Recent Posts


Keith Ellison is no anti-Semite

by Eric Ferguson on December 7, 2016 · 0 comments

US Rep. Keith EllisonWhen I say Keith Ellison is no anti-Semite, I’m not just speaking as someone who leans left in my politics and likes a lot of his policy positions. I actually know the guy. I’m DFL chair of a state senate district within his congressional district and I’ve been working with him since he first ran for congress in 2006. He’s not an anti-Semite, nor is he anti-Israel. I’m not going to rehash his whole record and the debunking of the allegations being made. Vox has done that admirably. I’m looking to add the voice of someone who knows him.

American politicians are expected to show their pro-Israel bonafides by being one-sided. They’re not allowed to admit that both sides have legitimate points and painfully real security concerns. Keith has visited both Israel and Palestine, and I’ve heard him speak sympathetically of the plight of both sides. I distinctly recall, during one of the spasms of violence in the occupied territories, he explained how awful the Hamas rocket attacks were for Israeli civilians under constant threat of attacks, frequently forcing them to take shelter in case the rockets landed on them. This was in private, not just an attempt to say the right thing to a certain audience. No doubt the wingnuts trying now to swiftboat him would have jumped all over the sympathy he expressed for Palestinian civilians having their lives controlled in destructive, and sometimes even in petty ways, by the Israeli occupation, like restrictions on consumer goods intended merely to make life uncomfortable, not to improve security — because in America we can’t acknowledge there are two sides with valid points and their own suffering.


DFL state convention live blog

by Eric Ferguson on June 4, 2016 · 2 comments

Like I mentioned in a non-sequitor at the end of this post, I plan to live blog the DFL convention Saturday. That depends on The Uptake having a livestream as in recent conventions, since I can’t be there in person, due to medical issues I assume readers don’t care about the details of. Since anyone can watch the stream, I’ll try to focus on explanations and commentary. Open this post and refresh it once in a while. I’ll check the comments occasionally for questions. I’m still typing more slowly than usual so it could be tricky, but I’ll give a game effort. If you want to see the agenda, that’s on the state DFL web site. It doesn’t give a specific convening time, but from the ending time of training sessions, looks like it will start around 9 AM. I’ll add a Read More link when the convention starts, so click that, or else be content with reading this introduction over and over.
Yes, The Uptake has a live stream. This is what I’m watching.


Debbie Wasserman Schultz needs to go

by Eric Ferguson on December 24, 2015 · 4 comments

U.S. Representative and DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman SchultzThe title of this post cuts to the chase, but I might surprise some readers by saying this isn’t about the Democratic presidential debates. I have an issue with how DNC (Democratic National Committee) Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz made the decision, about which more later, but I’m not all that bothered about the number or timing of the debates. I don’t know the right number or best times, and I’m skeptical about the utility of presidential debates anyway. So that’s not my issue. Actually, “issues” plural.
Since I’m taking a position aligned with many supporters of Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley (and I suspect the position of the candidates themselves though they haven’t said this), I just want to reiterate that I’m not picking a candidate. I’m the chair of the DFL of my senate district, which means that I’m running the precinct caucuses and the convention where we pick delegates to the state convention, and I don’t want any doubts about my impartiality. I also want to be clear that though my chair position is why I won’t pick a candidate, I don’t in any way speak for the party in this post. This is purely my own opinion, and no one else should be held responsible for anything I say here.
So why does the national chair need to go?


Giving away the Obama code base is a bad idea

by Eric Ferguson on January 27, 2013 · 7 comments

Obama campaign dashboardThere is a dispute between the developers who worked on the Obama campaign and the political pros at the DNC over what to do with the tools developed for the Obama campaign. Essentially, the developers want to make the code open-source while the DNC wants to keep it proprietary. “Open-source” means anyone can use the code and develop their own changes to it. My first thought was that this essentially means giving it away to the Republicans, and my reaction was, “Are you kidding!?!?” After giving it some thought though, looking at both sides … are you kidding?!?! (reversing the order of the question marks and exclamation points makes it technically a different thought).

Just to make sure all readers have the rough idea of what code they’re disputing about, you probably heard by now about the technological edge the Obama campaign had over the Romney campaign. Probably many of you used Dashboard for organizing neighborhood teams, setting up events, etc. More behind the scenes were technologies allowing such things as testing and analysis of e-mail fundraising messages, predictive analytics of voters, and analysis of TV audiences to efficiently buy ads. As that sentence implies, a bunch of people high up in the campaign couldn’t help blabbing about what they built. The Republicans figured out that the Obama campaign did some things Romney didn’t do that gave Obama an edge, but they didn’t know what until the election was over, when it was handed to them. Not how to do what Obama did, but Republicans hadn’t even known what Obama did. Now they do. They still don’t know how to build it, but now they know what to build.
Anyway, that seems like enough advantage to giveaway. Presumably the Republicans will figure out how to build similar tools and perform similar analysis themselves. They certainly now know to spend much more heavily on developers and statisticians. Do we have to give them everything by releasing the code to whoever wants it?

I’m actually not indifferent to the concerns of the developers. They’re concerned that the software will be “mothballed” until 2016, meaning left to sit until the next presidential campaign. I hope they’re concerns are unfounded. If anyone at the DNC really does think they can put the code in some virtual bottom drawer and dig it out again to run the same campaign in 2016, that person needs to be put on stuffing envelopes or window cleaning, but they sure shouldn’t be making decisions. You’d think it would be obvious to anyone living in the digital era that the marvelous 2012 tech will be obsolete in four years, and it should be obvious to anyone working in politics that the other party will try to catch up, and maybe above all, my concern as a grassroots activist, the tools need to be used for state and local parties and campaigns NOW. Get the developers back on payroll, and have them adapt the Obama tools to a local level. Imagine if every Senate campaign, even state senate campaigns, every local party, could have a Dashboard for organizing.

The developers also have an ethical concern, namely that some open-source software was use to develop the Obama campaign tools, so what they built should be released. That’s a reasonable concern. One developer interviewed for The Verge article said they’re thinking the software could do a lot of good the next for years if used by progressive groups, which would also further it’s development. The developers also suggest that failure to make the Obama code open-source will make it much harder to recruit developers for the next campaign.

However, they seem not to be considering the other side, judging from this quote,

Members of the tech team suspect that the real rationale for keeping the code private is much less high-minded. “The gist of it is, they’re concerned that with the superior funding of the Republicans, if they had our software, they’d be unstoppable,”

High-minded? It’s about being able to compete with an opposing that often seems to see the Democrats as an enemy to be destroyed. Think the Republicans will share anything they develop that actually works? That the Republicans will refrain from using their advantage in corporate and billionaire money just because the Democrats don’t have it? Yes, the Democrats have a technical edge, and I’m mystified the developers have trouble seeing the utter necessity of maintaining it.

Maybe, to satisfy ethical concerns, some of the code can be released. Maybe some doesn’t give away anything to the Republicans that they don’t already have. Obviously I’m not privy to enough information to speculate knowledgeably on just what. Providing the code to progressive groups could do a lot of good, provided there are controls to stop the code from getting loose, and provided such help doesn’t violate campaign finance laws. Maybe the tools could be given out, but not the code. When the tools reach the local level, few people would have the ability to develop, but they could learn to use them.

So we’re looking at three separate problems: preventing the code from getting loose and letting the GOP quickly catch up; getting it out to Democratic-friendly organizations, especially state and local parties and candidates; keeping development going so the tools remain current and better than what the GOP has. My impression is the developers and campaign pros are talking past each other like Republicans and facts. It would be a disaster to either give up the technical advantage, or to let the code gather moss until 2016.

A bunch of volunteers and local campaign staff learned how to use the tools to elect Obama. Imagine if we could keep doing that for congressional and state legislative candidates in 2014.  


According to the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent, Mitt Romney is pulling all of his existing advertising in favor of the ad below, which seems to be aimed at reversing the damage caused by Romney’s “47 percent” remarks. In the ad, Romney says “President Obama and I both care about poor and middle-class families.” Unfortunately, he can’t quite seem to wipe a small smirk off his face throughout the one-minute spot.

The fact that Romney is putting so much emphasis on this message — filming a one-minute ad and pulling his other advertising — means he’s in big trouble. His internal polling must agree with the many public polls that have shown a major backlash against his offensive assertion that 47 percent of Americans don’t “care about their lives” and that his job is “not to care about those people.” If you have to devote major resources to convincing voters that you do care about them, you’ve got a problem.

Unfortunately for Romney, the DNC has already prepared their own ad in response. It contrasts Romney’s new ad with some of the things he’s said throughout the campaign, reminding voters of exactly why he has to run his new ad in the first place. In ends with a brutal skewering of the Romney slogan: “Believe in (half of) America.”

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Bill Clinton is really good at this

by Jeff Rosenberg on September 6, 2012 · 1 comment

There’s a reason Barack Obama wanted Bill Clinton to speak to the country tonight. There’s nobody in politics today who can beat Clinton when it comes to taking difficult issues and explaining them in simple, clear language. He demonstrated that right from the start, when he laid out the Democrats’ values in pitch-perfect terms:

We believe “we’re all in this together” is a far better philosophy than “you’re on your own.”

It turns out that advancing equal opportunity and economic empowerment is both morally right and good economics.

What’s more, Clinton has three things going for him that made him a perfect surrogate for Obama tonight:

  1. He has a proven track record of success.
  2. He can keep an audience entertained no matter what he’s talking about.
  3. He’s already made a name for himself.

I make that last point because Clinton didn’t deliver a barnburner or a speech that will be remembered for years. He didn’t need to. What he did do was the most helpful thing he could have — he went through President Obama’s case point by point and made the case to the American people. For every single debate that’s come up in the contest so far, Bill Clinton was ready with a powerful argument to show you why Obama’s answer is the right one.

It sounds boring when I put it like that. But I wasn’t bored, and I suspect most folks who watched Clinton speak weren’t either. Even more importantly, I suspect many of them were persuaded. Come November, they may not remember the speech as a whole. But on the topics that are the most important to each individual viewer, they’ll remember what Bill Clinton said when they mark their ballots.

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This is absolutely brilliant. During the first day of the DNC, Democrats aired a video tribute to Ted Kennedy. As part of that tribute, they included over a minute of footage of Kennedy demolishing Mitt Romney in a debate. Even back in 1994, Romney had a reputation as a dishonest chameleon and flip-flopper, leading Kennedy to claim “I am pro-choice. My opponent is multiple-choice.”

Watch it:


Notes From DNC Charlotte, Day 4 – Convention Opener

by TwoPuttTommy on September 4, 2012 · 0 comments

One of the nicest things about getting media credentials is the hospitality afforded!  Right now, I’m sitting in a bar in Charlotte, courtesy of and The Congressional Black Caucus Institute.  The streets outside are packed; it’s cool, quiet with a buffet of southern cuisine & cold drinks, power to recharge batteries and secure internet access.

Yesterday afternoon was a meeting/briefing by Veterans And Military Families. Several Veterans organizations gave talks about legislation affecting Veterans; especially (Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America).  The IAVA speaker said he was giving the same talk he gave to the GOP down in Tampa at the GOP Convention (said GOP convention being, per the ol’ TwoPutter’s description on Twitter: #Willard’s #WhopperThon).  He stressed the importance of Defending The G.I. Bill.  This subject will be covered in detail over the next few weeks.  A highlight was meeting a 91 year old WWII Veteran and Convention Delegate named Stephen Sherman, who started the Dorie Miller Memorial Foundation.

Last night Team Obama held a new media Happy Hour; it was at a bar (yes, I’ve been in several of ’em whilst here!) next to The PPL’s HQ.  Three staffers talked about what the campaign was doing, and where it would be going post-endorsement.  The place was packed with new media types from all over; it was fun renewing acquaintance with a Minnesotan now in NYC who is working with; she worked on a quick video about what happens if what Lyin’ Ryan & His Pal Willard get their “plan” passed.

This morning the Minnesota & South Dakota Delegations had the opportunity to hear Newark Mayor Cory Booker – before he trashed his ankle.  DFL Chair Ken Martin gave a rousing intro to Governor Mark Dayton, who gave a great talk – and then Booker knocked it over the fence and out of the park.  His speech should be on prime-time TV.  Luchelle Stevens talked Voter ID and State Senator Scott Dibble finished the morning session with a talk about the anti-equality ballot the GOP stuck on the ballot this fall.  If you’re watching the Convention tonight, look for all the Vote No tee shirts in the Minnesota Delegation.

One of the many things I’ve really enjoyed here in Charlotte is the food – to give you an idea of what’s here, here’s a quick YouTube – let’s look!

More, later.


Notes From DNC Charlotte, Day 3

by TwoPuttTommy on September 3, 2012 · 0 comments

Charlotte is proving to be a great pick for the 2012 Democratic National Convention.  For last night’s Welcoming Reception for State Delegations, the Host Committee split the Delegations up and sent them to a dozen venues.  Minnesotans joined with Louisiana, New York, Puerto Rico, D.C., South Dakota and Texas – and the event was held at Discovery Place, a science museum.  Other Delegations had their welcoming receptions at venues such as the National Whitewater Center and the Carolina Raptor Center.  It was really cool to attend a major party in a museum!

Today is CarolinaFest, essentially a big party downtown featuring two music stages (James Taylor is headliner; Jeff Bridges and the Abiders is who I’m looking forward to) with local crafts, food, and – of course! – beer! North Carolina is home to a lot of breweries.

I’ll also be at a “Daily Briefing” held by National Journal, The Atlantic and CBS; topic for today is “The Digital Campaign and Social Media’s Impact in 2012” with panelists from Google, Facebook and Twitter.

The following is one of 40 videos the Host Committee produced that focus on different aspects of Charlotte; this one helps explain why Charlotte is such a beautiful city – let’s look!


DNC Convention Notes, Morning Of Day 2

by TwoPuttTommy on September 2, 2012 · 0 comments

Charlotte is turning out to be a great choice for Host City for the 2012 Democraic Convention.  It’s big enough, but not too big – and the Host Committee is making the RNC Convention in Tampa look pathetic already. Last night was a Media Reception that was an incredible success.  Held at the North Carolina Music Factory and in every venue within it, over 15,000 people partied in a way that sets a new standard for Host Cities.  Rather than putting everyone in one big room, it was a series of parties with a genre for everyone, starting with local comedians roasting everything at The Comedy Zone (and I have to say, Dusty Trice’s stand up act was hilarious!) to every kind of music act anyone would want to hear.  The Convention’s Host Committee has gone above the call of duty to include as much local influence as it could.

One aspect that hits home for yours truly, the ol’ TwoPutter, is making this convention as acessible as possible for new media – such as bloggers!  Literally next door to the Convention Center is a group called The PPL (think=”people”), where I’m headed shortly to check in and receive credentials.  Let’s look!

As always, I’ll be tweeting throughout the day – stay tuned!