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trump8Believe it or not The Amphibian told it like it is. Though of course he walked it back when the boss got peeved.
 

Newt Gingrich said (Dec. 21) that Donald Trump’s “drain the swamp” catch phrase was “cute” but that the President-elect now disclaims it.
 
During an interview with NPR’s “Morning Edition” (Dec. 21), host Rachel Martin asked if the former House speaker had been “working in the swamp, to use Donald Trump’s language.”
 
“I’m told he now just disclaims that. He now says it was cute, but he doesn’t want to use it anymore,” Gingrich said, referring to the phrase. “I’d written what I thought was a very cute tweet about ‘the alligators are complaining,’ and somebody wrote back and said they were tired of hearing this stuff.”
(Talking Points Memo)

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Democratic Visions One-on-One

by JeffStrate on December 29, 2016 · 0 comments

What happend? What's next?

The Uptake, the citizen driven, online, news service, was “baptized” during the tumultuous, September 2008 Republican Party Convention at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.  That’s the G.O.P. convention associated with un-announced search warrants, the torching of squad cars, the arrest of more than 300 protestors including journalists, roughed-up demonstrators and conventioneers; that’s the one that nominated John McCain and placed a tiara on Sarah Palin as its VP candidate to an amused and bemused electorate.

 

Two months later, voters, Obama and Biden solved that problem.

 

This past election season, neither Sanders or Clinton and Kaine were provided a position to help solve the Trump problem.  With DT’s carnival about to enter the big top’s center ring, America’s political culture continues to morph into the kitsch world of a John Waters film.  The cynical fun, however, is now a real nightmare.

 

The Uptake executive producer Mike McIntee  joined Tim O’Brien for a 22 minute, one-on-one, Democratic Visions meet-up on December 19th.  Much has since happened.  The following day, McIntee was carting office and streaming gear into the renovated press bunker at the Minnesota Capitol.   Six days later, the StarTribune reported that Amy Klobuchar had told it that she would run in 2018 for re-election to the U.S. Senate and not for Governor.   A few days after that, the President-Elect was defending Israel’s settlement policies and damning Kerry and Obama via tweets. Only the tandem deaths of Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds have dimmed these recent Twitter flare-ups.

 

That said, the new edition of Democratic Visions features Mr. McIntee and Mr. O’Brien sharing still timely perspectives on  the life political as the informed and engaged adults that they are.    Mike and Tim have a lot to say about where we’ve been and where we’re headed, about the DFL, future DFL leadership, the national Democrats and DT.

 

The second and third courses of the viewing include a visual essay set inside the winter time, tropical redoubt of the Como Conservatory and some ruminating by truck driver, critic-at-large Bruce Baird.

 

View the half hour program on YouTube here.

 

Democratic Visions on cableTV

 

Eden Prairie, Minnetonka, Edina, Hopkins, Richfield, Comcast Channel 15 —

Sundays at 9 p.m., Mondays at 10:00 p.m., Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m. and Saturdays at 2 p.m.

 

Bloomington – BCAT Channel 16 — Tuesdays at 2:00 p.m. & 10:00 p.m.; Fridays at 9:30 p.m.; Saturdays at 7:30 a.m. & 2:30 p.m.

 

Minneapolis – MTN Channel 16 — Sundays at 8:30 p.m., Mondays 3:30 a.m., 9:30 a.m., 2:30 p.m.  Programs are streamed during airings.

 

Champlin, Anoka, Ramsey, Andover – QCTV Community Channel 15 Schedule varies consult website – http://qctv.org/program-guide/

 

Democratic Visions is hand made by unpaid volunteers from Edina, Eden Prairie, Minnetonka, Hopkins and Bloomington. Our program is not financially supported or endorsed by any political party, political action committee or special interest group.

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Shelled buildings in Aleppo“Scatterbrained” is actually the least of it. “Potentially very dangerous” is the real deal. I’m quoting the end of Juan Cole’s analysis of the apparent endgame in Syria.

 

The Russo-Iranian Middle East would have been a challenge to President Obama’s vision of the area, but it isn’t clear that it would bother Trump. Trump has argued in the past for turning Syria over to the Russians.
 
The big contradiction here is that Trump has nominated extreme anti-Iran conspiracy theorists to his administration. Gen. James “Mad Dog” Mattis, appointed to Sec. of Defense, has suggested that Iran created Daesh (ISIS, ISIL), which is sort of like alleging that the papacy was and continues to be behind the Lutheran church.
 
Likewise incoming National Security Adviser Mike Flynn is a big anti-Iran figure.
 
So while Trump himself has indicated an ability to live with a Russo-Iranian Middle East, his cabinet will be made extremely upset by it.
(Informed Comment)

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Let’s think about Mars

by Eric Ferguson on December 25, 2016 · 0 comments

Mars? No, Earth didn’t just suddenly become a happy place and the man-child who won the electoral college didn’t just suddenly hand over the presidency to a adult. I just need a break from Trump and trumpers and deplorables thinking they get to lord it over decent people. I’ve written a bunch about Trump and recovering the Democratic Party and salvaging something of our democracy, and I’ll write more of course. Readers, I assume, have read and will read as much as I have, but now it’s late December and I want a break from it. So if you want a moment’s break too, … Mars.
 

What brings this up is the National Geographic mini-series Mars, which combines a drama about the first attempt to build a colony on Mars with a documentary about real-life space flight. It was just six one-hour episodes, so easy to binge watch. I recommend it. Spoiler alert: I’m going to mention plot points, though I’ll put them after the “read more” link in case you’re reading this on the front page or from a search result.
 

The fictional Martian colony was built in the 2030’s, and though NASA is currently working on a Mars lander to send a manned mission, assuming our new anti-science second-place finisher doesn’t kill it — ugh, couldn’t stop thinking about the current catastrophe — the 2030’s seem awfully optimistic for a colony. Wouldn’t it make more sense to build a base on the moon first? It’s the same technological problems to be solved either way, basically. I’m aware Mars and Earth’s moon aren’t the same, but close enough. The key difference is that the moon is about three days away, starting from blast-off, assuming Apollo speeds, whereas Mars is about a year each way. Problems will be inevitable, and not all foreseen, so it seems utterly logical to develop the technology to build an extraterrestrial base where help is three days away instead of year.
 

I’m thinking of how ironic it is that when in the 2012 campaign Newt Gingrich suggested building a moon base, he was laughed at, but it’s the only sensible thing he’s ever said. Well, there was the time as Speaker of the House he said, “I resign”, but otherwise the moon base was the only smart idea he had. Ugh, guess I just ventured into thinking about the anti-science party again.
 

…READ MORE

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Like White on Right, er, Rice

by Dog Gone on December 22, 2016 · 0 comments

There has been a rise in white supremacy supporters, and other racists.  There has been a rise in supporters of religious intolerance, misogyny, and intolerance towards the LGBT.

 

This is not fictional, it is a factual.  But the right, well, the right keeps trying to pretend; they don’t want us looking at the man behind the curtain, to borrow an analogy from the vintage movie, The Wizard of Oz.

 

The harsh reality is that the right, especially the Trump campaign, has been perfectly happy and willing to accept anyone, no matter how deplorable, on their side.  That has included the dregs, the same disreputable crowd that formed the John Birchers back in the mid 20th century, and worse.  And the respectable, decent, responsible right (sarcasm) which has been so tolerant of driving out moderates, has looked the other way.

 

Watching the 2015 movie, Woman in Gold, I was struck by what that particular slice of history tells us about the rise of authoritarianism.  Helen Mirren’s character observes how the Austrians welcomed the Germans, and only later tried to claim they were victims of them.  Now we see occasionally where the right is embarrassed, or in denial, about their political bedfellows. But it is too little, and it is way too late.

 

We have heard the accusation by our intelligence services of Russian meddling in our elections.  Vice News went further in connecting the dots between the neo-nazis and other deplorables and the mainstream Conservatives, including the proposed Trump administration.  I would argue the list below compiled by Vice News is far from exhaustive or encyclopedic.  Information like this makes it all the more important that we push back against conflicts of interest and that we push back against the influence and interference of other nation states and their governments intruding into our government.  And always, always, always, follow the money.  Because this is about all forms of power, and money is only one of them.

 

Austria’s far-right party cozies up to Russia

The leader of Austria’s far-right Freedom Party said his party had signed a friendly pact with the Russian government in Moscow on Monday and vowed to be “a neutral and reliable intermediary and partner in promoting peace” between the United States and Russia.
FPO leader Heinz-Christian Strache also revealed in a statement that he’d traveled to New York a month earlier to meet with Ret. Gen. Mike Flynn, President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for national security adviser.
Monday’s announcement sought to establish Austria’s growing populist party on the world stage, but it served the dual purpose of signifying Russia’s growing ties to Europe’s far-right movement.
“The FPO continues to gain international influence,” the statement said, although it did not not elaborate on the contents of the agreement with Russia.
Monday’s meeting in Moscow was also attended by the FPO’s recently defeated presidential candidate, Norbert Hofer, and members of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ruling United Russia party.
Originally founded by Nazis shortly after World War II, the FPO has become one of Europe’s leading platforms against migration. Like many of Europe’s rising far-right populist parties, it also supports scaling back the European Union and cutting down on sanctions against Russia, which were imposed by the EU and U.S. governments in response to Russia’s 2014 annexation of the Crimea region in Ukraine.
Russia’s recent meddling in European domestic politics has stirred plenty of anxiety among EU leaders, who accuse Russia of funding these populist movements in an effort to weaken Western democracies. The issue was a major preoccupation among EU leaders during a summit in October.
Monday’s meeting is hardly the the first time Russia has been linked with Europe’s far-right populist parties.

  • France: The National Front Party (FN) borrowed 9.4 million euros from Russia to help fund its reelection campaign in 2014. FN’s leader, Marine Le Pen, has made her admiration of Russia well known — she famously supported Russia’s annexation of the Crimea and opposes the EU and U.S. sanctions. Earlier this year, Le Pen sought a 27 million euro loan from a Russian-owned bank to finance her presidential bid.
  • Hungary: In May 2013, leaders of the far-right party Jobbik met with members of Russia’s parliament at Moscow State University. A member of the same party was accused in 2014 of acting as a Russian spy.
  • Bulgaria: The leader of the neo-Nazi Ataka Party, Volen Siderov, traveled to Moscow in 2012 for Putin’s 60th birthday party and expressed support for the Russian president.
  • Slovakia: The far-right Our People’s party is an ally of Moscow. Leader Marian Kotleba sent a letter of support to Ukraine’s pro-Russia leader, Viktor Yanukovych, just before he was ousted in a popular revolution in 2014.

The meeting between Strache and Flynn took place at Trump Tower, where, according to the statement, they discussed ending the United States’ and EU’s “harmful and ultimately useless sanctions” against Russia. It is the latest indication that historically chilly relations between the U.S. and Russia will warm under the incoming Trump administration.
Several key members of Trump’s Cabinet have shown close ties to Moscow in the past, most notably Trump’s pick for secretary of state, ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, who has a history of friendly relations with Putin. Flynn has also expressed an openness to working with Moscow, and once sat next to Putin during an event.

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Globe University is going under

by Dan Burns on December 22, 2016 · 1 comment

studentdebtThe Globe empire has been a textbook example of for-profit education gone very wrong, and the righteous endgame has looked inevitable for a while. Having a state Attorney General, Lori Swanson, who is not a corporate tool has of course been a big help.
 

Globe University and Minnesota School of Business will be shuttering their Minnesota campuses, the Woodbury-based schools announced on Tuesday.
 
The for-profit schools have been cut off from federal funding and were stung by a lawsuit that found they had committed fraud in their criminal justice program.
(Star Tribune)

It looks like steps are being taken to help current students there with getting their credits to transfer and so on. As far as teachers and other staff, it sucks for now, but letting this corrupt institution continue its ways wasn’t doing anyone any good.
 
If you read the Strib article you’ll see that Rep. Tom Emmer (R-MN) is indulging in a bit of a tantrum about this. Tough.
 
Comment below fold.
 
…READ MORE

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Trump voters got well and truly suckered, Part 4

by Dan Burns on December 21, 2016 · 0 comments

trump7There ain’t gonna be a wall. For a lot more reasons than that noted in this article, actually, including the insane cost, the knowledge that it wouldn’t “work,” and most of all the dependence of the rich man on readily exploitable undocumented immigrant labor. Indeed, I’m quite certain that that last item is the real reason for the waffling from Texas’s mostly far-right delegation, and purported issues with “eminent domain” are just being used as political cover.
 

Trump’s dreams of a wall on the Southern border are crumbling as zero members of Texas’s congressional delegation support his plan to build the wall.
 
The Texas Tribune reported, “None of the 38-member Texas delegation offered full-throated support of a complete border wall, a position popular with President-elect Donald Trump’s supporters that would impact Texas more than it would any other state.Instead, several members of the Texas delegation called for new policies on the border, including fencing and walls in some places, and beefing up security in other ways such as employing new surveillance technology and adding more federal agents. Several lawmakers did not respond to multiple requests by the Tribune for comment.”
 
…The reason entire congressional delegation in Texas is not supporting the wall is that the construction of the wall would require the federal government to confiscate ranchers’ land using eminent domain.
(PoliticusUSA)

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I acquired a new facebook friend who is a conservative Trump supporter.

 

He differs from many Trumpanzees in that he is an atheist, but in many respects we have the same conversations that would take place with other Trump supporters. These have been surprisingly cordial and informative, once we get past some of the assumptions we BOTH have about the other person. We are similar in age, but very different in employment background, most areas of interest, and especially in education. W. is an excellent example of the white, blue-collar, male supporter of Donald Trump.

 

Over the weekend, the conversation wandered from a shared enjoyment of certain poetry (to my surprise) to the topic of race and criminality. W. is convinced that black people are “crack-head animals” who are more inherently criminal because of their race.  But W. is convinced he is not a racist, because he likes a few of the “good ones” [black people] he knows personally So in his thinking, acknowledging there are a few exceptions to the racial rule, like Condi Rice, or Colin Powell, or a few people he personally has known or worked with, excludes the possibility that his views of a majority of black people are racist.

 

W. does not really understand that the concept of race he holds is faulty, an artificial construct that does not really encompass much less explain human similarities and differences that he believes defines race. W. regularly messages me for example with instances where someone commits a road rage shooting to assure me that while no individual had yet been identified, the shooter was certainly going to turn out to be black. I refuse to believe anything about the shooter one way or the other; I’m comfortable waiting for that identification, without making those same assumptions. W. further asserted with strong conviction that were the shooter to turn out to be white, because the victim was black, that there would be widespread looting (he used the word “shopping”) by African Americans.

 

It is a fact that some statistics show a larger number of black Americans responsible for crimes generally and for violent crime particularly. However there are also problems with the statistics inadequately covering rural areas where there are more white people. The numbers are not definitive, and any interpretation of those flawed numbers that also involves a false understanding of both race and genetics cannot come to a valid conclusion.

 

For presuming to differ with W. I was of course called names, like a “deluded liberal” among others. The legitimate objections I hold to his faulty conclusions, which include a practical and applied understanding of genetics and genetic inheritance was blithely dismissed as elitism and a compulsion to be politically correct. Any science which rejected his conclusion was denied while anything which was rejected by science that bolstered or supported his bias, no matter the quality of that source, was embraced.

 

I have two problems with the racism that I have encountered with conservatives, one is the “don’t try to confuse me with the facts” response, and the other is the “I know it because I’ve seen it” response. W. disparages black people for supposedly still using crack cocaine in large numbers, which statistically is not the problem it was at one time, from the mid 1980s into the early 1990s. At the same time W. unrealistically minimizes the dangers and illegality of a close white friend who snorts cocaine on a regular basis, and whom he admits is an addict. W. even claimed not to be aware that it was possible to overdose on coke, or that it could cause heart attacks and strokes which might not be fatal but could certainly be massively debilitating. No, the white guy shoving coke up his nose was — in his estimation — nothing like those animalistic black people.

 

I consistently see not only this failure of information as a recurring problem with conservatives, not only W., but a very superficial level of understanding and analysis. Beyond that however I have seen a serious and recurring problem with applying a double standard to the conduct of those they like and those they don’t like. For example, W. has no problem with any of the well documented issues with the Trump charity, but is convinced that Hillary Clinton should be in jail for some vague misconduct that he cannot specify and for which he cannot cite a single statute, and believes that there is no benefits from the operation of the Clinton Foundation.

 

The stark reality of course is that the Clinton Foundation has done a broad range of public good, both in the US and overseas, and that while both Bill and Hillary Clinton have prospered during the existence of the Foundation, there does not appear to be any illegality involved so far. The same cannot be said either for the benefits from the Trump Foundation, or the credible accusations of fairly blatant illegality, and Donald Trump has clearly benefited from an entity that spends other people’s money (NOT his own) on toys like autographed footballs, on egotistical portraits, and on legal fees from Trump’s for-profit businesses that run afoul of the law.

 

Pointing out those acts of misconduct by Trump elicit complaints that “Trump won, so I need to get over it”. They elicit complaints that I am a “poor loser” and that there is nothing wrong with what Trump did because he is “a smart man”.

 

This blatant denial and the gleeful application of double standard, not only to Trump but to so many, many more issues and people, and the enormous accumulation of false information combined with the utter denial or disregard for anything that does not support the blind illusion and delusion of expectations about Donald Trump deeply concern me. The failure of facts to persuade deeply concerns me because when facts are denied or rejected, there can be no finding of common ground, no meeting of the minds, and no reality based on the grasp of cause and effect. I see a pattern of emotional thinking that deeply concerns me because it actively rejects logic and rational critical thinking.

 

As frustrating as these engagements with conservatives like W. are, I see value in continuing them. There is some hope that if W and other conservatives decide they LIKE me enough to at least listen, to at least consider briefly before rejecting facts, that it will be possible to make gains in finding common ground. And it serves to remind me to make a concerted effort not to dismiss the thinking of conservatives as bigoted without listening to why they feel the way they do. It is by addressing the why of their feelings rather than the ways those feelings are wrong or invalid that we find any future reunification of the factions of this country.

 

But dear God, it is not going to be easy to find that “meeting of the minds”, that common ground. And if one more low information low education Trump supporter tells me to sit down, shut up, and relax because now the “grown ups are in charge”, I might throw up.

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Keeping green energy on a roll

by Dan Burns on December 19, 2016 · 0 comments

solar2I may well be naïve, but I’m going to continue to mostly focus in my blogging on things that are not total doom-and-gloom. Like the following.
 

A transformation is happening in global energy markets that’s worth noting as 2016 comes to an end: Solar power, for the first time, is becoming the cheapest form of new electricity.
 
This has happened in isolated projects in the past: an especially competitive auction in the Middle East, for example, resulting in record-cheap solar costs. But now unsubsidized solar is beginning to outcompete coal and natural gas on a larger scale, and notably, new solar projects in emerging markets are costing less to build than wind projects, according to fresh data from Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
(Bloomberg)

“This election and basically the victory of Trump has raised a lot of uncertainty about what’s going to be the direction of the federal government on issues of climate and energy policy,” said study co-author Devashree Saha, senior policy associate at Brookings.
 
“At the state level, entities have implemented a lot of progressive climate change policies, a lot of creative and innovative experiments. In the new political reality where signs point to the fact the federal government is going to abandon the ship, so to speak, on energy and climate, the state role is going to become even more critical.”
 
She noted that in addition to setting energy policies, states also have much control over land use and transportation plans that relate to power generation and carbon emissions.
 
“States are really crucial actors in the carbon drama, much more than the federal government, which is a good thing,” Saha said.
(Midwest Energy News)

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Twin Metals leases application gets crushed

by Dan Burns on December 16, 2016 · 0 comments

sulfideSweet!
 

The Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness applauds the decision by federal agencies to deny Twin Metals Minnesota’s application to extend two federal mineral leases. This decision comes after an extensive public input period where over 70,000 people asked the federal government to deny the lease extension. Hundreds of people showed up to public meetings in Duluth and Ely to express their concerns.
 
The Department of Interior also announced it has received an application from the U.S. Forest Service to withdraw federal mineral rights in the Boundary Waters watershed. This starts a public review process to analyze withdrawing federal mineral rights for a twenty-year period. A public input period on this permanent protection for the Boundary Waters will begin once notice is published in the Federal Register and will last ninety days. This review also creates a two-year “time out” when no new federal mineral leases can be issued.
 
“These actions happened because tens of thousands of people spoke up against locating a sulfide mine on the edge of America’s most popular wilderness area,” stated Executive Director Paul Danicic.
(Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness)

There is more detail in this article from MPR, though I would suggest that it’s too friendly to Twin Metals’ inflated estimates of alleged positive economic impact on the region (start on page 17 of the linked pdf). It notes that Twin Metals says they’re not giving up. If you ask me and a whole lot of other people, it’s high time that they do so. So should PolyMet.

 
And I have to note that I don’t know how much interest Trump & Co. will take in this issue. Obviously efforts could be initiated to reverse the above, and bring about the worst outcomes instead.
 

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