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Rand Paul and Another Libertarian Fizzle

by SJGulitti on February 4, 2016 · 0 comments

If Rand Paul had ever had the juice behind his presidential bid that Donald Trump had and then failed to perform I’d label his departure from the 2016 race a flameout. However in this case, as in many libertarian efforts in the past, it’s really just another fizzle. An analysis of Rand Paul’s political fortunes shows that he has been consistently mired in single digit support levels or low double digits at best. This can be verified by an analysis of the data in RealClear Politics and PollingReport.com going back to the beginning of the 2016 presidential campaign, referenced below.
 
Every time Americans become disillusioned or disenchanted with government, particularly the concept of “big” government, the country’s Libertarians seem to pop up like mushrooms after a spring rain touting their well worn, stock critique about how we currently govern ourselves. Every time this happens more than a few politicians suddenly voice support for Libertarian ideas, say that they are devotees of Ayn Rand or that they subscribe to the ideas of the Mises Institute with its the Austrian school of economics and libertarian political theory. Conservative media  grabs onto the new found enthusiasm for Libertarian ideas with headline stories or an interview of some small band of college Libertarians who, like Pope Urban the Second, proclaim that we are on the verge of a great crusade to free people from the serfdom of modern government, one which will take us back to the realm of the unencumbered “noble savage’ who is free to do as he pleases, the public be damned. And every time, as in the past, this passing flirtation with Libertarianism fades as the dynamics of the American political process plays itself out. What is noteworthy about this latest Libertarian fizzle is that even during a time of great turmoil in the American political life where so many are searching for something new or revolutionary, the ideas of our current Libertarian standard bearer have been trampled underfoot in the melee of the 2016 presidential contest, left to bleed out on the field of political battle and largely ignored.
 
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MN-03: DFLer Tollefson enters race

by Dan Burns on February 1, 2016 · 0 comments

tollefsonGood deal.
 

After his experience abroad, Jon returned home to Minnesota to advance local economic and health policy issues, working for the Minnesota High Tech Association and now the Minnesota Nurses Association.
 
Jon Tollefson is running to bring the true values of Minnesotans to Washington: real fiscal responsibility, investments in education and transportation that lead to jobs and economic growth, and affordable access to health care for all. Jon wants to fight to create a better government, one that actually functions for the people it represents.
(Jon Tollefson for Congress)

I and undoubtedly others will have plenty more to say about why the incumbent, Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-MN), very, very badly needs to be the incumbent no longer, as of next January. For now, this:
 

Reviewing Erik Paulsen’s fourth quarter fundraising report, is very telling … telling that he is the consummate Washington insider … including $405,261 from Political Action Committees and big donors and only $2,133 from small donors.
 
Yep, that’s right the Medical Device Manufacturers PAC gave more money to his re-election campaign with one check, than all small donors combined !
(MN Political Roundtable)

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clown car

Candidate limousine pulls in for tonight’s GOP debate

I’ll be live-blogging the GOP debate tonight. It will be broadcast and webcast on Fox News, and I’ll be watching with you, or listening more likely since I’ll be looking at the form where I write this. I’m not sure if just listening or also watching makes a difference. There was a story from the debate between Richard Nixon and John Kennedy during the 1960 campaign that people who watched on TV thought Kennedy won, but the radio audience thought Nixon won. It sounds like one of those stories that gets passed along as conventional wisdom, but now I’m wondering if the was Nixon campaign spin after he lost, trying to make it sound like if you thought Kennedy won, you’re a shallow person moved by a handsome face with better makeup, and what’s that say about you? Anyway, maybe I’ll have a different take from listening instead of watching.
 
If you’re new to this live blogging stuff, it’s a bit like live tweeting except you don’t have to keep hunting through Twitter and I can comment in over 140 characters. Just reload this page once in a while to get the latest pithy comment from me. But do your own fact-checking because I’ll mention when I catch a factual error, or think something is just being made up, but I won’t have time to research and link.
 
The debate starts at 8 central time. Click the “read more” link to, try not to be surprised, read more.
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military_pie,_gold_background(Part 1 here.)

 
Current and continuing U.S. military operations are grossly bloated (and in many cases destructive, arguably criminally so), and any legitimate cost/benefit analysis is certainly a sorry sight indeed. To wit, and one could cite much, much more:
 

From the point of view of the U.S. military and the national security state, the period from September 12, 2001, to late last night could be summed up in a single word: more. What Washington funded with your tax dollars was a bacchanalia of expansion intended, as is endlessly reiterated, to keep America “safe.” But here’s the odd thing: as the structure of what’s always called “security” is built out ever further into our world and our lives, that world only seems to become less secure. Odder yet, that “more” is rarely a focus of media coverage, though its reality is glaringly obvious. The details may get coverage but the larger reality — the thing being created in Washington — seems of remarkably little interest…
 
After more than a decade of secret wars, massive surveillance, untold numbers of night raids, detentions, and assassinations, not to mention billions upon billions of dollars spent, the results speak for themselves. (Special Operations Command) has more than doubled in size and the secretive (Joint Special Operations Command) may be almost as large as SOCOM was in 2001. Since September of that year, 36 new terror groups have sprung up, including multiple al-Qaeda franchises, offshoots, and allies. Today, these groups still operate in Afghanistan and Pakistan — there are now 11 recognized al-Qaeda affiliates in the latter nation, five in the former — as well as in Mali and Tunisia, Libya and Morocco, Nigeria and Somalia, Lebanon and Yemen, among other countries. One offshoot was born of the American invasion of Iraq, was nurtured in a U.S. prison camp, and, now known as the Islamic State, controls a wide swath of that country and neighboring Syria, a proto-caliphate in the heart of the Middle East that was only the stuff of jihadi dreams back in 2001. That group, alone, has an estimated strength of around 30,000 and managed to take over a huge swath of territory, including Iraq’s second largest city, despite being relentlessly targeted in its infancy by JSOC.
 
“We need to continue to synchronize the deployment of (Special Operations Forces) throughout the globe,” says Votel. “We all need to be synched up, coordinated, and prepared throughout the command.” Left out of sync are the American people who have consistently been kept in the dark about what America’s special operators are doing and where they’re doing it, not to mention the checkered results of, and blowback from, what they’ve done. But if history is any guide, the black ops blackout will help ensure that this continues to be a “golden age” for U.S. Special Operations Command.
(TomDispatch)

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DF-ST-87-06962 Presumably if you’re reading this you’re something of a glutton for psychological punishment – like me, I guess – and therefore have been following issues like U.S. military spending. You may then, if you’re old enough, recall the fanfare with which it was announced that, as part of a law passed in 1996, some sort of Pentagon super-audit would finally get to the bottom of things. We’re still waiting.
 

The Chief Financial Officers Act of 1990 requires every federal agency to pass a routine financial audit each year. The Pentagon is the only cabinet agency that is “unauditable” according to the non-partisan Government Accountability Office.
 
In the last decade, the Pentagon broke every promise to Congress about when the audit would be finished. Meanwhile, Congress doubled the Pentagon’s budget.
(Audit the Pentagon)

I spent the better part of an evening searching parameters like “what percent of u.s. military spending is fraud and waste,” and while I ran across all kinds of intriguing stuff, I didn’t find a readily apparent number as a percentage of the total budget for our warmongering-industrial complex. That’s understandable when you consider that terms like “fraud” and “waste” are subject to very wide interpretation, in practice, and no one really knows what’s going on with all that Pentagon money, anyway. But when you take into account items like big-ticket weapons systems that will likely never be used, resources that have disappeared (and continue to do so) overseas (especially in Iraq and Afghanistan), the sorts of practices that got us into those wars in the first place, unneeded bases both here and abroad, corporate profiteering,
 
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Steve Simon on Democratic Visions

by JeffStrate on January 24, 2016 · 0 comments

Steve Simon at Democratic Visions

MN Secretary of State Steve Simon with Democratic Visions host Tim O’Brien

As the second year begins of Steve Simon’s tenure as Minnesota’s Secretary of State, he shares his perspectives about voting in Minnesota, elections and several non-political services provided by his office on the January edition of Democratic Visions. Safe at Home, for example, is a program that provides safe and anonymous email, postal and residential addresses for victims of domestic violence and victims of stalking who continue to fear for their safety.
 
Democratic Visions host Tim O’Brien and Simon also weigh in on a U.S. Supreme Court Case (Evenwel vs. Abbott) which could soon reject the “one person one vote” principle that has long been applied in the drawing-up of congressional and state legislative districts.  If the principle is rejected, millions of urban voters will be under represented.
 
But O’Brien and Simon mostly consider voting reforms and challenges in Minnesota; a state which year in and year out boasts one of the highest voter turnouts in the nation.A segment of President Barack Obama’s emotional, January 5th announcement of executive orders intended to make it difficult for risky people to acquire guns rounds out the program.
 
Democratic Visions is a community access program produced by volunteers at the Bloomington Community Access TV studio by arrangement with Southwest Community Television.  Democratic Visions is not funded, endorsed or supported by any political party, campaign, political action committee or guest.
 
This program is on YouTube here.
 
Democratic Visions Cable TV Schedule –

EP, Mtka, Edina, Hopkins, Richfield, Comcast Channel 15 — Sundays at 9 p.m., Mondays at 10:00 p.m., Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m. and Saturdays at 2 p.m.

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.

Champlin, Anoka, Ramsey, Andover – QCTV Channel 15 — Fridays 8 a.m.,Saturdays 6:00 a.m., 10,30 a.m.,10:30 p.m.

Segments and full half hours of Democratic Visions are archived on YouTube –   www.youtube.com/user/DemocraticVisions/

 

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66758002People are working to try to get President Obama to come through in doing more to help protect women’s fundamental right to reproductive choice.
 

Anti-women, right-wing extremists in Congress are relentless in their commitment to take health care, including abortions, away from women. One of the most powerful tools they have is the Hyde Amendment, passed in 1976, which prohibits the use of federal funds for any health benefits coverage that includes abortion…
 
It’s bad enough that women have to fight so hard to defend their constitutional rights against right-wing Republican extremists. It’s even worse when Democrats are also standing in the way. The Hyde Amendment has been re-authorized every year for the past 39 years, under Democratic presidents and with Congress in Democratic control. When President Obama ran for president he promised he would work to end Hyde’s dangerous intrusion on “a poor woman’s decision to terminate her pregnancy.” He has failed to follow through on that promise, not only by endorsing Hyde in each of his seven budgets but by allowing the Stupak Amendment to strip access to abortion from ObamaCare.
(Credo Action)

Related items:
 
“States added another 47 abortion restrictions in 2015. No doubt there are more to come.”
 
“Groups Push Obama to Clarify U.S. Abortion Funding for Wartime Rape.”
 

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nine-dots-solution

Thinking outside the box.

“Creativity is intelligence having fun.” ~ Albert Einstein

 

Last Spring, 2015, in an article in the Star-Tribune, we got a frank admission of failure from Ward 7 City Council Member Lisa Goodman on the subject of vacant and abandoned properties in Minneapolis:

 

“What we’re doing is not working,” Goodman, who chairs the city’s community development committee, admitted. “So any option that would get these homes into the hands of people who want to restore them and live in them has to be something we think about differently.” Star-Tribune

 

Of course, any admission of failure on the part of government will set any free marketeer’s heart pounding for sheer joy. But the simple truth is that the free market has failed, too. Nor is there the slightest indication that “market forces” have any real power to fix the problem. Because, you see, there’s no money to be made — but there’s plenty of money to lose: in lower property values for neighborhood residents, in lower property and business taxes for schools and infrastructure maintenance, etc. It’s a classic Free Market fail.

 

Maybe it’s time to consider whether the problem might be bigger than either city government, or the free market, has the chops to handle. As former Chrysler CEO Lee Iacocca once said, “Big problems require big solutions.” His point was that even the CEO of a major corporation can only affect what’s within his purview or power. He has to know when a problem is bigger than the power of his office can resolve. He has to know when he needs to get outside help. In Iacocca’s case, he needed a $400 million loan from the federal government and he needed his creditors to reschedule or restructure loans (to share the pain) in order for Chrysler to remain solvent. Solvency was the big problem he needed to solve … and he needed solvency of thinking to reach a solvent solution. What resulted is business history. Or, Big Government success.

 

Other examples of Big Government successes include bailing out the Big Banks, Big Auto, and Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. According to Politico, of the 618 billion dollars spent on TARP, Detroit and the GSE mortgage lenders, 683.4 billion has been returned to the US Treasury — resulting in a net profit on investment of 65.4 billion, or a 10.58% ROI. That the highest return you can get anywhere. No wonder foreign investors are parking their money in US cash and securities.

 

Big business sometimes handles big problems by pulling all the big stakeholders into a conference room, locking the doors, and forbidding anyone to leave until a tenable solution has been agreed to. I’ve been fortunate enough to sit in a couple such meetings as a dispassionate documentarian tasked with producing a fair record of the proceedings. In both cases, tension in the room was palpable. Executive careers and salaries were on the line and the conference rooms stank of body odor, dyspepsia, and fear. Put 10 or 12 sweaty fat guys in a room who are making 350K – 750K a year and tell them to get creative or lose their jobs and they get real creative, real fast. For me, the lesson was clear: amazing creativity comes out of a meeting where a clear line will be drawn between the quick and the dead. In some ways, it’s like the free market competitive model so often touted by folks on the right — if equally inhumane. In a different way, it’s a fascinating model of human behavior by individuals under extreme stress: a category of behavior about which I’d already learned more than I ever cared to and had come to know too well.

 

I’ve wondered from time-to-time when it comes to addressing a big gnarly civic problem like vacant/abandoned homes — and its contributions to driving a neighborhood into decline, with all the attendant evils that that implies — why city government doesn’t do something similar? Admit that what you are doing isn’t working, that the power and resources you are applying are ineffective, and ratchet-up the scale of the solution to meet the scale of the problem? Of course, local government can’t apply career pressure on players or stakeholders, other than city employees perhaps, but it can apply contractual and economic pressure on suppliers, providers and beneficiaries. Every corporation has its sh*t-list of “disapproved” vendors. I’d imagine local governments do, too, though I don’t really know. But there’s also the pressure of missed business opportunities, the kind that can weaken your business and strengthen your competition — more about that later. Simply put, there are multiple ways to turn down or turn off lucrative and reliable revenue streams to suppliers that serve as both carrot and stick in modifying business behavior.

 

The other thing city government can do, of course, is provide fearless leadership. It seems sometimes that we don’t have the political will, or the creative thinking, to try something new and radical for fear of failure. I don’t blame anyone in elected office for playing safe, if you think that one bad move might kill your career. (See? We know you’re human too and live like the rest of us. Really, we do.) But this is Minneapolis: the urban political landscape doesn’t get much bluer than this (maybe Boston … maybe), so shouldn’t we be willing to think along the lines of at least trying something a little radical? Call it a “pilot program” to provide some political cover and an exit point, if you must.

 

Then we could counter the recurring criticism among voters that I get on the front porch when I go door-knocking for candidates: “What, you people again? Every year you ask for my vote and every year nothin’ around here changes. It just keeps getting worse.”  I’m still looking for a good response for that one: “Um, well isn’t it getting worse SLOWER?” Let me know if you have a better answer.

 

For years, I’ve been shopping around the idea of Directed Resurgent Neighborhoods to anyone I could button-hole long enough to hear me out: elected leaders, bankers, union guys, clergy, you-name-it. Brother, I earned my reputation as a boring dinner guest: now I don’t get invited anywhere any more. I even shopped the idea by letter to former Mayor R.T. Rybak (hoping he might pass it on to the cognizant powers in city government), to Rep. Keith Ellison, and even to Governor Dayton (hoping that some worthwhile response or direction might come out of it). I got no correspondence back from any of them. Well, I do get their fundraising letters and emails several times a year.

 

The reason I keep faith with my forlorn hope is that the feedback among those I’ve canvassed has always been universally positive: “That’s a helluva good idea,” my conversational correspondents have told me time and time again after I fully laid it out. I would have just chalked it up to typical Minnesota Nice at a holiday party, but I could see the mental wheels turning, the shine in the eyes, the unconscious nodding about the possibilities. Nothing has ever come of it, yet hope springs eternal.

 

More Below the Fold

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school-bus-stop-clip-art-yellow-schoolbus-childlike-drawing-4389671(1)You know, intelligent, reality-based people saw this coming.
 

Minneapolis school board members appear to be giving up on Sergio Paez as their next superintendent.
 
In interviews with the Star Tribune over the weekend, six sources who are close to the debate but asked not be named, said that Paez appears to be lacking majority support going into a vote on Tuesday…
 
While some board members will ask for a complete reboot of the superintendent search, sources said, others favor offering the job to (interim superintendent Michael) Goar.
(Star Tribune)

This, from Bright Light Small City, has apt remarks about the search firm that recommended Paez.
 

What is badly needed in this position (indeed, what every school district in the world needs) is someone who is staunchly pro-public schools and anti-greedhead deformer. And who will look to crush the latter in every way, and at every opportunity.
 
Update: “Paez out in Minneapolis; school board delays vote on runner-up”
 

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Tara Mack needs help with healthcare policy

by Eric Ferguson on January 9, 2016 · 3 comments

State Rep. Tara MackI’m starting to believe state Rep. Tara Mack’s claim that she and state Rep. Tim Kelly were really just exchanging healthcare papers, because somebody sure needs to fill her in on the basics, judging by how much she got wrong in her Star Tribune guest column, “Counterpoint: MNsure is hurting folks, not helping them”. She mentions how often she hears from Minnesotans with “heartbreaking stories” from “the so-called Affordable Care Act.” Maybe she’s unaware that it’s not so-called. That’s actually the name. It’s not a nickname. “Obamacare” is a nickname, as is, technically, the many names I imagine Republicans give it in private. Or maybe she’s flunking Clever Phrasing 101.
 
Anyway, the implication is that the ACA is destructive for many and working for nobody, even though the percentage of the US population without health insurance has plunged. It’s not exactly secret or hard to check. They do have staff in the MNGOP House caucus, don’t they? Via Paul Krugman:
 

Since Mack is getting complaints without apparently understanding the full context, let me explain: having access to the healthcare system is better than not having access to the healthcare system. The percentage uninsured plunged when the ACA kicked in fully, and no, it’s not a coincidence. In fact, it would be even lower had state governments under the control of Mack’s party not taken advantage of the US Supreme Court’s rewriting of part of the law to create the “Medicaid gap”. That happens when states choose not to accept the Medicaid extension, which the court made voluntary for no reason grounded in law (though sure, I’m grateful they didn’t chuck the whole law for ideological reasons as four conservatives wanted to do). The Medicaid extension covers people who are too poor to buy insurance with subsidies on state exchanges, but have too much income for existing Medicaid. Fortunately, Minnesota’s Republicans were unable to leave this portion of the state’s poor without healthcare access, but they gave it their best effort.
 
After showing she doesn’t understand the ACA in general, Mack followed that with a simple and extremely checkable false claim.
 
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