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Minneapolis

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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Looking at what happened in biggest races

by Eric Ferguson on December 4, 2014 · 0 comments

voters2If you want to look at 2014 most high profile elections mostly in one spot, David Jarman at Daily Kos has a bunch of them collected in one spot. There are some common themes, hopefully not surprising if you’ve been doing your election analysis reading, but if you’re surprised, just keep quiet and no one will know.
 

One theme of course is drop-off Democrats, but the drop off was hardly even from one state to another. It was generally worse where there was no hotly contested top of the ticket, but as we’ve face-palmed about since months before election day, there were Democrats who gave their base nothing to vote for.
 
One prime example is the US Senate election in Virginia. It meshes with another theme you’ll notice following Jarman’s links, the rural/metro* divide. Much as we worry about MNGOP success at playing up a rural/metro divide, the DFL is doing great winning white rural votes compared to other state Democratic parties. Virginia Democrats basically have Richmond and the DC suburbs, and that’s it. Sen. Mark Warner won by a squeaker instead of the predicted blowout because he didn’t get the memo. He devoted his efforts to winning rural voters he wasn’t going to get, and he mostly ignored Fairfax County. This is analogous to Al Franken putting his efforts into winning CD6 by claiming to be nearly a Republican while blowing off Hennepin County.
 
What scares me as I write this is that there are still Democratic candidates and campaigns that don’t get where their voters live and the need to get them to vote. Maybe they didn’t learn from studies showing politicians assume voters are more conservative than they actually are. I just don’t get how anyone can still not get that winning statewide means heavy GOTV in heavily Democratic areas. Maybe Warner made the common mistake of assuming the last election predicts the next one, in that he had previously won the rural southwest while losing the reddish DC suburbs. But this is a different year, and both regions had flipped. It’s the same sort of mistake as those who assumed Al Franken and Mark Dayton were in for tough reelections because they went to recounts last election.
 
Speaking of bad strategy, there was one link that illustrates why I have such reluctance about donating to the DSCC and DCCC. Though this one is specifically on the DSCC.
 
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testingThis is an excerpt from a very solid essay, mostly about Minneapolis schools.
 

Taking the wide view we see a virtual war being fought over public education nationwide, and right here in Minneapolis. The fight over education makes one wonder why is it that we cannot just hug our public schools in a loving embrace instead of embroiling them in a culture of permanent contentiousness and change. We repeat over and over again failed experiments on our most vulnerable children, all the while ignoring methods proven to enhance educational attainment.
 
Make no mistake about it: What we are doing to K-12 education is performing experiments that are proven to be failures, creating chaos, educational malpractice, and disillusion among our front-line public servants, our teachers. I challenge one advocate of the so-called education “reform” movement to show one peer-reviewed academic study where unregulated “school choice,” an overuse of high-stakes standardized testing, and segregation, for example, brought good results.
(Left.MN)

Education, like so much else, is best served by thoughtful, knowledgeable people working together toward common goals. That it should involve a surfeit of “competition” is a crude, ignorant viewpoint, and it’s deeply unfortunate that it’s shared among many who should know better.
 
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Minnesota looking more like the rest of the country

by Eric Ferguson on November 26, 2014 · 2 comments

Minnesota has been something of an outlier compared to almost every other state. Most states have Democratic cities, Republican rural areas, and competitive suburbs. We have long flipped those last two. This last election though, the state house election looked pretty typical of what might be expected in almost any randomly chosen state.
 
This raises some questions, namely:
— Is this trend of reddening rural areas and bluing suburbs really happening here? Didn’t I just say it was, one paragraph ago? I actually have my doubts, about which more later.
— Why is this happening? I won’t actually spend much space on this because there seem to be multiple plausible explanations, which can be simultaneously true, so it’s more complicated than can be dealt with here.
— How do we respond?
 
I used this chart repeatedly in that series on Democrats needing to do better with white voters, but that was nearly two years ago, so here it is again:
 

 
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Pointergate: KSTP does it again

by Eric Ferguson on November 7, 2014 · 3 comments

Dan Burns posted earlier about “pointergate”, where KSTP TV thought it a scandal that the mayor of Minneapolis and someone else were pointing at each other. Apparently the standards of journalism at KSTP TV have not improved since they passed along Brian Rice’s false claims of voter fraud without investigation. This raises an important question: there are still people who watch local TV news? Maybe there aren’t many left, thus why KSTP TV does these sensationalistic stories.
 

 
A more serious question: aren’t real journalists embarrassed to work for this organization? At least now I know why my Twitter app alerted me that some people had followed Jay Kolls, the reporter whose name is on the story (this is the original story). Unfortunately, I suspect the people who followed him gave him what he wanted. To be fair though, the reporter on camera might not deserve all the blame, since I don’t know who else worked on the story. Maybe he was left hanging, or maybe he is the one who really screwed up. Can’t tell; just like the voter fraud story. That’s why it’s damaging to the whole news division to make a pattern of grabbing some unproven charge and running with it; acting like someone making a claim is news, and no matter if it isn’t proven, or even if it’s dumb. Pointing is a gang sign? A bunch of people having a mailbox rental store as an address is voter fraud? Does anyone at KSTP think about this stuff before going on the air?
 
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Post-election observations

by Eric Ferguson on November 6, 2014 · 5 comments

With the voting done in 2014, let’s talk about 2016. Kidding! Stop, don’t go away! In fact, I’ll give you this handy link to Minnesota election results, but don’t leave yet.
 
The following thoughts about 2014 are more or less in the order in which they came to mind, though I tried to seize opportunities for coherency.
 
Starting with admittedly a repeat of my comment on Dan Burns’ post on women voting, assuming my walk lists of voters were the drop-off Democrats, it’s a bit disturbing those lists were heavy with younger women, meaning under 40. They arguably lost the most when Republicans did so well in 2010, between Republican governors and legislatures repealing equal pay laws, closing women’s clinics to restrict abortion access (and restricting access to health services in general thereby), photo ID laws (women’s birth certificates get rejected if they changed their names when they married), and blocking minimum wage increases which hurts women much more than men. Why aren’t younger women the most motivated to turn out?
 
Despite the wailing and media hysteria, if you didn’t roughly predict the results of the 2014 midterms once the results of the 2012 election were in, you have much to learn about US politics. We’re the presidential party in a midterm — Tuesday was always going to be bad. I expected we would net a governor or two, instead of a net loss of I think it will turn out to be two. But losses in Congress, albeit worse than they needed to be, no surprise. Looks like losses were small compared to 2010 in state legislatures. Not that we couldn’t have mitigated the losses without some bad decisions — yes, that’s a prelude to bringing up things I’m ticked about, and in my own defense, all things I raised before the campaign was over. We’ll get there shortly. Some good news, besides a good night for Democrats in Minnesota whatever happened elsewhere, is the GOP Senate majority is likely short-lived. Their odds of holding on in 2016 are worse than ours this year, for the same math problems: whether it’s a presidential year, who defends how many seats, and which states have elections.
 
Weirdly, given how the elections turned out, Democrats nearly ran the table on ballot measures. Unlike 2012, they seem not to have had coattails.
 
No one wants to believe the polls when they predict bad news, but for Senate and governor races, following them meant you weren’t surprised. Disappointed, but at least you knew it would be a generally bad night. Not so much for the US House, which I attribute to few polls and small sample sizes — so I was pleasantly surprised by CD8, since the last poll showed Stewart Mills with a strong lead, plus a Green candidate taking a few percent. Point being, better to accept the polls are roughly right and deal with reality. At least no one on the Democratic side went so far as to get into “unskewing”, so we have that going for us.
 
Apartment buildings folks, come on. I’m not naming sources or candidates, because no one knew in these conversations I might be blogging about it later on. Trying to do better at contacting people who live in apartments, or “multi-unit buildings” to not exclude residents of condominiums, is something we’ve worked on in the SD I chair, and the Keith Ellison campaign developed methods of doorknocking in apartments over the last couple elections. Ellison is safe, so the main beneficiaries are on the rest of the ballot, but lots of candidates and campaigns still want to bypass multi-unit buildings. The reasons why aren’t important. What’s important is we’re passing up voters Republicans also don’t contact, or, to be more positive, where we focus on multi-unit buildings, we’re contacting people Republicans ignore. Besides, whatever fudge factors there are, can anyone claim we solved the drop-off Democrat problem? Yet turfs are still cut to steer away from multi-unit buildings.
 
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abandonedschoolThere has been some “discussion” as to just what’s going on with campaign financing in the race for citywide seats on the Minneapolis school board. This really makes things obvious. It’s a press release from ACT for Education. I don’t have a hyperlink, but I do have permission to quote wholesale.

 

New campaign finance reports out today show that three out-of-state billionaires and a New York millionaire have contributed $248,000 to the Minneapolis Progressive Education Fund (MPEF), and its affiliated groups the 50CAN Action Fund, and the Students for Education Reform Action Network Fund (SFER). 94 percent of the MPEF money comes from billionaire Michael Bloomberg, Connecticut billionaire Jonathan Sackler, California billionaire Arthur Rock, and New York millionaire Adam Cioth.

MPEF has a s*itload of gall, putting “progressive” in its name. You can view the rest of this extremely enlightening document by clicking “READ MORE,” below.
 
This, from MinnPost, has links to all of the various fundraising reports.

 
Yes, out-of-state billionaires are trying to smother Minneapolis with the deformer, anti-public schools agenda. Period.
 
The following sentence is an example of “reasoning from fact.” Privatizing/corporatizing American public education is a terrible concept, and a huge preponderance of evidence bears that out in practice. Again, period.
 
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Minneapolis at-large school board candidate Iris Altamirano issued this statement about recent negative campaigning:
 

A recent negative mailing and negative campaign calls we’ve seen and heard about, in the past week are more examples of what I’ve been saying throughout our campaign: We need a new conversation about education in Minneapolis because the situation for our kids is too urgent. Negative campaigning does not move us in that direction. Our campaign has been focused on bringing people together and building a collective vision for all Minneapolis kids to have opportunities to succeed. I will continue to campaign with integrity, respect for all perspectives, and with the deep belief that we must move beyond the polarized framework of this debate and put children at the forefront of this conversation.

An independent group, Minneapolis Progressive Education Fund, has been supporting Altamirano and Don Samuels, and running a negative campaign against Rebecca Gagnon. Pardon me going through basics again, but I was reminded while doorknocking this weekend that there are voters who respond to questions about local elections with something like, “We have local elections this year?” I think that’s a hint. I’ve also been informed that “at-large” is a bit jargon-like. So, “at-large” means citywide, as opposed to districts. If you didn’t know, just pretend. No one will know. Non-Minneapolitans, hang on through this hyper-local stuff, because I’ll shortly mention something that might interest any politics geek.
 
Minneapolis has three at-large seats and six districts, elected for four-year staggered terms in even numbered years. So three districts and one at-large member are elected in presidential years, and the other three districts and two at-large seats are elected in midterms.
 

For the two at-large seats, the top four candidates in the primary go to the general election. The top four were Ira Jordain, Iris Altamirano, Rebecca Gagnon, and Don Samuels. All four self-identify as DFLers. Gagnon finished first in the primary, with Samuels a close second and Altamirano a close third, clustered in the 20’s range. Jordain came in a bit under 6%. Gagnon and Altamirano are the DFL endorsees. Regarding RCV, we don’t use that in even numbered years, just odd numbered years when the whole ballot is local races.
 
One interesting thing about this particular race is that even though Republicans might top out at 25% of the vote in Minneapolis, that still means one voter in four is Republican. When I’m at their door clipboard in hand, I don’t waste time trying to persuade them on partisan races, figuring I’m not going to win them over anyway, but in the school board race, they’re having to pick the most acceptable DFLers. That means it’s still worth finding out what they care about, and looking for a way to win their vote. So when I realize I won’t win them over to Franken or Dayton, I switch to school board. It’s a very different dynamic than the partisan races. It’s also a common problem for Republicans in local races in Minneapolis. We had a Republican mayoral candidate last year, but some city council races were all DFL.

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I could be wrong. If I’m right, then I have to admire the cleverness of a certain group of Don Samuels’ supporters, even if, as the title implies, there’s something coldblooded about it.

 

A new organization has sprung up for this election season, the Minneapolis Progressive Education Fund. They put out a mailer promoting the candidacies of Don Samuels and Iris Altamirano for the Minneapolis at-large school board seats. Altamirano is one of the candidates endorsed by the DFL. Samuels is not. The other DFL endorsee is Rebecca Gagnon. Voters might be fooled by the effort MPEF is making to hook together Altamirano and Samuels. The images below are a mailer MPEF sent Minneapolis voters (click to enlarge). Some voters have received a robocall supporting Samuels and Altamirano while bashing Gagnon. I didn’t receive one myself and don’t know of anyone who caught who made the calls, but the content sounds roughly the same as the MPEF web site. The mailer is positive about the supported candidates, but the robocall and web site are pretty negative. The web site tries to tie Gagnon to the unproven rumors about State Sens. Bobby Joe Champion and Jeff Hayden. Pretty nonsensical rumors unless someone believes the senators are politically suicidal (denying funding to the Minneapolis public schools? Remember that saying about extraordinary claims…), but MPEF says, “The Star Tribune and MinnPost also have reported on claims…” and yes, someone made claims, those outlets reported that someone made claims, so true as far as it goes. Other than that attack on Gagnon, it’s all generic “every child can learn” sort of stuff said by all school board candidates everywhere.
 

MPEF mailer image 1   MPEF mailer image 2

 
So what’s the strategy? It’s more than knowing the word “progressive” plays well in Minneapolis. The trick is Samuels doesn’t need to beat both endorsees. Since there are two positions, he just needs to beat one. Apparently the strategy is to hook him to one endorsee, giving the impression he’s the other endorsee, while simultaneously hitting the other endorsee with a negative campaign. That may explain why Samuels didn’t seek the DFL endorsement, which he never would have gotten for any public office, but instead attempted the same sort of ambush campaign Matt Entenza tried in the auditor primary: keep quiet until filing so opponents aren’t expecting anything, and then hit hard with a well-funded negative campaign. The brilliance of this strategy is it would have worked equally well whichever candidate MPEF chose to support or attack. Whether there was a reason or a coin flip, MPEF chose to make it appear Samuels is running with Altamirano, even though they’re not similar candidates, and I’ve yet to hear anyone in Altamirano’s campaign have a good word to say about him.
 
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gadflyI ran across this cool website with this cool article, which is a must click and read if you’re interested in education policy at all. (There are four candidates for two-at-large seats: Rebecca Gagnon, Ira Jourdain, Don Samuels, and Iris Altamirano. Gagnon is an incumbent; she and Altamirano are DFL-endorsed. Samuels is very much preferred by the corporate “education deformer” movement.)
 

Now, a distinction must be drawn between this rigorously documented “hard money”, which campaigns raise and spend directly, and the “soft money” independent expenditures made by outside groups that have no limits or reporting requirements. How’s this working out for (Samuels)? Pretty nicely. I’ve written before about the influx of ideologically-driven, out-of-state money into our (formerly local) school board race; this is the post-Citizens United crap that we have to put up with, and it’s troubling that it doesn’t meet Samuels’ definition of “corrupt money”…
 
No one can be sure exactly how much money these plutocrats are spending in their bid to buy our local election, but Samuels seems to be saying he needs it because of all the money being spent on Altamirano’s behalf. There’s a big difference, though: while Samuels boosters are billionaires and their foundations who evidently view our city as a little terrarium for them to experiment on, Altamirano’s “soft” expenditures are coming from, well, us.
(Don’t Samuels!)

A lot of progressive bloggers, including some whose work I downright admire, tend to repeat the claim that there is no difference between the overall performance of traditional public schools and charters. They don’t seem to be doing their homework on that. For example, a new study shows that charters are substantially worse than public schools in Chicago. Another study has the same general result for the Twin Cities.
 
Comments below fold.
 
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