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Media oversight

Don’t concern yourself with Strib polling

by Dan Burns on March 22, 2015 · 1 comment

schoolPerhaps you’ve seen this morning’s in the Star Tribune, purporting to show huge public support for “quality over seniority” in teacher layoffs. It’s a classic example of reducing a complex issue to a quick soundbite. Do you really think most parents would want to see their own kid’s beloved math teacher let go, because some newbie at a school with more privileged kids had those kids produce higher test scores?

 
Let’s be clear about what the education deformers want, here. “Quality” is to be “measured” by standardized test scores. This will force teachers to rote-drill students to the tests, rather than emphasize learning to think knowledgeably, rationally, creatively, and independently. Because if most kids grow up doing the latter, that spells longer-term doom for the plutocratic, warmongering status quo. Which is in fact what’s been going on for a while, and, obviously, said warmongering plutocrats are desperate to reverse that, no matter what vile, shameless means are employed.

 
It won’t surprise me if the rest of the week is devoted to poll questions like “Do you favor or oppose a gas tax increase?” and “Should the state refund the budget surplus?” Remember that if poll results other than “Who would you vote for if the election were held today?” mattered politically, this country’s policies would overwhelmingly reflect the progressive agenda that the public massively supports. And the MN GOP is still probably going to get crushed in 2016, and there’s nothing Glen Taylor’s Strib can do about that. Though he’ll make sure it keeps trying.
 
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Net Neutrality Passes in 3-2 FCC Vote!

by Dog Gone on February 26, 2015 · 0 comments

Foolish conservatives, especially the conspiracy theory crowd, are blowing their hats in the air as their heads explode.

 

A special call out to the religious fool and zealot Pat Robertson, who sees a freaky non-existent government take over in this move. He must be having another one of his hallucinations, like the one he has that eating Halloween candy leads to demonic possession.

 

For the rest of us, this is GREAT NEWS!

 

A special thank you to our Senator Al Franken for championing this! The internet should be regulated as a utility (one which would be better with more competition).

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isil-300x162You’ve probably seen that we’re all supposed to freak out, because ISIS is going to attack the Mall of America. At first, I chalked it up to just a particularly annoying manifestation of corporate media’s near-universal approach, particularly with broadcast/cable news: hook ‘em with crass sensationalism, then lay on the corporate propaganda. The following involves a different context, but it nails the style.
 

You know, climate change is actually a very interesting subject with a lot of very strange potential implications. It also plays right into the entire reason most national news shows exist, which is to send their viewers into spasms of panic over all of the things in the world that are going to kill them at any given moment. It is equal parts natural disaster, suicide bomber, space invasion and political thriller. If Fox News were on board with climate change, they would have their viewers in a quivering mass on the subject within days. Advertisers would love it, because Buy Overpriced Gold. The NRA would be giddy over the implications because it means your children and grandchildren might get to blast some folks. Climate change is like ebola plus measles plus incoming freaking asteroid impact, and if you can’t make that exciting in a high-production-values network news format you are really not trying very hard.
(Daily Kos)

But then it was, like, hey, wait a minute…with the showdown over Department of Homeland Security (DHS) funding, won’t this approach, in this specific context, potentially reflect badly on Republicans? What the heck?!
 

It’s actually so obvious that I’m embarrassed to admit that it took me a little while to figure it out. It’s supposed to reflect badly on those who would put DHS funding at risk. Because for corporate America, the DHS is a gold mine, and it all depends on Americans continuing to see terrorism as a big threat to them personally. Despite the reality that you’re far more likely to “get it” in just about any other way that you can think of.
 

All of the preceding is just for those who think about it, anyway; many lifelong viewers of broadcast news for the most part simply watch out of (bad) habit, without any substantive effort at deeper cogitation. Why bother, you know? And there are times that I can relate, a little. I’m also not suggesting that corporate media bias actually makes much difference; if it could really swing elections, for example, President McCain would be in his second term, and Minnesota would have U.S. Reps. Torrey Westrom and Stewart Mills III. Most of those influenced by the skew are voting Republican in any case. But it is nonetheless not journalism. I get that most of the people in the trenches would rather be doing journalism, but the honchos have other ideas.
 

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Dayton proposes buffer zone regulation

by Dan Burns on January 29, 2015 · 0 comments

BACKPACKING5-251006-162122From a fairly recent column:
 

Then quite to everyone’s surprise, (Minnesota Governor Mark) Dayton said this:
 
“I will propose that a 50 foot [grass or similar] buffer be placed around all state waters,’’ a requirement that will be “enforced by the DNR through aerial and other inspections.’’
 
Acknowledging that some farmers and other landowners, and some farm groups, will oppose the plan in the Legislature, Dayton added:
 
“The land may be yours. But the water belongs to all of us, and to all who will follow all of us.’’
 
…For now, Dayton’s initiative is reason enough to celebrate, because in the never-ending battle to sustain wild places and wild critters, leadership is everything, as Teddy Roosevelt demonstrated more than a century ago.
 
And among state conservationists, Dayton has earned that title.
 
Leader.
(Star Tribune)

OK, maybe a little over-the-top at the end, there, but to have a governor who is committed to a relatively strong environmental agenda is not a privilege that most states currently have. And though we’re better off than many, Minnesota is in fact far from pristine. And there are all those big plans for more mines and pipelines…
 
I’ve seen some talk lately about a purported pending coalition of rural GOPers and Iron Range DFLers who will form a bloc powerful enough to weaken environmental protections. I’m waiting on reports that are more specific. Mildly intriguing, how seemingly out of nowhere, like The Thing, the “rural/urban divide” has suddenly become far and away the most important socio-political phenomenon in the history of the state. Or so corporate media would have it, and it would be impolite, I suppose, to suggest that that has much more to do with pandering to its older, conservative-leaning base, than to fact-based analysis. Reality check: Minnesotans everywhere care about conservation and the environment.
 

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The Myth and Reality of the Warrior Cop

by Invenium Viam on December 10, 2014 · 1 comment

Donatello, Raphael, Leonardo,

Extreme Make-over of NYC Police as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

“Of course I’m dangerous. I’m police. I can do terrible things to people with impunity.” Rusty Cohle, True Detective

 

Most people would agree that law enforcement is a dangerous profession. But how dangerous is it really?

 

Is it as dangerous as entertainment media depicts, given the endless river of film and television dramas that show police officers engaging in extended firefights with street thugs, bank robbers, drug smugglers, outlaw bikers, mid-east terrorists, and other wanton evil-doers? Is it true that police officers are frequently gunned-down by steely-eyed, hardened criminals armed with the latest fully automatic assault rifles and several hundred rounds of body-armor-piercing ammunition? Are squad cars routinely riddled with bullets while feckless rookie cops cringe behind them struggling desperately to make themselves small? Do the streets of American cities really run red?

 

Of course not. But if the American daily diet of violent police drama were any measure of reality, the average life expectancy of an ordinary patrolman on the street would lie somewhere between that of a mayfly and the common gerbil.

 

So, if you had to guess the number of police actually killed by gunfire nationwide last year, what would you guess? Several hundred? Several thousand?

 

How about thirty-two? Would you guess thirty-two? Put another way, about as many police actually died from gunfire last year as were mowed-down by a handful of Southie homeboys in scally caps in the movie The Town, or by a crew from the Brotherhood of Eurosophisto Badasses, Local 19, in any of way too many Die Hard movies that the L.A studios keep cranking out. At least Bruce Willis is still turning out big-balls pictures and making honest money, so it’s not all bad.

 

As is frequently the case, however, the facts paint a picture entirely different from what most people think they know.

 

In 2013, the number of police officers nationwide who were killed by gunfire was, in fact, just 32.[1] The FBI puts the number at 27, but includes only those fatalities resulting from “felonious action,” which could include a copyright violation in the state of Michigan (car country) or knowingly selling a spavined horse in Wyoming (cow country).[2]  Of the 32, two were killed by accidental fire, which means they were killed by a misfired or mishandled weapon, or were killed inadvertently by a fellow officer or by other “friendly fire” (an oxymoron I’ve always detested). While that number constitutes a significant portion (30.5%) of the total number of all 105 line-of-duty deaths among all U.S. police officers in 2013, it is also true that a police officer was more than twice as likely to be killed by causes other than gunfire that year, including a range of non-hostile and accidental causes such as heart attacks (10), falls (4), and electrocution (1).

 

It’s notable that cops in television dramas and movies are frequently shown shot to death but almost never shown keeling over with a massive heart attack while chasing a rail-thin teenager through the dark alleys of South Central, or being electrocuted by downed power lines after a storm, or being struck on a busy highway by an inattentive rubbernecker who fails to yield the lane at the scene of a multi-car accident on a foggy morning commute. But those causes, too, are how police officers frequently die in the line of duty.

 

It’s also notable that if you combine police fatalities in 2013 caused by automobile accidents (25), being struck by a vehicle (8), and vehicle pursuits (4) — while excluding “felonious action” vehicle deaths such as vehicular assault (5)  — more police officers were accidentally killed by cars in the line-of-duty than were killed by guns.

 

Let me be clear: it is not my purpose here to minimize or denigrate the service of police officers who die violent deaths at the hands of criminals, or who die in the line-of-duty by any cause including accidents. Any death of a police officer in the line-of-duty for any reason is tragic. Nor is it my intent, in any way, to minimize the loss to their communities, to their brother and sister officers, or to their friends and family, when a police officer falls or is struck down. Any police officer who makes the ultimate sacrifice in service to his or her community is a hero in my eyes.

 

However, I do want to examine how common cultural perceptions influence both the organizational culture within a police department and public policies relating to it. Both local authorities and police departments can and do misunderstand the role of police in a democracy, often it seems by misapprehending how much real danger policing actually entails. Those erroneous ideas and beliefs serve to perpetuate a number of myths that lead to the creation and maintenance of a warrior culture within some police departments — including a culture of habitual institutional violence and a siege mentality — that ultimately undermines community support for police officers in performing their duties, which further endangers their lives and makes their jobs more difficult,  and thereby does a grievous disservice to the communities they serve.

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The irony of a Minnesotan assassinated in Somalia

by Dan Burns on December 5, 2014 · 1 comment

somaliaHere’s worthwhile and insightful discussion about young Somali-Americans going back and joining militias. Note that a lot of young Americans, of all backgrounds, whose families have been here for generations, even centuries, feel exploited, too, though perhaps not in quite the same ways. And in many cases that unfortunately makes them more prone to, among other problematic matters, buying into the right wing’s, and corporate media’s, crass, bottom-feeding sensationalism about Somalis.
 

How could young men from South Minneapolis come to believe that they are doing something noble by joining al Shabaab and possibly killing someone like Abdullahi ali Anshur? What bitter lessons could these young men have learned in Minnesota that would make them embrace jihad?
 
Some of the young who were recruited to al Shabaab and ISIS were high school dropouts and juvenile delinquents. They were drifting without purpose, looking for something to believe. Life in America is hard and complicated. Most often their immigrant parents had marginal jobs working for minimum wage or driving cabs. To impressionable adolescents, the choice was clear. Stay in America and become losers like their parents or go back to their homeland and become winners.
 
George W Bush was asked why Islamic radicals hated America. He said, “They hate our freedom.” And that’s about right. Most nationalists in the Middle East hate the freedom America expresses in taking their natural resources and reducing them to second class citizens in their own country.
(Twin Cities Daily Planet)

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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.
 
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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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