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There's still time

to chart a wiser course

The current legislative session looks like two trains racing at each other, with Minnesotans as the hapless passengers. It is time for voters and taxpayers to speak up and see if we can avoid this calamity.

While we have all heard that higher taxes are "job killers," 10 years ago Minnesota had one of the country's highest overall tax rates -- and one of its strongest economies. After a series of tax cuts during the Ventura administration, Minnesota has become at best mediocre economically, with unemployment rising faster than the national average.

Six years ago when Tim Pawlenty's administration took over, we also suffered a catastrophic deficit, partly as a result of severe tax cuts during the previous administration. Pawlenty claimed success for getting us out of the problem without raising taxes; however, the truth is that he used cuts, fees and gimmicks to shift the problem to 2008.

If we really want to solve this problem, we need to improve efficiency, cut spending and increase taxes. It is not just a question of raising taxes, but we again have to start investing in our state, in the infrastructure and in the people. Then we will start creating jobs. We also have to stop blaming politicians for our problems. Instead we have to blame ourselves for not being better voters, and begin paying attention to facts and history instead of the one-liner political claim.


The torture memos

Primary evidence of legal reaching

Michael Gerson claims to find in the recently released "torture memos" evidence of Justice Department officials heroically struggling to honor moral principles in the face of threats to national security (Opinion Exchange, April 28). When I read these memos, I see a different kind of struggling -- a struggle to find a legal basis for torture in laws that proscribe it.

Gerson doesn't honor his readers with evidence from the memos, so let me offer this from Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee's memo to Alberto Gonzalos: "[E]ven if the defendant knows that severe pain will result from his actions, if causing such harm is not his objective, he lacks the requisite specific intent even though the defendant did not act in good faith. Instead, a defendant is guilty of torture only if he acts with the express purpose of inflicting severe pain or suffering on a person within his custody or physical control."

Gerson's column, like Bybee's memo, is an exercise in special pleading on behalf of a discredited administration that once employed both of them.


incentive to cooperate

Since TIZA is tarrying, state should close purse

School officials at Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy are jerking Minnesota taxpayers around. It doesn't take a month to provide a list of correctly spelled teachers' names. They could have provided that information the same day education officials visited the site a month ago. TIZA is stalling.

Instead of giving TIZA the full $4.7 million in taxpayer funds up front or during litigation, the state Department of Education should wait until TIZA cooperates and provides full information in good faith, or until after the litigation is resolved. Then the school gets money. That way, TIZA will have an incentive to cooperate in a timely manner.



After reading "State alleges school is violating teacher-license laws" (April 28), I am reminded of Rep. Mindy Greiling's online letter to the editor, which blasted a column critical of TIZA written by Katherine Kersten. In it, Greiling labeled Kersten as "reckless" and "incredible" and insisted she be fired for the nature of her reporting. After all, Greiling had her own (sham) visit of the school, hosted by the school's leader, another DFL insider, and everything was blue skies and sunshine.

In the interim, the school has been sued by the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota for violating the constitutional boundaries between religion and the state, an assertion made by Kersten and denied vehemently by Greiling, and is under investigation by the state for violating teacher licensing laws. Moreover, the state was named as codefendant by the Civil Liberties Union and will be defended at taxpayer expense at a time when we can least afford it.

Greiling's disastrously flawed judgment, if not misplaced loyalties, has greatly betrayed the trust of her district's voters.


Voting one's conscience

Specter's colleagues could learn from him

Sen. Arlen Specter's change in political affiliation should not be a cause for alarm among Republicans or glee among Democrats. Specter has often demonstrated a willingness to ignore party lines in favor of his conscience. If only we had 99 more senators like that.