Minneapolis Star Tribune, Aug. 20

Still seeking the truth about allegations against Ellison

It's not unreasonable to ask his accuser to release video she says exists.

The #MeToo movement has provided a much-needed service by changing the way men and women talk about and treat accusations of sexual violence. Accusers — mostly women but not all — have been able to step out of the shadows and speak about their experiences, to not have those experiences immediately dismissed even if they involved powerful figures.

That is an important development. But there is danger here, too. It comes in making the quantum leap from listening, to instantly believing.

This has been brought home to Minnesotans in the campaign of U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, now the DFL-endorsed candidate for state attorney general. A six-term congressman who last year became deputy chair of the Democratic National Committee, with a rapidly rising national profile, Ellison stands accused of domestic violence by former live-in girlfriend Karen Monahan, who says Ellison attempted to drag her off a bed during an argument and verbally abused her.

She claims to have a video of this episode but will not release it. She says she should not have to, because it "sets the expectation for survivors ... to show and prove their stories." Ellison has flatly denied the accusations, saying that "this video does not exist because I never behaved in this way and any characterization otherwise is false."

Those two positions are poles apart, with no middle ground. There either is a video or there is not. If there is, Ellison will have been caught in a serious lie that could bring his rise to an abrupt halt. If there is no video, Monahan will have been found in a lie.

This country cannot afford to go back to a time when women's accusations were too often discounted. This moment has been too long in coming. But neither should Americans entirely jettison what has been the standard for jurisprudence in this country since its inception: that the accused is innocent until proven guilty, and that the burden for that proof lies with the accuser. To do so would result in a society where individuals could accuse another of some sexual misdeed and expect societal judgment to be passed immediately.

Ellison's daughter, Amirah Ellison, in a post about the accusations, speaks eloquently of wrestling with the opposing forces in this ugly episode, with "the beautiful momentum that the #MeToo movement has built" and what is in her opinion, "a profound anger at the injustice of these false accusations."

The terrain here is still fresh. A backbone of the movement has been the rightful demand that women be heard when they come forward. And the mere attempt to seek additional information from accusers is seen by some as victim-blaming. But there still must be an allowance made for the need to gain greater understanding of a situation — to sort out the truth when there are conflicting versions of events.

Monahan's accusation relied on the existence of a video to give her greater credibility. It is not unreasonable to now ask that such proof be produced, and well before the general election. Voters will have much to weigh in this race. The attorney general is the state's top law enforcement official and should be held to the highest standard of legal and ethical behavior. The need for additional information in making that assessment should be respected.


The Free Press of Mankato, Aug. 22

Bull market: Temper enthusiasm about subsidized stock market

Why it matters: Betting on a stock market and economy with questionable foundations can be dangerous to consumers and business.

Americans aren't complaining that their 401K balances are decidedly to the positive in the last nine years. Nor should they. We all deserve a little good news.

But headlines that by the end of the day today, without a calamity, the stock market will set a record for the longest bull market should be considered with skepticism. The bull market started in March 2009 and has steadily moved forward with few significant setbacks.

But a closer look at the market's success suggest some one-time, non-market factors supported those stock prices.

For several years after the 2008 recession, the Federal Reserve Board engaged in what was called "quantitative easing" — a strategy under which the central bank bought government securities, thereby lowering their price. This encouraged investors to buy stocks instead. It also lowered interest rates, making business borrowing cheaper and increased the money supply, making loans more available.

But that came at a price. Buying all those securities boosted Fed assets from $900 billion in 2009 to about $4.5 trillion, even though it discontinued buying securities in 2014. The central bank quadrupled its assets with securities born of a shaky economy. That's a risk.

Let's not forget about the major bailouts in 2008 of automakers and financial institutions, industries that are drivers of the American economy.

From 2009 to 2013, the U.S. government purchased $81 billion in stock from General Motors, Chrysler and GMAC, the financing arm of GM. When the government sold the stock, its total loss was $10 billion. But in the overall Troubled Asset Relief Program, which included stock buys, loans and other assistance to stave off major bankruptcies, the government invested $422 billion and recovered about $437 billion.

It's safe to say this bull market was supported by the U.S. government. The longevity of the current bull market may be unprecedented because the amount of government subsidy was unprecedented.

Moving forward, other government action may again support the market beyond fundamentals the private sector can provide. Certainly corporate tax cuts will likely have some impact, though a good portion of those cuts were spent by companies buying back record amounts of their own stock.

And despite the optimism of positive and regular corporate earnings, there remain clouds on the horizon. Tariffs already imposed stand to hurt the economy, particularly the farm economy, and threats of more tariffs have tempered the outlook. Some argue businesses are even holding back on their capital spending due to tariff concerns.

Higher interest rates will make borrowing more expensive. Consumers figure to be hit with higher credit card debt. And the federal deficit is project to nearly double, due to tax cuts, to $1.5 trillion.

So we can celebrate the bull market. But let's not get carried away until it can support itself without government subsidies.


Post Bulletin, Aug. 23

Pine Island needed to engage public on ICE proposal

At the Pine Island City Council meeting Tuesday night, Mayor Rod Steele said the council's decision to withdraw from consideration for a possible ICE detention center wasn't primarily due to public opposition.

Maybe so, but it doesn't appear that way.

The council voted unanimously Tuesday to rescind a resolution of support that it approved in June. That resolution rolled out the welcome mat for the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency to consider Pine Island for construction of a detention center. ICE put out a call for proposals for possible detention centers to be built near St. Paul, Chicago, Detroit and Salt Lake City. The former Elk Run area in Pine Island was among three sites proposed in Minnesota.

Though city officials pooh-poohed the idea that Pine Island was in the running, they took steps, including the council resolution in June, to let the developer and property owner know they'd welcome it. The June 19 resolution was pretty explicit:

"Whereas: The mayor of the City of Pine Island and the Pine Island City Council have made a commitment to attracting needed employment opportunities for the City and Council; and,

"Whereas: The proposal by Management & Training Corp. and its partners is for a state-of-the-art detention facility with an aesthetically pleasing design that will integrate with and not adversely impact nearby properties; and,

"Whereas: Construction of the project will contribute to the development of essential infrastructure within the Elk Run project area in the City of Pine Island and Olmsted County; and,

"Whereas: The project will result in significant tax revenues in the City of Pine Island immediately and in the future, and" — you get the picture. The resolution calls for the city staff to work "to bring this project to fruition."

So what changed?

People became aware of it. We and other news media did our jobs to make sure the community knew the city was keenly interested, as was the property owner. We explained what the detention facility would be for, how many detainees it likely would hold, and where it fits into the larger issue of immigration policy in this country.

By the council's July meeting, opponents were turning out in force, and by this week's meeting, council members wanted nothing more to do with it — at least for now.

Steele said the decision to rescind was based more on the improbability of the facility receiving funding anytime soon, more than public reaction. "We don't see any action happening until after the (midterm elections)," he said. "Probably next year is the earliest anything like this could get funded. To subject our town to this negative rhetoric for a number of months is not the right thing."

That may be true — we'll see if ICE moves ahead with the other sites proposed in Minnesota and elsewhere. And yes, there likely would be "negative rhetoric" in the meantime, or what's otherwise called "public debate."

The city's reluctance to truly acknowledge and engage in that debate has been part of the problem. At the June meeting, City Administrator David Todd said that public debate was "very premature," according to the council minutes.

"Should we be selected, there will be ample opportunity for public input, and public hearings," the minutes say.

So, in other words, the public shouldn't pay attention until there's a proposal on the table that's far down the tracks.

Sorry, but in our view, that's absurd. If the city thought it was a great idea, as that June resolution says, elected officials and city staff should have been ready to explain and defend that point of view before the lobbyists and other vested interests get suited up.

And we think it's possible to make that case. We haven't expressed an opinion on the detention facility itself, but a case certainly can be made for seeking a federal facility in Pine Island that would bring a capital investment of $125 million or more, create jobs and spur further development in the currently dormant Elk Run area.

People in Rochester weren't crazy about the idea of a federal prison here, 30 years ago, but they came to see it as a benefit and it's now an important employer and institution. An ICE facility entails more controversy than just public safety issues, but if the city thought it would be a great thing and a game changer, they should have been willing to speak for it and fight for it.

As it stands, there was some murkiness Tuesday about whether this is a short-term tactical move or a permanent change of heart. Steele said, "At this particular time, this isn't the right thing for Pine Island."

The wording of the resolution, though, is clear. The council "has reconsidered the merits of the proposed ICE facility project" and withdrawn from the competition. It would be tough for the council and mayor to climb back into the ring after that.