Flawless the movie

Last night I attend a free preview screening of the movie Flawless staring Demi Moore and Michael Caine.

I liked the movie a lot. It had the old boys network element with the glass ceiling Demi’s character faced in the 1960s. Issues of class, corporate secrets, insurance, and employment at the will of the employer were covered.

I would recommend it as a movie, either in the theater (opening at the Uptown tomorrow) or as a rental.

Thanks to Landmark Theaters for the free preview offers. The theater wasn’t even full, which was better than last week when Sleepwalker was at capacity and I just missed getting in.

These are the free previews that I have seen since last Labor Day,

-Josh

Advertisements

Minneapolis’ Pedestrian Master Plan

On Wednesday the city and consultants had their first public meeting.

I had something later in the evening, so wasn’t able to stay the whole time. The meeting was well attended, with all seats taken and 10-20 people standing. The consultants only spent 10 minutes on their presentation, focusing more time on comments from the public.

With the pressure to leave early to get to my other thing, I was lucky to get the first questions after the presentation.

My two biggest issues for pedestrian safety are painted crosswalks and law enforcement.

In the fall of 2006 (I think November) all but the final layer of pavement, was completed on Lake St between Minnehaha Ave and about 37th Ave S. At thins point March 2006 (14 months later) that final layer has not been laid, and the crosswalks have not been painted. There was a 4-5 month delay on other segments getting painted crosswalks, and a really horrible situation at Lake and Chicago where the new left turn lanes weren’t painted.

Throughout Minneapolis, the painted crosswalks at controlled intersections, particularly those with stop lights, there is chronic fading issue. The area near my work (in St Paul) has probably been painted 7 times in the past 10 years, some out of it driven by lane marking changes.

The other huge issue is lack of enforcement of Minnesota Statute §169.21 Subd. 2 which is summarized here,

  • Do not enter the crosswalk if approaching vehicles cannot stop. While Minnesota’s Pedestrian law says that motorists must stop to yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian in a crosswalk, it also says that pedestrians may not enter a crosswalk if it is impossible for a driver to stop. The word “crosswalk” applies to both marked and unmarked areas where pedestrians can gain the right-of-way.

Now the city of Saint Paul made a big deal out of this law, and enforces it. City of Minneapolis has been silent on it.

On these two issues, the city of Minneapolis could sure learn from St. Paul. In exchange we could tell St Paul about better methods of snow removal from the streets.

-Josh

Give me incandescent bulbs or give me death

That gem comes from Michelle (I heart George Bush) Bachmann who has authored a bill, HR 5616 the Light Bulb Freedom of Choice Act.

Challenging her argument

The Strib gave this issue front page coverage.

“By 2012, incandescent light bulbs will be no more,” Bachmann said. “Fluorescent bulbs are more polluting because of their mercury content. We are working on a light bulb bill. If the Democrats can hose up a light bulb, don’t trust them with the country.”

Nice, claiming that this is a huge pressing issue that Democrats are botching, so they must be bad at everything.  But the claim that the mercury is more polluting in these bulbs can be challenged.

The electrical and manufacturing industries, in a rare alliance with environmentalists, portray Bachmann’s mercury concerns as overblown. They argue that fluorescent lights actually reduce mercury emissions in the long run. That’s because the new bulbs use so much less electricity, much of which is produced by burning coal, which emits greenhouse gases and mercury.

“That’s not just the industry talking,” said Mark Kohorst of the National Electrical Manufacturers Association. “That’s an accepted aspect of these products, and that’s why they’ve been promoted so heavily.”

So if we have to produce more electricity to run an incandescent bulb, much of which is provided by burning coal, which just happens to emit mercury also, it seems like this should be simple math. It would be simple math we are looking at net mercury in the environment, but it is more complex than that.

The compact fluorescent light (CFL) has mercury inside of it. The two big issue with mercury, are broken bulbs which requires a little extra handling and have a dispersal of mercury in the home, and disposal of the bulb. These issues are covered in the article,

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) outline a series of steps that homeowners should take to clean up broken fluorescent lights: Open windows, use rubber gloves, dispose of all material in sealed bags and remove it to a hazardous waste facility.

“It’s almost as if you have to call the haz-mat team out to your home,” Bachmann said.

Environmentalists argue that most of the steps are the same as cleanup from any broken glass accident, except for the special disposal requirements.

See one problem with this, is that there a lot of things people use around the house now that need special care to be cleaned up or disposed of, with out that haz-mat suit.  Paint, many cleaners, car fluids, cellular phones, computers, televisions, and so on must have proper hazardous waste disposal, at least here in Hennepin County, MN.

But the other thing is that the mercury is contained if the bulb isn’t broken. So it is much easier to care for and contain than the air-borne emissions, which according to the TVA 33% of that in the US comes from coal burning.

Based on current preliminary data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the principal human-caused sources of mercury emissions in the United States are coal-fired power plants (33 percent of the total emitted), municipal waste incinerators (19 percent), and medical waste incinerators (10 percent). (See Figure 1.)

Besides the environmental issue, Bachman rolls out the cost issue. Yes, a CFL costs more than incandescent, but when you factor the longer life and lower energy costs, it is net saving over time. As the US Dept of Energy shows, the savings over time is quite significant at $62.95 over the life of a CFL. Looking at the cost of the CFL that they use $14, it probably is a bigger savings, as the growth in consumer demand has lowered the cost of a CFL, the most expensive CFL I have purchased in the past year, has been 3-way bulbs (dimming ones are probably pricier too) at$8-9 not the $14 that DOE uses.

It is interesting that she now fighting against what could be called a burden for low income families, the higher up front cost of a CFL. Yet her record on supporting families with increases to the minimum wage could only be considered pitiful. From a City Page article in October 2006 in the run up to her election,

Take this answer to a question about raising the minimum wage: “In Minnesota, we have only 3.6 percent unemployment. We are the workingest state in the nation. We have more two-income families than any state in the nation. We have more women in the work force than any state in the nation. We have more people working two or three jobs than anywhere else.” She concluded that “minimum wage in this state is not a big issue.”

I bet some of those people would like to get paid more money so they don’t HAVE to work two or three jobs to make ends meet. And in the meantime, maybe afford that CFL to reap the long term savings benefit, but I digress.

The final issue is the choice issue, should we as consumers below allowed to buy that incandescent bulb?

“I was just outraged that Congress would want to substitute its judgment for the judgment of the American people,” she said. “It struck me as a massive Big Brother intrusion into our homes and our lives.”

Choice in products, novel idea, what ever happened to lead paint, leaded gasoline, asbestos, and other great products, is Bachmann going to fight for the right to party… er, I mean buy dangerous products?  I realize these aren’t perfect examples, as she raise the safety/pollution factor, and my examples are more polluting.  But if you are going to take the tact that government shouldn’t dictate our choices, than you should be able to argue for these other products.

Legislative action in Congress

Bachmann has been a US Representative for 14 months now. According to the legislative web site Thomas at the Library of Congress, Bachmann has sponsored 11 House Resolutions or Amendments.

  • H.R. 789 – Honoring (a bunch of whereas) organizations that work with foster children.
  • H.R. 898 – Recognizing MN is 150 years old
  • H.R. 923 – Recognizing MN is 150 years old (maybe forgot HR898)
  • H.R. 623 – Amend Revenue Code to provide health care choice by providing tax deductibility of expenses of individuals (translation: free market solution plus tax cut)
  • H.R. 3869 – Funding to fix the fallen 35 W bridge
  • H.R. 3958 – certain calculations added to a financial statement by the government.
  • H.R. 4119 – change date of executive branches audited financial statement being presented to Congress (apparently lost the love for Georgie as this is clearly a challenge to the unitary executive principle)
  • H.R. 4311 – allow Chafee Independence funds to pay for private school tuition and transportation to and from public schools (possible back door to start vouchers for private schools??) here is the new added paragraph, you judge

`(5) Vouchers under the program may be available to youths in foster care, regardless of age, for the cost of tuition at a private school offering elementary or secondary education, or the cost of transportation to and from a public school offering such education.’.

  • H.R. 4852 – Allow TANF block grant funds to pay for alternative to abortion programs (coming from an anti-choice place on this topic)
  • H.R. 5616 – Give me incandescent bulbs or give me death act!
  • H.Amdt 599 – cut Amtrak funding by $106 million.

In fairness, she is a freshman Representative of the minority party, so there isn’t a lot that she can do. In a totally random survey of four other freshman Republicans, those four had sponsored 27, 10, 7, and 6 pieces each.

Co-sponsors, or the company she keeps

Sometimes it is useful to see who has signed on to legislation that some might find a bit nutty. So here are her co-sponsors.

Apparently she was outraged by the MoveOn.org ad questioning General Petraeus, but didn’t know which of her constituents was the last one that was KIA in Iraq, maybe if we could see caskets, it would have been more memorable (some people are just so visual). Video here.

Shuster: “Let’s talk about the public trust. You represent, of course, a district in western Tennessee. What was the name of the last solider from your district who was killed in Iraq?”

Blackburn:”The name of the last soldier killed in Iraq uh – from my district I – I do not know his name …”

Racist comment

“One amendment today said we could not sell guns to anybody under drug treatment. So does that mean that if you go into a black community you can’t sell any guns to any black person?”

While not convicted, he has been accused of being involved in voter fraud attempts and connected to the Abramoff scandal.

This guy is just a bigoted ass. Thankfully my representative, who he attacked, Keith Ellison, is more of a class act that Virgil or myself.

Thank you for your recent communication. When I raise my hand to take the oath on Swearing In Day, I will have the Bible in my other hand. I do not subscribe to using the Koran in any way. The Muslim Representative from Minnesota was elected by the voters of that district and if American citizens don’t wake up and adopt the Virgil Goode position on immigration there will likely be many more Muslims elected to office and demanding the use of the Koran. We need to stop illegal immigration totally and reduce legal immigration and end the diversity visas policy pushed hard by President Clinton and allowing many persons from the Middle East to come to this country. I fear that in the next century we will have many more Muslims in the United States if we do not adopt the strict immigration policies that I believe are necessary to preserve the values and beliefs traditional to the United States of America and to prevent our resources from being swamped.

Introduced the PATRIOT ACT and authored the Real ID, probably not on Ron Paul’s Christmas list.

So there are some co-sponsors that are as questionable as Michelle Bachmann herself.  Granted it is Congress.

Summary

For those of us in Minnesota, Michelle Bachmann has been quite a bit of embarrassment, which this bill she sponsored is just another example.  We can hope that she will become a 1 term representative this fall with an electoral defeat.

-Josh

Crushes in the conservative world

The Strib reprinted a column by Andrew Klavan, from the LA Times, about the conservative coming out of playwright David Mamet. It is equal parts crooning about the superiority of the conservative ideals and liberal bashing.

Gush Alert

Mamet, on the other hand, is a pillar of the arts. I don’t know if he’s America’s greatest living playwright, but I’m hard-pressed to think of a better one.

Now this confuses me a little

The journey that Mamet, 60, has made from being what he calls a “brain-dead liberal” to acknowledging the genius of philosophers such as Thomas Sowell and Milton Friedman is a difficult one for an artist.

Milton Friedman as a philosopher, I thought he was an economist. That 1976 Nobel Prize in Economics reinforces my impression of him.

“Yes,” we might say to ourselves, “it certainly does seem that history has vindicated those warmongering right-wingers who opposed the Soviet Union. And really, in secret, one must admit that women and men are pretty fundamentally different. It does seem true, as well, that government programs manifestly worsen the problems they’re designed to solve, whereas freedom in markets and ideas always seems strangely to improve things. … But that doesn’t mean I’m a conservative! Conservatives are mean, racist, sexist, greedy — and they hate gay people, who are an artist’s colleagues and friends! I’m nothing like that.”

So Mamet and Klavan are going to be protesting the economic stimulus package and the recent bailout of Bear Stearns, after all that is government intervention, a tainting of the purity of the free market, which at times is like a whole new religion (without tax exempt status). Where are those protests?

But he also will discover a right wing he never knew. He will discover thinkers who seek historical and moral truth as if it really mattered, and writers who defend liberty as if it were what in fact it is: the prerequisite of full humanity. Rather than the low and tiresome obsession of the left with the color of people’s skins, he will find people who embrace a philosophical colorblindness. He will meet women of intelligence and competence who — mirabile dictu — don’t despise men and manliness but openly admire them.

Ah, colorblindness, code for we can’t be overly racists any more, so instead we will cry racism when programs (affirmative action) attempt to balance that institutional racism that exists in American society.

Where are the all the conservative writers who are decrying the loss of civil liberties to the Patriot Act? And on the woman issue, I am sure seeing independent woman who consider themselves equals (and maybe still be attracted to Brawny man) causes Klavan to cross the street at night, they are so scary and dangerous.

I did a little looking at this Klavan person, he is now a contributing editor to a quarterly magazine by the Manhattan Institute. What kind of company does he keep at the MI?

Looking toward the future, the Manhattan Institute launched the Young Leaders Circle in January 2007, to provide a forum for young professionals in the New York metropolitan area interested in free-market ideas and public policy. The circle already has over 100 members, who hear such leading thinkers as David Brooks, Shelby Steele, William Kristol, and Steve Forbes discuss the pressing issues of the day in an evening lecture and cocktail party series.

Of course, this same quarterly journal also features a well known name from the run up to the Iraq invasion, Judith Miller.

The MI is very free-market (which also means anti-regulation) and looks to be libertarian with healthy doses of self-reliance (anti welfare, will social welfare) in their ideology. Clearly a think tank that is at odds with my world outlook. Although one of their writers did come out against the Bear Stearns bailout.

-Josh

Henry Paulson is rolling out the Social Security Bogeyman

You got to love the predictability of conservatives. We get a new report that looks at the financial difficulty of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, and we hear Social Security. The audio clip I heard on the way home, Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson talk about Social Security, not Medicare. You could blame this on the media, but I think as you will see in this post, that Paulson also deserves blame.

In fairness Paulson’s statement does discuss Medicare and even points out that it is a more urgent issue.

The 2008 Medicare Trustees Report shows that the Medicare program poses a far greater financial challenge than Social Security. Medicare faces the same demographic trends as Social Security, and, in addition, the system must cope with expected large increases in health care costs. Medicare’s annual costs were 3.2 percent of GDP in 2007, or nearly three-quarters of Social Security’s, but are projected to surpass Social Security expenditures in 2028 and reach nearly 11 percent of GDP in 2082, compared to 5.8 percent for Social Security.

Yeah, a conservative is pointing out that Medicare needs help, and quickly. Not only that, but if trends continue, it will be a bigger burden than Social Security as a percentage of GDP.

But see the problem is Medicare, the more urgent problem, but is after Social Security in his statement. I see that is trying to scare us on Social Security getting him a bogeyman call out.

This year’s Social Security Report again demonstrates that the Social Security program is financially unsustainable and requires reform. In fewer than 10 years, cash flows are projected to turn negative–meaning that we will draw upon general revenues to support withdrawals from the Trust Funds in order to pay current benefits. The Trust Funds are projected to be exhausted in 2041, the same as projected in last year’s Report. Reform is needed and time is of the essence. The longer we delay, the larger the required adjustments will be and the more heavily the burden of those adjustments will fall on future generations.

Social Security’s unfunded obligation–the difference between the present values of Social Security inflows and outflows less the existing Trust Fund–equals $4.3 trillion over the next 75 years and $13.6 trillion on a permanent basis. To make the system whole on a permanent basis, the combined payroll tax rate would have to be raised immediately by 26 percent (from 12.4 percent to about 15.6 percent), or benefits reduced immediately by 20 percent.

This Report confirms the need for action; the sooner we take action to strengthen Social Security’s financial footing, the less drastic the needed reforms will be, and the fairer reforms will be to future generations. President Bush has called for bipartisan solutions that generate a permanently sustainable Social Security system. The President has put forward a number of well-considered ideas. We now need serious and thoughtful engagement from all sides to make sure Social Security is strengthened and sustained for future generations.

$4.3 trillion over 75 years seems like a lot. But if you divide $4.3 trillion by 300 million Americans, that is only $14,333.33 per person (over 75 years) or $191.11 per person per year for 75 years. Or if you get paid twice a month $7.96 per paycheck (or $7.35 per paycheck if paid every two weeks) A little less scary when you break it down that way.
Now I am unable to find the 75 year deficit for Medicare in the new report (I was lazy, it is 242 page pdf), but looking back to that special little powerpoint presentation to the AARP, I am guessing it is high, much higher than Social Security.

page 9

As I wrote previously, based on last year’s data, the liability exposure for Social Security and Medicare shows that 83.3% of it comes from Medicare, not Social Security. Combining that information with the fact that Medicare trust fund will run out sooner than Social Security (see thumbnail below), it makes you wonder if anyone can shut up about Social Security and focus on Medicare.

Medicare trust fund

As I have said before, if conservatives want to have an honest discussion, they need to start a discussion on Medicare and only Medicare, not drag Social Security into this.

-Josh

Endangered Species: Moderate Republican Politicians

Last year Minnesota saw Congressman Ramstad announce that he will not run again in 2008 and that has been unfortunate.  I don’t agree with him on a number of issues, but I do respect him, and a number of key issues we do agree.

Today State Representative Kathy Tingelstad announced she will not seek re-election.  This is really unfortunate, she was one of the six House Republicans that voted to override Gov. Pawlenty’s veto of the transportation bill.  She also understands adoption and foster care, and has been a great ally on these issues in Minnesota.

So Kathy, thank you for your service and good luck!

-Josh

4,000 dead

We have now passed the 4,000 mark in the number of dead soldiers in Iraq.  We invaded Iraq a little over 5 years ago.  On May 1st, 2003, President Bush declared “Mission Accomplished.”  Yet we stayed in Iraq and so many American soldiers have died.

To this day, it is hard to find any justification for the invasion.  It has been so hard to justify it, that it is like a moving target.  Al Qaeda is there (no they weren’t), Al Qaeda is working with Saddam (no they weren’t), we need to bring freedom to Iraqis (Dafur??), weapons of mass destruction (ever thought you should let the weapon inspectors finish their job),  and Saddam is a really bad guy (why aren’t we in North Korea?).

Not only was it an unjustified invasion, but it caused us to take our eye of the prize, Osama Bin Laden who went from wanted dead or alive, to I’m just not that into him.

Of course this isn’t the whole story, it doesn’t come close to talking about the instability for Iraqis, the huge numbers dead or displaced.  Unreliable water and electricity, or high unemployment.  Or the attempts to push through oil contracts that are favorable to multinational corporations.

If you really want to support the troops, bring them home and then fund the VA so that they supported to meet their needs, especially TBI and PTSD.

-Josh

How do you know if you are in the investor class?

Well, if in a divorce settlement it is determined your annual income needs exceed $1 million dollars.  If you made $100,000 a year, not a bad income, then it would take you ten years to equal a million.

As People reported about Heather Mills divorce settlement from Paul McCartney,

The judge calculated Mill’s annual income needs at about $1.2 million and included a sum of $5 million for her to buy a property in London.

A provision for daughter Beatrice consisting of periodical $70,000 payments was included, and McCartney has agreed to pay for her nanny and school fees. Of the provision, Mills said, “Beatrice only gets $70,000 a year so she is obviously meant to travel B class while her father travels A class. But obviously I will pay for that.”

The court has imposed a blanket order preventing disclosure of details revealed during the court case and in documents tendered to the court.

Yeah, while these are celebrities, a slightly different subset of the investor class, the fact that a periodic payment (plus nanny and I am sure very expensive private school paid for) of $70,000 is insufficient to raise a child, at least in A Class life style, displays the inability of some to understand what the average person makes do with.

I mean we have people losing their homes, families going bankrupt over health care costs.  We have kids going to school sick so their parents ,without paid sick time, don’t miss work and struggle even harder to keep food on the table.  And yet, we still have Heather Mills complaining that $70,000 to raise a child is not enough.

Now I am sure that Heather Mills is involved with a lot of charities, and provides great hope and inspiration to amputees.  I commend her for that, but I wanted to point out how out of step that comment is with what the average person considers sufficient funds to raise a family.

-Josh

Understanding the gas tax through math

Here is the first follow up blog on the gas tax increase in Minnesota that recently passed and survived a veto.

Throughout this blog, I am using historical data from the Energy Information Administration which is part of the Department of Energy. Now because I am lazy, I am going with what I found in a quick search. This is weekly averages over the Midwest starting May 11, 1992 through March 10, 2008. This average is over multiple states, who may or may not have a higher state gas tax than Minnesota, so it is far from the perfect data set, but it will still serve to explain the gas tax as part of the cost of gasoline.

First we shall look at the state gas tax as a percent of the total cost of a gallon of gas. You may have recalled in a previous post I had quoted a letter by Al Sands,

Why are gas taxes pegged at cents per gallon, instead of a percentage of the retail price of a gallon? Most taxes are based on dollars: the sales tax, the income tax, the property tax. Pegging the gas tax on gallons dooms it to constant underfunding. Maintenance costs go up every year.

The point Sands is making, is that the state gets the same amount of money per gallon of gas, regardless of the increase in costs.

So looking at the data between May 11, 1992 and December 27, 1999 the range of the gas prices was from $0.853 and $1.266, I know it makes me cry to see how long these prices were relatively stable and lower. So looking at the maximum and minimum, a 20 cent gas tax would take between 23.4% or 15.8% of the price of gas during this time period.

Today, with the gas price at $3.187 the gas tax at 20 cents per gallon is only 6.3% of the price of gas. Going back to Sands question, if we had maintained the gas tax at a percent of the price of gas, like the sales tax, then the gas tax at 15.8% would capture 50.4 cents per gallon when gas costs $3.187, far less than the 28.5 cents it will be at after the phased in increases.

The next way to see how 20 years of a stable gas tax, not tied to inflation, but volume, has lessened its purchasing power is to look at inflation. Using the calculator on Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis web site we find this,

  • $.20 in 1988 adjusted for inflation equals $.36 in 2008, or

Once again, the gas tax increase we are talking about, will still be less in inflation adjusted dollars than the amount in 1988.

Now you may have remembered this part of the letters I quoted, this one from Richard Meixner,

The price of gasoline isn’t high enough already, so our legislators are going to make it even more expensive.

So for our history lesson.

  • On May 18, 2005 the Senate passed a bill that would raise the gas tax by 10 cents per gallon.  Governor Pawlenty vetoed either that day, or the following day, May 19, 2005.  The price of a gallon of gas on May 16, 2005 was $2.06.
  • On May 15, 2007, Governor Pawlenty signed a veto of the transportation bill that would have raised the gas tax by 7.5 cents per gallon.  The price of a gallon of gas was at historic highs on May 14, 2007 at $3.158.
  • On February 22, 2008, Governor Pawlenty vetoed the transportation bill that would have raised the gas tax by 8.5 cents per gallon.  The price of a gallon of gas on February 18, 2008 was $3.041.  Of note, the price of a gas of gasoline went up by 10.1 cents per gallon from a week earlier.

When does Meixner expect the gas tax to go back down?  Why isn’t he mad that the increase didn’t come when the gas was closer to $2 a gallon?
At this point your eyes may be glazing over at all these numbers and what they mean to car owners and Minnesota residents, so I will summarize some things for you.

Unless you are looking at absolute dollars, the actual dollars captured in revenue, which have increased (more people, more driving, less efficient vehicles), we are getting less bang for the buck.  The percentage of the price of a gallon of gas that is paid to state taxes has gone down.  Also the value of the gas tax at 20 cents per gallon has diminished due to inflation, to keep up with inflation, the 20 cents in 1988 would now be 36 cents in 2008.

Governor Pawlenty has his opportunity to raise the tax in 2005 when the cost was close to $2 per gallon, instead he vetoed, then he used the much higher prices as the reason against raising it in 2007 and 2008.

At what point in time does  he think the price of gas will go down significantly?  At what point will he think that funding is inadequate enough to warrant an increase?  Does he really think that Wimpy’s pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today is the proper way to fund large scale transportation projects, which had no takers.

With the MN Department of Transportation building falling down, with I-35W bridge having collapsed.  With potholes on highways and city streets leading us down the road to challenge Manitoba for the label Land of 100,000 Lakes.  The state legislature, including the crucial six House Republicans voted to override Governor Pawlenty’s veto, which Minnesotans, and especially the suspension and wheel alignment in our cars, will benefit from it.

-Josh

Adoptees deserve access to the birth certificate

There is a bill before the Minnesota Legislature that would allow adoptees to have access to their original birth certificate, HF 3371 or SF 3193.

The lead authors of the bill, Kathy Tingelstad in the House and Ann Rest in the Senate make a compelling case today in the Commentary section of the Strib.

For full disclosure, my sister is an adoptee, while this bill won’t help her, I strongly support it.  I also testified on behalf of one of Kathy Tingelstad’s bills last year.

The debate over whether adopted adults should have access to their original birth certificates is often mistakenly viewed as birth parent vs. adoptee rights. This is simply not true. The reality is that the debate is more about restoring the right that adopted persons once traditionally had to their birth information, pitted against the mythology that birth parents need protections from secrets and that the state and placing agencies should be the protectors of those secrets.

What is a birth certificate?  It is a document that records, certifies, a person’s birth.  Yes, the birth parents are listed on the document, but it is a document about the infant that is born.  So shouldn’t a document about you be something that you have the right to access, regardless of what the adults in your life decided was the best family for you when you were to young to even talk?  I personally think so.

Our compromise legislation honors provisions for birth parents who wish to prevent the release of a birth certificate to the children they relinquished; they may sign an affidavit of nondisclosure with the Health Department. Since 1982, when this document was first implemented, there have been 1,228 filed. That preference would be honored; these birth certificates would not be released.

So they do allow birth parents to opt out of disclosure, but this is something that must be a conscious act by the birth parent in signing the affidavit.  In fact a majority of birth parents who take action, take action wishing that their information is disclosed to the children they placed for adoption.

Our legislation is also based on new data released last month by the Health Department showing that 11,683 birth parents signed documents stating they do wish disclosure. Yes, more than 90 percent of the birth parents signed this affidavit of disclosure! Adult adoptees would be able to get a copy of their original birth certificate; this is something nonadoptees take for granted.

This is a good bill that provides adoptees with access to THEIR documents.

Now the Strib editorial board’s stance prompted this commentary by the lead authors.

The proposed bill would change a sensitive and fundamental aspect of the adoption process retroactively. Doing so could have the unintended consequence of discouraging birth parents from considering adoption in the future, even when it’s the best alternative for them and their child, because of concerns that the state might change the rules again in the future.

Come on, rules change all the time, do we really think that adoption is not a thought out process already.  This law will not be a deterrent to a birth parent considering placing her child up for adoption.

Some resources on open access:

So if you want to contact your state senator and state representative in support of this bill to provide adopted people with access to documents that are theirs, then go to this web page, Who Represents Me to find out who your senator and representative is.  Then give them a call and say you support House File 3371 or Senate File 3193.

-Josh

« Older entries