Friday, June 30, 2006

Kennedy v Klobuchar (with just enough Bachmann thrown in to give the anti-Bachmann crowd something to write about)

Posted by Craig Westover | 11:46 AM |  

Amid all the posturing on ethics by both Senate candidates Mark Kennedy and Amy Klobuchar, the tossing out of plans to legislatively enforce ethical conduct, Kennedy hits on the root cause of the problem and the logical solution to curb corruption -- take away the opportunity. From the PiPress --
In addition to his lobbyist ban, Kennedy said he favored cutting taxes and making the federal tax code simpler. Reducing federal spending also would lessen the opportunity for special interests to exploit the system, he said.
The lobbyist ban, a lifetime ban on former members of Congress becoming lobbyists, is a silly idea if not patently anti-individual freedom. If we’re going to go that route, how about prohibiting anyone that has accepted state aid from ever running for Congress? Or banning people that ever worked for a corporation from running for Congress? Or banning lawyers that practice law from running for Congress? Or banning members of Congress, who wrote laws, from ever again practicing law? It’s just plain silly.

But where Kennedy scores big time (someone ought to tell him) is his statements about making the tax code simpler and reducing spending. Toss in reducing government regulatory scope and he’s hit the nail on the head. The way to get money and corruption out of government is to limit what government has to sell.

Why would a company pay a big-time salary to a lobbyist to spread big-time money around Washington instead of investing that money in its business? Because lobbying is a better investment. Limit government scope, reduce the return on investment in lobbying, and the problem won't go away, but it will be reduced.

Of course, that’s not the ethics issue the GOP is touting. It’s latest release --
Corporate Lobbyist Amy Klobuchar Refuses To Discuss Corporate Lobbying Career

“Amy Klobuchar’s stubborn refusal to be straight with Minnesotans about her career as a corporate lobbyist will make it difficult for voters to trust her. Klobuchar often talks about open government and denounces corporate lobbyists, but she refuses to discuss her lengthy history as a corporate lobbyist and her campaign prevents citizens from documenting public events. It’s classic Klobuchar hypocrisy: say one thing, do another.”

- Republican Party of Minnesota Chairman Ron Carey
Guys -- Kennedy is on to something positive. Why not push it? Wishful thinking on my part, so let’s look at the Klobuchar issue.

Klobuchar is digging herself a nice little hole by banning recording of her public campaign events and refusing to talk about her lobbying history. But you know, she’s under no obligation to go there if she thinks it’s to her advantage not to. I’ll cut her the same slack as Michele Bachmann on contraception. Klobuchar doesn't owe voters anything. Her non-statement is a statement. It's Klobuchar's decison whether or not to trust the judgement of voters on her silence.

I will say I think the lobbyist issue has better legs with mainstream voters than the contraception issue. The latter was brought up by Democrats to split Bachmann from her base and portray her as out of the mainstream. Bachmann isn't making it an issue. I don't see evidence that the middle-right voter is buying it as a real issue. The lobbyist issue is one that Klobuchar herself is trumpeting. It’s going to be a little difficult for her to push the issue on the one hand and duck it on the other.

And she could have a reasonable answer -- quote Ronald Reagan: “Don’t blame the pigs for eating if you keep filling up the trough.”

Lobbying is a political necessity under the current system. Klobuchar (my assumption) saw the potential for abuse firsthand as a lobbyist, and that’s why she’s so strongly in favor of reforming the system. Like a good sales person knows how to game the company commission plan, Klobuchar (can say) she knows the loopholes that have to be closed -- better than a CPA that doesn’t understand the game and doesn’t know why all the sales people are making money and the company is losing its shirt.

Of course, that bullsh*t to a large degree, but it plays better than running and hiding on an issue of her own creation. Klobuchar being a lobbyist isn't evil, especially if she were both ethical and effective. Why not share her experience?

Bottom line -- once again Republican have a chance to take the high road and exploit Kennedy’s observation that limiting government limits corruption. Power and corruption go hand-in-hand -- always have, always will. Limit the scope of government power and you limit the extent of corruption. Yes, it is that simple.

Same-sex marriage -- A lighter view

Posted by Craig Westover | 12:21 AM |  

From the Borowitz Report --
Constitutional Amendment Could Become Hot-Button Issue for November

In what many political observers believe could become an effective wedge issue in the 2006 midterm elections, President George W. Bush today proposed a constitutional amendment banning marriage between a man and a flag.

In a nationally televised address from the Oval Office, the president said that the proposed amendment was intended to protect two embattled American institutions: traditional marriage, and the American flag.

"We must define marriage as a union between a man and a woman, and not between a man and a flag," Mr. Bush said. "Additionally, just as we seek to protect flags from being burned, we must protect them from being married."

The president's proposal seemed intended to cause trouble among congressional Democrats, many of whom have no stated opinion on the issue of man-flag unions.
But 2004 Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry was quick out of the box in response to the president's speech, telling reporters, "Before the end of the day, I intend to have at least three or four different positions on this issue."

On the other side of the aisle, Mr. Bush's proposed amendment received immediate support from Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Penn), who suggested expanding its scope to ban marriage between a man and any inanimate object.

"We should not only forbid marriage between a man and a flag, we should also forbid it between a man and an inflatable love-doll," he said, adding quickly, "Not that I know about that sort of thing."

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Surgeon General’s secondhand smoke report -- It's politics, not science (updated)

Posted by Craig Westover | 9:45 PM |  

Moved to top. Some interesting updates within and at the end of the post.

I just downloaded the complete report. I’m not going to wait for Bob Moffitt, American Lung Association blogger, to provide an analysis. The report is 727 pages and, just browsing through it, I noticed some math.

To be honest, there’s lots in it that I’m going to have spend some time with before commenting on, but even a quick perusal indicates the report is politics, not science.

As I note in this post, Surgeon General Carmona’s statement, "I am here to say the debate is over, the science is clear" is a political statement, not a scientific statement. If further evidence that the Surgeon General’s report is a political document is necessary, it is found on page 28 under “Definition and Terminology.”

This report uses the term secondhand smoke in preference to environmental tobacco smoke, even though the latter may have been used more frequently in previous reports. The descriptor “secondhand” captures the involuntary nature of the exposure, while “environmental” does not. This report also refers to the inhalation of secondhand smoke as involuntary smoking, acknowledging that most nonsmokers do not want to inhale tobacco smoke. The exposure of the fetus to tobacco smoke, whether from active smoking by the mother or from her exposure to secondhand smoke, also constitutes involuntary smoking.
That is laughable as an objective scientific statement. Whether one calls it “environmental tobacco smoke” or “secondhand smoke is irrelevant. If one is scientifically studying the impact of tobacco smoke inhaled by non-smokers in the presence of smokers, the attitude of the non-smoker is irrelevant. The fact that I don’t mind sitting in a bar next to a cigar smoker doesn’t mean the smoke I’m inhaling will affect my health less than someone that objects.

The scientist is interested in determining how Factor X relates to Outcome Y. The policy advocate is out to prove that Factor X is evil. When the role is flipped, when “Big Tobacco” does a study showing that the dangers of secondhand smoke are not significant, it’s called “bias.” I’ve read some tobacco studies, some I consider biased, but never have I read such a blatant statement of prejudice and perversion of objectivity in a scientific study.

The surgeon general's report is not about science. The quote above makes unabashedly evident that how tobacco smoke is labeled makes a difference in how it is perceived, and for the purposes of this report it will be portrayed as negative -- not necessarily based on data , but necessarily on language. Before one shred of evidence is presented in the 727 page report, the paradigm is set that, by whatever name, secondhand smoke is evil. That is a political statement, not a scientific hypothesis to be tested.

Science is a continual process, not one that ever arrives at conclusive proof. In that context, further study of the affects of secondhand smoke is welcome. A quick survey of the Surgeon General’s report promises some interesting insight into the impact of secondhand smoke on pregnant women and developing children, despite the explicit prejudice of the report itself. Data is data.

Update: Dr. Michaael Siegel, a physician that specializes in preventive medicine and public health with 20 years of experience in tobacco control, primarily as a researcher, makes a similar observation that there are some valid insights in the surgeon general's report plus he adds a pwerful insight --
In some ways, I believe that the basic message here - everyone is at risk and the dose doesn't matter; no matter how small the dose, you are still at risk - may be a counter-productive one. Or at least it may undermine some of the very important findings of the Surgeon General's report. The report reviewed, for example, the levels of secondhand smoke exposure among different population groups and came to some conclusions that should guide policy makers. But those conclusions are completely obscured by the all-out emphasis on the absence of any safe level of exposure.
And that ultimately is the point. If government officials Like Dave Thune are going to make policy based on the surgeon general's report, and advocates like Bob Moffitt are going to push for policy based on the report, and columnists like Laura Billings are going to stump for a statewide smoking ban based on the report, then they best make some attempt to understand the data behind the report’s conclusions. Not all of it, not even most of it, but certainly enough to be able to point to a study they do understand (not a single statistic) and say, yes, that’s why it is necessary to ban smoking in privately owned bars and restaurants.

Public health policy requires a scientific basis for action, but specific actions, like smoking bans, ought be based on real data, not political statements, and consider the least restrictive means of achieiving public health objectives.

Previous studies indicate that you have a 99.99 percent better survival rate breathing secondhand smoke than you do holding your breath waiting for Thune or Moffit to produce a scientifically valid rationale for imposing a smoking ban on private bars or restaurants.

Update: Before the Moffits of the world start in on Dr. Siegel quoted above as a "minion of Big Tobacco" or being "Pro-Smoke," they might want to consider a little context-- Siegal supports smoking bans as legitimate use of police power. He doesn't support the abuse of science. From Dr. Siegel --
The misrepresentation by the Surgeon General's office of the science of the acute cardiovascular and carcinogenic effects of a brief exposure to secondhand smoke suggests to me that there is a dire need for more open discussion of scientific issues within the tobacco control community.

This misrepresentation of the heart disease risk attributable to a brief secondhand smoke exposure comes many months after I began to gradually reveal more than 80 anti-smoking groups making similar claims, explained why I view these claims as misleading, and attempted to initiate, within the movement, a discussion about the scientific validity of these assertions.

Unfortunately, rather than engaging in a discussion of the scientific issues, the tobacco control list-serves on which I had begun to communicate my concerns to thousands of scientists and advocates decided to throw me out and to stifle any further discussion. Actually, that's misleading. There was no discussion to begin with. The response I engendered was not arguments about the validity of my reasoning; it was personal attacks about my honesty, character, and funding. But my expulsion from the movement's communication infrastructure did stifle any possible future discussion of these issues; I'm confident that with time, advocates' defensive reactions would eventually have given way to a serious consideration of the scientific issues at hand.

By taking this issue off the table for discussion, it made it impossible for the Surgeon General's office to become aware of the importance of carefully considering the differences between the physiologic phenomena of transient changes in endothelial function, platelet activation, lipid metabolism, artery elasticity, and cardiac autonomic tone that follow a brief secondhand smoke exposure and the actual risk of developing heart disease or suffering a heart attack due to that brief exposure.

The lesson here, for me, is that the tobacco control movement needs to find ways of opening up scientific and policy discussion, rather than closing it off. The movement needs to find ways of making individuals more comfortable to share their opinions about our agenda, our tactics, our actions, and our public statements, not to create an atmosphere where people are afraid to speak out lest their careers be threatened or destroyed.

Only a major change in the way in which the movement operates will allow this problem to be corrected so that it does not recur in the future. But that change is not so radical - what it simply requires is a willingness to consider alternative viewpoints and to address arguments on their merits. It's time to drop the defensive posturing that treats any criticism of the anti-smoking movement as a heretical violation of some sacred code and elicits an offensive attack on the perpetrator of this heinous crime of dissent. Tolerating dissent and taking the time to consider the opinions of others, even if those opinions challenge the prevailing dogma, can only help the movement in the long run. And it could probably prevent the massive misleading of the public that occurred yesterday.
Update: Michael Fumento checks in -- Killing the passive smoking debate
“Secondhand smoke debate ‘over.” That’s the message from the Surgeon General’s office, delivered by a sycophantic media. The claim is that the science has now overwhelmingly proved that smoke from others’ cigarettes can kill you. Actually, “debate over” simply means: “If you have your doubts, shut up!”

But you definitely should have doubts over the new Surgeon General’s report, a massive 727-page door stop. Like many massive reports on controversial issues, it’s probably designed that way so nobody (especially reporters on deadline) will want to or have time to read beyond the executive summary.

Sue Jeffers Responds to Pawlenty's Tuition Scheme

Posted by Craig Westover | 2:33 PM |  

Give Sue Jeffers her usual points for feistiness, but with a couple of minor missteps, she’s done a pretty good job tapping into conservative frustration.
Thursday, June 29th 2006

Promising a $112 million handout to the top 25% of high school graduates must make the current Governor feel pretty good. Helping high school kids to afford college is a nice idea, and Pawlenty says there’s so much money swirling around the state budget that the cost of this proposal is like "sofa change" in comparison. Which sofa is he going to dig the "change" out of this time?
Nice metaphor, but . . . .
Smokers, beer-drinkers, or fast-food consumers?
The governor said he was going to find the money in the budget, not necessarily create a new fee or tax. Doesn't matter where it comes from, somebody is going to get shafted -- maybe even someone that will be voting for the governor in November.
Are the taxpayers mere furniture for the governor to rummage around in when he wants to make an impulse buy? His idea might be generous, but it is not fiscally responsible. Our Governor has forgotten we have to earn the money before he can give it away. Like the Highway 62 project, this is another Pawlenty-check the state budget can’t cash.
True, but the Highway 62 project is not an “impulse buy.” It’s a legitimate government expenditure. A better connection is that creating new spending programs of questionable government responsibility isn’t fiscally responsible when necessary and legitimate government obligations go unfunded.
The proposal sidesteps important problems like high college tuition and high schools that don’t teach. The best way to make college more affordable is to lower it’s cost, for everyone.
Opps . . . That’s a question that begs to be asked. How can we lower college costs for everyone without subsidizing everyone? But the next line --
Rather than such a direct comprehensive approach, Pawlenty wants to subsidize the majors he thinks are important.
-- claries what Jeffers was getting at. And she’s right. Math and science are important, but it’s not up to government to pick and choose which majors are most important. Pawlenty’s choices are great, but how about a governor subsidizing “white guilt” majors. Jeffer’s drives home that point --
Giving kids an incentive to get good grades is a great idea, but that should be a parent’s job. Pawlenty has decided that Minnesota parents aren’t doing it right, and the State should get more involved in choosing our kids’ future.
Still not pulling punches --
Creating feel-good entitlements is a proven vote-getter, and the governor likes to feel good, like when he signed the new stadium bills saying, "It’ll just be a heck of a lot of fun." What’s fun for the governor costs us all more money. Free tuition is another election-year giveaway, which will amount to either another empty promise, or a tax hike.
Or robbing Peter to pay Paul. Give the governor his due -- he said this money could be found in the existing budget. The question for the governor is, if it can be found where it’s not needed, then why aren’t we looking for it and cutting it out now?
A politician who takes the taxpayer for granted and is willing to sacrifice personal freedom for an expanding government is always welcome in one of Minnesota's political parties. Perhaps Tim Pawlenty went to the wrong convention this summer.
Nice dig, but it makes a point as well. Democrats aren’t going to hold Pawlenty’s feet to the fire on this one, except maybe calling it an election ploy. State-paid tuition is something they would propose. Jeffers has her rough edges as a politician, but she's going to be good for the GOP like a dose of cod liver oil.

"Loyalty” means telling people when they are off course and not just going along for the ride.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Alas -- it's not a new kind of politicas after all

Posted by Craig Westover | 4:35 PM |  

I was looking forward to reading this email. From no less than Walther Mondale with the tile line “Amy Klobuchar: Inspiring a new kind of politics.” Now I know Mondale probably did little more than read what someone else had written and say it was fine with him. At least I hopes so, because far from “a new kind of politics,” this is just more of the same.

It starts out with forgivable puffery.
I have known Amy for more than twenty-five years. From her days as a college intern when I was the Vice President, to her work as a trusted and valued colleague in the practice of law, to now, when she is the chief prosecutor for Minneapolis and its surrounding communities, I still see all the things I spotted the first time I met Amy: a gifted leader destined for great things and inspired by the call to public service.
“Inspired by the call to public service” is a pretty hackneyed phrase for a former VP. Or maybe not. These guys aren’t in politics to serve the public -- they want to lead. They have a vision and the rest of us our just means to their ends. Applies to Republicans too. The difference is Republicans get off on the trappings of power while Democrats climax on power itself. That latter are more dangerous.
We are living in an era of an imperial presidency. Congress has abdicated its constitutional responsibility to check and balance the executive. Too many senators, instead of performing their constitutional duty to carefully advise and consent on judicial nominations, simply bend to White House pressure. Ideologically confirmed judges are chipping away at our long established system of economic justice and civil liberties, while fear replaces reason.
Ack. This is why I hope Mondale didn’t actually write this. This is a true (I’m serious here) gem, and would be “a new kind of politics” -- We are living in an era of an imperial presidency. Congress has abdicated its constitutional responsibility to check and balance the executive.

You bet we are. But the era goes back to LBJ and an to pick a point the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, and doesn‘t stop regardless of which party was in the White House. Since LBJ in bits and pieces, hunks and chunks Congress has relinquished its constitutional obligations, whether extending extraordinary powers to the President of creating bureaucracies like FEMA to handle its allocation responsibility or pushing for a line item veto to pass the politics of pork to the president.

And the scary part of that is that the constitution does not distinguish between the foreign and domestic powers of the President. So every so-called “war” power granted to the president is precedent for a domestic power. Bush’s wiretapping is not something unique to Bush and Republicans -- it’s the inevitable outgrowth of almost half a century of expanding presidential power.

Mondale, I would hope, might have written about that, instead of writing the sentences that follow, which are just political demagoguery and internally inconsistent simplistic solutions for complex problems and attacks on Mark Kennedy’s integrity rather than his politics.

I don’t pick on Democrats as much as should -- there’s no point trying to make them better, but here they had an opportunity to really say something of importance, and they blew it.

Central Corridor -- by any other name, would it smell any less

Posted by Craig Westover | 2:39 PM |  

The Pioneer Press today editorializes on the “long-term challenges of vision, identity, image” of the Central Corridor project.
"They have a master plan for the whole system," says Jack Silverman, vice president, account management at Bolin Marketing and Advertising in Minneapolis. "There should be a master identity plan as well."
Just because a high-powered PR campaign didn’t get the Vikings their stadium, doesn’t mean it won’t work to sell light rail to the masses. Paper-hanging has proven effective in the past.
Shortly, the Central Corridor Development Strategy Task Force plans to meet with a Toronto consultant who specializes in land-use and planning issues on transit-related development. The group's role is to create a vision for the corridor in St. Paul. Surveys and focus groups are likely. Careful listening is essential.
Okay, I’m willing to go along with the idea that a Toronto consultant is the best source to advise on the Central Corridor project. But create a vision? I thought we had a vision? I thought it was a “community vision” based on “shared Minnesota values”? Or am I confusing light rail with the Great River Park Project, which had as one of its advantages connection the Central Corridor.

Listen carefully? Like the Central Corridor Coordinating Committee? The St. Paul Legal Ledger reported --
The public had a chance to submit comments and suggestions involving either light rail or the busway during a 45-day comment period that ended June 5.

The next day the Central Corridor Coordinating Committee recommended that the Metropolitan Council support building light rail along University.
Lots of consideration given to some of those comments in the less-than-24 hours from the end of the comment period to the recommendation. Might it have been a foregone conclusion that light rail won out over the busway? Also from the Legal Ledger --
Morris [Central Corridor project manager Steve] added that in the intial stages of the project 10 years ago, the name had to be generic because no one knew where a light-rail system might go.
Back to the Pioneer Press and this vision thing --
Bruce Corrie, an economics professor at Concordia University, has high hopes for a global cultural district along the eastern end of the corridor, starting at Lexington Avenue. To that end, Corrie has organized a committee to look into that idea, which would encompass business, arts and culture.
Sounds like an shared community vision to me. I bet you could walk into any part of the neighborhood and ask anyone what their neighborhood needs and they’d shoot back with “a global cultural district.”

More PiPress --
The trick will be to find commonalities among the stakeholders, from the car dealers and Asian restaurants to the residents who remember Rondo — in a way that encourages a sense of opportunity and ownership.
And a good trick it will be because it will be a vision forced on the community. It will be a vision of what the planners want that will not necessarily have any connection to the ebb and flow of the neighborhood -- a global cultural district, for example. It will be a playground for visitors, not a functioning neighborhood. A façade of a city, not a vibrant and living city.

Ownership is not engendered by accepting someone else’s vision. It grows from working out commonalities through daily and immediate interactions -- not by studying relationships, writing a report, and implementing a 10-step plan over five years. Not by spending $840 million dollars of someone else’s money.

A not-so-final-word on Dean Johnson

Posted by Craig Westover | 12:06 PM |  

If this report in the Pioneer Press is accurate, then Senate Majority Leader Dean Johnson lied under oath before the Senate Ethics Committee.

Johnson later denied that any justices had made any promises or commitments to him and apologized on the Senate floor in March for his remarks. But the controversy continued because Johnson maintained in a closed Senate ethics committee hearing that he had had conversations with more than one justice about gay rights.

"The board's investigation, however, disclosed that Sen. Johnson engaged in no conversations with any Supreme Court justice concerning any issues that relate to the definition of marriage in the state of Minnesota," the board said in a statement.

"Each Supreme Court justice independently denied ever having any conversations with Sen. Johnson on any issue relating to the definition of marriage. Sen. Johnson confirmed that no such conversations ever occurred."

The board said Johnson told them he had spoken to several justices about the unrelated issues of court administration and budgets. While those discussions didn't touch on the marriage issue, Johnson told the board that based on those exchanges he assumed the judges weren't interested in changing the definition of marriage.

The board said he made those assumptions based on conversations that never took place.

"Sen. Johnson's mistaken inferences fail to provide any reason for the board to proceed further in these cases," the statement said.
There is no reason for the board to proceed further, but the Senate Ethics Committee might be another story. To characterize Johnson’s statement as a “mistaken inference” when nothing was said about gay rights is really generous. Johnson’s attorney made a strong statement on his behalf that conversations between Johnson and justices, where same-sex marriage was discussed in general terms, did take place with witnesses present.

[From my Pioneer Press column -- Behind closed doors, Sampson (Johnson's attorney) said Johnson had three meetings in his office with a member of the court with witnesses present and two less formal discussions (which contradicts a statement by Chief Justice Russell Anderson that such discussions "never happened"). Sampson acknowledged that no justice made any assurances or commitments, but gay rights were discussed in general terms. Based on these discussions, Johnson formed an opinion, stated it badly, and has apologized, she noted.]

According to the Judicial Review Board and Johnson’s own admission, the discussions never touched on gay marriage. Johnson and his attorney were under oath in the hearing. As a consequence, the Senate Ethics Committee took no punitive action.

Johnson sat silent while his attorney made her statement. He never contradicted it. His few comments in the Ethics Committee hearing were questions about how the committee’s resolution would affect his career. No statement of remorse. After the Senate hearing, he claimed he was exonerated. He left the Supreme Court hanging under a cloud of suspicion claiming he had no control over the situation. The Judicial Review Board caught him in yet another -- post 90-seconds of remorse on the Senate floor -- “sanding off of the truth.”

Personally, if the Democrats want to keep Johnson in power, I really don’t care. But let’s not pretend this guy is a victim. Let’s not pretend Dean Johnson ever, during the whole affair, ever had even the faintest intent of telling the truth.

And let’s not pretend that the Senate Ethics Committee did its job, which is a far more serious breach of trust and greater compromise of Senate integrity than anything said or done by Dean Johnson. The Ethics Committee was charged to look out for the interests of all Minnesotans. It had an obligation to look for the truth. It didn’t even try.

Surgeon General's report on secondhand smoke -- same-old, same-old

Posted by Craig Westover | 11:20 AM |  

I almost hate to make another reference to it, but once again we have to deal with a little bullsh*t in the philosophical sense. Bullsh*t is not lying. There may even be some truth in it, but to the bullsh*tter truth is irrelevant. His objective is to create an impression that does not necessarily have any connection to reality. That said, let’s look at the latest surgeon general’s comments on secondhand smoke. (My coments are based on the press releases and article below. Comments on the full report to follow.)

First let’s look at the headline as run in today’s Pioneer Press --
Secondhand smoke's dangers spelled out
Study says it kills 50,000 people a year; no exposure to it is safe
The subhead cites a “study,” which would lead one to believe that there is new evidence. We’ve found the silver bullet in the “mountains of evidence” folks like Bob Moffitt of the American Lung Association is always citing but never producing. Well, not exactly. In fact, No, not at all. The “study” is not a “study” at all, but a report. As the story states (but not until the last paragraph).
The findings of the new report will come as no surprise to scientists and physicians. It is simply a compilation of research that has been conducted over the past two decades.
So we are not dealing with new data or new findings. Some new people are looking at the data and drawing conclusions. The data hasn’t changed. So, let’s look at those conclusions.
There is no level of exposure to smoke that is safe and the children of smokers are at special risk, Surgeon General Richard Carmona said in releasing the new report.

"I am here to say the debate is over, the science is clear," Carmona said during a televised news conference from Washington. "Secondhand smoke is not a mere annoyance. It is a serious health hazard."
The first sentence is a compound sentence. The first clause is utter b.s.; the second is scientifically defensible, as I’ll discuss later. What does “there is no level of exposure to smoke that is safe” mean? Does it mean one inhalation an I’m dead? Does it mean one inhalation and the affects stay with me for life? Or is a clever way of avoiding the real question -- At what level of exposure does secondhand smoke become dangerous?

The phrase “there is no safe level of secondhand smoke” is a political statement, not a scientific one, which is a key point of discussion. Also a political point is Carmona’s statement, "I am here to say the debate is over, the science is clear." That’s a political statement, not a scientific statement. Science is a continual process, not one that ever arrives at conclusive proof. Take the well-documented and statistically valid connection between active smoking and lung diseases. Even today questions continue as why many smokers get lung cancer, for example, but other heavy smokers don’t.

Policy makers, by necessity must reach a conclusion in order to implement policy. Scientists are not bound by that restriction. So, understand Carmona’s statement for what it is -- a political statement, not a scientific one.

That said, the job of the policy maker is to look at the evidence and determine a policy that achieves the objective of public health in the least restrictive manner. The phrase “in the least restrictive manner” is not irrelevant in a free society. With that in mind, consider Carmona's statement.
The only way to combat the heath threat, he said, was to ban all smoking in public buildings.
No, that is hardly the only way. What is the objective here? It is to prevent people from involuntary exposure to secondhand smoke? Why not the extreme solution and prohibit smoking entirely? Or why not ban smoking in private homes where children are present? Those are ways to combat the threat. They are not taken, of course, because they are overly restrictive. From the article --
Although government cannot ban smoking in private homes, Carmona added, he strongly encouraged parents to step outside before lighting up in order to protect the health of their children.

For everyone else, Carmona said, the best advice is simply "stay away from smokers."
Let’s look at those comments. First, government can ban smoking in private homes. We ban meth consumption in private homes. We ban marijuana consumption in private homes. What Carmona is really saying is we don’t want to ban smoking in private homes. We don’t have the will to ban smoking in private homes. In other words words, even when we know scientifically there is a danger to children, we’re willing to back off the “no safe level of exposure" threat.

Further, Carmona’s recommendation is to “stay away from smokers.” Well, I used to be able to do that if I so chose. Now, I can’t walk past any public building or down the sidewalk past any bar without being involuntarily exposed to secondhand smoke. I don’t mind, but if you tell me there is no safe level of secondhand smoke, then smoking ban laws are actually putting me in more danger than I was before by driving smokers out on the street. Where is the cry for banning smoking anywhere in public?

The point is, while shouting "there is not safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke,” the actions of smoking ban advocates indicate they know that is b.s. The poison is, as it always has been, in the dosage.

So let’s summarize what we have so far. The government's report contains no new data. While making the claim that there is “no safe level of secondhand smoke” and calling for a smoking ban in all public buildings as the only solution, it accepts that young children and the rest of us may still be exposed to secondhand smoke. But if there is no safe level, how can that be acceptable?

Let’s move on and once again look at the (old) data.
Exposure of nonsmokers to tobacco smoke increases their risk of heart disease and cancer by as much as 30 percent.
That's a really misleading statistic. Let’s take a look at in the context of actual data.

I’ve asked Bob Moffitt of the American Lung Association to provide some statistical basis for this and other such claims. He has consistently declined to provide even a single study of his choice from the mountains of evidence. So I went out and found some.

A connection between lung cancer and secondhand smoke with a 30 percent increased risk can be found in two reports cited by the California EPA in study they did with the intent of proving evidence tht secondhand smoke is toxic environmental contaminant and smoking should be banned outdoors in public places. So this is not exactly a smoker-friendly study. I posted about it here; here’s a summary.

One can arrive at a 30 percent increase risk from two studies that tracked the incidence of lung cancer in non-smoking spouses of smoking spouses and non-smoking employees in smoking environments. What these two studies show is that the longer the duration of exposure to secondhand smoke, the greater the risk of lung cancer. But here’s the kicker for a policy maker -- in the case of souses, the required duration of exposure before there was a correlation greater than 1.0 (1.0 means no connection) was after 29 years of exposure. In the case of an employee in a smoking establishment, the required exposure to exceed a risk of 1.0 was 21 years.

At 29 and 21 years respectively, the 95 percent confidence interval for the increased risk ranged from 1.03 to 1.50 -- an increased risk of 3 percent to 50 percent. The 30 percent figure in the article is pretty close to the mean of that distribution. What the full confidence interval indicates is that for these studies, there is as much likelihood that the real increased risk of secondhand smoke is 3 percent as it is 50 percent as it is 30 percent. In other words, to state there is 30 percent increased risk implies preciseness not supported by the data.

Let’s take it the next step. Fifty-percent, even 30 percent sounds pretty scary. But what does that mean in terms of real numbers. The rate of lung cancer among non-smoking individuals is about 10 in 100,000 people. If you’re a non-smoker, that’s your odds of getting lung cancer. If your spouse smokes, and you’ve been married 29 years or more, and we use the government’s 30 percent figure, your odds are now about 13 in 100,000. If you’re a non-smoker and you’ve worked in smoking environment for 21 years, you odds of getting lung cancer are about 13 in 100,000.

And those are general population statistics. If you otherwise take care of yourself, have regular check-ups, you odds are even better. If there's a predilection for cancer in your family, your odds a probably worse.

One final point. Generally epidemiologists require a risk factor greater than 2.0 to consider a correlation exists between a casual factor and an outcome. 3.0 to 4.0 is generally required to assume actual causation. Some epidemiologists I’ve talked with are willing to accept a 2.0 level for a correlation between secondhand smoke and lung cancer given the direct link of inhaling it into the lungs. Note that the government number, 1.30, doesn’t even reach this minimal threshold. These same epidemiologists require a higher risk ratio to associate secondhand smoke with diseases like heart disease where the physical connection is more tenuous.

[I’ve only seen a few studies, among them findings that the risk ratio for SIDS in homes where one or both parents smoke is about 4.0 -- strongly indicating a causal relationship with secondhand smoke. This is worth further study, and from the standpoint of protecting public health ought to be of greater concern than smoking bans in bars and restaurants.]
Even a brief exposure to tobacco smoke can increase risk, especially for people with heart and respiratory diseases.
Increase risk of what? Contracting lung cancer in 29 years? To be fair and not use the tactics of smoking ban proponents and twist statistics, I think this is just a bad statement of the notion that a person with existing health problems is more affected by secondhand smoke than others. Duh? These people are also at a greater risk from auto emissions, and the noxious odors from, say an ethanol plant. Again, the question is what are the policy implications of that statement?
Segregating smokers is not an effective technique for preventing exposure of nonsmokers, and even the best available technology does not cleanse the air adequately.
Again, the use of compound sentence where half has some basis in fact and half is pure b.s. It would stand to reason that the further away from a smoker one is, the less the impact of secondhand smoke, but again to be fair, there is some still some exposure. But the statement that even the best available technology does not cleanse the air adequately is absolutely misleading.

What the hell does “adequately” mean? To those who believe in abstinence only when it comes to smoking, “adequate” means “zero.” To the folks at OSHA and people in the real world, one measures contaminants in parts per million. OSHA has established safe-level standards for the various chemicals found in tobacco smoke. Various studies, including studies conducted by government agencies, find that ventilation can take contaminants hundreds of times lower than required by OSHA. Again, what are the policy implications?
Tobacco smoke contains at least 50 separate carcinogens and toxins, experts noted. Someone in a closed space with a smoker breathes in exactly the same chemicals as the smoker does. The fact that the nonsmoker is breathing in less of them than the smoker reduces the risk, compared to smoking, but does not eliminate it.
Again, this is a misleading statement that ignores the “poison is in the dosage” rule. It is also self-contradictory.

Are there 50 separate carcinogens and toxins in tobacco smoke? Probably, you can find smoking ban proponents throwing around numbers in the hundreds, which tends to question their dedication to the truth, but let’s accept 50. It passes the smell test. Many of these same carcinogens are also found in nature. The danger is not in the substance itself, but in the exposure. Never encountering secondhand smoke does not eliminate exposure (which means one could say “there is no safe level of exposure to life”).

Of course, exposure to secondhand smoke increases the one’s over all exposure to these carcinogens and toxins. But because one is also exposed simply by breathing the air on a busy street, we know that there is a level at which exposure is not dangerous. The scientific question then becomes at what level and what degree of exposure to secondhand smoke reaches that level.

We’ve already seen that in order to reach any correlation (to low statistically to establish causation) between secondhand smoke and lung cancer the required duration of exposure is 21-29 years for specific higher-risk subgroups of the population. But what about exposure to individual chemicals.

These statistics have also been calculated and the results are ridiculous in the extreme. To reach deadly levels of the toxins in tobacco smoke, one would have to be in a tightly enclosed area inhaling the smokes from, in some cases, thousands of cigarettes per hour. If that is true, is it even logical to assert that ventilation can not reduce real risk to virtually zero?

Then there’s this -- The fact that the nonsmoker is breathing in less of them than the smoker reduces the risk, compared to smoking, but does not eliminate it

This is the statement of a person that said there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke. There’s no safe level, but now you’re saying there are degrees of risk. What does that mean? The scare phrase “no safe level of exposure” constantly conflicts with not only real science, but the b.s. of smoking ban proponents themselves.

And that’s the real point. There is no interest in the truth, scientific or otherwise on the part of these people. They want to live in a smoke-free world, and will settle for nothing else. That’s an admirable goal; we all would be better off if no one smoked (except of course for the bureaucrats whose jobs depend on tobacco taxes, but that’s another issue). But as admirable as that objective is, it does not justify any and all means to achieve it.

That brings us back to the policy maker as opposed to the scientist. Based on real data, the decision for a policy maker considering a smoking ban in private bars and restaurants is “Is a smoking ban in bars and restaurants warranted?” “Is it the least restrictive means of achieving the public health goal or reducing exposure to secondhand smoke.?

Looking at the first question. To answer “yes” based on the data, one is concluding that given a statistically insignificant correlation that even if accepted increases an employee’s risk of lung cancer from 10 in 100,000 to between 10.3 and 15 in 100,000, but only after 21 years of exposure, it is in the public interest to deny bar owners the right to permit people that voluntarily choose to do so to smoke on private property. It is in the public interest to effectively close down otherwise viable businesses that cater to smokers. It is in the public interest to cause people to lose their jobs to dubiously protect their health.

To answer “yes” to the second question, the policy maker must deny that people have the free choice to determine what they want in the form of entertainment. He must assume people should not be free to independently contract and choose where they work. He must decide that hundreds of times lower than OSHA safety standards is not “adequate” removal of smoke particles from the air.

But public health is not the objective. Banning smoking is. If this were a question of public health, we'd be talking about air quality standards like we do for every other type of air pollution. It's a bout a group of people using government's legitimate publich health authority to illegitimately impose their chosen lifestyle on everyone else.

In short, while smoking ban proponents will crow about the “new” report, it is simply more of the same-old, same-old. I’ll ask Moffitt for some supporting data; he’ll simply say this is another rock on the mountains of data and not supply any. Dave Thune will read the article and despite admitting he has no understanding of statistics will say, see the proof is irrefutable.

And more bars will go out of business and more employees will be out of jobs, but bars and restaurants will be smoke-free. All we have to do is wade through the toxic b.s. to get to them.

COLUMN -- Instead of cleaning the barn, Democrats wade in deeper

Posted by Craig Westover | 7:28 AM |  

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

I wrote my June 14 column, "There's a greater enemy to truth than outright lies," with no intention of writing a trilogy. But events of the past two weeks warrant a third look at how bullsh*t affects our political process.

Bullsh*t, says Princeton professor Harry Frankfurt, is not the same as lying. Lying requires that a person know what the truth is and deliberately state the opposite. Bull doesn't require knowledge of the truth; the truth is irrelevant. The intent is only to create an impression that serves the speaker's ends. Bull is the greater enemy of truth.

Speaking at a legislative breakfast last week, Democratic pundit Blois Olson acted a textbook example of bull.

To portray 6th District Congressional Candidate Michele Bachmann as out of the mainstream, Olson raised the specter of evangelical Christians rethinking the distinction between "after-sex" contraception and abortion and concocted the impression that social conservative Bachmann would join a group of Republicans out to "outlaw and eradicate all forms of contraception."

Bachmann called him out. Olson apologized for any misrepresentations he "may have expressed." Bachmann said only that if such a group existed, she would not join it.

Inquiring minds? Most comments on last week's column ignored the finer points of what is or is not b.s., preferring instead to swallow it. They demanded to know Michele Bachmann's position on contraceptives.

"Inquiring minds want to know?" proclaimed one writer, ironically parroting the ad slogan of the less-than-truthful National Enquirer.

The people demanding that Bachman come clean on contraceptives inevitably claimed they already knew her position. In their minds, her non-comment was hiding an unpopular view. Their intent was exposing views they hoped would damage Bachmann politically.

More bull, please. Bull is unavoidable when a person is required to give a simplistic answer to a simplistic question on a complex issue. Olson faked simplicity by inventing a Bachmann association with "eradicating contraceptives." He ignored the underlying moral concerns raised by evangelicals. He simply invoked them to demonize Bachmann. He produced bull.

Bachmann refused to take the bait. For sure, it is appropriate for voters to question candidates on their positions on issues, including contraception, which has been and continues to be a political issue. It is also the prerogative of a savvy campaigner not to punch the tar baby and get sucked into opponents' agendas. Voters can infer what they will from her non-comment. Not as entertaining as slinging a little bull, but it leaves Bachmann's opponents with nothing to do but whine while she pursues issues of more political consequence.

Contraception fails as a wedge issue. Democrats hope to make contraception a wedge issue dividing social conservatives from their base of couples with 2.3 planned children. It won't work.

A wedge issue becomes a wedge issue when the base is divided and when the party being "wedged" won't legitimately respond. Republicans are successful using same-sex marriage and abortion as wedge issues because they are concerns that evolved into politics, not politics looking for a wedge.

Opposition to abortion resonates morally with the mainstream. People are not willing to go all the way to a government ban on abortion, but they will support "common sense" measures like parental notification and 24-hour waiting periods. The mainstream might oppose a constitutional amendment defining marriage, but many people are still somewhat uncomfortable with the notion of same-sex marriage.

For the most part, Democrats have attacked wedge issues with non-responsive b.s. They fight GOP legislation, label it divisive, but dance around whether abortion as birth control is a moral issue or same-sex marriage is something that ought to be unequivocally supported. They strive for the impression of thoughtful and caring without actually addressing the conflicting emotions of a divided base.

Contraception doesn't work as a wedge issue when few social conservatives believe contraceptives should be outlawed. Few people are worried about such a proposal. Pushing the idea makes Democrats look silly. Republicans refusing to make contraception an issue is a relief to those tired of R-rated political debates.

Lesson learned. No one has a lock on the truth, but when the truth is consistently regarded as irrelevant, it's time to demand better. No one gets it right every time, but pundits and politicians have the obligation to at least try to get it right. Any lesser standard is b.s.

Update: The ever-vigilant Eva Young complains that the headline on this column is misleading. I generally don’t write headlines, didn’t write this one, but did see it before it went to press and didn’t object. I liked the barn reference and thought it worked. Nonetheless Eva has a point -- the headline could lead to inference that those commenting on the column were all Democrats, which is not necessarily true -- and would be bullsh*t, except the column content neither said nor implied that connection.

“Democrat” is only used in the column to identify Blois Olson as a Democratic pundit, which is why he was on the panel -- an opposite to David Strom who is definitely a conservative commentator generally taking Republican positions. “Democrat” is also used in analysis of contraception as a wedge issue -- in the same context used in the NY Times in the article that spawned the controversy. Both uses are accurate.

But score one for, Eva. She correctly understands what bullsh*t is. I am eagerly awaiting to see that understanding demonstrated on her website.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Making Republicans better -- Tackle the big problems first

Posted by Craig Westover | 1:18 PM |  

This is one of those “I got to read it twice because I must be missing something” stories. Governor Pawlenty cannot possibly be this out of touch.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty laid out a proposal Tuesday to have the state pick up two years or more of college tuition for students who are in the top 25 percent of their graduating class or score above a certain level on a college entrance exam. The offer would apply to graduates who go to a public university in the state.
Let’s try it again real slow like -- the number one education problem in the state of Minnesota is not the affordability or lack of funds for college. The number one problem is a the large percentage of kids that graduate from public schools are not ready for college, especially children of color.

The state has a constitutional educational obligation. Another middle-class entitlement is not it. Paying for some kid’s college tuition is not it. Preventing senior slump is not it. It’s providing every K-12 student the opportunity for a decent, free education. And we’re not doing it.

Pawlenty says the program will be part of his next budget proposal if he wins a second term in November. It would cost the state $112 million in its first two years and would kick in for the 2007 fall semester. The governor didn't identify a funding source but said it should be easy to find the money in a budget that now exceeds $30 billion every two years.
If you're scoring at home, 112 easy-to-find million dollars over two years ($56,000,000 per year) would fund approximately 14,000 private school vouchers of $4,000, which would have an immediate impact on public schools (reduced class size with more funds per student) and enable low-income families to place their kids in schools that better meet their needs. It would reinvigorate both public and private education, creating a greater diversity of educational options for all students.

Not grant it, the governor's proposal is going to draw a lot more white, middle-class suburbanites to the polls with their GOP sample ballots in hand than would a commitment to a voucher program targeted for low-income families of color, who won't vote Republican anyway. In fact the teachers union would probably get out the vote opposing such a proposal as destructive of public schools. But then as noted in the article --
Pawlenty, a Republican seeking re-election, denied introducing the proposals for political reasons.
If politics is not a consideration, then why not address the priority education problem first?

Poll shows city divided over smoking ban

Posted by Craig Westover | 9:11 AM |  

I’m surprised it’s this close.

A vote on St. Paul's smoking ban would apparently be a dead heat, according to polling by the Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association, one of the organizations rallying opponents of the city's smoking ordinance.
With smokers representing less than a quarter of the population, a fifty-fifty split on the smoking ban means at least some non-smokers recognize the smoking ban for what it is.

Why would a non-smoker even consider voting to repeal the smoking ban?

It means that if he goes into specific bars, he’ll be exposed to the discomfort and health risks of secondhand smoke.

It means he’ll have to check in advance with a restaurant to find out its smoking policy.

It means he'll face some inconvenience decising where to dine out.

If he doesn’t own a bar or know a bar owner, a smoking ban is no skin off of his nose. He gets something (a smoke-free environment) at the expense of someone else (the bar owner).

The non-smoker has a pretty sweet deal . . . .

Unless he understands that smoking bans are about government overstepping its public health authority to reengineer behavior.

Unless he understands that property rights are at stake.

Unless he’s actually read a secondhand smoke study and realizes the health risks are tenuous at best.

Unless he understands that total tax receipts don’t measure the harm caused to individual businesses.

Unless he's one of the people that used to work in a bar and has lost his job.

Unless he’s aware of the social changes to neighborhoods that loose neighborhood bar business.

Unless he values the idea of individual choice in a free society.

Yes, I’m surprised but pleased that the polling is this close.

Monday, June 26, 2006


Posted by Craig Westover | 2:11 PM |  

Some of the usual suspects are blasting Dick Cheney for fundraising for Michele Bachmann and other defense of marriage amendment supporters with such compassionate rhetoric as --
Why does Dick Cheney spit on his daughter's life partner relationship? The Dark Lord has no problem going on the campaign trail to raise buxxx for the on-the-record supporters of a federal amendment to prevent Mary and Heather Poe from ever being able to marry.

Tomorrow, Mr. Defibrillator will appear at a swank fundraiser for vicious anti-gay Minnesota State Senator Michele Bachmann, who is running for Congress (MN's 6th District). Guests will pony up $250 per person for the general reception or drop $1,000 to attend a "more intimate reception" at the Minneapolis fete for bigotry. Bachmann has been pushing a state marriage amendment (which didn't make it to the MN Senate floor for debate) with a vigor that suggests an obsession with all things homosexual.
This is a prime example of what the hard left Bachmann-haters (as opposed to those that politically disagree with her) don’t get -- people with a common set of objective principles can disagree on issues, debate issues internally, put issues in context and don’t have to resort to name-calling and misrepresentation to make their points. In fact, unlike those that rely on “bullsh*t” to create an impression, those interested in truth strive to accurately understand and represent what their opponents believe. It’s impossible to have a discussion or move toward the truth without doing so.

But then as reaction to Blois Olsn’s comments is proving, truth is more or less irrelevant.

Crime and disorder in Minneapolis -- It's not a paradox

Posted by Craig Westover | 12:39 PM |  

You can always tell when the editorial board at the Star Tribune is conflicted. They depart from their short, punchy, take-no-prisoner editorial style and write a long meandering piece with a disclaimer.
We place our concern for "root causes" and our advocacy for social programs up against anyone's. But we are unafraid to insist that middle-class morality govern behavior in public places.
The Strib takes on livability in today’s editorial, which laments the threatening behavior that is commonplace on downtown Minneapolis streets, and despite its “root cause” advocacy, recommends --

More cops, court officials and jail cells are needed, as are better procedures, sharper data collection and analysis, and tougher laws and sentences.
But here’s the money quote to my thinking, the last paragraph (emphasis added).

Gangsters shooting each other will continue to grab headlines. But solving the subtler forms of disorder are as important to the city's future. It's paradoxical that Minneapolis is feted around the world for dazzling new cultural venues while the basics of urban life slide away. Some will say we're making too big a thing of livability crime. But just as two rowdy kids can disrupt the learning of a whole class, so a disorderly few, left unchecked, can tip over a great city.
What the Strib editorial board doesn’t get (and listen up St. Paul, because this is where mayor Chris Coleman is headed) is that the blind effort going into creating dazzling new cultural venues is a contributor to livability problems.

Cities are organic. The roots are in the neighborhoods. Instead of focusing on nurturing the neighborhoods, fostering the natural growth of the city, Minneapolis has focused on downtown and turning the city into a playground to attract suburban visitors. Look at block E (sou’wester tip to David Strom of the Taxpayer’s League for this observation). It’s basically a suburban complex. It has no roots in downtown culture. It didn’t evolve from downtown culture -- it sprung fully grown from the heads of city planners looking to lure suburban tourists.

The Strib is unafraid to insist that middle-class morality govern behavior in public places, because if it’s not, the “tourists” will be scared away. There’s a difference, however, between “middle-class morality” and the kind of suburban conformity that “dazzling new cultural venues” demand. Downtown is not the “Dales.”

Case in point, from the archives --

Note Jackie Cherryhomes’ comments about Escape Ultra Lounge made in Doug Grow’s column lamenting the addition of Hooters to Block E --
"Hooters wasn't part of the vision," admitted Jackie Cherryhomes, former president of the City Council and a person who pushed for the development. "I agree with what [Council Member] Lisa Goodman says about it. It's tacky. The vision was more like Bellanotte [a successful nightclub in the project]. Or a club like Escape [also in the development]. There's an energy in these places. They're cosmopolitan."

Escape Vice President Charles Gilbert was one of many bar and club owners that sat down to be interviewed for the “Devil’s Weed” documentary on the impact of the smoking ban in Minneapolis and the tend toward smoking bans across the country.

Gilbert did not talk about “energy” and being “cosmopolitan.”He talked about a decline of 40-45 percent in business since the smoking ban went into effect. How “big” nights dropped from 900 people to less than 600. He talked about how the club was not just losing its smoking customers, but the friends of smoking customers. He talked how a prime upper floor location over-looking the city becomes a liability when people are forced to go outside to smoke -- especially in a cold climate city.He talked about laying off nearly 30 people.

He talked about the Catch-22 of not having funds to advertise. He wondered where all the promised non-smoking customers were. He noted that “no dominos fell” and surrounding communities that didn’t follow the Minneapolis lead are garnering all the business from smokers (and their friends).

As for the Minneapolis City Council? Well it seems they don’t give two hoots for Gilbert’s problems.

The point -- confusing “middle-class morality” with suburban conformity. That people that frequent downtown “cosmopolitan” places might smoke is unacceptable to the planners’ vision. So is the idea that someone might see the opportunity for something "tacky."

An example for the future, look at the Central Corridor project. It’s not being planned or developed for the people of the neighborhoods along University Avenue. These are people that hop on a bus to ride five or six blocks to shop. It’s an avenue of storefront businesses that rely on foot traffic and destination shoppers.

So what’s the transportation solution? Reduced bus service and a light rail system that only stops every mile but will shoot people from downtown St. Paul to the University of Minnesota and downtown Minneapolis and on to the Mall of America and the Airport. Sounds just like what the University Avenue neighborhood needs, doesn’t it?

Or how about St. Paul’s Great River Project -- which will make St. Paul one of the most beautiful cities in the nation -- whose best justification seems to be it aligns with our heritage of connection to the river. It’s another “suburban lure” distracting from the organic growth of the city. It’s about Kathy Lantry’s observation -- Do we really want to live with poor people?

It’s not a “paradox” that the basics of urban life slide away while Minneapolis is feted around the world for dazzling new cultural venues. It‘s consequential.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Blois Olson's apology

Posted by Craig Westover | 9:42 AM |  

Several days ago Blois Olson sent me a copy of his apology to Michele Bachmann for remarks he made at the TwinWest Chamber of Commerce Legislative Breakfast. Considering an apology a private matter between Olson and Bachmann, not a public relations document, I didn’t publish it or intend to comment on it. A sincere apology ought to be a private matter.

Olson has since made his private apology a public relations document. (see update)

People will read into what they will and decide whether apologizing for “misconceptions or misrepresentations” that he “may have expressed” is a sincere apology or merely his "sincerest apology," a public relations non-apology-apology, akin to Dean Johnson’s 90 seconds of remorse on the Senate floor for “inaccurate statements.”

So, for the record -- you be the judge.

June 16, 2006

Dear Senator Bachmann,

I would like to express my sincerest apology to you and your family for any misperceptions or misrepresentations I may have expressed about your views as a candidate for Congress.

Since leaving campaigns in 1998, I have worked to provide objective commentary in my role as a "pundit". I am often complimented for my more balanced commentary, including by our current Governor. Many times I am just as critical of DFLers as I am Republicans.

My comments at the TwinWest breakfast on June 16th, were not meant to misrepresent your position nor imply that you supported banning birth control.

While I am certain we agree on few issues, you should know that many times I have complimented your political abilities and successes. You state on your website that you are a “passionate about conservative social ideas”. My comments were truly meant to raise the question if you supported the “conservative social idea” that birth control should be illegal in the United States.

I also want you to know that I am in no way anti-Christian as you suggested on the radio. I am a regular attendee of Wooddale Church in Eden Prairie. I might note that it is the same church that Governor Pawlenty and his family attend, as well as numerous other well-known Republican activists. I have a number of evangelical ministers in my extended family.

I do believe strongly that we need to bring less religion to politics, and therefore will always be critical of those who cite the Bible or any religion as the reason for legislation or a law in this country.

I know that you have a tough campaign ahead of you, and I hope you accept this apology so that we can both move on to more pressing issues, for you a campaign for me running a business and enjoying a private life with my family.

Please feel free to call me with any further thoughts, ideas or questions.


Blois R. Olson
What's interesting, is that while Olson apologizes for misrepresenting Bachmann, anti-Bachmann people are running with the misrepresentation. That's why bullsh*t is such an effective political tool. That he was called out for his comments might have caused Olson some temporary discomfort, but in the long run, he accomplished what he set out to do -- create a controversy.

Without attributing either intent or perspicacity to Olson, the contraception issue is a perfect issue for Patty Wetterling. It takes some research and political acumen to have a debate-level knowledge of energy policy, education, and the Iraq war that goes beyond simplistic mandates, more spending, and timetables. Anybody can, and everybody does, have an opinion on contraception. And that a lot of the opinion is just bullsh*t doesn’t matter.

We didn’t learn a lesson from the Dean Johnson fiasco. Chances are Blois Olson will get away with it too. In general, we don’t want to hold people to standards that we’re afraid we ourselves can’t always live up to, but to admit as much seems cowardly. Far easier to simply negate the standard. It’s easier on the conscience to accept the bullsh*t of others than hold ourselves accountable.

Watch it play out.

Update: Blois Olson called to say that he didn't know when he shared his apology with the anti-Bachmann site that it would be posted. Permission to post it wasn't specifically requested or given. He said he wasn't leaking information to the anti-Bachmann site.

Update: If one follows the comment thread, one will see how the issue played out. The vocal concern is focused on Bachmann, just as Olson intended. (Bullsh*t is just fine it seems, as along as it raises appropriate issues.) Those most concerned that Bachmann state her position on the vague issue of “contraceptives” are those most convinced they know what her position is. No discussion of the larger issue of how contraceptives have changed society for better and for worse.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

They don't need it, but the rest of us do

Posted by Craig Westover | 6:06 PM |  

Tip of the Sou’wester to Triple A for pointing this out --
Wealthy Minnesotans: We'll Pay More Taxes

(AP) Minneapolis Several well-off Minnesotans who believe more tax money should be pumped into public initiatives said the state can start with them.

More than 200 wealthy Minnesotans signed a full-page ad appearing Thursday in the Star Tribune asking the state to raise $2 billion for various initiatives by increasing the state's tax burden for high-salary earners.

"We need to invest more in our future," said Joel Kramer, former publisher of the Star Tribune and founder of the think tank Growth and Justice, which organized the "Invest for Real Prosperity" fiscal strategy.

The new money should be used to improve educational opportunities, provide affordable health care and fund transportation needs, Kramer said.

Jim Pohlad of Marquette Financial Company, Richard McFarland, retired chief executive of Dain Rauscher, and Lee Lynch, former chief executive of Carmichael Lynch, were also key contributors to the proposal, which would make those earning more than $275,000 pay another 2 cents in state taxes for every dollar earned. That would be another $6,000 in taxes for someone earning $300,000.

State taxes for anyone making less than $45,000 would not increase and the rates would vary for everyone in between. Kramer said he hopes the ad will create public interest and discussion, perhaps leading to legislative action.

He also acknowledged that if the tax increase was approved, it would take "some faith in government" to trust that the money would be appropriated according to the group's requests.

So what’s wrong with this picture? Obviously these guys don’t need the money they’d gladly send to the state, but the rest of us do -- and we don’t need the government to give it to us.

The point that is missed in the tax the rich scenario is that while rich folks have more money than they know what to do with, they don’t bury the extra cash in a coffee can in the backyard or hide it under the Select Comfort. The spend, save or invest it.

If they spend it, it flows back into the economy at full value. For example, if they buy a $700,000 home, they get a $700,000 home. If the government collects $700,000 and builds seven homes, each home will be a less than the expected $100,000 because of government taking its administrative cut and the inefficiencies of bureaucratic functioning.

If they save it, that money becomes available for others to borrow and either spend, same results as above less the cost of interest, or invest in a business. The latter increases the value of the money more than simply spending it. The rich guys may not need their interest, but the rest of us need the jobs created by the new businesses borrowing the money or the increased business generated by consumer borrowing.

If they directly invest it in a business, again wealth is created. All those seniors living on 401Ks and retirement funds benefit from a healthly stock market.

The latter benefits are far greater than giving government more money to play with.

(Just a thought, but if all these rich guys have cash lying around, why not send it to Jim Pohlad for his ballpark fund and drop the tax increase on Hennepin County.)

Update: Pawlenty encourages ad signers: Send a check

And so it goes

Posted by Craig Westover | 2:41 PM |  

Charles Senkler, proprietor of Fabulous Ferns on Selby and Western in St. Paul sends along these little blurbs from the British Publican, a publication for pub owners. They speak for themselves.

Junk food faces ad ban to protect children
15 June, 2006

By John Porter

TV ads for crisps, chocolate and fizzy drinks are likely to be banned before 9pm
Crisps and fizzy drinks look set to follow alcohol with an advertising ban before the 9pm watershed.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) believes proposals drawn up by boadcast watchdog Ofcom to reduce the number of 'junk food' ads seen by children do not go far enough. It is expected to call for a complete ban on ads for crisps, chocolate and sugary soft drinks before 9pm, in order to protect as many children as possible.

The debate over advertising followed concerns over rising levels of obesity in children raised in the 'Choosing Health' White Paper, which also proposed the smoking ban.

Chip ban fears for Scottish pubs
5 May, 2006

Scottish publicans could be ordered to promote healthy food rather than pub grub such as pie & chips under draconian new rules being considered by the Scottish Executive.

The regulations would require pubs to have policies in place to promote sensible eating as a condition of holding a licence.

Pubs fear that zealous licensing officers would crack down on pubs selling dishes perceived as 'unhealthy'.

The requirement to provide healthy eating advice is included in a discussion document from the Executive. It proposes new requirements for pubs in a range of areas including crime prevention and public health.

The Executive has pledged to consult fully with the industry before any conditions are imposed.

Smoking ban officials on strike
28 March, 2006

Environmental health officers (EHOs) across Scotland have joined a strike by council employees today, giving smokers the chance to light up unmonitored for 24 hours.

On day three of the smoking ban 200,000 local government employees, have walked out in a strike over pension rights. This means the EHOs and smoking ban officials are not able to enforce the new ban.

Edinburgh has four smoking-ban officials and a team of 146 EHOs who were carrying out an initial two-and-a-half-week blitz on 3,000 premises in Edinburgh. More than 120 EHOs were on call in Glasgow.

Under the new laws, licensees will face a £200 fine for allowing customers to smoke on their premises and a further £200 fine if they do not display correct signage.

Another slippery slope

Posted by Craig Westover | 9:31 AM |  

In today's Pioneer Press, Kathleen Parker does a nice number ridiculing the easily-ridiculed smoking ban crowd, but to my way of thinking this is the money quote worth thinking about.
While it is legally defensible to abort a fetus, it is apparently inconceivable that a woman would expose her unborn child to the harmful effects of smoking.
Parker uses that line to imply the hypocrisy of the smoking ban position of fetal health. Smoking bans aren’t about fetal health or employee health or anybody’s health -- they are about social engineering and creating the kind of place people in power would like to live. But that’s plowed ground. Parker’s comment opens a fresh field.

Those that would move to use government force to ban abortions have to come to grip with the slippery slope of putting government into the fetal protection business and in effect endorsing legislation of precisely the kind Parker ridicules in her column.

I have no problem condemning abortion as birth control as one of the most despicable of human actions. But imposing a ban on abortions literally puts the government into the fetal protection business. Instead of the current situation where each abortion choice affects a single pregnancy, government in the fetal protection business affects every pregnancy in the country. A natural miscarriage is not a “natural miscarriage” until the government says it is so.

In a free society, sometimes one has to concede that, as Parker notes, “people have a right to be stupid, to make bad decisions” and I would add do reprehensible and immoral things. In the case of abortion, it is better that a few women misuse their freedom than government insert itself in every womb. Conservatives should think about whether or not that is where they really want to go.

In search of the intelligent left

Posted by Craig Westover | 8:53 AM |  

Bloggers on the left whose pixels puckered at Karl Rove’s comments about how the left and the right differ in the blogosphere and my lament at a lack of good liberal thinking might want to read David Brooks’ piece in today’s Pioneer Press.

After noting that “the blogs I have scanned are heavier on vituperation of President Bush and other targets than on creative thought” and that current Democrat leadership is “unimaginative,” Books offers some hope of more substantial policy ideas from the left and more internal debate.
A covey of relatively new Democratic think tanks in Washington are sponsoring conferences and lectures where more substantial policy ideas are being aired and debated. And this past week, two new publications appeared — one online and the other in print — that promise to push the thinking of the opposition party even further.
Brooks cites the online publication The Democratic Strategist as having a hopeful mission that is yet unfulfilled.
They declare that "The Democratic Strategist will be firmly and insistently based on facts and data. It will seek strategies rooted in empirical research from the fields of public opinion research, political demography and other social sciences and will avoid empty rhetoric and abstract theorizing."

Would that it were so. That kind of intellectual discipline is sorely needed in Democratic debates. But the first issue is filled with pieces in which familiar Democratic names take up familiar positions, with few of them bothering to adduce any evidence to support their views. . . .

As Galston [co-editor William] conceded in an interview, the editors and the readers will have to be more insistent that future authors live up to the promise of the reality-based publication.

The other new entry, called Democracy: A Journal of Ideas, is edited by 33-year-old Kenneth Baer and 30-year-old Andrei Cherny, both former speechwriters for Gore. Their first issue is really impressive.
Brooks cites a piece by Jason Furman of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, that sounds interesting. It focuses on the perverse distributional effects of tax deductions for employer-based health insurance. At present, they subsidize the well-to-do and short-change those struggling to afford health insurance.

Even a conservative can say “amen” to that premise. I haven’t read the article, but if the tone is that employer-based health insurance, rather than individual-based health insurance, is ineffective (not evil) then we’re on to something.

In any case, the search for intelligent liberal commentary is looking up.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006


Posted by Craig Westover | 7:10 PM |  

We gotta have more than this? Please. From the GOP --
“Independent Leader” Tim Walz Raises Campaign Cash At Lavish Residence Of Angry Liberal Garrison Keillor

“‘Independent leader’ Tim Walz’s decision to hold a lavish fundraiser at Garrison Keillor’s plush residence tonight underscores just how out of step Walz is with the common-sense residents back home in the First District on issues like abortion and gay marriage. While Walz may enjoy his wine and brie tonight, residents of the First District will take note of his new far-left friends.”

- Ron Carey, Chairman of the Republican Party of Minnesota
If this is all we got, let's not bitch the next time the Democrats try to tie Bush to Ken Lay. That kind of cheap shot is no worse than this. So let's not whine. Let's just look sheepish and realize how dumb this kind of release really looks.

Update: Or not --

Klobuchar Raises Big Money With “Washington Celebrity” At Lavish Weekend Fundraiser

"With her fundraiser this weekend with ‘Washington celebrity’ and 32-year Beltway insider Tom Harkin, Amy Klobuchar continues to undermine her own credibility. Klobuchar likes to criticize ‘Washington celebrities’ and talk about ‘change,’ but she loves when they help her raise the big money to fund her attack ads.”

- Ron Carey, Chairman of the Republican Party of Minnesota

Update: The GOP is briefer, but not better than the DFL. WE have no grounds to whine. From the Klobuchar campaign --
Today, our opponent Mark Kennedy is holding another big Washington fundraiser with his buddies in the Republican leadership. This time it's with the King of special interest money, Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania.

Here's something you should know about Santorum: This election cycle he's received more money from special interest political action committees (PAC) than any other candidate in the country. That's right: He's #1! He's even taken more money from Big Oil than anyone other than the senior Senator from Texas. Now he wants to help his good friend Mark Kennedy share in the special interest spoils to retain a Republican majority in the Senate.

Tell Rick Santorum and Mark Kennedy that Minnesota is not up for sale to the highest bidder. Contribute to our campaign to "Follow the North Star", not the Lone Star, before the June 30th deadline!

If Rick Santorum is the King of special interests, then Mark Kennedy is quickly becoming the Prince. Tonight's well-heeled dinner with Santorum continues his pattern of courting special interest money. Kennedy has already had extravagant fundraisers with George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, and Bill Frist.

In fact, while running for Senate, Mark Kennedy has taken more money from PACs than any other challenger in the country, including big bucks from Big Oil and the big drug companies. It is no surprise when faced with the decision to stop billions of dollars in giveaways for Big Oil, Mark Kennedy voted to continue the gravy train, while Minnesotans face $3/gallon at the pump.

The “Uncollected” One Billion

Posted by Craig Westover | 6:24 PM |  

From "Politics in Minesota"
DFL Attorney General and endorsed candidate for governor, Mike Hatch, is fond of talking about a purported “billion in uncollected tax revenue.” PIM did some checking with the Department of Revenue. Here’s the reality check (hat tip on reality check to WCCO’s and KTLK FM’s Pat Kessler). There is no billion dollars in uncollected tax revenue. There is, however, an estimated tax gap of one billion. A tax gap is the difference between the total tax actually collected and the amount that could have been collected if all those required to pay had paid the correct amount of tax. The department maintains that only a faction of the gap could actually be collected.
So how again are we funding that embryonic stem cell research at the University of Minnesota, Mike?

A good question and perhaps a better one

Posted by Craig Westover | 10:51 AM |  

I'm not a big fan of the PR two-minute speeches to an empty chamber, but good question, nonetheless --

Mark Kennedy: Where's the Outrage?

Washington, D.C. - Congressman Mark Kennedy made this statement on the Floor of the House of Representatives today, following the torture and brutal killing of two American soldiers in Iraq.

"Mr. Speaker, where is the outrage? We hear stories today of two of our soldiers having suffered unspeakable torture, and left in a nearly-unrecognizable condition. Yet where are the cries of outrage against this brutality?

"Instead, we hear today of the EU leadership focused on closing Gitmo, and members of this body rushing to judgment on national TV before the facts are known about what our troops in the field have done.

"Yes, we should hold our troops to the highest ethical standards, but we must be outraged by acts against our troops.

"Our troops deserve our full support, and we must recognize the intensity of evil that we face, the lengths they will go to harm America and undermine our values, and the need to make sure we win this War on Terror to keep our families safe at home."

Audio and video of this speech are available at
A good question, but perhaps a better, more thoughtful question is how ought we best channel our outrage? We the people should be outraged by the intentional brutality inflicted on our troops. Those that would lead ought recommend what we should do with that outrage.

COLUMN -- Pothole politics

Posted by Craig Westover | 8:01 AM |  

Monday, 19 June, 2006

John Gunyou, Minnetonka's city manager and Minnesota’s finance commissioner in the Carlson administration, opts for cute over content in a the June 15th Star Tribune opinion piece. He starts out with a little quiz --

Here's a civics question to start the day. Who provides your public services like police and fire protection, education, parks and roads? Is it: (a) cities, counties and schools, (b) Uncle Sam & Cousin Tim, or (c) the Minnesota Taxpayers League?

Listening to the Taxpayers League and their political sycophants crow about our state's drop in tax rankings is a little hard to take for those of us actually responsible for delivering the services those taxes pay for. It's a whole lot easier to pontificate about downsizing government when you don't have to figure out how to stretch shrinking resources to patch crumbling streets.

Gunyou’s question and his assumptions about we tax-reducing sycophants that are wildly off the mark.

First, make a simple change in his question that starts the debate at the beginning, not in the middle. Change the word “provides” to the simple phrase “pays for” -- Who pays for your public services like fire protection, education, parks and roads?” The answer to that one is the people for whom the Taxpayer’s League is a surrogate. The purpose of taxes is not to make Gunyou’s job easier; the purpose of taxes is to provide those services necessary to the community.

His second assumption is that those concerned about high taxes only want to “downsize” government. That may be the result of a “no new taxes” philosophy, but it is not the objective. The objective is limiting government, keeping it out of areas where it doesn’t belong, and focusing it on providing only services necessary to the community.

Gunyou dismisses the idea that “it is possible to cut funding and improve services at the same time” with the Swiftian modest proposal of ignoring street repair as a means of controlling speeders, thus reducing both maintenance and law enforcement costs. He suggests eliminating teachers and replacing them with “rolling interns -- seniors would teach the juniors . . . juniors would teach the sophomores, and so on. . . . and never have to support another school referendum!”

Allowing that Gunyou is being facetious, his examples open the door to some points about how government prioritizes its activities.

Gunyou’s use of the pot hole example is a good one because potholes are something that annoys just about every one that drives in Minnesota. But have you ever seen a political brochure that reads “I filled the potholes”? No, what you do often see are brochures with a smirking politician standing in front of a vibrant, mixed-use development, funded with tax increment financing that keeps the property off the tax rolls for a decade or more.

The issue is not fixing or not fixing potholes. The issue is priorities: What is the role of city government and what ought to be left to the private sector? Taxpayers don’t mind paying to fill potholes or stopping speeders; they do mind subsidizing someone else’s preferred style of living.

Gunyou’s education example has, in fact, been implemented in many public schools under the guise of progressive education. Mixed age group classrooms operate on the theory that older kids and younger kids in the same classroom creates a better learning environment. In fact, opponents of parental school choice use the argument that only the best students would take advantage of school choice to leave the public system, and that would hurt those students left behind. Thus, referendums take precedent over real reform.

Gunyou facetiously remarks -- “With a little creative thought and courageous political leadership, it really is possible to get something for nothing.”

The issue is not “something for nothing”; it’s getting what you pay for. Taxes are intended to pay for “something,” not everything. People are willing to pay more for a better Minnesota (or a better Minnetonka), but they aren’t sure that’s what they’re getting for their tax dollars.

“No new taxes” is a blunt instrument to be sure, but without it, there is no incentive for governments to set priorities and do only what is NECESSARY for them to do, not what would be NICE to do. In that regard, I agree with Mr. Gunyou -- “The Taxpayers League was right all along.”

COLUMN -- Getting a word in wedgewise -- "contraception"

Posted by Craig Westover | 7:52 AM |  

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

At this rate, soon teenage boys will be reading campaign literature by flashlight under the covers, and political forums like Friday's TwinWest Chamber Legislative Breakfast will carry a parental warning.

The chamber's legislative breakfast was billed as a review of the legislative session, but it is an election year. Panelist Blois Olson, the Democratic co-publisher of the newsletter "Politics in Minnesota" (with Republican lobbyist Sarah Janecek) used the occasion to expose the new Democratic wedge issue.

Decrying Republicans for dividing Americans over same-sex marriage, Democrats have taken to messing around in heterosexual bedrooms. They've spied an opportunity to exploit the belief of some Christians that "after-sex" contraception blurs the moral distinction between birth control and abortion. Democrats would drop a political bundling board between Christian social conservatives and their base of not-so-desperate first-ring housewives.

Seems to Olson that Republican 6th District congressional candidate Michele Bachmann is out to "change the way Americans have sex."

Not even trying to get it right. OK, those aren't Olson's words. But they were used in the May 7 New York Times to describe Christians who believe contraception contributes to an anti-child attitude that makes abortion easier to rationalize. In the May 10 "Politics in Minnesota," Olson references the New York Times to connect Bachmann with evangelicals who (in his words) would "outlaw and eradicate all forms of contraception."

"The operative question in races like Michele Bachmann's is how pervasive that belief is among Minnesota's evangelical population?" he wrote. "We don't know. But we're guessing exurban women (and men, too) might revolt in droves."

So, is it unfair to create the impression that, because he quoted from the Times, Blois Olson would say Michele Bachmann is out to change Americans' sex lives?

You bet it would be unfair. In the same way it was when Olson culled from the Times to create an impression of candidate Bachmann that has no connection to reality. Olson's sin was not that he misrepresented Bachman's position; he didn't even try to get it right.

Trying to get it right. Hearing that she'd supposedly "signed on" to an anti-birth-control caucus that she had never heard of and couldn't join unless she's elected, Bachmann was more than a bit perplexed.

"I don't know what it is, " she said. "But Republicans never seem to challenge the false things Democrats say about us. That just gives them permission to keep doing it."

But she's not about to let the Democrats get even as far as first base on the contraceptive issue. Bachmann is taking prophylactic action. She called Olson directly to ask him what he said — before publicly responding.

"He said he was just stating his opinion of my position and that people would know that," Bachmann said. "He said that I was a 'radical, right-wing, extremist Christian,' and that 'radical, right-wing, extremist Christians would hold that position.'"

Genesis of an apology. Nah. He didn't really tell her that, did he? I called Olson Friday afternoon to find out. Yes, he did, but his first concern was how I learned that he said anything at all, and was I going to write about it.

"What I said was people like Michele 'could join' a group in Congress that wanted to ban birth control," he said. "That's my impression." He added, "I don't know why this would be news, and why you'd write about it."

Hey, I just wrote a whole column about the metaphysical nature of bullsh*t and what we should do about it (June 14), and here this object lesson falls right in my lap.
On Monday Olson called me to say he had sent an apology to Bachmann.
What did he apologize for?

"If I gave people the wrong impression," he said. "If I misrepresented her position. I should apologize."

What impression had he intended people should take away?

"I wanted people to understand that Michele Bachmann is out of the mainstream," he said. "That's what I believe. It's her responsibility to make her positions clear."

Yes, that's bullsh*t. Of course, a politician should be clear on the issues, but clarity is not what Olson was after. If it were, he'd have just asked Bachmann for her position on contraception. He didn't. Instead, he created the impression she opposed birth control under the guise of raising a question in public never posed in person. Guilt by association was close enough.

Kudos to Bachmann for calling Olson out. I don't always agree with her, but the lady has brass.

And, for the record, if the caucus Olson conjectured about existed, Bachmann says she would not join it.

Update: Also for the record, which was in a draft of the column but was cut for length, Blois Olson's co-publisher of "Politics in Minnesota" Sarah Janecek agrees with Bachmann's decision to publically respond to Olson's remarks.