If Legislators Play Politics on FGM Young Women Die, No Time for Politics

Last night, we attended a forum with members of the Somali community at the Grandview Restaurant and Wedding Hall in South Minneapolis. The topic was Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), which is sometimes called incorrectly called female circumcision, because the procedure isn’t done for any preemptive, or positive health reasons, as is male circumcision, but rather to remove a woman’s sexual organs that provide pleasure. This is the epitome of a patriarchy and oppression of women by the male segment of a society. In western eyes, the act is nothing short of barbaric and it is banned in most of the world’s civilized nations.

This clash of cultures recently came to light when two, young Somali girls were taken from Minnesota to Michigan where the procedure was conducted. In Minnesota, it is a crime for a person to perform the procedure, but there is no consequence for the family members who allow it to be done. This is where the public outcry and the conflict between old world ways and the new world of America come front and center.

The principal organizers were: Farhio Khalif, A Voice of East African Women, Fadumo Abdinur, Tasho Community, Omar Jamal, Osman Omar, Waris Mohamud, Hareda Sidow, Deqa Hussen, Camila Abdidoon, and Imam Roble. The most notable absence was freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar (DFL-60B, Minneapolis), the only Somali state legislator.

The guise used to justify FGM is religion, and the battle occurs both inside the family as well as outside in the greater society. The question is will the Somali Community submit to the social standard of their new home or retain the archaic practices of the past.

The person at the forefront of this issue is an unexpected advocate Rep. Mary Franson (R-08B, Alexandria). She made headlines when she compared people on food assistance to wild animals. Her bill is HF2621, and she attended last night’s forum, the companion is SF2355, authored by Sen. Karin Housley (R-39, St Mary’s Point), who did not attend. An alternative position is being advanced in the senate and hampered by Sen. Jim Abeler (R-35, Anoka). He appears to be siding with other members of the Somali community expressing saying the state of Minnesota will take away the children of parents who have allowed this procedure to be performed on their daughters.

He also did not attend the forum and merely phoned it in. Literally, he called during the event and one of the organizers Omar Jamal had his phone turned toward the speaker and informed the Senator many Somali women would be marching on the Capitol and coming to his office to put the issue right.

As these two sides square off it should be explained the biggest issue front and center should not be about the culture clash between old and new it should be the welfare of the children at risk. The procedure is not medically sound, has major, long-term medical consequences and is perpetuated because of ignorance and oppression.

A way to put this issue in another light, we think people should see similarities between this issue and sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. Since FGM is perpetrated under the auspices of religion and remains in the shadows it is akin to the tacit support expressed by the Roman Catholic Church as it shuttled offending clergy around the nation to other parishes when they were found to have abused children.

When it is the institution people turn to in times of solace, the place where the seek comfort in hours of need that authorizes or even administers the horrendous act, the pain felt is even greater. If there are no safe harbors for girls in this new land, then the horrors of the place their parents left enter into their lives for no valid reason.

Why Are Republicans So Mean Spirited?

What is it that constitutes the Republican anti-government fervor? Is it a commitment to a higher-minded purpose, no. Is it a moral construct, maybe? Most likely it is a dogmatic dedication to disdain, an outright rejection of the concept of a collective, societal purpose. The need for others to help make one whole. The realization of the fact, everyone needs something more than they already have.

If a Republican reads this, they will reject it out-of-hand. They will not be able to relate to the notion because it is foreign.

When Hillary Clinton (D) wrote her book, It Takes a Village: And Other Lessons Children Teach Us, she embodied an idea, which was wholly objectionable to a Republican, because extended the concept of who matters in the raising of a child out to those people who might not play a day-to-day role in that child’s rearing. Those people who exemplify the surroundings built to establish the community in which the child is born into are as important as the central family.

In American, 3-5% of the population have sociopathic personalities. We would be willing to bet most if not all vote Republican. If these figures are applied to the MN House it means between 4-6 of the members in this body may be sociopaths and 2-3 members in the Senate. It also begs the question which ones could they be?

As the budget negotiations continue could this idea be a factor in the discussion?

Right now, Speaker Kurt Daudt (R-31A, Crown) is quicker to point fingers after each negotiating session. It may be because he is balancing all his decisions against his gubernatorial bid. We expect a portion of the issue is Daudt has more experience negotiating with Governor Mark Dayton (DFL). Unlike, Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-09, Nisswa).

We still hold to our belief we had at the start of the session, there will be a special session and mainly because the House is more strident, may contain more sociopaths and is up for election in 2018.

Debating Science Versus Stupidity

Watching the debate on the House Floor on SF550 is an interesting exercise, akin to watching your favorite sports team being beaten by your biggest rival. We listened to Rep. Glenn Gruenhagen (R-18B, Glencoe) address his colleagues on the topic of climate change. He sincerely voiced his disbelief in the support by 97% of scientists acknowledging the existence of human influence on climate change. As he spoke it was hard not to shout, out words like blooming idiot, imbecile, and an abject fool.

It is clear the residents of district 18B, may not be any more intelligent than their representative because they have sent him to St Paul four times. As an insurance man, Gruenhagen provides his customers with protection against calamities and misfortunes. We only wish he would do the same to viewers of the session unless his intent is to provide comedic relief, but we learned long ago it is not polite to tease the mentally challenged.

Feeding the Fish Legislative Style

The staging of the optics for the forthcoming conflict between Governor Mark Dayton (DFL) and the Republican-controlled legislature is merely a feeding frenzy of red meat to the Republican base. As we have already seen Republicans have passed bills, sent them to the governor, the governor has vetoed, and provided information in the veto message about why he took this action. Republicans are attempting to fire a broadside at the governor expecting him to recoil and relinquish ground on each measure. This is where Dayton must prove his resolve and resiliency.

Today, both houses of the legislature will continue their salvos, but as these shots are recoiling from off the governor’s office, they (Republicans) need to know Dayton remains unscathed. The activities this week are structured to occur prior to the Governor’s fishing opener on Saturday. Despite the fact, the governor will be joined by the legislative leadership in his boat, we doubt much will be accomplished. This week is all about posturing, next week will be the same process proving Republicans are committed to their positions and then next weekend will be when the two sides sit down to negotiate.

As we have learned from these conference committee actions, which are advancing only with Republican position, DFLers are not included in the process what-so-ever. This is not a surprise. The DFL is in the minority. They lost the election, now they need to win the rhetorical debate because they will not win any points on the legislative floor.

The proposals advanced by Republicans have one clear purpose, reduce spending to facilitate tax cuts for the affluent. The across the board losses are undermining base funding in many areas. If the erosion continues certain areas will reach a tipping point, and while the budget bills seem to be structured to support the programs we learned from the last budget cycle the programs suffer in favor of the administrative costs and it is a slippery slope down to zero.

It is a traditional Republican approach is to starve government on the vine, prove it is inadequate in its provision of services and a cause of frustration for the public. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Now we will be watching out for which bills become the vehicles for the next barrage.

Wait for the Tax Bill

The big Republican maneuver will be when they send the Tax Bill to the Governor. This will be the most political document written this legislative session. It will include the vast array of tax cuts for people in comfortable positions our state will likely see in the near future.

With Speaker Kurt Daudt (R-31A, Crown) seeking to replace Governor Mark Dayton (DFL), every action he takes and each move he makes must be measured in aspiration terms. The future of the Republican majority may hinge on the knee-jerk reactionary, tax cut dogma. As Republican fight with Dayton they impinge their own futures.

We expect the Tax Bill will be a bargaining chip to a Bonding Bill and Republicans will expect it to be signed before a Bonding Bill is truly offered.

Speaking of the Bonding Bill

It is our opinion, on the House side the Bonding Bill will rise and approach a billion dollars, but will not exceed a billion. Our indications from Capitol Investment Committee Chair Dean Urdahl (R-18A, Grove City) reinforce this idea.

Although, while Urdahl uses the Republican playbook currently in use, which is isolating DFLers from the conversation he risks ultimate passage of his bill. Because a Bonding Bill requires a super majority of 81 House votes, Republicans will need DFL votes for passage. This unique reality behooves Urdahl to extend a hand to Minority Lead Rep. Alice Hausman (DFL-66A, St Paul) and allow her to help craft a viable bill.

Urdahl confided the bill will pass with inclusion of items with broad support, but since there is far greater need than the bill will meet, we reiterate the question asked by a sage member of the legislative establishment Rep. Lyndon Carlson (DFL-45A, Crystal) When all is agreed to will there still be leaking roofs in buildings across the state?