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TCF cites sanctions for dropping Iranian student customers

TCF Bank is culling Iranian students from its customer list. Says Jenna Ross at the Strib: “The [U of M’s] agreement with TCF Financial Corp. grants the Wayzata-based company the exclusive right to offer checking accounts linked to the university's photo ID cards. Nearly 30,700 students and employees have signed up, worth about $1 million a year in royalties, which the university puts toward student programming and scholarships. A TCF Bank spokesman said the letters — sent to other customers and ‘not just foreign students’ — were triggered by its investigations into transactions that might have violated federal sanctions. … The university's Twin Cities campus has 67 students from Iran. Most are working on Ph.D.s, Mattern said. The National Iranian American Council has increasingly heard reports from Iranians and Iranian-Americans who've had their bank accounts closed or were blocked from opening them, said policy director Jamal Abdi.”

How does $6 billion strike you? Dan Kraker at MPR writes: “[I]n recent days, major water main breaks in Minneapolis, Duluth and Sioux Falls, S.D. have highlighted the massive labyrinth of underground pipes that delivers water to homes and businesses. In many Minnesota cities, that system is old and in need of replacement. … across Minnesota, cities are struggling to maintain their current infrastructure while trying to come up with the money needed to replace it. The costs are staggering. A 2007 federal study estimated Minnesota's drinking water system needs $6 billion in repairs and upgrades. That doesn't even include the fixes sewer systems need, which state officials estimate at another $4.5 billion.”

Although the official word is that “it must wait,” the issue of same-sex marriage gets another look, legislatively speaking, from MPR’s Sasha Aslainian: “DFL state Sen. Scott Dibble of Minneapolis will be the chief sponsor of that effort, but like [Rep. Erin] Murphy, he said the issue is part of a larger conversation about helping Minnesota families care for each other. ‘We're trying to avoid though, having this take over the session and becoming the only thing that we talk about,’ Dibble said. ‘And so I think properly situating it and taking it up in due time is the prudent course of action.’ Opponents of same-sex marriage say they are not giving up the fight. Minnesota for Marriage, the group that tried to pass the amendment, recently held a closed-door strategy meeting with legislators and religious leaders to discuss ways to block same-sex marriage. Republican Sen. Dave Thompson of Lakeville, who voted to put the marriage amendment on the ballot two years ago, cautions Democrats not to overreach.” And that — overreaching — is something the senator knows something about.

Talk about spoiling the fun … Pat Kessler at WCCO-TV revisits per diem payments as the Legislature returns to work. He says: “New numbers from the Minnesota legislature show state lawmakers paid themselves more than a $1 million last year in per diem payments — out of the public eye. … Now, for the first time in many years, the top 10 House per diem-takers are all in the Republican party. Leading the pack is Education Committee Chairman Pat Garofalo from Northfield. He received $11,418 in per diem during 2012. The top 10 per diems in the Senate went to a mix of Democrats and Republicans. No. 1 is the Majority Leader, David Senjem. The Republican Senator from Rochester got per diem totaling $11,438. Minnesota lawmakers have not had a raise in more than a decade and their middle-of-the-pack salaries rank above Iowa and the Dakotas, but below Wisconsin. In Minnesota, however, per diem is a kind of back door pay hike. Also, because most of it is added to their pensions, there’s an incentive to get as much as possible.” See if anybody buys you a drink, pal.

The GleanTarget’s online price-match strategy is going full time. Anne D’Innocenzio of the AP says: “The nation's second-largest discounter behind Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said it will match prices that customers find on identical products at top online retailers, all the time. The online list includes Amazon.com as well as the websites of Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Toys R Us and Babies R Us. Target's holiday price match program with online retailers began Nov. 1 and ended Dec. 16. Target is also making permanent its holiday offer of matching prices of items found at its stores with those on its website. And for the first time it will include products that are out of stock on Target.com. The moves follow a disappointing holiday shopping season for the Minneapolis-based retailer, hurt by stiffer competition from online rivals and stores like Wal-Mart that have hammered its low prices.”

Purely coincidentally … Bloomberg’s Renee Dudley says: “Best Buy Co. (BBY) and Toys R Us Inc. (TOYS) have filed complaints in several states alleging that Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT) deceived consumers in price comparison advertisements. The ads aired from late November to mid-December, according to Toys R Us. Sales in November and December account for 20 percent to 40 percent of U.S. retailers’ annual revenue, according to the National Retail Federation, a Washington-based trade group. … the Toys R Us spokeswoman, said that Wal-Mart misled customers about pricing on several toys including the Fisher-Price Surprise Kitchen and Table Set, which was advertised for $39.97. Third-party shoppers found the sets were being sold for as much as twice that price, according to Toys R Us. Wal-Mart said the in-store and advertised price for the set was correct at $39.97. Wal-Mart was selling Holiday Barbie dolls for $7 more than their advertised price, according to Toys R Us. The ads misstated the Toys R Us prices for both toys, Waugh said. Fisher-Price products and Barbie dolls are both made by Mattel Inc. (MAT), based in El Segundo, California.” This is the sort of thing that demands a congressional investigation, dammit.

Maybe they thought there’s too much transparency in political money … The AP also says: “A high-profile government watchdog group that maintains a database of all political donations made in Wisconsin has lost half of its funding and faces an uncertain future. The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign alerted its supporters on Tuesday, Jan. 8, that the Joyce Foundation decided to no longer give the group money. Democracy Campaign director Mike McCabe says of the group's $430,000 annual budget, $232,500 of it came from the Joyce Foundation. McCabe says the Joyce Foundation gave no explanation for the decision to stop funding the group after it had for 16 years.” They could always apply to FreedomWorks.

Hand out the torches and pitchforks … Paul Walsh of the Strib reports: “A longtime fisheries operator in west-central Minnesota built a road on his property, and for that he could go to prison. James Bosek, 48, of Garfield, was found guilty last week in federal court in Fergus Falls of building a road in 2003 on his 160 acres knowing that it went through a federally protected wetland basin. In convicting Bosek of a misdemeanor under the National Wildlife Refuge System Act, Judge Leo I. Brisbois wrote that the Douglas County property owner knew of an easement "in perpetuity" that the U.S. Interior Department bought in 1963. Bosek purchased the land in 2001, where he also lives, and the easement was still in force.

Comparing voter fraud to kids trying to scam bars for booze, Dave Thul at the conservative blog True North has a bold idea: "Opponents of the Voter ID amendment last year told us repeatedly that they didn't disagree with the concept, just that the language as written was flawed. We needed to 'send it back' to the legislature to get it right. So said Governor Dayton.  SecState Mark Ritchie.  Former Governor Carlson. DFL spokesman Lori Sturdevant.  Even MPR told us to send it back in a video that blurred the line between reporting and campaigning. … Every bar and restaurant that serves alcohol in Minnesota, along with every establishment that sells tobacco products, is subject to undercover enforcement operations ... City and county police departments recruit minors to go into businesses to attempt to purchase products they are not legally old enough to buy. This model of enforcement not only identifies areas of weakness in the system that need to be addressed, but provides a motivation to bartenders and gas station attendants; check those ID’s or you could end up fired or in jail. It also motivates businesses to train their employees to the letter of the law and hold them to high standards when checking for ID. So why not apply this model to our elections?  Because special elections are generally administered by county auditors, let’s call on a dozen county auditors across the state to test the election system undercover.  Just like with liquor and cigarettes, let’s send a variety of people, either the auditors themselves or people recruited by them, into the polls to see if they can cast an illegal ballot.” I say, “Great idea. As long as Thul writes the check for it.” Otherwise, let’s just wait until someone actually detects a problem.  

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Comments (14)

Per Diems..."most of it is added to their pensions..."

Er, excuse me. How does this work? I was always under the impression that the per diems were reimbursemets for expenses - not compensation.

Looks like a duck, walks like a duck, sounds like a duck...

Legislators can claim the per diem payments without submitting any receipts - they just say they did official business that day and claim the $86/day for Senators or $66/day for Representatives. They can also claim lodging and mileage separately. This was passed several years ago as the very first bill of the session - if I recall there was even some "anyone who doesn't vote in favor can't get expenses reimbursed" type arm twisting. They say it wasn't a pay increase, but it counts toward their basis for pension calculations; the more they claim the higher their pensions will be.

I have complained

about my senator's receipt of per diem for years, only to be told (by him and another, former, senator) that he is underpaid and takes the compensation as a supplement, despite the fact that he lives within 10 minutes of the Capitol and sleeps in his own bed every night. Yes, he may find himself eating at the Capitol cafeteria more often than he wishes, as they work into the night. But so do the other state employees, who do not qualify for per deim payments but are simply doing their jobs.

My senator collected $7,980.00 last year. Check your's here:

http://cbsminnesota.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/2012-senators-by-per-die...

His opponent in the last election declined to make an issue of this, choosing to run on the issues as he saw them. This is an issue, in my mind, one of integrity. Any legislator who feels underpaid should either quit or stand up and propose a specific salary increase. Taking per diem in this manner is indefensible.

(A per diem is a fixed daily payment intended to cover meals and incidental expenses incurred while working. It does not require proof that any expense was incurred or the amount of those expenses. All other state employees are entitled to payment of per diems when required to be away from home.)

Voter ID

"Otherwise, let’s just wait until someone actually detects a problem." How do you know if you have a "problem" if you don't do something (anything?) to find out? I didn't vote for the amendment but it seems pollyanish to believe that there is aboslutely no inappropriate voting.

Testing the system

You're right!

What we need is a tightly contested state-wide election where every vote is analyzed as if the election result hangs in the balance. We could have dozens of highly skilled (and well paid) attorneys and political operatives subjecting each ballot to critical review. The courts could get involved to resolve any disputes in the process.

That would tell us if illegal voting could make a difference in a race that is almost a dead heat. And, since once is not enough, we could do it again 2 years later.

Now, how do we make that happen?

Of all of the things

that disturb the "integrity of the democratic process," those that would be addressed by Voter ID are somewhere around 186th on the list. No one is saying there is "absolutely no inappropriate voting." No one is saying there is absolutely no spitting on the sidewalk in our fair state, but that does not mean there is a need for a renewed legislative campaign to combat it. Can we please let this dead horse decompose in peace?

Some Things Are Understandable, Some Things are NOT

For example, I can understand (though not condone) the motivation of an under aged kid seeking to buy booze at a bar or liquor store. I can even understand (though not condone) the motivation of the proprietor of such an establishment for letting their I.D. checking slip (profit). Since this is a well-known problem and the dangers of under aged drinking are fairly well documented, I can understand that the time and money spent by law enforcement for undercover stings is sensible and justified.

I see NO similar motivations for individual voters to seek to vote in multiple locations, presumably by going to the trouble of finding documentation which would allow them to impersonate multiple other voters or arranging for a scheme in which voters duly registered in other precincts vouch for voters who are seeking to impersonate others. Any attempt to sway an election by such practices would carry massive penalties for those involved and, of necessity, require the involvement of hundreds if not thousands of voters. Voter fraud on that scale (which has never been documented in Minnesota) would almost certainly result in discovery.

Furthermore, since the election last November, numerous "conservative" politicians, nationwide, have said outright that all such efforts to make voting more difficult were nothing more nor less than an attempt to limit the ability to vote of those who were likely NOT to vote for those candidates favored by "conservatives."

Even if Mr. Thul WERE willing to pay for the kind of sting operation he advocates, it should not be allowed, since, as we know from such efforts in the past, he and his "conservative" cronies would warp and twist whatever results they found (even if they found NO results) in order to then scream from the rooftops that the kind of voter I.D. the voters of Minnesota already voted down was now ABSOLUTELY, COMPLETELY, TOTALLY, REQUIRED and that anyone opposing it must be a socialist, fascist, communist (i.e. liberal Democrat).

Perhaps in the future, our "conservative" friends might like to try actually proposing policies and procedures that would result in better lives for the 99% whom they so like to ignore and seeking the help they need to cast off the "*a'dams," by which they are, so clearly, linked to and controlled by their 1%er "*sul'dams."

If they gave even the slightest credible indication that they care about our state and nation and the general population who inhabit them, they might return to electoral viability again. Beating the same, old, dead horses isn't going to accomplish that for Mr. Thul nor for any of those who agree with him and only indicates to the rest of us that they live in, and find it impossible to escape from, a world created in the image of their long-discredited, completely disproven, overwhelmingly defeated, dead-and-buried ideology.

*"a'dams and sul'dams" are references from the "Wheel of Time" series of books the last of which was published today.

Voter ID

"...in order to then scream from the rooftops that the kind of voter I.D. the voters of Minnesota already voted down..."

Voters did not reject voter ID, only to making it part of the Minnesota Constitution.

They Not Only Voted Down the Amendment

But they voted out of power the party which proposed, a proposal necessitated by the fact that after they had passed it earlier in the legislature Gov. Dayton vetoed it. I'd say that's about as firm a repudiation of Voter I.D. as you can get.

But by all means, use all your time energy and resources to keep flogging that dead horse (and do your best to ignore the smell of the rotting corpse).

Another theory.

The two amendments motivated alot of DFL and GreenDem voters to the polls - another theory, just like yours.

Electoral fraud exists. You, for political reasons, just don't want to admit it.

Detecting voter fraud.

Mr. Lambert wrote:

"Otherwise, let’s just wait until someone actually detects a problem."

Someone already did.

When liberals bemoan the cost of doing something

... you know they are out of real arguments.

Voter ID wasn't defeated because Minnesotans think it is a waste of time or fraud doesn't happen. It went down because opponents said send it back and do it right. The issue still remains.

Well, Dave...

.....your proof for this would be what, exactly? Did you poll everyone voting against the amendment? The reasons people voted against it could be any of the 3 reasons you listed, or numerous others. I, for one, voted against it for the 2 reasons you claim were invalid. So, in summary, nice try, you're wrong.

This opponent said

"Show me that there's a problem that will be corrected by requiring ID and that the proposed cure isn't worse than the problem, and I'll support the bill." I'm still waiting.