Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Trooper Association president shooting from the hip

Posted by Craig Westover | 1:11 PM |  

Full disclosure: Over the past several months, I’ve gotten to know David Strom of the Minnesota Taxpayer’s League on both a professional and personal level. On a personal level, I consider him a friend. On a professional level, I agree with about 95 percent of the positions of the Taxpayer’s League. The “No New Taxes” Pledge is not one of them.

Don’t misread me on that. I applaud any candidate that stands up and pledges not to raise taxes. I whole heartedly agree with Gov. Pawlenty’s position that Minnesota doesn’t have a revenue problem, but a spending problem. Until the state learns to spend money wisely, I don’t think we should increase its allowance.

Nonetheless, I simply prefer to have my government officials acting out of personal integrity rather than responding to an outside agenda -- again, even if it’s an agenda I agree with.

That being said, I find an editorial by Corporal Timothy Jensen, President of Minnesota State Patrol Troopers Association to be offensive, inflammatory and defamatory.

Corporal Jensen spends virtually half his column inches painting a grisly portrait of the murder of a federal marshal by Gordon Kahl, a member of the Posse Comitatus, in his words --
“ . . . who espouse a Christian Identity theology and join it to a very particular set of right-wing beliefs about the Constitution and the legal system. It is an organization that is viciously racist, anti-Semitic, and anti-government. However, the Posse adopts the rhetoric of patriotism, individual rights, local control, and defense of the Constitution to sell their poison to the public.”
That description gets no argument from me, or I suspect from Mr. Strom. So what is Corporal Jensen’s point and why do I find it offensive? He states it in no uncertain terms.
“Here is my point: As radical as the Posse Comitatus is about protesting taxes, we have a radical anti-tax organization within our own state that advocates some of the same Posse principles. Where the Posse uses violence and irrational right-wing beliefs to advance its cause, our Minnesota organization uses money, threats, and political blackmail to enforce its anti-tax, anti-government agenda. The organization is proud of its “no new taxes” pledge it has blackmailed many of our elected officials into signing, and posts its conquests prominently on its Web site. Although the organization isn’t obviously violent, its final result is just as dangerous. We have radicals dictating how our quality of life will be affected.”
Corporal Jensen then goes on to argue, as is his right, that all Minnesota state employees suffered economic loses over the past two years due to pay freezes and other factors. He argues that legislators should fund government services “properly.” Part of that funding, he says, “needs to come in the form of new taxes.”

I disagree with that position, but that doesn’t mean I have a right to characterize Minnesota State Troopers as doughnut-eating Brown Shirts lurking Minnesota highways seeking to supplement their incomes with pay-on-the-spot speeding tickets. They are not. On the whole, they are dedicated public servants doing a thankless job for which they probably are underpaid.

Having worked for private corporations that implemented pay freezes in tough times, I can identify with State Trooper frustration, but I have neither sympathy nor tolerance for Corporal Jensen’s comparison of the Taxpayer’s League to the Posse Comitatus. I find it frightening that a person legitimately granted authority by the state to use physical violence in the performance of his duty cannot distinguish between a domestic terrorist group and a political action group, between terrorism and democratic disagreement. He writes --
“Whether you dress a tax protestor in camouflage with an automatic rifle, or in a business suit with a laptop computer, the tax protester is still nothing more than a radical.”
If that sentence is mere badly-constructed rhetoric attempting to “blackmail” legislators into raising taxes, then Corporal Jensen need only be chastised for poor taste. If he sincerely believes in that comparison, if he cannot distinguish between violence and dissent, he is a liability to Minnesota State Troopers and unfit to carry a weapon in a democratic society.

In that case, Corporal Jensen deserves to be dismissed.