Politics with Jennifer Brooks

Readers react to gun control ideas

Good morning. Lots of material today so go get a fresh cuppa and settle in.

First, congrats to U.S.A. women's hockey and especially Andover's Maddie Rooney, goalie and hero of the night.

MN House members spent Wednesday in sexual harassment and anti-discrimination training, and not everyone was pleased with it. Rep. Erin Maye Quade, DFL-Apple Valley, left the session visibly upset, though she wouldn't say why. Jessie Van Berkel story.


DFL lawmakers and gun control group Protect Minnesota with a newser at 12:15 and then a 2 pm rally.

I don't have cable but I read that this town hall with Sen. Marco Rubio and a bunch of students was pretty riveting TV; all credit to him for agreeing to do a venue that he knew going in was going to be tough. Separately, Trump also listened as students and teachers appealed for action, often with raw emotion. He suggested he's open to universal background checks, but also...more guns, by way of arming teachers.

What do you think of arming teachers or otherwise turning our schools into mini-fortresses with metal detectors and the like and lots of armed security? (I realize many schools are already like this.) Email me:

Libertarian Julian Sanchez:

If you oppose gun regulation as a burden on individual freedom, you should also reject turning schools into armed prison camps. This is not the “pro-freedom” alternative. Think seriously about what a generation growing up like this will regard as normal.

Jamelle Bouie has his own concern, which he conveys with sarcasm:

It is actually an extremely good idea to arm teachers in a system that metes out the harshest punishment to black boys and girls.

I expanded on yesterday's reporting on Rep. Tim Walz's latest shift on guns, in which he calls for a ban on AR-15 and guns like it. Nut graf of today's story: ("Nut graf" being the paragraph in which we tell you why this matters.)

On guns, Walz is balancing a heavy political plate in each hand. He must appease Twin Cities progressives who want gun control and view his NRA endorsements with disdain. But he is also trying to persuade many of those same progressives, who are desperate to win in 2018, that he’s the best candidate to appeal to voters in greater Minnesota — where the DFL has been shellacked in recent elections — because he speaks their language on issues like guns.

Brutal quote from Bryan Strawser, chairman of the Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus:

“Tim Walz’s relationship with gun owners was directly related to his strong advocacy for gun rights. He will soon learn how little of their support he has since he has forsaken them for political expediency.”

It was too late and there was no space in the story, but I asked Jeff Johnson, a leading GOP candidate for governor, what he thinks about efforts to improve school safety so no more gun massacres and here was his response:

We need to do a much better job of securing our schools, allow trained adults with a weapon to be onsite to protect our kids and do a much better job of reacting to warning signs that are being missed by law enforcement. I have a son at a huge high school, and while no one loves the idea of heavy security in our schools, it's the world we live in and I think protecting our kids is more important than almost anything else we do.

Walz, a teacher before his election to Congress, is against arming teachers, by the way.

Gov. Mark Dayton was stronger on gun control than I’ve ever heard him at his Wednesday news conference. He applauded student protestors who walked out of school Wednesday and said he gave $1,000 to the GoFundMe page to help them go to Washington for a rally in March. He also hit GOP lawmakers, whose leadership has said there's no gun legislation forthcoming: "I was very distressed to read the House and Senate Republican leaders said they won't do anything about it." He showed a picture of an AR-15 and mocked the idea that it's a hunting rifle. He called for universal background checks, an assault weapons ban and requiring all dealers to go through the same process as licensed dealers. "Is that going to end the proliferation of weapons in Minnesota? No, but does that mean we do nothing? Because we can’t do everything?"

Look for DFL lawmakers to try to suspend the rules today to take up gun control legislation on the House floor. A Republican expressed something approaching pity for DFL colleagues: "No matter how many times they lose elections because of pushing gun control bills, they just never learn."

Reader MM on Walz and guns:

I'm a 25 year old Republican that has voted for 1 Democrat since turning 18, Lori Swanson, whose defense of gun rights was a major factor in why I voted for her. I'm apathetic towards any of the current GOP candidates for governor and strongly considered supporting Walz, but now that he's in favor of an "assault" weapons ban that is no longer the case. Also, the gun restraining order [idea touted in this National Review piece linked to yesterday] seems like a fantastic idea, provided the right level of oversight. We don't hear about excessive restraining order problems, so I would think it would be something reasonable and effective.

Reader JJ also favors the gun restraining order idea (lightly edited):

As a confessed conservative, I firmly believe we do have the right to own guns, but I also believe they should be used responsibly and that any taking of human life is abhorrent. This proposal seems like a common sense approach to managing inappropriate gun use, as long as it is kept at the local level and not turned over to any centralized federal management or tracking and is not punitive to responsible and law-abiding gun owners.

Can someone please help me understand this NRA ad featuring Dana Loesch. What is being conveyed? It sure feels like the message is that guns are needed in the political battles to come, even if that's not stated explicitly.

Paulsen plays the hits

U.S. Rep Erik Paulsen will be at a med device company to talk the med device tax. A rare news conference. I'll be there. The med device tax is to Paulsen what "Centerfold" is to the J. Geils Band.

Back to the Dayton newser, he elaborated on pressure he applied to the Dept of Health to put out their 3M study that showed no definitive cancer cluster before AG Lori Swanson's trial started:

They needed a deadline. And they were in my judgment floundering. They had the information but had not pulled it together and needed a deadline. I’ve had this issue with agencies all along. There are deadlines. They’ve known this trial was scheduled to start (Tuesday). They’ve known that as long as anyone else has. So if you’ve got information that is highly relevant to that trial, it seems to me you need to embrace that responsibility to present the information publicly beforehand. I make no apology for saying, look, you’ve got to get your act together here, pull this information together and put it out so everyone has access to that information.

Dayton finishes the week in D.C. for National Gov Association.

Uh-oh, the accountants are throwing their hat in the ring! Minnesota Society of Professional Accountants release:

The MNCPA supports tax policy that simplifies the filing process, increases taxpayer compliance, reduces complexity, and improves the efficiency of tax administration for all involved. This is why we’re asking the 2018 Legislature to adopt federal conformity, while also considering its impact to individuals and businesses, as early as possible this session.

Credit to them because you would think it would be in their financial interest to have a more complex tax system, but I suppose doctors are against smoking.

Rep. Erin Maye Quade (DFL-Apple Valley), Rep. Rod Hamilton (R-Mountain Lake), Rob Zeaske, CEO, Second Harvest Heartland, Janelle Waldock, Vice President of Community Health and Health Equity, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota, Colleen Moriarty, Executive Director of Hunger Solutions Minnesota, to announce hungry kids caucus, news conference 10:30.

Reader Julia Schliesing, a pr manager who was Miss Minneapolis in 2014, has some thoughts on artificial intelligence, after I linked to a Kevin Drum piece yesterday. She points us to some more reading on the subject here.

She adds (lightly edited):

Regarding AI taking over every job, I don't think that's entirely true. I work in public relations, volunteer with the Miss America program and have been an advocate for mental health, and can't see robots filling certain needs in all of these fields. Could robots truly comprehend human emotion, spirituality, the unpredictable nature of man, beauty? Would someone want a robot as their therapist when they can't relate to their patient? Would someone want a robot preaching their sermon? Would anyone leave their child with a robot, no matter how unlikely a malfunction?)

Robot therapist will make a good sitcom someday.

Interesting econ paper positing that firms are increasingly interested only in short term investor payout, even in their borrowing:

This paper provides evidence that the strong empirical relationship of corporate cash flow and borrowing to productive corporate investment has disappeared in the last 30 years and has been replaced with corporate funds and shareholder payouts. Whereas firms once borrowed to invest and improve their long-term performance, they now borrow to enrich their investors in the short-run. This is the result of legal, managerial, and structural changes that resulted from the shareholder revolution of the 1980s. Under the older, managerial, model, more money coming into a firm – from sales or from borrowing – typically meant more money spent on fixed investment. In the new rentier-dominated model, more money coming in means more money flowing out to shareholders in the form of dividends and stock buybacks.

Malcolm Harris analogizes Amazon to the old Soviet planned economies. It’s related in some ways to yesterday’s discussion of artificial intelligence. Harris asks if a lower priced doo-dad delivered to our door is really worth it:

From the perspective of the average consumer, it’s hard to beat Amazon. The single-minded focus on efficiency and growth has worked, and delivery convenience is perhaps the one area of American life that has kept up with our past expectations for the future. However, we do not make the passage from cradle to grave as mere average consumers….Earlier this month, Amazon was awarded two patents for a wristband system that would track the movement of warehouse employees’ hands in real time. It’s easy to see how this is a gain in efficiency: If the company can optimize employee movements, everything can be done faster and cheaper. It’s also easy to see how, for those workers, this is a significant step down the path into a dystopian hellworld. Amazon is a notoriously brutal, draining place to work, even at the executive levels. The fear used to be that if Amazon could elbow out all its competitors with low prices, it would then jack them up, Martin Shkreli style. That’s not what happened. Instead, Amazon and other monopsonists have used their power to drive wages and the labor share of production down. If you follow the Bezos strategy all the way, it doesn’t end in fully automated luxury communism or even Wall-E. It ends in The Matrix, with workers swaddled in a pod of perfect convenience and perfect exploitation. Central planning in its capitalist form turns people into another cost to be reduced as low as possible.

Monosopony is a key word in today's environment, by the way. Definition here: It's when a single buyer controls a market.

Let's look at two views of the Russia scandal. Blake Hounshell writes about his skepticism that the Trump campaign worked with Russia or its cutouts:

I keep coming back to the slapdash nature of Trump’s 2016 operation, and the chaos and dysfunction that everyone who covered that campaign saw play out each day. Like the Trump White House, the Trump campaign was a viper’s nest of incompetence and intrigue, with aides leaking viciously against one another almost daily. So much damaging information poured out of Trump Tower that it’s hard to believe a conspiracy to collude with Moscow to win the election never went public. If there was such a conspiracy, it must have been a very closely guarded secret.

Hounshell then goes through some of those ensnared, such as Michael Flynn, surmising that his conviction for lying to the FBI suggests Mueller didn't have strong evidence of an underlying crime. Then there's the clown show of Carter Page and George Papadopoulos, neither of whom evoke images of master conspirators.

Matthew Yglesias responds with an Occam's Razor argument that goes something like this: To believe there’s nothing to the Russia story, you have to believe an awful lot of things are coincidental or meaningless, and that Trump is not guilty even though everything he’s done, like firing James Comey, are the actions of a man engaged in a coverup. (Remember: Most coverups are successful.)

You have to believe that after a decade of paying Manafort millions for his expertise to help pro-Russian candidates win elections in Ukraine, no one from Moscow thought to consult with him about how to help a pro-Russia candidate win an election in the United States. And we have to believe that even though we know Trump’s son was both in touch with WikiLeaks and openly enthusiastic about the idea of collaborating with Russia on obtaining and disseminating anti-Hillary Clinton dirt, when he met with Russians on this very topic, they didn’t talk about it. And, of course, we have to believe that Trump’s specific — and quite public — call for Putin to hack more Clinton emails was completely random. Trump–Russia skeptics, legion in the political press, brush all this aside in a gesture of faux sophistication, positing a bizarre series of coincidences complete with a massive cover-up -- all for no particular reason.

Jen Brooks will bring you Friday Hot Dish from Washington. 14 weeks until party endorsing conventions.


Have a great day all!

-- J. Patrick Coolican

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