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Eric Ferguson

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



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.


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).


KSTP TV spreads voter fraud myth

by Eric Ferguson on June 28, 2014 · 9 comments

KSTP TV decided to shock its viewers with the news that 140 Somali voters registered to vote at the same address. OMG, massive organized voter fraud, finally proven! Just like all those other times it was finally proven except, oops, the allegation proved groundless. This are pretty easy to debunk too, at least for anyone who thinks accusations should be accompanied by evidence. KSTP is owned by a major GOP donor, Stanley Hubbard, which often leads to suspicion about its reporting. I’ve usually not seen anything in their reporting that looks like a Fox News wannabe. This looks to me less like partisan bias and more like reporting that is sloppy and sensationalist. Of course, for the people who worked on this story, being sloppy and sensationalist should be pretty embarrassing. I do get how these stories slip through, given the general shoddiness of local TV news that has been the norm pretty much since its invention.

I also get now why so many people in Minneapolis spit when they say Brian Rice’s name.

To the specifics of the allegations:


According to voter registration records from the Secretary of State’s office and the DFL Voter Activation Network more than 140 people used 419 Cedar Avenue South in Minneapolis as their home address, when they registered to vote.
The address is for what’s called Cedar Mailbox Center. The building manager and mail center’s employees weren’t comfortable speaking on camera, but they said they were surprised by the allegations.
They say nobody put the wrong address on purpose. For 13 years, many Somali-Americans from all across the state have been getting their mail there. They say nobody lives there.

Brian Rice is representing Phyllis Kahn, and making the charges against Mohamud Noor, the candidates in the DFL primary in HD60B.
The first problem with the allegation is probably obvious to anyone who has ever rented a mailbox. People who move frequently, which describes many low income people, often rent mailboxes so they don’t have to worry about their mail following them as they move. So having a rented mailbox isn’t a sign of intending to commit the organized fraud Rice is claiming in front of KSTP’s credulous reporters when he said, “I think there is a coordinated effort to use this address to bring voters into the DFL primary election on August 12, that’s what I think is going on.” Notice he said “coordinated effort”. That’s a lot different than some voters making a mistake. What is the evidence of a “coordinated effort”, and not merely just a bunch of people renting mailboxes there? KSTP reported the owner told them they’ve been renting out mailboxes for 13 years: so did the 140 people registered to vote using that address just register, or were they using those mailboxes prior to the campaign? It would seem a simple matter for either Rice or KSTP to check this out, but they either didn’t, or they’re not sharing the result.
It is in fact the law that voters must register where they actually reside, even if their permanent address is different. Rookie voters, and we are talking about many inexperienced voters in the Somali community, could reasonably assume they’re supposed to use their permanent address, not just whatever temporary housing they’re using now. Registration forms don’t say this. The forms merely offer space for a mailbox if you can’t receive mail at your address, which might imply to a new voter that they should just use their permanent address only. “Voter fraud” requires intent, not merely mistakes. That’s also the law, not my opinion, yet Rice is making, and KSTP TV is airing, a specific charge, with no evidence. Anyone think the voter fraud crazies we call the Republican Party will regard the lack of evidence, or will this be ginned up into the latest national voter fraud scandal, for which most people will never hear the debunking?
Yet Rice can still claim to be a lawyer and KSTP TV can still claim to be journalists. Legally I mean, not in the sense of deserving professional respect.
For full disclosure, I haven’t backed a candidate. I’m still not ready to do that because I have reservations about both.
Here is the KSTP TV report.


President Obama in Minneapolis Thursday and Friday

by Eric Ferguson on June 25, 2014 · 4 comments

President Obama will be making a couple public appearances in Minneapolis this week. On Thursday at 2:10 there’s town hall forum at Minnehaha Park, right near me but I have to work, figures. It’s invitation only and I don’t know how invitees were picked. I’m not one is all I know. Security will be presidentially tight like is normal at presidential events, but living close by, I know how to sneak in along the river and through the woods. I’m kidding!! I’ve been through the security to attend presidential events, and they lose some glamor. If I can’t sit down at some point and get some water, I don’t think I want to do that again. And no, being the local DFL chair doesn’t get me anything in terms of notice or entry or anything.


Friday at 10:30 the president is giving a speech on the economy, highlighting the things Minnesota has done right. This will be at the Lake Harriet bandshell. This event is open to anyone, but tickets are required. Distribution started at noon today on a first come first serve basis, so no promises you can still get a ticket. If you’re traveling in the vicinity of Minnehaha Park tomorrow or Lake Harriet Friday, be aware roads and trails might be closed.

Here’s the president responding to a letter from a woman in Minnesota, who apparently will get to talk to him while he’s here.


So, these things happened on the same day. One, the state DFL released a video juxtaposing one GOP candidate who thinks his wealth is all it takes to be qualified for public office with a former and possibly future GOP candidate who thinks the same thing. They think they pay their fair share of taxes by paying the lower rich guy rate, which rich guys had lobbied hard for and thereby think they earned. Not that anyone would mistake beer bong guy with Mr. 47% by voice or appearance, but in attitude, hard to tell them apart.


The other thing that happened was given away if you followed the Daily Kos link above. A poll of potential candidates in the 2016 New Hampshire GOP primary found the leader by a long way is, really, Mitt Romney. At 24%, he’s 15 points ahead of runner up Chris Christie. Actually, the fact Gov. Traffic Jam comes in second would be all the indication we need of the state of the GOP field. Oh yeah, among the pundit class, concern that Democrats are the ones with a thin bench is a thing. A funny, funny thing.
But hey, who thought we would get to put these pictures together?

Stewart Mills beer bong Mitt Romney etch-a-sketch


Rebecca Otto: Minnesota nice, not naive

by Eric Ferguson on June 16, 2014 · 8 comments

State Auditor Rebecca OttoI had chance to talk to State Auditor Rebecca Otto after her speech at the DFL state convention. I rather proved my proclaimed volunteer status as a reporter by discovering half the interview was lost, due, I expect, to operator error, meaning I’m guessing I accidentally hit the stop button. In the part I lost, I asked her about the reference in her speech to her predecessor using reports for partisan purposes, which I noted in the live blog. Otto expanded on that, explaining that local governments would come to the auditor’s office for help, but instead of getting help, would be held up for ridicule. The prior auditor, Pat Anderson, whom Otto defeated in 2006 and again in 2010, preferred to use the government’s problems to make herself look like an enemy of government waste. It’s easy to imagine what this did to the trust local governments had in the auditor’s office. Why bring problems forward if you’re going to be attacked for them?


So the first challenge Otto had was restoring trust. Given that looking like the enemy of government waste plays well regardless of party, governments might well be as suspicious of an auditor of one party as the other. It took time to get local governments thinking of the state auditor as someone looking to help them get their accounting right rather than looking to jump on them when they made a mistake. That rebuilding of trust is part of why she has won recognition from her peers across the country.


Q. Are you getting much pushback on your vote on the sulfide mining?

A. I thin kthe Republicans are trying to make an issue of it, but really, no. Initially, there were some people who made some claims about my vote that were not correct, and that was Republicans, in my opinion, and I’m not pro- or anti- mining. What I’ve been is all about the finances. So that these foreign multi-national corporations that come into our state know that we mean business, and that we’re going to make sure that they have incentive to protect us from any future cleanup costs, or maybe injury to our workers, or anything like that, so that they don’t leave a financial burden behind once they take the non-ferrous minerals and leave.


Q. I’ve noticed you using the term “damage deposit”.

A. I’ve been using it so when I talk to people in general, I talk about a “damage deposit” like you would about an apartment. They’ve got a more technical name, “financial assurance”, but people understand what a “damage deposit” is, and it incents you to make sure you get it right, and the mining companies have to put enough down to reclaim the land afterward. And that’s usually more of a known cost. It’s the issue around water treatment that may be required that is the more unknown cost.  And so again, letting any of these foreign multi-national corporations understand that we may be “Minnesota nice”, but we’re not naive, and not to mistake our “nice” for “naivete”. We’re not. And so that we have high standards, and that we expect them, if they’re going to come in, to be good stewards of our natural resources.



The new rule on Iraq is shut up

by Eric Ferguson on June 15, 2014 · 1 comment

There should be a rule for everyone who wants to comment on Iraq in 2014. Show what you were saying in 2002 and 2003. If you were supporting the Bush administration’s invasion of Iraq then, STFU now. The headline on this Paul Waldman post in the Washington Post’s  The Plum Line sums it up a bit more nicely but still succinctly, “On Iraq, let’s ignore those who got it all wrong”.


As you watch the debate on this issue, you should remind yourself that the most prominent voices being heard are the very ones who brought us the Iraq War in the first place, who promised that everything was simple and the only question was whether we’d be “strong” and “decisive” enough — the same thing they’re saying today. They’re the ones who swore that Saddam was in cahoots with Al Qaeda, that he had a terrifying arsenal of weapons of mass destruction, that the war would be quick, easy and cheap, that since Iraq was a largely secular country we wouldn’t have to worry about sectarian conflict, and that democracy would spread throughout the region in short order, bringing peace and prosperity along with it.


Yes, I do have a written record of opposing the war on posts I put on my old personal web site, which will be readily reachable once my web host gets its head out of its a—nyway, maybe that’s what the reality-based community needs to do. When we comment, link to something we wrote back then, and challenge the neocons to do the same. So I found a way to link directly to one thing I wrote before the invasion, Bush’s credibility problem on Iraq. I’m not suggesting anything written then is helpful now, except that it does establish who was right at the time, and who helped bring about disaster and therefore now needs to shut up.

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David Brat a real life SNL sketch

by Eric Ferguson on June 12, 2014 · 1 comment

Watch this video of David Brat (h/t Salon) particularly starting 2:30 in, where he has a classic response to a serious policy question.


When Brat responded, “Hey, Chuck, I thought we were just going to chat today about the celebratory aspects,” my first thought was of Chevy Chase playing Gerald Ford in Saturday Night Live spoof of one of the debates between between Ford and Jimmy Carter. Go to the 5:40 mark for “Ford’s” response to an economics question:


If the video doesn’t display, click this link. Transcripts below.

Does the TV ad not write itself? But the checks don’t write themselves, so get on that DCCC. You’ve been handed an opportunity. Not only is Brat’s immigration position unpopular in the district as a whole, as compared to just GOP primary voters, but listen to Brat’s response on raising the minimum wage and remember how popular that is everywhere. Brat is unready to talk to anyone outside the conservative bubble. Moreover, I have to think the district’s Republcans are divided now, and what will GOP-leaners think of what the primary voters did? Get Jack Trammell some help.


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