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The recurring political question: Economics or politics?

This writer had a strange encounter Sunday night. Walking downtown, a stranger approached him. The stranger said, "Those squirrels are weird little guys," and then added, "They better watch their place." This writer was bewildered by this, but, flipping through his RSS reader this morning, wonders if this fellow wasn"t from Hibbing, where, as Aaron J. Brown points out in a blog post republished on MinnPost, squirrels are now Public Enemy No. 1. The issue? The little idiots keep electrocuting themselves on power lines, causing outages.

Brown's post is one of a good number of fascinating, Minnesota-related blog posts from this past weekend. For instance, the Let It Unwind blog offers up a fascinating look at the temple-like ING building in downtown Minneapolis, along with several gorgeous photos. The 58th Year blog likewise takes a look at a Minnesota landmark — specifically, Heidi's restaurant, which was damaged in a fire and recently torn down.

Photographer Sopheava de Lumiare happened to be in the Dowling Studio in the Guthrie this weekend when it began to storm, and photographed this imposing image of the skyline through the theater's yellow-tinted glass. Photographer Michael Mingo, in the meanwhile, photographed Minneapolis with his iPhone's HDR application, which maps multiple shots of the same image taken at different stops to create a photograph with a higher dynamic range (thus "HDR"). This all sounds a bit technical, so, if you're wondering what it looks like, well, here.

And now, the news. Lino Lakes is still considering an English-only ordinance proposed by Council Member Dave Roeser, despite the fact that, as blogger John Van Hecke of the Hindsight 20/20 blog points out, Lino Lakes apparently already doesn't print anything in any language other than English. Wait, that can't be true. Maybe the Associated Press can clarify. Ah, yes: "City Council member Dave Roeser acknowledges that his English-only proposal would have no immediate impact. Lino Lakes has never translated official documents into other languages, and no one has asked the city to do so." Perhaps this is what inspired the Star Tribune to offer up a story by Maria Elena Baca that asks in its headline if this is "economics or politics." A local offers up his opinion: "The other is a philosophical reason: If you're coming to this country, English is our language. All our relatives, when they immigrated, they learned to speak English. So should everyone else."

This is not addressed in the story, so we at Glean will address it. English is not the official language of the United States. This country has no official language. There is no legal requirement that you learn English to move to this country, or to live here. It's useful to do so, since 96 percent of the people here speak it, and also it's much harder to read the Daily Glean if you don't speak English. But it's not required, and we at the Glean suspect that most of us had relatives who came here speaking Yiddish or Swedish or Hungarian or some other foreign language and never really mastered English, using their children as translators and mostly interacting with an extended community of fellow expatriates. But that was then and this is now, and, apparently, while it's not actually an issue in Lino Lakes, it must be addressed before it becomes one.

"Economics or politics" is the question in another immigrant story — that of illegal immigrants in Scott County. As a story by David Peterson of the Star Tribune points out, the number of incarcerated illegal immigrants has gone up from 17 to 90 since 2006, costing somewhere in the vicinity of $843,570 "and one cent," although some of this is lowered by reimbursement from the feds; about $61,000. "It really, really bugs me," the story quotes former Sheriff Dave Menden as saying; the story also shows that Menden is bugged at an especially opportune time, as he's running against the incumbent Shakopee-based Commissioner Jerry Hennen.

And, once again, we have an economics or politics story. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Margaret Anderson Kelliher isn't precisely broke, as campaigns go. No, according to Rupa Shenoy of Minnesota Public Radio, she's raised nearly a million bones, or clams, or what-have-you, for her campaign. And she's not what you'd call the working poor either — between her and her husband, they made between $100,000 and $250,000 this year. How do we know this? Because Kelliher voluntarily disclosed it. Why did she do that? Because she's making a case for tightening of the state's financial disclosure law, as Tom Scheck explains in Polinaut.

"This is an obvious shot at one of Kelliher's DFL opponents, Matt Entenza," Sheck declares. Entenza's wife, Lois Quam, apparently did quite well after cashing out stock options at UnitedHealth Group; Entenza has not released their combined earnings. But, as Jason Hoppin of the Pioneer Press points out, Kelliher's other opponent, Mark Dayton, isn't exactly begging for coins in a barrel suit. Is this a gambit, designed to make Kelliher look like the underdog in a race between millionaires? Perhaps, although Dayton did release his earnings from last year: $172,475. We wish he had added "and one cent" on to the end of that. It just sounds so good.

There's no question of economics in Rep. Michele Bachmann's most recent controversial public statement. She has an agenda for the end of the next election cycle, and it is as blunt as it is simple: According to the AP, if the GOP takes control of Congress this election, Bachmann thinks "all we should do is issue subpoenas and have one hearing after another and expose all the nonsense that has gone on." Of course, this isn't a new strategy at all — it's precisely what the GOP did to Bill Clinton, such as the so-called Whitewater Scandal, which resulted in six years of investigation at a cost to taxpayers of $50 million and produced no scandal at all. Eventually, all the subpoenas produced one illicit sexual encounter, which, as everybody no doubt remembers, resulted in Clinton's impeachment. Who doesn't remember, and long for, those halcyon days, that more innocent time?

In arts, MPR's Jessica Mador tells the tale of the Girls Rock 'N Roll Retreat camp, which sounds, well, awesome. The story quotes camp founder Jenny Case: "We are not allowed to apologize for making mistakes or not being good enough, which girls often do. Instead, they have to say, 'I rock!' " Case tells Mador. "So if you hear someone else apologizing for playing the wrong chord, or they are not picking something up quickly and they say sorry, you have to say, 'No — you rock!' "

In sports, well, it's not a good idea to say, "You're on dope." According to the AP, the Timberwolves' president has been fined for describing Michael Beasley as "a very young and immature kid who smoked too much marijuana" when he played for the Miami Heat.  The fine? $50,000. And one cent? We can only hope.

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Comments (23)

"There is no legal requirement that you learn English to move to this country, or to live here.

Well Bunny that may be true if you "move" here hiding in bales of hay, but for those that move here legally there is this little something-something:

"Section 312 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) provides that most applicants for naturalization demonstrate an understanding of the English language, including an ability to read, write, and speak words in ordinary usage in the English language, as well as a knowledge of U.S. government and history (civics)."

Don't know what excludes someone from the "most"; maybe there is a special exclusion for Iranian nuke scientists looking to defect.

As always, I'm happy to aggregate the facts for you.

BTW Bunny, do you think it's escaped the notice of Scott County residents that the $782,570 being "reimbursed" by the feds comes from the taxes they pay the feds (see, it's their money; get it)?

Or do you think they've bought into the D.C. magic money tree the Democrat party is trying to convince everyone will be paying for the "early entry" into Medicare they're counting on?

I am constantly surprised at the "our forebears prioritized English, so should you" response from the children of German immigrants. Really? Evidence abounds that many German immigrants not only did not learn English, but discouraged their children from doing so, seeing English as an inferior languague. Check out this April 2009 piece from MPR if you don't believe me:

Funny thing is, I wouldn't be surprised if there's still a few "old timers" in Lino Lakes that attended German-language only or Scandinavian-language only schools when they were kids.

And since when do only citizens or legal residents interact with government? Simple due process and equality before the law rights would dictate that government business be presented in a manner accessible to interested parties.

Mr. Swift, you seem to have misquoted the code, or quoted an earlier version. Here is the current version, found here:

"Provided, That the requirements of this paragraph relating to ability to read and write shall be met if the applicant can read or write simple words and phrases to the end that a reasonable test of his literacy shall be made and that no extraordinary or unreasonable conditions shall be imposed upon the applicant"

Not exactly the same thing as requiring fluency, is it?

Tommy, still pretending the "Magic Money Tree" began on 1-20-09? Must be lobbying to replace Katherine Kersten.

I was listening to the Lino Lakes story on 'CCO this morning as I was driving to work. They presented it as a way to save money. However, they did not indicate that Lino Lakes has never before translated documents and that this ordinance was pre-emptive.

The thing I want to know is if any of these yahoos who are proposing these ordinances ever figure in the cost of going to court and defending their nonsense when they get sued by the ACLU. The 'CCO story indicated that that was a possibility.

In this case particularly, they're not even saving any money to begin with since they've never translated documents before, and now they'll be spending freely to defend their new ordinance.

No wonder our cities have to keep raising our property taxes.

And as for you Tommie, what about the people were here long before the any foreigners ever came and you all took their language away from them? If anything, we should be speaking a variety of native languages here in Minnesota, not English.

"Not exactly the same thing as requiring fluency, is it?"

No, it's not. But of course requiring fluency was not what you said, was it Bunny?

Here, let me help you:

"There is no legal requirement that you learn English to move to this country, or to live here [so long as you show up ready to pass a reasonable test of your literacy. Otherwise it's ELL time for you.]"

You Rock Bunny!

Sheila, I don't know who "you all" are, but I guarantee you that when my grandparents showed up from the Ould Sod, the Ojibwe were already speaking English.

I hear "you people" were pretty mean to them though...shame on you.

ps The correct diminutive of Thomas is Tommy, in English.

There's a church in Minneapolis that regularly conducts services in Norweigan--would it be welcome in Lino Lakes.

As I read this blog, I wonder again if Thomas Swift is as unpleasant in person as he is in writing.

"Not exactly the same thing as requiring fluency, is it?"

No, it's not. But of course requiring fluency was not what you said, was it Bunny?

When I want current information on US immigration policy, I go to the US Government website rather than some obscure website. Here’s what the fed has to say on the matter:

"Can you speak, read, and write basic English and do you have an understanding of U.S. history and government (civics)?"

"During your interview, a USCIS Officer will test your ability to read, write, and speak English and your knowledge of civics. Many times the reason applicants fail the naturalization test is that they cannot answer the interview questions in English."

In light of the facts, I’m sure you won’t mind if I aggregate a correction to your opinion:

"There is no legal requirement that you learn English to move to this country, or to live here [so long as you show up ready to pass a test of your literacy. Otherwise it's ELL time for you.]"

Rock on, Bunny. Rock on.

Back in the days of Usenet, Mr. Swift would have been regarded as a troll, an online provocateur whose goal is not discourse, but attention. Intentions aside, his position is no more accurate than Mr. Black's initial statement. Based on what's been posted here, it appears that what immigration law requires is some rudimentary knowledge of English. That requirement, however, does not apply to those born here or those who are permanent residents and not citizens. Overall, Mr. Black wins this one.

Historically, not all immigrants learned to speak English or, if they did, learned to read and write the language, just as many born here failed to do.

"For the later part of [the 20th] century the illiteracy rates have been relatively low, registering only about 4 percent as early as 1930. However, in the late 19th century and early 20th century, illiteracy was very common. In 1870, 20 percent of the entire adult population was illiterate, and 80 percent of the black population was illiterate. By 1900 the situation had improved somewhat, but still 44 percent of blacks remained illiterate. The statistical data show significant improvements for black and other races in the early portion of the 20th century as the former slaves who had no educational opportunities in their youth were replaced by younger individuals who grew up in the post Civil War period and often had some chance to obtain a basic education. The gap in illiteracy between white and black adults continued to narrow through the 20th century, and in 1979 the rates were about the same."

Make that "Mr. Sparber wins this one."

Thomas: My paternal grandfather actually did hide in a haywagon with a friend in order to sneak out of Russia (which had taken away from German residents the promise not to conscript them into military service and a couple of other things) and make their way to the United States.

Like many all immigrants back then, they spoke their first language at home on their farms homesteads. They weren't (and obviously couldn't) learn much English until they were settled in a place where the public schools taught their children English as a second language.

He and my maternal step-grandfather lived in different towns but both were involved in establishing the first schools and my maternal housed the teacher. He also added immeasurably to his community by starting businesses (shoe store, pool hall, blacksmith shop) and bringing the latest in technology -- the crystal radio -- to town for all the neighbors to enjoy.

Every generation of immigrants enriched America. And those coming during our time are no different.


And Max is not a rabbit.

I have Native American ancestors dating to the founding of this country. So my ancestors were speaking a native language before they were FORCED to learn English.

I am not entirely un-leporidae-ish.

I think I just swallowed my tongue.

That's terrible Sheila.

I'd suggest you help right that wrong by picking up your native language, as have my Irish relatives (who were also forced to give up Gaelic), but I guess butchering written English will teach 'em too.

Adh mor oraibh leis!

Changing the subject for a second here...If I'm interpreting David Kahn correctly, Michael Beasley's problem was not that he was smoking marijuana, it was that he was smoking too much marijuana. Perhaps in the coming days Kahn can give us some insight on the appropriate amount of pot a much more mature Mr. Beasley should be smoking while attempting to re-vitalize his NBA career.

Don't worry too much about some of the commentariat today. We're still less than 24 hours from last night's full moon and we all know what the full moon does to some few among us.

Does this mean that if a Swede went into a Lino Lakes office with a question, and the person behind the counter were fluent in Swedish, that that clerk would be prevented from trying to answer the question in Swedish because she is on the clock?
What about sign language? How is a deaf person supposed to get thier questions answered?

Michael, did you read anywhere that Swedish speaking clerks would be required to decline a conversation in Swedish?

Are you assuming being deaf includes an inability to read?

This legislation passed last night, but it's not the end of the world as we know it.

Take a breath, my man.

English-only requirements put public health and safety at risk. Lino Lakes has cut off its nose to spite its face.

Overlooked in this debate is the reality that learning any language requires years of study, generally two to three years for a rudimentary grasp of the language. Even American-born children whose first language is English spend 12 years in high school learning the language.

Did long-ago immigrants learn English? Many did. Did they learn it overnight? No.

Deaf literacy levels are statistically much lower than non-deaf literacy levels, Mr. Swift.

Please read the resolution carefully and note that they misspelled the English word "labeled."

One of the government functions they tout on the L Lakes website is a storm water runoff education program meant to reduce water pollution. Would it not make sense to educate everyone to adopt practices to minimize storm water runoff? What if a business owner reads only Spanish?

IN 1896 the MN sample election ballot was printed in 9 languages - made for a better MN then, would make a better MN now.

//Are you assuming being deaf includes an inability to read?//

I'll assume that you are suggesting that passing notes back and forth is sufficient.

1. As max stated, literacy levels among the Deaf are historically, very low, with Gallaudet reporting a median reading comprehension of 4th grade level for 17-18 year old deaf students.

2. Passing notes back and forth may or may not be an acceptable accommodation. For simple business, possibly. The more complicated and involved it becomes, probably not.

Regardless, I'm pretty certain that they Lino Lakes ordinance would be superseded by the ADA.

I'd almost be tempted to move there, just to insist on CART or ASL services at council meetings.