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Sweet Schadenfreude Ambrosia

by Dog Gone on June 26, 2015 · 0 comments

First we have Governor Dayton’s leadership as governor and liberal policies putting Minnesota #1 for business by CNBC’s ranking.  Minnesota generally, and Minneapolis in particular, have generally done well in comparison to other states and cities.  Under liberals, we ARE COMPETITIVE! We have an excellent quality of life, or as Dayton refers to it, the state gives good value for the collected taxes and tax rate.
 

Of course the MN GOP keep trying to push wealth and income inequality policies with tax cuts to the rich, cuts to levels of education funding sought on the left, and fail fully to fund the necessary infrastructure, while attempting to contaminate the environment for the benefit of business at the expense of citizens. The MN GOP HATES HATES HATES that unlike so many red states, Minnesota has a surplus, not a grand canyon sized deficit.

 

Then we have the consistently good news out of the SCOTUS, arguably the most conservative Supreme Court in the history of the nation.  So far as of this morning, we have success for the Fair Housing Act upheld, and success for the ACA (aka Obamacare).

 

Personally, for me the cherry, whipped cream, hot fudge and sprinkles on the whole conservative epic fail is the massive repudiation of right wing racism, combined with the recent Gallup poll showing nearly 50% of Americans would vote for a socialist (like Bernie Sanders).

 

…it’s news that 47 percent of Gallup poll respondents say they’d vote for a socialist candidate for president. Though the political designation placed last on a hypothetical list of candidates that included women, gays and lesbians, Muslims and atheists, the survey response still seems to offer hopeful news to democratic socialist Bernie Sanders, who’s running as a Democrat.
The Gallup poll found a huge split in opinion between Republicans and Democrats on the issue. While 59 percent of Democrats said they’d be willing to cast their vote for a socialist presidential candidate, just 26 percent of Republicans did. (Nearly half of Independents, 49 percent, said they would be in favor of the idea.)

Throw into the mix of joy at conservative sorrow the substantial lead of Hillary Clinton announced on Monday, from the Daily News:

 

Hillary Clinton with comfortable lead over Jeb Bush, other potential GOP rivals: poll

Hillary Clinton has a comfortable lead over Jeb Bush and the rest of her potential GOP rivals, according to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released Monday.  Clinton leads Bush, the former Florida governor, 48%-40%.
That expands to 50%-40% against Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and 51%-37% against Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, the two other national front-runners.

turnip tops – Trumpesque

Rounding out the bad news for conservatives — Donald “Turnip-top” Trump, swaggering, blithering idiot of offensiveness, has gone further than previous campaign cycles in appearing to run for the nomination.

 

Along with him, the most unpopular governor in the nation Bobby “Pretend I’m White” Jindal has declared, and second to least popular governor Chris Christie is scheduled to climb on or set a date to climb on the 2016 conservative clown car, known for only going in the same dizzy tiny circles to the right.

 

Sadly for the unpopular candidates the mean girls running the RNC are making these candidates climb on the roof rack, the trunk and the hood, rather than letting them inside the clown car, and are trying to keep them off the stages for the officially scheduled debates.

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In discrediting and removing the evil symbols of the failed confederacy, it is time for some plain, hard honesty.  It is time to stop pretending something is good when it is not, and – in effect – sticking thumbs in ears and wiggling fingers, while yodeling “La la la la LAH” “No no no NO!” to drown out legitimate complaint and criticism.

 

There is no honor or  valor in treason or the acts of traitors, regardless of individual heroism.  There is no justification to respect the worst atrocities and failures in our heritage just because they are ‘ours’, but instead we should call them out for the evil they were.  There is no merit to celebrate in a tradition of oppression, and no decency in a history of violent intimidation and exploitation, no matter what words you employ to try to put lipstick on the Confederacy pig, or on any atrocity for that matter committed by the United States. The celebration of the Confederacy is as wrong as the premise of U.S. supposed “exceptionalism” when it denies anything bad was ever done by or on behalf of the United States.  Wrong is wrong, bad is bad, and putting on a lying label does not alter that reality.

 

Senator Lindsey Graham is totally and shockingly wrong when he and others on the right make the claim that there has long been an acceptable, valid justification for venerating or respecting ANY of the confederate flags.

 

The removal of confederate image merchandise from a growing list of national retailers is NOT ONLY a response to the tragedy of the right wing domestic terrorist attack that killed 9 people in a South Carolina church.

 

The growing pressure to remove the Confederate flag, from South Carolina, from Mississippi, from EVERY place it flies, especially in the old ‘rebel’ south, is not new.  The fight against the confederate imagery is as old as the flag and the civil war itself.

 

Too many on the right, including our own former member of Congress from Minnesota Michele Bachmann, have made excuses to justify slavery, and have misrepresented slavery as less evil and vicious than it actually was.  The symbols of the Confederacy are nothing more or less than an attempt to white-wash the black heart of White Supremacy, Jim Crow, and over-reaching, abusive southern government.  Jim Crow, the brutal and systematic trampling and obliteration of civil rights IS the worst government overreach in our history.   From Addicting info, back in August of 2011 – a relatively recent attempt to glam up, validate, and legitimize the brutal, horrific, immoral, and obscene, representative of old style southern conservative racism generally:

One of the more interesting tidbits to be discussed about GOP presidential front-runner Michelle Bachmann in the current issue of the New Yorker is that one of the books she kept listed on her website as a “must read” was a biography of Robert E. Lee by  J. Steven Wilkins. Wilkins is a revisionist historian that seeks to downplay or even glorify the Souths’ tradition of slavery. From the book:

Slavery, as it operated in the pervasively Christian society which was the old South, was not an adversarial relationship founded upon racial animosity. In fact, it bred on the whole, not contempt, but, over time, mutual respect. This produced a mutual esteem of the sort that always results when men give themselves to a common cause. The credit for this startling reality must go to the Christian faith. . . The unity and companionship that existed between the races in the South prior to the war was the fruit of a common faith.

Got that? Because Africans were forcibly converted to Christianity, they didn’t mind being slaves at all but rather worked extra hard to enrich their white owners. For Jesus.

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I’ve been amazed at the speed with which support for official state sanction for a white supremacist symbol has collapsed. I applaud it, but I also had a look in the mirror. The former confederate states aren’t the only ones with racist imagery. I’m looking at us, Minnesota. We need a new state seal. Click the seal to the right to enlarge.
 
The seal is explained, sort of, on the state secretary of state web site. It shows a white settler plowing a field, facing East, while an Indian rides into the sunset. One guess who the settler’s gun is meant to be used against. I have a feeling Indians pick up on the imagery a bit faster than whites. More to the point, our state seal commemorates Indians being pushed out for white settlement. Not exactly inclusive of all races.
 
It perhaps isn’t on a par with the flag of a nation formed explicitly to protect slavery (if anyone doesn’t get what “explicitly” means, read the seceding states’ declarations of secession). It’s not like Minnesota was formed for the purpose of oppressing Indians. Nonetheless, the removal of Indians was required for Minnesota’s formation, and this tragedy for Indians is commemorated in our seal. Remember that removal didn’t just entail buying land. It entailed Indians facing the prospect of an unwinnable war if they didn’t move, and of promises of ongoing payment not kept. In the case of the Dakota, removal included a war provoked by failure to make payments that made subsistence impossible, a concentration camp, and a mass hanging.
 
Changing the seal might not be as important as when our current governor marked the 150th anniversary of the Dakota War by telling the truth, including the contemporary governor’s call for the Dakota to be exterminated if they didn’t leave the state. But it also seems like not much to ask that we have a seal that doesn’t tell some Minnesotans that they’re no longer part of this place. We should have a seal that represents everybody. I’m not saying the images can’t somehow include a white settler and an Indian — just don’t make it about pushing out the Indian. A new seal certainly could keep St. Anthony Falls, “1858”, and “l’étoile du nord”, which is French for “Star of the North”*. Surely “Star of the North” has to suggest some better images than an Indian leaving, something that represents all of us. It suggested good logos for sports teams so why not the whole state?
 
And while we’re at it, bad news on the flag. It’s just the state seal on a blue field. So, we need a new one of those too.
 
Does having our own problems mean we can’t tell anyone else they can’t fly a confederate flag? No, it just means we have to be willing to tell the truth about ourselves, and in Minnesota’s case, part of that truth is the imagery on the state seal. Being honest about our own history of race relations means admitting that while the state never officially approved slavery or the symbols thereof, we did have slavery here. Dred Scott, living in what was supposed to be free territory, was like most black residents of what would become Minnesota in that he was a slave to an army officer who used him as a domestic worker. When we became a state, our first constitution prohibited voting rights to blacks. Not exactly a plantation, but not something we’re proud of either. But let’s tell the truth while we ask others to do the same, and let’s get rid of our own racist symbols while we ask others to get rid of theirs. Time for a new seal.
 

*French was the language of the first whites in Minnesota, and appropriately to the point of this post, they traded with the Indians rather than removing them. Some stayed when the Indians were removed and the fur trade ended, so most whites were French Canadians when Minnesota became a territory. So having the state’s long standing nickname remain in French seems appropriate.

 
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The Far Greater Threat of Domestic Terror

by SJGulitti on June 24, 2015 · 0 comments

After obsessing for the past year, or more, about whether or not the Obama administration will ever bring itself to utter the words “Islamic Terror” or “Radical Islam” one can only wonder when conservatives will wake up to the greater threat, that once again, is seen to be emanating from the far right. To wit: “In a survey we conducted with the Police Executive Research Forum last year of 382 law enforcement agencies, 74 percent reported anti-government extremism as one of the top three terrorist threats in their jurisdiction; 39 percent listed extremism connected with Al Qaeda or like-minded terrorist organizations. And only 3 percent identified the threat from Muslim extremists as severe, compared with 7 percent for anti-government and other forms of extremism.”

 

The recent racially driven terror shootings in Charleston once again bring to the fore the threat that I detailed below in “Coming Unhinged on the Far Right”. The Charleston tragedy shows that the underlying issues outlined in 2010 are still salient, relevant and no less dangerous today.

 

What is most interesting in the aftermath of Charleston is that even though folks on the far right, like Bill O’Rielly, admit that it was an act of terror, they cannot resist using the tragedy to promote an ongoing anti-progressive political agenda. The aftermath of the Charleston terror attack is seen by the talking heads on the far right as an opportunity for the “America haters” and “race hustlers” to launch a new round of attacks against our country. They ignore the fact that many of the alleged “America haters” and “race hustlers are merely pointing out the enduring shortcomings of race in American society and all the problems resulting there from.

 
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Democratic donkey doorknockerYou may have heard that the Green and Lacour study on using canvassing to change opinions was retracted. If not, that’s actually kind of good, because that makes debunking a bit easier as you don’t have the wrong idea in your head already. I almost had to write my own retraction because I was pondering writing a post based on Green and Lacour’s findings when I learned that the data was manipulated to get a headline-making result. I find those “everything you think is wrong” stories to be irresistible click bait, so when I heard one of the reports on the study, in a recent This American Life, The Incredible Rarity of Changing Your Mind, and being someone who does a lot of canvassing (by volunteer standards) and has run some doorknocks myself, this just screamed near future blog post. I don’t know which is worse, admitting that I procrastinated about writing, or admitting that procrastinating really helped. So I didn’t write up how amazing these findings were and how we might use them, but I did discuss it in some private conversations, and I’m really hoping those individuals are reading this.
 
The study came from a good impulse. Proposition 8 in California in 2008 put a ban on marriage equality in the state constitution after it had already been legalized. The “no” campaign expected to win between its lead in the polls, the large turnout the Obama campaign was generating, and California’s general liberal leaning, so defeat was a surprise. After its unexpected loss, the “no” campaign cooperated in the experiment to see if it could send canvassers into areas where they lost and sway opinion face to face.
 
FiveThirtyEight summarized the study in it’s article on the retraction:
 

The article, published last December in Science Magazine by UCLA graduate student Michael J. LaCour and Columbia University political scientist Donald P. Green, appeared to show that an in-person conversation with an openly gay person made voters feel much more positively about same-sex marriage, an effect that persisted and even spread to the people those voters lived with, who weren’t part of the conversation. The result of that purported effect was an affirmation of the power of human contact to overcome disagreement.
 
By describing personal contact as a powerful political tool, the paper influenced many campaigns and activists to shift their approach to emphasize the power of the personal story. The study was featured by Bloomberg, on “This American Life” and in activists’ playbooks, including those used by backers of an Irish constitutional referendum up for a vote Friday that would legalize same-sex marriage.

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TPP fast-track vote in Senate – Update

by Dan Burns on June 23, 2015 · 0 comments

charliebrown622A cloture vote to fast-track the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal is scheduled for today in the U.S. Senate. It’s the same thing that just passed the House, that is, without Trade Adjustment Assistance as part of the package. I believe that President Obama has indicated that he won’t sign this without TAA, but if so, I’m not exactly exceedingly confident on him sticking to that, if it turns out to be his only option to get fast-track. Apparently other would-be signatory nations are hesitant to give the package final approval, without fast-track, as who knows what Congress would look to do to it with amendments.
 
The gentleman that I vote for, for the U.S. House, Rep. Rick Nolan (D-MN), has been strong on this issue. I also got the cartoon from the linked page.
 

In fact, this TPP contains nothing to fix a broken U.S. trade enforcement system that allows terrible economic damage to be done before any actions can be taken; no requirements for “partner” nations to provide living wages or worker health and safety benefits comparable to the United States; nothing requiring them to protect the environment from industrial pollution; nothing preventing them from manipulating their currencies to keep dumping millions more tons of low-grade, foreign government subsidized steel – and countless other sub-par knock-offs of American manufactured goods – into the U.S. marketplace; nothing to assure that imported foods will meet tough U.S. safety and inspection standards; nothing to protect U.S. consumers from big international price increases for lifesaving drugs to fight cancer and other dread diseases and nothing to help stop horrific violations of human rights.
(Rep. Rick Nolan Monday Report)

Update: It passed.
 

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Concealed carry mostly just enables criminals

by Dan Burns on June 21, 2015 · 1 comment

1604609_10202175405083254_1755567452_nSome years ago Minnesota released data from its first decade of concealed carry. 124 gun crimes committed by permit holders, 5 justifiable uses. Turns out that it’s that way everywhere.
 

Guns are rarely used to kill criminals or stop crimes.
 
In 2012, across the nation there were only 259 justifiable homicides involving a private citizen using a firearm reported to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program as detailed in its Supplementary Homicide Report (SHR). That same year, there were 8,342 criminal gun homicides tallied in the SHR. In 2012, for every justifiable homicide in the United States involving a gun, guns were used in 32 criminal homicides. And this ratio, of course, does not take into account the tens of thousands of lives ended in gun suicides or unintentional shootings that year
(Violence Policy Center)

Numbers like these don’t just indicate that concealed, or for that matter open, carry are almost entirely useless in preventing crime. They also show that the true effect is to allow would-be criminals to carry firearms with impunity.
 
Gun advocates often rather pitiably claim that the numbers are skewed because “good” uses of guns go unreported. My strong impression is that your typical gun creep would love to be able to legitimately let the world know all about his heroic use of a firearm. But in fact such instances are very rare.
 
Not that even I’m fool enough to believe that it will happen anytime soon, but the next step for policymakers is clear – no more strutting around with firearms in public, for anyone except law enforcement. Especially in view of the fact that NRA political supremacy is a full-blown lie.
 
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As  the right wing propaganda machine jerks and contorts their message to control the sheep, we see them trying to hijack the narrative of this tragedy so they can trot out another false claim of victimization, asserting this was an attack on Christians and Christianity.

 

The right wants to deny any racism exists, ever, especially when it is their own racism they’re trying to pretend doesn’t exist — when it clearly does exist.

 

It was not a victimization of Christians. It is the old traditional Southern White Christians, of the far right “hatriot” variety, that are bent on attack. The kind that in the past burned down black churches and lynched black civil rights advocates.

 

It is the right wing extremists that are the greatest threat, more so than Islamic extremists, within our borders.  It is also the largely conservative vigilante gun culture, the gun culture which promotes the notion that everyone should have a gun so that everyone can individually shoot it out with whomever they have a conflict.  We also see that in the narrative hijacking from the right, including one particularly offensive black token asshat who is now insisting that black churches (or perhaps all churches) should be armed because of this incident — and legal abortion, gay marriage, or because it is a day of the week that appears on a calendar.  We see THAT hijacking of the tragedy narrative with lies about violence like the notion that gun free zones should be blamed for mass shootings.  The factual evidence shows the opposite, but the right never lets facts get in the way of their narrative hijacking.  It is essential to their identity and to their emotional status that they FEEL like they can shoot someone else if they want or need to do so —- and THAT is arguably a part of this tragedy in so far as the shooter also felt that he could and should go shoot up the people in this church  “for a good reason – the whole bulls*it rape our women, taking over our country” pretext.  THAT is straight up gun culture right wing nut thinking.

 

We do NOT live, in the 21st century, in a frontier shoot-your-food world anymore, other than for hobbyists.  We do live in the 21st century, in a world of law, not vigilantism.  Make no mistake, this was an act of terrorism, but it was also an act of vigilantism – taking individual violent action for what appeared to this individual to be legitimate grounds.

 

We will not end mass shootings by trying to understand individual motivation; that motivation is emotional and the reasoning behind it is not driven by fact, and operates on murky thinking.  We will end mass shootings, and for that matter other kinds of shootings like murder suicides, by ending the premise that everyone should have a gun and shoot people when they feel justified in doing so.  Our so-called gun culture is not culture at all, it is not civilized, it is not rational, it has no place in our world any longer.

 

During the shooting in the church, Dylann Roof was reported by survivors to have said:

 

“You rape our women, and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go,” [and that he was there] “to shoot black people.”

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Another TPP House vote today – Update

by Dan Burns on June 18, 2015 · 0 comments

tpp2This is getting extremely tiresome. Far worse, it could pass.
 

On Thursday the House will vote on just the fast-track portion—also known as Trade Promotion Authority, or TPA—on the understanding that the workers’ aid would be approved later…

It’s all a little weird and desperate, but it might work. Republicans are swearing that if TPA passes, they’ll bring up TAA for a vote later, which is supposed to appease Democratic concerns about job losses. Dems only voted against TAA in order to kill TPA, so if TPA has already passed there’s no longer any reason for them to vote against TAA.
 
Of course, even if Republicans allow a vote on TAA, it also needs a few Republican votes to pass, and the problem here is the opposite: Republicans have little reason to vote for TAA once TPA has already passed and there’s no longer any need to appease Democrats. But Democrats can’t pass it alone. They need some Republican votes too. So do they trust the GOP leadership to deliver those votes?
(Mother Jones)

Anyone who trusts Republicans on this is being every bit as pathologically gullible as any right-wing kook.
 
The TPP is President Obama’s inner wonk taking over and running amok. It’s all about Very Serious People bulls*it like the “global chessboard,” the “pivot to Asia,” and “countering Chinese economic hegemony.” A consistently strong American economy, that works for everyone, would in fact accomplish much more, for a better country and world. The TPP and other mega-“free trade” deals are not conducive to that.
 
Developers Are Crabgrass has a good read on this.

 
Update: It passed, 218-208.
 

The TPA bill will now be sent to the Senate where a vote is expected next week but not yet scheduled.
 
The Senate passed TPA a month ago with 14 Democrats in favor. It will be up to the grassroots opposition to fast-tracking to peel away as many of those Democrats as possible. There is no doubt that this will be very tough.
(Daily Kos)

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photo clowns.jpgI get it. Donald Trump declared for president and he’s endlessly entertaining. Anyone who says “I don’t have to brag” when that’s all he does is satirizing himself. No wonder Jon Stewart is so happy. Trump is a diverting entertainment, with emphasis on the “diverting” part, as in he’ll divert us from paying attention to the candidates who might actually win, and might have a political future when their presidential campaign is over. I suppose, if someone absolutely must pay attention, then try to pin down other candidates on what they think of the nuttiness that Trump will no doubt engage in since that’s his whole reason for running and the reason anyone pays attention. Make other candidates try to find the middle ground between denouncing what Trump says so as not to appear likewise crazy, while staying close enough to avoid annoying the conservative base that thinks Trump makes some sense. Try to appeal to both sanity and the base, go!
 
Otherwise though, Trump isn’t worth our time. He’s not going to win the nomination because of how unpopular he is among likely Republican primary voters, and he has no political future beyond this campaign. Maybe he’ll run for president perennially, but it’s not like he’s going to try to make a serious run for Congress, let alone try to work his way up from state legislature or city council. The “unpopular” part is confirmed in a new Public Policy Polling poll, which finds the same results as their last poll, at least among Republicans. Four of the candidates they asked about have negative favorable ratings, and they happen to be the same four candidates as the last PPP poll, which is why I crossed them off the list of candidates to be followed. Yes, Trump is one of those, for the reasons just stated, fun as he might be to kick around. George Pataki is also a “look at me please” candidate I’m not bothering to look at further since he’s unlikely to run for anything else. Chris Christie will be entertaining in the bully-gets-comeuppance way, but Republicans dislike him too much to nominate him, he’s term limited as governor, and he’s grown too unpopular in New Jersey to run anyway. Lindsey Graham will presumably run for his Senate seat again, but given the difficulties South Carolina Democrats have just getting a name on a ballot makes his seat safe, watching him run for president seems like a waste of time.
 
So yes, beating the GOP candidates in some future election is a point of this exercise, though to be sure it’s pretty much about this presidential race. The reason for doing #ThisGuyWantsToBePresident is that this stuff from 2015 will be useful once the nomination is settled, but it will also have gone down the memory hole. However, it can at least be made searchable. The reason for seeking to narrow is, can’t speak for anyone else, but I can’t do this full time, and I can’t track however many Rachel Maddow counted up merely as a hobby. So I’m trying to cut down the list, and trying to be objective in case my judgment is wrong.
 
So in brief, on the Republican side, with another thorough poll, nothing changed. To step away from the clown car (clown bus? There’s a reason I started using the clown graphic with more clowns) however, there is a little something interesting on the Democratic side.
 

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