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Keith Ellison is no anti-Semite

by Eric Ferguson on December 7, 2016 · 0 comments

US Rep. Keith EllisonWhen I say Keith Ellison is no anti-Semite, I’m not just speaking as someone who leans left in my politics and likes a lot of his policy positions. I actually know the guy. I’m DFL chair of a state senate district within his congressional district and I’ve been working with him since he first ran for congress in 2006. He’s not an anti-Semite, nor is he anti-Israel. I’m not going to rehash his whole record and the debunking of the allegations being made. Vox has done that admirably. I’m looking to add the voice of someone who knows him.

American politicians are expected to show their pro-Israel bonafides by being one-sided. They’re not allowed to admit that both sides have legitimate points and painfully real security concerns. Keith has visited both Israel and Palestine, and I’ve heard him speak sympathetically of the plight of both sides. I distinctly recall, during one of the spasms of violence in the occupied territories, he explained how awful the Hamas rocket attacks were for Israeli civilians under constant threat of attacks, frequently forcing them to take shelter in case the rockets landed on them. This was in private, not just an attempt to say the right thing to a certain audience. No doubt the wingnuts trying now to swiftboat him would have jumped all over the sympathy he expressed for Palestinian civilians having their lives controlled in destructive, and sometimes even in petty ways, by the Israeli occupation, like restrictions on consumer goods intended merely to make life uncomfortable, not to improve security — because in America we can’t acknowledge there are two sides with valid points and their own suffering.


Moving backward vs. Big Pharma

by Dan Burns on December 7, 2016 · 0 comments

pharmaSince library books have due dates and my issues of Scientific American do not, I’m generally months behind on the latter. The article I’m quoting here is from last May. The specific example being referenced is of course those ridiculous boner pill ads, especially ubiquitous during football season.

Yet every developed country except the U.S. and New Zealand prohibits such direct-to-consumer prescription drug ads. It is hard to see educational value in commercials on American TV that show radiant models relaxing before a tryst, accompanied by voice-overs that warn of possible side effects, including difficulty breathing and an unsafe drop in blood pressure.
An ad that conflates an aura of glowing health and the prospect of an amorous liaison with a list of dire cardiovascular symptoms is a paradigm of confused messaging because it does not provide the viewer with a clear guide to weighing both benefits and costs entailed in using a prescription medicine. Absent further interpretation, the underlying message reduces to: Sex or death—which will it be? Of course, the ads always end with an admonition to “ask your doctor….”
Now, finally, the doctors are giving an answer. In November 2015 the American Medical Association asked for a ban on these ads, saying that they are partially responsible for the skyrocketing costs of drugs. The World Health Organization and other groups have previously endorsed such restrictions.
(Scientific American)

Instead, this is what we’re almost certainly going to get.

If universal praise for a measure makes your B.S. detectors twitch, you’re on the right track. The 21st Century Cures Act is a huge deregulatory giveaway to the pharmaceutical and medical device industry, papered over by new funding for those research initiatives. The punchline is that the regulatory rollback is real, but the funding may not be — it’s subject over the next decade to annual appropriations by Congress that might never come…
One would expect Congress to ask the drug industry for something in return for regulatory rollbacks of this magnitude. Remarkably, nothing in the measure would address the main problem the public sees with the drug industry — inordinately high prices.
(Los Angeles Times)


Trump voters got well and truly suckered, Part 3

by Dan Burns on December 2, 2016 · 0 comments

trumpAs you may recall, the President-“elect” claimed that he would crack down on U.S. companies that relocated jobs elsewhere.

On Wednesday, Donald Trump — taking a break from fabricating lies about illegal voting, whining about Broadway plays, and rare media truth-telling — boasted he had saved 1,000 jobs at air-conditioning company Carrier from being outsourced to Mexico.
Unlike earlier this month, when Trump outright lied about having a part in Ford’s decision not to move a plant from Kentucky to Mexico, the Carrier deal seems to actually be connected to moves made by Trump and his Vice President-elect Mike Pence, but they are not at all what Trump would have you believe about them. Those moves were classic examples of corporate wheeling and dealing that slide huge tax cuts and other bonuses to big business in exchange for small favors…
Essentially, the deal Trump made amounts to corporate welfare, (Sen. Bernie) Sanders says, and will make inequality immeasurably worse. Sanders goes on to lament that “after running a campaign pledging to be tough on corporate America, Trump has hypocritically decided to do the exact opposite. He wants to treat corporate irresponsibility with kid gloves. The problem with our rigged economy is not that our policies have been too tough on corporations; it’s that we haven’t been tough enough.”


Group seeks to righteously crush Twin Metals

by Dan Burns on November 30, 2016 · 0 comments

sulfideGov. Mark Dayton opposes the Twin Metals proposal, and because of that and other factors it is essentially on life support. We hope.

The environmental group Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness has asked a federal judge to let them intervene in a lawsuit that could decide mineral leases under the proposed Twin Metals copper mine near Ely.
The group filed paperwork Tuesday, Nov. 22, in federal district court in St. Paul in hopes it can intervene in the suit filed by Twin Metals against the U.S. Department of the Interior.
Northeastern Minnesotans for Wilderness also filed notice that it plans to ask that the case be dismissed, although that can’t happen until the first hearing scheduled in the suit on April 28.

If you’re not familiar with the issue, here is a quick primer from Save the Boundary Waters.


Atrocious ruling blocks new overtime rule

by Dan Burns on November 28, 2016 · 1 comment

greedThis is beyond despicable.

To be clear, nationwide injunctions from federal judges are rather extraordinary measures but they have recently become commonplace in the 5th Circuit, where conservative federal judges have routinely used them to block Obama’s policies on issues ranging from immigration to transgender bathroom access to federal contracting rules and now overtime pay.
(Daily Kos)

Over 4 million workers nationally will lose out if this ruling stands. I was unable to find an estimate for how many of those are in Minnesota.
For some time now, viciously fanatical right-wingers have had success using conservative judges to keep good things from happening. There are currently over 90 openings in the federal judiciary that the Trump administration will now be able to fill, and undoubtedly will fill with right-wingnuts, who will do their utmost to block any progressive legislation or executive action on sight, for decades to come.

I don’t mean by any of this to suggest that progressives should just give up. But we need to be reality-based and aware of what we’re really up against.
Comment below fold.

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The TPP looks dead, anyway

by Dan Burns on November 22, 2016 · 0 comments

ellisontpp(Update: Also note that Trump & Co. could come up with trade policies that are even more exploitative and destructive than the TPP would have been.)
The way things have been going, I’m not taking anything for granted.

If you read the headlines, Donald Trump’s election has killed the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The headlines have it wrong.
Donald Trump didn’t kill the TPP. Assuming we see the fight through to the bitter end, it’s the cross-border, cross-sector, progressive “movement of movements” that will have defeated the TPP.
While overshadowed by the horror of Trump’s election, this victory will be one of the biggest wins against concentrated corporate power in our lifetimes, and it holds lessons we should internalize as we steel ourselves for the many challenges we face heading into the Trump years.

Is this really the end? Who knows? The President-”elect” is not a man of his word, to say the very least, and corporations will undoubtedly keep the pressure on. But for now, it looks good.


An election about change — too fast not too slow

by Eric Ferguson on November 19, 2016 · 1 comment

I’m working on a longer post about lessons from this excruciatingly close and catastrophic election, but I wanted to make this point now, because a certain conventional wisdom is forming. I would think we just learned to have a little more skepticism about conventional wisdom, but maybe not.
We keep hearing this was a change election. Consider the possibility this was the opposite, an anti-change election. Trump voters aren’t unhappy because there’s not enough change. They’re unhappy because there has been too much change. They want it rolled back. When they feel left behind, sometimes they’re doing quite well but don’t like how the country is changing. They actually tried to tell us with all the talk of making America great again as if it no longer is, of how things were better back in the 1950’s.
This is a long read, but worth it: A new theory for why Trump voters are so angry — that actually makes sense.

Cramer’s recent book, “The Politics of Resentment,” offers a third perspective. Through her repeated interviews with the people of rural Wisconsin, she shows how politics have increasingly become a matter of personal identity. Just about all of her subjects felt a deep sense of bitterness toward elites and city dwellers; just about all of them felt tread on, disrespected and cheated out of what they felt they deserved.

This is in Wisconsin, where city dwellers run just about nothing, not even always their local governments since the GOP state government feels free to override any local ordinances they don’t like. Trump voters are feeling resentful that the country is less white, more foreign born, less Christian, and more metro than it used to be. Consider the possibility that what moves the left, like economic inequality, achievement gaps, and unpunished banksters just has no currency on the right. When they say they want change, they mean an America that’s more white, less metro, less tolerant of gays, more Christian, more native-born — like it used to be. Change has come not too slow, but too fast.

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MN lege: GOP makes a hater Senate Majority Leader

by Dan Burns on November 16, 2016 · 0 comments

gazelkaErstwhile Minnesota Senate Republican leader David Hann (R-Eden Prairie) lost his reelection effort, and Sen. Paul Gazelka (R-Nisswa) is the new guy. (The GOP has a 34-33 majority, pending a couple of recounts that are unlikely to change anything.) Gazelka is a head case.

Take his appearance nearly a year ago at the Now is the Time! Now is the Season! Jubilee! Chuck Pierce and Dutch Sheets, Duluth MN in Duluth, at which the state senator joined other Christian dominionists to pray for the Zenith City. (For a quick look into the mind of Dutch Sheets, check out his Baal Teachings, which equate LGBTQ people with demons; someone should find out in Gazelka–who in 2010 grabbed the endorsement from the MNGOP’s only openly gay legislator–if he agrees).
(Bluestem Prairie)

I don’t know that there was a lot of thought put into this. Mostly I figure that Gazelka wanted the job when it unexpectedly opened up, and he gets along with most everyone in the caucus, so they gave it to him.
It’s not like most people even know, much less care, who the state Senate Majority Leader is. But I will note that not long ago I would have mocked the MNGOP for putting an openly bigoted extremist into a position like this, given the longer-term political winds. Right now, I’m not so sure.


A post election respite

by JeffStrate on November 15, 2016 · 0 comments

The Thanksgiving edition of Democratic Visions provides DFLers and progressives with respite from the cross-talking panels of post-election, conjecturing TV and radio pundits and Democrat Party spin meisters who have been getting it wrong ever since Bernie tossed his hat into the presidential candidate ring.


But first, this week the StarTribune has published commentaries by two of our favorite guests.

coupled image of Tharwat and Timmer

TV host Ahmed Tharwat and blogger Steve Timmer.

LeftMN’s Steve Timmer of Edina writes about the possibility of Keith Ellison becoming chair of the Democratic National Committee. Read “In search of a DNR Chair” here. BelAhdan’s Ahmed Tharwat of Minnetonka suggests that American Muslims need a survival guide. Tharwat’s sly think pieces regularly infuriate the trolling hyenas in the Strib’s reader comments section. Read it here.

Image of Birch Island Lake, Eden Prairie

Click on the photo of Eden Prairie’s Birch Island Lake to see the Thanksgiving edition of Democratic Visions

The new Democratic Visions opens with a video essay of mostly west suburban natural settings underscored by Aaron Copeland’s “Appalachian Spring” and continues with a variety of guests from this year’s video vault.   Eden Prairie Council member Ron Case talks about his favorite hamlet of cul-de-sacs, McMansions, SW Light Rail, open spaces, diversity and good government. Humorist Jon Spayde returns as a spacey and failed TED talker who claims that the digital age is “so over, so yesterday.”   We have also dusted off an April 2016 chat between DFL activist and Democratic Visions host Tim O’Brien and blogger Steve Timmer that foreshadowed a presidential-elect Donald Trump.


Democratic Visions On cableTV

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Bloomington – BCAT Channel 16 — Tuesdays at 2:00 p.m. & 10:00 p.m.; Fridays at 9:30 p.m.; Saturdays at 7:30 a.m. & 2:30 p.m.


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Democratic Visions is hand made by unpaid volunteers from Edina, Eden Prairie, Minnetonka, Hopkins and Bloomington. Our program is not financially supported or endorsed by any political party, political action committee or special interest group.



The way forward

by Eric Ferguson on November 14, 2016 · 1 comment

We’ve had a few days to grieve. I know the process doesn’t end just like that, on a schedule. People we know, in our community, in our circle of friends, maybe us, are going to be directly harmed in the dark days to come. The deplorables are feeling free to indulge their prejudices. Before moping any further, remember the anecdotes of non-white and non-Christian children already being bullied in school, women being accosted in public by strange men who think trump rules apply everywhere, DREAMers whose legal status can be revoked in an instant once Trump can revoke Obama’s executive orders. People are about to lose their access to health care when Obamacare is repealed. They’re about to lose protection from the depredations of the big banks when financial reform is repealed. People are going to lose their voting rights, abortion rights, their right to organize and bargain collectively when hard-won rights come under unrestrained Republican attack.


People on the downside of life need us to be strong. Time to snap out of our melancholy and get moving.


And be aware there are bright spots, and there is a way forward.


Never forget, or let anyone else forget, that Hillary Clinton won. The loser gets to assume the presidency, but in terms of who got the most votes, which is what should count, we won — and we didn’t just beat Trump. We also took on the malpracticing mainstream media, a partisan FBI, the Russian government and it’s puppets at Wikileaks, and we beat them. The electoral college, this archaic election system, was one more opponent than we could beat. But we still got more votes, and that needs to be repeated until this bigoted fraudster is gone: he’s the loser. Hillary won.


Also keep this mind before despairing, and let the GOP despair for the future: once again, young adults were heavily Democratic, which has been the case several elections in row. The 18-year-olds who started going heavily Democratic in 2004 are only just now reaching 30, roughly the age where they start voting with regularity. Hispanics and Asians punch below their weight in turnout, but that’s unlikely to last forever and their numbers are rising. The fastest growing religious group is the “nones”, and they are heavily Democratic. Republicans are exultant now, but they’re also on a clock, with an utter fool as a leader. Look at the coming dysfunctional administration as entertainment, because otherwise it will be tragedy, and be glad we aren’t stuck with one of the Republicans who might have been effective at doing awful things.



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