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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.



political-manipulation“Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable.”

                                               George Orwell


As many times as I’ve wondered how some GOP pols and pundits can stand to look at themselves in the mirror, I’ve also wondered how they maintain such disciplined messaging. Do they get paid? Is it the discipline of the paycheck? Do the internet trolls, who comment on every political news story in the Strib by slamming Dems and excusing Pugs, get paid by someone? If not, how do they manage to stay on message so relentlessly?


Respect. If Dems could stay on message the way Pugs do, we’d own state government for the next ten generations. The problem for Dems, of course, is that so much of GOP messaging is factory-made and based on lies. A lot of our liberal friends in elected office have a tough time telling Lies-by-Design. Which is much to their credit, ethics-wise, but it puts Democratic candidates at a real disadvantage with the broader electorate when you consider that half the population has below average intelligence, hence are more easily misled than smarter folks. I don’t mean that in a mean way: it’s just a statement of fact. A significant portion of the population is more easily convinced of things that are untrue because they lack the cognitive and perceptual abilities that smarter people have. In how it frames it’s messaging, the GOP media machine utterly depends on that simple truth for the party’s continued existence.


Admittedly, it’s a lot easier for the GOP to keep churning out mass-produced mendacity like a Chinese plastics factory when spineless news anchors and chickensh*t political reporters are only willing to serve up softball questions to candidates and pundits. The accounting department long ago took over control of policy in the newsroom and the watchword ever since has been Revenue-Revenue-Revenue. Keep it light, guys. Don’t make enemies. Don’t offend anybody. We need to keep the ratings up to make goal each quarter. Your bonus depends on your cooperation. Your jobs depend on annual growth.


Take, for example, the remarks that MN Speaker of the House Kurt Daudt made earlier this year about Minnesota’s improving economy, covered by MNPP here:

“Part of this economic confidence,” Daudt told reporters with a straight face, “is there is balance restored in state government.”

To her credit, Pioneer Press Capitol Bureau Chief and political reporter Rachel Stassen-Berger challenged Daudt on that one and made him own the lie by forcing him to double-down on his BS. That’s what real political reporters do. The news media, after all, is not supposed to be a handy conveyance for politicians and pundits to drop trou and squeeze out some verbal dookie. That’s what concession speeches are for. Rather, it’s supposed to be an information forum where readers and audiences go to learn something as close to the truth as can be discovered and published. Political reporters aren’t doing human interest stories: there should be an apparent bias and overt partiality for the truth, regardless of which political party offers it up. Any impartiality the news media sustains should be to ensure that all offenders of truth are equally vilified, not that all lies are given equal ink and air time. As Churchill once said, “I refuse to remain impartial between the fire brigade and the fire.”


Which just gets to the nut of why Republicans complain so bitterly about media bias. The fact is they get exposed as liars and frauds more often than Democrats do simply because they tell a lot more lies. They have to. Their policies are founded on lies. Trickle-down economics for example was one of the biggest B-F-L’s ever perpetrated on the American people. So was WMD’s.


But I digress. Returning to the subject at hand, now some months later, we see the very same BS message that Herr Daudt was disparaged for last March surfacing again in our political discourse, when Cathy Wurzer put this question to their political panel on the July 10 broadcast of Almanac (~44:58) —

Wurzer: “The state forecast just came out — [another] $500 million to the good. What does that mean? Do you think we’re collecting too much in taxes … just a better economy … what do you all think?”

I’ll assign that question a rating of Four Softballs [@@@@] …

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Hang Trump around Republican necks

by Eric Ferguson on July 20, 2015 · 1 comment

Donald Trump as albatrossLive by data, die by data, at least in terms of some opinions. Trump was one of several Republican presidential candidates who had negative favorability ratings among likely Republican primary voters in PPP polls in May and June. There is no reason for Republicans to pick a candidate they don’t like when there are a bunch they do like, so these candidates, including Trump, could be safely ignored. Of course, there’s always the caveat of “pending new information”; new information would include this new poll showing Trump’s favorability has drastically improved.
That ABC News/Washington Post poll is from July 15. A Yougov poll on July 9 showed the rise in Trump’s favorability into positive territory, though his unfavorables remain high. In other words, Trump is a divisive figure among Republicans. The same nutty Mexicans-are-rapists sort of statements that caused many Republicans to rally to him are causing other Republicans to just cringe. We can tell in their difficulty coming up with responses to Trump, the “he phrased it badly but has an important point” sort of statements, that they don’t know what to do with him. For as much as I discouraged Democrats from paying attention to Trump because he’s a distraction from the candidates we might actually face a year from now, he’s an even bigger distraction to Republicans.
So hang him around Republicans’ necks. Make him their albatross.
How? We haven’t really had to try at the presidential level. The press is all over anything he says and goes to other candidates for comment — so far. The shine will wear off the bauble at some point, and we want to delay that day as long as possible. Besides, it isn’t just about the presidential race, or at least it doesn’t have to be. I see no reason not to make any Republicans either denounce Trump and put themselves at odds with their base, or try to wriggle out of it which is sure to be embarrassing. Maybe the damage will have worn off by election day 2016, but maybe not, and we are only three and a half months away from the 2015 election (keep reminding other Democrats that odd-numbered years matter — if you thought the midterm drop-off was bad…). So let’s be more than passive spectators.
As much as we’re warned away from internet activism on the grounds that activism can be easy or effective, but rarely both, I think I see one of those rare instances. Go to mainstream media web sites and click on the Trump stories, especially those about him saying something stupid (yes I know, that’s almost all of them). Everybody counts which stories get clicked on. If that feels too much like gaming the system, then read the story. I’ll at least skim it just so I feel honest, though I own up that I can’t stand listening to him, so the odds of listening to interviews is pretty much nil. Clicking the links on conservative sites too should help, since they want clicks and will get the message that Trump means clicks.
Then make the spinners unhappy. Ask Republican politicians and media personalities to respond to some Trump statement they haven’t responded to, or responded to badly. Be ready to record the answer. This shouldn’t be difficult when most people now carry phones with video cameras built in, and almost all digital cameras can record video now, though I suppose check before assuming. Google owns Youtube, and since most of us have a Google account, we have a Youtube account. Post your video of the discomfited GOP candidate. You can post video on Facebook, but Youtube is just more findable and sharable. Capture moments like Rick Santorum’s bad answer, and Republicans will have every reason to wonder if Trump is a Democratic plant.
So click some links, charge your camera battery, and have the popcorn ready.

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A proposal to have landlords hand out voter registration forms threatens to end American liberty. Don’t take my word for it! Really, don’t, because that’s crazy. Take the word of former Minneapolis mayoral candidate and lonely Minneapolis Republican Cam Winton. He’s the one who said it in a recent commentary in the Star Tribune. He was responding to a proposal by Minneapolis council member Jacob Frey to have landlords hand new tenants a voter registration form along with the other paperwork in hopes of encouraging more to register to vote when they change addresses.
Don’t think Winton was entirely delusional to run for mayor of Minneapolis as a Republican, or at least no more so than about 30 other people who saw the open mayoral seat and the $20 filing fee and ran with the “what-the-heck” party. He actually sounded like he had a much stronger connection to reality than typical Republicans. DFLers thought he sounded reasonable if we had to have a Republican (which we didn’t since there were DFLers we actually liked). And then he writes this op-ed.
Winton actually started with an economic argument, that we should want to lower the cost of building affordable housing (true) but having landlords hand out voter registration forms will raise costs and discourage building more housing. Well, sure, because there’s the cost of putting a box of forms on a shelf somewhere, the cost of picking up a form, the cost of putting the form into the other documents a new renter gets, and already we’ve raised the landlord’s costs by … well, by whatever the time is worth. 11½¢ maybe?
Maybe Winton realized the cost argument was rather silly, so he tried some philosophy.

Dating back to the Declaration of Independence, the core principle of our system of government is that we the people grant elected officials just enough power to secure our rights — no more. So when elected officials propose and enact laws premised on the notion that we are incapable of buying our own ear plugs and obtaining our own voter registration forms, it’s a warning sign that the balance between individual rights and government force is out of whack.

Right, because your right to vote is threatened by … having a voter registration form handed to you when you sign your lease or move in. The ear plugs thing is from a complaint Winton had with Frey in an earlier paragraph. Frey got an ordinance passed requiring nightclubs to offer hearing protection to customers. This is bad because … hearing damage is a right? “premised on the notion that we are incapable of buying our own ear plugs”, or maybe premised on the notion customers don’t know how loud the noise will be or the risk to their hearing? Who knew hearing protection and voter registration forms in your rental papers were just overreaching big government?

The straight brackets are my comments:

If our elected officials really think we’re so helpless, what’s next? Might they require supermarket cashiers to chastise us for buying sugary drinks [his own party keeps trying to micromanage how SNAP recipients spend their money and actually do turn cashiers into enforcers, but who needs self-awareness?], require Metro Transit drivers to remind us to update our wills [how dangerous does he think mass transit is?] and require police officers to use their loudspeakers to encourage us to save for retirement? [this sarcasm from the party that keeps trying to gut Social Security] As long as landlords are already handing out pieces of paper, why not require them to hand out fliers for city-sponsored activities, such as City Council members’ own town-hall meetings?

That last point is a fair one, because nothing threatens individual rights like telling people when public meetings are taking place.
Apparently unaware that “slippery slope” is the name of a logical fallacy, Winton said, “The slippery slope brings to mind a phrase attributed to various leaders over the years: ‘A government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take from you everything you have.'” Well, no wonder we don’t know who to attribute that quote to. Who would be dumb enough to want their name on such triteness disguised as cleverness?

Snark aside, here’s a thought. If having landlords hand out voter registration forms is so awful, how about avoiding the need for it by instituting automatic voter registration? Change the registration when the voter’s address changes, getting it from the post office form or the DMV. Don’t like Democrats pushing to register more people? Democrats can think of other things to do too. Oregon recently passed a law to register voters automatically, and North Dakota somehow manages to have elections without registration. They can make it work but we can’t?
Voluntary disclosure: I know Jacob Frey and donated to his campaign. I don’t live in his ward, nor does his ward overlap the senate district where I’m DFL chair. I’ve spent a bunch of time doing voter registration.
Comment below fold.

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A high-realism love doll

‘Oh, a storm is threat’ning … My very life today … If I don’t get some shelter … Lord, I might – fade away.’
                                               Gimme Shelter ~ The Rolling Stones


Now that some of the apocalyptic nuclear dust has settled from the Supreme Court’s recent decision to uphold the civil rights of same-sex couples in federal law, but while the subject is still fresh in the minds of the media-consuming public, I can’t help but point out that Conservatives — once again — have got it all wrong. At least they’re consistent.


There IS a very real threat to traditional marriage, but it doesn’t come from sundry gay folks conjoining in wanton acts of civil union so they can learn to hate each other after 10 or 12 years of disputatious conversations about patio furniture and wallpaper — just like regular folk do.


No, the real threat to traditional marriage comes from a direction that Radioactive Crack Monkeys like Limbaugh, Hannity, Cruz, Huckabee and Jindal haven’t even thought about.


I am speaking, of course, about highly realistic synthetic human love dolls.


By any measure, traditional marriage is about to take a hard one on the chin — and not because two guys or two gals are seen engaging in shameless PDA’s like hand-holding, or what we straights sometimes call Mormon First Base. It’ll be a hard right hook arcing up hidden in the blind spot that will lift Conservatives off their heels and rock their world in the very near future, and it will be thrown from the shoulder of highly realistic, animated synthetic human love dolls.


To be clear, I’m not talking about those inflatable plastic balloons that cost $14.95, that sometimes double as a pool toy, and were once ubiquitous in the party pits of frat houses across America — required décor along with black-light posters of chesty Mexican bar maids in embroidered peasant blouses, the omni-present Farah Fawcett poster on the door in the head, pull-tab chains from countless coke cans festooning the overhead pipes and rafters, a beer can pyramid in the corner, a lava lamp next to the turntable, a Zippo® lighter the size of a hard-cover book on the spool table, and spent condoms among the dust bunnies behind the couch.


No, I’m talking about those expensive, high tech love dolls — the kind that cost $12,000 and up. That’s what a new car used to cost not so very long ago. The newest embodiments of plastic gratification that do something more than just vibrate are getting so realistic they can almost pass muster as a bed friend you’ll want to tell your buddies about. And they’re just getting more realistic and more sophisticated with every passing year.


Anita, domestic ‘synth’ in the AMC television series ‘HUMANS’

The day is soon coming — the day is well nigh, O Zion — when the new AMC television series ‘HUMANS‘ will be more docu-drama than science fiction and ‘synths’ like Anita and Niska will be commonplace in bachelor pads around the world. Let’s be honest — Anita is a babe, appearance-wise. Niska, too, is a babe. She’s a dangerous murderous babe with the strength of a male chimp and the instincts of a wolverine, to be sure; but fully babe-ified nonetheless. Stupifyingly babe-ilicious.


In real-life, it should be pretty easy to program a realistic response-curve intimacy feedback algorithm (code-named: ++INTIMACY) based on a range of different inputs that generate appropriately-timed declarations, physical contortions, and vocalizations in a high end love doll that are adequately gratifying to the end user. Human sexual response is, after all, not all that much more sophisticated than two Gooney Birds trilling, high-jumping and bobbing their heads up and down in unison, when you really get down to it.


HTLD-3Not to mention that market forces will ensure that synthetic human love doll quality will continue to improve by leaps and bounds, while cost will continue to decrease precipitously, as it does with any high tech product. It’s a sure bet that once the right cost-benefit benchmark is attained, high tech synthetic human love dolls will be found in every every bachelor’s home, as commonplace as cell-phones and cable teevee. The reason is that high-tech synthetic human love dolls offer a number of clear advantages over traditional marriage:

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An old Independence Day tradition

by Eric Ferguson on July 4, 2015 · 0 comments

Happy Independence Day. When the Revolutionary War was still in living memory, a common part of community Independence Day celebrations was reading aloud the Declaration of Independence. NPR revived that tradition back in 1995, having hosts take turns reading a portion. It feels different verbalized that just read. Here it is:
Transcript here.
And an article about the text, explaining how it was written with the assumption it would be read aloud.


millspartying2Stewart Mills, defeated last year in the eighth district by DFL incumbent Rick Nolan, tells The Duluth News Tribune (with a hat tip to Daily Kos Elections) that he thinks he has a better chance next year.
He said, in a statement that any time before last election would have been a “WTF” moment coming from a Republican, “Really, I didn’t lose that election so much as Rick Nolan rode Al Franken’s coattails.” Yes, he couldn’t win because of the popularity of Al Franken — the same Al Franken Republicans have insisted for years was a joke, not taken seriously, despised by everybody!! Maybe Mills at least realized “everybody” was defined as the denizens of the conservative bubble. Unfortunately, for bubblonians at least, those of us outside the bubble still get to vote.
To continue the theme, regarding winning if he tries again, Mills said, “I think it would be doable because neither (Mark) Dayton, Franken (nor) Klobuchar would be on top of the ticket if I run again. It would be between Rick Nolan and myself and the issues would largely be the same,” and later, “If I run again, there is a path to victory. It would be a race almost directly between Rick Nolan and myself — without the worry about influence from the top of the ticket.” OK, Republicans to my knowledge never said Klobuchar was despised by Minnesotans blah blah, but they sure insisted on the blah blah parts about Franken and Dayton, as if what they tell themselves on conservative talk radio is believed by everyone, until pre-election polls last year told them otherwise. So next year, it would just be Mills versus Nolan. No other elections next year higher up the ticket. Nope, can’t think of any other election going on next year. Oh right, that one.
Not to discourage Mills, as I like the entertainment of a loopy candidate like most news junkies, but if you lost in a red wave during a non-presidential year, are your odds really better next year? Yes — if you’re a Democrat.
Comments below fold.



One can only scratch one’s head when it comes to the incredulous nature of the Fox News Network. On a day as momentous, after a week as momentous as this, the O’Reilly Factor’s nightly feature is on global terror, completely ignoring today’s SCOTUS decision on same sex marriage.
Is it any wonder why or how Media Matters found that those who watch Fox News are less informed than those who don’t follow the news regularly via any format? So much for mainstream conservative media.


The Court this week has delivered a series of devastating blows to America’s conservative movement with their second decision affirming the constitutionality of Obamacare, today’s decision on same sex marriage along with another decision on discrimination in housing.


It’s been kind of funny watching the Fox crew attempting to recover from the multiple blows sustained by conservatives this week. Conservatives have been looking with regard to upending Obamacare to additional cases wending their way through the lower courts and hoping that these cases will somehow undo what’s already been settled. Political commentator Amy Walter, appearing on Fox News last night, pointed out that many of those cases have already been dismissed and that now with a second affirmative decision on Obamacare, most of the rest will probably be dismissed too or the Court will agree not to hear them.


And conservatives shouldn’t take to much solace in the idea that Obamacare will be undone on Capitol Hill either. Let’s be honest about one reality. Conservatives on Capitol Hill have voted some 50 times to repeal the A.C.A to no avail. Their last presidential effort was based in part in undoing the A.C.A and that failed too. To date the G.O.P. has failed to come up with an comprehensive alternative to the A.C.A. Thus what will change now? Not much likely with regard to Obamacare.



Sweet Schadenfreude Ambrosia

by Dog Gone on June 26, 2015 · 0 comments

First we have Governor Dayton’s leadership as governor and liberal policies putting Minnesota #1 for business by CNBC’s ranking.  Minnesota generally, and Minneapolis in particular, have generally done well in comparison to other states and cities.  Under liberals, we ARE COMPETITIVE! We have an excellent quality of life, or as Dayton refers to it, the state gives good value for the collected taxes and tax rate.

Of course the MN GOP keep trying to push wealth and income inequality policies with tax cuts to the rich, cuts to levels of education funding sought on the left, and fail fully to fund the necessary infrastructure, while attempting to contaminate the environment for the benefit of business at the expense of citizens. The MN GOP HATES HATES HATES that unlike so many red states, Minnesota has a surplus, not a grand canyon sized deficit.


Then we have the consistently good news out of the SCOTUS, arguably the most conservative Supreme Court in the history of the nation.  So far as of this morning, we have success for the Fair Housing Act upheld, and success for the ACA (aka Obamacare).


Personally, for me the cherry, whipped cream, hot fudge and sprinkles on the whole conservative epic fail is the massive repudiation of right wing racism, combined with the recent Gallup poll showing nearly 50% of Americans would vote for a socialist (like Bernie Sanders).


…it’s news that 47 percent of Gallup poll respondents say they’d vote for a socialist candidate for president. Though the political designation placed last on a hypothetical list of candidates that included women, gays and lesbians, Muslims and atheists, the survey response still seems to offer hopeful news to democratic socialist Bernie Sanders, who’s running as a Democrat.
The Gallup poll found a huge split in opinion between Republicans and Democrats on the issue. While 59 percent of Democrats said they’d be willing to cast their vote for a socialist presidential candidate, just 26 percent of Republicans did. (Nearly half of Independents, 49 percent, said they would be in favor of the idea.)

Throw into the mix of joy at conservative sorrow the substantial lead of Hillary Clinton announced on Monday, from the Daily News:


Hillary Clinton with comfortable lead over Jeb Bush, other potential GOP rivals: poll

Hillary Clinton has a comfortable lead over Jeb Bush and the rest of her potential GOP rivals, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released Monday.  Clinton leads Bush, the former Florida governor, 48%-40%.
That expands to 50%-40% against Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and 51%-37% against Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, the two other national front-runners.

turnip tops – Trumpesque

Rounding out the bad news for conservatives — Donald “Turnip-top” Trump, swaggering, blithering idiot of offensiveness, has gone further than previous campaign cycles in appearing to run for the nomination.


Along with him, the most unpopular governor in the nation Bobby “Pretend I’m White” Jindal has declared, and second to least popular governor Chris Christie is scheduled to climb on or set a date to climb on the 2016 conservative clown car, known for only going in the same dizzy tiny circles to the right.


Sadly for the unpopular candidates the mean girls running the RNC are making these candidates climb on the roof rack, the trunk and the hood, rather than letting them inside the clown car, and are trying to keep them off the stages for the officially scheduled debates.