fire in his heart and facts at his disposal. A man who, like Mark Dayton, could have coasted through life, but chose to give something back. I'm not entirely sure what drove Ford Bell to run for Senator, but it was not a career move.

Amy Klobuchar's fire is evident from the start. She is practiced at seeming comfortable, and I don't mean that in a bad way. She acknowledged people and identified bloggers like  Norwegianity's Wege and Centrisity's Flash and Power Liberal's Smarty as easily as if they'd been Torii and KG and Dante. (And believe me, all these guys are much harder to pick out of a crowd.) This was not that phony pointing to people in the crowd and winking crap that politicians do. Maybe Bush couldn't pick Abramoff out of a line up, but I sincerely believe Klobuchar has book marked Power Liberal.

So what does it all mean? Am I gonna analyze personalities or issues here?

Well, we were in a bar, folks, and it was loud. We were drinking beer. (Klobuchar made a valiant stab at downing her Miller Lite. The rest of us had no such trouble.)

I asked Bell about correcting income disparities in America, and he responded with invest in alternative energy as if it were the Apollo program. I asked Klobuchar if she could put her name on one bill next year what would it be, and she said, reform health care and make sure kids are covered. Plus, she slipped in a second priority — a 20/20% national standard for ethanol content in gasoline/energy from renewables.

Let's not kid ourselves. Freshman Senators aren't going to be transforming much of anything. All we want now is for the river to change direction, and I would get in boat with either of these two.

Michele and Katherine, Please Listen

It's a rerun, but then so is the attempt to get a marriage amendment on the state ballot. MPR interviewed three church-going heterosexual couples and three same-sex couples from Duluth. It's worth a listen.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Report in Black and White

On the morning of July 22nd, Jean Charles de Menezes left his flat to repair a broken fire alarm. The electrician never made it to his job. He was stopped by men who thought they were doing theirs.

de Menezes holds tenaciously to my consciousness. His death — of all last year's pointless deaths both farther and nearer to me — has inspired two book works. The vaporizing heads temporarily added to this blog's banner started as his. And I've assembled other images for a mock police report on the incident I've yet to write.

Soon after he died on the floor of that train, I saw the world divided anew: Those who believe we are all Brazilian electricians, and those who find the very notion insulting and ridiculous.
The previous day's shocking bombings had put all London on high alert, but de Menezes headed off to work as normal on public transit. Everything that happened afterward unfolded from a sad compounding of coincidences. He lived in the same block of flats as one suspect in the bombings. The policeman watching his building stepped away to take a leak just before de Menezes left, making identification uncertain. His route to the underground station, via connecting bus, may have heightened suspicions and anxiety, and forced surveillance to be handed off to different teams, further confusing communications.

Although life for de Menezes was proceeding as normal, events sped up for those following him. Those who thought he may be on his way to another attack.

As he moved toward the station, he was transformed from a man going to work to a terrorist, and though later accounts tried to cast suspicion on his actions, this transformation actually occurred in the minds of witnesses and the people pursuing him.

You can read some of the concurrent conjecture here and here, as people post-dated recollections to make them fit a slowed-down reality.

In any crisis, real or perceived, we are programmed to see the world's greys in black and white. We can't change this wiring, and why should we? Survival demands it.

Yet if we see the world this way all the time, we are reacting, not learning. We are quick sorting people and things, preparing to fight or flee, neither of which allows community to take shape.

Perhaps de Menezes was doomed the moment the phone rang in his building where immigrants lived, when he walked unknowing into a world of black and white. Perhaps his ghost stays with me, to remind me to speak up for the greys. Because otherwise, someday, somewhere, each of us will walk a street where we are the Belgian electrician.