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Celebrating budget shortfalls

by Eric Ferguson on May 21, 2015 · 1 comment

UPDATE: Four governors with presidential ambitions and self-inflicted budget shortfalls
 
There’s some schadenfreude to be sure in the self-inflicted problems some Republican state governments are having with budget shortfalls, but there’s also a need to think and fact-check before speaking it aloud. Why start an “we told you so” sort of post with a “maybe not” sort of warning? Because as true as it is that Republicans caused some shortfalls with ill-advised but ideologically correct tax cuts, this is partly fallout from the precipitous decline in oil prices.
 
Plus it’s not fun to think about the problem getting even worse and Republicans taking the opportunity to inflict even more dysfunction on government than they have already. From an AP review of state budgets:
 

Alaska relies heavily on oil revenue and projects a $3.2 billion budget shortfall for the coming fiscal year. A special legislative session has been called after lawmakers failed to agree on a way to fund the budget, even though the state has plenty of money in reserves to cover the gap.
 
That’s not the case in Illinois, where lawmakers are trying to figure out how to close a $6 billion projected shortfall for the next fiscal year, due largely to the expiration of a temporary tax increase.
 
Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, who campaigned against the tax plan, has suggested cuts to health care, local governments and other areas. But lawmakers in the Democratic-led General Assembly say spending cuts alone will not close the gap.
 
In Kansas, the Republican governor and GOP-dominated Legislature now confront budget deficits after aggressive tax cutting that prompted them to reduce school funding this spring.
 
Districts across the state have cut staff and programs such as summer school, and at least eight are ending the current school year early to save money.

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clowncarIs this a ten-year-old acting tough on the playground, or an actual US senator seeking a major party nomination for president? The latter, sad to say. Marco Rubio thinks quoting movie lines is the way to scare terrorists. h/t Salon:
 

 
Not that this necessarily hurts his chances of winning the Republican nomination. As the Salon writer put it:
 

This is precisely the sort of dick-swinging swagger that conservatives loved (and still love) about George W. Bush. (When W. landed on the aircraft carrier to declare “Mission Accomplished,” G. Gordon Liddy was awestruck over how he could see Bush’s penis through his parachute harness.) The fact said swagger resulted in a decade-long foreign policy disaster that we’ll be struggling to clean up for many long years to come is secondary to the fact that the world knew that Bush was tough and would hit people really hard if they looked at America cross-wise. “Bring ‘em on,” Bush famously declared, channeling his inner action hero and taunting the enemies of America to just try and test our resolve.

 
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Artist's conception. Not actually  a Republican primary voter

Artist’s conception. Not actually a Republican primary voter

So this is a bit scary. From a poll of likely Republican primary voters, and consider these are the people picking a major party candidate:

 

q23 Do you think that the Government is trying to
take over Texas or not?
The Government is trying to take over Texas 32%
The Government is not trying to take over Texas 40%
Not sure 28%

How nice that a plurality could recognize stupidity. However, add the believers and the undecided, and 60% of Republicans believe it’s somewhere between plausible and true that Jade Helm 15 is a cover for martial law or locking up the “patriots” in empty Walmarts. The only patriots locked up in Walmart are the workers locked in when their shifts are over but their managers want some free labor.

 
The PPP poll asked about presidential candidates and the results will affect #ThisGuyWantsToBePresident, but first, a slight tangent related to Jade Helm 15. A different poll had an unexpected result:
 

The Rasmussen survey found that particular concern was partisan: 50 percent of conservatives believed military training exercises would lead to greater federal control of some states. By contrast, 67 percent of liberals and 58 percent of those who identified as moderates said they weren’t concerned, according to the survey.

That’s right, you’re not seeing things. Liberals trust the armed forces more than conservatives do. This is foolish when there were troops in the streets of Minneapolis just today. I saw them! Are they seizing my guns? Are they planning to lock us up? Are they … having lunch in the same restaurant I am … oh. Right, Fort Snelling is close by. Never mind.
 
OK, enough laughing at the loonies and back to how the PPP poll affects #ThisGuyWantsToBePresident. The beginning idea is that by the time we know who the Republican candidate will be, the foibles of early 2015 will have gone down the memory hole no matter how relevant. So the hashtag can be searched on Twitter (and maybe Facebook to some degree) and the hashtag or the title can be searched here. Since the candidate could be anyone being talked about in national media, the idea was to just track them all. That seemed more plausible when there were fewer of them, but Rachel Maddow the other night counted 20 that are either officially running, unofficially running, or making “look at me!” noises and are too plausible as candidates to be blown off. I won’t speak for anyone else, but I give in. I can’t follow that many. Time to cull the sprouts, much earlier than planned, but I still don’t want to rely on my own sense that “no way this guy is going to win”. I want some data, and that linked PPP poll is rich in it.
 
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CD1 Hagedorn in Cornish out

by Eric Ferguson on May 14, 2015 · 1 comment

h/t Daily Kos Elections
 
First district Rep. Tim Walz may be getting lucky, as his hapless opponent from 2014, Jim Hagedorn, is running again. Well, maybe not completely hapless, since he did beat a party endorsee in the primary, Aaron Miller. The endorsee worked at a biotech company but denied evolution is real, and they thought this was the stronger candidate. Primary voters preferred to go with the guy saying stupid misogynist stuff in his blog.
 
State Rep. Tony Cornish, R-NRA, announced he plans to seek reelection to his state house seat rather than challenging Walz. Given that he didn’t even have a DFL opponent in 2014, hard to blame him going for the sure seat. Come on DFLers of HD23B, make him at least campaign a bit in 2016.
 
Comment below fold.
 
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clowncarGuess I was wrong. I figured when Jeb Bush said, “What you need to know is that who I listen to when I need advice on the Middle East is George W. Bush,” that was as disqualifying a statement as any candidate for public office ever uttered. Forget president: were Bush a candidate for county board, or city council, or soil district commissioner said something like that, you’d assume his judgment was far too suspect to allow him to be further considered. But nope. Turns out Bush could come up with something even worse to say.
 
Oddly enough, Fox News gave him his, um, opportunity. Bush said, “I would have,” which is harmful given the question he was answering. “Knowing what we know now, would you have authorized the invasion?” Naturally, we on the Democratic side will be bringing that up more than once. Republicans will have to choose between acknowledging the reality of arguably the single biggest blunder in US foreign policy history, or playing to a base that insists in telling itself that the war went just fine until Obama screwed it up by pulling out (in compliance with the status of forces agreement with the Iraqi government, mostly negotiated under Bush’s brother, but never mind the little point that the Iraqi government wanted us out).
 
If Bush does go for the “I thought the question was given what we knew then” spin, that’s not necessarily better given how we learned too late just how much knowledge the Bush administration withheld from Congress and the press. That begs the question, just who is the “we” in “what we knew”? What the Bush administration really knew, or the parts it told us about?
 
UPDATE: Apparently, Bush is going to go for claiming he misunderstood the question. Though lest he be accused of admitting a mistake, “Yeah, I don’t know what that decision would’ve been”. And wasn’t the surge great? Chris Christie gave a sense of where BUsh’s intraparty opponents might go. Having the sense to say he wouldn’t invade knowing what we know now, Christie felt the need to bow to stupidity:
 

Christie said that he believed former President George W. Bush did make “the best decision he could at the time” given the information coming from the U.S. intelligence community and the situation on the ground in Iraq.

Sure, if you’re willing to forget Bush ignored all the information that didn’t fit the pre-determined conclusion, which unfortunately was most of the intelligence. But let’s blame the intelligence agencies for that I guess. And let’s pretend Democrats would have done the same thing: “And so would have Hillary Clinton, just to remind everybody. And so would almost everybody that was confronted with the intelligence they got.” Hillary owned up to the mistake, albeit not until well into the 2008 campaign and it cost her the presidency IMHO, and does anyone take seriously the notion she would have invaded Iraq had she been president after 911? Or any Democrat? “Almost everybody” doesn’t include most congressional Democrats, who figured it out even with the limited and often wrong information Bush provided. So no, Bush and Bush and bushies and other Republicans, you own the invasion and occupation of Iraq with all the consequences.
 
SECOND UPDATE: Bush came up with a bit of spin I hadn’t guessed at:
 

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) on Wednesday said that he has refused to answer whether he would order the Iraq War knowing what he knows now, because it would disrespect the troops, according to CNN.

I’m starting to think I actually want the Republicans to pick this guy.
 
#ThisGuyWantsToBePresident

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Big Media Sucks: Madmen Big Finale Spoiler

by Invenium Viam on May 12, 2015 · 0 comments

60's bs
Cringe-worthy, even back then

I wanted to title this post Big Media Sucks: Told You So Edition but most normal people already know Big Media sucks and nobody likes to witness self-congratulatory displays — which seem uncomfortably to Minnesotans like a form of public auto-eroticism — and which means I wouldn’t have gotten any readers.

 

So I decided to reveal/spoil the jaw-dropping, series-ending Big Finale of Madmen instead. Spoiler Alert: If you don’t want to know how Madmen ends before the actual broadcast next Sunday, stop reading now.

 

The deal is, you gotta indulge me and read to the end of this post. Only then shall you have your just reward, Grasshopper.

 

Last month, I pointed out that Big Media was only too happy to chicken-little the April jobs report to shill more useless retail crap to the Great Unwitting Unwashed, as if 126,000 jobs was something more than a minor speed bump in Obama’s truly astonishing and historic record of continuous employment growth. See: Obama’s Economic Policies Achieve Full Employment During Record 61 Straight Months of Private Sector Job Growth.

 

In light of how RW media has continued to denounce the Obama Recovery from the Great Recession as weak and lackluster by applying the wholly invalid measures of past cyclical economic downturns — as if they were one-in-the-same-thing — and all the while completely unchallenged by the brainless mediators at CNN and elsewhere who get six figures each year to look pretty on-camera, but not paid a dime to think on their feet — in light of all that, Big Media owes it to the American public to explain how badly you folks all have been bewitched, bamboozled and beguiled by a continuous stream of RW lies nested within lies like an endless series of mendacious Matrushka dolls. But, of course, admit fault they never do and up pay they never will.

 

So now we have the April jobs report, which says:

America can breathe a sigh of relief. The economy is improving with the spring weather.

 

The U.S. added 223,000 jobs in April, a healthy pick up after a disappointing March and about in line with what economists surveyed by CNNMoney projected.

 

April’s strong job gains reflect a trend the country saw last year: job growth cooling in the winter months, then gaining momentum into the spring.

 

“They are good numbers,” says Kate Warne, investment strategist at Edward Jones. “It’s reassuring that we saw job growth rebound to above 200,000.”

 

The good news doesn’t stop there. The unemployment rate dropped to 5.4%, its lowest mark since May 2008.   CNN.COM

 

See, kids? You only had to wait about a month to find out that Big Media was bloated chock full of impacted rancid h*rsesh*t in how it reported the March job numbers. Those Big Media hucksters can’t stop trying to chump you folks for loose bills. But you’re not chumps, are you, boys and girls? That’s why you come here, to MNPP, to commandeer your political opinions and insights from knowledgeable sources with no money in the game and a least a dram or two of personal integrity. Good for you. And smart move. We at MNPP live to serve.

 

I wonder why Fox News viewers can never seem to figure out that they’re getting played daily for bunch of clueless rubes? Home schooling? It’s like never catching on that you never win at Three Card Monte. Whatever the cause, it’s not my problem.

 

Thanks for indulging me. I needed to get that one off my chest.

 

So here’s the spoiler on Madmen. After his road trip of self-discovery and personal enlightenment, Don Draper returns to McCann a spiritually reborn ‘New Man,’ one finally at peace with himself and others (which tells you that his life-process of self discovery is sadly at an end). While he is pitching a brilliant new ad campaign to a big account, he falls out of a window in a final reprise of the show’s long-standing opening credits sequence and is killed. As he falls, he passes characters from earlier episodes in the series who wave him goodbye. Bye, Don. It’s been real. Or not. Mostly not.

 

Draper’s tragic end was foreshadowed on the May 3rd episode when he heard the wind-whistle coming from a large window in his new office at McCann and tested it to discover that the window glass was loose in the frame. An omen, you see. Now, knowing that no part of a television drama is included in the final cut unless it moves the story forward, what do you think that omen portends? Politically savvy folks like us know how to read the omens.

 

There you have it. You can Twitter your friends if you like. Just be sure to let them know you heard it here first at Minnesota Progressive Project. And report back here with your comments after the show!! We love comments. We really do.

 

 

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sanders-warren

A left-wing insurgency could spell trouble for Hillary.

We come on a ship they called the Mayflower,

We come on a ship that sailed the Moon.
We come in the age’s most uncertain hours
And sing an American tune …

                American Tune, Simon & Garfunkle

 

 

Lots of people think Senator Bernie Sanders (I, Vt.) is a Democrat. Even some political talking heads seem to think so. He is not.

 

Bernie Sanders is a socialist (or, as he calls himself, a “democratic-socialist”), who associates with the Vermont Progressive Party but who campaigns as an Independent and caucuses with the Democrats on legislation. In the Senate, he is counted as a Democrat for purposes of committee assignments. He chairs the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs and is the ranking virtual-Democrat on the Senate Budget Committee.

 

In announcing his campaign for the presidency in 2016, Sanders stated that he will be running as a Democrat for the democratic nomination — even though he is not currently a Democrat. But in fact, he has no plans to register in his home state as a Democrat for the very good reason that he can’t. Vermont has no party registration and, like Minnesota, has an open primary system.

 

Consequently, it is unclear whether Senator Sanders will even be able to change his party affiliation and declare himself a Democrat later this year, come October, in preparation for the all-important New Hampshire primary. Obviously, a strong showing in New Hampshire is crucial for his campaign to gather sufficient momentum and money to attract delegates and offer a serious challenge to the Clintonites at the Democratic National Convention next year.

 

The problem for Sanders is that, although he ran in the Vermont democratic primary for the Senate in 2006 and 2012 (legal under Vermont election laws) and won each time, he then rejected the endorsement of Vermont Democrats for the general election and filed his campaign papers as an Independent. So he has established a clear history of rejecting the Democrat brand. In fact, Sanders has never run in any general election as a Democrat and has never called himself a Democrat until now.

 

Hence, it is equally unclear whether Senator Sanders is even eligible to run for the Democratic nomination, or for that matter, whether he is eligible to participate in the Democratic debates. Everyone seems to assume so, but everyone could be wrong. All I know as a Democrat myself is that the party has rules about who gets to call themselves a Democrat and who doesn’t for purposes of seeking party endorsement, a system that becomes increasinly stringent the higher you go. And I know that there are well-defined rules for issuing challenges to those individuals who haven’t established proper credentials.

 

At the same time, Sanders is the Dear Darling of the political left, a group known to get a bit peevish when they don’t get their way, which makes them peevish a lot. Imagine what will happen if Hillary’s campaign moves to block Sanders from appearing in the Democratic debates, which they may have every right to do given his history of rejecting any formal association with the party. Imagine if Hillary’s supporters in New Hampshire move to block Sanders from appearing on the Democratic primary ballot, which again they may have every right to do. Imagine what will happen if the Clintonites in other primary states do the same. Imagine what will happen if her campaign moves to block any national delegates that Sanders manages to cobble together during the primary season from being seated at the national convention, which under convention rules they might have every right to do.

 

The result would be a left-wing insurgency. And, far from anointing an heir-apparent, far unlike the outcome of a floor fight at a nominating convention, a left-wing insurgency would put a Hillary presidency in grave doubt.

 

A left-wing insurgency could happen, regardless of whether the Clintonites decide to play hardball. Sanders is not stupid. It won’t take him long to see the writing on the wall. A party nomination just isn’t in the cards, Boyo; you haven’t paid the bridge troll his pint of blood. At the same time, Sanders is a passionate and committed Champion of the Little Guy. He is a working-class mensch who remembers fondly the folks who raised him up and fondly the places he once called home. And he is that most difficult of all men to control: a poet-warrior, a gentleman-brawler, a man of honor whose word is his bond and who puts integrity before money or friendship.

 

Sanders believes — and he is quite correct — that the Great American Experiment in Self-government stands now at it’s eleventh hour. The government we have today already embodies an unholy union of corporatocracy and oligarchy, each supporting and defending the interests of the other. Only a vestige of what was once a true democratic-republic remains, since the mostly ineffectual election laws we created to preserve it were skinned and gutted by the Supreme Tort (a.k.a., Citizens United — may Scalia and his ilk burn in Hell). Sanders sees himself as a dragon-slayer and a true patriot. He will not go down without a fight, god bless him. So when the machine Democrats supporting Hillary start to throw knee-breakers in his path, and they will, because they must, Sanders will look for another route to his goal. Mark my words.

 

At that juncture, Sanders will withdraw his bid for the Democratic nomination and announce a run as an Independent. He is comfortable as an Independent. In so doing, he’s certain to fracture the vote for Hillary in the general election, but he’ll also divide the money taps into her campaign reservoirs long before then. Then we’ll be looking at a 3-way race and one entirely winnable by a fierce independent in the mold of Teddy Roosevelt. It’s perhaps telling that the logo of the Vermont Progressive Party is a Bull Moose. Imagine a coalition of disaffected progressive Democrats, Greens, Socialists and independents supporting a Sanders campaign under the independent banner of a New Bull Moose Coalition. It could happen, y’know.

 

Gallup-poll

In September of last year, a Gallup poll showed that nearly 60% of Americans believe a third political party is needed because the Democrats and Republicans do such a poor job of representing the American people. Those views have been pretty consistent since 2007. So there’s a lot of sentiment out there that neither party is quite cutting the mustard. Furthermore, about 66% of the electorate currently holds the view that the country is moving in the wrong direction (http://www.pollingreport.com/right.htm). And polls consistently show Congress at historic lows in approval ratings.

 

Would that sentiment translate into support for an insurgent, independent progressive campaign? Dare we believe that an independent campaign might be a dose of Viagra for an impotent political system and a flaccid government?

 

Yes, we do.  It would just take a tiny pinch of Pixie Dust to make it happen. That “Pixie” goes by the name of Elizabeth Warren.

 

More Below the Fold

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clowncarRepublican presidential candidates should have known they would be asked about Jade Helm 15, the military exercise in several southwestern states that has the nutty wing of the Republican Party, affectionately known these days as “the Republican Party”, thinking the federal government is sneakily establishing martial law, complete with locking up all the “patriots” and taking away everyone’s guns. The tin foil hatters were validated in their fear by new Texas Gov. Greg Abbott who showed that former Gov. Rick Perry was the smart one (please don’t tell me if Perry weighed in equally stupidly)(actually, yes, that would be fun, do tell me).
 
So given a chance to be the Texas Republican who retains a connection to reality, Sen. Ted Cruz chose instead to remember the base he’s playing to:
 

Cruz was more plugged in. “I have a great deal of faith and confidence in Governor Abbott,” said the senator. “He is a long-time friend and mentor of mine. You know, I understand a lot of the concerns raised by a lot of citizens about Jade Helm. It’s a question I’m getting a lot. And I think part of the reason is we have seen, for six years, a federal government disrespecting the liberty of the citizens. That produces fear, when you see a government that is attacking our free speech rights, or Second Amendment rights, or religious liberty rights. That produces distrust.”

You know what else produces distrust? Demagogic politicians telling reality-detached people their paranoid fantasies are true. Worth a read, Paul Krugman wonders what Democratic politician would give credence to something so crazy, and notices intelligent conservatives indulging paranoia in other areas: Paranoia Strikes Derp.
 
UPDATE: Well, turns out Perry went off in his own direction. He disagreed with his successor, but not because his successor is giving credence to paranoid delusion. No, Perry just thinks it’s wrong to question the military. “It’s OK to question your government. I do it on a regular basis. But the military is something else. Our military is quite trustworthy. The civilian leadership, you can always question that, but not the men and women in uniform.”
 
Does Perry not get that the military is part of the government, and supposedly as open to questioning as any other part of the government? Can’t there be a happy medium between believing the armed forces are out to impose martial law under guise of training, and saying you can’t question them at all?

 

Artist's conception. Not actually Ben Carson

Artist’s conception. Not actually Ben Carson

I’m not aware freshly officially declared candidate Ben Carson has jumped on that crazy train, but he has his own crazy railroad. Carson is running for president on the basis of being popular on the conservative speaking circuit, which popularity he gained by going on a wingnutty rant at a National Prayer Breakfast with President Obama in attendance. Speaking of which, why do presidents go to this thing when they aren’t themselves on the theocratically ossified right? Carson fit right in; Obama, not so much. Salon writer Jim Newell accumulated a bunch of examples of Carson being himself, from saying Obamacare is the worst thing since slavery and worse than 911, to saying the solution to peace between Israel and Palestine is to move Palestine to Egypt, and prisons produce homosexuals.
 
If you want your sleep disturbed tonight, just ponder on the fact Carson used to be allowed to work on brains.

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Thugs and messaging fail

by Eric Ferguson on May 4, 2015 · 1 comment

The DFL of the my senate district recently started a book club with the intention of focusing on messaging and explaining Democratic values (no, you need not live in the district to attend). The first meeting discussed one of the preeminent books on the subject, Don’t Think of an Elephant by George Lakoff. Always a worthwhile subject, made more timely by the riots in Baltimore and a huge messaging fail that’s a prime example of the biggest way Democrats screw this up. Well, we said at the end of the book club we should think of some examples to add to what Lakoff provided. Might have been nice if subsequent events hadn’t made it so easy.
 
Let me put it his way: President Obama spoke for about 15 minutes on the Baltimore riots and the context in which they occurred, but he used the word “thug”, and nobody heard a single other word he said. Seriously, without digging up the video, name anything else he said. The president violated one of the rules of messaging, and the mayor of Baltimore committed the exact same violation. Never use your opponent’s words. If you do want to dig up the video, I dug it up for you.
 
It’s OK if you don’t get “framing” and “messaging” to such an extent that you could explain them to someone else. It’s enough for most of us to learn some dos and don’ts, so you can at least recognize it when you hear it and avoid some mistakes. One of those don’ts is don’t use your opponent’s words because your opponent has likely chosen those words to build or activate the audiences’ frames in a way that favor your opponent. You play into that by using the opponent’s words. You don’t have to get just what frame is being activated to be aware that when we hear the same word or phrase being used by Fox News, conservative talk radio, Republican politicians, and our conservative friends, it’s on purpose. In this case, the word used over and over again is “thug”. Even if you didn’t get that “thug” was being used as a racial code word to make you think “black” when you hear “thug”, the fact that it was repeated frequently should have told you it’s a word to avoid. So what harm did the president and the mayor of Baltimore do?
 
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The DFL Botanical Garden

by JeffStrate on April 30, 2015 · 0 comments

 
Well, MPP possums, few words are needed.  Lets enable the video to speak for itself as the Minnesota Legislature lurches into May.  The bit appears on the new edition of Democratic Visions and is a no budget initiative by Timid Video Theater and a hand full of lefty volunteers.
 

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