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Why I think the rural/urban divide is drivel

by Dan Burns on October 19, 2016 · 0 comments

farmhouseOK, not entirely “drivel.” It must be acknowledged that on the whole city and country residents have tended to vote differently. (It’s been that way for a long time, though one could well get the impression from establishment punditry that the “divide” has only become really fundamental to Minnesota politics pretty recently, just as things are really starting to look demographically bleak for conservatism. Coincidence, no doubt.) But the phrase “rural/urban divide” is primarily a misleading construct being used politically, especially by corporate media, to help continue to con people into voting for conservatives.
(It actually should be “rural/metro divide.” The idea is to keep outstate residents angry at the Twin Cities metro, which supposedly gets all of the political attention and goodies, and not at places like St. Cloud and Red Wing. But since “rural/urban” has been established as the standard, albeit a (probably deliberately) misleading one, it’s what I’m using here.)
My parents grew up on farms, which stayed in the families and where close relatives still live. I’ve sometimes lived in densely populated settings, but mostly in small-town ones. I suppose that this background helps fuel my take (which, as always, is just my take, not some pretense to complete, final, and absolute truth). Which is that when you get right down to it, people – people with families in particular – pretty much have the same problems and concerns, wherever they live. And they share the same kinds of frustrations when those are not being addressed. It’s not just inner-city public school infrastructure that needs a big upgrade. And plenty of metro streets and roads also drive like something out of Wagon Train. And everyone wants good jobs, wherever they live. And so on.


hero_image_main_2If you remember much about the months before the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections, it doesn’t take much paying attention to this one to work up a pretty strong sense of déjà vu. In both of those, we also saw polling from September into early October claiming that the race had “tightened” to very close, or even tied, before in the end President Obama pulled away to win by about the margins he’d had right after the Democratic conventions.
Various explanations have been mooted for this phenomenon. Here’s a certainly viable one that I saw last week:

One way to describe that problem is “non-response bias;” in other words, the responses of those who choose to respond would be different than those you choose not to respond. It’s a phenomenon that we’ve been aware of for a long time … it may have been the primary culprit in the notoriously disastrous Literary Digest poll that predicted a landslide victory for Alf Landon in the 1936 presidential race … but one that pollsters are just now starting to grapple with.
A more recent case was the polling spike that Mitt Romney received after a poor performance by Barack Obama in the first debate in 2012. Research after the fact, however, suggested that Romney didn’t suddenly get an influx of new backers, as much as Obama’s backers were demoralized and temporarily​ less willing to talk to pollsters, and Romney was temporarily winning by subtraction, which explained why that debate bump quickly wore off. Pollsters using more advanced techniques … especially Obama’s internal pollsters, who were relying on multiple levels of voter file information to sort voters, instead of just using random-digit dialing and talking to whoever answered … found that there really wasn’t much of a debate effect at all, and the race stayed in pretty much the same narrow band from April on.
And pollsters who are willing to dig a little below the surface (and not interested in feeding a horse race narrative in the media) are finding similar things this year.
(David Jarman/Daily Kos)

Be that as it may, there’s another hypothesis that doesn’t seem to be being given much voice, though for me it fairly springs from the data, past and present, like a jaguar. Consider:
– Much corporate media is facing further downsizing, if not outright extinction in its current embodiments, any time. (Note, for example, the age distribution among those who still inexplicably get their “news” from the plutocratic/war pig propaganda that is the network TV broadcasts. I don‘t know about their websites and radio, but I doubt that the situation is much different.) They’re desperate for a neck-and-neck race, to hopefully keep people “glued.” We’ve seen how the coverage has been, with the relentless invention of Hillary Clinton “scandals” whenever she so much as blinks her eyelids, compared to the coddling of the most vile and repulsive, and unqualified and dangerous, presidential candidate, in historical context, in U.S. history.

I don’t believe that most of the Republicans or corporate Democrats who own and operate corporate media really want Donald Trump in the White House. But they figure that the chances of that are small, and they’re probably right. Probably. (More here and here.) But they are, in addition to ratings and web traffic and so forth, hoping to help mute any Democratic downballot wave. Plus, they’re a**holes. Of a truly fetid, repellent sort.

– We’ve known from Day One that Clinton has huge advantages among minorities, women…really, everyone except white people with no post-secondary education. I personally know Republicans who are refusing to vote for Trump, and I suspect that you do, too. Moreover, Clinton’s ground game is state-of-the-art, while it’s doubtful that Trump even knows what “microtargeting” is. It just does not add up that this is tied or anywhere near it.
Given the above, to claim that polling commissioned by, or otherwise intended for use by, corporate media and other public entities looking for attention – that is, most of what’s out there – is all on the up-and-up seems to me to be pretty naïve. I do indeed hypothesize (and I’m far from the first to do so) that in all likelihood much of it is being deliberately skewed, in order to make this thing appear closer than it is.

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trump3When people who at least try to be clear thinkers, rather than go through life in benighted fogs of motivated reasoning, are shown to be wrong, we endeavor to figure out what went wrong, in order to avoid repeating the same mistakes. (“Motivated reasoning” is basically all the mental gymnastics people do to justify believing what they want, based on dogma, emotionalism and cognitive biases, when said beliefs have little or no apparent grounding in fact and/or reason.) Sorry to sound all lecturing and pretentious.
When Donald Trump became the GOP presidential nominee, I believed that by this time, mid-September 2016, the only remaining question would be just how big the Democratic electoral tsunami would be. Kinda f*cked that up, didn’t I?
To be clear, I still believe that Hillary Clinton will win the Electoral College quite handily. And that it’s considerably more likely than not that we’ll take the U.S. Senate, although quite possibly with no more than 51 seats at best. And that we’ll take the MN House and have legislative majorities for Gov. Dayton’s final two years. And all of those will be wonderful things.
But, at least for now, the Landslide of Historic Proportions appears to be off. And the reason that I didn’t see that coming is that I had no idea that corporate media would take its coverage to the fetid extremes that it has, on behalf of both a misogynistic, racist, bloodthirsty, pathologically narcissistic lunatic, and on behalf of the wretched failure of a political party and ideology that he represents. I knew there would be plenty of bias, but not like this. For far from the first time I’ve underestimated how far the Establishment would go to try to protect its interests, even to the point of risking a Trump presidency and what that would mean. I should have known better by now, but I didn’t.
I’m not alone. Not with those remarks about corporate media, anyway:


13335529_10157076057630492_8977891793245887712_nI did some polite, constructive criticism of corporate media the other day, as I have indeed been wont to do from time to time ever since I’ve been here. (Pushing seven years? Seriously? Hadn’t thought about it lately.) And I subsequently saw this.

Franken plainly said that Trump “is a liar . . . all the time.” Andrea Mitchell, sitting next to him, followed up by saying “Facts don’t seem to matter in this campaign. What has happened to our politics?” And Franken’s response was brilliant:

“I think they still matter. I still think, at the end of the day, they will still matter. And you know what, I would challenge you, all of you (pointing his finger at each of the reporters), to make them matter. To repeat them when there are lies. I would say that the media — you know, I used to write quaint books like ‘Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them’, and things like that, and I do think people think like, ‘Oh, wow, there used to be books about when people lied, and now no one cares.’ You guys have kind of a job to do.”

(Daily Kos)

This may seem odd coming from me, but I think there actually is a pretty good chance that corporate media will to some extent turn against the Donald Trump campaign. (I was heartened to see that this morning’s dead tree Star Tribune front-page headlined the appalling Trump/Russia deal, instead of using the Dem convention as an excuse to bury it on the inside as I had expected.) In 2012, they were pro-Romney for quite a while, but for the last couple of months turned slightly pro-Obama, largely because of the correct perception that he was going to win handily. This being America, you know about how good it is for a profit margin to be associated with a loser.

Most, or at least many, media owners/bosses, though Republicans, likely don’t want a Trump presidency either. Not because of its effect on women, minorities, children, etc. – that would be their problem, let them deal with it – but because a Trump presidency would also ultimately be very bad for business. And they mostly are not such witless ninnies, at least not in some ways, that they don’t know that.


Donald_TrumpThat cooked “scandals” about e-mail are being treated as far more important than the likes of this, says it all about the degraded nadir to which American corporate “journalism” has fallen. Hillary Clinton will likely wipe her bottom with Donald Trump anyway, come Election Day, but it still sucks.

And in all honesty a big factor in how pissed off I continually am about this is my own sense of helplessness. I cannot for the life of me figure out an effective way to force c. media to shape up. People have been showing for decades now what bulls*it it is. Many millions nonetheless still watch/read/listen, and believe the plutocratic, war pig propaganda that they are shamelessly fed.

This article is comprehensive, brutal, and undeniable. Click and read.

Over the last year there has been a recurrent refrain about the seeming bromance between Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin. More seriously, but relatedly, many believe Trump is an admirer and would-be emulator of Putin’s increasingly autocratic and illiberal rule. But there’s quite a bit more to the story. At a minimum, Trump appears to have a deep financial dependence on Russian money from persons close to Putin. And this is matched to a conspicuous solicitousness to Russian foreign policy interests where they come into conflict with US policies which go back decades through administrations of both parties. There is also something between a non-trivial and a substantial amount of evidence suggesting Putin-backed financial support for Trump or a non-tacit alliance between the two men.

Additional material, from DKos this morning, here.


whitehouse_historypgIs Hillary Clinton (who I am certainly going to vote for) my dream candidate? No, I would not state the case that way. Among other things, if I could tell her to do one thing and she had to do it, it would be to put a hard swift boot on the a*ses of the neocowards that she inexplicably still has hanging around. She should know better. Anyone should, by now. Indeed, long since.
That being said, a study came out which confirms what a lot of us have pretty much known for a while. I’m putting it out here as good to throw in the faces of those who claim otherwise. Not that that generally works with those making those claims – motivated reasoning is very resistant to fact, that’s the whole point – but third parties might take note. Note that it’s from a department of the right-wing Kennedy School of Government.

“Far more negative?” More like insanely more negative! The study found that 84 percent of Clinton’s coverage has been “negative in tone” compared to just 43 percent for Trump and 17 percent for Sanders. Even though many of us would just (as soon) forget about Rafael Cruz at this stage, it’s notable to point out that he received fairly balanced press coverage in comparison to his opponent. So while the media insured their playing field was much more leveled, they didn’t afford us the same luxury.
(Daily Kos)

Now, corporate media can’t really swing presidential elections. If it could, we’d be counting down President McCain’s (in all likelihood disastrous) time in the White House, and with VP Palin running well ahead in the polls as his successor. But this, and so much else, are nonetheless disgraceful failures when it comes to their alleged provision of legitimate journalism. What a f*cking joke.


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.



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.”

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.


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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