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Rebecca Otto’s opponent implodes

by Eric Ferguson on September 18, 2014 · 2 comments

sad elephantState Auditor Rebecca Otto might as well be allowed to pick her opponents. Wouldn’t get much of a different result. Her primary opponent ran a well-funded lousy campaign, but I thought she might have been the one statewide DFLer to draw a serious opponent. Randy Gilbert is a professional auditor and a small town mayor, so he actually has a relevant resume for the job. The other Republicans are pretty much running just on “vote for me because I’m extremely rich” or “vote for me because I’m extremely conservative”, maybe spiced with shouts of “Obamacare!” and “voter fraud!”. So I wondered, after he was nominated, if Gilbert might be the Republican with the best chance. Then a week ago, Dan.Burns posted:

Whatever this turns out to be, this isn’t the highest-profile race on the ballot. But veteran politics-watchers know what kind of spillover effect, fair or not, these kinds of episodes can have, not long before Election Day.

It’s now less vague, maybe as bad as feared. KSTP reported they have suggestive emails, and sources speaking of turmoil inside the MNGOP. Since I’ve criticized KSTP before and I’m about to do so again, I’ll give credit where due: KSTP did go after a story that’s bad for their owner’s preferred party. The emails are substantive. They seem to show not just that Gilbert carried on an affair with a local realtor, but that their assignations happened in the houses she was selling. Well, that’s a unique form of trespassing.
 
Maybe not unique, but certainly bad for a candidate, is Gilbert’s decision to avoid the press and not answer questions. KSTP said he wouldn’t respond to them. I looked on his campaign web site, and as of this moment, there’s nothing about it. There’s “news” from last June about DFLers being divided, and something from 9/11 attacking Otto for being anti-mining. Nothing in between or since.
 
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isil-300x162‘There are roads which must not be followed,
armies which must not be attacked,
towns which must not be besieged,
positions which must not be contested,
commands of the sovereign which must not be obeyed.’
Sun Tzu ~ On the Art of War

 

‘Don’t do anything stupid.’
President Barack Obama

 

War hysteria is a fascinating and horrifying thing to watch. I’ve seen it several times now in my life and it is always beyond ugly, like watching scorpions mate.

 

Aside from the verminous lies that tumble over each other like a swarm of filthy rats to electrify public opinion with fear and frenzy, our national leaders — grown men and women whose strength of character and deliberative judgment we rely on — daily prove susceptible themselves to the most transparent mendacity and appear spineless in the face of true moral challenge.

 

Until a few short months ago, the American public had never heard of ISIL and didn’t know a thing about them, even though ISIL has been fighting an insurgency in Syria against the Assad regime for years, and for years it has committed unspeakable atrocities against the Syrian people. The brutal murders of two American journalists notwithstanding, why now the sudden sense of urgency and demand for action in the public discourse and among our leadership?

 

The answer lies in war hysteria.

 

As the New York Times put it:

 

“… as President Obama prepares to send the United States on what could be a years-long military campaign against the militant group, American intelligence agencies have concluded that it poses no immediate threat to the United States. Some officials and terrorism experts believe that the actual danger posed by ISIS has been distorted in hours of television punditry and alarmist statements by politicians, and that there has been little substantive public debate about the unintended consequences of expanding American military action in the Middle East.”

 

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Bill Maher, John Kline, Mike Obermueller and student debt

by Eric Ferguson on September 16, 2014 · 2 comments

As interesting as it is that Bill Maher picked one of our congressmen, Rep. John Kline, CD2, for his #FlipADistrict contest, the reasoning is interesting. He explained it on his Sept. 12 Real Time with Bill Maher. The bit I refer to starts around 2:40, where Maher said the issue of student debt inspired most of the votes for Kline, and then he tore into Kline’s record:
 

 
Student debt is a huge issue for young adults. If Democrats want young adults to vote, something they’re less inclined to do than older age groups in any sort of election, then we can only help our cause by addressing their biggest issue. Judging from Holly’s post yesterday, Kline’s opponent, Mike Obermueller, has already taken that advice. However, this doesn’t apply just to Democrats running specifically against the representative sometimes described as “Rep. John Kline, (R – for-profit education industry)” (and with pretty good reason). It applies to all Democrats, obviously more so those with more more young adults, but are there any Democrats with no young adults whose likelihood of turning out is concerning? GOP outreach has been a joke, if it’s been there, even though I gave the GOP some friendly advice. I don’t normally care to help the opposition, preferring to let them continue when making mistakes, but I told them to reach young voters on student debt in hopes of making some progress on the issue. Partisan opportunity is just the consolation prize. For now, looks like a consolation prize will have to be enough. However, that consolation prize is just an opportunity, not a win.
 
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klinewinsRep. John Kline (R-MN) has rated low in his district, and now he rates low in the national eye. HBO Real Timers’ Bill Maher picked Kline as the worst of the worst.  Maher said, as he announced Kline’s win on the #flipadistrict chart, “He’s one of those silent threats you never see coming…Ebola…ISIS…John Kline…He embodies the sellouts that keep this town running.”  I agree, Maher. And yes, let’s win one for the Flipper (if you don’t know what that references, look up win one for the Gipper).
 
Kline penned the bill to increase student loan interest rates resulting in the government profiting billions off of students and some of his biggest donors are for-profit schools with questionable records.  Kline and his opponent Mike Obermueller were recently invited by the national organization Student Debt Crisis to participate in a virtual town hall on the student debt crisis.  Kline neglected to answer the organization, but Obermueller responded to the questions. Here’s Mike Obermueller on  refinancing, government making money off of student loans, and for-profit schools with questionable records.
 

 
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Minneapolis has two ballot questions

by Eric Ferguson on September 11, 2014 · 10 comments

Minneapolis_skyline_51Minneapolis voters will be voting on two ballot questions. Even though I live here and follow politics like you would expect of a blogger, I didn’t know about one of these until I looked at the sample ballot at the secretary of state’s web site, MNVotes.org. Talk about obscure. Though I guess all readers can now pretend they already knew. Smarty pants.
 

REMOVE MANDATORY FOOD REQUIREMENTS FOR WINE LICENSES
Shall the Minneapolis City Charter be amended to remove the requirement that businesses holding on-sale wine licenses in the City must serve food with every order of wine or beer and to remove mandatory food to wine and beer sales ratios?

 
If you’re wondering about my opinion, so am I. No idea what that’s about. Feel free to expound in the comments if you know. I do have an opinion on the other question:
 

FILING FEE FOR CITY ELECTED OFFICES
Shall the Minneapolis City Charter be amended to increase the filing fees for candidates seeking City elected offices from the current fee of $20 for each office to $500 for the office of Mayor, $250 for the office of Council Member, $100 for the office of Board of Estimate and Taxation Member, and $100 for the office of Park & Recreation Commissioner and, as an alternative to payment of a filing fee, allow a candidate to submit a petition of voter signatures as provided in state law?

 
This comes from last year’s mayoral race, when we learned the office for filing for election must be in city’s lower levels, because every loose thing in the city rolled down there to file. We had 30-something candidates, which was widely blamed on RCV, which was grossly misplaced. We had RCV in 2009 and it wasn’t nearly this bad. This time we had a combination of an open seat and a $20 filing fee. Scare up $20, no other requirements, and you too could run around complaining you weren’t included in the debates (hint: if your campaign starts and ends with filing, that might be why). The $100 for Board of Estimate and Taxation might be unfair since they get paid just $20/month (now there’s a charter provision that makes no sense) but for the other offices, hopefully that will cut back on the non-serious candidates. The opposing argument is that not everyone can afford the $500 fee to file for mayor, but if your fundraising is that bad, you’re not a serious candidate. Sticking your name on the ballot isn’t enough. This isn’t a lottery. I felt lousy for the people who were learning this the hard way, as I know or have met some of the “token” or “perennial” candidates, and they’re hardly bad people, but I couldn’t pretend they were serious or deserved to be in the debates. Not that everyone who did get in deserved it, judging from their low single digits percentage of the vote; still, a reasonable requirement for a filing fee or petition will make a point about what candidates are getting themselves into.
 
City charter amendments are a bit different from state constitutional amendments. State constitutional amendments require a majority of all voters who vote in any race in that election, so those skipping the amendment are counted as “no”, whilst charter amendments are decided by simple majority of those voting on the amendment.
 
At this time, the Minneapolis DFL has not made an endorsement on either question.

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A Mike “Stretch” Gelfand sighting

by JeffStrate on September 10, 2014 · 0 comments

 Sorem Strate & Gelfand

Mike Gelfand (right) with producer Jeff Strate (center) and video journalist Bill Sorem on July 31 at the Bloomington Community Access Television studio to tape Democratic Visions.  Photo by Ron Levitus.

 

Joan Rivers, Lewis Black, Jackie Vernon and Phyllis Diller were among the comedians Mike “Stretch” Gelfand and I talked about yesterday (September 4th) during a retreat to a Linden Hills caffeine pump, a kind of comfort zone for chronically under employed Wi-Fi junkies. We were unaware that Joan had passed away in Manhattan earlier in the afternoon but understood that she was on her way out.

 

I recalled a scene in the riveting 2010 documentary “Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work” in which a stoked-up heckler in a rural Wisconsin casino fails to shame Rivers for pitching one-liners about Hellen Keller. With cinema verite footage, the film (co-directed by Edina native Annie Sundberg) essays a survivor recapturing her perch as one of America’s most funny and edgy comics.

 

We inconclusively pondered why Joan had allowed herself to be booked into a dead end comedy club in Wisconsin. Late of the KQRS Morning Show and with a textured life as a newspaper man, Canterbury Park horse racing tout, public relations flak, sports cableTV co-host, and cab driver, Mike Gelfand has also earned pocket change by booking Twin Cities comics into upper-midwest clubs. He is no stranger to the pallor of playing to the liquored in Wisconsin for pay that amounts to little more than a beer, a brat, and a cot or gas money for the drive home. If a warm up comic failed to show up to soften-up the audience for one of Mike’s A listers, he himself would step up to the mic stand as the setup guy. Stretch says he somewhat enjoyed the spotlight leading me to suspect that he carries a strain of the virus that drove Joan, Phyllis and Robin Williams. But Gelfand, by his accounting, plays a respectable game of tennis and, I know from observation, can arrange words into savory stuff on a page larger than the kind of note card used to archive jokes.

 

Mike Gelfand’s September appearance on Democratic Visions marks his first electronic media appearance since leaving Tom Barnard’s drive time radio aerie in 2012. As the Morning Show’s contrarian, Viking odds setter and “token liberal,” and by most accounts, its funniest sharp shooter, Mike had long struggled with sleep disorder. Mike says he needed a change and quietly dimmed his own “On Air” sign to begin rebooting his life.

 

On Democratic Visions, he talks about his father, the late Lou Gelfand, the Star Tribune’s long serving ombudsman. Caring for his aging, publicly admired dad through advancing stages of dementia, has prompted Gelfand to write about the ordeal, about being old and about being a Gelfand. Extended Stay (Mike’s working title) is a project-in-progress. It’s opening passages are wonderfully crafted. Truman Capote may be a Gelfand muse. On the show, Mike says a Capote appearance at the U of MN’s Northrup Auditorium helped secure him a job at The Minnesota Daily even though he was still a teenager.

 

With a quiver of humorous arrows, Gelfand also shares his takes on the ever-flagging Minnesota Twins, Jesse Ventura, Democrats, Republicans and his times at the Minneapolis Tribune and KQRS. Back in 1979, I was Gelfand’s first broadcast mentor when we and other wags collaborated on a series of humorous commentaries for KTCA-TV. This is a link to the YouTube version of Mike’s Dem Vis debut.

 

This story has also been published at Twin Cities Daily Planet.

 

Democratic Visions is produced by southwest suburban volunteers at the Bloomington Community Access Television studio by arrangement with the Southwest Suburban Cable Commission and Southwest Community Television.

 

Democratic Visions can be seen on the following cable systems:

Minneapolis – MTN Channel 16 – Sundays at 8:30 p.m., Mondays 3:30 a.m., 9:30 a.m., 2:30 p.m.   MTN simultaneously streams Dem Vis from its website during these times.

 

Eden Prairie, Hopkins, Minnetonka, Edina, and Richfield – Comcast Channel 15 – Sundays at 9 p.m., Mondays at 10:00 p.m. and Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m.

 

Bloomington – BCAT Cable 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.

 

Full programs and more than 200 segments can be seen on YouTube’s Democratic Visions Channel.

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Pay attention to secretary of state

by Eric Ferguson on September 6, 2014 · 1 comment

Steve_SimonDemocrats still sometimes ignore elections or secretaries of state (SOS), despite Florida 2000 and Ohio 2004. If you don’t get those references, that illustrates the problem. The problem is partisan secretaries of state can manipulate elections to aid their party. Republicans know this, and make a point of electing partisans seeking to be the next Katherine Harris or Kenneth Blackwell, which may explain why they assume if there was a Democratic SOS, then the Democrats must have won by fraud. The latest example is Kris Kobach in Kansas, overruling his own top assistants to deny former Democratic US Senate candidate Chad Taylor’s request to be removed from the ballot, despite being attached to the campaign of the Republican incumbent, Pat Roberts. Yes, or those not following the story, Roberts is the beneficiary of this overruling.
 
Minnesota’s incumbent SOS, Mark Ritchie, opted not to run for a third term, making this the only statewide open seat, and thereby the best opportunity for a MNGOP pickup. Though I must admit, my prediction in my list of new year predictions that the MNGOP would focus on this race hasn’t proven correct. Still, for what my opinion is worth, SOS remains their best chance to end the shutout from statewide offices that started in 2010, due entirely to the lack of an incumbent. In a non-wave election like this one, incumbents for state constitutional offices tend to get reelected. Fortunately, the likelihood of a winning DFL top of the ticket is likely to aid DFLers down the ballot.
 
Which isn’t to say the DFL picked a weak candidate who has to be carried; quite the contrary. Looking at the DFL’s State Rep. Steve Simon and the GOP’s former State Rep. Dan Severson, it’s hard to believe this is close. And maybe it isn’t. I haven’t seen any polling. Simon wrote much of our current election law, to illustrate his expertise relevant to the job he’s seeking, while Severson has, well, strong opinions. Actually, he has one opinion, that voter fraud is real and so he wants to institute photo ID requirements. Simon has a strong opinion on photo ID too, explains well why it’s a lousy idea:
 

 
Simon was a leading spokesman for the opposition to the photo ID constitutional amendment defeated in 2012, though his moment of national attention actually came on an unrelated issue. Does this look familiar?
 
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Is it Rape? OR Rape?

by Hollyccairns on September 3, 2014 · 5 comments

noSeveral out-of-touch lawmakers voted that a woman’s life had to be in danger in order to actually be “raped”. Hey lawmakers, in this century, there is only “rape”, not “different kinds of rape”.  ”NO” means “NO.”
 
If your Congressperson is stuck in the past, doesn’t understand women, and voted, “YEA, there is rape, and other kinds of rape, remember they did this and VOTE THEM OUT.  Minnesota’s Congressional District 2 Congressman John Kline voted  YEA.  VOTE HIM OUT!
 
If John Kline had his way, these rape numbers would be greatly reduced.  And that’s the wrong way to reduce the occurrence of rape!
 

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Veterans Voices Awards will be presented at the second annual Veterans’ Voices Award Ceremony being held at the Humanities Center on the east side of St. Paul on Sept. 11. The Veterans’ Voices Award recognizes military service members that make exceptional, positive contributions which improve the lives of people across Minnesota.

 

Previous Eagan State Senator Ted Daley is the co-chair of Veterans Voices Awards.

 

Ted Daley Co Chair Veterans Voices

 

Now here is where it gets strange. Ted Daley is also one of the Veterans Voices awardees.

 

Ted Daley Veterans Voice List

 

Normally, someone in charge does not give awards to oneself. Although that could be considered the epitome of self encouragement. One could imagine many possibilities. I, Ted Daley, CEO do award Ted Daley as Employee of the Month. I, Ted Daley, King of all this land do proclaim Ted Daley as knight of the realm. It is a good thing that Reg Chapman, WCCO-TV reporter and veteran, will emcee this ceremony otherwise Ted Daley would have to say, “I, Ted Daley, Co-chair of Veterans Voices do hereby award the Legacy award to Ted Daley. Then maybe he could move the award from one hand to another. Or may Ted Daley could jump on the platform to announce, jump off and then jump on again to accept. Or maybe Ted Daley could use a mirror and pretend that there were two Ted Daleys. Any way you look at it, it is very strange to head up an organization giving an award to one self.

 

Ted Daley Double

 
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Mark_with_LaraMark Schneider is a farmer that cares for land. He uses smart no-till farming practices, planting corn, soybeans and hay in rotation to control insects. (pdf) “Smart” is the way that Schneider likes to do things. In government, Schneider talks about building roads to endure Minnesota weather for lowest long-term costs instead of the cheapest one-time road-resurfacing cost (pdf). Schneider says that by doing government smarter we can save money in many ways. Mark Schneider is running as the representative in the Minnesota House for Dodge, Goodhue, Wabasha and Winona counties (21B).

 

Energy

 

Mark Schneider is advocating for a rural community that can live independently off the grid and also produce profitable crops. Schneider would like to have every rural location have its own solar/wind generation because 90% of electricity is lost by the time it reaches the rural areas. That 90% loss gets charged back to the customer. In trying to verify the 90% number, I found out that this 90% number is a factor of maintenance, distance and usage. No one wants to admit to poor maintenance. What is easily verifiable, is that there is an expectation that as batteries become better and cheaper, the rural areas will find it cheaper to totally switch to off grid. This could be happening as soon as 2018, just 4 years away.

 

Global investment bank UBS has highlighted the challenges facing Australian energy utilities by suggesting that the falling cost of solar and battery storage means that the average Australian household could find it cost-competitive to go off-grid by 2018.

 

Mark Schneider is a strong advocate for his community. Schneider talks to Dayton and other top Democratic officials advocating for higher levels of ethanol. Ethanol really helps local farmers. Ethanol is also a better environment choice. Schneider says that one acre of corn produces 500 gallons ethanol (pdf) and still feeds 500 chickens. It takes 3 gallons of water to make a gallon of ethanol and the water is reusable. Contrast that with over 1800 gallons of water to distill a barrel of oil, yielding 20 gallons of gasoline from tar sands. Since ethanol is a new industry, the efficiency of all parts to the industry have been rapidly improving.
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