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Eric Ferguson

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Republican candidates attempting to get on to the debate stage

Let’s start with the schadenfreude just for a laugh. Or to show we know one word of German, whichever. The best part of the New Hampshire primary was watching Marco Rubio finish fifth after giving the most exuberant victory speech maybe ever, despite finishing third. He sounded like he was celebrating actually winning the presidency, not finishing third in one state. The first state, but just one state. From the dribbles of rumor from the Senate to the public, apparently he is spared the disdain of his Republican colleagues only by the noxious presence of Ted Cruz. Avoid Rubio and you might have to talk to Cruz, so…
 
Yet there’s another contender in the race for the “You’re celebrating THAT?” award. John Kasich, delighted at finishing a distant second to an insult comic, saying, “Maybe, just maybe, we are turning the page on a dark part of American politics because tonight, the light overcame the darkness of negative campaigns.” The “light” got 15% and the — well, I infer Kasich’s opponents are the “darkness” — got 85%. This is apparently a use of the word “overcame” I was previously unfamiliar with.
 
A phrase I hope goes away when the election is over is “the establishment”. What is the establishment? Does it give out membership cards? It seems the halls of power in DC are crawling with people bragging of how they defy the establishment and the establishment hates them. I would have guessed that when you’re a congressman or a governor or a billionaire or some such, you are the frikkin’ establishment. I’d like to dump “the establishment” into the trash bin of meaningless old buzzwords, but I’ll settle for an unwritten rule that no one says “the establishment” without saying who the hell they’re talking about.
 
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clown car

Candidate limousine pulls in for tonight’s GOP debate

I’ll be live-blogging the GOP debate tonight. It will be broadcast and webcast on Fox News, and I’ll be watching with you, or listening more likely since I’ll be looking at the form where I write this. I’m not sure if just listening or also watching makes a difference. There was a story from the debate between Richard Nixon and John Kennedy during the 1960 campaign that people who watched on TV thought Kennedy won, but the radio audience thought Nixon won. It sounds like one of those stories that gets passed along as conventional wisdom, but now I’m wondering if the was Nixon campaign spin after he lost, trying to make it sound like if you thought Kennedy won, you’re a shallow person moved by a handsome face with better makeup, and what’s that say about you? Anyway, maybe I’ll have a different take from listening instead of watching.
 
If you’re new to this live blogging stuff, it’s a bit like live tweeting except you don’t have to keep hunting through Twitter and I can comment in over 140 characters. Just reload this page once in a while to get the latest pithy comment from me. But do your own fact-checking because I’ll mention when I catch a factual error, or think something is just being made up, but I won’t have time to research and link.
 
The debate starts at 8 central time. Click the “read more” link to, try not to be surprised, read more.
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Tara Mack needs help with healthcare policy

by Eric Ferguson on January 9, 2016 · 3 comments

State Rep. Tara MackI’m starting to believe state Rep. Tara Mack’s claim that she and state Rep. Tim Kelly were really just exchanging healthcare papers, because somebody sure needs to fill her in on the basics, judging by how much she got wrong in her Star Tribune guest column, “Counterpoint: MNsure is hurting folks, not helping them”. She mentions how often she hears from Minnesotans with “heartbreaking stories” from “the so-called Affordable Care Act.” Maybe she’s unaware that it’s not so-called. That’s actually the name. It’s not a nickname. “Obamacare” is a nickname, as is, technically, the many names I imagine Republicans give it in private. Or maybe she’s flunking Clever Phrasing 101.
 
Anyway, the implication is that the ACA is destructive for many and working for nobody, even though the percentage of the US population without health insurance has plunged. It’s not exactly secret or hard to check. They do have staff in the MNGOP House caucus, don’t they? Via Paul Krugman:
 

Since Mack is getting complaints without apparently understanding the full context, let me explain: having access to the healthcare system is better than not having access to the healthcare system. The percentage uninsured plunged when the ACA kicked in fully, and no, it’s not a coincidence. In fact, it would be even lower had state governments under the control of Mack’s party not taken advantage of the US Supreme Court’s rewriting of part of the law to create the “Medicaid gap”. That happens when states choose not to accept the Medicaid extension, which the court made voluntary for no reason grounded in law (though sure, I’m grateful they didn’t chuck the whole law for ideological reasons as four conservatives wanted to do). The Medicaid extension covers people who are too poor to buy insurance with subsidies on state exchanges, but have too much income for existing Medicaid. Fortunately, Minnesota’s Republicans were unable to leave this portion of the state’s poor without healthcare access, but they gave it their best effort.
 
After showing she doesn’t understand the ACA in general, Mack followed that with a simple and extremely checkable false claim.
 
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Donald Trump as albatrossI must disappoint any Trump supporters reading this, because the Democratic conundrum isn’t what you’re thinking. No, Democrats weren’t thinking the presidential election was in the bag thanks to that clown car of candidates the GOP produced and then, oh no, Donald Trump came along to smack away Democratic hopes. Well, if that’s what you’d prefer to think, don’t let me stop you.
 
For Democrats, the conundrum is that Democrats look at Trump and see that he’s crude, authoritarian, dishonest, and probably some other adjectives we’d generally agree upon, and it would be an epic disaster if he somehow actually became president. There’s a case to be made that someone so dangerous should be stopped as early as possible, so if Democrats can do something to convince Republicans to deny him their nomination, they should, even at the cost of Republicans picking a better candidate.
 
On the other hand, there’s the case that Trump is the GOP albatross, that the GOPers getting desperate to find some way to get rid of him are right. The blowhard is blowing through their chance of winning the presidency when it’s an open seat. I don’t know if Republicans see it, but some Democrats see Trump as a proverbial club for bashing Republican hopes all the way down the ballot. There’s the delicious dream of asking every Republican candidate, not just Trump’s presidential opponents but Republican running for everything, to respond to the latest offensive thing their top of the ticket just said.
 
Assuming we could do something to beat Trump in the primaries or to help him win the nomination (not a safe assumption, but assume for the purposes of thinking things through), it’s risky either way.
 
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Debbie Wasserman Schultz needs to go

by Eric Ferguson on December 24, 2015 · 3 comments

U.S. Representative and DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman SchultzThe title of this post cuts to the chase, but I might surprise some readers by saying this isn’t about the Democratic presidential debates. I have an issue with how DNC (Democratic National Committee) Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz made the decision, about which more later, but I’m not all that bothered about the number or timing of the debates. I don’t know the right number or best times, and I’m skeptical about the utility of presidential debates anyway. So that’s not my issue. Actually, “issues” plural.
 
Since I’m taking a position aligned with many supporters of Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley (and I suspect the position of the candidates themselves though they haven’t said this), I just want to reiterate that I’m not picking a candidate. I’m the chair of the DFL of my senate district, which means that I’m running the precinct caucuses and the convention where we pick delegates to the state convention, and I don’t want any doubts about my impartiality. I also want to be clear that though my chair position is why I won’t pick a candidate, I don’t in any way speak for the party in this post. This is purely my own opinion, and no one else should be held responsible for anything I say here.
 
So why does the national chair need to go?
 
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Supreme court considers new form of disenfranchisement

by Eric Ferguson on December 11, 2015 · 1 comment

scotusThere’s a legal theory from the far right fringe that, like most legal theories from the far right fringe, is taken seriously by very few people but, unfortunately, those few include the five conservative justices on the US Supreme Court. Thus why a case the justices heard oral argument for this week, Evenwel v. Abbott should be scary.
 
This isn’t the usual sort of disenfranchisement, where right the right to vote is taken away from some people, coincidentally always people who tend not to vote for conservative candidates. This time, the plaintiffs are arguing that the idea of “one, person, one vote” for drawing districts means only eligible voters count. Anyone not eligible to vote would literally be discounted. Such persons would include non-citizens, ex-felons whose voting rights have not been restored, and all children. It just so happens that Latinos are more likely to be under 18 than other people. The effect of drawing districts this way would be to give disproportionate representation to districts that are older and whiter.
 
Aren’t the conservative legal activists pushing this change aware of the effect? Of course they are. As always when conservatives start mucking around with elections and voting, disenfranchisement is a feature, not a bug. As with other high profile cases, the law doesn’t really matter. Ideology rules for the five justices from the extreme right side of the political spectrum, and the rest of us are left hoping in each case one justice can’t stomach so much twisting of the law for judicial activism, or has some personal experience to awaken them to their decision’s effect.
 
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How is climate change like racism?

by Eric Ferguson on November 26, 2015 · 1 comment

How is climate change like racism? Conservatives don’t want to believe it’s even real.
 
Sorry if that setup led to an expectation of a funny punchline instead of a literal similarity.
 
Anyone reading this site is likely familiar with science denial. Pretending the country doesn’t have a racism problem might be called news denial since even if someone doesn’t experience racism in their personal lives, it’s not like examples don’t make the news. Still, some conservatives don’t want to believe it, saying things like, “I Don’t Think There’s Racism” as if they lived in a bubble. “As if”?
 
Just this week, Donald Trump tweeted a factually wrong — in a racist way — graphic that came from a neo-nazi; blacks participating in a protest against police abuse of black civilians at the 4th police precinct in Minneapolis were shot by white supremacists.
 
And the Republican Party in Minnesota’s 7th congressional district gained unwanted attention with this posting to its Facebook page (click to enlarge):
 
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Message testing for legislative elections

by Eric Ferguson on November 21, 2015 · 0 comments

pothole signThe state senate district where I’m the DFL chair happens to be deep blue, not one where we have to worry much about holding on to our legislative seats. However, as our incumbent legislators remind local DFLers, they can’t get much done when they’re in the minority. Even their seniority and designation by their caucus as a committee ranking member won’t stop vindictive Republicans from kicking them off said committee. So our safe-seat legislators need more DFLers to win in not-safe seats, which gets to why our district did some message testing when it would appear we really don’t have to — and maybe, doing the minimum, we don’t have to. But we want to win; as in a majority of seats, not just the easy-to-get majority of the votes in our district.
 
Now when I say “message testing”, I don’t mean some proper bit of research your political science professor would have approved of. We don’t have those sorts of resources, at least with other things we have to do. But we can still do something. We can’t pretend what we did is strong research we could get published in a proper political science journal. But we think we have something useful.
 
Specifically, we have two issues where we did some testing, one intended for offense and one for defense: the offense being automatic voter registration, and the defense being paying for transportation infrastructure. The forum was the tables we set up at neighborhood events in our district as we do each summer and autumn. Usually we have a passel of candidates to talk about, but most of our district, ironically enough given my plea to pay attention to local elections this year, had no elections, and it happened that was the part of the district with neighborhood events where we could set up. Normally our top priority at these events is voter registration, and next trying to strike up conversations so we can find out what prospective voters are thinking about. If anyone wants some jargon, this is sometimes referred to as an “untargeted canvas”. Generally of course, most people are already registered (though some aren’t, and they would not have shown up in a list of registered voters) and they don’t have an issue to comes to mind right at that moment, so we took advantage of having no candidates to test reaction to messages on those two issues. We had flyers on each issue (which we’re willing to share with other party units) but no one sees those right away, so we’re bringing up whichever issue we bring up and flyers are details and follow-up. Basically it’s verbal communication combined with paper they can take with them.
 
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clown carThe next GOP presidential debate starts tonight at 8PM central time. Yes, once again I’m skipping the “undercard” debate because it just doesn’t matter. This debate is on Fox Business, which will be the first time that channel has been watched by pretty much anyone. Fox Business: because the Wall Street shills on CNBC just aren’t conservative enough! So I’ll be simultaneously noting what the candidates say, doing some instant fact checking (no time for linking, so your own fact checking of my fact checking is advised), and maybe even providing some instant yet clever commentary.
 
So click the “read more” link if you’re reading this on the home page, and hit your browser reload button once in a while. Feel free to comment, but do understand that I may not have time to get it posted right away. Please excuse me if I miss something visual, because my eyes are on the editing page, which means essentially the debate is radio for me.
 
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clown carWhen Bernie Sanders was asked about the bizarre things Ben Carson said in the past, he said it wasn’t fair to hold candidates accountable for what they said decades ago. I would agree with him if he were speaking just generally. We shouldn’t be held accountable for something we said decades ago as if we were prevaricating flip-floppers just because we now say something different. We change our minds on some things over time, and would we want a candidate incapable of that? Likewise, we all make factual errors. Possibly we all not only make factual errors, but at some point believe something nuts, which is embarrassing once we figure it out. We all have some time when we behaved badly, and our worst moment back whenever shouldn’t define us.
 
So looking at Carson’s claim that the Egyptian pyramids were built by Joseph as granaries, if that’s all it was, a factual error, a belief he no longer holds, a bad moment that happened to get recorded on video, then Bernie would be right. We should, were that the case, just move on to current issues and forget a speech 17 years ago — but that’s not what happened. It could have been what happened, if Carson, asked about it now, had said something like he wasn’t an egyptologist but should have known better as an educated person, or now he knows better and is a bit embarrassed about it. However, he said he still believes it. That’s different. That changes it from something he said 17 years ago to something he says now. Thus why I disagree with Bernie. This is completely fair game in terms of judging Carson as a prospective president.
 
What does one crazy belief have to do with being president? Nothing, were it only one isolated weird belief, one mistake that wasn’t repeated. However, it’s part of a pattern that has persisted right up until now. Carson says a lot of weird stuff, now, not only in decades past. What he’s said about Obamacare being worse than slavery, Jews being able to fend off the Nazis if only they’d had more guns, and prison inmates turning gay after being raped all happened recently. That first instance might be mere hyperboly, the second is a common belief on the gun nut right despite its easy debunking, and the third is maybe just unskeptical ignorance, but how to explain away the pyramids claim? And also throwing in the opinion that scientists can be ignored on what the pyramids were built for because some believe aliens built them? Either he’s thinking of the archaeologist character in “Stargate” under the misapprehension it was a documentary, or he keeps giving the impression he disconnected from reality.
 
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