|Progressive Calendar 11.23.09||<– Date –> <– Thread –>|
|From: David Shove (shove001tc.umn.edu)|
|Date: Mon, 23 Nov 2009 15:43:41 -0800 (PST)|
P R O G R E S S I V E C A L E N D A R 11.23.09 1. Poetry 11.23 6:30pm 2. 6 degrees/eco film 11.23 7pm 3. Boycott Israel/CTV 11.24 5pm 4. Smedly Butler book 11.24 6:30pm 5. Credit card scam/TV 11.24 9pm 6. Helen Redmond - Health care's historic flop 7. PC Roberts - A trial that will convict us all 8. William McGaughey - Analysis of 2009 Mpls mayoral election results 9. ed - Strapped to the table (haiku) --------1 of 9-------- From: Richard Broderick <richb [at] lakecast.com> Subject: Poetry 11.23 6:30pm Monday, Nov. 23. Read ing by Contributors to the 2010 Saint Paul Almanac Golden Thyme Cafe 921, Selby Avenue 6:30 p.m. Joyce Garcia Rose McGee Richard Broderick Evan Hall Frank Brown James McKenzie Andrew Hall Deborah A. Torraine --------2 of 9-------- From: Christine Frank <christinefrank [at] visi.com> Subject: 6 degrees/eco film 11.23 7pm CLEAN-ENERGY VIGIL TO COOL DOWN THE PLANET! MONDAY, NOVEMBER 23, 5:00 PM PLAZA MAYDAY BOOKS 301 CEDAR AVENUE SOUTH WEST BANK, MINNEAPOLIS (Weather permitting.) THE UPCOMING 3CTC ENVIRONMENTAL FORUM A FREE SCREENING OF: SIX DEGREES COULD CHANGE THE WORLD Produced by the National Geographic Society and Narrated by Alec Baldwin Of course, we now know that two degrees will change the world drastically and the world dares not go there, but see it anyway. MONDAY, NOVEMBER 23, 7:00 PM MAYDAY BOOKS 301 CEDAR AVENUE SOUTH WEST BANK, MINNEAPOLIS --------3 of 9-------- From: Eric Angell <eric-angell [at] riseup.net> Subject: Boycott Israel/CTV 11.24 5pm St. Paul Neighborhood Network (SPNN) viewers: "Our World In Depth" cablecasts on SPNN Channel 15 on Tuesdays at 5pm, midnight and Wednesday mornings at 10am, after DemocracyNow! All households with basic cable may watch. Tues, 11/24, 5pm & midnight and Wed, 11/25, 10am Omar Barghouti: The Need to Boycott Israel" Omar Barghouti is an independent Palestinian researcher, commentator, and founding member of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI). Barghouti spoke in an open public discussion at the University of Minnesota. --------4 of 9-------- From: patty <pattypax [at] earthlink.net> Subject: Smedly Butler 11.24 6:30pm HI, The salon is continuing its Little Book of the Odd Month Club, and this next week, we will be discussing the book, War is a Racket by Gen. Smedly Butler. You may be able to find a copy of it at May Day Books. Pax Salons ( http://justcomm.org/pax-salon ) are held (unless otherwise noted in advance): Tuesdays, 6:30 to 8:30 pm. Mad Hatter's Tea House, 943 W 7th, St Paul, MN Salons are free but donations encouraged for program and treats. Call 651-227-3228 or 651-227-2511 for information. --------5 of 9-------- From: Lydia Howell <lydiahowell [at] visi.com> Subject: Credit card scam/TV 11.24 9pm PBS | This week on FRONTLINE Nov 24th, 9PM The Card Game At the start of this week's FRONTLINE broadcast, correspondent and producer Lowell Bergman takes us inside "The White House" to meet a powerful man who has impacted our lives in some very real, if little-known ways. But it's not Barack Obama, and the "The White House" in question isn't in Washington: It's a full-scale replica owned by a man whose credit card company made a fortune pioneering many of the practices that have trapped millions of Americans in a never-ending cycle of debt. In "The Card Game," Bergman and the New York Times team up to continue the reporting they began a few years ago in "Secret History of the Credit Card" - this time zeroing in on the hidden fees, random rate hikes, and other borderline deceptive practices which the financial services industry has been using for years to wring big profits from the most vulnerable consumers. Want to meet the men who pioneered "zero percent" teaser rates, "no fee checking," hidden debit card overdraft fees, and other favorites of the industry now under the microscope by federal regulators? Bergman gets all of them to sit for fascinatingly frank interviews. And then there's the man in "The White House," Shailesh Mehta, the former head of Providian bank. In his first major television interview, Mehta proudly defends the company's record of targeting customers with poor credit and low incomes, then trapping them into the highest rates and fees. Mehta also weighs in on the administration's current attempts to rein in these and other practices: "You make the stupid laws," he says of the industry's likely reaction to any new regulation, "and [we'll] outsmart you...and make money." Will Congress successfully create a new Consumer Finance Protection Agency to police everything from credit cards to retail banking to mortgages? How will lawmakers contend with the powerful banking lobby? What does Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner tell Bergman about the administration's prospects for real reform? We hope you'll tune in on Tuesday night, then join us online, where you can watch the program again, explore the "Ten Things You Need to Know About the Card Game," and, of course, join the discussion. --------6 of 9-------- The Killer and the Kid Health Care's Historic Flop By HELEN REDMOND CounterPunch November 23, 2009 I get weekly emails from Levana Layendecker of Health Care for America Now (HCAN) and Mitch Stewart from Organizing for America. In increasingly shrill prose, the two try to convince me to support whatever legislation emerges from Congress. They warn, "IF THE INSURANCE COMPANIES WIN, YOU LOSE". I agree completely. That is why I won't support any legislation Congress passes because the insurance companies have already won and we have lost. We need only look at the check lists of two of the most powerful people in health care reform to see who is benefiting most from the proposed legislation in Congress. Karen "Killer" Ignagni, President and CEO of America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) won the following: Still in business making billions of profits for Wall Street investors and CEO's of insurance companies No cost controls that would decrease profits Mandate giving us at least 30 million new customers and fined if they don't buy coverage Still able to deny doctor recommended care Still able to increase premiums Kill or weaken public option Investment in 3000 lobbyists and 1.4 million a day paid off Then there is Billy "The Kid" Tauzin, President and CEO of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA.) He was able to check off everything on his list: Get a meeting with President Obama behind closed doors and make a deal to protect PhRMA profits No drug reimportation from Canada or Mexico Extend protections for lucrative biologic drugs No negotiating drug prices for Medicare Part D U.S. drug market continues to be the most profitable There was even a big, last minute win for the misogynist Catholic Bishops. For thirty years these disgusting, sexist servants of God have fought to restrict access to abortion. Thanks to the betrayal of Nancy Pelosi and Jan Schakowski, the "ardent" defenders of women's reproductive rights, the no-choice Stupak Amendment passed. The Democrats position on abortion is ".safe, legal and rare" and the Stupak Amendment will make abortion rarer still. The xenophobes and racists won, too. Millions of undocumented human beings from every corner of the globe who work and pay taxes in the United States are ineligible for Medicaid and subsidies. The message: don't get sick, but if you do, die quickly and if you don't, we'll deport you. The insurance industry concocted a strategy well in advance of Obama taking office. The crisis they caused could no longer be ignored: 50 million uninsured, millions of medical bankruptcies, employers screaming about rate increases and dropping coverage in record numbers and thousands of health care horror stories in the media. According to Wendell Potter, the former Vice President of Public Relations at Cigna, now a whistleblower, "They [the insurers] knew they had a very big public relations problem, and they knew this day was coming. They knew they had to be perceived as coming to the table with solutions. It was a departure from their previous point of view. But they knew they would be slaughtered if it weren't". And there they were, just as Potter predicted - the Killer and the Kid, not only at the table, but at all the secret, behind closed-door meetings with the late Ted Kennedy and Max Baucus. Ignagni proclaimed, "We want to play. We want to contribute. We want to help pass health reform legislation this year". And what a player she is. In an article titled, "Insurers poised to reap benefits from healthcare overhaul" Mark Merritt, a lobbyist, keenly observed, "While so many in this town have been playing checkers, Karen has been playing chess". Checkmate for AHIP. Senator Baucus has taken more money from the health and insurance industry than any other member of Congress. Elizabeth Fowler, Baucus's chief health advisor, is a former VP of public policy for the insurance giant Wellpoint. She "helped" write the Senate bill. AHIP uses lobbyists and campaign contributions to shape legislation, not to kill or oppose it as HCAN and Organizing for America constantly claim. That's what the 3000 lobbyists are doing every day in Congress - inserting industry friendly, arcane language and loopholes into unfathomable (except to industry lawyers and actuaries) 2000 page bills which the Democrats support. To be sure, insurers don't like the public option but it's so not robust, so eviscerated, so devoid of honesty keeping mechanisms it poses no competition or threat to profits as most political commentators now admit. Similarly, Ignagni wants tougher financial penalties for those who don't purchase health insurance but it's not a deal breaker, nor is accepting all patients regardless of health status. The industry has already announced premium increases and the added revenue will underwrite health care for those with "pre-existing" conditions. It's obvious. THE INSURANCE INDUSTRY IS WINNING AND WE ARE LOSING. There is an inconvenient contradiction that both HCAN and Organizing for America attempt to obscure: President Obama and Congressional leaders are working hand in glove with the very corporate criminals both organizations excoriate. AHIP and PhRMA have unfettered access to politicians and a massive influence on health care legislation. Why? Because the Democratic Party, despite its populist image, is a party of big business, of capitalism, not a party of the people. Notwithstanding the occasional howl about "insurance industry abuses" (to hoodwink us into thinking they are curbing those abuses) current legislation entrenches the industry even further into the core of the health care system and is on the brink of handing them unprecedented billions in taxpayer money and a mandate. This is dangerous not only to our health, but to democracy. Once the spigot to billions in public money is open, the industry will oppose attempts to shut it off. The money will flow back into American politics as campaign donations and kickbacks to happy-to-help, pro-industry politicians of which there are no shortage on either side of the aisle. THE INSURANCE INDUSTRY IS WINNING AND WE ARE LOSING and anyone who follows the money knows it. Except Levana and Mitch. The organizations the two represent are the major purveyors of outright lies, lies of omission and half-truths about health care legislation by asserting the following: health insurance will get better, stable and more secure; health insurance will get cheaper; employers will have to offer good, affordable insurance and not shift additional costs onto you; if you lose your job you will always be able to afford insurance, and expenses will be capped. They assert Medicaid and Medicare benefits won't be cut. Here's an inconvenient, honest-to-god truth: the legislation does nothing to solve the health care crisis. It's estimated up to twenty million people will still be uninsured. There are no effective cost containment mechanisms in either bill because that would reduce profits. There are no controls on the price of premiums and the House bill permits charging twice as much for older people as for younger ones. More profits. Insurers can continue to deny physician recommended medical care and patient claims. Medical-loss ratio in favor of insurers, million dollar salaries for CEO's and Wall Street investors untouched. The caps on out-of-pocket expenses are $5000 for individuals and $10,000 for families. These amounts result in medical bankruptcy now. Employers must pay 72.5 percent of premiums for individuals and 65 percent for families. That gives companies who currently pay a higher percentage an incentive to shift costs onto employees then dump them into the insurance exchange because it will be cheaper. The plans in the exchange will be high deductible, stripped down, tiered plans much like the ones available through the Commonwealth Connecter in Massachusetts. There will be an expansion of Medicaid but the history of the program reveals that just as it expands, it contracts. Eligibility criteria and reimbursement rates for Medicaid change with the fiscal fortunes of the states and federal government. It is truly stunning that health care reform will be paid for with billions in "savings" from the health care program for the elderly; Medicare. Why not use "savings" from the bloated 700 billion dollar military budget? The talk about fraud and waste in the Medicare program is a cover to cut benefits and seniors are right to be angry and mistrustful. Levana and Mitch are playing chess, too. Their deceit is insidious and not without precedence. HCAN and Organizing for America are following in the footsteps of organizations that are created every time health care reform is attempted. They promote incremental changes to the system and the legislation urgently (health reform can't wait!) and passionately promoted is not designed to solve the crisis, but rather to guarantee the continued existence and profit-making power of the insurance industry. Moreover, their job is to tamp down expectations for fundamental change, like single-payer, and convince the public the legislation, although not perfect, is the best we can get. It's still "change we can believe in". Any bill that passes will be hailed as historic. It will be historic: historic in the sense that it's yet another sellout in a long history of sellouts of the American people - bankrupt and broken, still desperate and dying for reform that makes health care a human right and where profit has no place. Helen Redmond, LCSW, is a medical social worker in Chicago. She can be reached at redmondmadrid [at] yahoo.com. She blogs at http://helenredmond.wordpress.com --------7 of 9-------- The Twisted Logic Behind the Prosecution of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed A Trial That Will Convict Us All By PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS November 23, 2009 CounterPunch Republican members of Congress and what masquerades as a "conservative" media are outraged that the Obama administration intends to try in federal court Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of 9/11, and four alleged co-conspirators. The Republican and right-wing rant that a trial is too good for these people proves what I have written for a number of years: Republicans and many Americans who think of themselves as conservatives have no regard for the US Constitution or for civil liberties. They have no appreciation for the point made by Thomas Paine in his Dissertations on First Principles of Government (1790): "An avidity to punish is always dangerous to liberty. It leads men to stretch, to misinterpret, and to misapply even the best of laws. He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself". Republicans and American conservatives regard civil liberties as coddling devices for criminals and terrorists. They assume that police and prosecutors are morally pure and, in addition, never make mistakes. An accused person is guilty or government wouldn't have accused him. All of my life I have heard self-described conservatives disparage lawyers who defend criminals. Such "conservatives" live in an ideal, not real, world. Even some of those, such as Stuart Taylor in the National Journal, who defend giving Mohammed a court trial do so on the grounds that there are no risks as Mohammed is certain to be convicted and that "a civilian trial will show Americans and the rest of the world that our government is sure it can prove the 9/11 defendants guilty in the fairest of all courts". Taylor agrees that Mohammed deserves "summary execution," but that it is a good Machiavellian ploy to try Mohammed in civilian court, while dealing with cases that have "trickier evidentiary problems" in "more flexible military commissions, away from the brightest spotlights". In other words, Stuart Taylor and the National Journal endorse Mohammed's trial as a show trial that will prove both America's honorable respect for fair trials and Muslim guilt for 9/11. If, as Taylor writes, "the government's evidence is so strong," why wasn't Mohammed tried years ago? Why was he held for years and tortured--apparently water boarded 183 times--in violation of US law and the Geneva Conventions? How can the US government put a defendant on trial when its treatment of him violates US statutory law, international law, and every precept of the US legal code? Mohammed has been treated as if he were a captive of Hitler's Gestapo or Stalin's KGB. And now we are going to finish him off in a show trial. If the barbaric treatment Mohammed has received during his captivity hasn't driven him insane, how do we know he hasn't decided to confess in order to obtain for himself for evermore the glory of the deed? How many people can claim to have outwitted the CIA, the National Security Agency and all 16 US intelligence agencies, NORAD, the Pentagon, the National Security Council, airport security (four times on one morning), US air traffic control, the US Air Force, the military Joint Chiefs of Staff, all the neocons, Mossad, and even the supposedly formidable Dick Cheney? Considering that some Muslims will blow themselves up in order to take out a handful of Israelis or US and NATO occupation troops, the payoff that Mohammed will get out of a guilty verdict is enormous. Are we really sure we want to create a Muslim Superhero of such stature? Originally, according to the US government, Osama bin Laden was the mastermind of 9/11. To get bin Laden is the excuse given for the US invasion of Afghanistan, which set up the invasion of Iraq. But after eight years of total failure to catch Osama bin Laden, it became absolutely necessary to convict some culprit. Unfortunately, there will be no such sensible outcome. David Feige has told us what the outcome will be (Slate, Nov. 19). The prosecution doesn't need any evidence, because no judge and no jury is going to let the demonized "mastermind of 9/11" off. No judge or juror wants to be forever damned by the brainwashed American public or assassinated by right-wing crazies. Keep in mind that the kid, John Walker Lindh, termed "the American Taliban" by an ignorant and propagandistic US media, was guilty of nothing except being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Despite the complete trampling of his every right, he got 20 years on a coerced plea bargain. The price that Mohammed will pay will be small compared to the price we Americans will pay. The outcome of Mohammed's trial will complete the transformation of the US legal system from a shield of the people into a weapon in the hands of the state. Feige writes that Mohammed's statements obtained by torture will not be suppressed, that witnesses against him will not be produced ("national security"), that documents that compromise the prosecution will be redacted. At each stage of Mohammed's appeals process, higher courts will enshrine into legal precedents the denial of the Constitutional right to a speedy trial, thus enshrining indefinite detention, the denial of the right against damning pretrial publicity, thus allowing demonization prior to trial, and the denial of the right to have witnesses and documents produced, thus eviscerating a defendant's rights to exculpatory evidence and to confront adverse witnesses, The twisted logic necessary to disentangle Mohammed's torture from his confession will also be upheld and will "provide a blueprint for the government, giving them the prize they've been after all this time--a legal way both to torture and to prosecute". It took Hitler a while to corrupt the German courts. Hitler first had to create new courts, like President George W. Bush's military tribunals, that did not require evidence, using in place of evidence hearsay, secret charges, and self-incrimination obtained by torture. Every American should be concerned that the Obama administration has decided to use Mohammed's trial to complete the corruption of the American court system. When Mohammed's trial is over, an American Joe Stalin or Adolf Hitler will be able to convict America's Founding Fathers on charges of treason and terrorism. No one will be safe. Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He is coauthor of The Tyranny of Good Intentions.He can be reached at: PaulCraigRoberts [at] yahoo.com --------8 of 9-------- From: William McGaughey <2wmcg [at] earthlink.net> Subject: analysis of 2009 mayoral election results This was written by Bill McGaughey but also endorsed by Papa John Kolstad, Al Flowers, Bob Carney, Dick Franson, and John Charles Wilson. The text follows: Candidates' statement on 2009 election for mayor of Minneapolis A recent Star Tribune article is headlined, "Low-key mayoral contest depressed Minneapolis turnout, officials say". Only 45,964 persons cast votes in the 2009 city elections, the lowest since 1902. In contrast, 161,713 persons voted in the 1937 Minneapolis city election. Hubert Humphrey received 102,796 votes when he was elected mayor in 1947. When Sharon Sayles Belton was elected in 1993, the vote total was 103,846. Admittedly, part of the reason for the low voter turnout may be election fatigue in the year after Barack Obama ran for President. That could not be helped. However, another reason may be, as the headline suggests, that Minneapolis voters were not excited by the race at the top of the ballot, the contest for mayor. It was said that the candidates besides Rybak were political nonentities, lacking both in campaign resources and public recognition. The voters felt there was no contest and, therefore, stayed home. As Minneapolis mayoral candidates in 2009, we apologize for our low profiles to whomever might have been offended. At the same time, we declare that most of the ten candidates who ran for mayor against Rybak ran active, energetic, and sometimes creative campaigns. We raised serious issues, posted hundreds of lawn signs around the city, distributed thousands of pieces of literature, knocked on numerous doors, appeared at the candidate forums to which we were invited, maintained campaign websites, and otherwise carried out the normal functions of a political campaign. For all that effort we received, between us, about 27 percent of the vote, compared with Mayor Rybak's 73 percent. An explanation is required. Based on our perhaps incomplete information, we wish to present an analysis of the mayoral campaign in hopes that this may help produce better turnouts in the future. Apart from our own disappointing election results, the decreased participation in Minneapolis city elections to about 20 percent of eligible voters is a civic disgrace. The health of our democratic system of government depends on an informed citizenry being fully engaged in the election process. Our first observation is that Minneapolis is basically a one-party town. In the last four years, the Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) party has controlled both the Mayor's office and twelve of the thirteen offices of City Council members; and this situation will continue into the next four years. Mayor R.T. Rybak was endorsed for re-election by the DFL party. In the races for City Council, all DFL incumbents were reelected and the three vacant positions were all won by DFL-endorsed candidates. Even though the DFL sample ballot arrived late for many voters, the party's organization and legacy seemed strong enough to win most city elections, especially when voter turnout is low. Our second observation is that, to win elections, candidates need to communicate with the voters. In a city the size of Minneapolis, it would be nearly impossible for a candidate to knock on the doors of all city residents, shake hands and talk with a significant number of voters, or meaningfully interact with them personally. Political campaigns need ways to amplify the candidates' message. This can be done at forums where audiences are assembled to hear the candidates speak; or, more effectively, through coverage in the news media. The Star Tribune, for instance, has a paid circulation of over a half-million readers for its Sunday edition. It would take years of campaigning to reach all the people personally who are reached by articles in this newspaper. In today's political campaigns, candidate forums and debates are a principal source of information for voters about candidates and their issues because they attract media coverage. There were four forums this year involving all or most of the Minneapolis mayoral candidates: one on August 19th sponsored by Metro Property Rights Action Committee, one on September 19th sponsored by the Waite Park Community Council, one on October 7th sponsored jointly by the Independent Business News Network and Mplsmirror.com, and one on October 29th sponsored by Harrison Neighborhood Association. Additionally, the mayoral and other candidates were invited to appear at a meeting of the Lyndale Neighborhood Association on October 26th, at a gathering with senior citizens at Ebenezer Tower Apartments on October 27th, and at a meeting of the NAACP in the evening of October 27th. Finally, Minnesota Public Radio hosted a half-hour debate between Mayor Rybak and one of his opponents, Papa John Kolstad, on November 2nd. Mayor Rybak was invited to participate in all these events. His campaign declined all invitations to events featuring the full set of candidates except for the relatively unpublicized meeting at the Lyndale Neighborhood Association. The event at Ebenezer Tower Apartments, in which Rybak also participated, did not include any candidate speeches but was instead an opportunity for candidates to meet with Towers residents informally. The debate on MPR did not have a live audience. It included only Rybak and one other candidate. Because Rybak did not participate in most candidate forums, the media had limited interest in the race for mayor. Neither the Star Tribune, nor any commercial radio or television station, nor any community newspaper gave coverage to the mayoral forums. The debates sponsored by Metro Property Rights Action Committee and by the Independent Business News Network and Mplsmirror.com were videotaped and shown on MTN (Minneapolis Telecommunications Network), the Minneapolis public-access channel. Mplsmirror.com reported the latter event and provided a link to the debate itself. The November 2nd debate between Rybak and Kolstad was, of course, broadcast on Minnesota Public Radio and was also reported in the Star Tribune newspaper. The big disappointment was that the Minneapolis chapter of the League of Women Voters failed to sponsor any debates between the mayoral candidates, citing lack of resources. It did, however, sponsor debates in several City Council races and in races for membership on the independent boards. It was also linked to a mailing by a group that favored abolishing the Board of Estimate and Taxation (which Rybak also favored). Even when a moderator was found for a possible debate, the League demurred. The relative lack of campaign coverage forced the non-Rybak candidates to seek creative ways of gaining publicity. Bob Carney produced humorous documentaries about trying to locate the elusive mayor in a series of videos titled "R.T. and me", reminiscent of Michael Moore's effort in the 1980s to find the chairman of General Motors. Among other things, his search turned up the fact that the published address of Rybak's campaign was a UPS box on Hennepin Avenue. The videos were posted on Carney's own website. Carney and other mayoral candidates also staged press conferences in the atrium of Minneapolis City Hall to call attention to the lack of debates and to the lack of internal auditors to check Minneapolis city government. KMSP-TV covered the former event; and the Star Tribune, the latter. Finally, four mayoral candidates sang patriotic songs on the plaza of the Hennepin County Government Center, across the light-rail tracks from City Hall, at noon on November 2nd. KSTP-TV and Minneapolis Public Radio covered that event. The Star Tribune ran a large photo of the singers in the Metro Section on the following day. Otherwise, the large commercial media published or broadcast news reports that tended to depress interest in the mayoral race. Their reports emphasized two themes: First, Mayor Rybak was said to be so far ahead of the other candidates in fundraising and public acceptance that the election campaign was effectively over. The result was a foregone conclusion. (Why, then, bother to vote?) Second, some of the other mayoral candidates besides Rybak were presented as ridiculous figures who were either running for office as a lark or because of pathetic personal delusions. While the ridiculing reports centered on one or two individuals vulnerable to such labeling, they tended to taint the entire group of challengers as members of a lunatic fringe. A report that aired on KSTP-TV's local news program on the evening of September 25, 2009, illustrates the first type of coverage. The report was about the mayor's races in Minneapolis and St. Paul, where both incumbent mayors were reported to be far ahead of their challengers. A college professor of political science (an authority figure) was quoted to the effect that the two incumbent mayors were virtually certain to be re-elected. In the Minneapolis race, Al Flowers was the only challenger mentioned; what audiences needed to know about him was that he had less than $1 left in his campaign fund, compared with the hundreds of thousands of dollars that Rybak had. When KSTP-TV covered the singing event on November 2nd, the segment that aired on its late-afternoon news show again stressed how little money these singing candidates had raised to fund their campaigns. The two candidates who had spent less than $100 were quoted in the aired report while the other two, who had spent $900 and $14,000, were not. Viewers were left with the impression of candidates who had done little since they filed for mayor in July. They were "desperate for attention", the report said. An example of the second type of coverage is a column by Jon Tevlin that appeared in the Star Tribune on October 14, 2009, titled "22-year-old's mayoral bid rests totally on awesomeness." After taking a swipe at several of the minor candidates, the column focused on the whimsical campaign of Joey Lombard, a 22-year-old musician who had used the title, "is awesome", to identify his political orientation. Much of the column concerned attitudes toward his running for Mayor by Lombard's parents (who first thought it was a joke and then warmed up to the idea) and by his girl friend (who dumped him.) This was an amusing article from a certain point of view but not flattering to the group of this year's less-known candidates. Lombard himself, who received 439 votes in the election, was probably helped by the coverage; he finished ahead of four other candidates with serious messages. The column's net effect, however, was to reinforce the image of the candidates challenging Rybak as a collection of goofs and oddballs who could not be taken seriously as mayoral candidates. (At his election-night victory party, Mayor Rybak was asked who was his second choice for mayor in the Ranked Choice Voting. "Let's just say they were awesome," he responded. The whole election seemed to be a joke.) Still another theme in news reporting of the mayoral campaign was that the significant fact of this year's election was that Ranked Choice Voting would be used for the first time, not that Minneapolis voters would be choosing a mayor for the next four years. Under such cover, the media "covered" the city elections hardly mentioning any candidates running for office. An example of this was an hour-long program that aired on radio station KFAI-FM on October 14, 2009 on "Truth to Tell", titled "City Elections 2009". The program was about Ranked Choice Voting and the proposal to abolish the Board of Estimate and Taxation. Former Minneapolis mayor Don Fraser and former City Council member Joan Niemiec were guests on that program but none of this year's candidates for city offices. Two weeks later, on October 28, "Truth to Tell" did a show titled Ó"andidates in Review" pertaining to the Minneapolis mayor's race. Again there were no candidates but a panel of local journalists who were supposed to discuss, among other things, "Does Mayor R.T. Rybak face any serious competition?" Evidently not. Judging from the election-day article produced by a publication represented on this panel, the verdict may have been that the mayoral election this year was pretty much a lark. Those who wielded journalistic megaphones were thus able to overpower the message of individual candidates and shape the image that the voting public had of the mayoral contest. The type of coverage they chose to give the campaign probably decided the election. Mayor Rybak, a media savvy politician who used to be a newspaper reporter and publisher of an alternative newspaper, won by a landslide. At the same time, the lack of a real contest for mayor has left a sour taste in many people's minds, especially since Rybak announced his candidacy for Governor of Minnesota three days after winning the mayoral election. We are left, therefore, with no uncertainty in the election results but lingering questions as to what went wrong from the perspective of the losing candidates and also, I would add, of public-spirited citizens who deplore the poor voter turnout. It may therefore be useful to identify both the positive and negative elements in this election. First, it should be said that one of the most positive aspects of this campaign, from our point of view, was that the "minor" (non-Rybak) candidates developed a spirit of camaraderie in the later phase of the campaign as we faced a common challenge. Unlike some political campaigns, we did not attack each other or try to gain an advantage over our fellow candidates. Instead, our goal - elusive as it turned out - was to try to stop Rybak from achieving a majority of First Choice votes. We coined a term, the "insurgency", to describe what we were trying to do. It may be that the new Ranked Choice Voting system contributed in part to the cooperative attitude between candidates; but a more important factor may be the character of the candidates themselves, if we may say so ourselves. The "insurgent" spirit became most evident during the event at Harrison Neighborhood Association on October 29 when the mayoral candidates, chafing under a time shortage and overly tight rules, took the debate into their own hands. With respect to candidate forums, those who sponsored such events deserve credit for keeping our democratic traditions alive. Those who have traditionally sponsored debates or forums but did not do so in this case deserve criticism, especially the Minneapolis chapter of the League of Women Voters. It is fair to say that Mayor Rybak himself, even though the "Rose Garden" strategy of appearing to be above the political fray gained him easy re-election, did a disservice to the democratic process in his refusing to debate the full group of mayoral opponents. In declining invitations to appear at candidate forums, he effectively shut the media out of those events. The commercial media may not have found it useful to cover forums that did not include the leading candidate. The mayor showed disrespect, not only to his campaign rivals, but to the people of Minneapolis in running for an office which he did not intend to keep if he was elected Governor of Minnesota next year. Judging from the election results, city voters did not seem to mind. With respect to the print media, a positive aspect of the campaign was the fact that the Star Tribune editorial board invited all the mayoral candidates to present their views at meetings held on October 21st and October 22nd. While the editorial which appeared in the paper on Sunday, October 25th, endorsed Rybak's re-election with the comment that "none of Rybak's opponents is prepared to be mayor" and while the editorial cast dubious aspersions on three candidates' claim of deficiencies in internal auditing, it was generally issues-oriented and even conceded that the insurgent candidates had some good ideas. Also, the Star Tribune editorial page gave lesser-known candidates an opportunity to present further views in a Counterpoint feature published several days later. With respect to news reporting, a low point was reached early in the campaign when the Star Tribune reported a scandal involving mayoral candidate Al Flowers that concerned an unpaid water bill and condemnation of his home. Another article about alleged marijuana possession appeared two months later. Both scandals were later found to amount to nothing, but readers were inadequately informed of that fact. The original accusations were prominently positioned in the Metro section; the exonerating developments, buried in the back pages. The reporting improved from our perspective when an article appeared on how Mayor Rybak was ducking campaign appearances with the other candidates, citing scheduling conflicts when the mayor was actually engaged in other campaign work. Another Star Tribune article that was directed at issues rather than personalities concerned candidate claims of deficiencies with respect to the internal auditing function. This, too, was a positive development. With respect to coverage by community newspapers, the Minnesota Daily, a student-run newspaper at the University of Minnesota, provided perhaps the most thorough reporting of the mayor's race although it was selective in the candidates covered. Southwest Journal and the Downtowner provided thumb-nail descriptions of the mayoral candidates and their positions. City Pages, NorthNews, and perhaps other newspapers included little or no coverage of the mayor's race although some other races were covered. Southside Pride had a semi-humorous column on this race shortly after the candidates filed but we lack knowledge of further coverage. Hill and Lake Press sent questions to the mayoral and other candidates but published responses from the mayoral candidates on line, excluding them from the printed newspaper. Responses from candidates for other offices appeared in the printed newspaper. With respect to the electronic media, the best coverage was that provided by KMSP-TV (Fox News) when it covered a press conference held by the insurgent candidates at Minneapolis City Hall on October 20th, stressing the mayor's refusal to debate his opponents. KSTP-TV (ABC affiliate) also covered the mayor's race, although its coverage of candidates challenging Rybak's re-election was generally negative. The other two commercial television stations, WCCO-TV (CBS) and KARE-TV (NBC), were missing in action. The community radio station, KFAI-FM, gave each mayoral candidate two minutes of air time in October. Candidate John Charles Wilson was interviewed once on KSTP-AM. Other than this, we know of no other radio stations covering the Minneapolis mayor's race. A more positive influence on this year's race was Minneapolis Telecommunications Network which gave each candidate a chance to produce his own show for a modest fee. Additionally, this public-access station hosted a major debate in studio and aired the Property Rights debate (to which all candidates were invited) held at another location. The Minneapolis e-democracy forum provided an opportunity for all the candidates to communicate directly with its 1,100 subscribers via email. Electronic newspapers also played a role in the campaign. The most thorough coverage was given by Mplsmirror.com, which not only co-hosted a debate but featured frequent news coverage and allowed candidates to make personal statements on videos linked to this site. A less constructive role was played by MinnPost.com whose election-day posting ridiculed one of the minor candidates. A national blog called "Boing-Boing", also up on election day, featured an article in the same vein. (It elicited more than a few chuckles among subscribers to the Minneapolis e-democracy forum.) Minnesotaindependent.com chose to feature Lombard, the "awesome" candidate, in its election-day article. MinnPost.com did run a serious article earlier about candidate Bob Carney's proposal for a "Sky-bi" transit network in Minneapolis. However, Mplsmirror.com was clearly the leader in news coverage given to the 2009 Minneapolis mayoral campaign. The neighborhood associations of Waite Park and Harrison are to be applauded for hosting candidate forums although, in Harrison's case, the paid facilitator mismanaged the time allowed for the mayoral and Fifth Ward council events. Metro Property Rights Action Committee and Independent Business News Network should also be commended for hosting mayoral debates. --------9 of 9-------- The rich have us strapped to the table. They move toward us with ice picks and clubs. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- - David Shove shove001 [at] tc.umn.edu rhymes with clove Progressive Calendar over 2225 subscribers as of 12.19.02 please send all messages in plain text no attachments vote third party for president for congress now and forever Socialism YES Capitalism NO To GO DIRECTLY to an item, eg --------8 of x-------- do a find on --8
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