Recent Posts

Al Franken

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
 
…READ MORE

{ 2 comments }

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).

{ 0 comments }

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.
(MPR)

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.
 

{ 0 comments }

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.
 
…READ MORE

{ 0 comments }

Looking at what happened in biggest races

by Eric Ferguson on December 4, 2014 · 0 comments

voters2If you want to look at 2014 most high profile elections mostly in one spot, David Jarman at Daily Kos has a bunch of them collected in one spot. There are some common themes, hopefully not surprising if you’ve been doing your election analysis reading, but if you’re surprised, just keep quiet and no one will know.
 

One theme of course is drop-off Democrats, but the drop off was hardly even from one state to another. It was generally worse where there was no hotly contested top of the ticket, but as we’ve face-palmed about since months before election day, there were Democrats who gave their base nothing to vote for.
 
One prime example is the US Senate election in Virginia. It meshes with another theme you’ll notice following Jarman’s links, the rural/metro* divide. Much as we worry about MNGOP success at playing up a rural/metro divide, the DFL is doing great winning white rural votes compared to other state Democratic parties. Virginia Democrats basically have Richmond and the DC suburbs, and that’s it. Sen. Mark Warner won by a squeaker instead of the predicted blowout because he didn’t get the memo. He devoted his efforts to winning rural voters he wasn’t going to get, and he mostly ignored Fairfax County. This is analogous to Al Franken putting his efforts into winning CD6 by claiming to be nearly a Republican while blowing off Hennepin County.
 
What scares me as I write this is that there are still Democratic candidates and campaigns that don’t get where their voters live and the need to get them to vote. Maybe they didn’t learn from studies showing politicians assume voters are more conservative than they actually are. I just don’t get how anyone can still not get that winning statewide means heavy GOTV in heavily Democratic areas. Maybe Warner made the common mistake of assuming the last election predicts the next one, in that he had previously won the rural southwest while losing the reddish DC suburbs. But this is a different year, and both regions had flipped. It’s the same sort of mistake as those who assumed Al Franken and Mark Dayton were in for tough reelections because they went to recounts last election.
 
Speaking of bad strategy, there was one link that illustrates why I have such reluctance about donating to the DSCC and DCCC. Though this one is specifically on the DSCC.
 
…READ MORE

{ 0 comments }

Minnesota looking more like the rest of the country

by Eric Ferguson on November 26, 2014 · 2 comments

Minnesota has been something of an outlier compared to almost every other state. Most states have Democratic cities, Republican rural areas, and competitive suburbs. We have long flipped those last two. This last election though, the state house election looked pretty typical of what might be expected in almost any randomly chosen state.
 
This raises some questions, namely:
— Is this trend of reddening rural areas and bluing suburbs really happening here? Didn’t I just say it was, one paragraph ago? I actually have my doubts, about which more later.
— Why is this happening? I won’t actually spend much space on this because there seem to be multiple plausible explanations, which can be simultaneously true, so it’s more complicated than can be dealt with here.
— How do we respond?
 
I used this chart repeatedly in that series on Democrats needing to do better with white voters, but that was nearly two years ago, so here it is again:
 

 
…READ MORE

{ 2 comments }

Was it political cowardice or bad strategy?

by Eric Ferguson on November 21, 2014 · 6 comments

announcement of Donald Rumsfeld's resignation
UPDATE: Heard from the Speaker of the Minnesota House, sadly shortly to be minority leader (replaced by this guy), and looks like some state-specific comments of mine might not hold up. Details here.
 
When Pres. Obama announced his support for net neutrality right after the election, I thought I understood how Republicans felt when Bush Jr. forced out Defense Sec. Don Rumsfeld right after the 2006 election. Well, that was nice, but couldn’t you have done that before we got toasted in the midterm election?! Of course my first response to Obama’s announcement was to be glad he came out so strongly on the side of the angels, but my next thought was to recall an image of Rumsfeld’s resignation being announced. Why not do this before the election, and maybe save some seats?
 
The silver lining of an election loss is it makes us more likely to consider our assumptions. We may not even realize we’re making assumptions. The assumption in this case is the spinelessness of Democratic candidates and elected officials. We in the Democratic base have pleaded for more spine for I don’t recall how long. Back to the 80’s maybe? The 70’s? The 90’s at least. Election after election, but especially during midterms when there’s a Democratic president, we see one self-defeating move after another. The seeming political cowardice wasn’t just on the part of Obama, despite my reaction to the timing of his net neutrality announcement, and despite his failure to do anything on immigration until last night, which I blame for the lower than expected (lower than expected by me anyway) turnout among Latinos. I’m inclined give him a pass on the timing of his strong stances on global warming since those likely had to wait for summits in China and Australia, though that doesn’t explain other Democrats not running on it.
 
Nor do Obama’s decisions excuse Democratic candidates who avoided him during their own reelections, and the many who avoided other Democrats at all, as if they weren’t running on a ticket. There were exceptions: Minnesota’s statewide candidates very much ran as a ticket, campaigning on the Democratic successes most Democrats rarely mentioned, for example; but in general, Democrats ran every-candidate-for-themselves with campaigns focused on appeasing, if not conservatives, then those mysterious centrists.
 
But was it really cowardice? I’m asking the base to question our assumption of gutlessness. Maybe this was strategy; lousy, awful strategy. If that’s the case, if spine isn’t the problem, then no wonder our appeals for political courage seem to achieve so little. We’re making the wrong demand.
 

…READ MORE

{ 6 comments }

Post-election observations

by Eric Ferguson on November 6, 2014 · 5 comments

With the voting done in 2014, let’s talk about 2016. Kidding! Stop, don’t go away! In fact, I’ll give you this handy link to Minnesota election results, but don’t leave yet.
 
The following thoughts about 2014 are more or less in the order in which they came to mind, though I tried to seize opportunities for coherency.
 
Starting with admittedly a repeat of my comment on Dan Burns’ post on women voting, assuming my walk lists of voters were the drop-off Democrats, it’s a bit disturbing those lists were heavy with younger women, meaning under 40. They arguably lost the most when Republicans did so well in 2010, between Republican governors and legislatures repealing equal pay laws, closing women’s clinics to restrict abortion access (and restricting access to health services in general thereby), photo ID laws (women’s birth certificates get rejected if they changed their names when they married), and blocking minimum wage increases which hurts women much more than men. Why aren’t younger women the most motivated to turn out?
 
Despite the wailing and media hysteria, if you didn’t roughly predict the results of the 2014 midterms once the results of the 2012 election were in, you have much to learn about US politics. We’re the presidential party in a midterm — Tuesday was always going to be bad. I expected we would net a governor or two, instead of a net loss of I think it will turn out to be two. But losses in Congress, albeit worse than they needed to be, no surprise. Looks like losses were small compared to 2010 in state legislatures. Not that we couldn’t have mitigated the losses without some bad decisions — yes, that’s a prelude to bringing up things I’m ticked about, and in my own defense, all things I raised before the campaign was over. We’ll get there shortly. Some good news, besides a good night for Democrats in Minnesota whatever happened elsewhere, is the GOP Senate majority is likely short-lived. Their odds of holding on in 2016 are worse than ours this year, for the same math problems: whether it’s a presidential year, who defends how many seats, and which states have elections.
 
Weirdly, given how the elections turned out, Democrats nearly ran the table on ballot measures. Unlike 2012, they seem not to have had coattails.
 
No one wants to believe the polls when they predict bad news, but for Senate and governor races, following them meant you weren’t surprised. Disappointed, but at least you knew it would be a generally bad night. Not so much for the US House, which I attribute to few polls and small sample sizes — so I was pleasantly surprised by CD8, since the last poll showed Stewart Mills with a strong lead, plus a Green candidate taking a few percent. Point being, better to accept the polls are roughly right and deal with reality. At least no one on the Democratic side went so far as to get into “unskewing”, so we have that going for us.
 
Apartment buildings folks, come on. I’m not naming sources or candidates, because no one knew in these conversations I might be blogging about it later on. Trying to do better at contacting people who live in apartments, or “multi-unit buildings” to not exclude residents of condominiums, is something we’ve worked on in the SD I chair, and the Keith Ellison campaign developed methods of doorknocking in apartments over the last couple elections. Ellison is safe, so the main beneficiaries are on the rest of the ballot, but lots of candidates and campaigns still want to bypass multi-unit buildings. The reasons why aren’t important. What’s important is we’re passing up voters Republicans also don’t contact, or, to be more positive, where we focus on multi-unit buildings, we’re contacting people Republicans ignore. Besides, whatever fudge factors there are, can anyone claim we solved the drop-off Democrat problem? Yet turfs are still cut to steer away from multi-unit buildings.
 
…READ MORE

{ 5 comments }

Artist's conception. Not actually Dan Severson

Artist’s conception. Not actually Dan Severson

Can it be called “full” tin foil hat unless someone is literally wearing a tin foil hat? So OK, Dan Severson’s tin foil hat might be purely metaphorical. How tin foil hatty? In a speech to the West Metro Tea Party last June, he said:
 

This was my attempt as a sitting State Representative to say you know what there’s fraud going on, this is during the Franken-Coleman recount, and you guys need to pay attention to this. This is relevant, right now. Why do we have Obamacare? Al Franken. Why do we have Al Franken? Voter corruption. Fraud. Why do we have a majority in the House and the Senate right now, and a Governor that are anti-business? They are anti-business. Voter fraud. Because they will go across the state and they will find the seats that are vulnerable. They will find the ones that are within a certain margin and then they will load the buses. And they will stuff the ballots.

His evidence? He believes it. Should we have some schadenfreude with an article of faith in the GOP, recalling the fools they made of themselves in the Franken-Coleman recount? Sure. So, in order to believe that Franken somehow stole the recount, you have to believe Franken pulled this off despite:
— An observer from each campaign watched each ballot being counted, with the right to challenge the decision on any ballots they wanted.
— The canvassing board, including Republican appointed judges, was unanimous on all decisions and all but a few votes.
— The entire proceedings was webstreamed live by The Uptake, so anyone who wanted could see each ballot.
— The election contest court, also webstreamed live, including Republican appointed judges, was unanimous in its decision, and found for Franken on all facts and rulings.
— The state Supreme Court, including Republican appointed judges, unanimously upheld the decision of the election contest court.
— The Coleman campaign, asked by the judges if they were alleging fraud, said “no” every time.
 
In that classic act of people in denial, in a press conference earlier this week, Severson cited a debunked study. He said Minnesota Majority found 6,000 illegal voters in the 2008 election. They actually sent county attorneys and election officials on thousands of wild goose chases. They found a few former felons who voted or merely registered without voting before their rights were restored, and election officials had already detected most of those. My understanding is even Minnesota Majority doesn’t stand by that report anymore. But conspiracy theorists, including the voter fraud variety, never give up the one bit of evidence they have no matter how false.
 
But if you can’t convince the fact-based world, then just shoot the people with Obama bumper stickers. From that same speech:
 

When we were coming in the streets were blocked up on 395, 394 whatever, and I’m thinking ‘what in the world is there an accident up there?’ And sure enough there’s cars blocked across, people are backed up for literally a mile on both sides, and I’m thinking ‘this is Barack Obama’. He’s here in our state tonight and he’s in, and I, and I think you know all those cars that have Obama stickers on the back oughta turn into targets at that point, you know?

 
Shoot Obama supporters, that’s funny, funnier than still calling himself “Doc”.
 
Oh, heck no, we’re not done yet. Click the “read more” link.
 
…READ MORE

{ 4 comments }

And the Band Played On …

by Invenium Viam on October 16, 2014 · 1 comment

titanic_sinking“We are born naked, wet and hungry. Then things get worse.” Anonymous 

 

In her superb narrative history A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century, Barbara Tuchman examines the startling parallels between our times and those of the late middle-ages. One of the subjects she examines was the effect of the Bubonic Plague on the social and economic structures of the times.

 

Ebola may very well constitute another parallel with that distant century in the making. Yesterday, President Obama cut short a fundraising trip and returned to Washington to meet with his cabinet to develop a response plan for dealing with the emerging Ebola “crisis.” He’ll be doing the same today and perhaps tomorrow as well.

 

What that tells me is that there’s a very good chance our top public health officials have advised the President that there’s a significant chance that Ebola may now have entered into the general population here in the US. Political leaders often know more than they tell us, for fear of affecting markets or causing political backlash. If that’s the case, then we now have a major emerging public health crisis on our hands that the President has taken immediate action with his cabinet to address, as he should. The World Health Organization predicts that the number of new cases of Ebola in Africa could top 10,000 a week within a couple of months. That pencils out to more than a half-million a year.

 

Let’s be clear about what all this means for us: Ebola has a fatality rate of more than 50%. If the virus gets into the general population here in the US — beyond the reach of the contact identification and isolation control measures now being employed — it could mean mass death measured by the millions in this country alone. Since our culture is one of extremely high mobility, outbreaks could occur simultaneously in large urban centers around the country and then filter rapidly into the rural areas.

 

In the 14th century, the Bubonic Plague had a similar mortality rate among the general population (actually approaching two-thirds). Tuchman points out that the wealthy fared far better than the urban poor, since they had the means to remove themselves and their servants to remote country estates where stocks of food, fuel and medicine were laid in and the outer grounds were patrolled by paid mercenaries to keep roaming beggars and bandits from the door.

 

Food prices soared as the breakdown of supply channels caused widespread shortages. Public security failed as the local gendarme’s abandoned their posts in the face of what appeared to be certain death. Roving criminal gangs and marauding bands of mercenaries pillaged, raped and burned at will unopposed by the power of government to enforce the laws. As the nobility fled the cities, the civil institutions failed and everywhere the social structures collapsed.

…READ MORE

{ 1 comment }