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Post-election observations

by Eric Ferguson on November 6, 2014 · 4 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.
 
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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.

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The importance of local races

by Eric Ferguson on October 15, 2014 · 5 comments

Before she was in Congress, Michele Bachmann was a state senator, and before that, pertinent to the title of this post, she was on her local school board. The fact I don’t have to explain who she is might demonstrate the importance of that one school board race.

 
It might appear at this point that the importance of local races is stopping crazy people from getting their start in elective office. Not that I’m saying everyone in local elective office is crazy. Just the Republicans. Yes, that’s an overgeneralization. Not all are Bachmann-wannabes. Local offices are, however, the primary bench for candidates for higher office. My impression, which I hope is wrong, is that Republicans are well aware of this while Democrats largely ignore local offices. I mean that in terms of turning out on election day, researching candidates prior to seeing their names on a ballot, and of course in actually running for office. It’s too late to do anything about the last one for 2014, but there’s still time for the first two. We concede these races to Republicans at our peril, as they get to build a bench of people with electoral office while us, not so much.
 
That’s without even thinking about how local officials do their jobs and affect our lives, apart from their future electoral possibilities. They don’t get national media coverage, much, but when they do, it highlights the effect they can have; the school board in Jefferson County, Colorado, for example. Think the Democrats and independents who skipped last year’s election regret it now? Know how often this happens and we never hear about it? Me neither.
 
And just to not overlook the obvious, Ferguson, MO: a mostly black and Democratic city, a mostly white and Republican city council, and really low turnout in local elections. Though not equally low across partisan and demographic groups. Think that might explain some things?
 
Then there’s the effect of the explosion of dark money. We worry about the presidency and Congress being bought, but I’m thinking we saw in 2012 that there’s a limit to how much spending in a presidential race does any good, and I’m skeptical about its benefits beyond a certain point in US Senate races too, but down the ballot is different. It takes little money to swamp a local race. I’m thinking of that referendum in Columbus, Ohio, to raise local taxes to fund the Columbus Zoo. It failed when supporters were surprised and grossly outspent by Koch brothers money, which was used to tell voters their taxes would double when the actual increase was something like 1%. The referendum failed because the Kochs, despite having no connection, just felt ideologically offended and saw a chance to beat a tax increase with a bit of money and a bit of lying, and that was in a big city. Think of the anecdotes you’ve heard of some mayor getting on getting on the bad side of some special interest, and the low spending local race is suddenly hit with massive outside money, like Richmond, CA, where the mayor has $22,000 while his opponent has $1.3 million, courtesy of Chevron:
 

We’re having a hotly contested race the two at-large school board seats in Minneapolis and it’s drawn a little national attention for the fight over, depending on how you view it, expanding charter schools or privatizing public education. It’s again the exception that proves the rule, because what was the last Minneapolis election to get any national media? There was laughter at our 2013 mayoral race because our combination of an open seat and a $20 filing fee drew in 30-something candidates, but otherwise, that’s it for attention. And that’s in a city the size of Minneapolis. The only time I can recall St. Paul’s elections being noticed was when nominally DFL Mayor Randy Kelly endorsed George Bush in 2004, so some national media were watching as he got blown out in 2005. Those are the only instances I know of for cities the size of Minneapolis and St. Paul, so how much can we count on the media telling us about our own local races?
 
The answer is “not much”.
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isil-300x162‘There are roads which must not be followed,
armies which must not be attacked,
towns which must not be besieged,
positions which must not be contested,
commands of the sovereign which must not be obeyed.’
Sun Tzu ~ On the Art of War

 

‘Don’t do anything stupid.’
President Barack Obama

 

War hysteria is a fascinating and horrifying thing to watch. I’ve seen it several times now in my life and it is always beyond ugly, like watching scorpions mate.

 

Aside from the verminous lies that tumble over each other like a swarm of filthy rats to electrify public opinion with fear and frenzy, our national leaders — grown men and women whose strength of character and deliberative judgment we rely on — daily prove susceptible themselves to the most transparent mendacity and appear spineless in the face of true moral challenge.

 

Until a few short months ago, the American public had never heard of ISIL and didn’t know a thing about them, even though ISIL has been fighting an insurgency in Syria against the Assad regime for years, and for years it has committed unspeakable atrocities against the Syrian people. The brutal murders of two American journalists notwithstanding, why now the sudden sense of urgency and demand for action in the public discourse and among our leadership?

 

The answer lies in war hysteria.

 

As the New York Times put it:

 

“… as President Obama prepares to send the United States on what could be a years-long military campaign against the militant group, American intelligence agencies have concluded that it poses no immediate threat to the United States. Some officials and terrorism experts believe that the actual danger posed by ISIS has been distorted in hours of television punditry and alarmist statements by politicians, and that there has been little substantive public debate about the unintended consequences of expanding American military action in the Middle East.”

 

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Johnson, Otto, and primary thoughts

by Eric Ferguson on August 15, 2014 · 2 comments

Fresh off his win in the MNGOP gubernatorial primary, Hennepin County commissioner Jeff Johnson has already released his first campaign video:
 

 
Oops, that was Eddie Murphy from “The Distinguished Gentleman”. Sorry, didn’t mean to compare Jeff Johnson to Eddie Murphy. That’s unfair. After all, Murphy is funny on purpose.
 

Here’s Johnson being funny, presumably not on purpose:
 
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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter George Zimmerman murdered Trayvon Martin, we heard multiple anecdotes from Florida’s bizarre “Stand Your Ground” law in which armed people acted aggressively towards unarmed people, killed them, and got away with it by claiming they felt threatened. If you suspected “Stand Your Ground” would mean more killings rather than fewer, if phrases like “an armed society is a polite society” sounded like nonsense, there’s no longer need to rely on anecdotes. Now we know why the gun lobby wants to prevent the collection of gun data — because there’s actual data that show “Stand Your Ground” means more killing, not less.
 
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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.
 
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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 …” [http://tinyurl.com/oyhsv8l]. 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.”

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Minnesota Congresspeople on the environment

by Dan Burns on March 4, 2014 · 2 comments

Grasslands-mengguThe League of Conservation Voters released its annual scorecard some weeks ago.
 

Despite this reality, the U.S. House of Representatives continued its unprecedented assault on the environment and public health that began during the 112th Congress. Although Congress started 2013 with votes to provide disaster relief in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, it’s painfully clear that far too many members failed to heed the lessons offered by that tragic storm. Indeed, this Scorecard is a disturbing reflection of the extent to which the Republican leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives continues to be controlled by Tea Party climate change deniers with an insatiable appetite for attacks on the environment and public health.
 
For the third year in a row, there is an unusually high number of House votes included in the Scorecard, due to the breadth and depth of anti-environmental legislation brought to the House floor in 2013. The 2013 Scorecard includes 28 House votes, which is second only to the record 35 votes included in both 2011 and 2012, the most anti-environmental U.S. House of Representatives in history. Many other votes warranted inclusion and would have been included in a typical year.

 
Sen. Al Franken (D) 100%
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D) 100%
Rep. Keith Ellison (D) 96%
Rep. Betty McCollum (D) 93%
Rep. Tim Walz (D) 86%
Rep. Rick Nolan (D) 86%
 
Good stuff. I don’t freak out when someone doesn’t have a perfect score, because this is reality, not terminally embittered purity-martyr fantasyland.
 
Rep. Collin Peterson (“D”) 14%
 
That’s our Collin. His lifetime score is 38%. Just going with the flow, I guess. By the way, it very much looks like he is running again.
 

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R) 11%
Rep. Erik Paulsen (R) 7%
Rep. John Kline (R) 0%
 
Complete, groveling surrender to far-right orthodoxy? Really that messed up in their heads? Both? Does it matter?
 

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Klobuchar for President?

by The Big E on August 19, 2013 · 3 comments

amy-klobuchar-iowaSen. Amy Klobuchar (DFL-MN) got tongues wagging last Friday by appearing at an event in Iowa. Any politician who goes to Iowa for any reason whatsoever gets everyone inside the DC Bubble all excited. But I wouldn’t be surprised if A-Klo is at least pondering running.
 
Of course, all things 2016 and Presidential orbit around whether or not Hillary Clinton will be running.
 

Cerro Gordo County vice chairman Dean Genth dished before the event that the organizers had hoped to lure Clinton to attend the event, but never heard back from her. So, they invited Klobuchar in hopes they could entice her to drive two hours over the border. None of that is particularly ego-boosting, especially to someone mentioned as a potential 2016 contender.
 
But Klobuchar was gracious, adding her own praise of Clinton and even more effusive kudos for Iowa Congressman Bruce Braley, who is running for the Senate. She delivered a crowd-pleasing, if not roof-raising, speech peppered with Iowa references and some buckshot for some Republicans who have been dropping by the first-in-the-nation caucus state.
 
Klobuchar, speaking to about 400 Democrats at the Surf Ballroom, joked that Iowa picks presidents and Minnesota supplies the country with vice presidents. But she took on the role of countering statements made by national Republicans such as Sen. Ted Cruz, who was in Iowa last weekend.
(Des Moines Register)

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