Recent Posts

Al Franken

Is Mike McFadden Running to Lose?

by Invenium Viam on July 17, 2014 · 9 comments

snakeyes-born-to-loseErnest Hemingway once said, “The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in, shockproof, sh*t detector.”


I like to think I’ve got a pretty good functioning unit. It may be old, but it’s pretty reliable.


That may be the reason why I’ve struggled with the nagging question whether Mike McFadden’s campaign to unseat Senator Franken is for real, or just for show. Something hasn’t felt quite right, not quite genuine, about what I’ve seen so far. My spidey-senses are all a-tingle.


I understand that McFadden is a political newcomer, never having held political office before. So it would be easy to pass off any misgivings about McFadden’s campaign bona fides onto that. While inexperienced he may be, McFadden’s certainly not dumb. He graduated magna cum laude from the University of St. Thomas with a B.A. in Economics. He earned a J.D. from Georgetown. So you know he’s got the raw horsepower upstairs.


Presumably, he’s also a skilled business manager. He would know that you don’t try to push your way into a developed niche market against several strong competitors without having a helluva business plan, some ironclad financial backers, and Triple-A core competencies across the board. The risk of failure is just too great — and nobody wants to back a loser, especially the money guys.


So it’s telling that, after more than a year on the campaign trail, with less than a month before the primary election and little more than three months remaining before the general, McFadden remains largely unknown to Minnesota voters, his campaign is undistinguished, his messaging is unremarkable, his fundraising is woeful, and his crew seems unfocused and directionless.



Mike McFadden is running for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Al Franken (D-MN). He also has to win a primary in August; he’s considered a heavy favorite, there. His most recent TV ads are strange and weird, and call the general competence of his campaign very much into question. (Note that not long ago his staff got a big change.) Maybe he figures he has to try something unusual, all things considered.

First, it’s presented as a positive that he cluelessly performed a medical procedure, presumably under septic conditions, on a child.

Then, apparently there is something cute and/or funny about being sucker-punched, square, in the nuts.

Keep ‘em coming, Mittclone. Please.


Democrats need to watch their language

by Eric Ferguson on June 30, 2014 · 3 comments

Don’t be linguistically hoist by your own petard.

No, that title doesn’t mean Democrats need to stop swearing. Ever been to a DFL meeting? You could broadcast those without a seven second delay; not with much audience except the five Republicans hoping something stupid will be said, but certainly without fear of FCC fines. I’m referring to our actual verbiage. The way we communicate.

Yes, I know, you’ve heard about messaging and framing, and semantics, and your head just swims as the concepts fade from your brain. You don’t need any theoretical understanding as long as you get it empirically; say X and not Y. So my intention here is to look at specific word choices. I’ve been delaying posting as I give time for examples to accumulate, not that I’m not bound to miss a bunch. Feel free to disagree of course, but also feel free to add. You might well have better ones than I came up with.

Let’s just dive in. In order basically as they occurred to me, not alphabetical or topical or ranked by importance:
“Photo ID”, not “Voter ID”: They’re not the same. We’re playing into the hands of the voter suppressors every time we say “voter ID”. The problem isn’t getting an ID; the problem is getting an ID with a photo on it. We already have voter ID for registering, when you need something with your address on it; bank statements, rental agreements, or utility bills. If a voter could vote with a utility bill, showing ID to vote would still be a pointless step given the scarcity of impersonation, but at least the requirement wouldn’t be disenfranchising. Getting the photo ID is the hard part for many people, especially when what people have is disallowed, like states that sent confirmation cards to registered voters stopped accepting those cards at the polls because they don’t have photos. Saying “voter ID” grossly understates the difficulty many voters have in getting acceptable ID, and the voter fraud invention industry depends on the majority for whom photo ID is no big deal giving it no thought. At least “photo ID” gets us part way to making the point that people do have ID, but new laws won’t accept it. As we learned in Minnesota when we beat back the photo ID constitutional amendment, public support is broad but shallow, and quite amenable to factual arguments (how rarely that happens unfortunately).


McFadden Four-Flushing on Veteran Funding

by Invenium Viam on June 23, 2014 · 9 comments

Mike McFadden

Mike McFadden

Four-flusher‘ is one of those great old slang terms that has fallen into general disuse over the years. Specifically, it means a poker player who likes to bluff having a flush, but only has four cards of the same suit, not five. By extension, it means someone who misrepresents himself to others in a self-serving way. More pejoratively, four-flusher is used as a synonym for a con-man, a phony, or a fake.


I’ll leave it to you to decide in which senses of the term Mike McFadden might be a four-flusher.


On June 10, McFadden’s campaign issued a press release damning Senator Franken for failing to keep a campaign promise to veterans: ”In 2008, Al Franken promised Minnesotans that he would stop shortchanging our veterans and put an end to wait times at VA clinics. Five years later, we know that Sen. Franken has failed miserably,” said Tom Erickson, spokesman for the McFadden for Senate campaign. “With over 57,000 patients waiting for their first appointment, it’s clear that Sen. Franken’s campaign promises are little more than empty rhetoric from just another politician. Our veterans deserve better.”


As a veteran, I have enormous regard for Senator Franken, as do millions of others across the country. With regard to flag-draping, ambitious posers — not so much.




10153099_10201944684358785_8210271862682794906_nWe know about how much help Republicans are, regarding the student loan crisis. But it seemed to me that for some reason market fundamentalist outrage was rather muted, when President Obama signed the Pay As You Earn executive order.

The Executive Order is targeted at a demographic of about 5 million people with older loans who, before this, were not able to participate in the Pay As You Earn program which caps student loan repayment at 10% of monthly discretionary income. An important task now for the Administration will be making sure that those who are eligible for this program are aware of it. Currently only a small fraction of eligible borrowers are taking part. Accordingly, part of the Executive Order details the Administration’s plans to work with private lenders to promote awareness of repayment options, and also to expand communications strategies to help vulnerable borrowers.

There is a vote pending in the U.S. Senate – it may take place as soon as today – on the Bank On Students Emergency Loan Refinancing Act. Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) is a lead co-sponsor. I’ve seen Democrats call the vote “up in the air,” which means it likely won’t pass the filibuster. And it almost certainly won’t even be taken up in the House, in any case. But it’s politically important.

(Sen. Elizabeth) Warren’s (D-MA) bill is a key part of the Senate Democrats’ “Fair Shot” agenda, which Democratic leaders are using to highlight how out of touch the Republican Party is with the needs of working Americans. Warren’s bill as introduced would not have added a single dime to the national deficit, because its cost would be financed by enacting the “Buffet rule,” which would ensure that Americans earning more than $1 million annually are paying taxes at a rate at least as high as middle-income workers.
(Nation of Change)

It would be really, really great if people with student loans would vote this November, and in every election thereafter. We political junkies do what we can, but it’s really up to those most affected to take advantage of opportunities to improve their own circumstances. It’s just an hour or two, if that, of your time, once every two years. What’s the problem? Is making a big deal of your superior cynicism that important, that you’ll forego an effort to materially help yourselves?
Update: Yeah, it got filibustered. 56 votes isn’t really a majority, you know.


10439498_10202965631314937_7763882604465877273_nThe U.S. Senate finally got rid of the filibuster for executive and judicial nominees, because Republicans were shamelessly and vindictively using it to block pretty much everybody. Unfortunately, Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT), chair of the Judiciary Committee, continues to allow the use of “blue slips” by Republicans, to shoot down some nominations. Leahy apparently has this bizarre delusion that the U.S. Senate is still fundamentally a “collegial” place full of intelligent, reasonable people who honestly mean well, but are just separated by a few minor differences of opinion that can be respectfully worked out with a little good-faith effort on all sides. It’s hard to determine how Leahy, who does not seem like a fool in general, can be so screwed up in his head on this particular matter. But that’s what we have to deal with.
So, President Obama cut a deal, down in Georgia: Conservatives could have a couple of their own, within reason, if they agreed not to block very important circuit court nominations. The result was predictable, and, thankfully, at least one U.S. Senator from Minnesota is having none of it.

Michael Boggs’ disingenuous answers to members of the Senate Judiciary Committee considering his nomination to the federal bench aren’t cutting the mustard with Sen. Al Franken (D-MN).
Franken and his colleague Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) were particularly concerned about Boggs’ comments in his confirmation hearing that he made a completely uninformed vote for a controversial anti-abortion bill in the Georgia legislature, a measure that would endanger the lives of healthcare providers. Those concerns weren’t allayed by Boggs’ written responses to follow-up questions by the senators, and have led Franken to announce his opposition to Boggs.
(Daily Kos)

This could work. If there’s enough committee opposition, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid could decide to torpedo the nomination by simply refusing to allow a floor vote. That’s probably our best bet.

{ 1 comment }

10274309_10152202035373931_6497088144295462764_nMN Rep. Jim Abeler (R-Anoka) has decided to run in the Minnesota Republican primary vs. the endorsed candidate, Mike McFadden. (Incidentally, I was dead wrong, yet again, about who the GOP would endorse.) There are other candidates, too; you can see a list here. (Yeah, I also noticed that Julianne Ortman’s name is still there. I believe that she has a couple of days yet, to have it removed. But note that the Tea Party has spent money on her candidacy, and “Simple” Sarah Palin did endorse her, and presumably there is some pressure for her to stay in, after all. Also, all that my search this morning turned up for Sandra Henningsgard, Sen. Al Franken’s listed DFL primary opponent, was that she’s a public school teacher and/or administrator in Duluth.)
The thing is, right-wing hard-liners in the MN GOP, who don’t like Mike, want one of their own to vote for. Abeler isn’t really that; among other transgressions, he was a member of the “Override Six.“ Still, I wish him well, to the extremely limited extent to which I could ever wish any Republican candidate well, in any context.
Certainly, Mittclone is already campaigning for the general. Like Willard Mitt Romney, McFadden fairly exudes, from the very pores of his flesh, a constant effluvium of selfishness and insincerity. I’m super-rich, and therefore a god among men, so vote for me! A sorry con man is what he is, in business and politics. Not a lot of depth. (If you follow that last link, you will also see a whole lot more about his involvement in education, that he will undoubtedly be pimping.)
During the convention, McFadden was endorsed by “Crazy” Michele Bachmann, member of the U.S. House of Representatives for MN-06, for another 7 months or so. I can’t make up my mind as to whether that might matter for November, or not. Minnesotans don’t seem to be paying much attention to Bachmann anymore, haven’t been for a while now, and my guess is that it won’t be significant, for better or worse.
A possible issue in the general is conservative defection to Independence Party endorsed candidate Kevin Terrell. (Assuming Terrell wins what looks to be a crowded primary, per the SoS website linked above. Former IP Senate candidate Hannah Nicollet is now that party’s gubernatorial pick.) Especially if polling continues to show Al winning in a walk.

Image by Chuck Smith-Dewey. Used by permission.

{ 1 comment }

DFL state convention live blog

by Eric Ferguson on June 1, 2014 · 8 comments

I’m at the DFL state convention, and I’ll be live blogging it, which means I’ll be posting updates below. The video above is an introduction similar to this, just for kicks. Feel free to subscribe to my channel. I may post video updates if opportunity arises, but I’ll generally be where people are trying to talk or people are trying to hear, so no promises, but I’ll see if I can show some of what goes on at a convention. Otherwise I’ll be posting what’s happening, maybe with an opinion since I’m allowed to do that. It’s a blog you know, and I’m not pretending to be a reporter or to be without biases. Jump to a preview of what’s going to happen.
Late Saturday update: The Saturday portion of this live blog got very long and made the front page a long scroll, and there are other posts worth reading. So I’m putting the “read more” below this paragraph, and the time stamped updates start on the jump. As expected, life required my presence at home, but I plan to live blog Sunday too, if I can get The Uptake’s stream working for me (quickie update: it worked). I suppose it depends on traffic, but I should have a better connection anyway. The mining resolution is expected to be the controversial part of the platform debates. Guess we’ll watch and see. Some things, like the constitution changes, might be inside baseball, but leave a question in the comments and I’ll try to answer.


10153099_10201944684358785_8210271862682794906_nFrom earlier this month:

U.S. Senator Al Franken is cosponsoring a bill that would enable borrowers to refinance old student loans.
The Minnesota Democrat says interest rates as high as 10 percent are one reason graduates carry so much debt.
“It’s not good for the economy,” he said. “It prevents Americans from making the kinds of decisions that help economic growth, decisions — to buy a home.”

Sen. Franken is of course up for reelection this November, and while it looks right now like he’ll win in a canter, you never know. Reps. John Kline (R-MN) and Erik Paulsen (R-MN) will be on the ballot, too. And their actions, or inactions, in Congress have been the worst kind of news for students and everyone else. I explain, below the fold.


Memorial Day in Light of Citizens United

by Invenium Viam on May 23, 2014 · 3 comments

ft snelling gravemarkersOn April 30, 2013, in a bi-partisan vote in both houses, Maine became the thirteenth state to pass a resolution calling for a federal constitutional amendment to overturn CITIZENS UNITED, noting that “… the current legal landscape severely constrains the range of options available to citizens, frustrating efforts to reduce the influence of moneyed interest(s) in elections and in government.” In other words, the Maine legislature acknowledged that big money buys influence and thereby unduly influences the composition of our elective bodies.


Geez, who knew?


Apparently, not the Roberts Court.


To date, sixteen states have passed resolutions memorializing the US Congress to, in the words of the 77th Oregon State Assembly “… respectfully urge the Congress of the United States of America to propose and send to the states for ratification an amendment to the United States Constitution consistent with the findings of this memorial, clarifying the distinction between the rights of natural persons and the rights of corporations and other legal entities …” []. Another 22 states have similar legislation pending, including Minnesota. So, as of this writing, 38 states have passed, or have in process, legislation that seeks to overturn CITIZENS UNITED through a Constitutional amendment.


Regardless of any other bad decisions the Supreme Court has made, including Dred Scott, I have to believe that Citizen’s United ranks among the very worst because it quite simply undermines the very foundations of our Republic by perverting our elections and our elective bodies. And while I am not a lawyer or legal scholar, and can’t claim to have any deep understanding of the law, still I continue to wonder how it is possible for five well-educated, reasonable individuals to come to such a hare-brained decision. It defies common sense … unless, of course, common sense was mostly absent.


Justice Stevens made that very point in his minority dissent: “At bottom,” Justice Stevens said, “the Court’s opinion is thus a rejection of the common sense of the American people, who have recognized a need to prevent corporations from undermining self-government since the Founding, and who have fought against the distinctive corrupting potential of corporate electioneering since the days of Theodore Roosevelt. It is a strange time to repudiate that common sense. While American democracy is imperfect, few outside the majority of this Court would have thought its flaws included a dearth of corporate money in politics.”