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by gregladen on August 29, 2015 · 1 comment

FrankenTrump-590x369The Republican Party and its handlers, including the right wing talk radio jocks such as Rush Limbaugh, and the bought-and-paid-for media such as FOX news, did not create the Tea Party. Michele Bachmann and a few others did that.* But once the Tea Party got going, mainstream conservative Republicans, including and especially leaders in Congress, went right to bed with it. The Tea Party gave Republican strategists an easy way to garner votes and support. This was especially easy to do because America decided to elect an African American president. Make no mistake. The Tea Party is pro-white, anti-everybody-else, and having an African American Democrat as president made defining issues and shaping rhetoric trivially easy.
It is a mistake to think that the Tea Party comes with a set of positions on various issues. It does not. Yes, the Tea Party tends to be libertarian, conservative, and so on and so forth, but really, it is philosophically inconstant and mostly reactionary. This has been demonstrated over and over again, as President Obama embraced various issues that were previously held by prominent Republicans, and those policies were immediately opposed. Because they were the policies of the Black President. The merit of a policy had nothing to do with opposition against it. They were President Obama’s issues, therefore the Tea Party was against them. And since the Republican Party was so rapt with the Tea Party, the GOP was against them.
This worked well. It gave the Republicans massive victories in a gerrymandered Congress. It meant that absurd excuses for leaders won elections, or if they did not, lost by only a few percentage points, when they should have been largely ignored by the populace.

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clowncarI once lived in Wisconsin, and it seems like a whole different state. After living a while in Minnesota, it seemed that the states would be indistinguishable without a map (or a sports rivalry). No longer. It would be exaggerated to blame it all on Scott Walker. After all, there had to be muck there for him to crawl out of.
Though was Walker was definitely muck-covered early on. Back in 1998, when few people besides conservative legislators and corporate funders had heard of ALEC, Walker carried a “truth in sentencing” bill to lengthen prison sentences:

Walker’s longstanding association with the group dates back to his first days as a state legislator in the early 1990s. One of the very first high-profile bills Walker was associated with during his time as a state legislator was a 1998 tough-on-crime ‘truth in sentencing’ bill that caused Wisconsin’s prison population to balloon.

At the time, Walker claimed original authorship of the law. But it wasn’t really his bill; ALEC’s policy shop wrote it at the behest of two ALEC funders: the Corrections Corporation of America and GEO Group, formerly called Wackenhut. Soon after Gov. Tommy Thompson signed it into law, Walker introduced a second piece of legislation to open the state’s soon-to-grow prison system up to the two private prison companies.
At the time, Walker never publicly mentioned ALEC’s role in this legislation. State corrections officials say he never mentioned it privately either.



Osama bin Laden 1; Railroads 0

by gregladen on August 25, 2015 · 0 comments

train-derailment-bakken-west-virginia-aerial-view_us-coast-guardThe terrorists have defeated the railroads, and by extension, the people. Well, not totally defeated, but they won a small but important battle.
We have a problem with the wholesale removal of petroleum from the Bakken oil fields, and the shipping of that relatively dangerous liquid mainly to the east coast on trains, with hundreds of tanker cars rolling down a small selection of tracks every day. I see them all the time as they go through my neighborhood. These trains derail now and then, and sometimes those derailments are pretty messy, life threatening, and even fatal.
There has been some effort in Minnesota to get the train companies to upgrade their disaster plans, which is important because about 300,000 Minnesotans live in the larger (one half mile) disaster zone that flanks these track. A smaller number, but not insignificant, live in the blast zone, the place where if a couple of train cars actually exploded you would be within the blast area. For the last couple of years, my son was at a daycare right in that blast zone. I quickly add that the chance of being blasted by an oil train is very small, because the tracks are in total thousands of miles long, derailments are rare(ish), and the affected areas can be measured in city blocks. So a blast from a Bakken oil train may be thought of as roughly like a large air liner crash, or may be two or three times larger than that, in terms of damage on the ground.
But yes, the trains derail at a seemingly large rate.
Now, here is where the terrorists come in. And by terrorists I specifically mean Osama bin (no relation) Laden, or his ghost, and that gang of crazies that took down the world trade center in New York. When that happened, we became afraid of terrorism, and everyone who could use that fear for personal gain has since exploited it. I’m pretty sure that the rise of the police state in America has been because of, facilitated by, and hastened due to this event. For years the American people let the security forces and related government agencies do pretty much whatever they wanted. The Patriot Act, you may or may not know, is a version of a law that conservatives have been pushing in the US for decades, a draconian law that gives great power to investigative and police agencies. That law never got very far in Congress until 9/11. Then, thanks to Osama bin Laden, it seemed like everyone wanted it. Only now, years later, are we seriously considering rolling it back (and to some extent acting on that consideration).
So now, the railroads have been forced to come up with a disaster plan related to the oil shipments. And they did. But for the most part they won’t let anyone see it. Why? Because, according to one railroad official, “… to put it out in the public domain is like giving terrorists a road map on how to do something bad.”
What does he mean exactly? As far as I can tell, the disaster plan pinpoints specific scenarios that would be especially bad. These scenarios, if they fell into the hands of terrorists, would allow said terrorists to terrorize more effectively.
I’m sure this is true. But I’m also sure this is not a reason to keep the plans secret. There are three reasons, in my view, that the plans should be totally available for public review.
1) If you want to know what the worst case scenarios for a rail tanker disaster are, don’t read this report. It is easier to get out a map, maybe use some GIS software if you have it, and correlate localities where the train tracks cross over bridges, cross major water sources, and go through dense population areas. A high bridge through an urban area over an important river, for instance. This is not hard. Indeed, I call on all social studies teachers with an attitude (and most of the good ones have an attitude) to make this a regular project in one of your classes. Have the students try to think like terrorists and identify the best way to terrorize using oil trains. The reason to do this is to point out how dumb the railroads are being.
2) Secret plans are plans that can be exploited or misused by those who make them. We will see security measures taken that, for example, limit public access to information unrelated to oil trains, with the terroristic threat used as an excuse. I’m sure this has already happened. It will continue to happen. It is how the police state works.
3) The plans can be better. How do I know this? Because all plans can be better. That’s how plans work. How can you make the plans better? Scrutiny. How do you get scrutiny? Don’t make the plans secret.
MPR news has a pretty good writeup on this situation here. MPR is fairly annoyed at the secrecy, as they should be, but frankly I’d like to see this and other news agencies, as well as the state legislators involved, and everyone else, more fired up. We should all be working harder against the police state.
I want to end with this: I like trains, and you should too. Trains are among the most efficient ways to move stuff across the landscape. Those of us concerned with things like climate change should be all for trains. Ultimately, I think we can increase the use of trains to move goods and people, and at the same time take the trains off fossil carbon. They are already mostly electric, using liquid fuel to run generators. That liquid fuel could be made, largely, from renewable biodiesel and a bit of grown biodiesel, and more of the trains can probably go all electric. But this secrecy thing is not OK.



clowncarWho is still worth paying attention to? Just Trump. Trump! Trump! Go Trump!
OK, got that out of my system. On to who we actually need to care about enough to follow, just in case Democrats have to face them in a general election, either for president or, secondarily, some other office. However, there are 17 making the cut to be included in some debate, and I can’t follow that many. I suspect I speak for many reading this when I say that having a life outside of politics, or at least outside of the presidential race, I can’t follow that many. Yes, the whole point of this exercise is concern that really good stuff to bring up when persuading voters next year will have gone down the memory hole when 2015 is past. But accumulating the pratfalls of 17 clowns or, as the media likes to call them, the deepest GOP bench in a long time (what does that say about the state of that party?) is quite the commitment of time I don’t have. So I have to narrow, and I have to admit my attempt to be purely objective about it failed. There just isn’t enough objective data, so I’m going to play pundit and pretend my gut feelings are data. Just like the pros! Though hopefully with more accuracy.
What I’m actually going to do is narrow down who we should follow and who we can ignore based on three criteria. What objectively can be said about their campaigns; my subjective opinion of their odds of being nominated; the chance of facing these candidates for some other office, regardless of their odds of becoming president. If I judge a candidate not worth following, I simply won’t spend any time on them again. I plan to fight the temptation to highlight the stupid things they say because they just aren’t worth the investment in time.
Feel free to disagree with my specific choices, but be aware that not all candidates have a future as the nominee or in other public office, so they’re not worth your time to comment on articles, post links on social media (#ThisGuyWantsToBePresident on Twitter), or write your own blogs about. And why can’t you write your own blogs? Am I that much smarter than you? Go to the upper right, click the “log in” link, start an account and start writing. That’s all it takes to start.
Seven of the seventeen candidates were relegated to the “kiddie table” debate by Fox News. I don’t really know how important that was, and I suspect all it really does is tell us where candidates were in the polls at the time, but it is objectively true they missed the cut. So for these first seven, take that as said.

Rick Perry
Objective: He’s low in the polls, and his campaign is so low on cash that he can’t pay staff. He has his billionaire backers helping on the dark money side so he’s not completely done.
Subjective: Has anyone come back from being unable to meet payroll? Perry is a strong campaigner in Texas, so his flailing on the national level surprises me, but there it is. He looks probable to be the first one to drop.
Other offices: After embarrassing himself so badly on the national stage, I can’t believe he’d get another shot in Texas. He could have run for Senate if he’d wanted, but he didn’t run. I think this is it.
Worth following: No.
Bobby Jindal
Objective: He’s stuck in the low single digits. His efforts to sound extreme aren’t helping him move up.
Subjective: I have strong doubts Republicans are ready for a non-white presidential nominee. Yes, they nominate non-white candidates for lower office, and I’m guessing they’re close to nominating a non-white candidate who is sufficiently conservative. Maybe Jindal will ease my doubts, but someone with such a terrible record as governor probably isn’t the candidate to do that.
Other offices: He’s the incumbent governor, but his term ends this year. He might run for Senate, which would be laughable if he weren’t in so safely Republican a state.
Worth following: Yes, but only for possible future runs for lower office.


minerunoffIt’s not hypothetical. The disaster at a gold mine that was abandoned nearly a century ago near Silverton, CO, is exactly what opponents of sulfide mining in Minnesota have been warning about. Water mixes with crushed rock and leaches out sulfides that make for a nice acid bath — formerly known as Cement Creek and the Animas River.

On a scorcher of an August afternoon, a crowd gathered on a bridge over the deep-green waters of the Animas River on the north end of Durango, Colorado. A passerby might have thought they were watching a sporting event, perhaps a kayak race or a flotilla of inebriated, scantily clad inner tubers. Yet the river that afternoon was eerily empty of rowers, paddlers or floaters — unheard of on a day like this — and the mood among the onlookers was sombre. One mingling in the crowd heard certain words repeated: sad, tragic, angry, toxic.
They were here not to cheer anyone on, but to mourn, gathered to watch a catastrophe unfold in slow motion. Soon, the waters below would become milky green, then a Gatorade yellow, before finally settling into a thick and cloudy orangish hue — some compared it to mustard, others Tang. Whatever you called it, it was clearly not right.


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clowncarSorry for the late notice. I didn’t know for sure I would be able to live blog the GOP debate until a wee bit ago. That’s how it goes when we’re all volunteers here. Probably more readers will see this tomorrow than tonight. I guess they’ll have missed out slightly, poor them.
I didn’t get a chance to watch the “kiddie table” debate early, so no comment on that. Though yes, I assume it was just as clownish as the one about to start with the leading candidates getting all the way up in to the low double digits in support.
Or maybe it’s the clown car and the clown minivan.
Anyway, I’ll be making comments, hopefully an amusing mix of pithy and snarky. Check back, or refresh your browser every so often.
Pre-debate blather. Why do presidential debates need to include a “spin room”? At least the name is honest, but why is it needed?
What does Carly Fiorina “unleashed a can” mean? The Fox hosts want to talk a bunch themselves. Just go.
Yes, I’ll believe millions of people are watching tonight. Many laughing Democrats, and maybe as many embarrassed Republicans.
Trump won’t commit to supporting the eventual winner. Please run 3rd party. Please please please!!! Actually, no, GOP please make him the nominee. Rand Paul decides to jump in and grab camera time. Audience boos. Start the clown music.
Carson thinks knowing stuff is of questionable value. He was once allowed to work on brains, really.
Rubio: if this election is a resume competition, Hillary wins. Hillary is most qualified, per Rubio. He owed $100,000 on student loans just four years ago, but he managed to spend that much on a boat?
“Florida called me Jeb because I earned it”? Not because that’s your nickname? One of only two states to earn triple A rating — most already had it.
Trump thinks we have too much political correctness, not enough of saying nasty things to women. He and Megan Kelly don’t like each other.
Audience cheer Cruz calling Mitch McConnell a liar. If you’re wondering why acting like a prick is a good way to appeal to the Republican base.
Christie was ready for the finance question. Left out that zero private sector growth include the Bush years.
Walker dodges question on whether he’s too conservative to appeal to women. Brags of taking way their access to health care.



~ Invited Guest Commentary ~

by Invenium Viam on August 4, 2015 · 1 comment

Honor our Founding Mothers: Finish the Job!

by Betty Folliard

Betty Folliard

Betty Folliard is a former state legislator, founder of ERA Minnesota and Executive Producer and host of A Woman’s Place ( on AM950Radio.


After 92 years of struggle, American women still don’t have legal equality.


According to an Opinion Research Survey, 96% of Americans believe women and men should have equal rights, 88% want an Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) added to our Constitution — but a whopping 72% of Americans somehow are under the false impression that the U.S. Constitution already guarantees equal rights for women.


It doesn’t.


What we have are patchwork laws unevenly meting out legal protections against gender discrimination cases. The Constitution governs all courts in the land and absent an Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) these laws are nails without a hammer.


The U.S. media has an obligation to accurately report this reality; however there remains a dearth of articles focused on women in our media.


All four sectors of the press/media in America are male-centric, according to the 2015 Status of Women in the U.S. Media report put out by the Women’s Media Center; and as a result issues regarding women’s equality rarely get coverage. Women are mentioned only 24% of the time in any news stories whatsoever: and of that 24%, only 6% ever mention equality or inequality; so overall, these issues get aired a mere 1.44% of the time.


Contrary to popular opinion and polarizing political reporting, the ERA didn’t die — it went dormant. Pushback from the right continues to spread untruths, to focus on red herrings, and to conjure up fear; but the ERA movement perseveres and will ultimately prevail because women are on the right side of history on this matter and we won’t take no for an answer.


We can now see light at the end of this tunnel. Today many national coalitions and organizations of women (and a few good men) have reinvigorated the fight to ratify the ERA.


This year alone:


• There’s legislation at both the state & national levels aimed at removing the artificial deadline that was slapped on equal rights for women and finally ratifying the ERA into our federal constitution (FYI: there’s no such thing as an expiration on equality);

• The documentary “She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry” opened this year, educating a whole new generation about the struggle for women’s rights in America;

• A new book “Equal Means Equal” written by Jessica Neuwirth unveils gender discrimination cases that went all the way to the Supreme Court only to be rejected because the Constitution doesn’t protect women against sex discrimination. In it, Neuwirth points to the 4 key issues that an ERA would help rectify: pay inequity, violence against women, pregnancy discrimination, and laws that discriminate against men;

• A film by that same title – “Equal Means Equal” – produced by Kamala Lopez will soon be released;

• In October, the film “Suffragette” starring Meryl Streep will open in theaters;

• And Helene de Boissierre-Swanson, a former legal professional & co-founder of Katrina’s Dream, has now walked the entire breadth of the U.S. to raise awareness of the need of the ERA in our U.S. Constitution.


On Women’s Equality Day – August 26th 2015 — Helene will culminate her walk across America with a final ERA march and rally to the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., to help finally pass the ERA. ERA Minnesota will be there. Women (and a few good men) from all across the country will be there standing up for legal equality. I’ll be speaking at the rally. You’re invited. Join us!


Like Suffragists of old, Helene de Boissierre-Swanson has endured homelessness, starvation, deprivation, and molestation on her solo walk across the USA all for the ERA.


Helene offered press access in each un-ratified state along her journey from California to Florida and up to Washington, D.C.; but not one national media outlet deigned to pick up this story.




Honor our Founding Mothers by finishing the job. Ratify the ERA.
Comment below fold.

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There are Democrats running for president, really

by Eric Ferguson on July 31, 2015 · 2 comments

Usually when only one party’s nomination process is getting covered, it’s because it has such a big advantage in the district in question that the other party has no realistic chance. Pick, for example, any one of roughly 90% of congressional districts. So it’s kind of strange that the Republicans are getting all the attention in the presidential race since the election is probably a toss-up and if it isn’t, it’s because the odds favor Democrats a bit. However, Democrats just can’t match the Republicans for entertainment value. Not even close. Much as the media wants to pretend Bernie Sanders is somehow equivalent to Donald Trump (he called Mexican immigrants rapists, but you called yourself a democratic socialist, and isn’t that just as crazy?), and as much as we’re learning the phrase “Clinton rules” regarding how any unproven allegation will be treated very seriously, the truth is no Democrat has the headline grabbing crazy to compete with Republican candidate … hard to pick out just one. And so many. Figuring out how many they have was faster by multiplication than addition, at least until Jim Gilmore became the 17th and made it a prime number.
Anyway, there really are Democrats running. Here’s a bit of Hillary and Bernie. This first video is an interview Bernie gave Vox (Vox not Fox, that’s not a typo). You might notice something that makes him a stronger candidate than the media generally give him credit for. He’s able to give a straight answer to a question in a few words, and then he can elaborate if given time (which he is here) to show he knows what he’s talking about. I’m guessing that comes from being a frequent guest on liberal talk radio, which may have a puny audience (liberals, did you even know we have our own talk radio?) but taking calls gave Bernie a lot of practice answering questions within commercial radio’s time limits from the sort of people who vote in Democratic primaries.

This video is a clip of Hillary speaking to the National Urban League. TPM found this the newsworthy bit as she went after Jeb Bush, but I listened to the whole speech and thought another part was more interesting. Alas, unlike someone at TPM, I couldn’t work out how to clip and embed the part I wanted. C-SPAN, why must you make embedding so difficult? So I give you this link to the whole program. The part I recommend starts at 49:20 and goes to 55:15. She eloquently talked about how we need to change our attitudes on race, and particularly how those of us who haven’t had to live with discrimination have to start listening to those who have, and stop assuming our experience is the same as everyone else’s. Her whole speech goes from 41:00 to 1:05:00. This is TPM’s clip:

Comments below fold.


clowncarI’m skeptical of the notion that other Republican candidates are trying to match the crudity of Donald Trump, but I see where said notion comes from. After Trump’s rise in the polls, and with other candidates getting desperate at the thought of missing the cut for the debates, we’re seeing this stuff:
Rick Perry responded to the movie theater shooting in Lafayette by saying we need more guns in movie theaters. Right, because all those action-hero-wannabes will spin around, pick out the right target, and hit the target, maybe all in the dark. Meanwhile, police will identify the shooter among the wannabes by … mind reading?
Ted Cruz called the Senate majority leader, whose caucus Cruz is ostensibly a part of, a liar — while speaking on the Senate floor. Democrats may detest Cruz, but Republicans have to put up with the guy face to face. If any of his colleagues have endorsed him, I can’t find the evidence of it.
Mike Huckabee said the nuclear deal with Iran is like marching Israelis toward the door to the oven. Or, as a former ambassador to Israel put it, “There are serious issues to be debated here but for anybody to equate what the president’s doing to what Adolph Hitler did in World War II is just extraordinary. And in some ways it’s a form of incitement, and we’ve seen the results of that 20 years ago in Israel. There was the same kind of incitement against Yitzhak Rabin and that led to a tragic outcome.” I wish I could feign surprise, but whenever peace is made, the people who want war go nuts, sometimes including acting out violently. Here’s hoping Nazi comparisons are as bad as the craziness gets. If you don’t want to be labeled crazy, here’s what I do when making Nazi comparisons: stop talking. It’s better to appear dumbstruck for a moment, because the Nazis were so unique, that if you compare anything to them, pretty much guaranteed, you will look nuts; or at least grossly ignorant of history.


Now can we finally talk about the guns?

by Eric Ferguson on July 25, 2015 · 6 comments

revolver muzzleAfter yet another mass shooting, is it finally OK to talk about the guns? We talk about the motive. We talk about mental illness. We can talk about crime or poverty or racism or religious fundamentalism, but not the guns. This is even though, whatever the shooter’s motive, he (pretty much always a “he”, which likely does tell us something) couldn’t have shot his victims without being able to get the gun. Whatever the shooter’s mental illness, and I accept the fact of committing a mass shooting as evidence in itself of serious mental illness, he couldn’t have shot anyone without getting the gun. The United States is unique in the western world in its massive amount of gun crime. In fact, there are few countries of any sort with gun death rates like ours who aren’t literally in some level of civil war. Our crime rates are roughly the same as other western countries, meaning US crime is much more lethal — and we’re the only country with so many guns. Other countries have racism, but only we have so many guns. Other countries have mental illness, but only we have so many guns. Other countries have poverty, discrimination, religious extremism, every social ill ever suggested as the explanation for crime, but only we have lots of guns and roughly 30,000 gun deaths annually, about one third of those being homicides and two-thirds suicides. Yet, somehow, we can’t talk about how the problem is the sheer quantity of guns. Yes, some people have guns who shouldn’t have them, but that’s actually the point. Loads of people who shouldn’t have guns have them, and our political leaders are more interested in the right of a violent person to get a gun than the right of the victim to not be shot.
Which shooting am I referring to by “yet another mass shooting”? Here’s the arguably saddest part. I could write that just about any day. I started on this post some time ago, and when I didn’t get it done in time to be timely to a specific event, I realized it didn’t matter. It’s OK if I don’t get it done this week, because there will be another shooting next week. Literally. It was safe to assume a post about a recent shooting could be posted any time and there would be a recent shooting to refer to. I think actually started at least collecting some of the links I’m using around the time of the Charleston massacre. I didn’t get it done, but there was Chattanooga. Lafayette just happened a couple days ago. And these are just the ones where the most people were shot. I could have picked this one or this one where only one or two victims died after a shooting of multiple people by someone who clearly should not have been allowed to have a gun.