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Progressive Politics in Minnesota, the Nation, and the World

23 Seconds

Category: Society
Posted: 08/21/14 22:08

by Dave Mindeman

23 seconds.

You know, that is about the time it takes you to open a refrigerator...pull out a soda can, open the top and take that first sip.

23 seconds.

That isn't much time for evaluating things. Not much time to have a lot of different thoughts. Not much time to even focus on one particular thing.

23 seconds.

But apparently, it is enough time for 2 North St. Louis police officers to arrive on a potential crime scene, evaluate the entire situation, and act to shoot a 25 year old black man dead.

I haven't talked about Ferguson much. It is a depressing take on our current society and seems to be a giant step backward in race relations.

But this second incident which happened within days of the Ferguson shooting of Michael Brown is just stunning to me. What has happened to law enforcement in this country?

This second incident can be seen in its entirety on a cell phone video. Yes, the victim was acting erratically. Yes, he apparently was looking for a police confrontation. But the video also shows a very troubling mentality on the part of the officers on the scene.

They had tasers. Their chief confirmed that. They had them but emerged from their vehicles with guns drawn immediately. There was no immediate signal that the man was armed....although a steak knife was apparently in his possession. And in the span of 23 seconds these officers decided that there was justification that this man should die.

The questions keep coming. Why not use the tasers? Why not engage in some conversation to see what was really going on in his head? Why not shoot him to disable, rather than 9 immediate shots (as counted on the sound of the video) to kill? And the biggest question of all, what if this man had been white? Would the same 23 second resolution have occurred?

This has a feeling of hopelessness to it. Clearly the police are racially profiling suspects. Clearly they have a different action methodology if they are dealing with an African-American suspect. Clearly we have a dual system of justice in this country.

When law enforcement finds a 23 second decision making process to be acceptable, we have a very big problem. Something has to change here.
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If A Minimum Wage Hike Costs Me An Extra 35 Cents - Go Ahead!

Category: Society
Posted: 08/06/14 21:25

by Dave Mindeman


A Stillwater restaurant created a bit of an uproar when they charged an additional 35 cents to each restaurant tab and labeled it a minimum wage fee.

Reactions were mixed. Some were outraged...some thought the owner was justified. Sounds like just another political statement to me.

The restaurant owner says that the minimum wage hike will cost him another $10,000 per year. His tidy little 35 cent addition will certainly cover that. Let's say he get 100 checks per day - that comes to about $12,500 per year in additional revenue. If that is how he wishes to recoup his expenses, then I think its fine. Do it. I would certainly pay the extra.

Traditionally, the owner could simply raise his prices to cover the additional costs. That is what businesses do - expenses go up, you raise the price to compensate. This person decided to do that in a very visible way. He wanted a reaction. He wanted a chance to voice his opposition to the policy. Raising prices or tacking on a fee - its the same thing but the visible fee allows the owner some publicity as well. And you know the old saying, there is no such thing as bad publicity. He says he has been busier since the attention - hey, great. More power to you.

But raising the minimum wage is still the right thing to do. No owner of a business likes to have added expenses forced on them from public policy, but then, as the chart above shows, owners have not exactly been doing right by their employees along the way. The fact is that these type of entry level jobs would never make an actual living for a purpose, and I believe that anybody working full time at any job should be able to make wages above the poverty level.

Restaurant businesses have been especially lax in wage policy. They have come to expect that tips will allow them to have a minimum wage exemption that forces more of the burden on the customer meeting a larger share of the business expenses. Their is an implied contract that workers in a restaurant shouldn't expect a living wage unless the customer kicks in the bulk of the funds.

Unfortunately, that has become the business model for restaurants and service jobs in general and so businesses like this restaurant in Stillwater are going to think of this as unfair to them.

With minimum wage rates at historic lows, changes like Minnesota's minimum wage hike are critical to getting a fair wage for full time work. And if the Stillwater restaurant wants to hit me with a 35 cent "value added" fee, then let's do it.
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The Fallacy of Majority Rule

Category: Society
Posted: 07/31/14 13:45

by Dave Mindeman

We largely hold to the idea that America is a democracy where majority rules. I challenge that notion.

Due to the quirks in our ways of electing our representatives and our Congressional rules - we are really at the mercy of a minority.

Here is the evidence.

Our Congress is roughly 235 Republicans and 200 Democrats. A clear majority in Congress for the GOP. But if you look at the total vote for Congressional candidates in 2012 - the Democrats won....

Democrats......54,301,095 48.8%
Republicans....53,822,442 48.5%

So, even though the GOP lost the total vote, they hold 54% of the House of Representatives.

And of course, we know the reason - gerrymandering.

Let's look at some key state examples:

Pennsylvania - Obama won by +5

Congress GOP = 13 seats
Congress Dem = 5 seats

Virginia - Obama won by +4

Congress GOP = 11 seats
Congress Dem = 3 seats

Ohio - Obama won by +3

Congress GOP = 12 seats
Congress Dem = 4 seats

And then there is the Senate. A place where the strange art of the filibuster rules the day.

There are 15 states where both Senators are Republican. So we have 30 GOP senators making up 30% of the Senate. The actual population of those 15 states is 22.6% of the total population.

But lets add in 5 other states that have a split delegation (1 Dem and 1 Rep) but where the Democrat is very vulnerable. I'm using North Dakota, Arkansas, Louisiana, Indiana, and Missouri as my example. If those 5 Democrats were to lose, we would have 20 states with all GOP representation.

The population of those 20 states would be 29.1% of the total US population. So the legislative control of the Senate via filibuster would be in the hands of less than 1/3 of the population.

Majority rule?

Don't kid yourself.
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