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LegacyWebHorizontalI’ve long held forth to anyone I could buttonhole, whom I thought I had a reasonable chance of educating, that Minnesota and the Twin Cities are not some frozen hinterland of the continental upper Midwest, but instead offer some of the best arts, dance, theater and music in the country.


Usually I’ve had these conversations in airport bars or at trade shows and business seminars. Few people have been inclined to listen much, but that hasn’t dampened my spiritual calling to civic boosterism. I love Minnesota and the Twin Cities, always have, and if you love something you want to let others know.


Minnesota is known for a lot of things — our lakes, our sports teams, our universities, our liberal politics — but it’s not generally known as a center of the arts and a major supporter of the arts community. It should be.


While not generally known even to native Minnesotans, our state is home to more than 1,500 arts and cultural organizations. Each year, these organizations pump more than $830 million into the local economy. Of that, the creative sector produces some $700 million in revenues with $430 million in consumer retail sales — equal to about 70% of all sports sector revenues combined. The creative sector employs some 20,000 residents in Minneapolis alone, amounting to about 5% of all jobs in the city. The Playwrights’ Center is recognized across the country as unrivaled in the cultivation of new playwrights and their works. There are nearly 100 theater companies in the state with more theater seats per capita than anywhere in the country except New York City. Per capita revenues for theater companies and dinner theaters is 14 times the national average. Overall, the Twin Cities metro area is rated 6th highest in the Creative Vitality Index nationwide.


A lot of that artistic energy, innovation and economic vitality is the legacy of the Legacy Amendment, which I consider one of the greatest collective acts of civic philanthropy in our nation’s history and one which will serve as a model to other states once they begin to realize the astounding social, cultural and economic benefits it produces.


For those who need some background, in 2008 Minnesotans passed the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment Act (Legacy Act) to the Minnesota State Constitution. The objectives of that legislation were to protect, enhance, and restore lakes, rivers, streams and groundwater; to preserve clean drinking water sources; to protect, enhance and restore wetlands, prairies and forests and renew wildlife habitat; to support parks and trails; and to preserve Minnesota’s arts and cultural heritage. To accomplish those objectives, the Legacy Act called for an increase to the state sales tax of three-eighths of one percent (0.00375%) beginning on July 1, 2009 and continuing through 2034, to be divided into four funds: 33% for a Clean Water Fund; 33% for an Outdoor Heritage Fund; 19.75% for an Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund; and 14.25% for a Parks and Trails Fund. Note that this self-imposed tax was in addition to the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund (ENRTF) established in 1988. The Legacy Act passed with a 56% majority, even though a blank ballot counted as a “No” vote, proving to the many doubters that Minnesotan’s ongoing love affair with our state’s astonishing natural beauty and priceless water resources meant far more to them than a handful of pocket change.


To date, here’s how the Legacy Act funding breaks down (diagram includes ENRTF funding):


Legacy Act Funding


Looking just at the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund, you can see why Minnesota enjoys such a lively, thriving arts community and creative sector economy: by this year’s end, for just the first five years of the Act, Minnesotans will have invested more than a quarter-billion dollars in our arts community. An investment of that kind of capital in any area of human endeavor is bound to have an enormous impact. In fact, that’s just what we are seeing.


In time, Minnesota will become known for more than bone-chilling winters and sky blue waters. We’ll become known as the center of arts and culture in the center of the continent and a magnet for the best and brightest. At the rate things are going, it won’t take long …


Minnesota home care workers vote to unionize

by Dan Burns on August 26, 2014 · 2 comments

Announced this afternoon:

Home care workers announced today that workers voted resoundingly to form their union and join the SEIU Healthcare Minnesota. Workers gathered with home care clients and supporters at the Minnesota State Fair Labor Pavilion to announce that the Bureau of Mediation Services tallied the votes earlier in the day and certified the victory, with 60% Yes votes to 40% No votes. The election, the largest of its kind in state history, was triggered when workers turned in thousands of cards on July 8th requesting to form their union. Ballots went out on Friday, August 1st, and the historic election ran for 25 days, ending yesterday, Monday, August 25th.
At the press conference announcing the results, home care workers shared their joy over the results, coming after many years of effort. They discussed their commitment to continue fighting, through their newly-formed union, to finally make real improvements to the home care programs on which so many people with disabilities and elderly Minnesotans depend.
“This union has the power to change the lives of thousands of Minnesota families for the better,” said Yankuba Fadera, a home care worker from Maplewood. “Home care work is real and important work. Both workers and the people we serve deserve better, and winning our union and having a collective voice is a huge step toward getting a contract that makes these improvements a reality. Today, after exercising our democratic right to vote for our union, we are showing how true the statement ‘When We Fight, We Win’ can be for workers in Minnesota.”
(SEIU Health Care Minnesota)


James Rittenour in Minnesota House 15A

by Dan Burns on August 26, 2014 · 3 comments

whatever_18183019_stdDFLer Joe Walsh came close to winning the red-but-bluing-fast district, in 2012. (Gail Kulick did win it in 2008, when essentially the same district was 16A.) Here’s Rittenour’s website. And his Facebook. Strong progressive.
As for his opponent, I actually don’t have much to say about “my” state representative for a long time now, Rep. Sondra Erickson (R-Princeton), because, what’s the point? Politically, her head is entirely locked into Reaganism. There is, for example, no use in pointing out to her that tax cuts for the rich have absolutely not been shown to benefit everybody, and that the opposite has in fact been conclusively proved to be the case. Almighty Reagan said that they do, and that is that. Dandelion fluff wafting onto a giant hunk of granite has about as much impact as reality does on her ossified neural network. We’re talking about a textbook case study in socio-political cognitive rigidity, and one that is unfortunately still very common, including among voters in districts like 15A. But we can win this anyway.


The forgotten guns of August

by Eric Ferguson on August 25, 2014 · 2 comments

US soldiers at Ft. Shelby, Prairie du Chien, 1814August marks the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I, and certainly that deserves to be amply remarked upon (if all you know of the war is which Roman numeral it gets, here’s a quick primer). However, it reminds me of a 200th anniversary coming up for the decisive part of a war that’s been remarkably ignored. The title of this post is something of a play on words, specifically the title of the seminal book on the start of World War I, Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August. August was also the start of the decisive battles of the oft-forgotten War of 1812. I feel particularly odd at having stayed wrapped up in current events because I’m a War of 1812 reenactor, or at least was. It’s been long enough that I probably lost my present tense status. But it has bugged me for two years that the war’s bicentennial came and went with little notice outside commemorations at the places where events happened.
So I’m fixing that now. This is the anniversary of a war where the US government was run by people who were delusional about our prospects, and thereby got everything wrong. Campaigns went badly, the economy suffered, and the armed forces turned out to be unready for a badly underestimated enemy. No, I didn’t veer of into talking about Bush’s war in Iraq, though learning some history might have salutary lesson for those who led us into our recent debacle. They forgot, however, assuming they knew, which I don’t actually assume.
Maybe the War of 1812 is forgotten because of the bland name, merely the year the war started, and people at the time didn’t know what to call it. That was true of Canadians and British too. Maybe it’s forgotten because it ended in a draw, which perhaps is boring and gives the impression nothing happened or nothing changed — yet this is a very different country than it might have been. Imagine the Mississippi River is our western border. Imagine the Great Lakes are all British. Imagine the country is split in two with the split sustained by foreign force. Imagine the US, far from being the confident nation we take for granted, looked at the outside world with a strong desire to keep its head down and not be noticed, because the idea we could take on a European great power had been beaten out of us. We came close to all of that being reality. Here in August, we mark the 200th anniversary of the events that settled which future we would have.
Warning: this post gets long following the “read more” link, at least long considering it’s a blog. Get comfy.


MNGOP Commits Suicide with a Chainsaw

by Invenium Viam on August 24, 2014 · 7 comments


Ah, spite … it’s one of the world’s infinite resources.


In what may turn out to be the most dramatic act of political suicide ever attempted by a political party, the MNGOP has been caught in the moral equivalent of a clergyman dropping trou on the public thoroughfare to reveal … girly underwear.


It’s common knowledge that the party has been in a major confrontation of late with Minnesota Supreme Court candidate Michelle MacDonald, who was endorsed by the MNGOP and subsequently discovered to have a DUI conviction, or pending charges, I’m unclear which. MacDonald was thereafter “disinvited” to appear at the MNGOP’s booth at the State Fair. When she said she was going to show up anyway, they changed the rules about who among their candidates could appear to kiss babies, press the flesh, and tell shameless lies about what Democrats are like — and who couldn’t — thereby converting their disinvitation into true persona non grata status.


As threatened, Ms. MacDonald showed up anyway last Thursday, the first day of the fair, and demanded they play nice and let her hold forth on the hustings along with everybody else; instead, party officials had her escorted off the premises … for trespassing. And for not being very obedient. Theirs is the party of obedient women, by golly.


Yesterday, GOP Party Boss Keith Downey sent out an email to delegates stating: “Michelle MacDonald is our endorsed candidate. Period. Irrespective of the legitimate concerns about the Judicial Elections Committee process, barring another state convention to re-consider her endorsement, or a circumstance arising that would render her ineligible to serve in the offce, she is our endorsed candidate through the election.”


Period. So there.


But wait, we have a few caveats to consider! So maybe not so Period after all.


Boss Downey then went on to take issue with Ms. MacDonald’s character and conduct by pointing out a number of deficiencies, including that her legal and judicial philosophy sucks, as well as a list of bad behaviors such as her threat to appear at the State Fair booth when nobody there likes her very much — all of which which made her an unsuitable candidate to represent the Good People of the Great State of Minnesota as a GOP candidate for the state’s highest court. Plus which, a whole bunch of conservative lawyers don’t like her much, either, because she has some unusual ideas about law and justice and because she’s not very obedient.


Subsequently, Strib political reporter Abby Simons sent out a tweet: “Michelle MacDonald saying she was approached by GOP to repudiate endorsement, Party spokeswoman denies that.”


However, they lied to Ms. Simons. And lying to a political reporter sorta tanks your credibility for a long time after. Because, see, then their credibility with their readers suffers and since credibility for a reporter is the sine qua non of their whole existence, career-wise, lying to them can invite some serious payback.




MN-01: Hagedorn crazy hits the big time

by Dan Burns on August 22, 2014 · 4 comments

10547452_10152667841189708_6314260251804007322_nJim Hagedorn won the MN-01 GOP primary, over endorsed candidate Aaron Miller, to run against Rep. Tim Walz (D-MN).

Hagedorn, the son of retired congressman Tom Hagedorn, was a surprise victor in last Tuesday’s GOP primary. But he brings some serious baggage to his race against Walz, a four-term incumbent. In posts from his old blog, Mr. Conservative, unearthed by the now-defunct Minnesota Independent, Hagedorn made light of American Indians, President Obama’s Kenyan ancestry, and female Supreme Court justices, among others, in ways many voters won’t appreciate…
Not all female politicians were viewed as favorably. In a 2002 post, Hagedorn referred to Washington Democratic Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray as “undeserving bimbos in tennis shoes.” Former Bush White House counsel Harriet Miers, he wrote in 2005, had been nominated “to fill the bra of Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.”
Writing about now-Sen. John Thune’s race against Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson, Hagedorn turned his razor-sharp wit on America’s most coddled demographic—Native Americans. “The race has been highlighted by a Democrat drive to register voters in several of several of South Dakota’s expansive redistribution of wealth centers…err…casino parlors…err…Indian reservations. Remarkably, many of the voters registered for absentee ballots were found to be chiefs and squaws who had returned to the spirit world many moons ago.” Alleging that fake votes from Indians would provide the margin of victory, he echoed “John Wayne’s wisdom of the only good Indian being a dead Indian.
(Correction: This story originally credited the Minnesota Independent with first reporting on the Mr. Conservative postings. The Independent was the first outlet to report that the blog posts had been deleted.)
(Mother Jones)

Among Minnesota’s lefty blogs, Bluestem Prairie has been writing about this starting years ago. I’m noting it at this time because it’s being highlighted in a national publication. For this election, the Hagedorn candidacy now has legs everywhere as yet another example of the crazy right wing out of control. Which is hardly what the flaccid and flailing Minnesota Republican Party, in particular, needs. Good deal.


Holder success in Ferguson enrages Right

by Dog Gone on August 21, 2014 · 0 comments


then (1970′s)

I’ve been watching the response from the radical right to the events in Ferguson, Missouri, particularly since the visit Wednesday by Eric Holder.


Those who protest the apparent murder of Michael Brown have spoken out quite positively about how they feel after the visit by AG Eric Holder. They are more positive, more hopeful, and more encouraged, and that has been reflected in the more peaceful tone in the town (along with the literal dampening effect of a night of rain).


Holder is promising to look into a specific investigation into the possible violation of civil rights of Michael Brown. Further, Holder has promised to look at a broader pattern of civil rights by police as well.


That positive result in the town of Ferguson has sent conservatives off the deep end where they live, on the fringe.


In response, the right dredges up an old smear — another fact-averse smear, of the propaganda model loved by conservatives. I’ve made a habit here and elsewhere of pointing out that conservatives consistently believe things which are factually false, which are lies, which are ugly propaganda. Propaganda is manipulative, emotional, and dishonest.


The big lie about Holder is that he is a dangerous, violent extremist, who has somehow nefariously risen to be the first African American AG in our history. They claim that when he was at Columbia University, he was the leader of an armed group of black power radicals who took over a building and held off authorities.


Of course, the REALITY, the FACTS are nothing like that.


According to Columbia, Holder was never armed, or acted inappropriately. Holder and a group of other black students approached the administration about using an empty, unused part of a ROTC building.  They went ahead and used the space, while waiting for formal approval from Columbia which came a few days later.

No weapons. No stand-off with authorities. No violence. No radical extremists, no black power group.


It’s an old lie. It’s been published in the Daily Liar, er, Daily Caller.  It’s been spread in the Blaze.  It’s been smeared around like feces in Before It’s News.
There are endless examples of other right wingers who have promoted the smear, the lie, the propaganda.


Now the conservatives who live by emails sent by other crazy conservatives, and the lies promoted by Faux News, have revived it.


It was entertaining to watch conservative heads explode (figuratively speaking) when confronted with the FACTS about Holder’s career.  No, not his career at Columbia; they won’t be dissuaded by any factual information about that, including from the University.  No, I’m talking about the rise of Holder to his current position — which is not the first time he’s headed up the DoJ.


Think about it for a moment; who is the dead conservative MOST idolized by Conservatives?


No doubt about it – that would be the late President Ronald Reagan, or more colloquially, (secular) St. Ronnie Ray-gun.  Yes, THAT is who gave Eric Holder his entrance into a prominent role in the Judiciary.  In 1988, Ronald Reagan appointed Eric Holder to the Superior Court bench for the District of Columbia.


In 1988, he was selected by President Ronald Reagan to be an associate judge of the Superior Court for the District of Columbia. In 1993, he became the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia. In 1997, President Bill Clinton named him deputy attorney general, the first African-American to hold that position.

Holder briefly served as acting AG for George W. Bush, during the confirmation process for AG Ashcroft as well.

He [Ashcroft] later met with Eric Holder, who had served as acting attorney general since President Bill Clinton left office Jan. 20. Ashcroft thanked Holder, previously the deputy attorney general, on his last day at the Justice Department.

And of course, Holder has a few other rewards and acknowledgements that he is an excellent attorney, very qualified, influential.


But either you believe that NEITHER Ronald Reagan, while president, NOR the Senate, which approves judicial appointments to the Superior Court D.C. bench, NOR George W. Bush while President vetted Eric Holder, and chose to overlook —– ALL OF THEM —- such radical armed violence at Columbia, OR……… have to concede that the Columbia story of guns and extremism is false.


Confronted with the facts, Conservatives fall silent.  They cannot relinquish the hate, the smear, the ugly propaganda.  But they are caught in a double bind, a kind of check-mate of comment.
Conservatives believe things which are not true.  Conservatives embrace and celebrate and disseminate lies.  The facts are not their friends. And there is no mystery why so many people view them as racists; this is a perfect example of why.


There is something uniquely tragic about the political orientation that so loves to pat themselves on the back for their superior values, which is nothing more than holier-than-thou hypocrisy, that supports and promotes this kind of deliberate dishonesty.  There is something uniquely ugly, hateful and un-patriotic about people who WANT FAILURE of people in our government trying to intervene in a painful and chaotic situation, no matter how much misery, damage, and injury might result from failure.



Rich Wright for Minnesota House 26B

by Dan Burns on August 20, 2014 · 1 comment

wrightThis is the first of many Minnesota House races that I’ll be noting, in the next couple of months. It’s a Republican-leaning district, but it’s of particular interest because it’s an open seat. And the thing is, if we DFLers can get a couple of unlikely wins wherever, we should hold the House, whatever happens in the handful of close, high-profile suburban races. In addition to the many practical benefits of that outcome, consider the blow to the morale of the state GOP. Sweet!
Here’s Wright’s website. He’s a lawyer who lives near Rochester. There is a righteous emphasis on education funding.

It’s an open seat because the incumbent, Mike Benson, determined to try his luck running for the U.S. Congress in MN-01. Fortune did not smile upon his efforts, but that’s irrelevant, now. His would-be replacement is Nels Pierson, who was Gil Gutknecht‘s campaign manager in 2006.

“The campaign itself is about jobs and the issues that relate to that,” (Pierson) said. “One of the big key components is the state’s budgets and how the Democrats this time around so heavily favored increasing taxes.”
He said he will emphasize how those tax increases can have “a direct impact on our local businesses and what that means for jobs in our area and really about the prosperity of our region,” he said.
(Rochester Post-Bulletin)

Yeah, things are looking pretty awful in Minnesota, in the wake of those brutal tax increases on the rich. It’s pretty obvious that Nels’s head is not in a reality-based setting. That’s not what we need making public policy.

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Mike McFadden


In his latest television ad, Mike “Nutshot” McFadden attempts to heap scorn on Senator Franken for “missing the mark.” It looks to me like yet more evidence that McFadden’s campaign is Not Ready for Prime Time.


The ad portrays a Franken look-a-like replete in suit and tie attempting to back the family boat into the water, failing repeatedly, knocking over garbage cans, while others are waiting impatiently and shaking their heads. The subtext reads contempt: Pity the Fool. Of course, Mighty Mike gets it on the first try. ‘Cuz he’s no fool.


Or.Is.He? If the ad’s intended audience is boat-owners, he may be on to something. Minnesota has more boat-owners per capita than any other state in the union. But to my knowledge boat-ownership has never been identified as a persuade-able voter demographic. Maybe I’m wrong …


No, I think he actually missed the mark himself. It appears that the ad is appealing to those viewers who dislike Coppertone®-tan Presidents, dislike Obamacare, dislike votes on higher taxes (never mind that the House GOP majority makes those votes moot), and dislike bespectacled Jews in suits trying to back boats.


If that’s the demographic he’s appealing to, I’ve got a newsflash for Team McFadden. Those guys are already voting your way. You’re wasting the old man’s money. Why not give the money to me and I’ll pass it on to a worthwhile charity — it’s better spent.


Also, I thought McFadden was supposed to be a smart business guy. The smartest move he could make right now would be to six his ad agency and find someone who knows what the hell they’re doing.


Mike, you need to widen your message, starting right now, and begin appealing to moderates, or your campaign is DOA on Election Day. Time is short: early voting begins in five weeks.


As the ad says, “Here in Min-ne-SO-ta, there’s a right way and a wrong way.” Looks to me like you picked the wrong way. Pity the fool.


Shadow banking reaches new depths of excess

by Dan Burns on August 19, 2014 · 1 comment

explosionI’m passing along a couple of recent economics articles. I’m not convinced that another big bubble/crash is swelling right now, but I’m not convinced that it’s not, either.

Among those hot topics was the runaway shadow banking system, defined by Investopedia as “The financial intermediaries involved in facilitating the creation of credit across the global financial system, but whose members are not subject to regulatory oversight. The shadow banking system also refers to unregulated activities by regulated institutions.” Examples given include hedge funds, derivatives and credit default swaps…
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men could not rein in the growth of the shadow banking system, despite the 828-page Dodd-Frank Act. Instead, the derivatives pyramid has continued to explode under its watch, to a notional value now estimated to be as high as $2 quadrillion…
Worse, raising interest rates could implode the monster derivatives scheme. Michael Snyder observes that the biggest banks have written over $400 trillion in interest rate derivatives contracts, betting that interest rates will not shoot up. If they do, it will be the equivalent of an insurance company writing trillions of dollars in life insurance contracts and having all the insureds die at once. The banks would quickly become insolvent. And it will be our deposits that get confiscated to recapitalize them, under the new “bail in” scheme approved by Janet Yellen as one of the Fed’s more promising tools (called “resolution planning” in Fed-speak).


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