Recent Posts

Tim Pawlenty

A recent history of Minnesota’s budget

by Dan Burns on December 4, 2015 · 0 comments

From Minnesota’s worst governor ever to the one who may go down as the best. ’nuff said.




political-manipulation“Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable.”

                                               George Orwell


As many times as I’ve wondered how some GOP pols and pundits can stand to look at themselves in the mirror, I’ve also wondered how they maintain such disciplined messaging. Do they get paid? Is it the discipline of the paycheck? Do the internet trolls, who comment on every political news story in the Strib by slamming Dems and excusing Pugs, get paid by someone? If not, how do they manage to stay on message so relentlessly?


Respect. If Dems could stay on message the way Pugs do, we’d own state government for the next ten generations. The problem for Dems, of course, is that so much of GOP messaging is factory-made and based on lies. A lot of our liberal friends in elected office have a tough time telling Lies-by-Design. Which is much to their credit, ethics-wise, but it puts Democratic candidates at a real disadvantage with the broader electorate when you consider that half the population has below average intelligence, hence are more easily misled than smarter folks. I don’t mean that in a mean way: it’s just a statement of fact. A significant portion of the population is more easily convinced of things that are untrue because they lack the cognitive and perceptual abilities that smarter people have. In how it frames it’s messaging, the GOP media machine utterly depends on that simple truth for the party’s continued existence.


Admittedly, it’s a lot easier for the GOP to keep churning out mass-produced mendacity like a Chinese plastics factory when spineless news anchors and chickensh*t political reporters are only willing to serve up softball questions to candidates and pundits. The accounting department long ago took over control of policy in the newsroom and the watchword ever since has been Revenue-Revenue-Revenue. Keep it light, guys. Don’t make enemies. Don’t offend anybody. We need to keep the ratings up to make goal each quarter. Your bonus depends on your cooperation. Your jobs depend on annual growth.


Take, for example, the remarks that MN Speaker of the House Kurt Daudt made earlier this year about Minnesota’s improving economy, covered by MNPP here:

“Part of this economic confidence,” Daudt told reporters with a straight face, “is there is balance restored in state government.”

To her credit, Pioneer Press Capitol Bureau Chief and political reporter Rachel Stassen-Berger challenged Daudt on that one and made him own the lie by forcing him to double-down on his BS. That’s what real political reporters do. The news media, after all, is not supposed to be a handy conveyance for politicians and pundits to drop trou and squeeze out some verbal dookie. That’s what concession speeches are for. Rather, it’s supposed to be an information forum where readers and audiences go to learn something as close to the truth as can be discovered and published. Political reporters aren’t doing human interest stories: there should be an apparent bias and overt partiality for the truth, regardless of which political party offers it up. Any impartiality the news media sustains should be to ensure that all offenders of truth are equally vilified, not that all lies are given equal ink and air time. As Churchill once said, “I refuse to remain impartial between the fire brigade and the fire.”


Which just gets to the nut of why Republicans complain so bitterly about media bias. The fact is they get exposed as liars and frauds more often than Democrats do simply because they tell a lot more lies. They have to. Their policies are founded on lies. Trickle-down economics for example was one of the biggest B-F-L’s ever perpetrated on the American people. So was WMD’s.


But I digress. Returning to the subject at hand, now some months later, we see the very same BS message that Herr Daudt was disparaged for last March surfacing again in our political discourse, when Cathy Wurzer put this question to their political panel on the July 10 broadcast of Almanac (~44:58) —

Wurzer: “The state forecast just came out — [another] $500 million to the good. What does that mean? Do you think we’re collecting too much in taxes … just a better economy … what do you all think?”

I’ll assign that question a rating of Four Softballs [@@@@] …

More Below the Fold


After reading Star Tribune columnist D.J. Tice’s column on the collapse of the 35W bridge it’s apparent he gets the concept of motivated reasoning, but not to the point of recognizing when he’s engaging in it. He takes one fact, that the gusset plates were built too thin, and weaves a whole narrative of an unavoidable accident that absolves the Pawlenty administration, were it true. His convenient cherrypicking of facts ignores the inconvenient fact that bridge inspectors had warned of potential failure of fracture critical components, and recommended structural work to include the gussets.
From the MPR link:

The recommendation made in the November 2006 report was rejected, but one expert in the sound-based monitoring technology said even the suggestion that so-called “fracture critical” sections of the bridge were susceptible for cracking should have sent up a warning flare.
“For somebody to be looking for cracks to initiate in a fracture critical member begs the question, why?” said John Duke, a professor of engineering science and mechanics at Virginia Tech who’s researched acoustic emission monitoring.

“When a fracture critical member is discovered to have a crack, that bridge should have been shut down yesterday,” he said.

It may not have been certain that such work would have found and fixed the gusset issue, but it was at least likely, and doing the work definitely would have made it impossible to blame the collapse on lack of maintenance. However, the decision was to go cheap and just resurface. After all, proper repairs would have cost more money, and nothing was more important than avoiding the tax increase that would be unavoidable if we were to really fix our infrastructure.
Even after Minnesotans looked at our roads and bridges and realized deferred maintenance had resulted in a deteriorated condition, Tim Pawlenty was so determined to please the taxophobic poobahs of the Republican Party that he vetoed a small and insufficient gas tax increase. It was passed over his veto by legislative supermajorities that included some brave Republican legislators who paid a high price for defying the anti-tax crowd that thinks infrastructure is free.
I wonder if Tice is warming up to argue that a thin gusset on the 35W bridge proves we don’t really need to raise the gas tax to fix our roads and bridges. Would we rather pay a little more for gas, or always wonder if the “fracture critical” parts were found and fixed? Or maybe it’s just normal that a Republican wants to help politicians of his party who are still dodging responsibility for the bridge. I’m willing to grant that 100% avoidance of all screw-ups is impossible, or at least so close to impossible as to be unreasonable. The real question then is the willingness to figure out how you screwed up, and Republicans, apparently, are nowhere near such willingness. Maybe that’s why they want to repeat the mistake, deferring infrastructure repairs to avoid a tax increase. Call it the fingers-crossed approach to maintaining old infrastructure.
Sure, we don’t have to raise taxes, because we have another option. We can just let our roads and bridges keep rotting; not a great option, but yes, an option.


hamlins_wizard_oil_netFebruary was a tough month for a liberal in Minnesota.


First, we had the ineffable mid-month public dust-up between Majority Leader Tom Bakk and Governor Dayton. Ineffable, as in impossible to explain.


I was taught from a very young age to keep family fights behind closed doors because — you never know — there might be a few Orangemen lurking about. In fact, in my neighborhood growing up, the hausfrau’s always hung the undies on the inside lines between the bedsheets. And they grew the backyard lilacs tall. They didn’t want the neighbors to know the family wore underwear, I guess. That’s how closely people conducted their private affairs.


Might could be that Bakk and Dayton could learn from their example. But Hey! — who am I to judge? If our honorable leaders at the Capitol want to act like a couple of boozy bruisers from the Marshall Street scrap yards slugging it out at Frank’s Stand-up over a 25-cent tune on the jukebox, it ain’t really my business. Just don’t spill my beer.


Except, of course, that it makes the party look bad.


So, already burdened with a lengthy bout of dyspesia, which I had just about suppressed herbally with thrice daily doses of Moroccan Mint tea ($3.79 at better grocers everywhere), along comes the budget surplus announcement, which is projected to be $1.86 billion as opposed to the $832 million projected in the last forecast. An increase in funds available of $1.03 billion.


Now, that should have been ‘A Good Thing’, as Martha Stewart liked to say about insider dope before she did prison time for stock fraud. In earlier times, politicians on both sides of the aisle would have thrown their arms in the air and erupted with cheers and vigorous back-slapping all ’round. Yay! Minnesota is back on the road to Fourple-A bond ratings, expansive job growth and increasing prosperity for everyone! Let’s all be real happy!


But, no; sadly, no. It took a veteran whitebread buzzkill like Speaker Kurt Daudt to fug-up the festive mood by injecting partisanship into the announcement and simultaneously squander all the careful work I’d put in to drown-out the bellyfire that the Bakk-Dayton flap had ignited. That’s known to Coolers in the Vegas casino’s as a twofer. Maybe that’s where Daudt’s real talents lay.


snakeoil2“Part of this economic confidence,” Daudt told reporters with a straight face, “is there is balance restored in state government.”


With that statement, I knew instantly that I’d have to bring up the heavy guns and elevate the alimentary counter-assault to Kaopectate® milkshakes morning and night to have any hope of victory. Still, I tried desparately to follow Speaker Daudt’s logic: since January 6, 2015 — a little more than seven weeks of “balanced” government (when T-Paw was gubner, they called it “divided” government) — economic confidence among consumers has been restored to the tune of an extra Billion-Plus dollars in tax revenues? Is that really what he’s claiming?

More Below the Fold


This is the right wing agenda, not only in Wisconsin, not only in Louisiana, not only in Kansas, but in EVERY state where the right either has power or is attempting to get power.


That includes Minnesota, where the right has opposed funding for education under a variety of guises. That includes Congressman John Kline, who has taken lots of money from big oil and other fossil fuel corporations, and done a grave disservice to voters and to students.  Look for similar moves by other Republicans.  This is the epitome of the corruption of government, and of government for the corporations, not for WE THE PEOPLE.

From US uncut.
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has slashed funding to public colleges by $600 million since 2008–more than any other state. Over the same period, Jindal has handed corporations $11 billion in tax cuts–also more than any other state. Louisiana now faces a record budget deficit which Governor Jindal proposes to solve by cutting an additional $300 million from state colleges. After he awarded oil giant ExxonMobil with $263 million in subsidies.



Is Mike McFadden Running to Lose?

by Invenium Viam on July 17, 2014 · 9 comments

snakeyes-born-to-loseErnest Hemingway once said, “The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in, shockproof, sh*t detector.”


I like to think I’ve got a pretty good functioning unit. It may be old, but it’s pretty reliable.


That may be the reason why I’ve struggled with the nagging question whether Mike McFadden’s campaign to unseat Senator Franken is for real, or just for show. Something hasn’t felt quite right, not quite genuine, about what I’ve seen so far. My spidey-senses are all a-tingle.


I understand that McFadden is a political newcomer, never having held political office before. So it would be easy to pass off any misgivings about McFadden’s campaign bona fides onto that. While inexperienced he may be, McFadden’s certainly not dumb. He graduated magna cum laude from the University of St. Thomas with a B.A. in Economics. He earned a J.D. from Georgetown. So you know he’s got the raw horsepower upstairs.


Presumably, he’s also a skilled business manager. He would know that you don’t try to push your way into a developed niche market against several strong competitors without having a helluva business plan, some ironclad financial backers, and Triple-A core competencies across the board. The risk of failure is just too great — and nobody wants to back a loser, especially the money guys.


So it’s telling that, after more than a year on the campaign trail, with less than a month before the primary election and little more than three months remaining before the general, McFadden remains largely unknown to Minnesota voters, his campaign is undistinguished, his messaging is unremarkable, his fundraising is woeful, and his crew seems unfocused and directionless.



grinch_santaRepublicans just love Christmas. They defend it to the edge of insanity and then over the edge. But the truth is their Christmas spirit and Christian charity only go so far. The truth is they are closer to the Grinch.
Hence the ghosts of Republican legislatures past is coming back to haunt Minnesota.
Republicans and then Governor Tim Pawlenty passed a bill so that starting in 2014, many seniors would lose their assistance for in home care and nursing care. But let the Minneapolis Star Tribune push the MNGOP talking points that Medicaid spending was running away instead of the truth:

The changes, which were adopted by the Legislature and signed into law by then-Gov. Tim Pawlenty in 2009 as part of a broader effort to rein in soaring Medi­caid spending, would have made it more difficult for low-income senior citizens with more limited needs to qualify for government supports that help them stay in their homes.
[my emphasis]

The truth is Republicans are happy to hurt kids, the poor, the mentally ill and seniors if it means protecting the magical job creators, i.e., the wealthy, from paying their fair share of taxes.
DFLers went along with this because at least the cuts weren’t going to happen immediately as Pawlenty and the MNGOP legislators forced through many immediate and draconian cuts to social services in 2009.
Thankfully, those bad days are gone and Gov. Mark Dayton comes to the rescue:


MN GOPers still think they run the show?

by Dan Burns on August 16, 2013 · 10 comments

mn_capitolMinnesota Governor Mark Dayton wants a special session to provide disaster relief and repeal one (1) unpopular tax on farm equipment repair. Conservatives think it should be all about reinstituting their failed agenda by blowing a huge hole in the state budget. That largely irrelevant idiot caucus is unlikely to get its way. I suppose they could do one of those flee-to-another-state-to-deny-a-quorum deals. The notion of everybody stuck in a Wisconsin hotel with Glenn Gruenhagen amuses me. (Actually, Dayton and GOPers are meeting today, about this, and will presumably get something dealt with.)
In any case, the notion that Minnesota’s spending is somehow “out of control” is thoroughly ridiculous.

A decade of conservative fiscal dominance drained so much money from Minnesota’s state general fund that recently enacted legislative investments only replace a small portion of the total inflation-adjusted cuts.
The FY 2014-15 budget approved by the Legislature during the 2013 session is projected to replace approximately one-sixth of the decline in real per capita state general fund spending over the last decade, based on Minnesota 2020’s analysis of end-of-session state budget information from Minnesota Management & Budget (MMB). By FY 2016-17—when all of the spending increases in the new budget are fully phased-in—the increase in total general fund expenditures is projected to replace only about one-third of the decline since FY 2002-03.

It’s going to take a while, indeed, to fix the mess. But long-term trends in public policy aren’t hard to forecast, in Minnesota and elsewhere. And they’re not what conservatives rosily predicted, beginning around 2000. Remember when Tim Pawlenty was going to be the state’s most important, transformative governor? (The remarks in green, in the linked article, are from a doofus named David Strom, who was Minnesota’s version of Grover Norquist when he mattered at all.) Well, now TBag is just another rich man’s lobby/propaganda mill bootlicker, that knows if he came back here and tried to get elected to anything he’d get creamed. And Minnesota’s conservatives continue to descend – all too slowly and fitfully, alas!, but inevitably descend nevertheless to oblivion, other than in the history books as the embodiment of what went wrong.
Just rubbing it in.


Republicans failing to be funny: Tim Pawlenty

by The Big E on August 12, 2013 · 2 comments

tpaw-debate2 Facepalm

Pawlenty’s presidential campaign was often comical and sometimes funny, but not because of any of his jokes
Former Minnesota Governor and failed presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty ought not try to be funny. Whenever he does, he fails. His lack of charisma really hurts him.
When he plays up his lack of charisma, he can be quite funny. For example, his funniest joke was running for President. A campaign that never achieved lift-off nor threatened any trees at the end of the runway. He steadily polled in the lower single digits throughout the year or so he was running.
A funny episode was when he and his braincramp of a campaign team thought it would be a smart idea for him to bring his insipid, mealy-mouthed schtick to the libertarian think tank Cato Institute.
So now Pawlenty is a lobbyist for the banksters. And here’s his latest attempt at humor (some women tried to vandalize the Lincoln Memorial with green paint recently):

Read some of the wittier retorts at City Pages or as replies and RTs at his Twitter account.
Seriously, Tim. Stick to jokes about your “hot” wife. Those didn’t bomb as badly.
Here’s a list of Pawlenty attempts at humor:


photo from state lege site

Last night the 17 year old grandson of Mary Kiffmeyer threatened to kill himself and his family, especially his mother, with a shotgun in the Kiffmeyer home in Big Lake. The teen’s mother, who did not live in the home, called law enforcement, who arrested the kid.


Mary Kiffmeyer has been a MN GOP career politician, having served as a state Representative in the legislature, as Secretary of State first under Jesse Ventura, then under ol’ T-Paw, and is  now serving in the state Senate during the 2013-14 , with her term ending in 2016.


She has also been the ALEC chair for Minnesota, meaning she does the bidding of that shadow organization that drafts legislation for special interests that is then pushed through by pretty much exclusively conservative politicians.  In exchange, the conservative politicians sell or barter their votes to act on behalf of those special interests in exchange for perks, campaign donations, and other benefits.


The graphic below is fairly illustrative of the relationships between conservative politicians and the special interests.