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Dan Burns

consuladoSPI haven’t been able to find a photo of the one person, and that’s probably for the best. Rubbing it in any further would just be mean.
 

To make their case that Americans are really upset about an increase in unaccompanied children at the border, anti-immigrant groups staged what was supposed to have been a massive number of protests around the country. They staged a “National Day of Protesting Against Immigration Reform, Amnesty & Border Surge” which for some reason was actually two days, this past Friday and Saturday. This effort was led by three anti-immigrant groups, ALIPAC, Make Them Listen, and Overpasses for America…
 
Minnesota’s Advocates for Human Rights reported that they only found one person at any of the scheduled protests in that state. The gentleman held a sign outside the Mexican Consulate in Saint Paul, but got an earful from people who lived nearby, and chose to depart.
(Think Progress)

That’s an ordinary photo of the Mexican Consulate in St. Paul, from its website. Not that the inclusion of one true-believing, if befuddled, nutcase out on the sidewalk would make much difference.

 

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A chastening look from the left

by Dan Burns on July 22, 2014 · 0 comments

imagesCAY7OL8CI’ve been quite critical of President Obama now and then, myself, and I stand by those criticisms. But I acknowledge many of the points made in the best reality check from the left that I’ve seen in a while.
 

Look: Obama made some mistakes. He should have done more about housing. He shouldn’t have pivoted to deficit-mongering so quickly. Maybe he could have kept a public option in Obamacare if he’d fought harder for it. Maybe, maybe, maybe. But probably not. Like it or not, America was not poised for a huge liberal wave in 2008. It just wasn’t. It was poised for a fairly routine cycle of throwing out the old bums and electing new bums, who would, as usual, be given a very short and very limited honeymoon. Democrats actually accomplished a fair amount during that honeymoon, but no, they didn’t turn American into a lefty paradise. That was never in the cards.
 
All of us who do what Thomas Frank does — what I do — have failed. Our goal was to persuade the public to move in a liberal direction, and that didn’t happen. In the end, we didn’t persuade much of anyone. It’s natural to want to avoid facing that humiliating truth, and equally natural to look for someone else to blame instead. That’s human nature. So fine. Blame Obama if it makes you feel better. That’s what we elect presidents for: to take the blame.
 
But he only deserves his share. The rest of us, who were unable to take advantage of an epic financial collapse to get the public firmly in favor of pitchforks and universal health care, deserve most of it. The mirror doesn’t lie.
(Mother Jones)

The public is progressive, even very progressive, on most issues. But we’ve been unable to translate that to electoral change. In the longer term (i.e. looking out to the early 2020s), I think there’s ample cause for optimism (due to a more thoughtful and knowledgeable, less gullible, populace), in that regard. But it’s an agonizingly slow, tortuous, and frustrating road. Historically, the path to positive change always has been that, though that doesn’t mean it always has to be.
 
One sees a constant online stream of claims that we’re on the verge of (if not already in) a plutocratic/surveillance state/theocratic dictatorship, on the brink of world economic collapse, etc., etc. Those screeds have their place, and maybe more people should be paying more attention. But they’re not, because none of it has anything to do with their daily experience. There would perhaps be a better chance of effectively reaching more people, if that was borne in mind.
 

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abanschoolAnd it should start with this.
 

Whether President Obama realizes it or not, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is now “damaged goods,” a leader whose credibility has been sharply diminished on both sides of the aisle and is widely despised by teachers and parents around the nation. As a result, any initiative he launches will generate skepticism and opposition and will go exactly nowhere. Whether the President can cut loose his long time friend and basketball buddy is an open question, but the die is cast. Arne Duncan is now a liability more than an asset and someone whose presence may cost Democrats votes in the 2014 elections.
(Mark Naison – Dump Duncan Facebook, 7/17/14)

What all has precipitated commentary like the above, which is spot-on if you ask me, is that Duncan is essentially pimping a conservative Republican approach to American education. Full corporatization (“Walmartization,” if you prefer) of schools is the odious goal.
 

The American Federation of Teachers passed a resolution July 13 calling on President Barack Obama to put U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on an “improvement plan,” and demand his resignation if he doesn’t change positions the union deems harmful.
 
This is a very interesting development, notably because it’s arguable whether this resolution is stronger than the National Education Association’s similarly themed resolution, or weaker.
 
On the one hand, unlike the NEA resolution, it stops short of calling for Duncan’s immediate resignation. But on the other hand, the AFT makes it explicit that the buck for the education secretary ultimately stops with the person who appointed him — President Obama.
 
Delegates noted Duncan’s support for the Race to the Top competition, which gave incentives to states to tie teacher evaluations to student test scores; for the recent Vergara v. California equity-lawsuit ruling, which declared certain teacher protections unconstitutional in California; and for supporting planned teacher firings in Central Falls, R.I., as well as for saying that Hurricane Katrina’s reshaping of New Orleans’ school system was beneficial.
(Education Week)

Every indication is that President Obama is with the deformer crowd, and I wish I knew why. This is easily my biggest disappointment with his presidency. According to a big long survey (PDF), a largely uninformed public both strongly supports public schools (as it should), and more charters (as it most certainly shouldn‘t). Grounds for some measure of optimism, or at least determination in the face of difficult odds, is that the President has shown himself open to learned, rational persuasion in the past, on gay marriage for example.
 

Duncan is one of those professional suck-ups that infest DC like mold spores. And he displays a smug arrogance that is truly obnoxious and repellent. Some of his recent, combative comments are likely subconsciously grounded in fear that he’ll be exposed before all for the wretched fake that he is. Just…he needs to go (preferably replaced by Diane Ravitch, though that would seem too-good-to-be-true unlikely).
 

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safe_imagephpdAQA0Ubd1yNoWTNbvw90h90urlhttp3A2F2Fwwwhumanbannersfcom2Fwp-content2Fuploads2F20112F102Ftax-the-1-percent-d-150x150Yet conservatives continue to pimp the same whimpering, groveling welfare-for-the-wealthy crap. David Cay Johnston is among my favorite political writers.
 

According to an analysis by Pulitzer-Prize winning reporter David Cay Johnston, formerly of the New York Times, the Bush tax cuts, touted as a harbinger of prosperity by the Republican Party, actually robbed each American taxpayer of $48,000 in pre-tax personal income during the twelve years of their existence, for a total of approximately 6.6 trillion dollars.
 
This is more than enough to pay for every student loan, car loan, and credit card debt in the U.S, while still leaving 2.4 trillion dollars in the pockets of Americans. It is the equivalent of an extra 11 dollars a day lost to each American taxpayer over the last twelve years.
(Daily Kos)

This has a long, involved explanation of the above, for the truly wonky among us.
 
(Update: Here is Johnston’s original column, which is kind of hard to get to via the links posted above.)
 
And, also on the theme of right-wing claims about the economy inevitably being complete and utter BS:
 

We see that while (as per usual) there is considerable variation in unemployment rates across groups, the unemployment rate is substantially higher now than it was before the recession started for all groups. The unemployment rate is between 1.2 and 1.7 times as high now as it was seven years ago for all age, education, occupation, industry, gender, and racial and ethnic groups. Elevated unemployment across the board, like we see today, means that the weak labor market is due to employers not seeing demand for their goods and services pick up in a way that would require them to significantly ramp up hiring, not workers lacking the right skills or education for the occupations or industries where jobs are available.
(Economic Policy Institute)

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The RFRA is backfiring and needs to go

by Dan Burns on July 16, 2014 · 1 comment

REPEAL RFRA2I was raised Roman Catholic, and took it fairly seriously, but not super-seriously, as a youth. At least as an altar boy (it was only boys doing that, then) I had something to do during Mass, to cut the boredom, a little. Then I got to college and got sunk in philosophy and became an atheist, as I am now. At the time I thought pretty highly of myself and my “intellectual courage,” but I recognize now that “courage” was not a factor. My temperament is scientific/skeptical, much more so than religious, and that’s that.
 
Certainly I continue to be critical of religious efforts to foist dogma on others, via politics, but I have long since stopped “bashing” religion in and of itself. I see said bashing as pointless and often counterproductive. Moreover, if you consider the bloodiest, most violent and destructive century in human history so far – the twentieth – the primary problem wasn’t religion. It was totalitarian socio-political doctrines like Stalinism, Nazism, and Maoism. Not that the U.S. and other somewhat more democratic nations reacted all that well, especially post-WWII.
 
I recognize why many continue to choose religion. I can relate to the desire for guidance, solace, and (far and away the most important, imo, even if believers don’t get all hung up in what really motivates them, and why should they?) participation in a community of shared belief and values.
 
Finally, I think that plenty of coverage, in the left-progressive blogosphere, of the Hobby Lobby SCOTUS decision has been apocalyptic overkill. Full-blown religious right Pentecostal/fundamentalist theocracy is here, because of this? Come on.
 
All that being said, it is one awful decision. And we can’t really just blame it entirely on the excesses of five reactionaries on the Court. More below the fold.
 
…READ MORE

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amd_300This is a very important online article about the mining proposals in Minnesota, that I need to pass along. I really encourage clicking and reading the whole thing. With PolyMet and Twin Metals, we’re talking about financial houses of cards that are deliberately constructed that way.
 

Given the dissolute nature of the thirty-three-year old ne’er-do-well PolyMet, and given the evidence of the faithless nature of the senior mining companies in general, you’d think that the regulators at the DNR would be screaming and demanding a guarantee of the environmental liability obligations of PolyMet by Glencore, wouldn’t you?
 
Well, my friends, you’d be sadly mistaken if you thought that. At the hearing on financial assurances in the Minnesota House last session that I mentioned earlier, representatives from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said they would not seek guarantys of environmental liability obligations from shareholders of PolyMet, even a large shareholder like Glencore, which is in practical control of PolyMet.
 
You can bet your bottom dollar that the moment that Glencore decides, We don’t see the upside, that the State of Minnesota, its citizens, its environment, and even PolyMet, itself, will be holding a potentially very large bag. That is an especial concern when the mine closes, in say twenty years, and there is no more revenue coming from it.
(Left.MN)

And this one has valuable debunking:
 

If you take U.S. Senate candidate Mike McFadden’s words literally, he’s making a lofty promise.
 
On at least a couple of occasions, when discussing regulations on mining jobs, McFadden has pointed to the copper and nickel reserves in northern Minnesota.
 
“It has Bakken-type economic impact on our state,” he said on conservative talk radio in May. He repeated the line when talking with MinnPost’s Eric Black a few weeks ago. “It’s a game-changer for the region.”
 
“Bakken” refers to the oil- and gas-producing region in North Dakota, an economic engine that has completely transformed the western half of the state in under a decade.
 
And there’s where the analogy falls apart. If industry-favored projections are correct, copper and nickel mining would, right away, provide a modest boost for Minnesota’s economy, while potentially leading to bigger gains in later years. But those estimates, rosy as they might be, produce not even one-tenth the jobs Bakken has created in North Dakota.
(MinnPost)

To buy into “industry-favored projections” is indicative of just jaw-dropping naivete. And/or, of course, personal agendas.
 

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1517400_220553111462348_617540504_nThe Trans-Pacific Partnership is a potential disaster in the making. Here’s some news that could be worse:
 

Negotiators of the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade initiative still see no clear path to signing an accord, six months after missing their primary deadline at the end of last year.
 
Chief negotiators of the TPP deal from Japan, the U.S. and 10 other Pacific Rim countries wrapped up a meeting Saturday in Ottawa without agreement, even on a date for the next meeting, due to major differences over contentious issues such as intellectual property.
 
Observers say some negotiators may start questioning whether the TPP negotiations can maintain momentum as the United States, the leader of the process, is unable to make any game-changing decisions in the coming months due to midterm elections in November.
(Japan Times)

And this has even more indicators that those of us in opposition – and we do have a great deal of company – might be in luck. Might.
 

TISA is an acronym for a proposed trade deal that is even less well-known to the general public than the TPP. I don’t know why President Obama, among many others, is so wrongheaded on these. He won’t explain, or at least hasn’t so far, that I know of. Just facile platitudes about the purported glories of “free trade.”
 

The whistleblower and transparency website WikiLeaks published on (June 17) the secret draft text of the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) Financial Services Annex, a controversial global trade agreement promoted by the United States and European Union that covers 50 countries and is opposed by global trade unions and anti-globalization activists.
 
Activists expect the TISA deal to promote privatization of public services in countries across the globe, and WikiLeaks said the secrecy surrounding the trade negotiations exceeds that of even the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) that has made headlines in the past year.
(Truthout)

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MN State Senator goes financially belly-up

by Dan Burns on July 13, 2014 · 3 comments

32NienowState Sen. Sean Nienow (R-Cambridge) perpetually seeks to emphasize what a great steward of “the taxpayers’ money” he’s supposed to be. As far as I know, there are still no answers as to where the big ol’ chunk of change he got from the SBA actually went. Here’s a previous post for more background.
 

Nienow filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy on June 1. According to court papers he has debts of $930,883 and lists total assets of $121,836. Because of the filing, Nienow will have to liquidate all of his nonessential assets and turn them over to creditors. Court papers say Nienow has declared his home, household goods, two cars, his wedding ring, four firearms, other hobby equipment, a boat and other household items as exempt assets…
 
The biggest debt listed on Nienow’s bankruptcy filing is $747,937 owed to the United State government for a loan Nienow and his wife took out from the Small Business Administration. The couple used the money to create the National Camp Association, which aimed to help families find camps for children.
(MPR)

“Four firearms” as exempt, essential assets. Of course.
 
Obviously, I’m noting this because I think if people in his district know about it, it will hurt his reelection chances, if he runs again in 2016. It’s not personal animus or anything like that. Rather, all conservatives should be out of public office, for the simple reason that when they’re in power, they screw up everything they touch. And we’re all worse off, as a result.
 

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MN-08: Mills fumbles the gun issue

by Dan Burns on July 10, 2014 · 2 comments

Stewart Mills III is running for Rep. Rick Nolan’s (D-MN) congressional seat. I have yet to see reliable polling numbers. Here’s Mills’s latest ad.
 

 
What Nolan has in fact primarily supported is stronger background checks, favored by around 75-80% of Americans if you average the legitimate polling that I‘ve seen. But where Mills is stepping on his tongue, yet again, is that he apparently forgot he ever said the following.
 

In 2013 Mills said “So what’s the solutions, we need to put armed security in every school and fund that price tag. We have to stop putting things on our credit card and mortgaging our children’s future to China. The ATF collects approximately $ 24 billion a year in excise fees. If we need to increase the 11% ATF excise fee on firearms to 15% or whatever to pay for it, we need to do that.”
(DCCC)

Vote Mills for higher taxes on guns! That ought to work with the base.
 

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Mike McFadden is running for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Al Franken (D-MN). He also has to win a primary in August; he’s considered a heavy favorite, there. His most recent TV ads are strange and weird, and call the general competence of his campaign very much into question. (Note that not long ago his staff got a big change.) Maybe he figures he has to try something unusual, all things considered.
 

First, it’s presented as a positive that he cluelessly performed a medical procedure, presumably under septic conditions, on a child.
 

 
Then, apparently there is something cute and/or funny about being sucker-punched, square, in the nuts.
 

 
Keep ‘em coming, Mittclone. Please.
 

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