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Each Saturday, this feature links and excerpts commentary and reporting from a dozen progressive state blogs in the past seven days around the nation. The idea is not only to spotlight specific issues but to give readers who may not know their state has a progressive blog or two a place to become regularly informed about doings in their back yard. Just as states with progressive lawmakers and activists have themselves initiated innovative programs over a wide range of issues, state-based progressive blogs have helped provide us with a point of view and inside information we don't get from the traditional media. Those blogs deserve a larger audience. Let me know via comments or Kosmail if you have a favorite you think I should know about. Standard disclaimer: Inclusion of a diary does not necessarily indicate my agreement or endorsement of its contents.
At Blue Oklahoma, DocHoc writes—Will Storms Become "Oklahoma's Katrina"?
The problem with all this incessant "Oklahoma spirit" celebration after the tornadoes and storms that struck here recently and killed more than 40 people is that it takes us away from solutions.

We have major problems with tornado and storm safety in this state and these problems can be fixed. Sure, it will take money and a concerted effort, but they can be fixed. It can be done. It's not complicated.

Celebrating our supposed great "spirit," as if Texans or New Yorkers don't have "spirit" as well, accomplishes nothing. It would be much better if people here would get angry at the lack of leadership on the tornado-safety issue before the recent storms quickly recede into the state's collective memory hole.

Blue Oklahoma, state blogs
At Nevada Progressive, atdnext writes—Turning Point... Or Breaking Point?
Nevada Progressive
As summer fast approaches, so is the fate of CIR in the 113th Congress. We are quickly reaching what will ultimately be either a critical turning point or a key breaking point. Either just enough Republicans will feel the urge to embrace long term political survival for themselves and their party by passing S 744... Or a critical mass of Republicans will buckle to 21st Century Know Nothing demands to kill the bill in order to survive the next primary.

And keep in mind that Heller, Heck, and Rep. Mark Amodei are at the center of this "TEA" tinged melodrama. As go their votes, so goes the fate of immigration reform in this Congress. So what will they choose? Will they listen to the vast majority of Nevadans and Americans? Or will they keep drinking the toxic "TEA"?

At Show Me Progress of Missouri, --Blue Girl writes—With Apologies to Inigo Montoya...:

My husband is a teacher. Specifically, he is a high school teacher and his students are, in order to get into the school where he teaches, "at risk." Because of his profession, the name "Michelle Rhee" is an epithet in our house, so there was no small bit of crowing on his part that this morning he learned, via Facebook, that the Missouri leader of her group is stepping down.

Lea Crusey, state director for Students First, will be leaving that position over the summer. She and her husband are moving to Washington, DC.

In the last few years Students First has emerged as one of several reform groups in Missouri. They have generally been at odds with the teachers' unions as they push for systemic reform. And they have found the Republican leadership - especially in the House - to be supportive of that effort. [emphasis added]

Reform...reform...they keep using that word, but I do not think it means what they think it means...

Unless "reform" has been redefined to mean "destroy teacher tenure." That is really the only "reform" they have on their agenda. The fact that they are anti-teacher puts the lie to their very name. You can not, by definition, put students first if you are trying to destroy teachers.

Show Me Progress

At Calitics, Brian Leubitz writes—Showdown over PG&E Penalties for San Bruno Explosion:

Calitics logo
In 2010, one of PG&E's main gas lines exploded, killing 8 people, and injuring many more. Since that time, we have discovered that PG&E hadn't properly inspected the lines, and continued to resist the real work that was necessary to maintain system safety.

The [California Public Utilities Commission] has proposed that the company be fined $2.25 billion, with administrative law judges scheduled to rule on that soon. The Commission is rather fed up with PG&E at this point.  [...]

Now, this "fine" is rather misleading. Even if they would be fined that large amount, the current proposal is for the money to be required to spend on safety improvements. And as a bonus, the company would get about $900 million back of that in tax benefits. Now, normally PG&E likes to charge customers for these kinds of expenses, but given that the system needs far more than $2.25 billion of safety improvements, this is hardly the end of the world for them. They can still try to recoup some of the other safety costs and the money really goes back on to their system.

At Madville Times of South Dakota, Caheidelberger writes—Tribal Chief Brewer Bounced from Whiteclay Beer Protest for Bad Check:
Madville Times of South Dakota
What got Oglala Sioux Tribe President Bryan Brewer arrested yesterday in Whiteclay, Nebraska? He was leading his people to block a beer truck from making its delivery. [...]

Ah, but Sheridan County Sheriff Terry Robbins hauled Brewer away for financial, not civil disobedience. The warrant they mention as they take him away was for a $191 check Brewer bounced last year. Brewer paid up at the courthouse and was released.

Now let's hope President Brewer doesn't bounce his check to the Rick Weiland campaign.

At Blog for Democracy of Georgia, Julianal writes—Hey, look here we’ve already had the Alice in Wonderland post once! Now on to Oz!
Apparently I was too hasty, and should have waited for “Wonderland” to have two possible three new residents, none named Nunn. Welcome to Oz.

I realize the Republican guys beat me to the punch on “Dr. Rad” and  a Mr.  John F. Coyne, III.

First up, Dr. Rad “says he won’t have any ties to the “machine” that is the Democratic Party of Georgia, which he thinks could allow him to better address the needs of the people, not just those of the party”

What I like so very much about the good doctor is that he doesn’t know us at all, machine?


Most days we can’t agree on if we need to turn purple before we turn blue. Not to mention for the next 60 days, 300+ of us will be inundated by appeals from potential “new” chair of the party candidates spouting all sorts of promises, plans and illusions of greatness.  I could completely understand if he said he was rejecting the DSCC money—because that’s a horse of a different color. They in fact have a machine. Bless his heart.

At Uppity Wisconsin, Man MKE writes—MN Vs WI: Embracing process over results over at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
Uppity Wisconsin state blog
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel used page one of its Sunday edition to feature an interesting political comparison between Wisconsin under conservative Republican hegemony and Minnesota under progressive Democratic control. You can go to the URL below and read it yourself, but the takeaway is right here: Somehow, in comparing the two states and analyzing how they've become this way and what contrary policy directions they're taking, the article makes not a sentence's worth of effort to compare outcomes. Is Minnesota doing better or is Wisconsin, and why? Wouldn't that be the most important set of facts for readers? Not at the MJS, apparently. Or maybe the paper is planning a followup.

[PSSST: Since the MJS won't tell you, we will. Minnesota is doing better than Wisconsin; a lot better, in fact, despite tax hikes and other progressive moves that if done here would make Walker Republicans begin speaking in tongues, if they already weren't.]

At Cowgirl Blog, Cowgirl writes—Journalism for sale at the Billings Gazette:
Cowgirl of Montana logo
An interesting phenomenon is developing at the Billings Gazette which has until now not received much attention. The Gazette is now selling the opportunity to the oil, coal, and gas companies to purchase not just advertising, but reporting.

The Gazette hired Yellowstone County GOP chair and former Conrad Burns staffer Jennifer Owen as editor of something called the Montana Energy Review—a Billings Gazette quarterly publication, with an affiliated website describing the magazine as “comprehensive reporting on energy economics and policy.”

I’m told by a source in the industry that the energy magazine has both advertisers and “stakeholders”–companies that as investing partners helped determine the magazine’s scope. Perhaps the Gazette was unable to get any of their current reporters to accept payments to write news with a particular slant.  Whatever the reason, they hired the chair of the local Republican party to do it.

At Blue Virginia, AndySchmooklerforCongress writes—A Strategy for Democrats in Very Red Districts:
There are many congressional districts where Democrats have nearly zero chance of winning anytime soon. (The recent victory of the disgraced Mark Sanford in a South Carolina congressional race shows how safe a Republican seat can be.)

The difficulty of winning these seats, paradoxically, presents an important opportunity for Democrats.

In the short run, the political battle in America is over who will hold the offices where laws get made. In the long run, the battle is over shaping the public consciousness that determines to whom the people will give power.

For the latter purpose, Democrats in very red districts can make an important contribution in the battle over the country's destiny.  It's an educational role that is especially vital because our politics are broken, and while most Americans see there's a problem, not enough Americans see where the problem lies.

A candidate in an unwinnable race can focus on moving hearts and minds, at least incrementally, toward recognizing the paramount political truth of our times:  The force that's taken over the Republican Party acts destructively and irresponsibly.

At HorsesAss of Seattle,  Darryl writes—Burning down the house:
horsesAss blog, state blogs
The Army Corps of Engineers, which is responsible for environmental review for civil works projects that affect navigable waters—projects like the Gateway Pacific Terminal—“will not take into consideration the green house gases that will be emitted when the coal is burned in Asia.” In testimony before Congress, a Corps spokesperson, described the effects as “too indirect” and therefore outside of the scope of their mandate.

If not the Engineers, then who will be the champion for Mother Earth?

Perhaps, Capitalism and the “Invisible Hand of the Market” will save Her from us? I mean, in the long run, higher profits will be made from an increasingly high-functioning, orderly, safe and healthy world!

At R.I., Bob Plain writes—Thus far but no further on voter ID law:
It was never fully implemented, and it won’t be fully repealed either.

Instead Rhode Island will keep its controversial Voter ID law as it is now: identification is needed but it doesn’t have to have a picture. As a result, the Ocean State remains one of the 19 states that require a non-photo id to vote, rather than one of the 11 that requires a photo id. The remaining 20 states don’t require identification.

It leaves in place obstacles to voting, but won’t effect voter fraud. Rhode Island also retains the onus of providing free id cards to anyone who may need one (this is a Constitutional requirement so voter ID laws don’t serve as a de facto poll tax). If it’s true that a good compromise is one in which neither party is happy, this is a good compromise.

At Green Mountain Daily, jvwalt writes—VSEAsick:
Looks like somebody at our state's second-largest labor union had a sudden revelation. Because after several days of bringing public disrepute on themselves, the board of the Vermont State Employees Association took a step back from the brink, and figured out a way forward that won't involve everybody looking like selfish idiots.
It all began, as I'm sure you know, last Wednesday, when a majority of the Board voted to fire VSEA Executive Director Mark Mitchell. The vote came after a seven-hour marathon meeting kicked off by two union lawyers accusing Mitchell of violating labor laws.

Adding fuel to the fire were trustees who support Mitchell. They went public with their side of the dispute. Which led anti-Mitchell trustees to fire back. Oh, and Mitchell himself sought counsel with an employment attorney, which carries the implicit threat of a wrongful-firing lawsuit. In other words, a big ol' circular firing squad.

All this, of course, without regard to the harm that might be done to the union, its members, the liberal cause in Vermont, and the broader labor movement.  I mean, it's hard enough, in this Koch-addled, clusterFoxed country of ours, to support organizing rights, without VSEA making a public spectacle of itself.

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