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Eric Ferguson

Johnson, Otto, and primary thoughts

by Eric Ferguson on August 15, 2014 · 2 comments

Fresh off his win in the MNGOP gubernatorial primary, Hennepin County commissioner Jeff Johnson has already released his first campaign video:
 

 
Oops, that was Eddie Murphy from “The Distinguished Gentleman”. Sorry, didn’t mean to compare Jeff Johnson to Eddie Murphy. That’s unfair. After all, Murphy is funny on purpose.
 

Here’s Johnson being funny, presumably not on purpose:
 
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clowncarMNGOP gubernatorial candidate Scott Honour thinks he’s the most conservative candidate, and he has a case, especially if that case is about holding to conservative principles and refusing to compromise.
 

I plan to work cooperatively with the Legislature to get this done. But if legislators say no to good ideas, if they get bogged down in the usual political games, I’ll subscribe to Ronald Reagan’s adage: “If they won’t see the light, make them feel the heat.”

 

So when it comes to abolishing the right to join a union, killing MNSure and replacing it with nothing, across the board cuts in all spending regardless of the effect, and cutting taxes at the top, he’s willing to work with the DFL — on how to implement his agenda. He’s willing to use good ideas from DFLers, provided those ideas are how to better implement conservative ideology. Seek common ground, compromise, split differences, show pragmatism when it comes time to stop thinking like an ideologue and start solving problems, not so much.
 
Apparently he thinks he can conduct negotiations that consist of the other side giving him what he wants, provided he just shows “leadership”.
 

“When political insiders talk about being “realistic,” it’s code for “we just have to keep doing it the way we’ve always done it.” I completely reject that point of view. In politics as in business, it takes leadership to get results.

 
Really, “in politics as in business”? Does he get that unlike in his business, he doesn’t get to fire everyone who disagrees with him? Yet, as he’s the most conservative of the four major candidates, he must have a shot at winning. Great, another “run government like a business” Republican. That’s never worked out badly, other than every time. 
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Entenza violated campaign finance laws

by Eric Ferguson on August 3, 2014 · 7 comments

Rebecca_Otto_Matt_Entenza.jpgMatt Entenza had campaign finance violations in past campaigns, and if I were to explain them with the same accuracy and fairness Entenza is bringing to his attacks on Rebecca Otto, I might write something like this: Matt Entenza apparently thinks campaign finance laws don’t apply to him. Maybe he just wanted to be the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board’s pen pal, because he sure keeps having to explain himself. Illegal contributions, forgetting to report spending, having to return money, even MPR says he seems to be trying to do it all.
 
Was the preceding paragraph twisted and exaggerated? Obviously, which is really the point. Well, maybe not obvious if you don’t dig in to what actually happened, or at least read my other posts on the auditor race and notice I’m a Rebecca Otto partisan so maybe you should check before believing. It might sound reasonable if you have the misimpression that candidates are all experts on campaign finance law. They’re not. Maybe you think every campaign staffer is a 40-year-old with 50 years of experience; more likely 22-years old with three months experience. Certainly I find campaign finance laws complicated, having not studied. I mostly just hope to never accidentally run afoul because I didn’t know to ask a question or someone else screwed up and made it my problem.
 
What I do have is a greater respect for factual accuracy than Entenza has exhibited in his ambush campaign against Otto. He’s doing to her with his “voter ID” charge what I did to him in the first paragraph: make an attack by twisting isolated incidents barely on the margins of factual accuracy with a hope of finding an audience that will believe it without checking. Though frankly, I’m not exaggerating as much.
 
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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter George Zimmerman murdered Trayvon Martin, we heard multiple anecdotes from Florida’s bizarre “Stand Your Ground” law in which armed people acted aggressively towards unarmed people, killed them, and got away with it by claiming they felt threatened. If you suspected “Stand Your Ground” would mean more killings rather than fewer, if phrases like “an armed society is a polite society” sounded like nonsense, there’s no longer need to rely on anecdotes. Now we know why the gun lobby wants to prevent the collection of gun data — because there’s actual data that show “Stand Your Ground” means more killing, not less.
 
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Entenza sends another deceptive mailer

by Eric Ferguson on July 31, 2014 · 3 comments

Perennial candidate Matt Entenza just sent out yet another mailer attacking Rebecca Otto. Just for fun, made this one a video.
 

 
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UPDATE: the decision of the administrative law judge summarily dismissing Entenza’s compaint against Otto is embedded below, after the images of the offending mailer.
 
I ran into a supporter of perennial candidate Matt Entenza while doorknocking today. It’s probably good news that this was the first one since our doorknocks had to focus on the primary. She received the deceptive mailer claiming Rebecca Otto supports requiring photo ID for voting. It’s displayed below so readers can see it’s as bad as I’m saying. The mailer essentially repeats the charge Entenza made in his complaint to the Office of Administrative Hearings, where Entenza charged that Otto lied when she denied his accusation, which complaint was thrown out for being nonsense — at the same time the mailer went out. Mr. Entenza, feel free to borrow Rick Perry’s “oops”.
 
Of course, not everyone reads blogs, saw the inside pages of newspapers (for all that we politics junkies thought this was big news, it’s still a page B3 sort of story) or has the developed skepticism to check out charges for scurrilousness, which presumably the Entenza campaign is counting on. So no, not everyone heard this was a lie.
 
So at the last address on my walk list, the outcome of which I suspect is going to henceforth push me to get to one more address in all future doorknocks, the resident said she was supporting Entenza. I asked what she liked about him, and she couldn’t immediately recall. I had a guess though, and asked if it was the photo ID charge. Yes it was. She was possibly not expecting a straightforward “it’s not true” rather than some spin, and she let me explain just what Entenza was twisting. I did catch a huge break in that this person had lawn sign for State Rep. Jean Wagenius, whose campaign t-shirt I happened to be wearing and lit I was carrying along with the Otto lit. This person is a strong Wagenius supporter, and learning the Wagenius is actively supporting Otto sealed the vote switch. You don’t always catch a break like that when trying to persuade at the door. You hope to just get someone to think about it or maybe check into something. So today ended on an good note. Voluntary disclosure, I’m chair of the DFL for SD63, which includes Wagenius’ district HD63B.
 
Still, that’s what it’s going to take to counter Entenza’s message. He’s sent three mailers already, which Otto won’t be able to match. She needs people who know what’s what to sway one voter at a time. The offending mailer is below the “read more”.
 
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clowncarh/t Politics.mn
 
So there’s the underlying issue of frac sand mining, and the issue of who correctly construed who, as Republican gubernatorial campaigns go after each other. For the part of the story about Republicans going after each other, Bill Kuisle, running for lieutenant governor with GOP gubernatorial endorsee Jeff Johnson, said it makes sense to delay frac sand mining so the effects can be studied.
 

I’ve pulled the key quotes from the back and forth between the two campaign[sic]. Below is the quote from Kuisle from the interview, in response to a question about frac sand mining:

 

“‘I’ve followed the issue a little bit in the papers,’ said Kuisle, a farmer of 160 acres between Stewart and Rochester. ‘You can’t be an expert on every issue, but I think you’ve got to look at all sides. That is a tough one.
 
“I think the moratorium, give it six months or a year, to study the issue is a good thing. You need to determine what you hope to protect. Is it air pollution, trout streams, transportation? Source: The Caledonia Argus, “Republican-endorsed candidate for lieutenant governor stops by Argus offices”, July 15, 2014

 
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Voter fraud story not quite over

by Eric Ferguson on July 14, 2014 · 1 comment

Brian Rice, we’re waiting. Not for evidence. We waited in vain for that. We’re waiting now for your apology.
 
The news Thursday was bad for Rice. Hennepin County investigated his claim of a “coordinated effort” to have people vote illegally using the address of a business that rents mailboxes. They dismissed this allegation not merely for insufficient evidence, and not even for no evidence. They actually disproved the charge. Ouch.
 
Wasn’t hard to disprove. From the Minnpost link, “In fact, all but 16 of the people who registered there had done so before January of this year.”
 
That was Thursday. It’s now Monday. Well? Any apology coming? Rice surely knew he was dragging the reputations of legal voters through the metaphorical mud. He took his claim to an irresponsible media outlet to play up the story, knowing how voter fraud claims incite the partisans of the right, knowing he was throwing charges at an immigrant community that is detested in some quarters. How detested? Let’s put it this way: the Star Tribune stopped enabling comments on articles on certain subjects because of the hate speech those subjects attract, and one of those subjects was Somalis. Articles on Somalis bring out the racists, nativists, and islamophobes. Rice must have been aware this was the atmosphere into which he was throwing his scurrilous charges.
 
It didn’t have to happen this way. Had Rice restrained himself to claiming it appeared some people voted from an address that wasn’t a residence, he would have been fine. There was evidence for that. He could have said that without claiming or implying organized fraud or individual fraud. That would have saved him looking churlish in light of this paragraph:

A large number of the improper registrations were the result of the change-of-address process, which requires Hennepin County officials to update registration information when voters move. Though many of the 141 voters involved in the complaint maintain a mailbox at the Cedar Avenue center — it’s an easy way for people who move often to keep a permanent mailing address — those voters didn’t expect that their registration information would also change to the mailing center’s address.

In other words, many of the 141 did things right, registering with their current address, and adding the permanent address as the place where mail should be sent, and something got mixed up on the clerical end. Even the rest, where the voters made a mistake, were just voters making a mistake. Not one instance of fraud.
 
Republicans of course took the bait, jumping up and down in excitement because now the voter fraud accusation was being made by a DFLer. Vindication! Oops. Like every other claim of voter fraud, this one fell apart upon examination. So, Republicans, isn’t it time to admit you were wrong on this one? That you believed a charge that proved false? So far, nothing. A word of advice Republicans: if the information is coming from a Democrat, and you don’t want to get played like this again, then no matter how much you want to believe it, check it out first. You see how I saw right through it. You can do the same.
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The Star Tribune headline writer got the story seriously wrong

The Star Tribune headline writer got the story seriously wrong

To be fair to the Star Tribune, they didn’t screw up nearly as much as KSTP. In fact, the egregious mistake was in the headline, “140 voters used single mailbox”. This wasn’t asserted in the article. However, reporters don’t write the headlines, and the Star Tribune did at some point replace that headline on the web version. They’re unfortunately stuck with it in the print edition. It’s a screw up because even Brian Rice and KSTP never asserted 140 people registered using one mailbox. They rented mailboxes from the same mailbox rental business. Yes, quite a bit different.
 
The Star Tribune writers talked to some people who registered using their mailbox instead of a residence — take note KSTP, because that’s what real reporters do — and got statements from more people than just the one guy making the accusation. The Star Tribune debunked — albeit inadvertently it appears since they didn’t point out the contradiction — the crux of the KSTP story, that there was a “coordinated effort” to commit voter fraud. “State records show that 419 Cedar Avenue S. has been used by some of the voters as far back as 2008.” Maybe Brian Rice believes people started registering back in 2008 to help Mohamud Noor run for state representative in 2014?
 
That said, some things were left out. And there was some silliness.
 
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Democrats need to watch their language

by Eric Ferguson on June 30, 2014 · 3 comments

Don’t be linguistically hoist by your own petard.

No, that title doesn’t mean Democrats need to stop swearing. Ever been to a DFL meeting? You could broadcast those without a seven second delay; not with much audience except the five Republicans hoping something stupid will be said, but certainly without fear of FCC fines. I’m referring to our actual verbiage. The way we communicate.

 
Yes, I know, you’ve heard about messaging and framing, and semantics, and your head just swims as the concepts fade from your brain. You don’t need any theoretical understanding as long as you get it empirically; say X and not Y. So my intention here is to look at specific word choices. I’ve been delaying posting as I give time for examples to accumulate, not that I’m not bound to miss a bunch. Feel free to disagree of course, but also feel free to add. You might well have better ones than I came up with.

 
Let’s just dive in. In order basically as they occurred to me, not alphabetical or topical or ranked by importance:
 
“Photo ID”, not “Voter ID”: They’re not the same. We’re playing into the hands of the voter suppressors every time we say “voter ID”. The problem isn’t getting an ID; the problem is getting an ID with a photo on it. We already have voter ID for registering, when you need something with your address on it; bank statements, rental agreements, or utility bills. If a voter could vote with a utility bill, showing ID to vote would still be a pointless step given the scarcity of impersonation, but at least the requirement wouldn’t be disenfranchising. Getting the photo ID is the hard part for many people, especially when what people have is disallowed, like states that sent confirmation cards to registered voters stopped accepting those cards at the polls because they don’t have photos. Saying “voter ID” grossly understates the difficulty many voters have in getting acceptable ID, and the voter fraud invention industry depends on the majority for whom photo ID is no big deal giving it no thought. At least “photo ID” gets us part way to making the point that people do have ID, but new laws won’t accept it. As we learned in Minnesota when we beat back the photo ID constitutional amendment, public support is broad but shallow, and quite amenable to factual arguments (how rarely that happens unfortunately).
 
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