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Coming soon: Three days of gun hearings

Beware of the gallery … Says Megan Boldt of the PiPress: “Rep. Michael Paymar, DFL-St. Paul, said the House Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee will take testimony on about 10 gun-related bills expected to be introduced in the Legislature this week. The hearings will be on Feb. 5-7 at the committee's regular meeting time at 10 a.m., but Paymar said it's likely members will reconvene during the evening to take more public testimony.
Proposals that could be considered include:
• Plugging loopholes that allow people to buy firearms at gun shows or online without background checks.
• Beefing up Minnesota's criminal background check system to make sure all felons and those with severe mental illness aren't allowed to buy guns.
• Limiting the capacity of ammunition magazines.
Paymar also said they will hear a bill by Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Vernon Center, that would allow teachers and other school staff members who have conceal-and-carry permits to arm themselves in the classroom.”

Don't whine — it’s overdue … Tim Harlow of the Strib tells us: “A major road rebuilding project on Interstate 694 will drive north-suburban commuters to distraction this summer and fall. From June through October, the Minnesota Department of Transportation will give the 5 1/2-mile stretch between Interstate 35W in Arden Hills to Humboldt Avenue in Brooklyn Center a $21 million makeover that includes concrete repair, resurfacing and replacing three bridge decks. The project will reduce the freeway to two lanes in each direction during the day and to a single lane overnight. On three weekends, the entire intersection of I-35W and I-694 will be shut down. Rife with crumbling concrete, potholes and culverts in disrepair, the highway had been scheduled for an upgrade in 2017. But when federal funding covering 90 percent of the cost recently became available, MnDOT moved the project up four years.” And when it’s all smoothed out, remember to complain about big gummint.

What exactly will be on the health insurance exchange gets a look by Christopher Snowbeck of the PiPress: “[S]hould the exchange serve as a clearinghouse of options for consumers, where any health insurance carrier that meets certain standards can sell policies? Or, should the exchange's board of directors have the power to whittle down the options that actually are available to consumers? The issue has cropped up repeatedly as bills to create Minnesota's health exchange have wended their way through legislative committees this month — most recently at a Commerce Committee hearing in the Senate on Monday … A clearinghouse model means that any health plan meeting certain requirements in the federal health law will be allowed to sell products through a state-level exchange … With an active purchaser model, the directors of a given state's health exchange might limit the number of plan options available to consumers, she said, to drive premium prices down or simplify consumer choices.”

Is this “by popular demand”? MPR’s Curtis Gilbert says: “The Taste of Minnesota festival may return to St. Paul this summer, three years after it was forced into bankruptcy. A group led by Linda Maddox, widow of Taste of Minnesota founder Ron Maddox, has applied to hold the event on the State Capitol grounds in July. The application is stamped ‘tentative.’ Organizers say they are still trying to secure financing, but reserved the space as a first step.” Minnesotans just don’t eat enough in the summer.

The pretty-much-reliable crackers World Net Daily tells the story like this: “The University of Minnesota’s Twin Cities campus is spending more than $3,400 to put on a seminar for ‘orgasm aficionados and beginners of all genders’ to discuss their sex lives. … A poster promoting the event says it will focus on ‘sexuality and pleasure.’ The website notes [Kate] Weinberg was inspired to the work when she realized how sexuality ‘is a thing so intimately connected to politics, religion, guilt, expectation, the ways in which we live and are allowed to live.’ ‘She’s a certified yoga instructor and the author of an acclaimed young adult novel. Kate lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., and has long wished that she could be a mermaid,’ the site explains.” If you follow the link … I dare you to read the comments.

Meanwhile, on the U’s website, the class is described more like this: “ ‘The Female Orgasm: A Program About Sexual Health and Women's Empowerment’ … The full Female Orgasm Program includes:

  • An emphasis on individuals making sexual decisions that are right for them, including whether to use the information now or when married or in a serious relationship
  • Analysis of the messages women receive about their bodies and sexuality from media, religion, families, and elsewhere
  • Body image, and the links between ‘befriending your body’ and experiencing physical pleasure
  • An opportunity to talk openly in small groups during part of the program.”

What happened to the days when a bunch of silver-haired guys simply decreed that women shouldn’t be talking about that stuff?

The Strib’s Lori Sturdevant reads the Fedgazette: “For all the money trouble state government has had since 2008, Minnesota local governments have had it worse. So concludes a report in the latest issue of Fedgazette, the regional business and economic newspaper of the Minneapolis Federal Reserve. Among the six states in the Ninth Federal Reserve District, Wisconsin and Minnesota have endured more sustained financial stress in the past five years. In Minnesota, the report says, trouble has more than trickled down to local governments. …  According to a Minnesota legislative auditor’s report, 80 percent of counties and 40 percent of cities say they’ve entered into service-sharing agreements with other units of government in an effort to cut costs. That report documented cuts in local government expenditures in every category save for health care since 2009, and widespread tax increases. … Local stress translates to higher property taxes and more demand for state spending on property tax relief. That demand is the reason Gov. Mark Dayton added $1.4 billion to his proposed 2014-15 state budget for property tax rebates.”

Smack is still a problem around here. Conrad Wilson of MPR reports: “A new report on drug trends in the Twin Cities shows heroin use remains a growing problem, while the abuse of opiate-based pain killers, like methadone and OxyContin, may be slowing. During the first half of 2012, treatment centers saw a slight drop in the number of people admitted for opiate abuse. Doctors and drug abuse experts say that's an encouraging sign, but they say it's too early to know if it's a trend that will continue. More than 21 percent of people in Hennepin, Ramsey, Anoka, Dakota, Washington counties entering treatment programs early last year were battling an addiction with either heroin or opiate-based prescription pain killers.”

Also at MPR, Bob Collins doesn’t like the smell of the Amy Koch smackdown engineered by her GOP colleagues: “Former Minnesota Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch told WCCO Radio today she's never watched (or listened to) the December 2011 press conference at which it was announced she'd resigned her leadership post because of an affair with a staffer. She says she probably won't ever watch it. That's too bad, because looking back at it now, coupled with yesterday's Star Tribune story, her claim that four of her male colleagues were staging a power play gains at least a fair amount of traction. … It was textbook politics. Create the dribs and drabs by leaking them, and then hold a news conference under the guise of needing to get out in front of the leaked information. That, for the record, is how a power play works.” And what experienced, savvy politician would ever imagine that the actual details of a juicy sex scandal would appear in the light of day?

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Comments (3)

Scattered Thoughts

Regarding the health insurance exchange. I can only hope that those who are setting up the criteria for the exchange are developing clear, consistent requirements regarding what must be IN the policies that are sold,...

perhaps a three-tier system could be developed featuring 1) bear-bones (but adequate), coverage, 2) somewhat expanded coverage, and 3) Considerably expanded coverage.

What the exchange simply MUST have, however, is requirements strict enough so that customers will know what they're getting, and what their premiums will cost, with no sleight-of-hand or fancy salesmanship of the type that seeks to convince you you're getting a great deal more than you are, or leaves out coverage for rare, but devastatingly expensive conditions that crop up for certain people from time to time.

In other words, unlike so much of current health insurance, the exchange must be set up to require that the companies participating provide reasonable coverage at a reasonable cost without forcing their policy holders nor their medical providers to jump through endless hoops in order to procure coverage that is CLEARLY provided by the policy,...

(which, of necessity, will preclude massive profits for the owners of and massive executive compensation for the managers of said companies - I'd suggest CEO salaries and perks be limited to those provided to the "Big Government," Civil Service Employees who manage the Medicare system).

Regarding the women's orgasm workshop at the "U" (which sounds curiously like a scene from the movie "Fried Green Tomatoes"), I suspect that, if Ms. Weinberg hopes to create change in the areas of "politics, religion, guilt, expectation, the ways in which we live and are allowed to live," she's talking to the wrong gender (at least as the world currently functions).

As long as substantial numbers of men are taught that it is unacceptable, and even "sinful" to meet their own needs for sexual gratification on their own,...

such men will continue to fear, mistreat, and even attack women because those women have the power to deny them their only means sexual gratification (which such men have far too often been raised to believe is their ONLY means of proving acceptable levels of masculinity).

Such "conservative" men will seek undue dominance of the women around them in order to guarantee that they will always have available to them the means to sexual gratification, and thereby masculine re-affirmation...

i.e. they will view the women to whom they relate as nothing more than blow-up dolls to be used as needed, then set aside until they are needed again.

Indeed, it is men's, especially conservative men's, inability to think about:

making sexual decisions that are right for them, including whether to use the information now or when married or in a serious relationship,

analyzing messages they receive about their bodies and sexuality from media, religion, families, and elsewhere,

the links between ‘befriending [their] bod[ies] and experiencing physical pleasure (solo or coupled) and being able to sense and care about the same things in their partners,

and men who desperately need opportunities to talk openly in small groups during part of the program.

In the end, it is the way current men, especially "conservative" men are programmed by those who raised them to be unable to live emotionally, physically, psychologically, and spiritually healthy lives that creates many if not most of the problems of women (and other men) in our world, today.

Of course there are women, especially those who dismiss ALL men as inherently emotionally, physically, psychologically, and spiritually defective, simply because they ARE men, who find the exact same behaviors to be completely acceptable in women, but completely detestable in men, who create plenty of problems for men (and other women) as well.

Indeed, it is ALL those individuals, men and women alike, who have come to the conclusion that the source of all the problems of the world, and in their own lives, lies beyond the interior of the face they view in the mirror each morning,...

who continue to create the kind of "the world would be great if everyone else would simply be JUST LIKE ME" solutions that cause us so much pain and destruction.

Until we can look in the mirror, then look more deeply, discovering, there, a substantial part of the true source of what troubles us, then gain the self-awareness and skill we ALL need to care for and feed our own bodies, psyches and spirits, the world will continue to suffer at the hands of all among us humans who need to blame everyone else for our individual and collective problems,...

because we can't own up to the ways we, ourselves cause them,...

and who continue to try to force everyone else to change their attitudes and behaviors in order to suit our own (dysfunctional) needs.

Not scattered at all,

I'd say.

I agree that the question of what should be addressed by health insurance is a complex subject, one which you address in an interesting manner. While I disagree with some of your suggestion, I agree completely with your most important point: that consumers must be able to come away knowing what they are receiving and at what cost. I prefer that uniform minimum coverage requirements be established, but am unclear as to who (the state or the feds) will establish those requiements. If it's state-by-state, it seems to me that those who live in states with more relaxed standards than Minnesota's wil be short changed. If, on the other hand, the minimums are to be established by the feds, I'm concerned that those standards will be less than what Minnesota currently requires. Perhaps the simplest thing is a chart such as those used by Consumer Reports to compare products: list each feature available from any of the insurers and then identify which are offered by each insurer. One could even adopt the CR "Best Buy" designation or, using one of your suggestions, identify the policy as falling into one of three categories, e.g., good, better, best, based on coverages provided. Cost rankings, of course, must in some way factor in such things as co-pays, deductibles, etc, perhaps by applying them to some statistically average household. (E.g., the typical household of two adults and two children, one male and one female, will pay $X.xx per year for deductibles and co-pays plus a "Your mileage may vary" note.) The information can be organized in a simple yet highly informative manner. Why do I doubt it will be?

As for sex lessons: for crying out loud, we spend a heck of a lot more teaching people to prepare food than we'll ever spend on sex, yet I suspect most of us have a clear preference for one over the other, when given the choice. I'm reminded of the most recent episode of Downton Abbey, in which the Lord Grantham objects to a simple discussion of a urinalysis in front of his mother, when his daughter's life hangs in the balance. Of course, the money would be better spent helping men and women learn to talk to each other about sex, what they like, what they want, etc. but that's too easy and, apparently, still verboten in the eyes of many.

"Regarding the women's orgasm

"Regarding the women's orgasm workshop at the "U" (which sounds curiously like a scene from the movie "Fried Green Tomatoes"), I suspect that, if Ms. Weinberg hopes to create change in the areas of "politics, religion, guilt, expectation, the ways in which we live and are allowed to live," she's talking to the wrong gender (at least as the world currently functions)."

Dear god, let's not forget about teh poor menz when talking about female sexual empowerment. Let's just disregard your little barb about "chick flicks" in the above statement and assume that you mean well with your points about educating conservative men to treat women with respect. But lets not let a raging case of mansplaining get in the way of women finding the means and opportunity to take control of their own sexuality (which oftentimes does not require a male partner...or any partner, for that matter). Believe it or not, equality and body autonomy are things that will not just be given to the oppressed gender, but are things that need to be fought for and taken from the oppressor class, regardless of how many progressive minded men agree with us.

"Of course there are women, especially those who dismiss ALL men as inherently emotionally, physically, psychologically, and spiritually defective, simply because they ARE men, who find the exact same behaviors to be completely acceptable in women, but completely detestable in men, who create plenty of problems for men (and other women) as well."

Citation desperately needed, please.