Category Archives: justice

Our kind of corruption

The founding father’s would have viewed it as such even if the laws today permit it. From a book review by Mathew Yglesias:

Lessig moves beyond quid pro quo corruption of the sort that typified the Gilded Age and recently ensnared such congressmen as Duke Cunningham of California and William Jefferson of Louisiana. Taking a broader view of the problem, Lessig develops a concept of dependence and independence that draws on the Founding generation’s obsession with the alleged corruption of Parliament at the hands of a monarchy that dispensed pensions and offices to compliant representatives. As part of this analysis, Lessig cites the anthropological concept of a “gift economy” to argue that a person can become indebted to another without any explicit agreement of a quid pro quo.

Material Party

In light of my post whining about having been a pawn as a school board member comes this post from Sullivan. This quote perfectly captures the problem with what has become GOP dogma – that people are solely motivated by rewards and punishment. If you tie salaries to hoop jumping they will jump through your hoops. If you pass a law against something people will stop doing it. Yup, just teach abstinence and kids won’t have sex.

When a remote authority sets incentives, people respond by manipulating the system. This fact is poorly understood by education reformers who are fond of pay-for-performance and national standards, by health care reformers who are fond of paying for quality, and by financial regulators. … The Hayekian story here is that effective compensation practices require local knowledge and tacit knowledge.

Rich republicans just hire lobbyists to get special tax breaks written into law. Taxes are bad you know.

The Republican Party may be the most Christian Party in US history but it deeply believes in property rights and other material things. This is at variance with Jesus who commands people not only to surrender everything they own but to turn their backs on their family rather than turn from Jesus. Its the kind of message deprogrammers have been fighting for decades. This later my simply be standard Hebrew exaggeration to make a point found in the New Testament period “If thy eye offend thee, pluck it out.” Nonetheless, anyone who doesn’t heed the eye of a needle parable is either an uninformed Christian or a heretic.

Rich Republicans just hire lobbyists to get special tax breaks written into law so they can take their camels to heaven with them.

All coked up

America’s puritanical, prohibitionist laws regarding drugs are deeply flawed. I found this arresting image as I peeked back at old NPR stories I’d missed. This fellow had a kilogram of Cocaine inside him. 72 containers worth.

This would-be drug smuggler survived after surrendering his goodies with the help of powerful laxitives. He was lucky not be in Mexico. Decriminalization in America could be as miraculous as Jesus turning water into wine.

The Timberjay hits on the sad truth

From this editorial.

Voters in school districts around the state rightly assume that when officials from the Department of Education review a major school bonding proposal, they actually conduct some level of due diligence. It turns out, however, that they don’t review the financial figures or question assumptions provided by school district consultants, even when the consultants stand to reap millions of dollars from the projects. Instead, the department routinely gives stamps of approval to projects that make no sense. Once again, the supposed watchdog is napping.

At the county level, citizens were supposed to be able to rely on the oversight of the St. Louis County Planning Department, which is charged with enforcing the county’s zoning ordinance. Instead, department officials worked hand-in-glove with JCI to improperly grease the skids for school building projects that were completely incompatible with the zone districts in which they were proposed.

And now that the projects are underway, we learn that JCI has routinely flouted the contract they signed with the school district— and the board majority seems willfully blind to the reality that they are being taken for a ride.

So what are we, as members of the public, expected to do about it all?

Call the state auditor, who has already ignored us? Call the Department of Education who approved it all to begin with? Call the county? Call the police? You’d do just as well to call the Ghostbusters.

In the end, the public has only one recourse, and it’s a courtroom. And as we all know, that’s a recourse that’s largely reserved for those with money. Which is why, for all practical purposes, the law only applies to average people. For big corporations, like JCI, or large institutions like school districts, the law can usually be ignored. Even if the public finds out, what are they going to do about it? Spend tens of thousands of dollars on attorneys?

For big companies and school districts, that’s just a cost of doing business, but for the public it’s an insurmountable hurdle that all but denies them access to justice or the protection of the law.

A partisan bigot?

An email critic thinks I’m a fool for believing John McCain:


It’s all wildarsed speculation at this point . . .
And since when is “wildarsed speculation”, per se, a lie? If positing that torture didn’t get bin Laden, is as speculative as positing that torture got bin Laden; who is lying?

Can you deal with this logically, instead of as a partisan bigot?

Golly, McCain is a Republican!

Tepid defense… Pt. 3

Sheesh! A whole damned page on Sunday dedicated to the School Board handcuffing someone during the time for public comment and its not sufficiently important to put on the Trib’s website. Considering their limp treatment of the subject they may have good reason to hide it away.

Here’s the Trib:

“Its no secret that the man, Loren Martell…has become a roll-of-the-eyes, here-he-comes-again headache for some School Board members.”

Well, that settles it. He’s not civil enough just to shut up an go away after he demonstrated the Board Chair expunges public criticism from the public record and has adopted all together different public policies from the promises he once made as a candidate. In fact this is evidently a mark of courage according to the Trib.

“The turnabout was courageous, to say the least. He set aside his personal feelings for the good of the community and with the best interest of constituents in mind.”

No doubt when Tuesday roles around and he votes to violate another promise not to invoke eminent domain this will be yet another sign of Tim Grover’s courage. The Trib then quotes, invokes really, Duluth City Councilor Jeff Anderson by tell us that public comment is “…a privilege, not a right.” Thankfully the Trib goes on to elaborate saying “…it is the right thing to do.” There is, however, a caveat “members of the public…should ….remain civil….”

Ah but because of Tim Grover and other Board member’s sensitivity Mr. Martell probably crossed that line by making “trouble and to incite negative publicity?” Funny but that seems to me to be the crux of this. Duluth should be ecstatic about our new schools and the generous school board is sick and tired of carping from the sidelines. How uncivil. And by inciting negative publicity Board Member says with the Trib’s apparent agreement that she’s frightened by the soft spoken yet tenacious Mr. Martell. He has “pushed the Board to the point of alarm, prompting the need for police at School Board meetings” Why the district is even keeping track of his public comments on DVD. Why? For future use in a harassment suit maybe? Ms. Seliga Punyko would probably prefer to be a public official in China where critics of things like mass removal can be quietly put in prison.

Punyko is quoted in the editorial as saying “For teh last 10 months, ever meeting, he has grown more and more agitated. Every meeting he has gotten worse and worse, so much so that we feel threatened.”

Oh let’s role out those DVDs and see why if Mr. Martell has gotten “worse and worse” the Tribune’s editorial began by expressing surprise that Mr. Martell was carted away in cuffs when they wrote: “…the summoning of a police officer to remove Martell was a bit of an eye-popper…” My guess is that if Martell had been worse and worse as described no one’s eyes would have popped.

After this milchtoast criticism of the Board majority’s heavy-handedness the Trib quotes its former Editor, Virgil Swing, not a fan of censorship, and then concludes mildly “Everyone’s opinion is important. A diversity of views often leads to the best solutions. But all views have to be allowed to be heard first.”

Of course, if the views belong to a guy whose stubbornness leads to eye rolling, maybe its not that big a deal if you cuff him. Yeah for the first amendment!

From hundred’s to thousands of readers

My eight loyal readers no doubt enjoyed my cheeky riposte to the School District’s attorneys as they attempted to silence me. One of my readers pointed out my blog post to the Reader Weekly which much to my surprise posted both the letter from attorney Torgerson to me and my reply to her.

The poor old School Board doesn’t have a microphone they can cut off before I post something critical about them. They do, however, have lawyers. My taxes help pay for them.

Police State?

Where do I begin? An apology for not cleaning up the crumpled wad of paper post. No, I don’t think so. Perhaps I should, as promised, post my letter to the Budgeteer. No, I can do that later. Maybe I should begin with the hot political “debate” between Cravaack and Oberstar that the Trib did a good job forcing Jim Oberstar to attend but lost control of because they didn’t plan for the intense political passions that marched into the DECC arena.

Yes, I’ll start with that. Then I’ll segue into the subject that this post is really concerned with – Duluth School Board Chairman Tim Grover’s heavy-handed abuse of the gavel.

My political junkie days seem to be on the wane. I skipped the Oberstar debate. I’m not interested in either Congressional candidate. I’ve run against Oberstar twice as an independent (because my old party is consumed with giving lip service to stopping abortions). As for Cravaack, an intelligent sounding ex military man, well, he’s sucking up the Tea Party talking points which guarantees that if he’s elected he’ll keep spending the US into debt while letting the debt grow on our children’s backs. He’ll cut taxes alright and keep borrowing from China.

So, a surly crowd of tea partiers and sullen, defensive DFLers heckled their way through the meeting. (According to the Trib the Cravaackians started it)

The Tea Partier’s claims ring hollow to me. They might just as well ask that Roosevelt be removed from the dime since apparently his Social Security and the Medicare which came later are all part of a commie plot to socialize America. Oh, but don’t even think of taking their God Given socialistic social security away! Just kick out the greasers who pay social security taxes so our good, little American children can pick up the tab. That should take care of everything. Oh, and on the issue of communistic Obamacare. Don’t even think about making them pay to cover the cost of care for anyone else who hasn’t, like the aged tea partiers, already gotten on America’s health care dole.

Last night Oberstar, who can be justly criticized for ducking many political debates in the past including one with me back in 1992, faced down the toughest crowd he’s ever appeared before. He was unrepentant and essentially told them they’d have to kill health care reforms over his dead body. I only saw a snippet of this on last night’s news but I was impressed. Politics can be bruising and pols who shrink from political combat aren’t worth a warm bucket of spit. And that’s where I’ll leave the Congressional race to rail against our deservedly maligned School Board.


Last night the board passed a largely empty but right-minded policy to thwart bullying in the schools. Whoopee! Kids will get to watch a video! Maybe the Board should watch it. Just before that Chair Grover shut of the microphone of a speaker who had not yet used up his allotted three minutes and had Duluth police put him in handcuffs and removed from the School Board meeting. The microphone was shut off because soft spoken Loren Martell had the effrontery to read public statements Tim Grover had made during an election which were at variance with his subsequent actions after getting elected. Tim Grover has been embarassed enough already for this, thank you very much. If you dare read back his own public record to him its off to jail with you even if you do it under the three minute speaking limitation.

The Board has apparently made it a routine practice to keep police on hand at school board meetings. They’ve had plain clothes cops there before but now the police show up in uniform. If there have been threats against the board this would justify their presence. There can be no justification for preventing a speaker from using up his alloted time and even less for having him removed by police when he stood his ground waiting for the microphone to be turned back on.

Based on the recent letter I got from the School District’s attorney it is apparent to me that I can expect no quarter from our increasingly thin skinned Duluth School Board. Thank goodness their attorneys can keep milking the District’s lawyer insurance to monitor my blog and bill the District without formal approval by the Board. Loren Martell had better be prepared to dig into his pockets to defend his free speech rights. The District will no doubt be as happy to pay lawyers to dump on the First Amendment as they have been happy to pay for police to intimidate critics.

I might not be enthusiastic about putting Oberstar back in Congress but I sure as hell would vote for him if he ran for the Duluth School Board. He can face his critics.

Justice and justices

I have made very few comments about the final lawsuit against the Red Plan. Its an environmental suit and I had a small part in an earlier such suit that lost steam. I have no expertise in this area of law and that is part of the reason I’ve stayed mum on the suit to stop the Western Middle School.

The last three years has done little to elevate my respect for the practice of the law. I’ve always known that those with deep pockets have an edge but just how elemental that influence is has been driven home repeatedly. And its not just wealth its also intangibles like influence and popularity. Justice may be blind but she sure as hell knows how to peek through her blindfold. Atticus Finch where are you?

This very funny, unintentionaly so, WDIO story shows how fortunate the parties to a lawsuit can be when they have momentum on their side. In this case Red Planers are successfully playing out the clock with serial judges who are discovering that they simply can’t trust themselves to be impartial.

The Trenti Law firm?

I understand that the Trenti law firm from the Iron Range represented the District in the scapegoat case. Why not a Duluth firm? What happened to Beth Storaasli who has represented the District for ages in such cases and her firm which is on retainer for the School District?

Maybe the District only wants a firm with a classy web presence.

Maybe no attorney in Duluth wants to represent the District any more.

Maybe this case required a ten-foot pole.