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Media oversight

sadclownSo they took the Minnesota House back by 5 seats, on the “strength” of about 51% turnout, the lowest since 1986. In an election where, nationwide, old people, and hardly anyone else, turned out as if it meant something. (Which it does, but, convincing our voters of that…well that’s our #1 problem. Has been, for a long time, now.) In Minnesota, we could well end up with supermajorities, or close to it, in both chambers, after 2016. In particular, Al Franken’s romp over Mike McFadden – who was supposed to be a strong candidate, you know, a Romney-esque “centrist uniter,” – makes clear just where the MN GOP is as far as legitimate, long-term competitiveness. That would be “nowhere.” Their only chance to come back from nowhere is for sane Republicans to take back the party from the Tea Partiers, theocrats, and Paulbots, and convince voters outside of their base that, having done that, it just might be safe to vote Republican again. Assuming, on the basis of absolutely no evidence, that that process has even started, how many election cycles will it take? Three? Five? Ten? And their base voters heading for the pearly gates, and not being replaced, all the while.
 

The other huge loser in all of this is Minnesota’s corporate media, which was all but overt in its support for Republican candidacies, especially Stewart Mills III in MN-08. What was left of their reputation for consistently worthwhile political reporting and analysis has sunk like the Pequod, and with about as much chance of raising it, anytime soon.
 
Also like the GOP, they do have a legitimate, if difficult, option. Currently, corporate media’s positive political coverage, in Minnesota and everywhere else, is split roughly evenly between corporatists and the right wing. In order to much better reflect where the overall public is actually at, they could just move the space they give to right-wingnuts now, over to progressives. That, too, is really about their only chance, for the long run.

 
There’s a Catch-22. The real purpose of corporate media’s political “reporting” is to promote corporatism. Their current approach works well for that, albeit to an ever-shrinking viewer/reader/listenership, because in their current split the corporatists look pretty good, compared to the ranting freaks of the hard right. Those same corporatists won’t look good at all next to intelligent, knowledgeable, articulate progressives telling it like it is. Hence, the dilemma. But that’s their problem.
 

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Hubbard News being humiliated over Pointergate

by Dan Burns on November 7, 2014 · 4 comments

That would be “5 Eyewitness News” here in the Minnesota metro. It’s owned by the state’s top Republican financier, Stan Hubbard. You have to read the whole article, for all of the context.
 

What you are about to read and watch is stranger than fiction. It’s so racist and so outrageous, that people are questioning whether or not it’s satire from The Onion. It’s real though, and that’s what is so shocking and heartbreaking about the whole ordeal…
 
Sadly, only racism allows such an ugly story and stereotype to be advanced about a young man who was clearly not flashing a gang sign with the mayor of Minneapolis. He deserves a public apology and heads should roll at this station for even allowing it to ever make it to the air.
 
Furthermore, some real investigative journalism needs to uncover just why the police were willing to get behind such a phony story. Something smells off in a major way. Could it be because the mayor is behind the police wearing body cameras and the police faked this story hours before the pilot program was due to launch? Or could it be that she called out police corruption and vowed to clean it up last month?
(Daily Kos)

Stan Hubbard and his wretched minions are getting their comeuppance, in a way, through a whole lot of “tweets.” For example, apparently Jeff Johnson is not yet completely irrelevant.
 
Screen_Shot_2014-11-06_at_11_47_48_PM
Again, you have to click and read the whole thing. Unreal.
 
Comments below fold.
 
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Hey, idiots, MNsure WORKS

by Dan Burns on October 30, 2014 · 1 comment

hospitalBecause if you’re like me, you’ve only been hearing otherwise, from most purportedly legitimate sources. (That’s who I’m calling “idiots.”) That is absolute BS.

 

MNsure (on August 21) announced that 300,085 Minnesotans have enrolled in comprehensive, affordable health insurance coverage through the state health insurance marketplace…
 
To date, 180,566 are enrolled in Medical Assistance, 65,749 in MinnesotaCare and 53,770 in a Qualified Health Plan. Between September 30, 2013, and May 1, 2014, the number of uninsured Minnesotans fell by 40.6% to a record low. Open enrollment for 2015 coverage begins November 15, 2014.

In fact, while the entire Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is still just a first step to government-run universal single-payer, it has been a far bigger success than many, including me, expected. Also remarkable is its effect on Medicare costs.

 

It’s not about right-wing pols attacking MNsure, and Obamacare in general. That’s expected; I don’t exactly go out of my way to present “both sides” when typing up my polite, respectful remarks about conservative candidacies, either.
 
And it’s not like there’s any indication that all of the MNsure bashing is seriously hurting Democratic pols in the state. Relatively few Minnesotans are directly affected, and for the vast majority of those who are participating (especially regarding the Medicaid expansion), it’s been positive.
 
It’s that corporate media has been so flagrantly, atrociously one-sided on this from the start, essentially acting as nothing but an amplifier for right-wing attacks. (For example, type something like “Star Tribune MNsure“ into your search engine of choice, and scan what the first few pages look like.) Just, stop paying attention to that crap. There are better alternatives. Like the facts.
 

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millspartying2Because that’s how a guy like him best aggrandizes #1. Like many mildly to moderately stupid people who have nonetheless found themselves in extremely privileged places through sheer accidents of birth and circumstance (George W. Bush is the most prominent contemporary example), Stewart Mills III is probably just plain incapable of really comprehending the potential effects on others of the policies that he supports.
 
– Along with the warmongering, the general worsening of unequal access to opportunity and resources is the worst result of the absolute political, social, and economic disaster that has been “movement conservatism,” “Reaganism,” or whatever you want to call it. Mills supports more tax cut welfare for the super wealthy like himself.

 

You can count on Stewart III to ride along as congressional GOP leadership continues to often bluff, and probably sometimes follow through on, government shutdowns, threats to default on the national debt, and whatever other despicable bullsh*t those worthless losers can think of.

 
And that’s just for starters.
 
If he somehow squeaks out a fluky, one-term win, entirely due to extremely wrongheaded DFL voter apathy/laziness in the district, Mills will in some ways serve as MN-08’s own Crazy Michele Bachmann – not able to personally do anything like the damage Bachmann has done, because that time has passed, but as an essentially clownish figure. And he certainly won’t get anything more done for his district in Congress than Bachmann has for hers. Not sure why he’d show up, except that he’s a cocky little f*cker (just like W.), and would undoubtedly do plenty of struttin’. Let’s prevent that, shall we? And, let’s prevent the fulsome – indeed, downright sickening – adoration he’d continue to enjoy, from Minnesota, and national, corporate media.
 

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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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McFadden Plans to Burn Workers Under Age 55

by Invenium Viam on September 23, 2014 · 1 comment

money-burningSo far, GOP Senate candidate Mike “Nutshot” McFadden has managed to keep his policy positions on Social Security and Medicare well under wraps. To my knowledge, the only definitive statement he has made about either is to support raising the age of Medicare eligibility.

 

Eric Black at MinnPost managed to wrestle that small admission out of McFadden in an interview published way back in July, but that’s about all he got.  McFadden’s dodging and twisting to avoid directly answering Black’s questions approached the comical, almost to the level of a ‘Who’s on first?’ exchange, as Black pointed out in his article and generously posted the full exchange on-line for all to enjoy.  McFadden has had very little more to offer the press since then.

 

That in itself is telling. The simple truth is that McFadden doesn’t want Minnesota voters to know what his policy positions are on Social Security and Medicare because he knows they’ll be unpopular. He prefers to lie by omission rather than risk creating tomorrow’s film-at-10 soundbite or self-damning black’n’white advert snippet.

 

There stands a paragon of moral courage.

 

This is where a little reading between the lines and connecting the dots becomes useful. In normal circumstances, I’d avoid both as a weak foundation for offering criticism. But you can’t divide by zero, and you can’t prove a negative, and you can’t criticize a policy position not taken, so reading between the lines and connecting the dots is about all we’ve got to go on.

 

We’ll start with McFadden’s published position on Social Security, which may yet turn out to be a stinking, maggot-infested political albatross around his neck.

 protecting-seniors

Parsing the language here is important to a clear understanding of where McFadden truly stands on the issue. Disregarding for now the fact that Social Security and Medicare are promises made to all workers, not just “today’s seniors,” McFadden is only offering “… to fight to keep the promise …” of preserving social safety nets in their present form for “… today’s seniors …”  and “… our parents and grandparents …”.  In other words, he’s only willing to support continuing benefits under the current program for those workers at or near retirement.

 

He doubled-down on that position in his MinnPost interview with Eric Black. “What I wouldn’t support is anything that would change the benefits for people that are nearing retirement,” he told Black. “And by that I mean 10, 12 years from retirement.”

 

Current law provides full benefits at age 67 for those born in 1960 or later. Backing up 12 years means that McFadden only supports continuing Social Security benefits per the plan’s current embodiment for those persons who are now 55 or older. By inference, then, McFadden must support a different plan for those workers younger than 55.

 

The question then becomes: What kind of different plan?

 

More Below the Fold

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Rebecca Otto’s opponent implodes

by Eric Ferguson on September 18, 2014 · 2 comments

sad elephantState Auditor Rebecca Otto might as well be allowed to pick her opponents. Wouldn’t get much of a different result. Her primary opponent ran a well-funded lousy campaign, but I thought she might have been the one statewide DFLer to draw a serious opponent. Randy Gilbert is a professional auditor and a small town mayor, so he actually has a relevant resume for the job. The other Republicans are pretty much running just on “vote for me because I’m extremely rich” or “vote for me because I’m extremely conservative”, maybe spiced with shouts of “Obamacare!” and “voter fraud!”. So I wondered, after he was nominated, if Gilbert might be the Republican with the best chance. Then a week ago, Dan.Burns posted:

Whatever this turns out to be, this isn’t the highest-profile race on the ballot. But veteran politics-watchers know what kind of spillover effect, fair or not, these kinds of episodes can have, not long before Election Day.

It’s now less vague, maybe as bad as feared. KSTP reported they have suggestive emails, and sources speaking of turmoil inside the MNGOP. Since I’ve criticized KSTP before and I’m about to do so again, I’ll give credit where due: KSTP did go after a story that’s bad for their owner’s preferred party. The emails are substantive. They seem to show not just that Gilbert carried on an affair with a local realtor, but that their assignations happened in the houses she was selling. Well, that’s a unique form of trespassing.
 
Maybe not unique, but certainly bad for a candidate, is Gilbert’s decision to avoid the press and not answer questions. KSTP said he wouldn’t respond to them. I looked on his campaign web site, and as of this moment, there’s nothing about it. There’s “news” from last June about DFLers being divided, and something from 9/11 attacking Otto for being anti-mining. Nothing in between or since.
 
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MPR’s Capitol View Daily Digest has gone downhill

by Dan Burns on September 12, 2014 · 0 comments

It gives me no pleasure to write this. In the past, Minnesota Public Radio’s Capitol View Daily Digest (previously Polinaut) was far and away the finest daily roundup of Minnesota political news. I still peruse it every morning.
 
But it sure ain’t what it used to be. Over the past couple of years, a rightward lean has increasingly manifested. This past week (that is, since Monday, inclusive) is a great example, as the Daily Digest has failed to note:
 
– A new poll showing Minnesota DFLers with an 8-point generic ballot lead for the state House;
 

– That the star of Stewart Mills’s latest ad has a history of posting misogynistic vileness on social media.
 
It’s obvious that MPR’s big corporate donors have successfully “worked the refs,” as has been the case almost everywhere else, for a long time now. So it’s not surprising, but it is aggravating, and kind of sad.
 
Absolutely none of this is intended to individually target MPR’s political writers. I have to follow orders when I go to work, too.
 

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Stewart Mills IIIHeck, I don’t know. I suppose the guy is what the Brady Bunch girls would have called “dreamy.” Politico, Roll Call, and now the National Journal, have all highlighted their “coverage” by noting a supposed resemblance between congressional candidate Stewart Mills III, and the actor Brad Pitt.
 
But what else do they have, considering that Mills has:
 
Bashed the government subsidies for corporations on which the family business, Mills Fleet Farm, depends;
 
– Professed support for government shutdowns;
 
– Made the infamous “personally offended” comments about silver-spoon types like himself being expected to pay taxes;
 
– Called the buyback of old cars government waste, after the aforementioned family business heartily advertised itself as “Cash for Clunkers Headquarters;”
 
Made a wildly inaccurate claim about unemployment in the district;
 
– Said his idea of health care reform wouldn’t necessarily include affordable coverage for preexisting conditions;
 
– Gone to extremes to avoid taking any public positions on most issues;
 
– Essentially called MN-08 voters ignorant, parochial rubes.
 
If there are legitimate debates, Mills will have no choice but to flagrantly obfuscate. Otherwise, he’ll get creamed, especially when the discussion turns to labor/union rights.
 
By any rational, reality-based standard, the Mills campaign has no credibility left. (Admittedly, it only had any to start with because almost any campaign opens with the proverbial benefit of the doubt.) And if national corporate media is making a big deal of MN-08 being about the best GOP pickup opportunity, things must not be looking nearly as good for the GOP as the corporatists wish. And, in fact, they aren’t.
 
I don’t deny that Stewart’s rippling biceps excite a bit of envy. But I’d really rather have my brains.
 

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