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Al Franken

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.
Comments below fold.

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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)

Comment below fold


Net Neutrality Passes in 3-2 FCC Vote!

by Dog Gone on February 26, 2015 · 0 comments

Foolish conservatives, especially the conspiracy theory crowd, are blowing their hats in the air as their heads explode.


A special call out to the religious fool and zealot Pat Robertson, who sees a freaky non-existent government take over in this move. He must be having another one of his hallucinations, like the one he has that eating Halloween candy leads to demonic possession.


For the rest of us, this is GREAT NEWS!


A special thank you to our Senator Al Franken for championing this! The internet should be regulated as a utility (one which would be better with more competition).


Ellison to join McCollum in skipping Netanyahu

by Dan Burns on February 16, 2015 · 0 comments

israelThere are interesting political dynamics here.

At least two members of Minnesota’s Congressional delegation say they won’t attend Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to a joint session of Congress on March 3.
U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum said (Feb. 9) that she wouldn’t attend the event. (Feb. 10), U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison followed suit saying he’s concerned that House Republicans and Netanyahu scheduled the speech to undercut President Obama’s negotiations with Iran.

Here is a list, apparently last updated Saturday, of where those in Congress nationwide who have said anything about the matter, stand. As far as Minnesota’s House delegation goes, Rep. Collin Peterson hasn’t said that he will attend, though if he doesn’t it will be because of other commitments, certainly not because of any intent to join progressives in a political statement. The other House members from both parties plan to be there. If you read the MPR article, note that Rep. Tom Emmer’s (R-MN) release is pure neocon propaganda, and exactly what you’d expect from that clown.

The situation with Minnesota’s U.S. senators is more intriguing; they haven’t made up their minds yet (I checked again first thing this morning). Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) skipping out would be the sort of boat-rocking that has always been political anathema to her, and I don’t anticipate it. But the possibilites with Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) are much more open.
I’ll believe it if it happens, but there are reports that Republicans will fill seats of those skipping the speech with GOP staffers who will heartily cheer ol’ “Bibi” on whenever cued. Hard to believe that even they’d open themselves to the kind of mockery such a stunt will invite.


What actually happened in 2014

by Eric Ferguson on December 30, 2014 · 0 comments

So a year ago, I risked making public predictions for 2014. It was mostly for fun, just to see what I could get right, either show off or get humbled depending, but I also wondered if I’d learn something about which thought processes are more useful than others.
Pardon the spoiler, but going from your gut is a bad idea. Maybe, strictly speaking, going from my gut is a bad idea, but I think my gut feeling is at least as good as anyone else’s, but that’s not all that good. Let’s say that looking at which predictions were based on knowledge, and which were a gut feeling, was a good predictor of which predictions would prove accurate.

So here is what will happen in 2014, judged by this grading system:
100% correct: Hello Nate Silver!
75%: Somebody’s been paying attention.
50%: Coin flipper.
25%: Should have stuck with the coin.
0%: Professional psychic. (if you’re a psychic, you might not find that humorous, but you should have seen it coming)

I give myself either a “coin flipper” plus, or a “somebody’s been paying attention” minus. What the heck, it’s still the holidays, so I’ll be nice to myself, and give an arguably inflated “somebody’s been paying attention”. So, prediction by prediction, here’s how I did.