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clown carJohn Kasich said something odd during a recent appearance on Face the Nation, and I’m not just referring to “And when I left Washington, we had a $5 trillion surplus.” I’m referring to this:

But what I have found, as you know, I’m now — my campaign has gone on for slightly more than just two months, John, and you know I’m in the top tier in New Hampshire, I’m beginning to rise in Iowa. So if it — if what I’m saying is not true, then I should be — I should be getting out of the race, which I am not because I think we’re making really good progress and connecting.

What question must he have been responding to? Why he’s staying in the race when he’s doing so poorly? No, he was asked about a “climate” where experienced governors are getting nowhere in the GOP primary polls. He responded by justifying staying in the race. It seems that was the question he was expecting. Why would you be preparing that answer if you’re not having to convince the voters in the donor primary that you’re still a viable candidate?
Actually, I expect Rand Paul to be the next to drop out following news that a supporting superPAC has decided his campaign is a lost cause, but maybe Kasich won’t be far behind — especially given that his claims abut the polls are pretty much just happy talk. He’s sure stuck down in the milieu in the national polling, though he referred specifically to “beginning to rise Iowa” and being “in the top tier in New Hampshire”. That’s a pretty generous definition of “top tier”, and apparently he thinks “rise” doesn’t include any upward motion from a low point.
Friday’s Pew Poll even has Kasich below the soon-to-depart Paul, down in positively Walkerian levels of barely registering.
The thing that annoys me is hearing liberals saying Kasich seems like the reasonable one. Is there some requirement to pick out a less-clownish clown from the passengers of the clown car? Yes, it’s true he’s given conservatives some reason to dislike him, like when he kept saying in the second debate that foreign policy problems need to include working with allies, and he’s one of the few Republican governors who accepted the Medicaid expansion to cover the people who fell in the hole between Medicaid eligibility and eligibility for private plan subsidies. He even cited the bible in defense of a liberal belief. Wrong party for that.
However, something to bring to the attention if anyone saying he’s not so bad, when Kasich was in the US House, he wrote the law restricting food stamp eligibility for childless adults to just three months in any three year period. This was too harsh even for some of his fellow Republicans, so states were allowed to seek waivers if unemployment was high enough. As governor, Kasich accepted the waiver — for some poor Ohioans. He sought waivers of overwhelmingly white rural counties, but excluded counties with large minority populations.

In 2014, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) had the option to waive time limits on food stamps for the entire state. Due to a struggling economy and high unemployment, Ohio had qualified for and accepted this statewide waiver from the US Department of Agriculture every year since 2007, including during most of Kasich’s first term as governor. But this time, Kasich rejected the waiver for the next two years in most of the state’s 88 counties. His administration did accept them for 16 counties in 2014 and for 17 counties in 2015. Most of these were rural counties with small and predominantly white populations. Urban counties and cities, most of which had high minority populations, did not get waivers.

When you have to temper compassion with fiscal austerity, you recognize you can’t help everybody, so … just help the white rural areas. “So if it — if what I’m saying is not true, then I should be — I should be getting out of the race … ” I have a feeling the donors might soon agree.
Comment below fold.

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What YOU can do about gun violence

by gregladen on October 2, 2015 · 0 comments

Why you have to do something about guns


This message is primarily for those living in the United States. In the US, we have an outdated Constitutional amendment that has been interpreted by many, including the courts, in a way that hampers effective legislation to address what is clearly a major problem with the proliferation and use of firearms in inappropriate ways. We are frequently reminded of this by the regular occurrence of mass killings such as the recent event in Oregon. But really, that is a small part of the problem, numerically. I lay out some of the numbers below, and address some of the arguments that regulation of guns should be absent or minimal. We have another problem as well, one that is paralleled in many other areas of policy. Special interest groups such as the National Rifle Association, through pressure and campaign financing, control much of the Congress.


Other countries have addressed their gun violence problem effectively. We can too. But in order for that to happen, this has to happen:


1) The specious arguments against gun regulation have to be called out for what they are, and ultimately, ignored.


2) Citizen pressure on our elected representatives has to be increased significantly.


3) Organized efforts against the gun industry and the gun lobby have to be supported.


Your role as a citizen is critical. There are three steps you can take. Here, I’m asking you to take one of them, the one that requires the least effort and would likely have the largest impact. First, the other two. You can learn more about the gun problem, by reading this post to the end, and reading other material. After that, don’t let the gun supporters off easy when they pull out their arguments. Tell them they are wrong, and why. I understand and respect the fact that most of you are not going to do this, but some of you may be inclined to do so, and I thank you for that. Another idea is to check your investments (like your 401k) to see if you are supporting the gun industry. If so, see if you can fix that. You can find information about that here.


The easy step you can take, and likely the most effective, is to send a note right now to your representative in Congress. I’m told (see this) that a written letter delivered by the US Post Office has a significantly larger impact when it arrives on the desk of your Congressperson than an email (or tweet or a signature on a petition), so do please spend the stamp and do that if you can. But an email is good too, and if that is all you have time for, please do it.


Write your own note, but here are a few suggestions.


Write your Senators.


You have two US Senators. Find out who they are and get their contact details here. Usually there is a form to fill out. I suggest you say something like this:


Dear Senator,


I am a voter living in your state, and you represent me in the US Senate.


Firearms have become one of the most significant sources of injury and death in the United States. Yet Congress has done little to address this problem. We have made cars and toasters safer with sensible regulation, but have not done so with firearms.


I am writing you to urge you to take action to address this problem. Also, please tell me what you have done so far and what you plan to do in the immediate future.




your name here


Write your representative in Congress


You have one representative in the US House. Find out who that is here. Send that person a note as well. An example:


Dear Congressperson,


I am a voter living in your district, and you represent me in the House of Representatives.


I am writing to ask what actions you have taken to reduce gun violence and deploy sensible regulations of firearms. Also, what actions do you plan to take in the near future?


Gun violence has become one of the most serious problems we face in this country, including massive numbers of youth suicide. Yet, Congress has failed to act effectively to address this problem. I urge you to to do so.




your name here


Read the rest of my post if you want more background before writing the notes. Or, just do it if you don’t feel the need to do so. Ask your friends and relatives to write their reps. Ask your Facebook friends and Twitter followers, and your buddies on Instagram and Pinterest to help out.


Gun morbidity and mortality rivals other sources


When people talk, especially in social media, about this or that alleged dangerous thing (pesticides, nuclear radiation wafting from Fukushima to California, failure to purge, vaccination) it is very rare that Godwin’s Law comes into play (the mention of the Nazis or Holocaust to eventually come up). But quite often someone will make the comparison between the deadly issue of concern and car deaths. “More people die in their cars than by eating GMO corn,” someone will say.


Indeed, we see reference to automobile deaths as a misleading rhetorical device to diminish the importance of firearm fatalities. I’ll quote from Briebart: “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) final report on death statistics for 2013 shows there were 35,369 deaths from motor vehicle accidents versus 505 deaths from the accidental discharge of firearms. That is not a typo—35,369 versus 505. Americans are 70 times more likely to die in a vehicle accident than by the accidental discharge of a firearm.”


The truth is that the average annual rate of death by firearms is currently about 32,529. About 67,000 people are injured annually by firearms in the US. So, while you were not looking, cars got safer. The annual rate of death by car has declined steadily in recent decades owing to increases safety standards, even as the rate of cars per person on the road has increased. It is about half as dangerous to ride around in a car these days than it was before aggressive implementation of safety laws, and for some groups this number has declined even more (i.e., children).


It is also true that gun related deaths and injuries have declined over time, but not by much (in recent decades) and the rates are now going back up. The reasons for the decline about 20 years ago are not entirely clear, but probably have to do with changes in crime related violent deaths. In the late 1980s and 1990s, there were major changes in the nature and character of the illegal drug trade, and major efforts to clamp down on drug production and distribution caused a significant increase in violence followed by a decrease in many communities. Murder cities (often with special names like Murderapolis for Minneapolis) emerged temporarily around that time as organized gangs changed territories and tactics. From one study:


Previous research points to several potential contributing factors including the cycling up and down of youth firearm homicides (more so than adult homicides), changes in markets for illegal drugs (particularly the crack cocaine market which swept across urban cities in the 1980s and crested about 1990), changes in juvenile arrest policies and penalties for drug-related crime in the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, improved economic conditions, and an increase in community-based policing strategies and primary prevention strategies for youth, families, schools and communities


So the current situation, 67,000 injuries and over 32,000 deaths annually, being one of the major non-disease causes of morbidity and mortality in the US, especially for youth, is a mild improvement from a period of chaos a few decades ago, and the rate of injury and death is staring to climb again.


Most gun deaths are suicide (20,000 a year), followed by homicide (11,000 a year) and accident (under 600 a year). Despite the obvious importance of rampage killings such those over the last few years in Roseburg (10 dead), Charlestown (9 dead), Ila Vista (7 dead), Fort Hood II (3 dead), Washington DC (13 dead), Santa Monica (5 dead), Newtown (27 dead), Brookfield (3 dead), Minneapolis (6 dead), Oak Creek (6 dead), Aurora (12 dead), Oakalnd (7 dead), Seal Beach (8 dead), Tucson (6 dead), Manchester (8 dead), Huntsville (3 dead), Fort Hood I (13 dead), Binghamton (13 dead), most of the homicides are not random mass killings. But, since the victims of rampage killings are entirely innocent, and the killings are sudden, unexpected, shocking, and often target children, they constitute a significant part of the problem.


Anatomy of a suicide


Let’s talk about the single most important gun related problem for a moment: suicide.


Sensible gun laws can prevent thousands of gun related deaths a year. When people talk about suicide, gun owners often bring up the idea that suicide is a mental health issue, not a gun issue. Well, yes, suicide is a mental health issue, but it is abysmally incorrect to say that it is not a gun issue. Here is why.


The majority of firearms related deaths in the US are due to suicide. A recent study showed that about 20,000 people in the US die of suicide using a firearm. This is the largest single cause of firearms related death.


If a person attempts suicide by poison, their success rate is about 2.5%. Cutting and stabbing has a success rate of less than 1%. Jumping has a success rate of just under 20%.


The total amount of time from choosing to commit suicide and carrying out an attempt at doing so, on average, is incredibly short, measured in minutes. (There is obviously a large spread for this number.)


When a person attempts suicide and lives, the chances that they will attempt suicide again is very low. The rate of trying an additional attempt is about 10%. A large proportion of those who do attempt suicide change their minds and seek medical attention, or others find out what is going on and intervene, saving the person’s life.


The rate of success of suicide by firearm is about 85%. When a firearm is used there is little chance to reconsider. A large percentage of those who attempt suicide and do so with a gun probably would have gotten past this period in their lives had they used a different method. I don’t have data on this, but I suspect this is more true for younger people. Also, one could argue that people should be allowed to kill themselves. I’ve seen gun owners make this argument. However, while that may be true for some individuals, especially older ones, it is a rather cynical answer to the suicide problem and certainly does not apply to adolescence or young people.


It is probably the case that a large number of people who kill themselves with guns obtain the guns simply because they are easy to obtain. Given the short span of time between choosing to take one’s own life and carrying out such an act, it is likely that most of these guns were already in the household. It is likely that many young people who kill themselves with guns obtain a gun owned by the adults in the household, a gun that is kept unlocked with ammunition readily available, perhaps the gun already loaded.


Among those who make the strongest statements against any kind of gun regulation, based on numerous conversations I’ve had, seem to be many who prefer to keep a firearm loaded and at the ready, in a nightstand drawer or some other convenient location. In a household with younger kids, this is extraordinarily irresponsible. While it might be difficult to imagine how laws or regulations could change this extremely dangerous and selfish behavior, having such laws would allow for vigorous prosecution after the fact, and may lead to more thoughtful and safe behavior by such individuals in the long run.


But what about guns as self protection?


The most vehement and vitriolic verbiage spewed to support unfettered ownership of guns seems to come from those who live in fear of home invasions or other attacks, and feel that they require a readily available firearm to protect themselves. It is quite possible that this honestly does apply to a very small number of individuals, but that is a special case that we should find a way to handle as a society. Most people who have this view are not such special cases. Also, when one has the view that enemies can enter the home at any moment and kill you, and thus you must be protected, then one must also believe that one’s personal gun must be loaded and ready, not locked up or secured, at all times. And that is unconscionable behavior, and should not be legal.


A gun kept in your home is more likely to be used to kill or injure an innocent person in an unintentional shooting, a suicide, or by a criminal who has taken it, then to be used in effective self defense (see this. A gun can be used to intimidate an attacker, but it is not clear that this is a strategy that is more effective than other non-gun related strategies (see study below). Many call for more widespread gun ownership in order to “take down” criminals involved in random violent acts out in public spaces. But there is about one gun in the US per person, a lot of people claim to carry them around, yet these self-defense guns are almost never actually used. This is probably because criminals are non-random in their behavior, and individuals armed with legal (or illegal) firearms are rarely in just the right place at the right time. Also, when people do pull out guns and start firing them, it is not uncommon for the outcome to be something other than the bad guy being “neutralized” with no one else injured.


Claims that guns are used defensively millions times every year have been widely discredited. Using a gun in self-defense is no more likely to reduce the chance of being injured during a crime than various other forms of protective action. At least one study has found that carrying a firearm significantly increases a person’s risk of being shot in an assault; research published in the American Journal of Public Health reported that, even after adjusting for confounding factors, individuals who were in possession of a gun were about 4.5 times more likely to be shot in an assault than those not in possession. (source)


A recent study looked at the use of firearms for self protection.


The data for the study come from information on personal contact crimes from the National Crime Victimization Survey for 2007 through 2011. They looked at cases where an offender intended to steal property.


Among 14,000+ cases just under 1% involved the use of a gun in self defense. When the incident was over, on average, 4.2% of the victims were injured regardless of how it went down, 4.1% were injured when a gun was used in self defense. In the case of an attempt to steal property, 55.9 percent of the time the property was taken overall, with a slight reduction to 38.5% when the victim used a gun, and if the victim used a self defense weapon other than a gun, 34.9% of the time the property was lost.


So, you can stop a robbery with a gun, a little. But any weapon at all has a similar success rate. And you have a good chance of being injured.


An interesting result of that study is from the literature review. The researchers found almost no good studies that would inform of the basic question that many assume the answer to: Can you really protect yourself with a gun? The assumption that we should have lax gun laws so one can defend oneself, with the cost of tens of thousands dead each year, is a rather bold and unfounded one. The study is a bit nuanced and complex, and the researchers admit that the data are insufficient to examine many important questions. From the conclusion:


…the data provide little evidence that using a gun in self-defense reduces injury. Slightly more than 4% of victims were injured during or after a self-defense gun use—the same percentage as were injured during or after taking all other protective actions. Some self-protective actions were associated with higher probabilities of subsequent injury. The reader must be warned, however, that the sample of those injured after using a gun (5/127) is really too small to warrant strong conclusions. The large majority of crime victims who are injured are injured before they take any action.


The evidence suggests that using a weapon in self-defense may reduce the likelihood of losing property during the commission of crime. However, it is not clear that using a gun is better or worse than using other weapons…


Gun culture


Having such lax laws, and a loud minority in favor of keeping those laws lax, and of course other factors, probably contribute to a sort of gun fetish among those sometimes referred to as “gun nuts.” How do you know if you are a gun nut? If you keep a loaded gun in your house, if you keep guns and ammo unlocked, if you are just a regular person with no special security requirements but have a concealed carry permit, or if you think 20,000 suicides by gun per year is not a problem related to gun regulation, then you are probably a gun nut. On occasion a gun owner sets up a trap in their home, luring burglars or home invaders known to be working in the neighborhood so they can be shot “legally.” That is of course, very rare. But if you think that is OK you are probably a gun nut. For that matter, if you think it is OK when a teenage boy, on a dare, enters a home thought to be vacant and is shot dead for it, you might be a gun nut. These are all self-justifying excuses to argue against sensible regulation of guns.


Our society as a whole pays a huge cost, greater than the costs of international or domestic terrorism, so that individuals who have this gun fetish can do more or less what they want. The benefit for this lackadaisical and protectionist view of firearms is virtually non-existent. Those who suffer from the nearly unregulated presence of so many guns are accommodating the desires of individuals who want unfettered access to toys they happen to find enjoyable, at best. At worse, our society is accommodating monsters, people who believe that carnage counted in the tens of thousands is necessary so they can be wrong about safety and wrong about security.


With our current gun laws, we are paying a very high price to support unjustified ignorance and madness.



Arthur L. Kellerman et al., Injuries and Deaths Due to Firearms in the Home, 45 J. Trauma 263, 263, 266 (1998).


Branas, Charles et al. 2009. Investigating the Link Between Gun Possession and Gun Assault, 99 Am. J. Pub. Health 2034.


Fowler, Katherine ,Linda L. Dahlberg, Tadesse Haileyesus, Joseph L. Annest. 2015. Firearm injuries in the United States. Special Issue on the Epidemiology and Prevention of Gun Violence. Volume 79.


Hemenway, David, Sara Solnick. 2014. The epidemiology of self-defense gun use: Evidence from the National Crime Victimization Surveys 2007–2011. Special Issue on the Epidemiology and Prevention of Gun Violence. Volume 79.


Hemenway, David. 2004. Private Guns. Public Health 78


The most polarized metro area in the most polarized state

by Eric Ferguson on September 25, 2015 · 2 comments

New Republic image of voting patterns in Milwaukee metro areaI really thought I was done with Scott Walker and the bitter divides in Wisconsin when I finished my schadenfreude-filled This Guy Wants To Be President post about the withering of Walker’s presidential campaign, but a commenter on the cross-post on Daily Kos pointed me to a New Republic article from 2014 which correctly predicted not only that Walker would fail, but why. The New Republic article linked to a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article for in depth background on sharp partisan divide in the Milwaukee metro area from which Walker came. They’re too good to not share, especially if you’re into political maps and demography and a deep dive into the political ecosystem that produces and elects such a dreadful person. Since you’re visiting this site, I’m going to guess you are into such topics, at least a bit.

The gist is that just about the whole the country follows a pattern of blue cities, purple suburbs, and red rural areas, with some exceptions. Wisconsin is one of those exceptions. The cities are blue, but rural areas are often competitive, and the suburbs are deep red. Most of Milwaukee is non-white, while non-whites are scarce in the suburbs. Democrats win almost nothing once they step outside the Milwaukee city limits. Many years of close high stakes elections have made the divide bitter as well as sharp. Walker exploited and exacerbated the situation, but he also came from it. The New Republic suggested Walker isn’t just in a conservative bubble, but in a geographical bubble that makes him a creature of the suburbs and disconnected from the rest of the state, and this supportive environment prevented the exposure of his flaws. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel graphically shows the sharp divide and explains how it got that way and stays that way, defying the bluing-suburb trend of the rest of America. Big cities are generally the economic engines of their state, but Wisconsin has been regularly run by people seeking to strangle their big city rather than let it drive growth. It strikes me as much like Michigan and Detroit, but on a smaller scale and not so far along.
From the New Republic, The Unelectable Whiteness of Scott Walker
A journey through the poisonous, racially divided world that produced a Republican star


Now on Democratic Visions

by JeffStrate on September 23, 2015 · 0 comments


Guests on Democratic Visions.

Now playing on Democratic Visions.

Since the current edition of Democratic Visions was launched a few weeks back, Scott Walker and Rick Perry have left the Republican Party version of trash TV and Donald Trump, its emerging Hitler, continues to bloviate about being a deal maker.
Our segments and full shows may not trend on Twitter like Jindal and Carson sound bites, but we’re offering stuff that is worth more than a “like” and a Tweet.
Like Minnesota Progressive Project, Democratic Visions is a venue for long form, lefty perspective and snark. MPP is literary, we are not. We’re just lowly TV; make that lowly TV without teams of pundits and Emmy-winning writers that propel, say, The Daily Show. But we operate outside the restrictive cultures of public and commercial television and remain more watchable than Almanac, Esme, or Fox 9.
So right here and now (and on your home flat screen) you get retired, KQ Morning Show reality check scold Mike Gelfand, improv humorist Jon Spayde, card board cutouts of Obama, Michelle and Reagan at the State Fair and Eden Prairie School Board candidate Asad Aliweyd.  Our menu of the month —

The full, 28-minute program —

The segments –

1) Mike “Stretch” Gelfand takes aim from his kitchen at the reaction to
the Eden Prairie dentist who killed Cecil the lion, GOP Republican
candidates and his pet cat Peanut.

2) Asad Aliweyd candidate for the Eden Prairie School Board.

3) Improv humorist Jon Spade’s pal Vic from Rhode Island on the Minnesota
State Fair

4) Jeff Strate at the DFL, GOP and ECO pavilions at the MN State Fair.


EP, R’field, Mtonka, Edina and Hpkns on Channel 16
Sundays at 9 pm, Mondays at 10 pm. Wednesdays at 5:30 pm, Saturdays at 2:00 pm

BLOOMINGTON BCAT Channel 16 — Tuesdays at 2:00 p.m. & 10:00 p.m, Fridays at 9:30 p.m., Saturdays at 7:30 a.m. & 2:30 p.m.

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

QUAD CITY COMMUNITY TV — Champlin, Anoka, Ramsey, Andover – QCTV Channel 15 — Mondays 6:30 am, Fridays 8 a.m., Saturdays 6:00 a.m., 10,30 a.m.

Democratic Visions is an independent, pundit-free, political issues, cable access show. The thing is hand made by unpaid volunteers from Edina, Eden Prairie, Minnetonka, Hopkins and Bloomington


clowncarScott Walker might be gone from the presidential campaign, but don’t be fooled. He’s still highly relevant. He’s relevant because he … um, you know … he still has that … who am I kidding. Fine, I just despise the mean-spirited little git and his departure leaves me with some urgent cackling to do. Was he really worse than any of the other Republicans? Maybe it was personal. I disclosed in a prior post I wrote about him, This guy wants to be president: I hardly recognize Wisconsin, that Wisconsin is a former home state and yes, I left before Walker ever entered public life, but I’m still painfully aware of the before and after picture. It would be ridiculous to blame Walker alone for what happened to the place, with the chronic corruption, politically biased courts, withering attacks on the rights of workers, women, and non-white voters, and the economic deterioration. It’s not all on Walker of course, but as I pointed out, Walker was at least an early adopter of an ALEC model bill type of agenda. So absolutely I enjoyed this bit of irony:
Scott Walker screenshot with banner ad photo walkerscreenshot_zpsivnpxkl8.jpg
Click to enlarge this screenshot of an article about Walker’s withdrawal and notice the banner ad. I assume the ad was context sensitive and not random, but still, delightfully ironic. And yeah, I clicked the ad in hopes his campaign is paying by the click-through.


No, black income didn’t plunge 14% in the last year

by Eric Ferguson on September 21, 2015 · 3 comments

Politicians I almost always support, and a bunch of people on my side of the political spectrum are making hay out of the Star Tribune’s report on recent census data saying black household income plunged 14% from 2013 to 2014, and the poverty rate rose form 33% to 38%. This doesn’t seem odd for one year? You know how we rag on conservatives for repeating claims that aren’t facts, but are too politically convenient to not use? Why can’t they just exercise some skepticism? In this case, hate to say it, now we’re doing it, repeating what’s convenient without giving it a close look. Black poverty and the racial income gap is our issue, and a big jump like is so handy for making our case. Too bad it makes no sense. To cut to the chase, the only explanation for the big increase that does make sense is statistical noise from a small sample size.
Just to be clear, I’m not accusing the Star Tribune reporters of lying. I think they tried to get this right. I’m likewise not accusing the Census Bureau of lying. I don’t doubt they’re just reporting what they found. The paragraph that should have clued us in that something was funky, even before thinking things through, was this:

The American Community Survey (ACS) is an ongoing survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, with questions on a variety of topics such as income, race, employment, educational attainment, commuting to work and housing. The survey goes out each year to about 3.5 million households nationwide (about 100,000 in Minnesota), with a response rate of about 97 percent. Data estimates generated from these surveys have a degree of uncertainty associated with them, called sampling error. In general, the larger the sample, the smaller the level of sampling error.

So how big was the sample? The Star Tribune didn’t say. How big is big enough? I don’t claim to know. What I did notice was that in seeking an explanation for the plunge in income, there wasn’t another one that held up to even cursory scrutiny. And other statistics don’t fit. Let’s think this through.


clowncarIf being crazy and obnoxious can work for other Republicans, can it work for Scott Walker? The candidate who keeps polling around 2%, like Walker in recent polls, is generally not a candidate long, but Walker is making a last ditch effort. That’s what he’s about by blaming Obama for endangering police and proposing to impose so many restriction on unions at the federal level as to effectively ban them. Unavoidably, we on the left engage in debunkings of his fact-contradicting nonsense (police killings are way down under Obama) and point out how damaging his policies have been and will be as he tries to go back to the anti-union well.
However, what damages Walker isn’t getting his facts wrong or being an obnoxious git to people he doesn’t like just because he has the power. It doesn’t matter if he’s run a corrupt administration or if his policies don’t work. Remember that he’s appealing to a base that thinks facts have a liberal bias, punching down is a virtue, corruption isn’t possible if your name isn’t “Hillary”, and the effectiveness of policies have no bearing on whether they’re right.
What’s hurting him is the media are figuring out that his campaign is withering. They report that he’s in trouble, and once the media narrative is that a campaign is withering away, it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Supporters conclude a candidate don’t win and while we’re still months away from the first caucuses and primaries, the donor primary is going on now. Small donors might donate out of idealism, but big donors expect something for their money. Getting 2% in the polls suggests money will soon run out, and further donations probably just pay off the debt of a defunct campaign. Maybe some donors like Walker enough to help him with his debt, or maybe he doesn’t have any debt, or not yet — I’m not privy to his finances and we’ll never know about his dark money support. But I feel pretty sure that the big factor that caused Rick Perry’s money to dry up (at time of writing, he just dropped out) was the press reports that his money was drying up.
Of course, Walker isn’t down in the polls because he’s down in the polls. That’s probably because he changes his positions so often his nickname should be “Mitt”. I doubt conservatives care that he dodged the evolution question during his trip to Britain or said he wouldn’t pursue freerider protection, as “right to work” should be called, and then turned around and pushed it through (not that Wisconsin’s Republican legislature provided significant resistance). Yes, generally, if you don’t like a Walker position, wait a bit and he’ll change it, but specifically, he did that with immigration. The GOP’s nativist base can’t tell if he’s with them or not. They keep getting a different answer. And down goes the poll numbers.
So if you’re thinking candidates are missing the point when they talk so much about the proverbial horserace stuff, like how the favorable poll was so important and the bad poll was meaningless, bragging of incoming donations and denying that poor fundraising is any concern, that’s why. Policy, to a significant degree, takes second place to the ability to win, which requires money and doing OK in the last primary. In the present case, the last primary is the ongoing donor primary.

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State reps deny charge of lewd behavior in a public park

by Eric Ferguson on September 4, 2015 · 2 comments

State Rep. Tim KellyState Rep. Tara MackThe first couple paragraphs of the Pioneer Press’s story sum it up:

A Dakota County sheriff’s deputy allegedly caught two Minnesota lawmakers “making out” in a parked car last week, according to law enforcement reports and court records, but the lawmakers say that accusation is “completely false” and a “lie.”
State Rep. Tim Kelly, R-Red Wing, and Rep. Tara Mack, R-Apple Valley, were issued citations for causing a nuisance on Aug. 25.

So the gist is a park ranger, rangers being deputies of the Dakota County sheriff, approached their car for being double-parked. He said in his report they Mack and Kelly were “making out” and Mack’s pants were “unzipped and pulled down”. Both legislators say the deputy is lying, and that they met there to exchange documents about an Owatonna-based health plan.
My first reaction was actually to think about the news stories of recent years about police fabricating their reports or covering up misbehavior, so I can’t dismiss the possibility the legislators are right. Wait, I’m handed this story about to two elected officials — of the opposing party — and representing swing districts — and my reaction is something other than cackling with glee? Well, I don’t cackle generally, but it’s more a matter of trying to apply the same skepticism I would if these were two DFLers. My next thought after treating the Mack and Kelly’s claim as plausible is to wonder where the body cam or dash cam video is. What we have however is the deputy’s word, and there’s a balance to be struck between the need for police to be trusted when they report something, and the fact some abuse that trust. So I’m not believing the legislators; just admitting the chance they’re telling the truth pending more evidence.
Of course, to be skeptical the other way, why would they meet in a park to exchange documents? I get why politicians might have grown leery of email, when every passing thought becomes public record to be searched by people who mean you ill, but still, wouldn’t handing off documents be a matter of attaching them to an email? OK, maybe they’re only in hard copy, or maybe they aren’t real, or maybe that was an alibi constructed after the fact. The most skepticism-inducing claim however is that the deputy is lying.
Yes, police lie sometimes, but usually not about a misdemeanor. Cover-ups normally happen when a suspect has some inexplicable injuries. Or when the suspect’s suspicious activity is something like walking through his own neighborhood, or driving through a white neighborhood while persistently failing to be white. Did the deputy want to endanger the political careers of the two people in the car? He probably had no idea who they were. So why would he make up something about people who attracted his attention by being double-parked allegedly? “Allegedly” because Kelly apparently is disputing that too. However, both were factually wrong when they asserted the information on their charges was released illegally. The Pioneer Press’s tipster may have had whatever motive, but those are public documents.
The implication of the allegations is that Kelly and Mack are having an affair, and we don’t know that yet. I’m guessing it’s true, but I’m actually feeling no schadenfreude over the possible repercussions to their marriages. This has to be painful on a personal level. These are Republicans, but I can think of others where I’d greet such news with the thought “glad it happened to one the legislature’s biggest a__holes” and yes, I do think in underscores instead of letters. I’ll seek help when I’m ready. Seriously, I don’t take any pleasure in it. The fact they’re ideologically hidebound on almost all policy matters doesn’t mean I wish them ill.
That’s not to say I’m unaware of the political implications, because these are both committee chairs. Both districts are purple and should have been winnable anyway, but obviously just became more winnable. Usually incumbents make the strongest candidates, but sometimes incumbents are so weakened that their parties would be better off replacing them as nominees, and that just might be the case here. Mack was the rumor mill’s pick to replace US Rep. John Kline, who just announced today that he’s not running for reelection. That seat is deep purple, and without an incumbent, becomes a top DFL pickup opportunity, so to have a MNGOPer who was being groomed for the seat screw up just now is a big deal.
Before making the “family values” hypocrisy charge, I wanted to see that this was actually the case. Pretty much, I don’t. Yes, each had an abortion bill during this year’s session. But otherwise, Kelly actually opposed the gay marriage ban amendment. Mack made mention of her faith being important to her in the introductory video before her speech at last year’s CPAC. I heard her mention there and in the video on her web site that her husband is pastor, but her speech was the basic conservative ideological pabulum — Obamacare is bad, liberal professors are indoctrinating students, etc. So in being holier-than-thou legislators, neither of them is exactly Tim Miller or Mary Kiffmeyer.
Is it fair to have their political careers ruined by a tryst? I actually don’t want to see them bounced from office for an affair (I made a deliberate choice to avoid using photos that include their family members, even though most politicians use family in campaign materials — this is probably bad enough without me piling on). I want Mack and Kelly to be bounced because they’re terrible on policy on health care and transportation respectively, though if they’re lying about the deputy lying, that would be good reason to bounce them too. And if they’re right that the deputy lied, I expect them to come around on the issue of police accountability. If they don’t start giving serious consideration to other people’s claims that the police fabricated their charges, then I’ll call them hypocrites.
Comments below fold



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.