Recent Posts

Dan Burns

Despicable crap from gun nuts

by Dan Burns on March 5, 2015 · 1 comment

1512828_845205385490441_7641497850566305413_nThese crazies never stop. The most recent insanity that I‘ve seen:
 

National Rifle Association radio and television host Cam Edwards claimed that people who argue against concealed carry as a solution to rape on college campuses “are OK with” sexual assaults that could supposedly be prevented by guns.
 
At least 10 state legislatures are considering NRA-backed legislation to allow students to carry concealed guns on campus, and advocates for guns on campus have increasingly argued that arming students will help address the epidemic of campus sexual assault. Critics have pointed out that, among many other problems with this argument, campus sexual assaults often involve alcohol…
 
A 2002 study in the Journal of American College Health by researchers affiliated with the Harvard School of Public Health found that students who keep guns at college are more likely to engage in risky or illegal behavior. Specifically, they wrote, “Compared with students who did not have a firearm at college, those who had a firearm were more likely to be male (85% vs 43%); to be White (91% vs 72%); to live off campus (86% vs 57%); to live with a significant other (16% vs 8%); to drive a motor vehicle after binge drinking (27% vs 9%); to have unprotected sex when under the influence of alcohol (17% vs 10%); to vandalize property (21% vs 10%); and to get into trouble with the police (10% vs 6%).” The authors also addressed the interplay between binge drinking and violent behavior, concluding, “Given that alcohol is widely thought to contribute to violent behavior generally and to a majority of college student suicides, rapes, and other violent crimes, we find it quite troubling that almost two thirds of students with guns at college report binge drinking.”
(Media Matters)

This is the most comprehensive, definitive article ripping apart everything that the gun creeps claim, that I’ve ever seen:
 
…READ MORE

{ 1 comment }

Kurt Daudt makes like Mitch McConnell

by Dan Burns on March 4, 2015 · 0 comments

daudtThat would be Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Daudt (R-Crown).
 

“I think that part of this economic confidence has to do with the fact that there’s balance restored in state government,” he told an incredulous capitol press corps Friday.
 
Pioneer Press reporter Rachel Stassen-Berger immediately asked Daudt to go ahead and expand on that notion.
 
“Can you reiterate that theory? The theory that this forecast is good because the Republicans now have the House and there’s balance restored to the capitol? Tell me more about that,” she said, wearing the amused smirk of a teacher listening to a student recount how the dog did, in fact, eat his homework.
(City Pages)

“After so many years of sluggish growth, we’re finally starting to see some economic data that can provide a glimmer of hope,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell acknowledged in floor remarks (January 6). “The uptick appears to coincide with the biggest political change of the Obama Administration’s long tenure in Washington: the expectation of a new Republican Congress.”
(The New Republic)

For me, the most significant story of this session so far isn’t the overhyped “rural/urban divide;” it’s the inexplicable lefty behavior from some Republicans. Though that hasn’t been getting much attention what with corporate media’s tiresome (if at times perhaps not entirely undeserved) focus on DFL-bashing. In any case, if it is some kind of communal thing among the GOP, Daudt seems to be having none of it.
 

{ 0 comments }

Franken will skip Netanyahu speech

by Dan Burns on March 3, 2015 · 2 comments

israelRighteous. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress (scheduled for 10AM CST this morning; I ain‘t watching that s*it), is a sorry stunt intended to improve his (unfortunately already strong) chances of retaining his job after the election in Israel this month, and to undermine U.S. negotiations with Iran and promote another disastrous U.S. war in the region instead.
 

In a statement earlier Monday, (Sen. Al) Franken (D-MN) described the speech as a “partisan spectacle.”
 
“This has unfortunately become a partisan spectacle, both because of the impending Israeli election and because it was done without consulting the administration,” Franken said. “I’d be uncomfortable being part of an event that I don’t believe should be happening. I’m confident that, once this episode is over, we can reaffirm our strong tradition of bipartisan support for Israel.”
(Huffington Post)

As always, President Obama is running rings around the right-wing Congress. He’s already dealt with the crap “Bibi” is likely to spew.
 

Speaking away from the AIPAC conference, which was attended by both Rice and Obama’s UN ambassador, Samantha Power, on Monday, the president was less diplomatic and more scathing of Netanyahu’s position.
 
“[He] thinks that the best way to do that is either through doubling down on more sanctions or through military action, ensuring that Iran has absolutely no enrichment capabilities whatsoever,” Obama told Reuters.
 
“And there’s no expert on Iran or nuclear proliferation around the world that seriously thinks that Iran is going to respond to additional sanctions by eliminating its nuclear program.”
 
He also repeated his criticism of Netanyahu’s decision to visit Washington – just two weeks before an Israeli election – calling it a “distraction” from the priority of negotiations with Iran.
(The Guardian)

 
Comment below fold
 
…READ MORE

{ 2 comments }

Political libertarians never grow up

by Dan Burns on March 2, 2015 · 0 comments

libertarianBest analysis of contemporary “libertarianism” that I’ve seen in a while.
 

Libertarians believe themselves controversial and cool. They’re desperate to package themselves as dangerous rebels, but in reality they are champions of conformity. Their irreverence and their opposition to “political correctness” is little more than a fashion accessory, disguising their subservience to – for all their protests against the “political elite” – the real elite…
 
Libertarians proclaim an anti-government position, but they are only opposing the last measures of protection that remain in place to prevent the government from full mutation into an aristocracy. By advocating for the removal of all social programs, libertarians are not rebelling, as much as they are reinforcing the prevailing ethos of “bootstrap” capitalism…
 
When children yell “you’re not the boss of me” they believe they are launching a rebellion against the household establishment, but they are conforming to the codes of behavior visible among all children. Libertarians are attempting to practice the same political voodoo – transforming conformity into rebellion – without realizing that their cries for freedom coalesce with their childlike culture.
(AlterNet)

In Minnesota, I don’t know whether it’s more accurate to call political libertarianism “dormant,” or just plain “done.” Past efforts, earlier this decade, to gain power in the state GOP, didn’t work. In 2014, their most prominent candidate, Hannah Nicollet, a former Ron Paul staffer, ran for governor on the Independence Party ticket, and got 2.88% of the vote. (The IP, on the whole, performed poorly enough so as to lose major party status in the state.) There is a Libertarian Party; its ticket got 0.92% for governor. Presumably politically inclined libertarians here have something in mind.
 

Image: Occupy Seattle Facebook
 

{ 0 comments }

McCollum op-ed on Netanyahu speech

by Dan Burns on February 27, 2015 · 0 comments

mccollumTypically, the excellent U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) plays it low-profile. Not on this one. She has an op-ed about why she’s not attending Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to the U.S. Congress. The address is scheduled for Tuesday. It was set up without any discussion with the White House, and is being widely condemned on that basis, and because Netanyahu is a vicious, demented, warmongering extremist – one result of which is that his policies are not generally supported by Jews in the U.S.
 

In other words, the speaker of the House has provided the Israeli prime minister with a global platform to both attack our president and deliver a campaign message to voters at home…
 
“To think about going behind the back of a friendly country’s administration and working out this kind of arrangement with the parliament or the Congress – it’s unheard of,” said Daniel C. Kurtzer, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel. Such an unprecedented lack of respect toward a U.S. president has not gone unnoticed in Israel, either. As Oudeh Basharat, a columnist for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, noted, “Greater respect is even accorded to banana republics.”
(Washington Post)

{ 0 comments }

It’s all the fault of addicts in poverty

by Dan Burns on February 27, 2015 · 0 comments

povertyBlaming it all on poor people remains popular, on the right wing and even the so-called “center.” Holding easy targets “accountable” for everything that hasn’t worked out so well in one’s own life emotionally beats the heck out of taking a long, hard, honest look in the mirror. The blamers will only become more vociferous, due to increased desperation over the reality of longer-term socio-political trends in public opinion.

 
A number of my “Facebook friends,” though they are fundamentally good people in many ways, are gullible and intellectually lazy and pass along obnoxious memes about what a great idea drug-testing welfare recipients purportedly is. If I thought that responding with something like this would do any good, in that forum, I would. But all it would do is create bad feeling among those terminally locked in motivated reasoning, for the most part because they were raised in conservative households and haven’t moved beyond that.
 

According to state data gathered by ThinkProgress, the seven states with existing programs – Arizona, Kansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Utah – — are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to ferret out very few drug users. The statistics show that applicants actually test positive at a lower rate than the drug use of the general population. The national drug use rate is 9.4 percent. In these states, however, the rate of positive drug tests to total welfare applicants ranges from 0.002 percent to 8.3 percent, but all except one have a rate below 1 percent. Meanwhile, they’ve collectively spent nearly $1 million on the effort, and millions more may have to be spent in coming years.
(ThinkProgress)

Some dark reality of Clinton-era welfare “reform.”
 

A recent public health study tests the hypothesis that welfare can be shut off like a leaky faucet and the poor will suddenly become motivated toward self-sufficiency. For those budgetary savings, it seems that people might pay with their lives.
 
Researchers found that cutting off support leaves lasting scars on the most vulnerable segment of the TANF population—the neediest families: “TANF enrollees with pre-school aged children or larger families are both more likely to be food insecure and, at least among those required to enter the workforce quickly, in poorer mental health.” The projections show that despite “very large direct monetary savings…for both individuals and for the US government, TANF may also harm women who could not subsequently work (whether due to young children at home, large family sizes, mental illness, and/or physical illness). Some may have ended up relying on weak financial networks or become homeless.”
(The Nation)

{ 0 comments }

frackingUpdate: They did indeed reverse themselves. No ban.
 
Original text:

 
It’s unfortunate that this is not surprising.
 

Last week, Houston County commissioners voted unanimously to send a bill banning frac sand mining to the county attorney. However, at their meeting on Tuesday, a few commissioners appeared to rethink their position on the issue.
 
The county attorney discussed his findings on the ban on Tuesday with the board and said the ban could be passed and defended in court. However, some commissioners wanted to tone down the proposed ban, despite voting for the ban in the last meeting.
(KTTC)

I’m not going to openly speculate on what kinds of pressures are perhaps being brought to bear. The following has all the background.
 

Grassroots organizing by ordinary citizens in a southeastern Minnesota county has resulted in a stunning vote by the Houston County Board of Commissioners to essentially ban silica sand mining for purposes other than local construction and agriculture.
 
It’s a stunning counterpoint to the “informational hearing” that the Minnesota House Mining and Outdoor Recreation Committee held in St. Paul earlier this year in which only mining interests were first invited to speak.
(Bluestem Prairie)

{ 0 comments }

Class and consistency from Minnesota legislators

by Dan Burns on February 25, 2015 · 0 comments

mncapitol2The past couple of years, there wasn’t cause for these kinds of posts on a frequent basis, because the legislative sessions were mostly worthwhile endeavors with positive results. Now, though, there’s a GOP majority in the House.
 

Well, the legislature has effectively quashed the Commissioner pay raises. The dutiful “watchdogs” saved the taxpayers the tidy sum of $800,000 and pretty much locked those salaries in place forever.
 
Its an easy political target. Salaries for government officials make great optics when you can compare them to salaries for the average Minnesotan. Another symbolic victory for politicians.
 
But if that is the case, then why didn’t the pay raises of some of the Republican legislative staff raise some eyebrows?
(mnpACT!)

New bill introductions are up to over 1000 now, and the vast majority won’t get past an initial committeee assignment. Just noting that.
 

The House’s rural-urban divide took a big city vs. suburban turn Wednesday with the House Transportation Policy and Finance Committee giving its OK to a bill that would reallocate millions of dollars in sales tax revenue to all but the state’s two most populous counties.
 
HF710, sponsored by Rep. Jon Koznick (R-Lakeville), would move $32 million in sales tax collected on motor vehicle leases from the General Fund and put it toward Greater Minnesota transit and to the County State-Aid Highway Fund for use on metro area roads – except in Hennepin and Ramsey counties.
(TC Daily Planet/Session Daily)

Here are the facts on where money for roads has been coming from. Note where the only dark blue spot in the top map is at.
 

{ 0 comments }

isil-300x162You’ve probably seen that we’re all supposed to freak out, because ISIS is going to attack the Mall of America. At first, I chalked it up to just a particularly annoying manifestation of corporate media’s near-universal approach, particularly with broadcast/cable news: hook ‘em with crass sensationalism, then lay on the corporate propaganda. The following involves a different context, but it nails the style.
 

You know, climate change is actually a very interesting subject with a lot of very strange potential implications. It also plays right into the entire reason most national news shows exist, which is to send their viewers into spasms of panic over all of the things in the world that are going to kill them at any given moment. It is equal parts natural disaster, suicide bomber, space invasion and political thriller. If Fox News were on board with climate change, they would have their viewers in a quivering mass on the subject within days. Advertisers would love it, because Buy Overpriced Gold. The NRA would be giddy over the implications because it means your children and grandchildren might get to blast some folks. Climate change is like ebola plus measles plus incoming freaking asteroid impact, and if you can’t make that exciting in a high-production-values network news format you are really not trying very hard.
(Daily Kos)

But then it was, like, hey, wait a minute…with the showdown over Department of Homeland Security (DHS) funding, won’t this approach, in this specific context, potentially reflect badly on Republicans? What the heck?!
 

It’s actually so obvious that I’m embarrassed to admit that it took me a little while to figure it out. It’s supposed to reflect badly on those who would put DHS funding at risk. Because for corporate America, the DHS is a gold mine, and it all depends on Americans continuing to see terrorism as a big threat to them personally. Despite the reality that you’re far more likely to “get it” in just about any other way that you can think of.
 

All of the preceding is just for those who think about it, anyway; many lifelong viewers of broadcast news for the most part simply watch out of (bad) habit, without any substantive effort at deeper cogitation. Why bother, you know? And there are times that I can relate, a little. I’m also not suggesting that corporate media bias actually makes much difference; if it could really swing elections, for example, President McCain would be in his second term, and Minnesota would have U.S. Reps. Torrey Westrom and Stewart Mills III. Most of those influenced by the skew are voting Republican in any case. But it is nonetheless not journalism. I get that most of the people in the trenches would rather be doing journalism, but the honchos have other ideas.
 

{ 0 comments }

Today’s fact-check on choice

by Dan Burns on February 20, 2015 · 0 comments

oconnor“10 Things I’d Tell the Pro-Life Fanatics.”
 

However, 46% of women who get abortions weren’t using a contraceptive method the month they got pregnant, indicating that conservative policies that discourage regular contraception use—everything from abstinence-only education to objecting to any measures that make contraception cheaper and easier to obtain—have been effective in keeping women from using contraception as regularly as they should. In addition, abortion rates are much higher for women living in poverty, and three quarters of women getting abortions say they can’t afford a child. If anti-choicers start moaning about the high rate of abortions, ask them what they intend to do about it. Do they want to make birth control free for all women? What about expansive social welfare that makes it easier for pregnant women living in poverty to say yes to having this baby? Most anti-choicers are generally conservative, and most will get really angry really quick if you start to mention concrete solutions to lower the abortion rate.
(AlterNet)

Apparently a few anti-choice zealot bills have been introduced in the Minnesota legislature. They’re pretty much the same things that appear every session, from the usual suspects, and thankfully they won’t get far. No way am I scanning the many hundreds of House bill introductions, yet again, to track down the individual numbers. My understanding is that one would create an effective ban on medication abortion, by requiring a degree of medical supervision far beyond all reason for a procedure known for exceptional rarity of adverse side effects.
 

A large new study in the journal Contraception effectively debunks the rationale for passing restrictions on abortion-inducing pills, a legislative trend that often slips under the radar but that threatens to make it all the way up to the Supreme Court. In light of the findings, the lead researchers conclude that “politics should never trump science.”
 
The new research, which tracked more than 13,000 women’s medication abortions at Planned Parenthood health centers in Los Angeles over a five-year period, confirms that an off-label regimen for providing medication abortion is very safe. That finding stands in direct contrast to an increasing number of state laws that specifically prevent doctors from prescribing this effective regimen – legislation that is misleadingly framed in terms of women’s “health and safety.”
(Think Progress)

(Regarding the image, I checked, and unlike so many memes from Facebook, O’Connor really did write that.)
 

{ 0 comments }