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Media oversight

I am embarrassed to the very roots of my thinning hair to admit that I did not until very recently know about the North Star Policy Institute. It was apparently started by Jeff Van Wychen, some time after the late, great MN2020 called it a day. Every progressive activist in the state should check the NSPI Facebook page or Twitter now and then for recent work, because nothing crushes conservative drivel, and humiliates its originators, like learned displays of reasoning from fact. A few recent items that I thought of particular note:
 
“Business Property Taxes Not as High as We’re Led to Believe”
 

A recent publication from the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce contains a list of claims regarding the level of business property taxes in Minnesota relative to other states: 49th “worst” (i.e., second highest) among the fifty states for rural commercial property taxes, 45th worst for metro commercial property taxes, and 40th worst for industrial property taxes. Startling? Definitely. Accurate? Not so much.
 
The property tax statistics cited by the Chamber are from the 50 State Property Tax Comparison Study 2014 from the “Minnesota Center for Fiscal Excellence” (MCFE). The first thing to note about this report is that it does not compare average metropolitan and rural property taxes within the fifty states. Rather, it compares a selected metro and rural city within each state. In Minnesota, metro (or urban) tax computations are based on Minneapolis, while rural computations are based on Glencoe, the seat of McLeod County.
 
Neither Minneapolis nor Glencoe are representative of their respective regions in terms of property taxes. For example, Minneapolis’ 2014 total local property tax rate is 19 percent higher than the average rate for the seven county metropolitan area, while Glencoe’s rate is a whopping 64 percent higher than the average rate for greater Minnesota.

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Vile deformer scum target Minnesota teachers

by Dan Burns on April 18, 2016 · 0 comments

abandoned2Yeah, I rarely adorn my posts with titles like that. I’m generally more about just passing along information, and letting other people, who are better bloggers than me anyway, do the righteous hyperbole. But this one is worthy.
 

A group of parents backed by a national nonprofit say Minnesota’s teacher tenure laws perpetuate the state’s academic achievement gap between white students and students of color.
 
The group on Thursday filed a lawsuit that challenges Minnesota laws that make it more difficult to fire teachers once they’ve been employed for more than three years. The suit was filed in Ramsey County district court…
 
The state teachers’ union president Denise Specht said in a statement that the contested laws “protect teachers from discrimination and arbitrary punishment, including for speaking out about the learning conditions in their schools.”
 
Specht said the laws “explicitly do not protect ineffective teachers.”
(MPR)

I did a bunch of blogging recently about efforts to destroy public education, and replace it with rote-learning mills to be strip-mined for profit. In the longer term, the intent is also to take control of curricula, and imbue young people with the purported glories of continued plutocratic, warmongering rule. That’s the right wing’s only chance, really, in the longer term, because young voters certainly aren’t buying that odious, failed, corrupt, reactionary crap, now.
 
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See if what jumped out to me jumps out to you too.
 

Mossack Fonseca is a leading global player in the incorporation of offshore companies across the globe. It was the subject of the largest-ever financial breach, and 11.5 million of its documents are the subject of a collaborative analysis by McClatchy and about 350 journalists under the umbrella of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. McClatchy was the only U.S. newspaper company involved.

 
You caught what I did if this bit was bolded in your mind as you read it, “McClatchy was the only U.S. newspaper company involved.
 
This is unfortunately not one of those instances where the title is a question because the writer is going to answer it. I don’t know why other major US media outlets didn’t join in. In an interview with On The Media, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists director, Gerard Ryle, said the NY Times chose not to join. He speculated that US media still have a go-it-alone approach, which Ryle criticized on the grounds that the modern media economy makes it difficult for individual outlets to have adequate resources. He didn’t name other specific US media outlets and it’s likely unfair to pick on just the NY Times, but what about the other major dailies? What about the broadcast networks, and the cable news channels. Well, Fox News has the excuse that they don’t do news, but what about CNN and MSNBC? What, too many airplane crashes and terrorism scares to cover? What about the big news magazines? OK, be fair, maybe they invited only newspapers, but the big dailies for sure muffed it.
 
I’m not saying major US media didn’t cover the story after the ICIJ broke it, but it seems odd they all but McClatchy passed on the chance to break one of the biggest stories of the year. In fact, with so many powerful people from so many countries hiding from their respective tax collectors, the Mossack Fonseca could be providing new scandals for a long time. That’s just how much material investigative journalists are still trying to sort through. Everything that has come out so far — that’s with the story just getting started.
 
It’s a shame these financial scandals are so hard to follow. Sex scandals are so much easier to understand, no wonder they get so much more coverage, but they are’t nearly so important. Go on, explain just what the big financial corporations did to crash the economy in 2008. Now explain why Tara Mack and Tim Kelly suddenly decided to spend more time with family. Which was easier?*
 
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MN-03: Strib goes after Paulsen?!?!

by Dan Burns on April 4, 2016 · 1 comment

paulsen2I put all that extra punctuation in the title because something like this – an article critical of a Minnesota Republican in Congress – is not a common sight, in this widely-read corporate media outlet, to say the least.
 

Republican U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen and his family members have taken more than $75,000 in free, mostly international travel since 2013, all paid for by outside groups.
 
Just a few weeks ago, Paulsen took his adult daughter, Cassandra, to Nairobi, Kenya, at a total cost of $27,357 for the week, the tab picked up by World Vision and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The trip was billed as a chance to provide “direct insight on how U.S. investments are working to improve global health.”
 
It was the single costliest trip a member of Congress has taken this year at the expense of an outside group, according to LegiStorm, a nonpartisan group that compiles information on members of Congress and their staffs.
 
The travel is legal and allowed by federal ethics rules, but it has drawn criticism from government watchdog groups as these organizations try to gain influence in Washington. Such organizations can pay for the travel of members, their staff and family so long as they don’t employ lobbyists and they report the costs, agendas and details of each trip to the Committee on Ethics.
(Star Tribune)

To be fair, the Strib doesn’t often go after Minnesota Democrats in Congress, either, though I suspect that some in senior management and elsewhere would dearly love to be more aggressive in that regard, especially concerning Sen. Al Franken and Rep. Keith Ellison. The guiding mantra seems to mostly be “offend no one.”
 
Despite a carefully contrived image that a whole lot of media outlets (in addition to, usually, the Strib) help to perpetuate, Paulsen is neither a “moderate,” nor a righteously devoted public servant indifferent to his own self-interest. Quite the contrary, on both counts. Jon Tollefson is a DFL candidate. You can help him out here.
 

And here’s a little something more about Rep. Paulsen: “Paulsen Pushing HSAs and FSAs While Voting Against Protecting Consumers From Price-gouging.”
 
Comment below fold.
 
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Beating down the education deformers, Part 3

by Dan Burns on February 21, 2016 · 3 comments

abandonedschool(Part 1 here. Part 2 here.)
 

The following blockquote is from the best succinct description of the goals and tactics of the deformer/privatization movement that I’ve seen. It was originally published in the Washington Post.
 

The pitch
 
Talking Points: (a) Standardized testing proves America’s schools are poor. (b) Other countries are eating our lunch. (c) Teachers deserve most of the blame. (d) The lazy ones need to be forced out by performance evaluations. (e) The dumb ones need scripts to read or “canned standards” telling them exactly what to teach. (f) The experienced ones are too set in their ways to change and should be replaced by fresh Five-Week-Wonders from Teach for America. (Bonus: Replacing experienced teachers saves a ton of money.) (g) Public (“government”) schools are a step down the slippery slope to socialism.
 
Tactics
 
Education establishment resistance to privatization is inevitable, so (a) avoid it as long as possible by blurring the lines between “public” and “private.” (b) Push school choice, vouchers, tax write-offs, tax credits, school-business partnerships, profit-driven charter chains. (c) When resistance comes, crank up fear with the, “They’re eating our lunch!” message. (d) Contribute generously to all potential resisters — academic publications, professional organizations, unions, and school support groups such as PTA. (e) Create fake “think tanks,” give them impressive names, and have them do “research” supporting privatization. (f) Encourage investment in teacher-replacer technology—internet access, iPads, virtual schooling, MOOCS, etc. (e) Pressure state legislators to make life easier for profit-seeking charter chains by taking approval decisions away from local boards and giving them to easier-to-lobby state-level bureaucrats. (g) Elect the “right” people at all levels of government. (When they’re campaigning, have them keep their privatizing agenda quiet.)
(AlterNet)

Needless to say, corporate-controlled “legacy”/”traditional”/whatever-you-want-to-call-it media (the daily papers, the nightly news broadcasts, etc.) play a big, key part in all of this.
 
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terroristThe days since the Paris attacks have been as disgracefully vile in American politics and American media as anything I’ve ever seen. A couple of items of particular interest.
 

It was well documented that during the run-up to the Iraq war there was tremendous pressure coming from the executive suite of the news networks to cheerlead for the administration. Those who resisted were marginalized and fired if they refused to go along. It’s unlikely that the word went forth on Saturday that reporters should get on a war footing and issue demands that the president use “the greatest military in the world” to “take out these bastards.” But they don’t have to say it explicitly do they? Everyone knows the drill.
 
There is no doubt the Republicans are getting ready to launch a full blown campaign of paranoid bloodlust which, if successful, would have devastating consequences. The media were willing recruits in their cause fifteen years ago. Let’s hope they gather their wits about them before they take us down that dangerous road again.
(Salon)

Billions of dollars have been spent and hundreds of thousands of lives lost in the global war on terror. At every step of the way, Western governments played directly into the hands of Islamic extremists, falling for their ploys and fueling their ambitions. As Osama Bin Laden tauntingly proclaimed back in 2004, “All that we have to do is to send two mujahadin to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written Al-Qaeda, in order to make the generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic, and political losses without their achieving for it anything of note other than some benefits for their private companies.”
 
For the handful of ideologues guiding the forever war, those personal and political benefits justified the price of failure. After the latest assault on Paris, it’s not surprising to see them clamoring for more force, more surveillance, more silence from progressives and more airtime for themselves. As they occupy the political center, the grayzone fades to black.
(AlterNet)

Comment below fold.
 
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clown carThe next GOP presidential debate starts tonight at 8PM central time. Yes, once again I’m skipping the “undercard” debate because it just doesn’t matter. This debate is on Fox Business, which will be the first time that channel has been watched by pretty much anyone. Fox Business: because the Wall Street shills on CNBC just aren’t conservative enough! So I’ll be simultaneously noting what the candidates say, doing some instant fact checking (no time for linking, so your own fact checking of my fact checking is advised), and maybe even providing some instant yet clever commentary.
 
So click the “read more” link if you’re reading this on the home page, and hit your browser reload button once in a while. Feel free to comment, but do understand that I may not have time to get it posted right away. Please excuse me if I miss something visual, because my eyes are on the editing page, which means essentially the debate is radio for me.
 
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The myth of the liberal media gets a new boost

by Dan Burns on November 6, 2015 · 0 comments

mediaThe farcical gaggle of delusional, egomaniacal lunatics that is the GOP presidential field have recently been pimping the myth of the “liberal media’ even more stridently than wingnuts generally do. From reality-based articles:
 

Media Matters’ Brendan Karet had a good catch today on how fake news enters the media food chain. His example started with Fox News‘ Sean Hannity telling Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush that “the president said he’s going to bring in 250,000 refugees into this country.” The next day, Hannity gave the same statistic to candidate Donald Trump:
 

This president has committed to nearly 250,000 coming to America. That tells me we’re—we have a pre-9/11 mindset again.

What was Hannity’s source for this remarkable claim? PolitiFact looked into it, and could find only one possible source: the joke website Real News Right Now, which featured that story in September, along with reports like “Vatican City Conducts ‘Successful’ Nuclear Test” and “Joe the Plumber Caught Trying to Enter North Korea.”
 
…It’s a problem when presidential candidates from a major political party are getting their information about the world from a news outlet that evidently can’t tell the difference between a sub-Onion hoax site and actual news. It’s an even bigger problem when those candidates bring those bogus claims onto supposedly reputable network TV—and the real journalists aren’t able to recognize that the politicians they’re interviewing are parroting garbage factoids from Fox‘s land of make-believe.
(FAIR)

This next article is mostly about “mainstream” media’s drooling love affair with House Speaker Paul “Lyin” Ryan (R-WI), and should be clicked on and read in its entirety. I’m just blockquoting the last paragraph, which is more general in scope.
 
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In what is shaping up to be a year of setbacks for the Republican Party’s far right, last Friday’s budget deal can only be seen as yet another defeat.

 

Senator Ted Cruz labeled the deal “a slap in the face to conservatives.” Thus conservatives on Capitol Hill and elsewhere will now have to come to terms with developments that are diametrically opposed to their long term goals. Sequester spending caps will be exceeded for both defense and social programs and overall government spending caps will move higher. The bi-partisan effort that affected the budget deal also resurrected the Export – Import Bank, long a target of the far right. Meanwhile the big winners coming out of the budget deal are among the far right’s most hated foes: President Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, John Boehner, Mitch McConnell and the entitlement programs of Medicare and Social Security. Another winner in the process is incoming Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan.

 

Outside conservative think tanks were clearly losers as well: “It was a rough stretch for outside conservative groups that have frequently worked to flex muscle in the Capitol. Heritage Action and Club for Growth joined forces to blast the budget accord as it drifted away from spending caps — and put lawmakers on notice that they were watching the vote. But it ultimately was for naught.”

 
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clown carI’ll be live blogging tonight’s presidential debate, so refresh the page and look at the bottom for the most recent updates. If you’re seeing this on the home page, click the “read more” link. I’ll fact check to the degree I can on the spot, but that will mean from memory so your own check of my check is advised. Or just follow along for the instant snark. All I guarantee is not knowing what they’ll say means I don’t already know what I’ll say, so it will be truly instant. Side note: “snark” was not recognized by the spell checker. Stupid Republican spell checker!
 
The debate starts at 7. No, I’m not watching the “undercard” debate. None of those candidates have a chance to win. There is one update to which GOP candidates are worth our attention, besides the ones who dropped out. I created buckets and dropped Bobby Jindal into the bucket of candidates who won’t win, but are worth attention because they’re either in office or likely to run again. I’ve since learned just how toxic Jindal has become in Louisiana, down to “Chris Christie in New Jersey” levels. I put Christie in the bucket of candidates to be ignored, and his term still has two years left, so I can’t justify giving time to Jindal who is done in two months. The only “undercard” candidate to watch is Lindsey Graham, and that’s purely because he has five more years in his Senate term and he’s likely to run again. We can always hope a strong challenger appears next time. Why, South Carolina, why? Of course, that last link begs the same question of CNN.
 
#ThisGuyWantsToBePresident.
 
About to start. By the way, the state DFL will be live tweeting at https://twitter.com/MinnesotaDFL and the hashtag #MNDFL

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