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Al Franken

13335529_10157076057630492_8977891793245887712_nI did some polite, constructive criticism of corporate media the other day, as I have indeed been wont to do from time to time ever since I’ve been here. (Pushing seven years? Seriously? Hadn’t thought about it lately.) And I subsequently saw this.

Franken plainly said that Trump “is a liar . . . all the time.” Andrea Mitchell, sitting next to him, followed up by saying “Facts don’t seem to matter in this campaign. What has happened to our politics?” And Franken’s response was brilliant:

“I think they still matter. I still think, at the end of the day, they will still matter. And you know what, I would challenge you, all of you (pointing his finger at each of the reporters), to make them matter. To repeat them when there are lies. I would say that the media — you know, I used to write quaint books like ‘Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them’, and things like that, and I do think people think like, ‘Oh, wow, there used to be books about when people lied, and now no one cares.’ You guys have kind of a job to do.”

(Daily Kos)

This may seem odd coming from me, but I think there actually is a pretty good chance that corporate media will to some extent turn against the Donald Trump campaign. (I was heartened to see that this morning’s dead tree Star Tribune front-page headlined the appalling Trump/Russia deal, instead of using the Dem convention as an excuse to bury it on the inside as I had expected.) In 2012, they were pro-Romney for quite a while, but for the last couple of months turned slightly pro-Obama, largely because of the correct perception that he was going to win handily. This being America, you know about how good it is for a profit margin to be associated with a loser.

Most, or at least many, media owners/bosses, though Republicans, likely don’t want a Trump presidency either. Not because of its effect on women, minorities, children, etc. – that would be their problem, let them deal with it – but because a Trump presidency would also ultimately be very bad for business. And they mostly are not such witless ninnies, at least not in some ways, that they don’t know that.


DFL state convention live blog

by Eric Ferguson on June 4, 2016 · 1 comment

Like I mentioned in a non-sequitor at the end of this post, I plan to live blog the DFL convention Saturday. That depends on The Uptake having a livestream as in recent conventions, since I can’t be there in person, due to medical issues I assume readers don’t care about the details of. Since anyone can watch the stream, I’ll try to focus on explanations and commentary. Open this post and refresh it once in a while. I’ll check the comments occasionally for questions. I’m still typing more slowly than usual so it could be tricky, but I’ll give a game effort. If you want to see the agenda, that’s on the state DFL web site. It doesn’t give a specific convening time, but from the ending time of training sessions, looks like it will start around 9 AM. I’ll add a Read More link when the convention starts, so click that, or else be content with reading this introduction over and over.
Yes, The Uptake has a live stream. This is what I’m watching.

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Beating down the education deformers, Part 3

by Dan Burns on February 21, 2016 · 3 comments

abandonedschool(Part 1 here. Part 2 here.)

The following blockquote is from the best succinct description of the goals and tactics of the deformer/privatization movement that I’ve seen. It was originally published in the Washington Post.

The pitch
Talking Points: (a) Standardized testing proves America’s schools are poor. (b) Other countries are eating our lunch. (c) Teachers deserve most of the blame. (d) The lazy ones need to be forced out by performance evaluations. (e) The dumb ones need scripts to read or “canned standards” telling them exactly what to teach. (f) The experienced ones are too set in their ways to change and should be replaced by fresh Five-Week-Wonders from Teach for America. (Bonus: Replacing experienced teachers saves a ton of money.) (g) Public (“government”) schools are a step down the slippery slope to socialism.
Education establishment resistance to privatization is inevitable, so (a) avoid it as long as possible by blurring the lines between “public” and “private.” (b) Push school choice, vouchers, tax write-offs, tax credits, school-business partnerships, profit-driven charter chains. (c) When resistance comes, crank up fear with the, “They’re eating our lunch!” message. (d) Contribute generously to all potential resisters — academic publications, professional organizations, unions, and school support groups such as PTA. (e) Create fake “think tanks,” give them impressive names, and have them do “research” supporting privatization. (f) Encourage investment in teacher-replacer technology—internet access, iPads, virtual schooling, MOOCS, etc. (e) Pressure state legislators to make life easier for profit-seeking charter chains by taking approval decisions away from local boards and giving them to easier-to-lobby state-level bureaucrats. (g) Elect the “right” people at all levels of government. (When they’re campaigning, have them keep their privatizing agenda quiet.)

Needless to say, corporate-controlled “legacy”/”traditional”/whatever-you-want-to-call-it media (the daily papers, the nightly news broadcasts, etc.) play a big, key part in all of this.


RoboCallsGood work from Minnesota’s senators. Though getting it through Congress will likely be a heavy lift. And the White House supports the robocalling.

(Two weeks ago), President Obama signed an emergency budget bill that kept the government from shutting down, which also opened the door to automated debt-collection robocalls to your cell phone. Buried in Section 301 of the Budget Act is a provision that would allow loan servicers and other collectors of federal loan debt to use robocalls and robotexts to contact Americans struggling to pay off student loans, mortgage, tax, and other debt owed to or backed by the federal government.
The provision allows robocalls not only to those who owe debt but also to their family, references, and even those who get assigned a phone number that once belonged to someone who owed debt.
A new piece of legislation hopes to roll that back…Senators Claire McCaskill (D – Mo.), Ron Wyden (D – Ore.) Robert Menendez (D – N.J.), Richard Blumenthal (D – Conn.), Patrick Leahy (D – Vt.), Elizabeth Warren (D – Mass.), Bernie Sanders (I – Vt.), Al Franken (D – Minn.), Amy Klobuchar (D – Minn.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) have cosponsored this bill.
(Consumer Reports)

Yeah, all Dems, plus Bernie. One would think that being flooded with robocall harrassment on their cell phones will get millenials out to vote, if anything will. Also, the article linked in the first paragraph above discusses how the measure is likely to produce a relative pittance in added repayment.


Senate passes NCLB revision

by Dan Burns on July 17, 2015 · 1 comment

schoolIt’s called the Every Child Achieves Act, and is possibly not far from what President Obama will end up signing. Though one can’t be too sure; you may well share my concern based on recollections of what can happen when he gets totally obsessed with making a deal. Any deal. Like what seems to be happening now with the Trans-Pacific Partnership. But that’s another matter.

The Senate bill retains annual testing, but removes federal sanctions attached to test results. Any rewards or sanctions attached to test scores will be left to states. The Senate rejected private school vouchers; nine Republican Senators joined with Democrats to defeat the voucher proposal. The bill also strengthens current prohibitions against the Secretary of Education dictating specific curriculum, standards, and tests to states, as well as barring the Secretary from tying test scores to teacher evaluations. The bill repudiates the punitive measures of of NCLB and RTTT.
(Diane Ravitch)

First, though, there will be negotiations with the House involving what it passed, namely, Rep. John Kline’s (R-MN) Student Success Act. I haven’t seen anything yet to the effect that Kline plans to try to seriously insist that the Senate essentially adopt his bill, rather than vice versa as most observers seem to expect. But we’ll see. It could get complicated. Right-wingers feel that neither bill is conservative enough, as public schools in conservative areas still won’t be able to propagandize right-wing extremism as their primary function. Civil rights groups believe, with considerable justification, that neither has enough safeguards to keep disadvantaged children from being shorted. The White House wants more “accountability.” The negotiations could fall apart, and life will go on. Here’s more detail on all of this, from Mother Jones.
The Column has a story about the Senate having blocked Sen. Al Franken’s (D-MN) Student Nondiscrimination Act.
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Actual flag of the United States: note the size and position of the blue square relative to the stripes; note the number of rows of stars and the pattern of stars in alternating rows; note the number and width of the stripes.

Conservatives are angry all the time.  The further to the extreme right, the higher the sustained anger level.


Fact and reason have nothing to do with this anger level.  The anger is real; the causes are not.


The condition of perpetual free-floating rage on the right is the result of careful and deliberate priming – read LYING – by the right wing propaganda machine.  They tell their gullible little stooges that things are BAD BAD BAD, and without a thought to fact checking a word of it, the right wingers fall into line and foam at the mouth on command.


You tend not to see these stories in the mainstream media, because they don’t survive the fact checking process.  Tell the truth about these ginned up incidents, no one gets angry.   It takes lies to anger the base.  It takes lies to unite the base in support of bad candidates as well.  There is so much of this propaganda, that the right cannot fully identify why they are so angry –  they just know they ARE.


To move on to the latest of these manipulated anger political dramas, specifically about the flag (there are entire separate persistent right wing propaganda themes, memes, or genres, although they do sometimes overlap – black people are thugs, homophobia, Islamophobia, etc.), here are a couple of the more recent ones.  The flag propaganda series posts illustrate qualities common to all of the different propaganda themes.


Nothing says patriotism like cars made in Korea……..or not.  Hey, I’m all for trade, so long as we have an even playing field to compete, but it is an issue in the TPP that we are suffering from some bad provisions of past trade agreements with South Korea, and Kia is just one of the imports that contribute to those problems of lost jobs and trade imbalance.


So in that larger world economics context, I was equal parts angry and amused at the latest two examples of right wing propaganda that usurps legitimate patriotism and hijacks the flag for purposes of propaganda.  Both take place in Florida, one in Sunrise, one in West Palm Beach.


Note that there is no upper  (viewers) left hand corner of blue (technically a canton) with 50 stars representing 50 states, but rather the blue takes up slightly less than half of the flag.   The number of stars in each row, and the arrangement of stars in each row also appear to be incorrect.


photo of the so-called ‘American Flags’ being flown at the Kia dealership in West Palm Beach.

Moving on to the ‘stripes’ of the flag, they are the wrong width, and there are more than the 13, representing the original colonies, that appear on our American flag.




This is a form of bunting, which is prohibited by local ordinance, apparently intended to keep dealerships from unduly junking up the municipality.


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



Democratic donkey doorknockerYou may have heard that the Green and Lacour study on using canvassing to change opinions was retracted. If not, that’s actually kind of good, because that makes debunking a bit easier as you don’t have the wrong idea in your head already. I almost had to write my own retraction because I was pondering writing a post based on Green and Lacour’s findings when I learned that the data was manipulated to get a headline-making result. I find those “everything you think is wrong” stories to be irresistible click bait, so when I heard one of the reports on the study, in a recent This American Life, The Incredible Rarity of Changing Your Mind, and being someone who does a lot of canvassing (by volunteer standards) and has run some doorknocks myself, this just screamed near future blog post. I don’t know which is worse, admitting that I procrastinated about writing, or admitting that procrastinating really helped. So I didn’t write up how amazing these findings were and how we might use them, but I did discuss it in some private conversations, and I’m really hoping those individuals are reading this.
The study came from a good impulse. Proposition 8 in California in 2008 put a ban on marriage equality in the state constitution after it had already been legalized. The “no” campaign expected to win between its lead in the polls, the large turnout the Obama campaign was generating, and California’s general liberal leaning, so defeat was a surprise. After its unexpected loss, the “no” campaign cooperated in the experiment to see if it could send canvassers into areas where they lost and sway opinion face to face.
FiveThirtyEight summarized the study in it’s article on the retraction:

The article, published last December in Science Magazine by UCLA graduate student Michael J. LaCour and Columbia University political scientist Donald P. Green, appeared to show that an in-person conversation with an openly gay person made voters feel much more positively about same-sex marriage, an effect that persisted and even spread to the people those voters lived with, who weren’t part of the conversation. The result of that purported effect was an affirmation of the power of human contact to overcome disagreement.
By describing personal contact as a powerful political tool, the paper influenced many campaigns and activists to shift their approach to emphasize the power of the personal story. The study was featured by Bloomberg, on “This American Life” and in activists’ playbooks, including those used by backers of an Irish constitutional referendum up for a vote Friday that would legalize same-sex marriage.



Republicans fine with economic inequalityThese three things seem like they might go together. First, Mother Jones has the scorecard of which crank billionaire cranks back which Republican presidential candidates. No billionaire? Then no GOP nomination for you! Second, there’s some seemingly contradictory research showing that the white working class gets how big money and its pet politicians are screwing up the government, and that’s part of why the white working class votes how big money wants them to. Irony hurts.
Not that I think anyone is consciously thinking the way to punish the people who haven’t been able to stop the corruption is to vote for the crooks. That’s just how I read the effect. Stanley Greenburg writes in Washington Monthly about research on white working class voters which finds that they get that money has corrupted politics and they think those in government don’t care about regular people. Though Democrats are losing the white working class, they are more open to a Democratic agenda. They just don’t trust the government to carry it out. They want reform of the process first, before they’re open to a more activist government agenda. Sadly, this means sabotage has worked nicely for Republicans. The whole article deserves a read, but to whet your wonkish appetite:

These voters, as we shall see, are open to an expansive Democratic economic agenda—to more benefits for child care and higher education, to tax hikes on the wealthy, to investment in infrastructure spending, and to economic policies that lead employers to boost salaries for middle- and working-class Americans, especially women. Yet they are only ready to listen when they think that Democrats understand their deeply held belief that politics has been corrupted and government has failed. Championing reform of government and the political process is the price of admission with these voters. These white working-class and downscale voters are acutely conscious of the growing role of big money in politics and of a government that works for the 1 percent, not them.



Franken will skip Netanyahu speech

by Dan Burns on March 3, 2015 · 2 comments

israelRighteous. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress (scheduled for 10AM CST this morning; I ain‘t watching that s*it), is a sorry stunt intended to improve his (unfortunately already strong) chances of retaining his job after the election in Israel this month, and to undermine U.S. negotiations with Iran and promote another disastrous U.S. war in the region instead.

In a statement earlier Monday, (Sen. Al) Franken (D-MN) described the speech as a “partisan spectacle.”
“This has unfortunately become a partisan spectacle, both because of the impending Israeli election and because it was done without consulting the administration,” Franken said. “I’d be uncomfortable being part of an event that I don’t believe should be happening. I’m confident that, once this episode is over, we can reaffirm our strong tradition of bipartisan support for Israel.”
(Huffington Post)

As always, President Obama is running rings around the right-wing Congress. He’s already dealt with the crap “Bibi” is likely to spew.

Speaking away from the AIPAC conference, which was attended by both Rice and Obama’s UN ambassador, Samantha Power, on Monday, the president was less diplomatic and more scathing of Netanyahu’s position.
“[He] thinks that the best way to do that is either through doubling down on more sanctions or through military action, ensuring that Iran has absolutely no enrichment capabilities whatsoever,” Obama told Reuters.
“And there’s no expert on Iran or nuclear proliferation around the world that seriously thinks that Iran is going to respond to additional sanctions by eliminating its nuclear program.”
He also repeated his criticism of Netanyahu’s decision to visit Washington – just two weeks before an Israeli election – calling it a “distraction” from the priority of negotiations with Iran.
(The Guardian)

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