Sunday, May 1, 2011


For a couple weeks I have been complaining about the foolish or hateful distractions by extemists in the Republican Party. Distractions in the U.S. Congress, and in the Minnesota legislature. These are distractions over "Issues" that do no public good (in my opinion), but potentially can do great harm - to the poor, the elderly, and to many ordinary folk.

At the national level - with the painful, endless Great Recession going on for the unemployed and the underclass - conservative representatives and senators bloviate endlessly about deficits. They ignore how they put us into deficit by voting for the Bush tax cuts. They threaten to shut down the government - unless all of their Non-defense spending cuts are passed. These "Deficit Hawks" are distracting all of us, framing the national debate into a fight about "smaller government." Meanwhile, the people's business of immigration reform, environmental decay, and a bloated pentagon, goes unattended.

In the Capitol at St. Paul, Minnesota - we are given a proposed Constitutional Amendment for the people to vote on - about what they think marriage means. In this state of proven election integrity, there is a serious attempt to require voters to present a picture ID card before they can cast a ballot. Minnesota is only one of dozens of states where the national GOP is pushing this measure. The thinking is that this can reduce the number of votes by the poor and the elderly, who often have no drivers license. These are voters who often support Democratic Party candidates.

These two major distractions are sucking the oxygen from the State Capitol, where there is a financial crisis. To keep our state government running, we must provide additional revenue to undo the lingering deficit from former Governor Tim Pawlenty's eight years of "NO NEW TAXES!" This pledge of his was the only way he could capture the Republican nomination for Governor in 2002. And now he thinks he can ride a "smaller government" record to the White House in 2012.

The month of April has been filled with conflict and toxicity from these angry debates about nothing constructive. But then something else happened.

Wild fires in Texas. Tornadoes in Alabama. An awareness that Japan's recent catastrophe has lessons for Alaska, Washington, Oregon, and California.

Earthquakes, Tsunamis, and nuclear plant radioactivity are threatening the entire Pacific Rim. We are not prepared.

Ait traffic controllers, time and time again, fell asleep at their control centers in the middle of the night - unsupervised. OMG!

For more than a week the news media told us about an upcoming Royal Wedding and the same-day space shuttle launch of Representative Gabriel Gifford's commanding husband.

Too much! said the pundits, of the Kate and William event. What a distraction.

But very early on Friday morning, in a rented hotel room, I heard the NPR Morning Edition host describe a wedding ring ceremony from London's Westminster Abby, so I switched on the TV.

What happened next was a distraction. I was a young Navy Ensign on his way to Pensacola, Florida, to learn to fly. Next to me was the most beautiful girl I have ever known. I put a brilliant cut diamond ring on her finger. We pledged our lives to each other, and there was stirring church music. Then it was Kate and Will again in London, instead of Jean and Gordon in St. Paul.

It was time to go to work at the Minnesota Waters Conference in St. Cloud. It had been a distraction and a reminder, that there is work for us to do, ALL of us.

We are bigger and better than our current elected legislators.

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