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Time for a “bad business fee”

by Dan Burns on July 24, 2014 · 1 comment

Lazarus_at_rich_man's_house_C-922This is a seriously excellent concept.
 

Can you name the worst job you’ve ever had? For Cliff Martin, that’s not an easy question. All three of his current jobs—delivering newspapers, delivering magazines and working as a janitor—are strong contenders. Taken together, they pay so poorly that the 20-year-old Northfield, Minnesota, native relies on MNsure, the state Medicaid plan, for healthcare and lives at home with his father to save money. But what if Martin’s bosses had to fork over a fee to the state for paying him so badly? That money, in turn, could be used to help support Martin and his fellow low-wage workers in a variety of ways, from direct subsidies for food and housing to social programs such as Medicaid or public transportation.
 
TakeAction Minnesota, a network that promotes economic and racial justice in the state, wants to make that fee a reality. It’s developing the framework for a bill that it hopes will be introduced in 2015 by state legislators who have worked with the network in the past. As conceived, the “bad business fee” legislation would require companies to disclose how many of their employees are receiving public assistance from the state or federal government. Companies would then pay a fine based on the de facto subsidies they receive by externalizing labor costs onto taxpayers.
(In These Times)

Of course we can all hear the wailing and whimpering from plutocrats, amplified by their legions of servile propagandists, already. Tough. The time is now, to get going on ideas like these.
 
Image from the Ultimate Bible Picture Collection. Cf. Luke 16:19-31.
 

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consuladoSPI haven’t been able to find a photo of the one person, and that’s probably for the best. Rubbing it in any further would just be mean.
 

To make their case that Americans are really upset about an increase in unaccompanied children at the border, anti-immigrant groups staged what was supposed to have been a massive number of protests around the country. They staged a “National Day of Protesting Against Immigration Reform, Amnesty & Border Surge” which for some reason was actually two days, this past Friday and Saturday. This effort was led by three anti-immigrant groups, ALIPAC, Make Them Listen, and Overpasses for America…
 
Minnesota’s Advocates for Human Rights reported that they only found one person at any of the scheduled protests in that state. The gentleman held a sign outside the Mexican Consulate in Saint Paul, but got an earful from people who lived nearby, and chose to depart.
(Think Progress)

That’s an ordinary photo of the Mexican Consulate in St. Paul, from its website. Not that the inclusion of one true-believing, if befuddled, nutcase out on the sidewalk would make much difference.

 

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Matt Entenza Is Not An Out Stater

by gregladen on July 22, 2014 · 2 comments

Rebecca_Otto_Matt_Entenza.jpg

This is a followup on my earlier post (see “How do you say “Surprise” in Norwegian? The word is “Entenza.” I am not making that up” also reposted here) on Matt Entenza’s bid for the DFL (Democratic Party) Primary candidacy for Minnesota State Auditor.

 

Entenza claims he is from Greater Minnesota, and thus, would do a better job representing the interests of Greater Minnesotans. This implies that highly acclaimed sitting State Auditor and candidate for re-election Rebecca Otto is not doing well in this area. In fact, she is doing very well. She is recognized for her fair and non-partisan treatment of people and local governments across the state. The previous State Auditor used the position in a more political way, implying bias, and voters rejected that approach by the largest upset of an incumbent in 112 years when Otto was first elected. It is now well-understood, here and nationally, that Otto is doing it right.

 

This is similar to the misleading language Entenza is using on pensions and social security. "Too often these days, we hear stories about how folks who worked hard and played by the rules their whole lives have their retirement at risk by poorly managed pension funds and Wall Street middle-men that charge exorbitant fees. Privatization of pensions is unacceptable. Minnesotans’ pensions should not be privatized and that Wall-Street middle men have no business near our pension plans.” This, again, implies that Otto has somehow been involved in privatizing pensions. She has not. In fact, a review of Otto’s website shows that she has been leading the charge against the move to privatize public pensions, and that the Public Employee Retirement Association is stronger than ever on her watch.

 

A similar thing happened in a recent news article about Otto leading a national conference of State Auditors, bringing the State Auditors from around the country to Saint Paul. A few accounting firms that work with local governments were some of the conference sponsors. Entenza said of this, via his campaign mouthpiece, that "The people being regulated should not be paying for lavish events for those doing the regulating. Attending parties and events thrown by firms the auditor is supposed to be watchdogging is not how Matt Entenza will run the office.” Again, this is a blatant attempt to mislead voters. The State Auditor does not watchdog or regulate private CPA firms in any way, and there were no lavish events at the conference. In fact, the conference was part of required continuing education classes that help auditors keep up with the latest laws, regulations and trends. So here, Entenza would have readers believe that all State Auditors from around the country are somehow having a conflict of interest. Really? He says he wouldn’t attend such conferences if elected. How then, one wonders, would his staff be able to do their jobs?

 
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A chastening look from the left

by Dan Burns on July 22, 2014 · 0 comments

imagesCAY7OL8CI’ve been quite critical of President Obama now and then, myself, and I stand by those criticisms. But I acknowledge many of the points made in the best reality check from the left that I’ve seen in a while.
 

Look: Obama made some mistakes. He should have done more about housing. He shouldn’t have pivoted to deficit-mongering so quickly. Maybe he could have kept a public option in Obamacare if he’d fought harder for it. Maybe, maybe, maybe. But probably not. Like it or not, America was not poised for a huge liberal wave in 2008. It just wasn’t. It was poised for a fairly routine cycle of throwing out the old bums and electing new bums, who would, as usual, be given a very short and very limited honeymoon. Democrats actually accomplished a fair amount during that honeymoon, but no, they didn’t turn American into a lefty paradise. That was never in the cards.
 
All of us who do what Thomas Frank does — what I do — have failed. Our goal was to persuade the public to move in a liberal direction, and that didn’t happen. In the end, we didn’t persuade much of anyone. It’s natural to want to avoid facing that humiliating truth, and equally natural to look for someone else to blame instead. That’s human nature. So fine. Blame Obama if it makes you feel better. That’s what we elect presidents for: to take the blame.
 
But he only deserves his share. The rest of us, who were unable to take advantage of an epic financial collapse to get the public firmly in favor of pitchforks and universal health care, deserve most of it. The mirror doesn’t lie.
(Mother Jones)

The public is progressive, even very progressive, on most issues. But we’ve been unable to translate that to electoral change. In the longer term (i.e. looking out to the early 2020s), I think there’s ample cause for optimism (due to a more thoughtful and knowledgeable, less gullible, populace), in that regard. But it’s an agonizingly slow, tortuous, and frustrating road. Historically, the path to positive change always has been that, though that doesn’t mean it always has to be.
 
One sees a constant online stream of claims that we’re on the verge of (if not already in) a plutocratic/surveillance state/theocratic dictatorship, on the brink of world economic collapse, etc., etc. Those screeds have their place, and maybe more people should be paying more attention. But they’re not, because none of it has anything to do with their daily experience. There would perhaps be a better chance of effectively reaching more people, if that was borne in mind.
 

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abanschoolAnd it should start with this.
 

Whether President Obama realizes it or not, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is now “damaged goods,” a leader whose credibility has been sharply diminished on both sides of the aisle and is widely despised by teachers and parents around the nation. As a result, any initiative he launches will generate skepticism and opposition and will go exactly nowhere. Whether the President can cut loose his long time friend and basketball buddy is an open question, but the die is cast. Arne Duncan is now a liability more than an asset and someone whose presence may cost Democrats votes in the 2014 elections.
(Mark Naison – Dump Duncan Facebook, 7/17/14)

What all has precipitated commentary like the above, which is spot-on if you ask me, is that Duncan is essentially pimping a conservative Republican approach to American education. Full corporatization (“Walmartization,” if you prefer) of schools is the odious goal.
 

The American Federation of Teachers passed a resolution July 13 calling on President Barack Obama to put U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on an “improvement plan,” and demand his resignation if he doesn’t change positions the union deems harmful.
 
This is a very interesting development, notably because it’s arguable whether this resolution is stronger than the National Education Association’s similarly themed resolution, or weaker.
 
On the one hand, unlike the NEA resolution, it stops short of calling for Duncan’s immediate resignation. But on the other hand, the AFT makes it explicit that the buck for the education secretary ultimately stops with the person who appointed him — President Obama.
 
Delegates noted Duncan’s support for the Race to the Top competition, which gave incentives to states to tie teacher evaluations to student test scores; for the recent Vergara v. California equity-lawsuit ruling, which declared certain teacher protections unconstitutional in California; and for supporting planned teacher firings in Central Falls, R.I., as well as for saying that Hurricane Katrina’s reshaping of New Orleans’ school system was beneficial.
(Education Week)

Every indication is that President Obama is with the deformer crowd, and I wish I knew why. This is easily my biggest disappointment with his presidency. According to a big long survey (PDF), a largely uninformed public both strongly supports public schools (as it should), and more charters (as it most certainly shouldn‘t). Grounds for some measure of optimism, or at least determination in the face of difficult odds, is that the President has shown himself open to learned, rational persuasion in the past, on gay marriage for example.
 

Duncan is one of those professional suck-ups that infest DC like mold spores. And he displays a smug arrogance that is truly obnoxious and repellent. Some of his recent, combative comments are likely subconsciously grounded in fear that he’ll be exposed before all for the wretched fake that he is. Just…he needs to go (preferably replaced by Diane Ravitch, though that would seem too-good-to-be-true unlikely).
 

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clowncarh/t Politics.mn
 
So there’s the underlying issue of frac sand mining, and the issue of who correctly construed who, as Republican gubernatorial campaigns go after each other. For the part of the story about Republicans going after each other, Bill Kuisle, running for lieutenant governor with GOP gubernatorial endorsee Jeff Johnson, said it makes sense to delay frac sand mining so the effects can be studied.
 

I’ve pulled the key quotes from the back and forth between the two campaign[sic]. Below is the quote from Kuisle from the interview, in response to a question about frac sand mining:

 

“‘I’ve followed the issue a little bit in the papers,’ said Kuisle, a farmer of 160 acres between Stewart and Rochester. ‘You can’t be an expert on every issue, but I think you’ve got to look at all sides. That is a tough one.
 
“I think the moratorium, give it six months or a year, to study the issue is a good thing. You need to determine what you hope to protect. Is it air pollution, trout streams, transportation? Source: The Caledonia Argus, “Republican-endorsed candidate for lieutenant governor stops by Argus offices”, July 15, 2014

 
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safe_imagephpdAQA0Ubd1yNoWTNbvw90h90urlhttp3A2F2Fwwwhumanbannersfcom2Fwp-content2Fuploads2F20112F102Ftax-the-1-percent-d-150x150Yet conservatives continue to pimp the same whimpering, groveling welfare-for-the-wealthy crap. David Cay Johnston is among my favorite political writers.
 

According to an analysis by Pulitzer-Prize winning reporter David Cay Johnston, formerly of the New York Times, the Bush tax cuts, touted as a harbinger of prosperity by the Republican Party, actually robbed each American taxpayer of $48,000 in pre-tax personal income during the twelve years of their existence, for a total of approximately 6.6 trillion dollars.
 
This is more than enough to pay for every student loan, car loan, and credit card debt in the U.S, while still leaving 2.4 trillion dollars in the pockets of Americans. It is the equivalent of an extra 11 dollars a day lost to each American taxpayer over the last twelve years.
(Daily Kos)

This has a long, involved explanation of the above, for the truly wonky among us.
 
(Update: Here is Johnston’s original column, which is kind of hard to get to via the links posted above.)
 
And, also on the theme of right-wing claims about the economy inevitably being complete and utter BS:
 

We see that while (as per usual) there is considerable variation in unemployment rates across groups, the unemployment rate is substantially higher now than it was before the recession started for all groups. The unemployment rate is between 1.2 and 1.7 times as high now as it was seven years ago for all age, education, occupation, industry, gender, and racial and ethnic groups. Elevated unemployment across the board, like we see today, means that the weak labor market is due to employers not seeing demand for their goods and services pick up in a way that would require them to significantly ramp up hiring, not workers lacking the right skills or education for the occupations or industries where jobs are available.
(Economic Policy Institute)

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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.

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DSCN6270

Wow, deputies endorse the new candidate for Hennepin Sheriff, Eddie Frizell, not the incumbent Rich Stanek, by a vote of 170 to 14 votes. There must be some serious reasons because I am sure that endorsing against one’s current boss is a risk. An announcement is expected out soon.

 

Today, Eddie did his kick off announcement for Hennepin’s County Sheriff. Eddie Frizell is currently Deputy Chief of the Patrol Bureau in Minneapolis, with 25 years experience. He is also a Colonel in the Minnesota Army National Guard for 25 years. He commanded the Red Bull Cavalry Squadron in Iraq. His medals and citations include the Medal of Valor for his heroic efforts during the I-35W bridge collapse. He has a long list of accomplishments.

 

Frizell suggested three ways that he would be a better sheriff. In contrast to Sheriff Stanek’s “70% increase in administrative costs”, Frizell would shift those expenditures to “boots on the ground” meaning deputies, training, and equipment. Frizell said that he would recruit more diversity in candidates (including veterans) so that Hennepin county staffing reflects the community that it serves. Frizell said that he would be a better leader because he is a “straight shooter” not a “career politician”.

 

In contrast, based on google searches, Stanek has a history of racism issues, budget issues, and privilege issues. Stanek is better known for being more politician than professional. Having not had a challenger for awhile, now Stanek will now have to defend how he runs the Sheriff’s office.
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The RFRA is backfiring and needs to go

by Dan Burns on July 16, 2014 · 1 comment

REPEAL RFRA2I was raised Roman Catholic, and took it fairly seriously, but not super-seriously, as a youth. At least as an altar boy (it was only boys doing that, then) I had something to do during Mass, to cut the boredom, a little. Then I got to college and got sunk in philosophy and became an atheist, as I am now. At the time I thought pretty highly of myself and my “intellectual courage,” but I recognize now that “courage” was not a factor. My temperament is scientific/skeptical, much more so than religious, and that’s that.
 
Certainly I continue to be critical of religious efforts to foist dogma on others, via politics, but I have long since stopped “bashing” religion in and of itself. I see said bashing as pointless and often counterproductive. Moreover, if you consider the bloodiest, most violent and destructive century in human history so far – the twentieth – the primary problem wasn’t religion. It was totalitarian socio-political doctrines like Stalinism, Nazism, and Maoism. Not that the U.S. and other somewhat more democratic nations reacted all that well, especially post-WWII.
 
I recognize why many continue to choose religion. I can relate to the desire for guidance, solace, and (far and away the most important, imo, even if believers don’t get all hung up in what really motivates them, and why should they?) participation in a community of shared belief and values.
 
Finally, I think that plenty of coverage, in the left-progressive blogosphere, of the Hobby Lobby SCOTUS decision has been apocalyptic overkill. Full-blown religious right Pentecostal/fundamentalist theocracy is here, because of this? Come on.
 
All that being said, it is one awful decision. And we can’t really just blame it entirely on the excesses of five reactionaries on the Court. More below the fold.
 
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