Column: A learning opportunity – What is conservatism?

I presented to a group of senior citizens recently, addressing their interests in learning more about the topic “What is a conservative?” While ours was the kick-off session, some six additional meetings are planned over the next weeks, in part courtesy of a little known;
There are no tests and no grades — just the excitement of learning and discussing something new. Some adherents call the experience “a health club for the mind.”
More liberal than conservative
Sources told us that most of those signed up were more liberal than conservative but that they all had a desire to better understand the changing world of politics and what was behind the ascending conservative movement in America.
The group of 50 or so attentive men and women were members of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, affiliated with the University of Minnesota’s College of Continuing Education. OLLI is part of a national network of lifelong-learning initiatives supported by San Francisco-based Bernard Osher Foundation.
When I asked, about half of the group indicated they had at one time or another volunteered to work for a candidate or political party of their choice; a few had been in government service at some time in elected or appointed;
Adams and Jefferson
For my part, I chose to start with the thinking of two early colonial leaders who each became U.S. President: John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.
The enduring success and stability of America’s democracy, I said, was the stabilizing genius of the two-party system — taking form under Adams and Jefferson and becoming a reality after George Washington retired to Mount Vernon in 1797.
Adams, Washington’s vice president, was what came to be known as a Federalist who advocated for a strong, clearly defined central government. States’ righter and Virginian Jefferson was passionate about individual rights but had some suspicions regarding a federal role while founding the national Democratic-Republican Party. Both men were genuine intellectuals.
Adams envisioned an ideal republic in which government included the notion of “civic virtue.” He was concerned about global issues, signing the Alien and Sedition Acts to protect Americans from foreign insurgents. Known as the father of the U.S. Navy and Army, Adams named the brilliant and influential John Marshall as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
Jefferson, who held a strict interpretation of the U.S. Constitution, became the country’s most visible political leader in enhancing the rights of ordinary people. He cautioned a central government must be “rigorously frugal and simple” and, as president, he reduced the size and scope of the Washington-Adams legacy by ending internal taxes and paying off the government’s debt while geographically enlarging the country through the Louisiana Purchase.
Uniquely, Adams and Jefferson believed that each of their movements needed to debate the issues within as well as between the major parties. They respected one another even as they disagreed on important issues that were shaping the new country and world in which they lived.
Republicans, the conservative party of today, often claim Adams one of as their founders, though Abraham Lincoln was the first Republican elected president (1860). Democrats or liberals speak of Jefferson, his younger colonial counterpart James Madison, also a president, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt as the most preeminent national Democrats.
Today’s political parties
Prior to the 2016 election, I had generally believed that Republicans were the party that most emphasized individual rights, privacy and local control. They believed in the ability of free markets to respond to people’s needs and wants. Republicans are more reluctant to raise taxes within America’s unique form of democratic capitalism where the private sector provides more than eight in 10 jobs.
Democrats, I surmised, backed a more activist government that placed the collective good of all over the individual. Democrats often favor government, not markets, in achieving social equality by advancing programs that assign responsibility to the federal government. Democrats are strongly focused on America’s central cities and programs to serve those who most need help.
In the November election, one-time underdog Republican Donald Trump became the 45th president and a Republican controlled U.S. House and Senate was re-elected. Nationally, 33 Republicans are now governors and 68 of the nation’s 99 state legislative chambers are controlled by the GOP.
In Minnesota, there is now divided state government between DFL Gov. Mark Dayton and Republican majorities in the State House and Senate.
Emerging conservative agenda
Upon analysis, fundamental things have begun to change within the Republican ranks on some hot button policy issues with a focus on a more libertarian approach to reduce the reach and taxpayer costs of government.
I outlined seven general topics for the OLLI class.
• Pro-life views, long associated with conservative thinking, are firmly cemented into the Republican agenda at local, state and federal levels.
• Obamacare repeal was a central campaign theme for Trump and the vast majority of Republicans elected to Congress. Crafting a new federal health care system for Americans is not going to be easy, however, as Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan recently learned the hard way.
• National defense must undergo some rethinking to avoid endless war with a new foreign policy approach using a strong deterrent, realistic and restrained plans and the avoidance of “nation building” around the globe.
• Social Security, a $900 billion a year program as part of a $2 trillion annual entitlement benefit outlay, represents more than 60 percent of the current federal budget and the demographics suggest these programs are fiscally unsustainable and must be redesigned.
• Education reform is on the conservative agenda as costs have tripled in the past 40 years while student performance remains flat and in the middle of the pack. The idea of competition between public and private schools — and providing public funds for parents and students to choose — is growing rapidly in popularity among conservatives. Fifteen states have adopted new or expanded school choice programs since 2015.
• Monetary policy solutions include reigning in the reach and authority of the Federal Reserve to create a new sound money and free market banking system; this is now on the to do list for emboldened conservatives.
• Constitutional rights should be reframed under the first principles of the American Revolution — to provide a framework for a future America that will be both prosperous and free.
Commendations to those good people at OLLI who have chosen to learn more about conservatism and to better understand the potential implications for Americans now and into the future.
Chuck Slocum of Minnetonka is president of The Williston Group, a management consulting firm; he is a former chair of the Minnesota Republican Party and head of the Minnesota Business Partnership and can be reached at

Co-creators of ‘Serial’ podcast to speak May 10 in St. Louis Park

The co-creators of the “Serial” podcast, Sarah Koenig and Julie Snyder, will serve as Beth El Synagogue’s next Inspiring Minds Series speakers 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 10, at the synagogue, 5225 W. Barry St. in St. Louis Park.
They will use audio segments to narrate personal stories about the ups and downs of helping to create a new form of modern;
Synagogue leaders selected Koenig and Snyder for the series based on their contribution to highlighting wrongful convictions.
More information and tickets are available at

Apple Confirms iCloud Subscription Tier Cancelation Emails Were Sent in Error

Apple on Saturday emailed some iCloud users to apologize for a bug that caused them to receive an email earlier this week stating their paid storage subscription plan had been canceled.

The emails went out to predominantly 50GB iCloud subscribers on Wednesday, causing some MacRumors readers to speculate that Apple was discontinuing the storage tier completely. Options to purchase some of the plans through macOS and iOS were also reportedly affected.

However, as predicted, the emails were sent in error. Apple has now followed up the errant message to clarify that it was a mistake and that there has been no change to users’ subscription plans.

“You recently received an email incorrectly stating that your iCloud storage plan has been discontinued,” the email read. “Your 50 GB iCloud storage plan is not affected and will continue to renew automatically.

“We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused. If you have any questions, please contact us.”

(Via AppleInsider.)

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Wayzata Symphony Orchestra performing April 30 in Wayzata

The Wayzata Symphony Orchestra will perform 3 p.m. Sunday, April 30, at Wayzata Community Church, 125 Wayzata Blvd.
The concert features Gustav Holst performing “The Planets, Op. 32.” Each of the seven movements in this suite is named after a planet in the solar system and its corresponding astrological character as defined by;
All Wayzata Symphony Orchestra performances are free and no tickets are required, but donations are accepted. The orchestra is a nonprofit organization.

Wayzata youth wrestlers win state championship

Victory bodes well for future
At the high school level, the Wayzata wrestling program still has some catching up to do against the likes of Apple Valley, Shakopee and St.;
However, the Trojans may be able to close the gap much quicker than people think. Wayzata’s K-6 Club recently won the State Team Tournament in Rochester.
This is the Wayzata K-6 wrestling team that recently won the state championship in Rochester. Pictured are, first row: Cash Hoffman, Patrick Heim, Gavin Hoeft, Wyatt Koenen and Anthony Heim. Second row: Elijah Wald, Aidan Fartaczek, Luke Koenen, Cohen Hoffman, Logan Swensen, Joseph Heim and Quinn LaComb. Third row: Charlie Petit, Cal Lonnquist, Benedict Heim, Dominic Heim, Adam Cherne, Kyler Wong, Elias Ruiz and Caleb Wald. Fourth row: Coaches Eric Swensen, Dave Koenen, David Zilverberg and Paul Wong. (Submitted Photo)
In pool wrestling, the Trojans defeated Blue Earth 69-9, Zumbrota-Mazeppa 47-15 and Annandale-Maple Lake 49-14.
Moving on to bracket competition, Wayzata beat United South Central 54-18 in the semifinals and Albert Lea 34-27 in the championship match.
“We knew Albert Lea would be tough,” said Wayzata varsity head coach Eric Swensen, who also helps coach the youth team. “We concentrated on one match at a time. I thought we would wrestle either Albert Lea or St. Michael-Albertville in the finals. We had beaten St. Michael-Albertville in the regional finals, and that gave us a great seed for the state tournament.
Albert Lea beat St. Michael-Albertville in the other state semifinal match.”
The championship match between Wayzata and Albert Lea “went back and forth for a while, until we got some pins in the middle weights,” said;
Four Wayzata wrestlers went undefeated in the state tourney. They are fifth-graders Logan Swensen (65 pounds) and Luke Koenen (70), along with sixth-graders Cal Lonnquist (90), Adam Cherne (95) and Dominic Heim (102).
“One thing that makes our youth program successful is that the kids and parents have totally bought into it,” said coach Swensen. “When you’re trying to build a program, you need that.”
Swensen knows what it takes. Before moving to Wayzata, he won a state high school championship in Florida. The Trojans won the first Lake Conference title of the Swensen era in 2017. With the youth state championship earlier this month, there is bright promise for more championship wrestling in the future.
Swensen praised the other coaches who have dedicated their time to work with the K-6 team. They are Dave Koenen, Paul Wong and David Zilverberg.
Contact John Sherman at

Sholom to host shredding event May 4 at Knollwood Place Apartments in St. Louis Park

Sholom will host a shredding event 9-11 a.m. Thursday, May 4, or until bins are full.
During the event, visitors may tour facilities. A continental breakfast will be available at no charge after papers are dropped off. There is a limit of two bags or boxes per;
The event will be in the lobby of Knollwood Place Apartments, 3630 Phillips Parkway in St. Louis Park.
To reserve a spot for breakfast, call 952-939-1605.

‘It’s so much more than just giving’

2017 Hammer Community Partners say volunteering is about family
By Gabby Landsverk, Sun Sailor;
Every other Saturday, Chris Klug of Minnetonka drives to the group home to pick up his friend Bruce. Each time, the routine is exactly the same. The pair stop by the recycling center to pick up some old magazines and return to Chris’ house. There, Bruce goes through the magazines to find pictures he likes, cutting them out and putting them in a special binder all his own. For lunch, Bruce has the same request each day — a peanut butter and jelly sandwich — after which the two watch television until it’s time for Chris to drive Bruce home.
Chris and Peggy Klug of Minnetonka have been named 2017 Community Partners by Hammer, a Wayzata-based nonprofit that works with people with disabilities. The Klugs have been volunteering with Bruce for six years, spending time with him every other Saturday. Pictured, from left, are Bruce, Chris and Peggy Klug and their son Chan. (Submitted photo)
Despite offers to go out to dinner or try other activities, Bruce is happy with things just the way they are.
Chris’ wife, Peggy, said the routine has been this way for the past six years — every other Saturday, rain or shine, is “Bruce Day.”
In recognition of their work, Hammer Residences, a Wayzata-based nonprofit that serves people, like Bruce, with disabilities, has named the Klugs as awardees for the 2017 Community Partner honor, recognizing dedication and contribution to Hammer and the people it serves. The honor is given to six community partners this year.
The Klugs began volunteering more than a decade ago through Reach for Resources, based in Minnetonka. Chris worked as a sports coach for people with disabilities and contacted Hammer about other opportunities in the community.
“I wanted to do something more one-on-one,” he said.
Chris currently works in human resources, but his background and education are in social work, a field he always wanted to return to.
“I feel like I sold out,” he jokes. “But I still have that in me. So I knew I had to give back, volunteer, do something.”
Six years ago, Chris was introduced to Bruce. They’ve been spending time together ever since. Now just shy of 50 years old, Bruce is a Hammer resident with a great sense of humor, but whose nearest family member lives in Texas.
In addition to their weekend time together, the Klugs also spend holidays with Bruce, inviting him for Thanksgiving and helping him wrap gifts (a favorite activity) for Christmas. Last, Peggy said the family joined Bruce at Hammer’s Thanksgiving celebration for group home residents.
“It was really fun for us to be able to go and share that with him,” she said.
Over the years, the Klugs have racked up nearly 900 hours of service.
Chris doesn’t think of it as work, however.
“Bruce and I just call each other friends,” he said. “You go into it thinking you’re volunteering and you’re giving something to someone else, but you get a lot out of it too. It’s good for both of us.”
Chris said many misunderstandings and misconceptions exist about people with disabilities, but all it takes is a little patience and kindness to make a positive connection.
“These are some of the most engaging, genuine people I’ve ever met. There’s no pretense. They’re just totally themselves, and it’s very refreshing to be around that,” he;
The Klugs’ son, Chan, also lives with disability, which is just one more reason Chris and Peggy say their volunteering with Hammer isn’t work, but more of a lifestyle.
“One of the things that got me doing this is that my son is going to need to be in a group home someday. We’ve met so many wonderful people through Chan,” Chris said. “I got to thinking, a lot of the folks in group homes have families, but not all of them do. We get to be that for people like Bruce.”
Chris said it’s a great feeling to be the person Bruce looks forward to seeing at each visit. Over the years, the Klugs have formed a close bond with Bruce that’s visible to everyone around.
“Chris and Peggy consider Bruce a part of their family. They never missed a scheduled activity,” said Hammer program manager Theo Nah.
The Klugs were reluctant to talk about their own accolades, however, preferring instead to include themselves among the hundreds of volunteers that provide direct volunteer services to Hammer and its clients every year.
Barbara Brandt, director of communication for Hammer, said there is still a constant need for volunteers of all kinds, with more than 30 positions to waiting to be filled in the west metro.
Chris said his goal in sharing their story is to encourage other people to step up and help out, making new friends, or even family, in the process.
“Hammer makes it easy. You’re really just giving people an opportunity to get out and enjoy themselves, giving them something to look forward to,” Chris said.
Peggy added that while it might be intimidating to reach out and volunteer, a good first step is to reach out and see what opportunities are available. Working in a group, rather than one-on-one, can be a great starting place, she added.
“It can be tough to pick up the phone, if you’re not sure what to expect, Peggy said. “If this is something you feel called to do, reach out and talk to someone. There are so many options and opportunities out there. Once you give it a try, you’ll find it can make a big difference.”
Contact Gabby Landsverk at

Benefit concert is Monday, April 24 at Beth El Synagogue

The third annual Tru2life (L’hayim) Music benefit concert supporting The Chai-light Chorus and Mishkan MSP will be 7:30 p.m. Monday, April 24, at Beth El Synagogue, 5225 W. Barry St. in St. Louis Park.
Advanced reserved seat tickets are $18, and admission at the door is $;
For reservations, call 612-270-1705 or email
This year’s concert will feature Maud Hixson, who appeared in Park Square Theatre’s production of “The Soul of Gershwin” as The Chanteuse. She will be accompanied by Mark Bloom on piano, Doug Haining on reeds and Kent Saunders on bass.
The Chai-light Chorus will join in for a brief appearance.
Maud Hixson will perform at a concert Monday, April 24, at Beth El Synagogue in St. Louis Park. (Submitted photo);

Duininck: Proposed transit cuts would be deep, opposite of what is needed

Conference committee considering transportation funding bills that increase road funding, cut SWLRT, $53 million from Metro Transit
The Transportation Finance Conference Committee hosted a hearing April 20 at the State Capitol on the House and Senate omnibus transportation bills that are part of the Minnesota House Republicans’ proposed state;
Opponents argue that the bill, which will increase funding for roads and bridges by up to $6 billion over the next decade by reallocating revenue from the general fund to a transportation account, is regressive in its prioritization of roadway development over mass transit investments.
Met Council Chair Adam Duininck, at right, addresses the Transportation Finance Conference Committee hearing April 20 at the State Capitol about a budget proposal that would make drastic cuts to public transportation. (Sun Post staff photo by Laci Gagliano)
Advocates say it will provide a much-needed boost to under-funded roadways and bridges, especially in rural areas.
Many DFL representatives worry that the bill will divide the metro area from rural parts of the state as the regions vie for conflicting transportation funding allocations, as well as disproportionately shift the state’s spending away from public services and education.
The hearing opened the floor to public commentary on HF 861, which includes cuts that would potentially raise public transit rates by as much as 50 cents and reduce services across the metro by an estimated 40 percent. The bill would also eliminate transit expansions, including the planned Southwest light rail transit. The Metropolitan Council would endure a cut of around $53 million.
Many of those who testified expressed concern that the bill’s cuts would affect disabled, elderly, and low-income people, making it difficult to travel to everyday destinations like work or the grocery store and decreasing the affordability of the ride for people who are struggling;
Met Council Chair Adam Duininck, who spoke before the public testimonies, addressed the scope of the impacts, including those of Metro Mobility, which serves disabled and elderly people throughout the region. He said the state is not recognizing the increase in demand for that service.
“We have testified before both the House and Senate about the continued and accelerated growth of this federally mandated service. By failing to address the growing demand of Metro Mobility and ignoring the budget deficit, these bills would mean people who are elderly and disabled would see significant fare increases and service reductions, leaving in place only the minimal services that are required by law.”
Duininck also spoke about the bills’ deep cuts to regular route buses as well as the elimination of Metrolink, a transit extension service that serves suburbs like Plymouth, Hastings, Stillwater, Oak Grove, and other communities, and is often used by seniors at assisted living facilities.
“We need to be having a conversation about how to expand our transit, not reduce it,” Duininck said.
David Thornton, assistant commissioner for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, also spoke, calling attention to a provision in the bill that would reallocate revenue from the Motor Vehicle Title Transfer Fee from the Environmental Fund and into the Transportation Priorities Fund by 2020.
Thornton testified that the revocation of the Motor Vehicle Title Transfer Fee from the Environmental Fund, combined with an anticipated 61 percent cut in federal grants by the Trump Administration, will impose major cuts to agency staff and resources.
Around 60 members of the public, including business and agency leaders, organizers, and transit riders gave two-minute testimonies. Minneapolis resident Amity Foster spoke about her daily use of public transit. Foster said that she doesn’t drive due to her epilepsy, and addressed how the cuts would significantly decrease the mobility of other people who don’t drive.
“I think it can be very easy to wash transit riders’ stories off as sad – they are not. Cutting off transit access cuts off access to jobs, it cuts off access to affordable housing, it cuts kids off from education, and it cuts families off from each other. With the proposed fare hikes, with the service cuts, with no real funding from the Minnesota legislature, I wonder what I’m going to have to cut out of my life,” Foster said.
The committee will reconvene at 9:30 a.m. Monday, April 24 in room 120 at the State Capitol to continue the hearings.
Contact Laci Gagliano at

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