Recent Posts


Cuba inertia is not forever

by Eric Ferguson on December 17, 2014 · 0 comments

The thing about inertia is that it isn’t indefinite. It lasts only until acted upon. So sanctions on Cuba have been sustained by inertia, but now have encountered a countervailing force, a realistic president. C-SPAN has President Obama’s statement. Of course, some find it more fun to switch off C-SPAN and watch the nonsense flow on Fox News, where the first reaction when the president was done speaking was that Cuba once pointed missiles at us. Yes, in October 1962. I guess the Cuban Missile Crisis hasn’t ended in some heads. Oh yes, the supported an invasion of Cuba by Cuban exiles the year before, but Fox left that out.
I was amazed when one of that Fox talking heads — I didn’t catch the name, someone on Outnumbered — said she had brought up Cuba’s human rights abuses. Well, maybe some Cubans thought the victims deserved it, like conservatives have responded to the report on the CIA’s use of torture. They did mention a bunch of Cuban political prisoners were released, breezed over like it was nothing. Hey Fox, that’s not nothing. Obama just got 50 political prisoners sprung from jail.
A thought that struck me as the president was speaking, once I gathered the gist and realized this was a big deal in policy terms, was that’s really good, but again, why couldn’t he have announced this BEFORE the election!?!?! Listening further, it seems likely nothing could be announced until the prisoner exchanges were worked out, and presumably Cuba didn’t care about getting it done in time to give Obama a win before the US election. In case someone is thinking the Democrats have just lost Florida for a long time to come, yes, Cuba policy has been controlled by Florida Cubans who are pretty one-issue about removing the Castro regime. However, as Kos points out, younger Cubans actually support normalization. So no matter how much calcified conservatives may howl, there is little political risk to Obama’s actions. Yes, congressional Republicans will scream, but how much were they going to seek common ground on anything anyway? Getting to watch them try to scare the public about communist missiles from 50 years ago will be a nice sidelight to bringing rationality to a piece of foreign policy.


The December edition of Democratic Visions had its cableTV premier in the southwest suburbs this past Sunday.  My wife commented that host Tim O’Brien and guest State Senator John Hoffman (DFL, Champlin) were far more interesting than what she had been watching on ABC – Barbara Walters’ annual, celebrity pondering special spotlighting her choices of the year’s most fascinating people.   Indeed, the former Anoka-Hennepin School District Board member, first term Minnesota State Senator and suburban dad was more interesting than Baba Wawa’s picks that included Taylor Swift, Chelsea Handler, Oprah Winfrey, Scarlett Johansson, George R.R. Martin and David Koch.  Yes THE David Koch.


The new edition of Democratic Visions also concerns itself with California’s upcoming ban on plastic bags and my reluctance to hang around DFL politicians and worker bees who seem in constant need of giving and receiving hugs and back pats.   I’m Scandinavian-Lutheran and have gone through life fully satisfied with a handshake.   Humorist Jon Spade, as my clinically depressed, motivational coach (and a public speaker) attempts to help me.


After looking at our lefty volunteer-driven, 29-minute long, indulgence, do yourself a favor and read  The Unforgiven Sins of Bill Maher,  by Invenium Viam.  The essay is posted here on MPP.   I place Mr. Maher in league with the late, great Christopher Hitchens.  Invenium Viam (who ever she/he is) is also a damn fine, if more polite, scribe.


Democratic Visions Cable TV Schedule

Minneapolis – MTN Channel 16 – Sundays at 8:30 p.m., Mondays 3:30 a.m., 9:30 a.m., 2:30 p.m. Program is streamed at the MTN website during cable casts.

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

{ 1 comment }

The Myth and Reality of the Warrior Cop

by Invenium Viam on December 10, 2014 · 1 comment

Donatello, Raphael, Leonardo,

Extreme Make-over of NYC Police as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

“Of course I’m dangerous. I’m police. I can do terrible things to people with impunity.” Rusty Cohle, True Detective


Most people would agree that law enforcement is a dangerous profession. But how dangerous is it really?


Is it as dangerous as entertainment media depicts, given the endless river of film and television dramas that show police officers engaging in extended firefights with street thugs, bank robbers, drug smugglers, outlaw bikers, mid-east terrorists, and other wanton evil-doers? Is it true that police officers are frequently gunned-down by steely-eyed, hardened criminals armed with the latest fully automatic assault rifles and several hundred rounds of body-armor-piercing ammunition? Are squad cars routinely riddled with bullets while feckless rookie cops cringe behind them struggling desperately to make themselves small? Do the streets of American cities really run red?


Of course not. But if the American daily diet of violent police drama were any measure of reality, the average life expectancy of an ordinary patrolman on the street would lie somewhere between that of a mayfly and the common gerbil.


So, if you had to guess the number of police actually killed by gunfire nationwide last year, what would you guess? Several hundred? Several thousand?


How about thirty-two? Would you guess thirty-two? Put another way, about as many police actually died from gunfire last year as were mowed-down by a handful of Southie homeboys in scally caps in the movie The Town, or by a crew from the Brotherhood of Eurosophisto Badasses, Local 19, in any of way too many Die Hard movies that the L.A studios keep cranking out. At least Bruce Willis is still turning out big-balls pictures and making honest money, so it’s not all bad.


As is frequently the case, however, the facts paint a picture entirely different from what most people think they know.


In 2013, the number of police officers nationwide who were killed by gunfire was, in fact, just 32.[1] The FBI puts the number at 27, but includes only those fatalities resulting from “felonious action,” which could include a copyright violation in the state of Michigan (car country) or knowingly selling a spavined horse in Wyoming (cow country).[2]  Of the 32, two were killed by accidental fire, which means they were killed by a misfired or mishandled weapon, or were killed inadvertently by a fellow officer or by other “friendly fire” (an oxymoron I’ve always detested). While that number constitutes a significant portion (30.5%) of the total number of all 105 line-of-duty deaths among all U.S. police officers in 2013, it is also true that a police officer was more than twice as likely to be killed by causes other than gunfire that year, including a range of non-hostile and accidental causes such as heart attacks (10), falls (4), and electrocution (1).


It’s notable that cops in television dramas and movies are frequently shown shot to death but almost never shown keeling over with a massive heart attack while chasing a rail-thin teenager through the dark alleys of South Central, or being electrocuted by downed power lines after a storm, or being struck on a busy highway by an inattentive rubbernecker who fails to yield the lane at the scene of a multi-car accident on a foggy morning commute. But those causes, too, are how police officers frequently die in the line of duty.


It’s also notable that if you combine police fatalities in 2013 caused by automobile accidents (25), being struck by a vehicle (8), and vehicle pursuits (4) — while excluding “felonious action” vehicle deaths such as vehicular assault (5)  — more police officers were accidentally killed by cars in the line-of-duty than were killed by guns.


Let me be clear: it is not my purpose here to minimize or denigrate the service of police officers who die violent deaths at the hands of criminals, or who die in the line-of-duty by any cause including accidents. Any death of a police officer in the line-of-duty for any reason is tragic. Nor is it my intent, in any way, to minimize the loss to their communities, to their brother and sister officers, or to their friends and family, when a police officer falls or is struck down. Any police officer who makes the ultimate sacrifice in service to his or her community is a hero in my eyes.


However, I do want to examine how common cultural perceptions influence both the organizational culture within a police department and public policies relating to it. Both local authorities and police departments can and do misunderstand the role of police in a democracy, often it seems by misapprehending how much real danger policing actually entails. Those erroneous ideas and beliefs serve to perpetuate a number of myths that lead to the creation and maintenance of a warrior culture within some police departments — including a culture of habitual institutional violence and a siege mentality — that ultimately undermines community support for police officers in performing their duties, which further endangers their lives and makes their jobs more difficult,  and thereby does a grievous disservice to the communities they serve.

More Below the Fold

{ 1 comment }

You know for all of the articles championing freedom of speech, which have appeared of late in the Weekly Standard, I was taken aback by the recent article: ‘Anti-Military Anthem Played at ‘Concert for Valor’. This past year numerous pieces have appeared in the magazine bemoaning the supposed loss of free speech on college campuses, detailing how the Democrats are actively undermining our First Amendment rights, how the Berkeley Free Speech Movement contributed mightily to undermining those rights and lately how, thankfully, courts have here and there thwarted this assault.


However, when it comes to the Weekly Standard truly being a beacon of free speech, well as far that goes, it is more than a bit equivocal in what it chooses to print. The author of the abovementioned article, Ethan Epstein, took umbrage with the “tone deaf” Bruce Springsteen and company for having performed Creedence Clearwater’s “famously anti-war anthem Fortunate Son” at last month’s Concert for Valor held on Veteran’s Day on the National Mall. Quoting Mr. Epstein: “The song, not to put too fine a point on it, is an anti-war screed, taking shots at “the red white and blue.” It was a particularly terrible choice given that Fortunate Son is, moreover, an anti-draft song, and this concert was largely organized to honor those who volunteered to fight in Afghanistan and Iraq.” 


Well for one thing, if anyone is tone deaf it is Ethan Epstein for not having listened closely enough to the song and its message. Nowhere in the song does it encourage anyone to resist the draft, desert the armed forces or head north over the border. Neither does the song denigrate the flag or cheer on the Vietnamese Communists. What the words of the song do mock and denigrate are the privileged sons of America’s elites and upper middle classes who managed to avoid serving in the Vietnam-era military, particularly in combat, while the less fortunate among us went off to fight and die in Southeast Asia. Moreover the song goes on to mock the fortunate for their ability to avoid paying their taxes fully while the country is at war. Sound familiar?


{ 1 comment }

Looking at what happened in biggest races

by Eric Ferguson on December 4, 2014 · 0 comments

voters2If you want to look at 2014 most high profile elections mostly in one spot, David Jarman at Daily Kos has a bunch of them collected in one spot. There are some common themes, hopefully not surprising if you’ve been doing your election analysis reading, but if you’re surprised, just keep quiet and no one will know.

One theme of course is drop-off Democrats, but the drop off was hardly even from one state to another. It was generally worse where there was no hotly contested top of the ticket, but as we’ve face-palmed about since months before election day, there were Democrats who gave their base nothing to vote for.
One prime example is the US Senate election in Virginia. It meshes with another theme you’ll notice following Jarman’s links, the rural/metro* divide. Much as we worry about MNGOP success at playing up a rural/metro divide, the DFL is doing great winning white rural votes compared to other state Democratic parties. Virginia Democrats basically have Richmond and the DC suburbs, and that’s it. Sen. Mark Warner won by a squeaker instead of the predicted blowout because he didn’t get the memo. He devoted his efforts to winning rural voters he wasn’t going to get, and he mostly ignored Fairfax County. This is analogous to Al Franken putting his efforts into winning CD6 by claiming to be nearly a Republican while blowing off Hennepin County.
What scares me as I write this is that there are still Democratic candidates and campaigns that don’t get where their voters live and the need to get them to vote. Maybe they didn’t learn from studies showing politicians assume voters are more conservative than they actually are. I just don’t get how anyone can still not get that winning statewide means heavy GOTV in heavily Democratic areas. Maybe Warner made the common mistake of assuming the last election predicts the next one, in that he had previously won the rural southwest while losing the reddish DC suburbs. But this is a different year, and both regions had flipped. It’s the same sort of mistake as those who assumed Al Franken and Mark Dayton were in for tough reelections because they went to recounts last election.
Speaking of bad strategy, there was one link that illustrates why I have such reluctance about donating to the DSCC and DCCC. Though this one is specifically on the DSCC.


Minnesota looking more like the rest of the country

by Eric Ferguson on November 26, 2014 · 2 comments

Minnesota has been something of an outlier compared to almost every other state. Most states have Democratic cities, Republican rural areas, and competitive suburbs. We have long flipped those last two. This last election though, the state house election looked pretty typical of what might be expected in almost any randomly chosen state.
This raises some questions, namely:
— Is this trend of reddening rural areas and bluing suburbs really happening here? Didn’t I just say it was, one paragraph ago? I actually have my doubts, about which more later.
— Why is this happening? I won’t actually spend much space on this because there seem to be multiple plausible explanations, which can be simultaneously true, so it’s more complicated than can be dealt with here.
— How do we respond?
I used this chart repeatedly in that series on Democrats needing to do better with white voters, but that was nearly two years ago, so here it is again:



Was it political cowardice or bad strategy?

by Eric Ferguson on November 21, 2014 · 6 comments

announcement of Donald Rumsfeld's resignation
UPDATE: Heard from the Speaker of the Minnesota House, sadly shortly to be minority leader (replaced by this guy), and looks like some state-specific comments of mine might not hold up. Details here.
When Pres. Obama announced his support for net neutrality right after the election, I thought I understood how Republicans felt when Bush Jr. forced out Defense Sec. Don Rumsfeld right after the 2006 election. Well, that was nice, but couldn’t you have done that before we got toasted in the midterm election?! Of course my first response to Obama’s announcement was to be glad he came out so strongly on the side of the angels, but my next thought was to recall an image of Rumsfeld’s resignation being announced. Why not do this before the election, and maybe save some seats?
The silver lining of an election loss is it makes us more likely to consider our assumptions. We may not even realize we’re making assumptions. The assumption in this case is the spinelessness of Democratic candidates and elected officials. We in the Democratic base have pleaded for more spine for I don’t recall how long. Back to the 80’s maybe? The 70’s? The 90’s at least. Election after election, but especially during midterms when there’s a Democratic president, we see one self-defeating move after another. The seeming political cowardice wasn’t just on the part of Obama, despite my reaction to the timing of his net neutrality announcement, and despite his failure to do anything on immigration until last night, which I blame for the lower than expected (lower than expected by me anyway) turnout among Latinos. I’m inclined give him a pass on the timing of his strong stances on global warming since those likely had to wait for summits in China and Australia, though that doesn’t explain other Democrats not running on it.
Nor do Obama’s decisions excuse Democratic candidates who avoided him during their own reelections, and the many who avoided other Democrats at all, as if they weren’t running on a ticket. There were exceptions: Minnesota’s statewide candidates very much ran as a ticket, campaigning on the Democratic successes most Democrats rarely mentioned, for example; but in general, Democrats ran every-candidate-for-themselves with campaigns focused on appeasing, if not conservatives, then those mysterious centrists.
But was it really cowardice? I’m asking the base to question our assumption of gutlessness. Maybe this was strategy; lousy, awful strategy. If that’s the case, if spine isn’t the problem, then no wonder our appeals for political courage seem to achieve so little. We’re making the wrong demand.



A pundit free, post mid-term Democratic Visions

by JeffStrate on November 13, 2014 · 0 comments


Democratic Visions Producer Jeff Strate learns from The Theater for Public Policy Director Tane Danger that policy wanks can be funny.

Democratic Visions Producer Jeff Strate learns from The Theater for Public Policy Director Tane Danger that policy wonks can be funny on stage.  Photo by Ron Levitus.

The post mid-term election edition of Democratic Visions features no pundits, partisan strategists, Wednesday morning quarterbacks or smiley candidates. Instead, November’s Dem Vis sports humorously gifted wags, authors and theater types.


Tane Danger, director of The Theater of Public Policy, a sharp, improv comedy troupe; vinegary, retired drive time radio man Mike “Stretch” Gelfand, author Mary Stanik and humorist Jon Spayde help Minnesotans  figure out where we’re headed in our Mitch McConnell, Kurt Daudt, Paul Molitor and Sunday booze-buying futures.



Mr. Danger (that’s his real name – he’s a pastor’s kid with a Bush Foundation Fellowship at the U of MN’s Humphrey Institute not a punk rocker) wants you to know that The Theater of Public Policy has only two, election season shows remaining at the Bryant Lake Bowl Theater on Lake Street at Bryant Avenue.


Minneapolis Council Member Jacob Frey (Ward 3) joins T2P2 at 7 p.m., November 17 and MPR economics editor Chris Farell joins the company November 24, also at 7 p.m.


Should progressives go?   Well possums, Tommy Johnson and I saw retired Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Paul Anderson with T2P2 in October. The jurist, the jury improv comics and the menu at Bryant Lake Bowl got two, enthusiastic thumbs up from the Two Putter and myself.


Please find below links to current Democratic Visions segments and the programs cable schedule.


The Theater of Public Policy Exposed


Mike Gelfand: The 2014 Elections, Christmas and Baseball



Pointergate: KSTP does it again

by Eric Ferguson on November 7, 2014 · 3 comments

Dan Burns posted earlier about “pointergate”, where KSTP TV thought it a scandal that the mayor of Minneapolis and someone else were pointing at each other. Apparently the standards of journalism at KSTP TV have not improved since they passed along Brian Rice’s false claims of voter fraud without investigation. This raises an important question: there are still people who watch local TV news? Maybe there aren’t many left, thus why KSTP TV does these sensationalistic stories.

A more serious question: aren’t real journalists embarrassed to work for this organization? At least now I know why my Twitter app alerted me that some people had followed Jay Kolls, the reporter whose name is on the story (this is the original story). Unfortunately, I suspect the people who followed him gave him what he wanted. To be fair though, the reporter on camera might not deserve all the blame, since I don’t know who else worked on the story. Maybe he was left hanging, or maybe he is the one who really screwed up. Can’t tell; just like the voter fraud story. That’s why it’s damaging to the whole news division to make a pattern of grabbing some unproven charge and running with it; acting like someone making a claim is news, and no matter if it isn’t proven, or even if it’s dumb. Pointing is a gang sign? A bunch of people having a mailbox rental store as an address is voter fraud? Does anyone at KSTP think about this stuff before going on the air?


Post-election observations

by Eric Ferguson on November 6, 2014 · 5 comments

With the voting done in 2014, let’s talk about 2016. Kidding! Stop, don’t go away! In fact, I’ll give you this handy link to Minnesota election results, but don’t leave yet.
The following thoughts about 2014 are more or less in the order in which they came to mind, though I tried to seize opportunities for coherency.
Starting with admittedly a repeat of my comment on Dan Burns’ post on women voting, assuming my walk lists of voters were the drop-off Democrats, it’s a bit disturbing those lists were heavy with younger women, meaning under 40. They arguably lost the most when Republicans did so well in 2010, between Republican governors and legislatures repealing equal pay laws, closing women’s clinics to restrict abortion access (and restricting access to health services in general thereby), photo ID laws (women’s birth certificates get rejected if they changed their names when they married), and blocking minimum wage increases which hurts women much more than men. Why aren’t younger women the most motivated to turn out?
Despite the wailing and media hysteria, if you didn’t roughly predict the results of the 2014 midterms once the results of the 2012 election were in, you have much to learn about US politics. We’re the presidential party in a midterm — Tuesday was always going to be bad. I expected we would net a governor or two, instead of a net loss of I think it will turn out to be two. But losses in Congress, albeit worse than they needed to be, no surprise. Looks like losses were small compared to 2010 in state legislatures. Not that we couldn’t have mitigated the losses without some bad decisions — yes, that’s a prelude to bringing up things I’m ticked about, and in my own defense, all things I raised before the campaign was over. We’ll get there shortly. Some good news, besides a good night for Democrats in Minnesota whatever happened elsewhere, is the GOP Senate majority is likely short-lived. Their odds of holding on in 2016 are worse than ours this year, for the same math problems: whether it’s a presidential year, who defends how many seats, and which states have elections.
Weirdly, given how the elections turned out, Democrats nearly ran the table on ballot measures. Unlike 2012, they seem not to have had coattails.
No one wants to believe the polls when they predict bad news, but for Senate and governor races, following them meant you weren’t surprised. Disappointed, but at least you knew it would be a generally bad night. Not so much for the US House, which I attribute to few polls and small sample sizes — so I was pleasantly surprised by CD8, since the last poll showed Stewart Mills with a strong lead, plus a Green candidate taking a few percent. Point being, better to accept the polls are roughly right and deal with reality. At least no one on the Democratic side went so far as to get into “unskewing”, so we have that going for us.
Apartment buildings folks, come on. I’m not naming sources or candidates, because no one knew in these conversations I might be blogging about it later on. Trying to do better at contacting people who live in apartments, or “multi-unit buildings” to not exclude residents of condominiums, is something we’ve worked on in the SD I chair, and the Keith Ellison campaign developed methods of doorknocking in apartments over the last couple elections. Ellison is safe, so the main beneficiaries are on the rest of the ballot, but lots of candidates and campaigns still want to bypass multi-unit buildings. The reasons why aren’t important. What’s important is we’re passing up voters Republicans also don’t contact, or, to be more positive, where we focus on multi-unit buildings, we’re contacting people Republicans ignore. Besides, whatever fudge factors there are, can anyone claim we solved the drop-off Democrat problem? Yet turfs are still cut to steer away from multi-unit buildings.