December 2007

Veterans for Congress: A winning strategy?

Wednesday, December 26th, 2007

Steve Sarvi and Aswhin Madia are joining about a dozen other Iraq and Afghanistan veterans running for Congress this election cycle.

sarviSarvi, who just returned from a deployment to Iraq with the Minnesota National Guard, is running against incumbent Republican John Kline in the Second Congressional District.

Madia, who was a Marine captain working as a lawyer with Iraqi judges and attorneys, is madiarunning for the seat in the Third Congressional District left open by the announced retirement of Republican Jim Ramstad. Both Sarvi and Madia are DFLers.

A closer look at the Sarvi and Madia candidacies can be found here.

U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, a Pennsylvania Democrat, is currently the first and only Iraq War vet elected to Congress. Congressional Quarterly recently reported that 15 men and women who have served in the current war are running for the Senate or House in one of the 79 House districts rated as potentially competitive.

What does being a veteran bring to a candidacy?


The challenge of the painful past

Tuesday, December 25th, 2007

tice.jpgNo form of virtue is easier than repenting other people’s sins — especially long dead people who can’t speak up for themselves. But a provocative debate over the meaning of Minnesota’s 1862 Dakota War, underway in the Star Tribune for some weeks, delivers a more formdidable challenge:

How should today’s Minnesotans, preparing to celebrate the state’s 150th anniversary next year, view and acknowledge its painful beginnings, which reached their _1sorrowful climax 145 years ago on the day after Christmas, with the hanging of 38 Dakota men in Mankato, the largest mass execution in U.S. history.

Catch up with the debate by reading Angela’s Wilson’s searing indictment of the first Minnesotans — and of their descendants for not mourning their crimes.

Then check out Patrick Hill’s impassioned reply, rising to the defense of settlers and soldiers and decrying the brutality of the Dakota uprising.

Laura Waterman Wittstock and Nick Coleman have also weighed in, on Wilson’s side, arguing the we in this state have yet to face up to the essential injustice of Minnesota’s origins.

This Famous Trials website maintained by the University of Missouri provides useful and measured background on the war and its aftermath, including records of a few trials of those condemned.

Observations and questions:

Almost everything about this story is appalling, yet in some measure it is hard to judge. While the ruthless greed of some traders and Indian agents, and the reckless rage of some Indians, did much to ignite the explosion of August 1862, large historical forces had brought two peoples into a conflict that was probably destined to end badly.


Should the Omaha mall be sued….for banning guns?

Sunday, December 9th, 2007

tice.jpgYesterday, on one of the Saturday afternoon “Northern Alliance Radio Network” talk shows on AM 1280 The Patriot, I heard two of the the allies — I believe, Mitch Berg (from and Captain Ed (from — discussing last week’s awful Nebraska mall shooting. Their take on it was intriguing.

First, they decried the lack of emphasis in the mainstream media on the fact that the Omahahandgun mall was a posted “gun-free zone” in a state where (as in Minnesota) carry permits are readily available to law-abiding citizens. They argued that this “gun-free” status left mall patrons helpless to defend themselves when the crazed killer opened fire. They insisted that nearly all mass shootings in recent years have occured in “gun-free” zones.

Not surprisingly, evidence for these assertions has been compiled and disseminated by scholar John Lott, the famed advocate of the “more guns-less crime” theory.

But anyhow, the allies didn’t stop there. Apparently following the lead of Instapundit’s Glenn Reynolds, they argued that victims or victims’ families in this situation may have grounds for a lawsuit against the mall based on the gun ban.


A reply to Mr. Black

Friday, December 7th, 2007

tice.jpgThe Big Question’s founding father, Eric Black, raised some interesting and somewhat light-hearted constitutional questions the other day on his blog, Eric Black Ink.

Eric and I have discussed whether it would be constitutional — now that we blog in different jurisdictions — for us to nonetheless pursue the vision we once had for this site as a place for civil exchanges across the ideological divide.

Does the “separation of bloggers” doctrine permit a civil exchange across the blogosphere?

My position is that the Constitution, being a living Constitution, guarantees our right to doebmug.jpg whatever we bloody well please. But we’ll never know without a test case, so here goes:

Commenting on President Bush’s Tuesday press conference, Black wrote, in part:

[I]n his argument that Congress needs to stop sending him bills (SCHIP, Iraq funding bills with troops reduction timetables) that he will veto, the prez provides an opening for something I’ve been meaning to point out since he started using that argument


We are experiencing technical difficulties

Thursday, December 6th, 2007

tice.jpgWithin the past few days, the Star Tribune’s online operation has switched over to a new and improved publishing system. This is a considerable technical undertaking which I won’t pretend to understand.

However, as is not uncommon with technical upgrades, the most visible initial effect are glitches, and we have had a few on the Big Question.

If you are meeting obstacles in efforts to post comments on the site, accept our apologies and please remain patient and persistent. The problems will soon be fixed, if they aren’t already.

An S.O.S for the SoS?

Wednesday, December 5th, 2007

Current controversies embroiling Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie notwithstanding, Minnesota gets high marks in a recent study for its ability to administer elections. But there are ritchie.jpgsigns of storm clouds on the horizon.

The non-partisan Election Law @ Moritz at the Ohio State University studied five key Midwestern states, looking at how voters register, how ballots are cast, and how recounts are conducted. Minnesota came out on top, with significant problems found in Ohio (“a poster child for reform”) and Illinois (“toothless”). Wisconsin and Michigan were somewhere in the middle.

But the study, conducted before the current Ritchie brouhaha emerged, warns that partisan politics threatens Minnesota’s stellar reputation and suggests that administering elections be taken away from the partisan Secretary of State’s office and given to an appointed, non-partisan elections director.


The Times on Franken

Wednesday, December 5th, 2007

The New York Times has this front page look today at Al Franken’s Minnesota Senate campaign

The piece is not aggressive. It touches lightly on what the Times says is anfranken.jpg impression on “the far left” that Franken’s Iraq war positions have been “shifting or frightened.” And it gives state GOP chair Ron Carey a paragraph to decry Franken’s “vile bomb-throwing,” which he deems “non-Minnesotan.”

But all that comes late in the story, which is mainly about how

“Minnesotans have come to understand that this bid by Mr. Franken, odd or not, is anything but a joke.”


Coleman web ad hits Franken on Iraq

Monday, December 3rd, 2007

diaz_1.jpgWASHINGTON — Minnesota DFLers are still tussling over next year’s U.S. Senate nominee, but it appears that the campaign of Republican incumbent Norm Coleman has come to a verdict about whom his opponent is likely to be.

The Coleman campaign’s first video attack ad, launched Monday on the Web, takes direct aim at political satirist Al Franken, highlighting in somewhat comedic fashion the DFL candidate’s perceived inconsistencies on the war in Iraq.

Franken has made no secret of his evolving views on the war, having started out as someone who was inclined to give the Bush administration the benefit of the doubt on Iraq’s supposed weapons of mass destruction.

He has since called for a withdrawal timetable, and at points appeared to advocate a cutoff of war funding, something Democrats in Congress have either been unwilling or unable to do.

Coleman, too, has altered his views on the mission in the past year, though his campaign says he has not changed his basic contention that the U.S. must “fight and win” the war in Iraq.

Dubbed “Franken Vs. Franken,” the spot makes creative use of Franken’s public statements on the war, questioning how and when he began to turn against the war.

Take a look. Is it fair criticism? Is it a nod to Franken’s status as the DFL’s best-financed and perhaps best-known candidate?

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