27prairie0923In 2012 Minnesota voters rejected a constitutional amendment that would have defined marriage as only between a man and a woman.

A week before that election, the Star Tribune published an op ed I wrote opposing the amendment.

It’s the piece I always knew I had to write when some Minnesotans — almost all Republicans — started talking about and then passing a law to put the question to the voters.

I was thrilled when what I wrote went viral on Facebook and Twitter, and I heard from many a bachelor farmer all over the country.

Inadvertently, I never posted the piece here so I’m rectifying that now.


This Republican will be voting “no” on the Minnesota marriage amendment.

Both sides of this debate contend that the amendment is about families.

It is.

It’s about my family. Past and present.

The past? My late bachelor farmer uncle.

Most Minnesotans — and many people across the nation — know about Garrison Keillor’s famous Norwegian bachelor farmers. They live and farm out there “on the edge of the prairie.” They grow the grain that gets milled into the flour that becomes Powdermilk Biscuits. They hang out with each other at one end of the only bar in Lake Wobegon.

My late bachelor farmer uncle really did live on the edge of the prairie, on the farm where he was born, for almost all of his eight decades-plus of life. He grew grain — although I’m pretty sure none of it became Powdermilk Biscuits. He did not, however, hang out in bars. I bet my late uncle bachelor farmer never touched a drop of alcohol. Well, maybe during the years he served our country in World War II.

My uncle never went to college. But he was one of the smartest men I’ve ever met. No one in our family could ever beat him at Scrabble. The man did complex math equations in his head. In seconds.

He was a lifelong subscriber to National Wildlife magazine. He was a human Wikipedia decades before there was an Internet Wikipedia. He gave generously of his time and money to his local church. He participated in local township government.

I’m quite confident my late uncle never voted for a Republican once in his entire life.

My late uncle bachelor farmer had a bachelor farmer pal, whom I’ll call Bob. My uncle and Bob were the best of friends for more than 50 years. Every winter, when no work could be done on their farms, the two took long road trips and saw America. When they got too old to farm, they traveled more. When they got too old to travel and live alone on their farms, they acquired adjacent rooms at the nursing home in town. They died within months of each other at that home.

My late bachelor farmer uncle and his friend Bob were a beautiful gay love story.

Over the years, as everyone in our family grew to understand the true nature of the relationship, we were thrilled for my late uncle. In his lifetime, there was no possibility of “coming out” out there, on the edge of the prairie. My late uncle lived the best life he could under the societal norms of rural, small-town Minnesota in the 20th century.

When he died, our family took great comfort in the knowledge that he had Bob in his life for all those years. Maybe living alone in the farmhouse wasn’t so lonely after all. Bully for both of them.

I’m voting “no” for my late uncle, and for all the bachelor farmers who may have been or are gay.

The present? I have a cousin — make that two cousins — who are lesbians. I am happy for them, because this is a different time. Unlike my uncle, they get to live their lives openly as who they are, and publicly acknowledge the partners they love. I have gay and lesbian friends who are like family. Some of them work harder at their marriages than most of the heterosexual couples I know.

I’m voting no for them.

My life has been and will continue to be greatly enriched by having family and friends who happen to be gay or lesbian.

And because of that, in the end, I’m voting no for me.


[The photo is the one published by the Star Tribune with my piece. It was taken by Star Tribune staff photographer Renee Jones Schneider. I thought it wonderfully captured the solitary life of the bachelor farmer. And why denying that bachelor farmer relationship happiness was and always will be simply wrong.]

Minnesota State University Mankato football coach Todd Hoffner has been arrested for “child pornography.”

Star Tribune Nancy Barnes wrote an insightful column today explaining the paper’s decisions on what to publish when.

In short, unlike other cases of child pornography, this one involved the identification of Hoffner’s “victims” as his children in the charging documents:

In the videos, three children, ages 9, 8 and 5, are shown naked or partly clothed. In one video, all three drop towels covering their bodies and jump around, while an 8-year-old boy fondles himself and the two girls bend over and spread their buttocks. In the second video, the girls are dancing naked and the boy enters naked, wearing only a football helmet. In the third video, one of the girls is shown being awakened in bed and told by a male voice “to go potty” before she is followed to the bathroom in her underwear with the camera focused on her buttocks.

In my view, Barnes and others at the paper made the right decisions about publishing all the facts as we know them. While the general rule is to protect the privacy of minors, that was impossible to do here when the Hoffner family is arguing that these were family videos.

Strikes me that the first major wrong that was committed was the Blue Earth County Sheriff’s Department decision to publicly escort Hoffner off the football field. The privacy train left the station at the moment.

And the second major wrong was committed before that: Who all at Mankato and the Blue Earth County Sheriff’s Office decided that this was “child pornography?” From the paper:

According to the complaint, Hoffner brought the phone to the university’s IT department on Aug. 10 because it was not working properly. An IT supervisor saw the videos on Aug. 14 when he was reviewing a back-up copy of data from Hoffner’s phone to locate videos and pictures that the coach wanted retrieved.

The IT professional alerted his supervisor about the footage and met with the university’s chief information officer Ed Clark and DeeAnn Snaza, the assistant director for human resources at Minnesota State.

On Aug. 16, Snaza gave a disk containing the videos to the Mankato Department of Public Safety, which after review, turned the investigation over to the Blue Earth County Sheriff’s Office. [Emphasis mine.]

Under the facts as we know them, charging Hoffner with child pornography and the highly public arrest strike me as just plain wrong.

Sure hope this is where the conversation goes.

I’m guessing lots of Minnesota families have pics and videos of the naked children.

[I know there are photos of me naked as a kid in a bathtub stashed away someplace at my mother’s house.]

Choosing former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice to be his running mate would be — not “might be,” as Peggy Noonan wrote — a brilliant choice by Mitt Romney.

I’ve long been a huge fan of Rice.

[Sidebar: Fascinating to me is the fact that two of the most vilified women in politics have both had the same job as Secretary of State. Both women have risen above that vilification with great grace.]

Strikes me a refresher on Rice’s life story is in order. And I happen to have one.

What follows is a piece I wrote for the Star Tribune that was published April 28, 2004. At that time, Rice was testifying before the 9/11 Commission. [The Star Tribune link is no longer valid.] If you’re short on time, skip the first few grafs and get to Condi’s guts: Her childhood and early adult life.

Quite extraordinary, thanks to her parents

Democrat and former Sen. Bob Kerrey started his 10 minutes of question time with National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice as follows:

Kerrey: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

And thank you, Dr. Rice.

Let me say at the beginning I’m very impressed, and indeed I’d go as far as to say moved by your story, the story of your life and what you’ve accomplished. It’s quite extraordinary.

Then, in a seemingly incongruous segue, Kerry embarked on a strident series of questions about swatting flies.

The reference to her past still seems puzzling, if not patronizing. None of the other 9/11 Commission members mentioned her life story.

Put another way, try to fathom whether Kerrey would have premised his tough line of questioning by saying how moved he was by her life story if the national security adviser was a white male.

The question the Democrats on the 9/11 Commission seemed to want answered is what did the Bush Administration know when about potential terrorist attacks on the United States. Rice was there to answer that question. The story of her life is irrelevant to that question. But not to Bob Kerrey. To understand why, a review of Rice’s life story is in order.

Her official White House biography notes that before being named national security adviser, Rice served for six years as Stanford University’s provost. In that post, she was responsible for the University’s $1.5 billion annual budget and the academic programs for 1,400 faculty members and 14,000 students.

Before that, she was a professor of political science at Stanford. During that time, she also wrote or coauthored numerous foreign policy articles and books with titles like “Germany Unified and Europe Transformed: A Study in Statecraft” and “Uncertain Allegiance: The Soviet Union and the Czechoslovak Army.”

In George H.W. Bush’s Administration, she served as a director and then senior director of Soviet and East European Affairs in the National Security Council, where she is credited with being the key adviser to the president on German reunification. Before becoming national security adviser to George W. BUsh, she also served on at least a dozen corporate and foundation boards — big ones like Chevron, Hewlett Packard and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

But to better understand her, read through the pages of a book written by Antonia Felix, “Condi: The Condoleeza Rice Story.” There you find the tale of a woman born in Birmingham, AL, whose parents (a Presbyterian minister academic father and a pianist and teacher mother) poured their hearts and souls into raising her.

Rice started to learn the piano at age 3 and could read music before she could read words at age 5. When the local school wouldn’t allow her to enter at an earlier age, her mother took a year off and home-schooled her, giving her the leg up to skip the first and second grades down the road.

At the same time she was becoming a child piano prodigy, her former-football-coach father was teaching her everything he knew about football.

The pages about her childhood are infused with how her parents exposed her to many elements of the world. Most important of all, they instilled in her the driving force of always striving to achieve. Being the best — or “twice as good,” as the black community then put it, — was how to counter the racism and chaos in the deep South at the time.

In Rice’s words quoted in the book, “My parents had me absolutely convinced that … you may not be able to have a hamburger at Woolworth’s, but you can be president of the United States.”

The Rice family moved to Colorado, at the time a place of greater opportunity for blacks. While her father rose in administration at the University of Denver, Rice attended an exclusive Catholic school.

During her first term, a school counselor told her parents that Rice’s results on standardized tests indicated she was not college material. Such knowledge would cripple most impressionable children of that age.

Not Rice. Her parents didn’t flinch and that verdict didn’t hobble her. The ideas of limits and failures were not part of the “twice as good” culture her parents cultivated for her.

Rice went on to table musical aspirations (she couldn’t envision life as a piano teacher, helping kids “murder Beethoven”) and took up ice skating.

Exploring majors in college (which she started at age 15), Rice stumbled around for a major and fell in love with Russia the first day of an “Introduction to International Politics” class taught by Josef Korbel, a former Central European diplomat and the father of Madeline Albright.

Phi Beta Kappa and a cum laude degree in political science from the University of Denver were followed by a master’s from the University of Notre Dame and a Ph.D from the University of Denver.

In the words of Bob Kerrey, an “extraordinary life story,” indeed. But why did he feel compelled to inject her story in the 9/11 Commission hearings?

In her opening remarks April 8, Rice noted that “this country, for reasons of history and culture and therefore law, had an allergy to the notion of domestic intelligence, and we were organized on that basis.”

Perhaps the reason Kerrey raised Rice’s life story was that he, along with much of the Democratic establishment, has a different allergy. That allergy is to a woman like Rice. A national security adviser who happens to be both female and black, and who happens to brilliantly think, walk and talk as a Republican.

The Democrats have spent decades touting their superiority in creating complicated government programs to further the interests of blacks and women. They claim to the party of minorities and women. And there’s no question about it: Rice benefited from some of those programs.

Yet, in the final analysis, it’s how Rice was raised by her parents that put her there before Kerrey, the 9/11 Commission, the banks of cameras, the country and the world.

Government couldn’t have done that.

Perhaps that’s what Kerrey found so extraordinary.


Hey, Mitt! Please pick Condi!

She “would scramble the race in ways few other candidates could.”

We get the lesson early in life as library metaphor: Good people don’t judge books — meaning people — by their covers.

But I’ve always kept my own secret, inverted corollary: You can judge people by their books.

That means I’ve always assumed people will judge me by my books. The books I’m proud to own are lovingly shelved or artfully stacked around my house. The timeless ones on history, culture and religion. The latest political books. Novels that have won Pulitzers. Travel books about places I’ve been to. My treasured collection of food-stained cookbooks.

The books that, truth be told, imply that I’m far more interesting than I am.

But I also have a whole room full of books in boxes, stacked in the basement. These are the books that I don’t care to be judged by. They are hidden away, like that crazy aunt who supposedly lived in the attic. Yet many of these books define me in ways that the 11 thick volumes of Will & Ariel Durant’s “The History of Civilization” cannot.

I’ve been going through the books in my basement for days now. What to keep and what to toss?

The Trixie Beldens and the Nancy Drews? Keep! Trixie’s spelunking sparked my lifelong fascination with caves. Nancy is why I bought a convertible billed as a Roadster. Nancy’s car.

The 30-some paperback novels of military fiction by W.E.B Griffin? My late husband devoured these like some women gorge on the book candy that is romance fiction. Toss…with reluctance and a smile of remembrance for how much he enjoyed them. But the military history hardcovers that he, a Marine, treasured? Keep.

“Elizabeth Takes Off.” Did I really spend $17.95 in 1987 on a book by Ms. Taylor with the subtitle, “On Weight Gain, Weight Loss, Self-Image and Self-Esteem,” or did someone give it to me? Keep. Re-gift as a gag gift.

How-to books like “Easy Plants for Difficult Places?” Toss. Irrelevant in the Age of Google.

The ratty old paperback classics by Balzac, Hemingway, and Shakespeare? Toss. I hope I’ll find time someday to reread them. When I do, I’ll buy them again. On an e-reader.

But the paperback copy of “War & Peace?” Keep! I read that book on many a train and carried it for months in a backpack on the post-college tour of Europe on $20 a day.

Political books du jour like George Will’s “The Morning After: American Successes and Excesses 1981-1986?” Must have been a reason that one ended up in the basement boxes and not in my study. Toss. Sorry, George.

“How to Become a Good Dancer by Arthur Murray?” A book once owned by my 92-year-old Aunt Mavis, who now can’t tell what year it is. Published in 1938 and signed by Arthur Murray, himself. Keep! And move upstairs to my living room to be treasured.

Beautiful hardcover editions of genres I’ve never read like “The Complete Science Fiction Treasury of H.G. Wells?” Keep. Maybe I’ll develop a taste for it when I’m the crazy old aunt in the attic.

The travel books with fantastic photos of the Seychelles? Keep. That travel dream kept hope alive while studying for the bar exam one hot summer decades ago. I still hope I’ll get there, someday.

What about the local Minnesota authors who went national like Garrison Keillor and John Sandford? Toss. Sorry, Garrison. I’ll visit Lake Wobegone on the radio. Sorry, John. I’ll buy every Lucas Davenport adventure you write (and I’m still looking for a real life Lucas).

When I finally finish going through the boxes, I count 27 grocery bags of books to Toss. But I can’t actually “Toss” perfectly good books. Off to Goodwill they go.

Sigh. I kept about the same amount of books. Neatly stacked them in a backroom of my basement. Someday, they will be someone else’s Keep or Toss dilemma.

As I sit here in my basement, I can’t help but think of myself as a bibliosaur. The generations after me will read books on electronic devices. But how will they judge others by the books they keep when their bookshelves are empty? Will they even have bookshelves? Impossible to tell whether someone keeps Umberto Eco or the Unabomber Manifesto on an e-reader.

And e-readers can’t be used as weapons. I hit a bothersome drunk on a Greek ferry with that copy of War & Peace. Holding the very same book in my hands gives me a real — not virtual — laugh out loud.

E-readers don’t have that dusty, musty smell of old books. Learning dance steps from YouTube is not the same as what Aunt Mavis and my late Uncle Fuzz (he had curly hair before he went bald) did in the 1940s. They put a record on a turntable and followed Arthur’s footprint diagrams.

Holding the very same books brings back the memories and makes them vivid.

You can’t get that from e-readers.

University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler asks Minnesota to “Judge the U on what it does going forward.”

Fair enough. The guy has held the top job for less than a year.

His commentary is in response to:

1.  Criticism of Kaler’s decision to keep former U of M athletic director Joel Maturi on the payroll for another year at $351,900.

2.  Former U of M president Bob Bruininks feathering his future nest by directing $355,000 from one University account to pay for staff at a new U job that will pay him $341,000 a year — after having served as U president to the tune of an annual salary and benefits package totaling more than $730,000 a year.

3.  Under Bruininks, former U of M administrators were given paid time-outs to “transition” back to lesser but still lucrative new jobs at the U at a total cost of $2.8 million.

4.  The U’s Dean of Nursing, Connie Delaney, and her use of her department budget to give her brother a job, hire a former student for a faculty position while he held a full-time job in Iowa, pay outside consultants $350,000. And she created and environment in which 100 of 150 people in the department left.

Kaler takes full responsibility for Maturi:

I anticipated that this would be controversial, and it was. Consistent with my commitment to transparency, I didn’t hide from this controversy. I was clear about my intentions and rationale, and open about Joel’s privately funded compensation and the results we expect from him.

Unfortunately, Kaler remains silent on Bruininks and the $2.8 million payola for former administrators. Both of which happened under Bruininks’ watch.

As for Delaney, under Kaler’s watch, her cronyism and mismanagement were “punished” with a “formal reprimand” that included stripping her of hiring authority for positions of 30 hours a week or more until June 2013.

Kaler further writes “Leading a culture change at this or any university takes time. But I am determined to move us from an entrenched default mode of ‘no, we can’t” to one of ‘yes, we can do things differently.’”

In my book, Delaney’s formal reprimand is not a culture change.  Not addressing Bruininks’ feathering his own nest and the nests of other top administrators is not a culture change.

It is status quo. Business as usual.

Bold leadership would have addressed what Bruininks did, head on. One can only surmise that Kaler won’t do that because the rules of the highly paid university administration club include not criticizing your predecessors because after all, sooner or later Kaler will be the outgoing president. Kaler may want to cut his own sweet “transition” deal.

Culture-changing leadership would have canned Delaney.

The question now becomes, “What, exactly, is Kaler culture?” Status quo? Business as usual?

So far, that’s all I see.

Dr. Irv Lerner, a retired oncologist, opines in the Star Tribune about one of the most intriguing wars at the Capitol: The current moratorium on the construction of any new cancer radiation facilities.

The Star Tribune titled Lerner’s piece, “Moratorium on radiation facilities seems not to have patients in mind.” That’s an understatement. I’ll get to that, but first some background. Because, dear readers, if my memory serves, this is the first time the radiation oncology war has appeared in the paper.

There are two combatants. Minneapolis Radiation Oncology (MRO) and Minnesota Oncology Hematology (MOHPA). Under current Minnesota law, MRO has a monopoly on radiation therapy facilities. MOHPA wants to build competing facilities.

The moratorium MRO passed into law years ago reads that radiation therapy facilities may “be constructed only by an entity owned, operated, or controlled by a hospital licensed according to sections 144.50 to 144.56 either alone or in conjunction with another entity.” Only MRO qualifies under that bit of legalese.

MRO’s monopoly on radiation treatment in Minnesota is a serious cash cow.

How much cash? I don’t know, but the amount has to be staggering. Consider the most salient statistic: Half of all Minnesotans will need cancer treatment at some point in their lives. No health care provider in his or her right mind will deny radiation treatment for cancer. Medicare won’t. Obamacare won’t. Radiation treatment must be worth millions — if not gazillions — of dollars.

Several years ago, I poured over Campaign Finance Board (CFB) reports trying to figure out how much money MRO was spending.

Here are some of my calculations. [The following numbers do not include the 2010 election cycle.]  Since 1998, the CFB has kept searchable donor database reports online. From these reports, one can learn that MRO founder Dr. Robert E. Haselow, and his wife, Justine Haselow, contributed $458,325 to Minnesota political candidates, parties and party units. Other doctors at MRO contributed at least $64,600.

Then there are the aggregate contributions of the other doctors, their wives and their employees who have also given money in the process. Money that’s tough to trace, given our current reporting system. Next you have to look at the contributions made by trade associations, their members and their members’ employees.

Complicating matters further are the contributions made by registered lobbyists for the various groups. Lobbyists registered for MRO are here; those registered for MOHPA are here. Capitol insiders will recognize serious lobbying power in the representation of both groups.

In his Star Tribune op ed piece, Dr. Lerner politely wonders “if there might be a connection between the passage of the moratorium and the push to extend it and the fact that MRO had the sixth-largest lobbying expenditures in the entire state in 2010.”

“Connection?” Yes, but not exactly.

Direct causation? Yes, exactly and absolutely.

MRO has spent millions of dollars on Minnesota legislators and political parties to preserve and extend their cash cow monopoly on radiation treatment.

To be  clear. There is nothing illegal about what Dr. Haselow and the others who want to keep MRO’s radiation therapy status quo have done. They have legally worked the system the Legislature designed. But the fact that one couple has contributed close to half a million dollars to protect the family livelihood is not only breathtaking, it’s unprecedented.

A quick summary of the policy arguments by both sides. MRO argues that we have enough radiation therapy services under current law; MOHPA contends that more facilities are needed.

The free market capitalist in me has to believe that the more radiation services that are available, the lower the price the delivery of those services becomes.

MRO gives to the legislators and parties in power. That means both Democrats and Republicans are guilty of being bought by MRO. Worse, highly respected legislators in both parties have carried the MRO’s bills.

I’ve always maintained that Minnesota politics are pretty clean. They are. But I consider the greedy radiation oncologists to be one of the most glaring exceptions to the clean politics rule.

As previously noted, the monopoly MRO currently owns on radiation treatment facilities has to be worth a fortune.

Hopefully, somebody else has the knowledge and the time to figure out how many zeroes are in that fortune.

Another round of kudos to the Star Tribune’s Tony Kennedy for continuing to chip away at what I call the “University Salary — and Payout — Iceberg.”

Here’s the story. “Records obtained by the Star Tribune show that [former U of M President Bob] Bruininks, who will earn a $341,000 salary in his new faculty role there, directed at least an additional $355,000 in university funds to the Center for Integrative Leadership since 2009.”

Bruininks may no longer be President of the University, but it appears he’s still a BMOC.

Bruininks’ on the record response? “You put it all together in a weird way and it may look like I’m feathering a next, and that’s simply not the case.”

Gee, ya think?

As best I understand Bruininks’ feather defense is that the money he channeled to the U’s Center for Integrative Leadership (CIL) was used to leverage a million dollar contribution from Marylin Carlson Nelson.

Let me respectfully suggest that Carlson would have made the contribution regardless of who was doing the asking. After all, Carlson chairs the CIL. Further, the U’s “Carlson School of Management and the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs share oversight of the center.” [For those of you who may be new to town, the “Carlson” in the School of Management is Marylin Carlson Nelson’s late father, Curt Carlson, who wrote the big check that funded the school. The Carlsons are uber contributors to Minnesota’s civic life.]

For the record, I’ve got nothing against Bruininks.  I had many a chat with him over the years. I really enjoyed getting to know him and his better half, Susan Hagstrom, on former Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s trade mission to China in 2005. Bruininks was the oldest guy in the group of us who climbed the highest on the Great Wall of China. From my perch as an alum of the College of Liberal Arts and the Law School, Bruininks seemed to do an ok job running the U.

But, really, Bob? You just finished a tenure as President of the U from 2002-2011. In that position, you made $733,421 a year. [Plus you had no mortgage or expenses to pay while you were  living at Eastcliff.]  Then,  you received $455,000 last year to take year-long a break for the purpose of “assisting [your] return to the University.”

Now you’re going to make $341,000 (plus a benefits package that has not been disclosed) in your new faculty role at the CIL. And you finessed another $355,000 out of mystery funds — while you were President — to take care of long-time staffers.

I may have two degrees from the University, but even I had to look up what “Integrative Leadership” is. According to your website, Integrative Leadership is “leading across sectoral, cultural and national boundaries for the common good [emphasis mine].”  Umm, ok.

The CIL’s mission?

The Center for Integrative Leadership’s mission is to discover and disseminate transformative knowledge about the nature and practice of leadership across business, government, and civil society sectors to advance the common good [emphasis mine].

Given all the money you’ve made from the University — and what I’ve totaled doesn’t include the millions more you’ve made in your long career at the U — here’s my question:

What’s the common good in paying you $355,000 a year to teach a couple classes?

Instead of being the BMOC, couldn’t you try to be the MGMOC (the Most Gracious Man on Campus)?  Offer to do the work for lots less? Maybe butt out, altogether?

After all, “butting” out is why you found half a million in other funny money to pay former U of  M – Duluth Chancellor Katherine Martyn to leave, to “butt out,” to not run the school “from the bleachers.” Your words. And finally,”it was better for her and better for the campus and more cost-effective for the U.”

[Is it ok to get rid of the BWOCs but not the BMOCs?]

The fact that you — and so many others — in the behemoth that is the overpaid University Administration don’t see a problem in the appearance of “feathering the nest” … that the facts are somehow put together in a “weird way” ….

Well, all that does not bode well at all as you and the others work on “integrative leadership.”

For the Common Good. Of course.

Super good on the Star Tribune’s Tony Kennedy and Jenna Ross for their story, “U execs are paid handsomely on their way out.”

As someone who spent 20-some years at the Capitol, and on the attendant social circuit with many muckety-mucks from the University, I finally get to publicly tell them how tiresome it’s all been listening to their gripes about state funding and their cheap shots at GOP legislators and officials who have questioned the U’s funding and priorities. [B*tching and suing about the route the LRT should take through the University, anyone?]

Tiresome because only higher education insiders understood the big picture.  Which includes, as the Star Tribune details, the major complainers making big six-figure salaries and “earning” half million dollar pay-outs.

All cloaked under the veneer that somehow, most of these people would be making the same kind of money in the private sector. You could almost see the wheels in their heads turn, “As long as we keep harping on what’s good for the students, and how much the University means to our state’s economy, people won’t think to examine how lucrative the University has been to our livelihoods and our personal economies.”

Buried in the comments to the story, here’s a real gem:

“I really tire of this “best and the brightest” argument, as far as pay and benefits. The reality is that many of these administrators are the best at … working the system.”

That commenter nails it. Most of these people came up through the system because they became good at working the system.

And, they’ll be damned if they’ll let other people scrutinize — let alone change — the system until they’ve cashed out.

Which is why everyone needs to start questioning other University-related news like why former GOP House Speaker and current U of M Regent Steve Sviggum “has to go,” according to many at the University. It ain’t about Sviggum’s day job at the Minnesota Senate. It’s about the fact that he was (and should continue to be) a threat to the payola that is the University Administration. Worse, for decades the University Administration has been able to guard all the money secrets because the University Board of Regents has functioned merely as a rubber stamp, not as a true board of directors should function. Questioning things.

Back to my headline.  The salaries and payouts published in today’s paper are the tip of the iceberg. There are LOTS more people making big six figure salaries, with accompanying retirement benefits and payout packages that boggle the mind.

It’s all there in the public records. I’m hoping that Kennedy and Ross already have them all piled on their desks and that this, their first story, is also…just the tip of the University iceberg.

This one really ticks me off.

So the Susan G. Komen Foundation “Race for the Cure” cut off its contributions to Planned Parenthood.

Pro choicers are outraged. Pro lifers are happy.

Let me suggest the motivation for the decision.

The Susan G. Komen Foundation has decided that it will get more money from pro lifers if it divorces itself from pro choicers.

Both pro lifers and pro choicers should be outraged.

The Susan G. Komen Foundation is the primo example of a nonprofit gone bad. It sues people over “racing for the cure.” Why?

Lots of people at the Susan G. Komen Foundation make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.

komen.last.tax return Here is the Foundation’s last tax return posted online. Scroll through it.

People. If you want to cure breast cancer do not give money to an organization that (1) Legally challenges “racing for the cure,” (2) Enriches many people making outrageous salaries; and (3) Cynically exploits its donor base TO RAISE MORE MONEY to support the nonprofit infrastructure — and its top heavy salaried administration.

This is an easy one. You want to “Race for the Cure?”

Support the local entity you know best in this endeavor.

DO NOT support the most evil of evils: The nonprofit that spends a ton of money on PR and advertising. That nonprofit is a for-profit gold mine for the people who are working for it.

Put another way, it ain’t about curing cancer.

As always, follow the money.

[Written with love for my family and friends who are breast cancer survivors. AND who are sick of the commercialism of this disease.]

I must confess. I didn’t watch any of the “We won’t confirm Ellen Anderson as chair of the Public Utilities Commission (PUC)” debate. But if, for some magical reason, I was on the Senate floor during that debate, here is what I would have said:

Members. I’m going to shock some of my Republican Senate colleagues. Probably even more of my DFL ones.

I’m voting to confirm Anderson.

Why? I believe that elections have consequences. That constitutional offices, by definition, have consequences. The office of governor of the great state of Minnesota confers certain powers on the person who holds it. The governor gets to decide who should serve in his or her [never mind, still waiting] administration. The governor gets to choose people who generally ideologically agree with him. In choosing Anderson, that’s what Dayton did.

I don’t agree with some, if not much, of Anderson’s renewable energy agenda — which has now proven to be untenably expensive. Or bashing traditional energy sources. Former GOP Governor Tim Pawlenty once did, but he backed off on that when it was no longer politically expedient. But worth noting as an aside is that Pawlenty’s leadership on the Renewable Energy Standard is what made it law. This past muddies the waters, here, now.

But our state constitution — much like the federal government’s — in this capacity is about making sure people who are appointed by the top dogs are qualified to hold the job. I can’t argue that Anderson doesn’t know the regulatory energy turf. So, I won’t. Anderson does. Dayton won. He gets to choose.

But I will point that we’ve arrived at a simply awful place in our democracy. We are rejecting both Presidential and gubernatorial appointees purely on politics.

I will also point out most Republicans — and rightly so — believe this course of action was started by Democrats. And it was. Federally, with Bush judicial appointees.

And here in Minnesota. Correct me if I’m wrong, but in modern state history, the first appointee to be rejected by the Senate was Steve Minn as Commissioner of Commerce under Jesse Ventura. That had something to do with a certain DFL state senator who had it in for Minn. The details of which I’ve long forgotten. But those details had nothing to do with Minn’s capacity to serve as Commerce Commissioner.

Under Pawlenty’s tenure, the DFL Senate rejected three of his appointees. Rich Stanek. Over some routine court hearing in his past when he was a street police officer asked to provide testimony about what someone said to him. That person used a highly inflammatory derogatory name for people of color, and Stanek repeated what he was told, under oath. As required by a court of law. As I recall, Keith Ellison led the charge on that one. I also recall a weird hearing full of untrue innuendos. Stanek withdrew before the DFL Senate had a chance to un-confirm him.

Then there was Cheri Pierson Yecke. Pawlenty appointed her to be the Commissioner of Education. I never really understood why. Her views on intelligent design were bound to be a lightening rod. And they were.

Finally, there was Carol Molnau as Commissioner of Transportation. I’m still sort of shocked when I hear good DFL friends blame her for the I-35 bridge falling down. Nope. That disaster was decades in the making. [I still pity Molnau. Pawlenty — in his quest for higher things — was ultimately responsible for what happened to her.]

My point? Yes, indeed, I think Republicans are in a good position to argue, “Payback!” today.

But should we?

I think not. To everything, turn, turn, turn, there is a season, turn, turn, turn… Likely in our lifetimes, we’ll encounter a GOP governor, again, who needs to get his or her [finally!] appointees through the Senate.

I hope those future DFL senators think about what I’m saying here, today.


Let the record show that it was a Republican who first said on this Senate floor:

We are here only to weed out the unqualified. Anderson is not that.

To my Republican colleagues. Yes, I recognize we’ve wandered in the oppressed minority for almost four decades. Bad things happened. But, today? Most of the public doesn’t remember those things. We will look like petty partisan fools if we reject Anderson, today. Let’s swallow our pride, and our sense of retribution, and not do that.

Finally, Democrats? I may be in a wheelchair or dead the next time a GOP governor deals with a DFL Senate. Or it could only be in a few years.

Let the record show:

It was a Republican who had the guts to get up and say on this Senate floor:

Quit the party politics in the confirmation process.

Thank you. And vote to confirm Ellen Anderson to chair the PUC.