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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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Voter fraud story not quite over

by Eric Ferguson on July 14, 2014 · 1 comment

Brian Rice, we’re waiting. Not for evidence. We waited in vain for that. We’re waiting now for your apology.
 
The news Thursday was bad for Rice. Hennepin County investigated his claim of a “coordinated effort” to have people vote illegally using the address of a business that rents mailboxes. They dismissed this allegation not merely for insufficient evidence, and not even for no evidence. They actually disproved the charge. Ouch.
 
Wasn’t hard to disprove. From the Minnpost link, “In fact, all but 16 of the people who registered there had done so before January of this year.”
 
That was Thursday. It’s now Monday. Well? Any apology coming? Rice surely knew he was dragging the reputations of legal voters through the metaphorical mud. He took his claim to an irresponsible media outlet to play up the story, knowing how voter fraud claims incite the partisans of the right, knowing he was throwing charges at an immigrant community that is detested in some quarters. How detested? Let’s put it this way: the Star Tribune stopped enabling comments on articles on certain subjects because of the hate speech those subjects attract, and one of those subjects was Somalis. Articles on Somalis bring out the racists, nativists, and islamophobes. Rice must have been aware this was the atmosphere into which he was throwing his scurrilous charges.
 
It didn’t have to happen this way. Had Rice restrained himself to claiming it appeared some people voted from an address that wasn’t a residence, he would have been fine. There was evidence for that. He could have said that without claiming or implying organized fraud or individual fraud. That would have saved him looking churlish in light of this paragraph:

A large number of the improper registrations were the result of the change-of-address process, which requires Hennepin County officials to update registration information when voters move. Though many of the 141 voters involved in the complaint maintain a mailbox at the Cedar Avenue center — it’s an easy way for people who move often to keep a permanent mailing address — those voters didn’t expect that their registration information would also change to the mailing center’s address.

In other words, many of the 141 did things right, registering with their current address, and adding the permanent address as the place where mail should be sent, and something got mixed up on the clerical end. Even the rest, where the voters made a mistake, were just voters making a mistake. Not one instance of fraud.
 
Republicans of course took the bait, jumping up and down in excitement because now the voter fraud accusation was being made by a DFLer. Vindication! Oops. Like every other claim of voter fraud, this one fell apart upon examination. So, Republicans, isn’t it time to admit you were wrong on this one? That you believed a charge that proved false? So far, nothing. A word of advice Republicans: if the information is coming from a Democrat, and you don’t want to get played like this again, then no matter how much you want to believe it, check it out first. You see how I saw right through it. You can do the same.
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1922312_291422187681656_881030080_n- First of all, Rep. John Kline (R-MN) has about as anti-woman a congressional record as one could have.
 

So, who can Republicans count on to “preach the Gospel of Bachmann” … of course, John Kline. Just look at the bills that he has sponsored :
 
H.R.7 : No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act
H.R. 23 Sanctity of Human Life Act
H.R.61 : Title X Abortion Provider Prohibition Act
H.R.217 : Title X Abortion Provider Prohibition Act
H.R.346 : Stop Abortion Funding in Multi-state Exchange Plans (SAFE Act)
H.R.447 : Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act (PRENDA) of 2013
H.R.732 : Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act
H.R.940 : Health Care Conscience Rights Act
H.R.1091 : Life at Conception Act
H.R.1797 : Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act
(MN Political Roundtable)

(That’s just regarding reproductive choice; there are many, many more War on Women efforts, with Kline’s name on them, in other areas.)
 
- And there’s this:
 

But the Supreme Court isn’t the only government body limiting insurance coverage to women. A new White House report released Wednesday argues that the 24 state governments that have failed to expand their Medicaid programs to individuals and families earning 138 percent above the federal poverty line could also be undermining women’s health.
 
That’s because women make up nearly 70 percent of adults on Medicaid and the report finds that limiting their access to coverage significantly restricts their access to health care. Relying on past health research, the analysis concludes that “having health insurance increases the probability that individuals report receiving ‘all needed care’ over the prior year.” “If the 24 States that have not yet expanded Medicaid did so, an additional 651,000 people would receive ‘all needed care’ over a given year once expanded coverage was fully in effect,” it says.
(Think Progress)

- “A Comprehensive Guide To Right-Wing Media’s Mockery, Victim-Blaming, And Denial Of Sexual Assault.” What a bunch of sorry, craven, whimpering, worthless losers the right-wing punditry are. I don’t know how to successfully hold them accountable, though.
 

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The Star Tribune headline writer got the story seriously wrong

The Star Tribune headline writer got the story seriously wrong

To be fair to the Star Tribune, they didn’t screw up nearly as much as KSTP. In fact, the egregious mistake was in the headline, “140 voters used single mailbox”. This wasn’t asserted in the article. However, reporters don’t write the headlines, and the Star Tribune did at some point replace that headline on the web version. They’re unfortunately stuck with it in the print edition. It’s a screw up because even Brian Rice and KSTP never asserted 140 people registered using one mailbox. They rented mailboxes from the same mailbox rental business. Yes, quite a bit different.
 
The Star Tribune writers talked to some people who registered using their mailbox instead of a residence — take note KSTP, because that’s what real reporters do — and got statements from more people than just the one guy making the accusation. The Star Tribune debunked — albeit inadvertently it appears since they didn’t point out the contradiction — the crux of the KSTP story, that there was a “coordinated effort” to commit voter fraud. “State records show that 419 Cedar Avenue S. has been used by some of the voters as far back as 2008.” Maybe Brian Rice believes people started registering back in 2008 to help Mohamud Noor run for state representative in 2014?
 
That said, some things were left out. And there was some silliness.
 
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KSTP TV spreads voter fraud myth

by Eric Ferguson on June 28, 2014 · 9 comments

KSTP TV decided to shock its viewers with the news that 140 Somali voters registered to vote at the same address. OMG, massive organized voter fraud, finally proven! Just like all those other times it was finally proven except, oops, the allegation proved groundless. This are pretty easy to debunk too, at least for anyone who thinks accusations should be accompanied by evidence. KSTP is owned by a major GOP donor, Stanley Hubbard, which often leads to suspicion about its reporting. I’ve usually not seen anything in their reporting that looks like a Fox News wannabe. This looks to me less like partisan bias and more like reporting that is sloppy and sensationalist. Of course, for the people who worked on this story, being sloppy and sensationalist should be pretty embarrassing. I do get how these stories slip through, given the general shoddiness of local TV news that has been the norm pretty much since its invention.
 

I also get now why so many people in Minneapolis spit when they say Brian Rice’s name.
 

To the specifics of the allegations:

 

According to voter registration records from the Secretary of State’s office and the DFL Voter Activation Network more than 140 people used 419 Cedar Avenue South in Minneapolis as their home address, when they registered to vote.
 
The address is for what’s called Cedar Mailbox Center. The building manager and mail center’s employees weren’t comfortable speaking on camera, but they said they were surprised by the allegations.
 
They say nobody put the wrong address on purpose. For 13 years, many Somali-Americans from all across the state have been getting their mail there. They say nobody lives there.

 
Brian Rice is representing Phyllis Kahn, and making the charges against Mohamud Noor, the candidates in the DFL primary in HD60B.
 
The first problem with the allegation is probably obvious to anyone who has ever rented a mailbox. People who move frequently, which describes many low income people, often rent mailboxes so they don’t have to worry about their mail following them as they move. So having a rented mailbox isn’t a sign of intending to commit the organized fraud Rice is claiming in front of KSTP’s credulous reporters when he said, “I think there is a coordinated effort to use this address to bring voters into the DFL primary election on August 12, that’s what I think is going on.” Notice he said “coordinated effort”. That’s a lot different than some voters making a mistake. What is the evidence of a “coordinated effort”, and not merely just a bunch of people renting mailboxes there? KSTP reported the owner told them they’ve been renting out mailboxes for 13 years: so did the 140 people registered to vote using that address just register, or were they using those mailboxes prior to the campaign? It would seem a simple matter for either Rice or KSTP to check this out, but they either didn’t, or they’re not sharing the result.
 
It is in fact the law that voters must register where they actually reside, even if their permanent address is different. Rookie voters, and we are talking about many inexperienced voters in the Somali community, could reasonably assume they’re supposed to use their permanent address, not just whatever temporary housing they’re using now. Registration forms don’t say this. The forms merely offer space for a mailbox if you can’t receive mail at your address, which might imply to a new voter that they should just use their permanent address only. “Voter fraud” requires intent, not merely mistakes. That’s also the law, not my opinion, yet Rice is making, and KSTP TV is airing, a specific charge, with no evidence. Anyone think the voter fraud crazies we call the Republican Party will regard the lack of evidence, or will this be ginned up into the latest national voter fraud scandal, for which most people will never hear the debunking?
 
Yet Rice can still claim to be a lawyer and KSTP TV can still claim to be journalists. Legally I mean, not in the sense of deserving professional respect.
 
For full disclosure, I haven’t backed a candidate. I’m still not ready to do that because I have reservations about both.
 
Here is the KSTP TV report.

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271_19344293946_1831_nI was startled to see a big, bold headline in the middle of page A1 of the print edition of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, yesterday: “Rep. Kline moves to loosen new school lunch standards.” Because that headline could certainly be interpreted as “John Kline cares way more about Big Ag profits than he does about healthy kids.” Which is more or less correct, but it’s not that straightforward.
 
The Strib is normally very careful, in news coverage, about not appearing openly critical of Minnesota’s Republican members of the U.S. Congress. To be fair, that goes for Democrats as well; the primary intent is not to offend any reader bloc, to anywhere near the point of risking losing them. And in fact, the article is scarcely an attack on Rep. John Kline’s (R-MN) position on this, though it’s not boosterism either. Excerpts, all from the article linked above:
 
Kline looking bad:
 

From his powerful perch as chairman of the House Education and Workforce Committee, GOP Rep. John Kline is trying to slow down implementation of new rules requiring school breakfasts and lunches to have more fruits, veggies and whole grains and less simple starch and sodium…
 

Proponents of the new standards say they are trying to shift eating habits, that the days of students getting piles of french fries and pizza for lunch should be over, given climbing obesity and diabetes rates…
 
Kline said it is unfair to link campaign contributions from General Mills to his side in the current debate.
 
Early on in 2011 comments to the USDA, General Mills weighed in against certain portion size restrictions and asked for a delay in mandatory implementation. The company’s Political Action Committee and employees have donated about $75,000 since 1997 to Kline, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Kline looking “good:”
 
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Obamacare trutherism is a thing

by Eric Ferguson on April 18, 2014 · 3 comments

It's a conspiracy!Yes, Obamacare trutherism is a thing. Conservatives don’t believe it can possibly work, so all the good news is lie. There’s the national version, that the numbers are made up, and in Minnesota we have our own version, that MNSure was bailed out by the state.
 
Probably many reasonable people are also incredulous at the idea Obamacare worked, because the pundit class and the beltway media joined the conservative bubble in trumpeting everything that went wrong, except the Medicaid gap; they were happy to ignore that. Reasonable people, however, will eventually figure out there wasn’t a disaster (hopefully before election day). Conservatives are off in full-throated denial after their media and politicians spent years telling them Obamacare is a disaster, already failed, lost in a death spiral, blah de blah — and now turns out Obamacare failed to fail. Even Healthcare.gov works now. Bad enough the predictions of failure were wrong, but conservative media often announced it had failed, and how can anybody be so stupid as to not see that? So the numbers must be all fake!
 
Yeah, um, about that. Let’s see if I can help any conservatives browsing by (let’s play concern troll!), and who buy the notion that Obama’s numbers are so fake you’d think he was trying to sell an invasion of Iraq. How can you tell if the numbers are real? Regarding the Census Bureau changing some questions, you could send a journalist to actually ask them for details. Granted, that would require having some journalists, so that’s a tough one for conservatives. Still, then you could find out they’ve been working on these revisions since before Obamacare and testing for a few years, so comparisons will be apples to apples. Nothing hidden there.
 
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TPP talks are stumbling

by Dan Burns on March 5, 2014 · 1 comment

1526506_10202112061819712_1216897331_nPerhaps somewhat overlooked in reporting about the TPP, and about backers’ desire to power-slam it through Congress by any means, is that the negotiations themselves are far from all amity and sunshine, apparently due to resistance to U.S. corporate bullying. From Feb. 25:
 

Another high-level Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) meeting has fizzled with no deal. The talks have missed a succession of deadlines due to opposition from negotiating countries to corporate-backed U.S. demands that would increase the cost of medicines, restrict financial stability measures, and empower corporations to challenge health and environmental safeguards. Back at home, the administration’s attempt to Fast Track the TPP through Congress suffers from overwhelming congressional and public opposition.
 
Facing international and domestic resistance, and having already missed deadlines to seal a deal last October and December, TPP trade ministers refrained from naming another deadline after finishing negotiations in Singapore today, stating only that they hope for a deal “as soon as possible.”
Public Citizen

This, from Common Dreams, is about the all but complete news blackout on the TPP from American corporate media. Now, why do you suppose that those paragons of relevant, unbiased, fact-based journalism would be doing a thing like that?
 

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Vickers_IWWBecause, let’s face it, we live in a militaristic culture, and it’s only partly because the Pentagon is the most massive corporate welfare teat in all of human history.
 
But one could write a book about that. In fact, people have written them. I’m just noting that there is an actual proposal out there to reduce military spending, and the way in which corporate media is dealing with it is entirely, drearily, even offensively, predictable.
 

On Monday, large swaths of the news media reported on the Obama Administration’s proposed military budget using the same misleading frame. As the New York Times stated in its headline, “Pentagon Plans to Shrink Army to Pre-World War II Level.” Fox News chose the same emphasis. “The Army had already been preparing to shrink to 490,000 active-duty members from a wartime peak of 570,000,” it stated, noting it will now be between 440,000 and 450,000. “That would make it the smallest since just before the U.S. entered World War II.” Reuters’ headline: “Budget cuts to slash U.S. Army to smallest since before World War Two.”
 
So … will our national defense be roughly as strong as it was right before we fought Germany and Japan, as a casual reader might assume? Not even close. What about the Army taken in isolation? No, that isn’t accurate either. If these accounts were trying to maximize confusion or alarm at proposed cuts, then mission accomplished. But if the goal is helping readers to understand the size of our military (in absolute and relative terms) if the proposal takes effect, then the narrow focus on the Army and the pre-World War II comparison are poorly chosen.
(The Atlantic)

Poorly chosen, to say the least. More below the fold.
 
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