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MN House Mining and Outdoor Recreation Committee?

by Dan Burns on November 26, 2014 · 1 comment

Grasslands-mengguWell, that is an odd looking combination.

With the advent of the Mining and Outdoor Recreation Committee, (Rep. David) Dill (DFL-Crane Lake) may finally have the empathy he claims to have never found from those unnamed “metro-centric DFLers,” who maybe shouldn’t have gone fishing on lakes and rivers in their own districts.
Range-based blogger Aaron Brown reacted to news of the Dill-appreciating committee name on our editor’s Facebook page:

Ha. Now THAT’S a committee. Almost perfect, if only Mich Golden Light was in the name, too.

(Bluestem Prairie)

According to its enthusiasts, it will “focus on jobs and the economy.”

I’m guessing that the real purview of the “outdoor recreation” part will have mostly to do with efforts to loosen restrictions on yahoo rednecks tearing up wetlands, and other ecologically vulnerable areas, with their ATVs and snowmobiles. Like Bluestem’s article notes, it’s purportedly a “lifestyle” thing that haughty metrocentric types just don’t get. But we shall see. (My understanding is that in much of the state, what restrictions exist are not seriously enforced. Which is what a committee like this should be looking to fix. Highly unlikely.)

As far as the mining, the supposedly secretly anti-mining Rep. Rick Nolan (D-MN) carried the whole Iron Range, and Duluth Metals Ltd. ain’t looking real healthy. Just a couple of indicators that sulfide mining is far from a done deal, no matter what kinds of committees giddy House GOPers invent.
Comments below fold.

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Minnesota looking more like the rest of the country

by Eric Ferguson on November 26, 2014 · 2 comments

Minnesota has been something of an outlier compared to almost every other state. Most states have Democratic cities, Republican rural areas, and competitive suburbs. We have long flipped those last two. This last election though, the state house election looked pretty typical of what might be expected in almost any randomly chosen state.
This raises some questions, namely:
— Is this trend of reddening rural areas and bluing suburbs really happening here? Didn’t I just say it was, one paragraph ago? I actually have my doubts, about which more later.
— Why is this happening? I won’t actually spend much space on this because there seem to be multiple plausible explanations, which can be simultaneously true, so it’s more complicated than can be dealt with here.
— How do we respond?
I used this chart repeatedly in that series on Democrats needing to do better with white voters, but that was nearly two years ago, so here it is again:



Was it political cowardice or bad strategy?

by Eric Ferguson on November 21, 2014 · 6 comments

announcement of Donald Rumsfeld's resignation
UPDATE: Heard from the Speaker of the Minnesota House, sadly shortly to be minority leader (replaced by this guy), and looks like some state-specific comments of mine might not hold up. Details here.
When Pres. Obama announced his support for net neutrality right after the election, I thought I understood how Republicans felt when Bush Jr. forced out Defense Sec. Don Rumsfeld right after the 2006 election. Well, that was nice, but couldn’t you have done that before we got toasted in the midterm election?! Of course my first response to Obama’s announcement was to be glad he came out so strongly on the side of the angels, but my next thought was to recall an image of Rumsfeld’s resignation being announced. Why not do this before the election, and maybe save some seats?
The silver lining of an election loss is it makes us more likely to consider our assumptions. We may not even realize we’re making assumptions. The assumption in this case is the spinelessness of Democratic candidates and elected officials. We in the Democratic base have pleaded for more spine for I don’t recall how long. Back to the 80’s maybe? The 70’s? The 90’s at least. Election after election, but especially during midterms when there’s a Democratic president, we see one self-defeating move after another. The seeming political cowardice wasn’t just on the part of Obama, despite my reaction to the timing of his net neutrality announcement, and despite his failure to do anything on immigration until last night, which I blame for the lower than expected (lower than expected by me anyway) turnout among Latinos. I’m inclined give him a pass on the timing of his strong stances on global warming since those likely had to wait for summits in China and Australia, though that doesn’t explain other Democrats not running on it.
Nor do Obama’s decisions excuse Democratic candidates who avoided him during their own reelections, and the many who avoided other Democrats at all, as if they weren’t running on a ticket. There were exceptions: Minnesota’s statewide candidates very much ran as a ticket, campaigning on the Democratic successes most Democrats rarely mentioned, for example; but in general, Democrats ran every-candidate-for-themselves with campaigns focused on appeasing, if not conservatives, then those mysterious centrists.
But was it really cowardice? I’m asking the base to question our assumption of gutlessness. Maybe this was strategy; lousy, awful strategy. If that’s the case, if spine isn’t the problem, then no wonder our appeals for political courage seem to achieve so little. We’re making the wrong demand.



Stock market rallies actually screw most of us

by Dan Burns on November 18, 2014 · 3 comments

warrenHere are a few economy-related items that have caught my attention recently. I suggest that this first one could be borne in mind especially in light of corporate media’s incessant Wall Street cheerleading.

Even without the selloffs, a booming stock market doesn’t usually reach any but the richest Americans. Nearly 90 percent of those in bottom fifth of income don’t own stocks, an increase from 86 percent in 2007, and just a quarter of those in the bottom 40 percent own stocks. On the other hand, more than 90 percent of the richest 10 percent of Americans own them. When the market surges, just the richest benefit.
That’s helped drive inequality in and of itself. In the first two years of the recovery, the rallying stock and bond market contributed to the fact that the mean net worth of the top 7 percent wealthiest Americans rose by 28 percent, while for everyone else it fell by 4 percent.
There are even ways that a stronger market is coming at the expense of most Americans. Companies in the Standard & Poors 500 index are likely to spend $914 billion on buying their own stock shares and in dividends to shareholders, or 95 percent of their earnings. Those buybacks have helped fuel the stock market rally, as companies that have done the most have seen their stock prices gain more than 300 percent since March 2009. But it also means they have less money to invest in other things like wages or investments that would create jobs. The share of cash flow used for buybacks has nearly doubled over the last decade while it’s dropped for capital investments.
(Think Progress)



sadclownSo they took the Minnesota House back by 5 seats, on the “strength” of about 51% turnout, the lowest since 1986. In an election where, nationwide, old people, and hardly anyone else, turned out as if it meant something. (Which it does, but, convincing our voters of that…well that’s our #1 problem. Has been, for a long time, now.) In Minnesota, we could well end up with supermajorities, or close to it, in both chambers, after 2016. In particular, Al Franken’s romp over Mike McFadden – who was supposed to be a strong candidate, you know, a Romney-esque “centrist uniter,” – makes clear just where the MN GOP is as far as legitimate, long-term competitiveness. That would be “nowhere.” Their only chance to come back from nowhere is for sane Republicans to take back the party from the Tea Partiers, theocrats, and Paulbots, and convince voters outside of their base that, having done that, it just might be safe to vote Republican again. Assuming, on the basis of absolutely no evidence, that that process has even started, how many election cycles will it take? Three? Five? Ten? And their base voters heading for the pearly gates, and not being replaced, all the while.

The other huge loser in all of this is Minnesota’s corporate media, which was all but overt in its support for Republican candidacies, especially Stewart Mills III in MN-08. What was left of their reputation for consistently worthwhile political reporting and analysis has sunk like the Pequod, and with about as much chance of raising it, anytime soon.
Also like the GOP, they do have a legitimate, if difficult, option. Currently, corporate media’s positive political coverage, in Minnesota and everywhere else, is split roughly evenly between corporatists and the right wing. In order to much better reflect where the overall public is actually at, they could just move the space they give to right-wingnuts now, over to progressives. That, too, is really about their only chance, for the long run.

There’s a Catch-22. The real purpose of corporate media’s political “reporting” is to promote corporatism. Their current approach works well for that, albeit to an ever-shrinking viewer/reader/listenership, because in their current split the corporatists look pretty good, compared to the ranting freaks of the hard right. Those same corporatists won’t look good at all next to intelligent, knowledgeable, articulate progressives telling it like it is. Hence, the dilemma. But that’s their problem.

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Danger siren wailing on the TPP

by Dan Burns on November 14, 2014 · 0 comments

tppWord is that an effort may be made to get fast-track authority on the Trans-Pacific Partnership through Congress during the lame-duck session that’s happening now, probably by attaching it to must-pass budget legislation. I don’t know why President Obama has such a huge blind spot on this sh*t, but he does, and that’s what we have to deal with.
The agreement itself apparently isn’t finalized yet. Negotiations have been mostly “secret,“ but we know it’s an absolute wet dream for corporate exploiters.

As with NAFTA, the lobbying will be intense to pass the deal, with the lucre of corporate campaign contributions sweetened by the praise that would be heaped on yea-voting members for transcending partisanship. It would be a disaster were the TPP to pass and go into effect, for multiple reasons: it deregulates financial speculation; it eviscerates the ability of nations to enforce environmental regulations; it locks in a deeply unequal trade and intellectual property-rights regime, granting a handful of the world’s largest corporations monopoly protection; and it encourages the privatization of public services and public property.
Worst of all, it, it globalizes the so-called Investor-State Dispute Settlement, or ISDS, which allows corporations and investors to “sue governments directly before tribunals of three private sector lawyers operating under World Bank and UN rules to demand taxpayer compensation for any domestic law that investors believe will diminish their ‘expected future profits.’” Under such provisions, mining corporations have taken El Salvador to court for trying to limit their right to open-pit mine the country and pollute its rivers and El Lilly has sued Canada, complaining that its patent laws have hindered profits it could make on an ADD drug.
(The Nation)

This talks about some polling from earlier this year. Let’s just say the public is pretty well opposed to much of the TPP’s content.
Image: Expose the TPP


A pundit free, post mid-term Democratic Visions

by JeffStrate on November 13, 2014 · 0 comments


Democratic Visions Producer Jeff Strate learns from The Theater for Public Policy Director Tane Danger that policy wanks can be funny.

Democratic Visions Producer Jeff Strate learns from The Theater for Public Policy Director Tane Danger that policy wonks can be funny on stage.  Photo by Ron Levitus.

The post mid-term election edition of Democratic Visions features no pundits, partisan strategists, Wednesday morning quarterbacks or smiley candidates. Instead, November’s Dem Vis sports humorously gifted wags, authors and theater types.


Tane Danger, director of The Theater of Public Policy, a sharp, improv comedy troupe; vinegary, retired drive time radio man Mike “Stretch” Gelfand, author Mary Stanik and humorist Jon Spayde help Minnesotans  figure out where we’re headed in our Mitch McConnell, Kurt Daudt, Paul Molitor and Sunday booze-buying futures.



Mr. Danger (that’s his real name – he’s a pastor’s kid with a Bush Foundation Fellowship at the U of MN’s Humphrey Institute not a punk rocker) wants you to know that The Theater of Public Policy has only two, election season shows remaining at the Bryant Lake Bowl Theater on Lake Street at Bryant Avenue.


Minneapolis Council Member Jacob Frey (Ward 3) joins T2P2 at 7 p.m., November 17 and MPR economics editor Chris Farell joins the company November 24, also at 7 p.m.


Should progressives go?   Well possums, Tommy Johnson and I saw retired Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Paul Anderson with T2P2 in October. The jurist, the jury improv comics and the menu at Bryant Lake Bowl got two, enthusiastic thumbs up from the Two Putter and myself.


Please find below links to current Democratic Visions segments and the programs cable schedule.


The Theater of Public Policy Exposed


Mike Gelfand: The 2014 Elections, Christmas and Baseball



Don’t give the Device Tax whiners their way

by Dan Burns on November 12, 2014 · 0 comments

cryingbabyA hard push on this is to be expected.

So of course repealing the medical device tax is a top priority for Republicans, helped by the fact that some Democrats want it gone, too…
For now, the White House has insisted they would not accept repealing it. It hasn’t come to a test, because currently Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has refused to get it to the floor. House Republicans insisted on its repeal, along with a one-year delay in Obamacare implementation, in their ill-fated government shutdown demands last year (again, thinking they had bipartisanship on their side).
From a political positioning standpoint, this could be the first opportunity for Democrats to show that they will hold the line against any chipping away of Obamacare, which is precisely what they should do. That would put the pressure back on Republicans to justify to the American public why they are spending their first days in the majority doing nothing to help create jobs but instead are wasting time on a gift to the industry.
(Daily Kos)

A Congressional Research Service report estimates the “negative” effects of the tax on output and jobs at no more that 0.2%. That qualifies as “negligible.”

If Big Device really wanted to help itself and improve its image, it would forget about trying to score more handouts from the government, and focus entirely on improving its extremely erratic record of product development and reliability. Just a suggestion.


Here it is.


Michelle MacDonald was endorsed by the Minnesota Republican Party essentially because she’s a crazy extremist, and the GOP has long since been taken over by crazy extremists, and such a combination leads to obvious results. Subsequently, an eminently well-qualified, sane and rational, Minnesota Supreme Court justice got an election challenge that ended up way too close for any measure of comfort.

I don’t know of any easy fixes for this.

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This seemed a worthwhile lead in to a piece on the Berlin wall, since the Biblical account of the fall of Jericho and the archeological version of events seem to have some significant points of difference – including the archeological evidence that the events of the Jewish captivity and subsequent Exodus from Egypt never took place.

Twenty-five years ago tomorrow, November 9th, the Berlin wall came tumbling down.

That is, more or less — mostly less.

Badly educated conservative Americans, at least some of them, have bought into the revisionist history/propaganda and mistakenly give credit for this event to Ronnie Ray-gun.
They might as well give the credit to Ronald McDonald.

The reality of the Reagan speech is very different than the myth. The Guardian newspaper in the UK does an excellent job of urban myth-busting:

From Reagan to Hasselhoff: 5 people who didn’t bring down the Berlin Wall From Ronald Reagan’s ‘tear down this wall’ speech to David Hasselhoff’s bizarre ‘looking for freedom’ serenade, countless urban myths have sprung up about who was really responsible for the fall of the wall. Do any have any merit? “…One popular theory says that while the collapse of the iron curtain may have looked inevitable, it took the intervention of some great minds to provide the crucial nudge. Never mind Polish trade unionists, Soviet politicians or East German dissidents, it was British and American politicians and popstars who made all the crucial interventions, right? 1) Ronald Reagan The words went down in history: “Mr Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” And lo and behold: soon after the US president Ronald Reagan had voiced his bold demand to the Soviet president in front of the Berlin wall, the borders opened. As John Heubusch, executive director of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library, has put it: “One cannot ignore how [Reagan’s] powerful conviction ended the cold war by firing a verbal salvo, an oratorical demand to let freedom prevail.” But one also shouldn’t ignore that Reagan gave his speech on 12 June 1987, a good 29 months before the actual fall of the wall. And there is little evidence that it had much impact on the dynamics of the dissident movement in East Germany, or on Soviet politics at the time. Some 45,000 Berliners witnessed Reagan’s wall speech, compared to the 450,000 people who attended John F Kennedy’s “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech in 1963 – in other western parts of the city, there were demonstrations against the US president’s visit. Coverage of the event was only published in the back pages of the major international papers. German weekly Die Zeit did not even quote his request to Gorbachev.

Reagan had made similar speeches before, in 1982 and 1986. The only new element was him addressing Gorbachev directly. Reagan had been losing support domestically, so this show of strength may above all have been directed at an American audience. In that respect, it undoubtedly did the job.

It is unlikely that Gorbachev ever knew of the challenge Reagan nominally directed at him, in a blatant display of American-oriented political theater, or that he would have cared if he did.

Also, NO, the wall really didn’t come down on November 9 1989; more on that in the Chicago Tribune piece below.
Gorbachev, NOT Reagan, was quite properly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990, for his courageous actions in the USSR/Russia and Europe.

Kudos to the Chicago Tribune for consolidating some of the myths about the Berlin Wall, and then busting them. The entire piece deserves a widespread read.


But to specifically address the part about Reagan :

Many Americans believe that Ronald Reagan’s June 1987 speech in Berlin (“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”) led to the wall’s fall in 1989. However, Mikhail Gorbachev’s reforms in the Soviet bloc were far more important than Reagan’s speech, as were the actions of the East Germans themselves. When the wall started to fall on Nov. 9, it was a mistake. In the face of mass protests against the regime in 1989 and thousands of East Germans seeking refuge at West German embassies in Eastern Europe, East German leaders waived the old visa rules stating that citizens needed a pressing reason for travel, such as a funeral or wedding of a family member. East Germans would still have to apply for visas to leave the country, but they would supposedly be granted quickly and without any requirements. Yet the Communist Party official who announced these changes, Guenter missed most of the key meeting about the travel procedures and went unprepared to a news conference on Nov. 9. In response to reporters’ questions about when the new law would take effect, he said, “Immediately, without delay.” Schabowski left the impression that people could immediately cross the border, though he meant to say they could apply for visas in an orderly manner. Over the next several hours, thousands of East Berliners gathered at checkpoints along the wall. Since the country’s leaders hadn’t intended to completely open the border, the supervisors at the crossing points had received no new orders. The chief officer on duty at the Bornholmer Street checkpoint, Harald Jaeger, kept calling his superiors for guidance on how to handle the growing mass of increasingly angry East Berliners expecting to be let through. Jaeger finally gave up around 11:30 p.m. and allowed people to pass through en masse. Guards at other crossing points soon followed suit. The East German regime never fully regained control.

Don’t expect the correct version of events to appear in any Tea Party school board dominated history books; they call it being un-American if you tell the truth.

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