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schoolsWe’ll see how hard the deformers push this in the legislature, when crunch time comes. Traditional public schools these days are turning out kids who are simply too smart to buy into conservatism – the failed ideology of f*cking idiots. The righties are beyond desperate to undermine that.
 

Gov. Mark Dayton has been a longtime opponent of efforts to allow public money to follow students to private schools.
 
But the governor said he was asked to publicly repeat his position, so that’s what he did Wednesday: “I will veto any bill that has vouchers attached to it.”
 
That’s not all, though.
 
Dayton clarified that his opposition extends beyond the traditional concept of private school vouchers. He opposes provisions in the House and Senate tax bills that would give breaks to people who donate to organizations that deliver private school scholarships, saying too many charities would want similar status.
(MPR)

Here is important background information.
 

Conservatives continue to push vouchers and private school tax credits, despite new research (summarized in a recent North Star article) indicating that this approach is counter-productive to improving student achievement. Minnesota is among the states considering expanding the K-12 education tax credit to include contributions by individuals and corporations to foundations that provide vouchers and other funding for private schools. If we do the math, it becomes apparent that a large portion—up to 82 percent—of these private contributions to private schools would be effectively paid for with public dollars…
 
Ultimately, these educational tax credits for individuals and corporations will result in de facto public funding of private educational choices, with relatively little public oversight over how the dollars are spent and without proof that student achievement goals are being met (or even adequately measured) or that teachers are fully qualified. In some instances, public dollars could be subsidizing institutions that have a political affiliation or social agenda. The public will not decide how these public tax dollars are spent, but rather private corporations and wealthy individuals, whose goals may not align with the public interest.
(North Star Policy Institute)

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Why Trump Will Resign Before the Mid-term Elections

by Invenium Viam on April 27, 2017 · 0 comments

trump7

Mama told me when I was young
“Come sit beside me, my only son
And listen closely to what I say
And if you do this it’ll help you some sunny day.”


“And be a simple kind of man
Oh, be something you love and understand
Baby be a simple kind of man
Oh, won’t you do this for me, son, if you can.”
                                    Simple Man, Lynyrd Skynyrd

 

Now approaching 100 days of the single most incompetent administration in American history so far, The Donald® has discovered, among other things: 1) That health care reform is complicated; 2) That China and Korea have ancient animosities that inform their relations to this day; 3) That government is big, costly, often inefficient, and difficult to manage; 4) That the UN and NATO have been crucial in maintaining a stable world order since World War II; and 5) That the Middle-east is a centuries old, savage, bloody pit-fight managed and run by corrupt, theocratic and/or oligarchic governments run by some of the worst people in the world.

 

In short, Trump has been finding out that he doesn’t know very much outside of New York real estate and is ill-suited to be the president. Or, put another way, #45 is simply ignorant about many, many things. That is not a criticism. We are all ignorant about some things. But Trump continues to believe that he’s the smartest guy in whatever room he happens to occupy, about everything, because his narcissistic ego tells him so. And he loves listening to that devil because he’s become the lowest form of crack-whore for self-flattery and self-aggrandisement.

 

Unfortunately, his bottomless appetite for both is precisely what makes him stupid. It’s kind of like watching someone smoke a cigarette through a tracheal ventilator. It’s sadly, tragically, horrific.

 

The problem with stupid people is that quite often they don’t know that they’re stupid. Many of them think that they’re smart. And they get very, very angry when smart people point out that they’re stupid. Smart people like journalists, judges and economists who write news stories, legal opinions, and reports that shine a light on stupid actions, stupid decisions, and stupid policies. Not ignorant actions, not ill-informed decisions, not uneducated policies − stupid ones.

 

The antidote for stupidity is humility, the acquisition of specific knowledge about specific subject matter, and reliance on expertise in the absence of a deeper understanding. Trump has no humility, he has an obviously limited fund of knowledge, and he denigrates and disparages expertise. He believes that he’s smarter than the generals, smarter than the diplomats, smarter than the spooks, smarter than the scientists, smarter than the policy experts. He has absolutely no rational basis for believing these things, but he does anyway. He is forced to reverse his positions and revise his opinions again and again. And the feedback he gets from all quarters universally contradicts his boundless hubris, yet he rejects all criticism and contrary evidence that shows himself to himself in a light he doesn’t like because it doesn’t agree with his self-image.

 

Taken in concert, this is precisely what makes Trump a very, very stupid man. He has no true sense of himself or of how he comports himself, of how his current actions are influenced by past actions, or how current actions might affect future actions. That is the very definition of stupidity: having no guiding sense or insight.

 

And that’s why it’s a dead certainty that both Trump-the-candidate and his campaign staff colluded with Russian foreign intelligence operatives working directly for Putin to skew the 2016 presidential election on Trump’s behalf. Russia has a long history of interfering in the elections of other countries. They are interfering in European elections at this very moment. The US, too, has a long history of interfering in the elections of other nations. Along with proxy wars, interfering in the elections of other nations was a major component of the decades-long Cold War between the US and the USSR. And it continues to this day.

 

Besides, Putin hates Hillary for supporting regime change during her tenure as Secretary of State and was enraged by her statements in support of anti-Putin protesters in December of 2011, who claimed Putin had rigged the parliamentary elections. He vowed revenge. And he got it.

 

Therein lies the key to understanding why Trump will be impeached and forced to resign. There is no law that prevents Russia or any other country from attempting to interfere with our elections. There are laws against espionage. There are laws against cyber intrusion and hacking. There are laws against political candidates and campaigns colluding with foreign governments to influence the outcome of elections. There are laws against government officials − including retired generals − taking money from foreign governments. There are lots of laws against corruption of all kinds. But political corruption is something distinct from business corruption. Having never held public office before being elected President, Trump had little direct experience with what constitutes political corruption. Winning a political election is not the same thing as having either political competence, or competence in office.

More Below the Fold

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oilspillA couple of recent developments.
 

Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, Sierra Club, MN350, and Center for Biological Diversity filed comments (April 17) opposing reauthorization of a permit that could allow Enbridge’s existing Line 3 pipeline to operate in the Chippewa National Forest for up to thirty years. Substandard welding and extensive corrosion on thousands of joints risk an immediate tar sands oil spill from the pipeline. The permit being sought by Enbridge would allow a six pipeline corridor, including Line 3, to continue to operate across Chippewa National Forest land. The existing permit expires at the end of 2017. Because of the threat to the Chippewa National Forest, the conservation groups argue Enbridge’s special use permit application should be denied, or at a minimum, that environmental review of the application is required.
(Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy)

In 1990, a helicopter patrol spotted a patch of oil on the ground about a mile south of Millecoquins Lake near Engadine. The oil was from Enbridge Line 5, which had spilled 630 gallons through a pinhole leak.
 
That spill is among almost 30 spills along the pipeline — many of them previously unknown or largely forgotten incidents — unearthed in federal records by National Wildlife Federation (NWF) pipeline safety specialist and researcher Beth Wallace.
 
The organization released the results of Wallace’s research this week, estimating that Line 5, which runs from Superior, Wis., to Sarnia, Ontario by way of Michigan, has spilled at least 1.13 million gallons of oil in 29 incidents since 1968.
(MLive)

Comment below fold.
 
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trump13It is in fact a good thing that many of these are “fails,“ including/especially for Trump’s wildly misinformed and gullible base. But it’s still 100 days of failure, in context.

 

1. “Middle Class Tax Relief”: FAIL.

2. “End the Offshoring Act”: FAIL.

3. “American Energy & Infrastructure Act”: FAIL.

4. “School Choice and Education Opportunity Act”: FAIL.

5. “Repeal and Replace Obamacare Act”: FAIL.

6. “Affordable Childcare and Eldercare Act”: FAIL.

7. “End Illegal Immigration Act”: FAIL.

8. “Restoring Community Safety Act”: FAIL.

9. “Restoring National Security Act”: FAIL.

10. “Clean up Corruption in Washington Act”: FAIL.
(Daily Kos)

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minnesota_state_capitolI spend so much time ripping on the Party of Trump-controlled 2017 Minnesota legislature, all of it deserved, that I feel a need to note that there are good things happening there, too.
 

The House on Monday approved a bill that would extend and expand benefits to people with autism and related conditions.
 
Sponsored by Rep. Roz Peterson (R-Lakeville) and Sen. Jim Abeler (R-Anoka), HF919/ SF562* modifies a 2013 law that provided intensive treatment for children with autism spectrum disorders. Passed 131-0, the bill would extend the benefits, called Early Intensive Developmental and Behavioral Intervention (EIDBI), to 21-year-olds and expands qualifying conditions.
 
After passing the Senate March 20 by a 66-0 vote, the bill now heads to Gov. Mark Dayton.
(Session Daily)

Unfortunately, based on this, as far as I can tell the next one didn’t make it through the committee process, this session. Hopefully they’ll keep trying.
 

The Wilder Foundation is pushing Minnesota lawmakers to pass a bill that would set aside $5 million dollars a year to expand CLASS Act to other cities. And backers have found strong support on both sides of the aisle.
 
The measure allocates $10 million from the state’s housing trust fund over two years to secure stable housing for families with children in pre-K through grade 12. The bill expands a pilot program that helped 277 students over the past two school years.
 
Republican Bill Weber of Luverne is chief author of the measure in the Senate. Even with a $1.65 billion budget surplus, Weber said lawmakers need to be careful about how they spend taxpayer money.
 
He said the rental assistance pilot is worth funding because it has a proven track record.
(MPR)

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733903_10151935016956738_272268164_nOf course they are. It’s like the moon and the tides, and with about as much thought put into it all.
 

State-sponsored health programs administered by the Department of Human Services would not be able to pay for abortions, except as needed to continue participation in a federal program.
 
The House passed HF809 Monday 77-54. Sponsored by Rep. Mary Franson (R-Alexandria), the bill now moves to the Senate, where Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer (R-Big Lake) is the sponsor…
 
Rep. Laurie Halverson (DFL-Eagan) said the entire range of health care should be available to women in Minnesota regardless of whether they are wealthy or poor.
 
“We’re developing a habit of not listening to low-income women and not listening to women of color within the Legislature,” said Rep. Peggy Flanagan (DFL-St. Louis Park).
(Session Daily)

Also “House passes measure to require licensure of abortion clinics.”
 

Rather interesting. The part about “running out of measures to introduce,” in many states, is my pick.
 

“There is this competition to the bottom that has been happening with state legislatures and abortion over the past six years,” says Elizabeth Nash, the state issues manager for the Guttmacher Institute and the lead author on the report. But in 2017, she adds “the scale has changed.” She explained that compared with the same period from 2011 to 2016, “we haven’t been seeing as much activity on abortion as we have seen.” Rather than suggesting a diminished interest in abortion restrictions, Nash explains that given the onslaught of new abortion restrictions in the past six years, some states might simply be running out of measures to introduce. But beyond that, health care reform, state budgets, and the opioid crisis might have caused conservative state legislatures to focus their attention elsewhere at the beginning of their legislative sessions, suggesting that anti-abortion activity might pick up later in the year.
(Mother Jones)

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paulsenAnother recent indicator that Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-MN) may be the current U.S. House’s most atrociously fake “moderate” was his intent to vote for Trumpcare 1.0, had it come to a vote there. So we’ll see where he’s at on the next iteration.
 

Based on our analysis, we estimate that individuals with even relatively mild pre-existing conditions would pay thousands of dollars above standard rates to obtain coverage. For example, because an individual with asthma costs an issuer 106 percent more than a healthy 40-year-old, she would face a premium surcharge of $4,340. The surcharge for diabetes would be $5,600 per year. Coverage could become prohibitively expensive for those in dire need of care: Insurers would charge about $17,320 more in premiums for pregnancy, $26,580 more for rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune disorders, and $142,650 more for patients with metastatic cancer.
(Center for American Progress)

InvisibleRiskPool-WEB-table1-693

An additional Paulsen thing, about the fact that suspending the medical device tax has not resulted in any U.S. jobs boom in the industry: “Was Erik Paulsen Duped By Medical Devicemakers Or Is He Promoting Alternative Facts?” (MN Political Roundtable)
 
Comment below fold.
 
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trump7Prioritizing matters here at home, all right.
 

In his less than three months in office, Donald Trump has escalated four wars, and all of his escalations have been failures…
 
Trump campaigned on reducing such foreign entanglements and focusing on the US and its needs. But in office he has declined to rethink any of these commitments and indeed has escalated in each theater…
 
What all four Trump interventions in his ongoing US wars in the Middle East have in common is that they were splashy, produced headlines for a day, and altered the course of the conflict not a jot or a tittle.
(Informed Comment)

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trump6(In Part 1 I blogged about the Great American Stupid. In Part 2, about voting numbers and trends.)
 

There is no question that corporate media (CM) horrifically failed the American people in the 2016 election cycle. By treating Hillary’s email server as the very scandal of the millennium, while Donald Trump’s virtually endless litany of failings as a candidate for the highest office and as a human being were presented as just more tidbits in the here-today-gone-tomorrow news cycle (in which actual policy issues went virtually unmentioned, in any meaningful way), CM unquestionably played a key role in the disastrous outcome.
 

I’ve never seen anything like CM’s open, flagrant bias in this one, and my paying attention to presidential campaigns goes back to 1972. (Yeah, I was all of 11 at the time, but intellectually precocious. And a fervent Nixon Republican. But that’s another matter.) But the thing is, I don’t know that much of CM really wanted Pr*sident Trump to actually win; I don’t think they actually believed that he really could, any more than, for example, I did. Trump was seen more as ultimately harmless entertainment (and, of course, ratings-bait) than as a real threat. The intent was to create a close election, and blunt Democratic downballot gains. And as far as the fallout now coming down on corporate media, because of it all…well, everything about “President Trump” is too serious, and disturbing, a matter for any gleeful schadenfreude, on my part.
 
As always, sweeping statements like those in the first paragraph above, while possessed of ample truth, require a measure of qualification, here in the messy, uncertain world of…reality. How much influence does corporate media really have? Let’s consider some numbers.
 
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Downsizing Applebee’s: A Canary in the Coal Mine

by Invenium Viam on April 19, 2017 · 1 comment

applebees_closedLast month, on March 3, 2017, Business Insider announced that Applebee’s Restaurants would close “… between 40 and 60 locations this year.” One of those locations is a couple of blocks from my house, which closed its doors a few days ago.

 

“We believe that restaurant closures are an important tool to preserving the financial health of the system,” acting CEO Richard Dahl bloviated in a call to investors. While Dahl’s statement was PR honey-and-lemon-flavored ear wash intended to put an ExecuSpeak spin on things, the fact is that Applebee’s had already closed 46 locations in 2016 in anticipation of what analysts feared might be the onset of a ‘restaurant recession’ this year, whatever the hell that is.

 

Dahl became the acting CEO when former CEO Julia Stewart – one of the highest-profile and longest-serving chief executives in the casual restaurant industry – was forced out on February 17 (along with her CFO) and formally resigned on March 1. Stewart’s departure is the latest in a long string of restaurant-chain CEO resignations in the wake of declining sales and traffic industry-wide over the last year. Her beheading came after a failed campaign to recapture market share with an attractive new menu of $10 entrees. As a marketing professional, the meaning of that campaign was crystal clear to me – Applebee’s primary clientele, a vast swath of the wage-earning middle-class, was extremely price sensitive and the target price point is $10.

 

Ten dollars.

 

Business Insider attributes Applebee’s lackluster sales to ” … the rise of fast-casual restaurants like Chipotle and Panera, and the fact that more people are eating at home because grocery prices are falling …” but that argument is missing the forest for the trees. It is informed by competitive positioning and sales figures (two data sources that consume enormous mind share of business executives to the point of tunnel vision), based on the presumption that if restaurant customers in their market demographics are not buying from us (i.e., Applebee’s), they must be spending their food dollars elsewhere. That’s a bad assumption, utterly without foundation.

 

There are many reasons why that argument doesn’t hold water. First, Chipotle is only now showing signs of renewed life after a disastrous 2015 loss of market share and tumbling stock prices due to E. Coli deaths and illnesses from food-borne pathogens at restaurants across the country. The current stock price is $470, only somewhat improved from a low of $413 on January 8, 2016 and still down more than 25% from an all-time high of $640 on October 30, 2015 – the day before the E. Coli outbreak went public. To be sure, Panera’s sales, market share and stock prices have all jumped, partly based on a “clean food” initiative that appeals to high-wage techies and well-compensated DINK’s, but that is a notable exception to current trends. Besides, have you noticed grocery prices going down? I haven’t. The historical trend in grocery prices is an increase of 2-3% annually and that trend has held for a couple of decades, at least. In 2014, there was a huge jump in prices at the grocery store and even with stable prices in the cost of gasoline over the last several years, the cost of groceries hasn’t declined. And even if grocery prices were declining, wouldn’t that translate to more money in the pockets of consumers and more of their food dollar being spent dining out? No, it makes no sense …

 

All this begs the question: Is there a better explanation of why Applebee’s was forced into a survival-mode strategy of cutting 100+ stores? And just how is all this political, guy? Answers: Yes, there is a better explanation. And it’s political because downsizing Applebee’s is a metaphor of a downsizing middle-class.

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