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Praise for St. Paul teachers

by Dan Burns on February 21, 2018 · 0 comments

schoolsThe author of this, Jeff Bryant, is a leading pro-public schools researcher and writer.
 

St. Paul teachers want to do “phenomenal things” for their students. At least that’s what Nick Faber of the St. Paul Federation of Teachers tells me. But what’s been holding back him and his fellow educators are the same obstacles to progress in many of our communities: a culture of financial austerity combined with a political lack of will to tax corporations and the wealthy.
 
But Faber and his union brothers and sisters may have just taught progressives a valuable lesson in how to take on those impediments and win, not just for students and schools but for the common good of our communities.
(OurFuture.org)

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Trump voters got well and truly suckered, Part 100

by Dan Burns on February 19, 2018 · 0 comments

trump18When I started this series I soon decided to see how long it would take to get to 100. As it turns out, 395 days since his inauguration. Of course I could have arrived far sooner, because we’re talking Trump, here. I’ve never gone out of my way to find items. I just use what pops up in daily/weekly email updates from a bunch of sources, the majority but by no means all progressive. As a matter of fact doing the whole thing has been pretty much effortless.
 
This takes a hard look, based on current information, at whether Pr*sident Donald Trump really is traitorous filth. It’s by James Risen, and does not play fast and loose with the evidence. Quite the contrary.

 

I find it hard to write about Donald Trump.
 
It is not that he is a complicated subject. Quite the opposite. It is that everything about him is so painfully obvious. He is a low-rent racist, a shameless misogynist, and an unbalanced narcissist. He is an unrelenting liar and a two-bit white identity demagogue. Lest anyone forget these things, he goes out of his way each day to remind us of them.
 
At the end of the day, he is certain to be left in the dustbin of history, alongside Father Coughlin and Gen. Edwin Walker. (Exactly – you don’t remember them, either.)
 
What more can I add?
 
Unfortunately, another word also describes him: president. The fact that such an unstable egomaniac occupies the White House is the greatest threat to the national security of the United States in modern history.
 
Which brings me to the only question about Donald Trump that I find really interesting: Is he a traitor?
(The Intercept)

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In SD54, DFLer Karla Bigham won.
 
In HD23B, DFLer Melissa Wagner did not win.
 
The results were about what you’d expect for special elections in these districts in typical years. There was no evidence of the Trump backlash that has led to big upset wins for Democrats elsewhere in the country. I don’t purport to know why we didn’t see that here.
 
But I’ll speculate a little. For a long time things have been going a lot better in Minnesota than in places like Alabama, Oklahoma, and Missouri. So maybe there’s not the same motivation for people who wouldn’t ordinarily turn out for special elections in those places, but did, to do so here – in part to make a statement about the crass, demented, misogynistic, racist, treasonous buffoon in the White House. Maybe.
 
Update: The paragraph above about the election results was dashed off in haste and needs qualification. The standard that is being used for special elections is how much they changed from the amount by which they went for Trump on that awful day in 2016. DFL performance improved from that by about 5 points in SD54, and by about 7 in HD23B. So, not like quite a bit of what’s been happening elsewhere in the country, but not insignificant, especially for special elections in the dead of winter in Minnesota.
 

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School privatization stuff

by Dan Burns on February 15, 2018 · 0 comments

abanschoolA couple of recent items. Regarding this first one, I’m not ready to declare victory, yet. (Neither, I’m sure, is the author.) But it is encouraging.
 

Charter schools used to be seen as the hot new concept in education.

 
But that fad seems to have jumped the shark.

 
For two decades since the first charter school law was passed in Minnesota, they’ve grown at about 6 to 7 percent nationally.
 
But for the last three years, that growth has dropped each year – from 7 to 5 to 2 percent.
(gadflyonthewallblog)

The next one is long and involved, but should be read in full if you’re into contemporary education issues in Minnesota, at all. And why wouldn’t you be?
 

If education reform is a political game, and it is, then it looks like the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers (MFT) is winning. Here’s why.
 
On February 13, the union held an informational picket line, meant to rally members and raise public awareness of the issues MFT says it is fighting for. That includes clean buildings, less testing, and smaller class sizes. 1,000 people showed up to walk the picket line in freezing, late afternoon temperatures. They hoisted signs and banged on drums while passing vehicles honked and waved in support…
 
It comes amid contract negotiations between MFT and the Minneapolis schools. According to a Star Tribune article, the district would like to hold mediation sessions over typical business items such as wages and benefits. Across the table, however, the union, like its counterpart in St. Paul, is attempting to use its contract as a way to advocate for the “schools Minneapolis kids deserve.” Labor laws in the United States favor management on this one, with precedent given to restricting union negotiations to boilerplate contract issues.
 
But there is a growing trend of labor groups embracing “social justice unionism,” where the contract becomes a way to reframe the failure narrative dogging public schools. In cities like Los Angeles, Chicago, Seattle, St. Paul, and now, Minneapolis, this movement has pushed back against the plutocrat supported assumption that schools and teachers are failing kids.

 
On February 7, almost one week before the MFT rally drew one thousand supporters, the local education reform outfit, Minnesota Comeback, held their own rally at Minneapolis’s Capri Theater. This was billed as a quarterly gathering for the group’s community members and was a much more sparsely attended, subdued affair than MFT’s more celebratory one.
(Bright Light Small City)

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Trump voters got well and truly suckered, Part 99

by Dan Burns on February 15, 2018 · 0 comments

trump13I suppose that this is not at all surprising.
 

President Donald Trump — who boasted (in January) that his success in life was a result of “being, like, really smart” — communicates at the lowest grade level of the last 15 presidents, according to a new analysis of the speech patterns of presidents going back to Herbert Hoover.
 
The analysis assessed the first 30,000 words each president spoke in office, and ranked them on the Flesch-Kincaid grade level scale and more than two dozen other common tests analyzing English-language difficulty levels. Trump clocked in around mid-fourth grade, the worst since Harry Truman, who spoke at nearly a sixth-grade level.
(Newsweek)

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Trump voters got well and truly suckered, Part 98

by Dan Burns on February 14, 2018 · 0 comments

trump12The article goes on to note that the NBC list in fact isn’t close to comprehensive. It would take a lot of work, and basically someone assigned full-time just to keep it current, to accomplish that.
 

If you once reveled in the over-the-top story lines driven by Kerry Washington’s character Olivia Pope in the TV drama Scandal, you know why that show has lost a bit of its juice in the last couple seasons. Even a fictional tale of Washington intrigue and deceit can’t compete with the episodic scandals pouring out of Donald Trump’s White House; the only difference is the characters aren’t as easy on the eyes and Trump’s actually ruining our country.
 
(Last) week’s “Oh, sorry, we had no idea” spin about wife abuser Rob Porter is only the latest in a long line of real-life scandals—any one of which would have rocked to the core a White House that was actually functional. But in a West Wing where hours of Fox News consumption has replaced the daily intelligence briefing as the pr*sident’s sole source of intel, scandals ebb and flow like the sea: daily. NBC News has a list of some the most serious scandals that rose and fell shockingly quickly because Trump always managed to steal the spotlight back. It’s not hyperbole to say that there’s more scandals flowing from Trump’s White House than there are reporters to investigate them.
(Daily Kos)

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MN-08: Rep. Nolan announces retirement

by Dan Burns on February 9, 2018 · 0 comments

From his email, reproduced in his “Monday Report:”
 

With deep appreciation and thanks for allowing me to represent you in the Congress of the United States, I am announcing today that I will not be a candidate for reelection, and will retire at the end of the current term…
 
Having said that, there is a time and a purpose for everything and now is the time for me to pass the baton to the next generation…

 
Despite the fact that our Nation is being challenged by some rather troubling politics, let’s remember that our Founders foresaw difficult times and gave us the tools to see them through. Our Constitution is strong, our people are resilient, and the elections of 2018, 2020 and beyond provide continuing opportunities for progress, reform and necessary change.

Of course Minnesota’s corporate media is putting their own tiresome spin on this; let them make fools of themselves yet again. With the way this cycle is shaping up, the DFL could run a wood tick and win. (Disgusting!) Thankfully, in reality we have a great candidate, Leah Phifer. As long as she doesn’t let corporate tools from the DCCC or wherever swoop in and screw everything up, it should handily be Rep. Phifer as of January 2019.
 

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Public hearing on PolyMet tonight in Duluth

by Dan Burns on February 8, 2018 · 0 comments

sulfide2If so inclined, you can view the proceedings via a livestream at The Uptake. A good many viewpoints will likely be presented, in at least some cases quite vigorously.
 

It is never my intent to caricature supporters of sulfide mining in the general public. They have their reasons, and many are knowledgeable, well-intentioned, and no fools.
 
Some information on a purported “damage deposit:”
 

A draft permit to mine issued by the Minnesota DNR last month calls for PolyMet to make available $544 million in financial assurance the first year of mining, which acts as a sort of damage deposit if PolyMet couldn’t pay for the proposed mine’s cleanup.
 
However, state officials estimated that more than $1 billion would be necessary to cover the potential environmental liability Minnesota could be left with from the mine.
 
The DNR is taking comments through March 6; the PCA through March 16.
 
Correction (Feb. 8, 2018): A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that PolyMet has put up money for financial assurance. A draft permit calls for that, but PolyMet would not begin to make financial assurance available unless and until it receives permits and begins construction.
(MPR)

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mncapitol2The election is next Monday, February 12. The DFL candidate is Melissa Wagner. From her website:
 

As you might guess for someone who has worked as a school social worker for 24 years, I am a big advocate for kids and education. Children in rural Minnesota deserve to get a world-class education: to have a great school experience, to be educated in safe, well-functioning schools, and to have every opportunity along their educational path that students do in larger cities…
 
The single best way we, as a community, can make sure that all our kids have that chance is though strong public schools that are well-integrated and supported in the community and, most importantly, focused on student success, not just test scores.

Jeremy Munson beat Scott Sanders in a GOP primary. If you look at his website, Munson is about what you’d expect, politically, for someone looking to be the right-wing legislative heir to Tony Cornish. Note the complete lack of supporting references for some of the claims that he makes.

 

There is also apparently a write-in candidate. You can read about that at Bluestem Prairie, here.
 

A couple of notes, neither of them meant to be taken as suggesting that any kind of complacency is in order. Democrats flipped another deep red state legislative seat yesterday, this time in Missouri. And GOP participation numbers in yesterday’s Minnesota caucuses were disappointing. For the GOP, that is.
 

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Minnesota-State-CapitolThe special elections (I’ll post about the other one tomorrow) are being held next MONDAY, February 12. I haven’t troubled to find out why they’re not on a Tuesday as usual. Busy.
 

Karla Bigham is the DFL candidate in Senate District 54. From her website:
 

Whether it was fighting to complete the Wakota Bridge, supporting funding for the Hastings Bridge, working to expand education programs in our schools, or ensuring our communities were safe — improving the quality of life of our residents was always my top priority. I will bring that same level of dedication and advocacy to the Minnesota State Senate. When making policy decisions, doing what best for the residents of Senate District 54 will always come first. By working hard to actively listen to all residents, and partnering closely with local governmental units, I will ensure that our communities are the best possible place for us all to live, raise our families, and start a business. Thank you!

Denny McNamara was a GOPer in the Minnesota House for quite a while. He left rather unexpectedly, under a cloud. Bluestem Prairie has comprehensive material on the realities of his campaign fundraising, this time around, here and here.
 
There’s also a Libertarian candidate, Emily Mellingen. And for some reason there’s another Republican, James E. Brunsgaard III, still listed on the SoS website. I haven’t looked into that, either. What’s important, as always, is DFL voter turnout.
 

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