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Was it political cowardice or bad strategy?

by Eric Ferguson on November 21, 2014 · 4 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.
 

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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

 
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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?
 
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Post-election observations

by Eric Ferguson on November 6, 2014 · 4 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.
 
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The Unforgiven Sins of Bill Maher

by Invenium Viam on November 6, 2014 · 1 comment

jesus-KornKing“There is no worse enemy of God and Man than zeal armed with power and guided by a feeble intellect.” ~ William James

 

Over the last several weeks, social critic/comedian Bill Maher has found himself in conflict with various groups of people for espousing some unpopular views regarding Islam. He recently stated on his television show Real Time with Bill Maher, for example, that “Islam is the only religion that acts like the Mafia and will f**king kill you if you say the wrong thing, draw the wrong picture, or write the wrong book.”

 

He is, of course, referring to various acts of murder and violent reprisal by Muslims against Western writers, artists and authors, including fellow Muslims, for perceived offenses and crimes against their religion or their prophet.

 

Recently, Maher managed to brook the ire of the U.C. Berkeley student body, who find his opinions so unforgivably offensive that they protested his invitation from the university regents to deliver a commencement address in December, demanding that the invitation be withdrawn.

 

Maher’s first offensive political view seems to be an assertion that there is something inherent in the Islamic religion that gives rise to institutional, organized violence by some of its adherents towards others including both non-Muslims and other Muslims. His second offensive political view seems to be an assertion that Islam is antagonistic towards, and/or its teachings antithetical to, the personal freedoms we take for granted in the West, which puts Islam in direct conflict with Western values.

 

In that light, Maher has been lately admonishing liberals to publicly uphold ‘liberal’ values. “Liberals,” Maher said, “need to stand up for liberal principles. Freedom of speech. Freedom to practice any religion you want without fear of violence. Freedom to leave a religion. Equality for women. Equality for minorities including homosexuals …”.

 

Maher may be right about his assertions … or he may be wrong. That is for you to decide. But the more important, underlying, question of the moment is not whether he is right or wrong, but whether he has a right to voice his opinions in the arena of public discourse regardless of how unpopular they may be in some quarters. He is not wrong in simply asking the question whether there is something inherent in Islam that leads to institutional, organized violence by some of its adherents. Nor is he wrong in suggesting that that inherent something — if it exists — would put Islam in direct cultural conflict with Western values.

 

Whether Maher is right or wrong, he has posed assertions worthy of examination. That others see in them evidence of bigotry, and in their zeal move to suppress both him and them, only lends weight to his arguments. First, if there is nothing in the practices and teachings of Islam that can give credence to his assertions, why is the reaction by Muslims and others to damn him for bigotry quite so immediate and strident? Why not simply answer those assertions with calm, deliberative argument? Secondly, doesn’t the zeal for suppression by Muslims itself evidence a conflict with Western values?

 

Unsettling, even disturbing, questions often challenge us to rational examination through open-ended inquiry, which leads to a newer, better understanding of the world around us and our place within it. Accordingly, in Western culture, we have learned over time to allow all to speak their opinions freely and to uphold the rational over the dogmatic in sorting out truths from falsehood. We see evidence every day that some sects or groups within Islam have not yet learned how to do this, and tend to uphold the dogmatic over the rational even to the point of violence and murder. However, in my view, that failing on the part of some does not make it inherent to the whole of Islam. Furthermore, we see the same failing within groups in Western culture: Flat-earthers, Creationists, White Supremacists, and the Berkeley student body. Does their predilection for the dogmatic over the rational prove a broadly inherent failing of Western culture? It does not.

 

What is dead-certain in any society’s bifurcated search for truth, as conducted by those whose predilections run to the rational versus those who uphold the dogmatic, is that the dogmatists will always first attempt to suppress the rationalists. It doesn’t really matter whether it’s Neo-Nazi’s, Christian Fundamentalists, 15th-century Spanish Jesuits, modern-day Sunni Salafists, or a student body living in a distorted world seen through the coke-bottle lenses of political correctness — the reaction by the dogmatists to suppress is as predictable as the sunrise. The reason is quite simple: the revealed truths of rational, open-ended inquiry always poses an existential threat to the convenient, comfortable, received truths of dogma.

 

More Below the Fold

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Harry Potter and the 2014 Election

by gregladen on November 5, 2014 · 2 comments

Separated at birth? Maybe not. But still ...

Separated at birth? Maybe not. But still …

Harry Potter and the 2014 Election

The Potter Metaphor

 

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s stone is the first in a series of books that are metaphorical of the central theme of politics and society in the Western world. Voldemort represents purity of race and racism, the good Witches and Wizards of Hogwarts represent the struggle of self aware consensus around the idea of fairness. The key protagonists — Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, and Ron Weasley, together with a few others — succeed because of the diversity in ability they collectively represent.

 

One of the key moments in J. K. Rowling’s book is the solution of the potions challenge on the way to the hidden room containing the Sorcerer’s stone. There are several challenges and problems, and each one is met by a different protagonist. Harry has the ability to make Hagrid reveal his poorly kept secrets, so among other things the three students find out how to control Fuffy, the giant three-headed hound. He is also a skilled Seeker, and can thus grab the flying key. Hermione is the one that notices the trap door. Ron for all his failings is a master at Wizard Chess. The theme here is obvious. The three students often fail to understand each other and often do not see eye to eye, but by combining their different strengths and working together, they accomplish what no individual Witch or Wizard could do. The part about the potions challenge is a notably extreme case of this.

 

Voldemort and his death eaters, and the Slytherin such as Draco Malfoy and his father, as well as Snape, resent the half breeds and muggle-born. They wish to see those who are not pure removed from their society, by any means. The historical fact that Voldemort himself is a halfbreed, a thinly veiled reference to Hitler’s Jewish connections, is beside the point. But it is the muggle-born Hermione who solves the potions puzzle using a Muggle capacity rarely found in Wizards. Wizards, we are told by Rowling, have magical minds, not logical minds. Among the Muggles we find those like Hermione, who probably spent hours with brain teaser books as an eight year old, who are capable of solving complex logical problems, problems that seem impossible but in fact have only one solution. When Hermione and Harry reach the potions challenge, where drinking all of the liquids but one will cause a horrible outcome, but that one potion will open the next door, her Muggle mind comes into play. Harry does not understand how Hermione has solved the problem, but he trusts her with his life.

 

It is very unfortunate that this scene was left out of the movie version of the story, even though it is alluded to after the fact. As far as I can tell, the scene was never shot (correct me if I am wrong). To me, this is a key message in Rowling’s book. The fact that it was not transferred into the movie version, and that commentary on the book vs. movie differences tend note it but do not lament it, is a bit disappointing.

 
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DFL excitement in the SW ‘burbs

by JeffStrate on November 3, 2014 · 1 comment

 
The troops at the DFL Coordinated Campaign Office in Hopkins were visited by Senator Amy Klobuchar, Lt. Governor Candidate Tina Smith and State Senators Melisa Franzen and Terri Bonoff. The elected  luminaries were there to cheer the hardworking southwest suburban candidate teams on. Those candidates included Congressional District 3 DFL endorsed Sharon Sund and MN House Candidates John Applebaum (44B -Mtka, Plmth), Cheryl Youakim (46B-Hopkins, St.LP) and Yvonne Selcer (Mtka, Eden Prairie). Rep. Selcer has the most competitive race.
 
No one expected anything less than full throated but seasoned cheer leading and they got it. All were in top spirits. Yvonne Selcer reminded the gathered that her 202 vote victory two years ago was only possible with lots of volunteer shoe leather during the last two days of that campaign.  Right winger Kirk Stensrud and big check writers have been at it again with toxic mailings in an attempt to take back House District 48A, northern Eden Prairie and southern Minntonka.
 
This internet only video is from Democratic Visions.
 

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HD49B Barb Sutter has unique definition of independent

by Eric Ferguson on November 3, 2014 · 1 comment

HD49B Barb Sutter lit

Barb Sutter lit in HD 49B


HD49B GOP candidate Barb Sutter says at the top of her campaign lit “Barb Sutter is an independent voice for our community” (click the image to enlarge). I suppose “independent” sounds good in a swing district, if appealing to voters inclined to split tickets. It sounds like someone who isn’t beholden to a party or any big donors or special interests. Yep, sounds good. And sounds funny, given that before becoming the candidate, Sutter was, no kidding, the SD49 GOP chair. Independent enough to make up a new definition of independent I guess.
 

She mentioned being the chair before becoming the candidate in an interview a few months ago on Republican Roundtable, a local public access program. This wasn’t the only instance where she’d showed interesting understandings of things. In that same interview, she agreed that schools increase the number of students labeled “special needs” just to get more money. The interviewer was the one who said it, and she replied, “There’s truth to that”. Embedding is disabled on this video, so you’ll have to follow the link. Scroll ahead in the video to 14:30.

 

“There’s truth to that”. So you know this, do you? It’s fraud, so you’ve reported the schools doing this, right? No? Are you countenancing fraud, or just making up what you’re saying? Basically, the whole interview is some variation of:
 
INTERVIEWER: Government sucks and everyone is dishonest.
Sutter: Yep.
 
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State DFL’s GOTV tour visits Hopkins

by JeffStrate on October 31, 2014 · 2 comments

Democratic Visions taped some of the action when the DFL’s Get Out the Vote Tour bus visited its Coordinated Campaign office in Hopkins.  State Party Chief Ken Martin, Lt. Gov. candidate Tina Smith, 3 CD congressional candidate Sharon Sund, State Auditor Rebecca Otto and St. Paul Mayor Chris Colemen pumped up the hard working gathered.  Other notables can be spotted behind the speakers.  From Hopkins, the DFL bus headed to Carleton College, Northfield, then to Eagan, Oakdale, Hmong Village on Saint Paul’s eastside and the DFL Office in Frogtown (St. Paul).   Rather than follow the bus of politicos, electeds and worker bees, Dem Vis retreated to its edit bay to assemble this video.  It runs about 9:30.

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HD10B clarity sits next to incoherency

by Eric Ferguson on October 30, 2014 · 1 comment

That headline might sound more cryptic than it really is. Incumbent DFL State Rep. Joe Radinovich sat next to MNGOP challenger Dale Lueck during their recent debate. One question for the candidates was about a proposal to replace our current method of electing judges with retention elections, and that’s the incoherency part. If you can understand Lueck’s answer, you’re a step ahead of the candidate (starting at 14:30):
 

 
Leuck seems to be saying he opposes changing to retention elections, but then goes on about all the problems with current system, says we can’t change it because of the constitution, and finishes by saying “we just gotta own up, and get busy on that.” He can’t be entirely unaware of the issue, because he later said Iowa has retention elections, which is correct, and no judge can ever be removed that way, which is remarkably wrong. In 2010, Iowa voters removed three state supreme court justices for overturning Iowa’s same-sex marriage ban. If you’re going to pick a state for an example, wow, bad choice.
 

Advance the video to 31:42 for the clarity part, when Radinovich gets his turn at answering a question about MNSure and gets to rebut Lueck’s answer. DFL candidates struggling with that should feel free to copy. Radinovich explained the delay the MNSure faced because the Republican majority in the legislature had chosen to delay. He then went on to explain the benefits that have already accrued to the public, like less reliance on emergency rooms, no more denial of insurance for pre-existing conditions, and the large drop in the number of Minnesotans who are uninsured. Lueck had a response that was, well, it was more coherent that his judicial retention answer.
 

And one little gem later on: Lueck said the issue over transgender kids in high school sports was caused by gay marriage. So there’s your choice 10B. As a general rule, you’re better off with the smart candidate.

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