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Bad pollsters active in Minnesota

by Dan Burns on September 30, 2014 · 1 comment

mndistrictsLast night I got a robocall poll from none other than Rasmussen Reports. I went ahead and did the whole thing. It was about the U.S. Senate and Governor races, which other polling has consistently shown to be pretty much locks, and quite possibly even double-digit wins, for Al Franken and Mark Dayton, respectively. The robo-voice asked whether I vote in every election (“yes”). Some questions later it spit out something like “Sometimes, something comes up that may prevent people from voting. Do you think there’s any chance that maybe you won’t vote on election day?” (That’s not an exact quote, I wasn’t recording it, but it’s the gist.) That may indicate that Rasmussen intends to apply a super-tight “likely voter” screen, in order to get numbers more favorable to Minnesota Republicans, which the latter, and corporate media, can then pimp as evidence of Mike McFadden and Jeff Johnson “surging.” Or, Rasmussen may correctly recognize those races as lost causes for the GOP, and tell it like it is, so they can claim to have been “accurate.” Either way, I suggest not taking seriously whatever they provide. The firm may be under new ownership, but it’s still Rasmussen.

If indeed the plan is to knowingly apply a too-tight voter screen in order to produce numbers more favorable to one side, that would be an example of “skewed polling.” Another way of doing that is to “prime the pump” with initial questions intended to produce a negative (or, rarely, positive) frame of mind about an officeholder, candidate, or policy, and then ask about whether one approves or disapproves. “Push polling” is when the intent isn’t really to do accurate polling at all, but rather to spread negatives about a candidate under the guise of an opinion survey. That appears to be what’s currently happening in MN-08 (Rep. Rick Nolan (D-MN) vs. Stewart Mills III); here’s a sample question I heard about someone getting over the phone: “ISIS terrorists beheaded innocent American journalists. Congressman Nolan voted NOT to fund the fight against ISIS and the threat of terrorism against Americans. Does that make you more or less likely to vote for Nolan if the election were held today?”
I don’t know if this is being directly done by the Mills campaign, or on its behalf. It’s not that common, as it can backfire, through being perceived as “dirty politics” engaged in by a desperate campaign. I’m not saying that’s definitely the case here. I have no way of knowing that, though I have my suspicions.

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Jay Sieling for Minnesota House 8B

by Dan Burns on September 29, 2014 · 0 comments

sielingYou can help him out here. From his Facebook:


We need clearer thinking about issues that are important here, like Education, Healthcare, Infrastructure. Our loyalty should be to the people and places of this district, not a rigid ideology. Rural values have always included helping each other….larger service. That is what enables us to have electricity and running water and transportation, broadband and communication. We need to promote health and better living. This means quality care and accessible services. This is a pledge to make the best better – our selves, our communities, our state, our country and our world. We can do this together.

At a glance, this red district would seem a long shot. It became apparent in 2012 that it’s no such thing. The incumbent, Rep. Mary Franson (R-Alexandria), won by 12 votes, after a recount. For me, this isn’t about her personal issues, the bizarre relationship ending and so forth, though it would be unrealistic to pretend that those don’t continue to play a substantial role in public perception at large. She doesn’t belong in the legislature, or any political office, because she’s a right-wing nut, and a particularly obnoxious, clownish one at that.

…Franson read “this little funny clip we got from a friend:”

It says, ‘Isn’t it ironic that the food stamp program, part of the Department of Agriculture, is pleased to be distributing the greatest amount of food stamps ever.’

Meanwhile, the Park Service, also part of the Department of Agriculture, asks us to please not feed the animals, because the animals may grow dependent and not learn to take care of themselves.

(MN Progressive Project)


imagesCA3IGJT0Packed with useful information, and just in time for the election.

In 2014, Minnesota homeowners will experience the largest property tax reduction in twelve years and will begin to benefit from the most significant reform of homestead taxation in at least three decades. The final property tax after refunds paid by the typical homeowner with a median income residing in a median value home will decline by over ten percent from 2013 to 2014 in the majority of Minnesota communities.
This comes as welcome news to homeowners, who experienced rapidly escalating property taxes over the preceding decade. From 2002 to 2013, statewide homeowner property taxes increased by 87 percent—double the rate of inflation. The large drop in property taxes from 2013 to 2014 is primarily the result of tax reforms passed during the 2013 and, to a lesser extent, 2014 legislative sessions, including significant increases in state aid to local governments (replacing a portion of aid cuts enacted over the preceding decade), improvements to aid distribution formulas, an increase in the renter property tax refund, and—most importantly from the perspective of homeowners—an expansion of the homeowner property tax refund in the form of the homestead credit refund. A decline in statewide homestead values relative to other classes of property also contributed to 2014 property tax increases

Note that from 2002 to 2013, Republicans controlled part of state government.


MN-08: Mills TV ad rated false

by Dan Burns on September 25, 2014 · 0 comments

millspartying1There’s a link to the ad, produced by the National Republican Congressional Committee, in the blockquoted MPR article. (I haven’t found a copy I can embed here, yet, and it wouldn’t go on the front page anyway, because it is just too obnoxious. And you know that if I, of all people, consider something too obnoxious, it’s gotta be awful.) It pimps the big scary terrorists. (I have to point out here that 9/11 happened because of the criminal incompetence of the profoundly conservative presidential administration of George W. Bush, to whom Stewart Mills III is very similar in many ways.)

Like the rest of Minnesota Public Radio (which I hasten to add is still far better than most corporate media), PoliGraph’s prime directive is to avoid really offending anyone. It rates plenty of campaign ads “misleading,” but to call something “false,” outright, is not common, and indicates a recklessness on the part of the perpetrators quite possibly borne of desperation.

Nolan has a track record of wanting to deal with prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay, but nothing he voted for would have simply released dangerous captives as the ad implies…
Nolan didn’t vote to cut funding for troops. He voted to block the government from funding a resolution it’s used in the past to justify going to war.
For not telling the whole story, this ad is misleading to the point of being false.

Incidentally, I saw a couple of Mills campaign signs here in town. They’re little things, about 2′ x 15″, and the lettering is green (the same color as the lawns they’re standing in) on a white background. They’re about the last thing that will get the attention of a passing driver, even for a split-second, and yet another indication of how the Mills campaign can’t seem to do anything well.


Tom DeGree for Minnesota House 39B

by Dan Burns on September 24, 2014 · 0 comments

degreeThis is DeGree’s second effort at the seat. He performed solidly in 2012. With the blueing of suburban districts, he’s bound to eventually win this. Why not now? Here’s his Facebook.

All of our children deserve equal opportunities for success. The quality of a student’s education should not depend on the value of their neighbor’s home.
I’ve spent the last 20 years as a fourth-grade teacher, and every day I experience first-hand what good policies mean for our students–the future of our communities–and what bad policies mean.
We are fortunate to have devoted teachers across Minnesota, reaching into every corner. But we know we can-and we must-do better by our students.
Politicians need to stop treating education as though it were a political football. It isn’t a game–it’s the future of this state. And we must insist on more transparency for where our taxpayer funds are going.
(Tom DeGree for State Representative)

The incumbent, Rep. Kathy Lohmer (R-Stillwater), is an extremist of the Michele Bachmann school. Like most of her right-wingnut ilk in the state legislature, she’s been less loud and proud lately then she was after the 2010 election, when hard-core Republicans had very unrealistic ideas about their long-term political future in Minnesota. Nowadays, it’s arguable that they don’t really have one, at the state level. But we’ll see. Anyway, from 2012:

“Thanks to Rep. Lohmer and her Republican colleagues, Stillwater schools now have larger class sizes and fewer teachers,” Carrie Lucking, Executive Director of the Alliance for a Better Minnesota said. “Rather than force Stillwater schools to make drastic cuts to our children’s education, the legislature’s priority should be making sure our schools are fully funded and our children have the resources needed to learn.”
Instead of producing a balanced budget to close the state’s long-term deficit, Rep. Lohmer and legislative Republicans chose a short-term fix and borrowed $700 million from our schools and children, leaving them with a $2 billion IOU and no plan to pay it back. As a result, the state owes the Stillwater Area School District $22.2 million just from last year’s school shift.
(Stillwater Patch)

Democrats have since paid back the “school shift.” There is no reason to believe that Republicans like Lohmer, who fear rational, knowledgeable thinking of the sort that good, well-funded public schools develop, would have done so.


Peter Perovich for Minnesota House 35A

by Dan Burns on September 23, 2014 · 1 comment

perovichThis is an open seat, because Rep. Jim Abeler (R-Anoka) made this his last term, in order to run for the U.S. Senate. R+6, open seat, solid DFL year, crazy GOPer make it winnable.
Our candidate is Peter Perovich. Here’s his Facebook.

I am running for Minnesota House to fight for our families and local businesses. The needs of our communities match those of similar communities around the state, yet we struggle to find solid ground for growth and sustainable prosperity. I will use my experience to help build consensus and find real solutions to our State problems. I know that your family deserves better and I will always put people before politics.
We need to address the inequities that are brought upon our area; I will dedicate myself to make sure we are treated fairly, build upon existing cooperative efforts, and strengthen our communities so we rank amongst the best places to live in Minnesota. We do not want to go back to the gridlock that made Minnesota look like Washington D.C. As your State Representative, I will continue the fight for our families and businesses so that we can keep moving Minnesota forward.
(Peter Perovich for Minnesota House)

The Republican candidate is Abigail Whelan.

But – and those images show it – wanting to screw over the ultra-poor, the full time laborers suffering under an outdated and inadequate minimum wage; that is bad policy and uncharitable to boot. (It is her “firm and unwavering position on” that issue; per Cato rhetoric — pie charts, and all.)
No matter what biased “think tank” rationalizations and propaganda points the lady musters, she clearly dumps on raising the minimum wage to help working folks in the district and that’s not my cup bag of tea…
A quick online background search suggests Whelan is not a privileged Republican of the Mitt Romney mould; but more a Michele Bachmann clone, one or two generations younger. And — that’s scary.
(Developers Are Crabgrass)

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12376938I wrote here about how Stewart Mills III, the GOP candidate for Rep. Rick Nolan’s (D-MN) place in Congress, implied that voters in the district just don’t much care about what’s going on elsewhere on the globe. (Specifically, I titled it “Mills calls district voters a bunch of dumb rubes.”) I don’t mean to say that his campaign is paying any attention to me, I don’t see why they would, but there does appear to have been an effort to upgrade his public standing on this.

After Nolan’s ‘no’ vote, his Republican challenger’s camp was quick to issue a statement:
“Rick Nolan’s vote tonight against the bipartisan agreement to equip and train Syrian rebels was deeply disappointing,” said Chloe Rockow, communications director for the Stewart Mills campaign in a statement. “The solution was a responsible way to fight ISIS without putting any American troops on the ground, but Rick Nolan continued his trend of voting against what’s best for our troops and veterans. He wants to ignore the gathering threat of ISIS for philosophical reasons, but once again, his vote was wrong for the 8th Congressional District.”
Nolan’s camp fired back Wednesday night:
“It’s surprising that Stewart Mills III has awoken to this issue, despite telling the Duluth News Tribune that voters aren’t concerned with foreign policy. Rep. Nolan opposes spending taxpayer dollars on another costly war. Instead he believes we should reinvest in America, rebuild our middle class, and support veterans by tackling the backlog of VA benefits claims, increasing access to mental health services, and ensuring veterans living in rural areas can visit their local doctor. Rep. Nolan will continue to oppose wars of choice abroad and do everything he can to support our veterans here at home,” Nolan’s communication director, Sacha Haworth, said in a statement.

Or there hasn‘t been such an effort. There seem to be internal communication issues.

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Corporations stiffing workers worst in 63 years

by Dan Burns on September 19, 2014 · 1 comment

Lazarus_at_rich_man's_house_C-922A couple of recent items about the economy that caught my eye.

Corporate income, which makes up about three-quarters of all private sector income in the country, can either go to employees or the owners of companies, and last year just under 73 percent went to employees, the lowest point in more than six decades. [...]
Workers aren’t earning less because they’re slacking off—just the opposite. Their productivity increased 8 percent between 2007 and 2012 while their wages actually fell, a trend that has been going on since at least 1979. And they’ve been speeding up since the recession, increasing their productivity last summer at the fastest pace since 2009.
(Daily Kos)

Severely limiting what recipients of benefits can own has no economic value. It’s basically punitive.

Many other states have asset-limit policies that similarly conflict with the goals of employment and economic security, especially given the importance of savings and assets for low-income families who are trying to pull themselves out of poverty. Having even a few hundred dollars in savings can make it easier to weather financial setbacks without facing the risk of eviction or having utilities shut off, and assets such as a vehicle can be key to securing and maintaining employment. But because of asset limits, struggling families can face a difficult dilemma: being told on the one hand the value of savings and self-reliance, while on the other being discouraged or explicitly prohibited from having modest savings or assets as a condition of accessing needed public assistance programs.
(Center for American Progress)

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millspartying2All three certainly have a great deal in common. A few of the basics:
- Each owes it all to vast helpings of unearned privilege.
- They are not precisely thick-witted, but certainly by no means of outstanding intelligence in any meaningful sense of that phrase. And, psychologically, each appears to be a delusional narcissist, which means they can be readily manipulated by anyone who properly strokes their egos.
- It would be, or would have been, much better if all three, and everyone like them, stayed out of politics, past, present, and future.
You know, it’s a tough, tough call, and I’m not sure that there’s any point to a drawn-out parsing of the minutiae. I do know that if Mills wins this race, he will almost certainly display future ambition far beyond being a low-seniority member of the U.S. House. That seems ridiculous, but, like I said, “delusional.” It would be best if voters firmly put an end to that, in 47 days.
That being said, my general sense is that Mills is more like George W. Bush than he is like Mitt Romney. W., more so than Mitt, always seemed genuinely flabbergasted at any indication that the whole world doesn’t worship him as much as he does himself. Stewart III comes across that way, too.


Jon Pieper for Minnesota House 28B

by Dan Burns on September 17, 2014 · 0 comments

pieperThis is that rare district that is rated “even.” But Rep. Greg Davids (R-Preston) has been winning it for quite some time (11 terms, all told, if I‘m not mistaken. He‘s missed one since he first started, barely losing in 2006, I believe). Perhaps demographic drift, and the general disdain for Republicans that is clearly evident in other contexts, here in Minnesota, can make this our year.


As a child, I was given great opportunities. I had a great public education which gave me the opportunity to decide my future, to choose my life. I chose a quality life. I came home. I wanted my children to have the same opportunities as I did, to live in a healthy and safe community. There is no more important responsibility than to preserve the quality of life for our children and grandchildren…
After extensive rehabbing, we opened The Old Village Hall Restaurant (in Lanesboro, MN) in 1994. Since opening the restaurant, my property taxes have more than quadrupled. My opponent must not think this is real money for ordinary people. He has consistently voted to hurt our main streets, our friends and our neighbors. He has consistently voted to raise our property taxes. So much has changed in the last twenty years, but my opponent has not.
(Jon Pieper for House 28B)

Unlike many of these sorts of races that I’ve been blogging about, there is no shortage of noteworthy media items about the incumbent. This, from 2011, is typical. (The link no longer works, so I’m blockquoting from a blockquote – you‘ll see what I mean):

When Rep. Greg Davids was in Willmar Tuesday night to explain the new tax bill to local government officials, he said the elimination of the market value homestead credit was proposed by Gov. Mark Dayton during special session negotiations in July.
Davids, a Republican from Preston, is chairman of the House Tax Committee, and reiterated that statement in a telephone interview Thursday morning…
Katharine Tinucci, Dayton’s press secretary, called the Tribune to say that Dayton did not propose eliminating the homestead credits and that the proposal came from Republican lawmakers. She said the governor reluctantly agreed to proposal the as part of a compromise to end the state shutdown.
(Bluestem Prairie)

Just to be clear, Tinucci was correct, and voters held Republicans accountable in 2012.