Category Archives: Government

The State Rating Game

It feels like every day I get an e-mail from some organization that has rated our state or one of our major cities as the best place to order pizza for children or the most bike-friendly or the most emotionally insecure.

Right now I have two in front of me – Politico magazine says Minnesota is the best state in the Union.  

Meanwhile, another blog, 24/7 Wall Street, says Minnesota is among the Worst states in the union for Black Americans.   And by “among” they mean the real worst, second only to Wisconsin.

Why such different views of the same sets of data?   And why so many ratings?   Do we really feel better if we think we’re better than Mississippi?  Do we really believe it if someone says we’re actually worse?

Assignment:  Talk to opinion leaders about the truth and/or value of these state ratings.  What motivates us more – pride or shame?



Independence Party: “The report of our death was an exaggeration.”

Minnesota’s Independence Party has lost “major party” status.

Some see this as the “death” of the party that gave Minnesota its famous wrestler-governor in 1999, but organizers say the Independence Party is not dead yet.

Assignment:  Find out what’s next for the Independence Party.

Torture Survivor Rehabilitation Center Responds to Senate Report

St. Paul is home to a Center for Victims of Torture, which makes them uniquely qualified to understand and respond to the Senate Report on CIA Torture.

Assignment:  Set up a Morning Blend interview (live or recorded) with Melina Milazzo, CVT’s senior policy counsel.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

St. Paul, MN & Washington, DC The Center for Victims of Torture (CVT) issued the following statement in response to today’s public release of the executive summary of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s historic and bipartisan report on the Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) former detention and interrogation program.

“After reviewing more than 6 million pages of classified records, the Senate Intelligence Committee, under the leadership of Senator Dianne Feinstein, has produced the most thorough and comprehensive review of the CIA torture program,” said Melina Milazzo, CVT senior policy counsel.

“Initiated, adopted, and approved for public release with bipartisan support, the Senate’s CIA Torture Report is a turning point in revealing the facts about an unlawful program that was far more brutal, sweeping, and unnecessary than previously known.

“President Obama and Congress must now work to ensure that we never resort to torture and cruelty again.

“The proof of torture and cruelty found in the CIA Torture Report speaks for itself. According to Senator Feinstein, ‘the conditions of confinement and the use of authorized and unauthorized interrogation and conditioning techniques were cruel, inhuman, and degrading. I believe the evidence of this is overwhelming and incontrovertible.’

“Among the abusive tactics described in the report are waterboarding, forced stress positions, sensory overload or deprivation, and sleep deprivation for up to 180 hours – all resulting in serious and long-lasting physical and psychological pain and suffering, “said Milazzo.

“Although there is never a legal justification for torture, the CIA Torture Report supports what we consistently hear from survivors of torture: that torture produces false and misleading information because people will say anything to make the torture stop.

“Equally troubling is that the CIA’s torture program was based on widespread deception and misinformation. High-ranking government officials, Congress, and the American people were grossly misled and denied the truth.

“While President Obama halted the use of torture and cruelty in interrogations on his second day in office, a future President could overturn the Executive Order with the stroke of a pen. We support Senator Feinstein’s call for legislation to ‘enshrine’ the ban into law.

“The CIA Torture report should serve as a stark reminder of the enormous – and lingering – costs to America’s national security, foreign policy, and its ability to play an effective role globally on human rights when we entered the ‘dark side.’

“Senator Feinstein, her colleagues who have stood with her, and the highly dedicated Committee staff deserve our nation’s gratitude for their important work. But significant work remains to ensure we do not engage in torture and cruelty again.

“President Obama and Congress should ensure the prohibition against torture and cruelty – in law and practice – is firmly in place; the President should declassify the now-defunct CIA rendition, detention, and interrogation program in order for the full truth to come out; credible allegations of torture and abuse must be fully investigated, and prosecuted where necessary; and victims of torture should be provided an effective right to a remedy, including the right to rehabilitation,” said Milazzo.

The Center for Victims of Torture is a nonprofit headquartered in St. Paul, MN with an office in Washington, D.C. and healing initiatives in Africa and the Middle East. Visit



Brad Robideau

David Durenberger Interview

Assignment: talk to former Republican Senator U.S. David Durenberger about the current policymaking process.

Durenberger made these comments in a recent Civic Caucus interview:

The policymaking process is grievously disconnected today. The problem, Durenberger said, is the prominence of money and the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision that the First Amendment prohibits the government from restricting independent political expenditures by corporations, labor unions and other associations.

“Today,” he said, “if you run a business and you make a lot of money and then run for public office, other people who make a lot of money are going to give their money to your campaign, because they know you’ll put your own money into the campaign, if it looks like you’re going to lose. There’s not much we can do about that one.”

People in local public leadership positions today are as qualified or better qualified than people who were in those positions 40 or 50 years ago. Durenberger said he sees those qualifications in the gender, preparation, experience, motivation and political independence of people in elected and appointed local government positions today. He believes they are probably better qualified today to take on the kind of challenges they face than those of us who were in those positions back then.

Durenberger does not share this opinion about people in elected positions at the state and national level, where “ideological partisan politics, perennial elections, and campaign financing have destroyed both the power of the informed citizen and that citizen’s ability to be elected to state or national office from anything but the extremes.”