Bjorn Against's Journal
Member since: Mon May 22, 2006, 07:07 PM
Number of posts: 10,954
Number of posts: 10,954
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In this post-Citizen's United world money can buy a lot of things. Money can flood the airwaves with 30 second ads, money can fill your mailbox with campaign literature, money can rent out stadiums to hold massive campaign rallies for a candidate, but there is one thing that money can not buy in elections.
Money can not buy a good debate performance.
In a political system that has been thoroughly corrupted by big money there are lots of inequalities in our elections, but when our candidates step on to the debate stage together we get to witness a moment in which our candidates are on a relatively level playing field. If a candidate is not able to show that they can grasp the issues that are facing America no amount of money is going to change that on the debate stage. Underfunded candidates can and often do win debates if they have good ideas, the debate stage is the one place in which an underfunded candidate can really compete against their big money opponents.
This is not just about Hillary, or Bernie, or O'Malley, this is about our democracy.
As money becomes further entrenched in our system debates are going to become more important than ever before and we need to be demanding more of those debates, not less.
I think that most of us should be able to agree that the election of our next President is more important than the election of our next American Idol, yet our American Idol contestants will get more time to compete against each other on stage than our Presidential candidates will. There is something seriously wrong with this picture.
People are trying to tell me that six debates is enough despite the fact that we had more than three times that many in 2008. They tell me that we should be able to decide who the best candidate is within six debates.
I have to wonder what the public reaction would be if the NFL were to announce that they were cutting the season down to six games because we should be able to decide who the best team is within those six games. I predict that such an announcement would be met with howls of protest across the nation.
The Presidential race is far more important than the race for the Super Bowl, and yet the public reaction to the reduction in the number debates is far more muted than a reduction in the number of NFL games no doubt would be. Considering the election of the next President is so much more important than football, I don't think it is unreasonable to ask the candidates to spend more time on the debate stage than our football players spend on the field each year.
If we want our democracy to survive the onslaught of big money then we need to do everything we can to ensure that we give the underfunded candidates opportunities to compete on equal terms with the big money candidates and debates are one the very best ways to do that.
Debate is essential to our democracy and those who try to limit it need to be challenged vigorously.
Posted by Bjorn Against | Wed May 6, 2015, 09:29 PM (3 replies)
No, a President Sanders could not work effectively with our corrupt Congress nor would I want him to
I have seen some people questioning whether or not Bernie Sanders could be effective at working with Congress if he were to become President.
I will be the first to admit that I know very well that our Congress is run by politicians who are pretty much completely sold out to the billionaires and they will have no interest in working with Bernie on much of anything.
I also know that Congress has approval ratings which make them roughly as popular as genital herpes. Nothing good is going to come from genital herpes, but maybe we can at least have a President that will not allow the herpes to infect more people.
I don't think I am alone when I say that I don't want a President who will play nice with a Congress that is as thoroughly corrupted as our own. I want a President who is going to fight for change, I don't expect that President to bring change immediately but I do expect them to fight against the status quo.
A President who embraces the status quo will have a much easier time getting their legislation through Congress. Bill Clinton got the Defense of Marriage Act, NAFTA, and welfare reform through quite easily by working with the Republicans in Congress. Hillary Clinton joined a coalition with Republicans in Congress to pass the Iraq War Resolution and the Patriot Act. The Clintons were on the winning side of all of these issues, Bernie Sanders joined the American people on the losing side.
You know what though? I am proud of Bernie for standing with the American people as we have suffered loss after loss. I know we will need him to stand with us through more losses in the future because I am well aware that the wealthy interests are not going to stop their assault on the people of our nation anytime soon.
I know that anytime a person like Bernie steps in to the establishment and tries to change the status quo the billionaire class is going to do everything they can to put roadblocks in his path, but I would rather have roadblocks in my path than to be steered on to a wrong path and end up driving off a cliff.
It is true that if Bernie Sanders were to be elected President the Congress would hand him many defeats, but he will also be able to hand them defeats using his veto pen. I am not worried about Bernie suffering defeats at the hands of an extremely unpopular Congress, I just want to see him get a victoy at the ballot box so I know we will have someone in the White House who will call that Congress out on their corruption.
Posted by Bjorn Against | Mon May 4, 2015, 10:52 PM (11 replies)
I will probably be accused of spreading conspiracy theories for posting this, but I am not going to offer you any theories. What I am going to do is post some facts that were reported by major Minnesota news outlets and let you decide for yourself whether or not you think something smells rotten. I am not here to make any accusations, but I do think there are some serious questions that need to be asked about this case.
Last summer Officer Scott Patrick of the Mendota Heights Police Department was shot and killed in the line of duty. I live just outside of Mendota Heights and this shooting happened just a few blocks from my sister's house. Mendota Heights a quiet middle class suburban community just outside of Saint Paul. Police shootings are rare around here so Officer Patrick's murder got a lot of media attention but it was not until this week that some very interesting new details were revealed about Officer Patrick, a man who appears to have been a good cop in a very corrupt police department.
Months before he was killed in the line of duty last year, shot while conducting a traffic stop, Patrick filed a whistleblower suit against the city and its police chief alleging retaliation for reporting two officers he thought stole a picnic bench.
Michelle Patrick will now take her husband’s place in that lawsuit, which is scheduled for trial days before the anniversary of his death. In an order earlier this month, Dakota County District Judge Martha Simonett granted Michelle Patrick’s motion to substitute for her husband in a July 27 jury trial.
“We lost Scott even before he was actually killed,” Michelle Patrick said Thursday, describing the way her husband often brought his displeasure with the department home at night.
Scott Patrick’s original complaint, filed in February 2014 in Dakota County District Court, accused Mendota Heights Police Chief Michael Aschenbrener of retaliating against him for reporting a theft by two other officers in 2008. Patrick also alleged that the department failed to provide adequate written notice regarding the nature of an internal affairs investigation before a 2012 disciplinary hearing.
Officer Patrick's widow is continuing the fight her late husband started, she is working to expose the corruption in the department.
"I have come across some paperwork stuff and learned he was bullied at work,” Michelle said. "And it's really hard because I didn't understand beforehand. He kept a lot he didn't want us to know. I knew things weren't right at work, but I left it up to him to tell us."
According to the lawsuit, the trouble began 7 years ago, when Officer Patrick saw 2 fellow officers moving a picnic table to city hall from the old Lilydale Tennis Club, which was being demolished. Patrick reported what he considered to be a property theft by city employees to Mendota Heights Police Chief Michael Aschenbrener, who, according to the lawsuit, thought it wasn't theft but a "mistake in judgment." Patrick filed a complaint against the chief alleging "a pattern of questionable ethics and criminal violations."
Patrick documented the retaliation -- what he interpreted as payback. One day, his squad car was moved by a sergeant who parked it just inches away from another squad, keeping Patrick, who was admittedly overweight, from getting into his squad. There was also the time a label of rat poisoning was allegedly slipped into Patrick's locker. The officer didn't tell his wife about either incident. Same story with an email he received from the city shortly before he was killed. The city was offering him a settlement, early retirement, to leave the department.
And just days before he was killed, Patrick was suspended once more, for a day, for failing to turn over the audio recordings he'd made documenting his conversations with the chief.
Earlier this year Brian Fitch was convicted of killing Scott Patrick, it must be noted however that no were no witnesses who saw Brian Fitch at the scene of the crime.
ST. CLOUD – Brian G. Fitch Sr. was convicted late Monday for the murder of Mendota Heights police officer Scott Patrick, a verdict that condemns him to life in prison without parole.
A Stearns County jury of seven men and five women also convicted Fitch of attempted first-degree murder for shooting at three St. Paul police officers who captured him after a shootout.
In his closing arguments prosecutor Phillip Prokopowicz, standing at a lectern facing the jury, said “the time has come” for justice.
He acknowledged the weakest point in the state’s case: No one saw Fitch at the scene of Patrick’s shooting, and witnesses to the crime gave conflicting testimony about who was driving the Pontiac Grand Am that Patrick had pulled over.
As I said in the beginning I am not here to make accusations, what I will say however is that something smells very rotten in Minnesota.
Posted by Bjorn Against | Thu Apr 30, 2015, 10:50 PM (12 replies)
As a person who has participated in literally hundreds of non-violent protests I absolutely hating seeing riots. I know that nearly all protesters are non-violent yet we will all be blamed for the actions of a few who got violent.
It is easy to condemn the violence as I most certainly do, but as we condemn the violence let's not pretend that we can ignore the societal problems that led to this violence.
Baltimore is a city that has suffered a great deal from violence throughout their community. When people are exposed to violence they are more likely to become violent themselves. If we have a society in which the police use violence against the community then we should not be surprised when members of that community respond with violence of their own.
You can say that is no excuse and I would agree with you, it is not an excuse. We should not be looking for excuses however, instead we need to start addressing the root causes of violence so that we can create a society in which people don't feel the need to riot.
I will condemn the violent protesters, but I will support the non-violent protesters as well and I will be joining them in the street in the near future just as I have many times in the past.
I would recommend that everyone who says they support peaceful protest but oppose violent protest to get out there and peacefully protest. If you want to show the rioters a better way then get out there and show them a better way, there are already many peaceful protesters showing that better way and many of us are more than capable of joining them.
Posted by Bjorn Against | Mon Apr 27, 2015, 11:08 PM (5 replies)
Comedy is often filled with offensive material, I don't know that there is a big name comedian out there who is both funny and consistently inoffensive. People have every right to be offended by certain types of humor and I don't think that we should be telling the people that are offended that they need to learn to take a joke. I am not here to defend Trevor Noah's tweets, some people are clearly offended by them and they have every right to be offended. What I am here to do however is to ask people to consider that we should not judge a comedian on the basis of a few bad jokes that were dug up by the media, instead we should look at that comedian's body of work in context and try to get an understanding of who the person really is.
Like most Americans I am just getting to learn about Trevor Noah, prior to yesterday I had only seen one of his segments on the Daily Show. Once I heard he had been selected as the new host I watched a few YouTube videos from him as well as a one hour stand up show that is currently streaming on Netflix. I watched his stand up before I saw the tweets and I am glad I did so because his stage act is far funnier and more insightful than anything you are going to find on a Twitter feed.
I encourage everyone to watch this video as it gives us a much better understanding of who Noah actually is than those Tweets do. This a man who grew up as a mixed race child in apartheid South Africa. Interracial relationships were illegal there at the time so he could never be seen with both parents in public, this is a guy who truly understands what it is like to face oppression. While he is able to joke about the horrors he faced living under apartheid it is also clear that behind his laughter is a guy who realizes that bigotry is deadly serious. In many ways that makes him the perfect host for the Daily Show, this is a show that makes jokes out of the worst things that are taking place in our society without trivializing the wrong doing.
It is easy to look at the tweets that have been dug out from Noah's Twitter account and think they represent his viewpoints, but I would caution against leaping to such a judgment without first becoming familiar with his particular brand of humor. Clearly the jokes in his tweets were unfunny and offensive, but every comedian has jokes that fail and those jokes often fail in ways that really get people upset. I know there were a few times in which I thought Jon Stewart really failed in his attempts at humor, but I can't judge him solely on the basis of the failed jokes he told.
I have heard many people say that these Tweets reinforce their opinion that Tina Fey should have gotten the job, and I will be the first to say that Tina Fey would have made a great host despite the fact that she is also facing accusations of bigotry right now. Yes, you read that right, Tina Fey is right now battling accusations of racism herself. There is a new show on Netflix called "The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" which was written largely by Tina Fey and it is facing a lot of criticism for the racial stereotypes in the show. I just saw the first couple of episodes of the series and it is an incredibly funny show, but I can definitely see why some people might find it offensive. This is a comedy about a woman who kidnapped at age 13 and held prisoner for fifteen years by a cult leader who repeatedly raped her, when she escapes captivity she goes to live in New York with a flamboyant gay black man and then finds an Asian boyfriend named Dong. Just by reading that premise it should be clear that this show is going to spark some controversy. The show has received a great deal of critical acclaim and I am sure many people from the groups being stereotyped in the show will love it despite those offensive stereotypes, but there have been a number of people who have been very offended by Fey's writing. Those people are not wrong to be offended, but at the same time I am not going to pick out the offensive jokes that Tina Fey has made and pretend those jokes are representative of her work as a whole.
Al Franken has gone far beyond anything that either Trevor Noah or Tina Fey has said, while he was a writer for Saturday Night Live he made a joke about drugging and then raping Leslie Stahl. There was nothing funny about the joke at all, what he said was absolutely sick and disturbing. My mother and sister actually refused to vote for Franken in his first run for Senate because they were so offended by him. I tried to convince them that Franken should not be judged on the basis of a bad joke he told as a comedian, but they are still upset about that bad joke to this day. I believe that they did both vote for Franken the second time around as they are both quite liberal, but they still have not totally forgiven him for his bad joke and I can understand where they are coming from.
I can also understand where Noah's critics are coming from, but just like I felt Franken should not be judged on the basis of a bad joke I don't think Noah should either. All comedians who tackle controversial issues screw up some times and say things that they really should not say, but I think we do need to be somewhat forgiving and understand that we should not judge people on the worst things they have ever said. I know I have said some things that were pretty offensive in the past when I was trying to be funny and I would not want people to judge who I am as a person based on failed jokes that I have made, I think Trevor Noah deserves the opportunity to move on from his bad jokes as well.
Posted by Bjorn Against | Tue Mar 31, 2015, 07:50 PM (11 replies)
Earlier this week ten Minnesotans including influential civil rights attorney Nekima Levy-Pounds and nine other organizers with the Black Lives Matter movement were informed that they facing criminal prosecution. Their "crime" was organizing a peaceful protest at the Mall of America, a building that was built with hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars and just accepted another $250 million in tax breaks to build a major expansion.
Despite the fact that the public paid for a big chunk of the mall a foreign corporation claims private ownership of it and has set very strict rules to ensure that free speech is not exercised there, they are fine with it when people gather in the rotunda to rally for their favorite sports team but speaking in support of black lives is strictly prohibited.
Bloomington Attorney Sandra Johnson says that the protesters created a "tinderbox" that could have erupted at any moment. Never mind the fact that the protest already happened and was peaceful by all accounts with no property damage or injuries, but Sandra Johnson apparently considers too many black people gathered in one spot to create a "tinderbox".
Sandra Johnson does not just want to charge peaceful protesters as criminals for speaking out in support of black people in a place where doing so is strictly prohibited however, she also wants them to pay for the costs of the riot police that were sent to shut down the mall and intimidate the peaceful protesters.
Charging protesters for the cost of the riot police sent to intimidate them would set a very precedent of course and that is why people across the nation are standing in solidarity with the MOA 10 and demanding the charges against them be dropped.
Today we got a major new ally when Ken Martin chair of the Minnesota Democratic Farmer Labor Party issued a surprisingly strong statement in support of the protesters who have been charged. Here are his words in full....
On this eve of the celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life I am reminded of some very simple but profound words from Dr. King who said, “An injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” The recent decision by Bloomington City officials to prosecute organizers of the Mall of America protest is not only unjust – but frankly a threat to the very underpinning of our great democracy – the freedom of speech.
Thousands of Minnesotans from all walks of life gathered in a peaceful protest to bring awareness to the issues of inequity facing the African-American community, both here and around the country. Protests give people hope that in solidarity they can make their voices heard and be a catalyst for change within our communities. By charging the organizers of this protest, the City of Bloomington is, whether intentional or not, setting a very dangerous precedent that will have a chilling effect on non-violent protests. When you start to strip individuals of their right to be heard, you take away their hope that change is possible.
While the DFL recognizes that all lives matter, the alarming disparities which exist in our state for African-Americans is unacceptable and deserves acute attention by our community as a whole. The DFL strongly believes that black lives matter, and the short shrift that these growing disparities get by elected officials, community leaders, and the business community is not acceptable.
It is not acceptable that we have some of the highest graduation rates and test scores for white children yet some of the lowest graduation rates and test scores for African-American children. It is not acceptable that we have one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation as a whole, but one of the highest percentages of unemployed African-American populations. It is not acceptable that in so many quality of life indicators the white population in this state is faring better than communities of color. And it is certainly not acceptable that we charge people with a crime for trying to bring awareness to the inequities which exist in this country.
Dr. King’s march for justice did not end with an assassin’s bullet 47 years ago. While we have made many strides over that time, the recent events suggest that the issues of racial equality are as important as they ever were. So much work remains to reach that promised land that Dr. King so eloquently spoke of.
Senator Paul Wellstone used to say, “You should not separate the life you lead from the words you speak.” As elected officials, community and business leaders gather this Monday to celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I urge them to not just speak of racial equality but to live those words and work deliberatively and thoughtfully to address the growing disparities which exist within our community effecting communities of color and specifically the African-American community. It’s not enough to say that black lives matter, we must see actions that provide opportunity for all.
While I always vote Democratic I have often found myself frustrated by the silence of the party leaders when it comes to showing support for those who engage in peaceful protest. Today I am not feeling that frustration however, today I am proud of my state party chair for standing up for free speech and racial equality.
Posted by Bjorn Against | Fri Jan 16, 2015, 07:35 PM (1 replies)
Most people believe that we have a right to self defense, but rarely do we talk about the rights of those who are killed by a person who claims self defense.
While it is true that a person who is dead is unable to exercise their rights, I believe that any just legal system would treat them as if they did have rights. If I were ever killed by a person who claimed self defense I know that I would like to be treated as innocent until proven guilty after my death, I certainly would not want the courts to just take the shooter at his or her word when they claim I was a threat.
Looking at the killings of people like Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, John Crawford, Eric Garner, and numerous other cases it is clear that all of these people were treated as if they have no rights what so ever. They were all treated as guilty until proven innocent and the right to "self defense" of their killers was placed above every last one of the victim's rights.
I think most of us can agree that there are certain cases in which self defense is justifiable, but I wish we could also agree that a person who was killed by someone who claims self defense should also have rights. Proof of their guilt should have to be provided, no one should be able to just gun a person down without being able to firmly establish that they posed a real threat. While people have the right to self defense that right should not outweigh every last one of the rights of the person they claim to have defended themself against.
We need laws in place which firmly establish rights for those who are killed by people who claim self defense, until we start respecting the rights of shooting victims we will keep seeing more Trayvon Martins and Michael Browns.
Posted by Bjorn Against | Sun Jan 11, 2015, 12:18 PM (8 replies)
I hear a lot of people say that we should respect all opinions, but I don't believe that all opinions are worthy of respect. There is nothing respectable about racist opinions, nor is there anything respectable about promoting policies that harm others.
Those who come to this site to defend the murder of unarmed black men are not in the least bit worthy of respect, they are promoting a violent and racist ideology and there is no reason we should have to pretend that this dangerous ideology is a mere "difference of opinion".
I am sick of hearing racists scream about the "right to self defense" of those who murder unarmed black men, yet express absolutely zero concern for the rights of the black men who were shot.
I am sick of hearing the racists scream about an admitted killer like George Zimmerman being innocent until proven guilty while at the same time treating Trayvon Martin as guilty until proven innocent.
I am sick of seeing people being lectured about "not understanding the law" because they oppose a racist criminal justice system that punishes blacks far worse than it punishes whites.
I am sick of being told that we should not talk about race while racism continues to harm millions upon millions of Americans.
I am sick of being told that we are being uncivil for calling a racist a racist while those who express racist beliefs are not called out on their incivility.
The idea that we should respect all opinions may be good advice when it comes to opinions on matters such as musical tastes or other areas in which nobody is being harmed by another person's opinion, but it is not good advice when it comes to discussions of racism. There is no reason that we should respect racist opinions, and there is no reason that we should pretend the obviously racist opinion of someone who tries to justify gunning unarmed black men down in the streets is not actually racist.
Those who advocate for people like George Zimmerman and Darren Wilson are no better than those who advocated for lynchings in generations past. They are promoting a violent and racist ideology and it should not be tolerated by anyone.
It is an absolute shame that it is tolerated by DU.
Posted by Bjorn Against | Sun Jan 4, 2015, 11:56 AM (62 replies)
I am seeing more racism now than I have at any other time in my life, and I am also seeing more people denying racism exists than ever before. Racism is not limited to the south, it is a problem even in progressive Berkley and on DU as well.
Posted by Bjorn Against | Sat Dec 13, 2014, 06:03 PM (1 replies)
Looking at the news of the last couple of weeks I think it is important we notice that the people who scream the loudest insisting that we can't trust the government tend to be the same group of people who insist we trust the government completely when they torture people and shoot unarmed black men down in the streets. Let us be clear, these people do not actually want a small government, they want a repressive government in which the police are able to gun down civilians who pose them no threat, a government that bombs other countries and tortures their people, a government that restricts a woman's right to control her own body, a government that restricts marriage rights to those they deem worthy, a government that busts up unions, a government that pushes religion on its citizens, they want a government that protects the corporations and uses its heavy hand to keep citizens in line.
The right-wing does not want small government, they want a corporate oligarchy. I can't say I want a small government either because there are certain areas in which I want government to expand. I want a government in which all citizens are guaranteed access to health care and a quality education. I want a government that ensures that the wealthy are not able to exploit their workers or rip off consumers. I want a government that ensures that corporations are not allowed to destroy our environment. I want a government that serves the people rather than shoots the people, it is not about big government or small government it is about having a government that works to give its citizens a better life rather than a government that uses violence against its people.
Posted by Bjorn Against | Thu Dec 11, 2014, 09:12 PM (8 replies)