Thursday, September 29, 2011

Bachmann blames Obama for "Arab Spring"

You might think the title of this post is wrong; that it should be "Bachmann credits Obama for 'Arab Spring.'" Nope, she's aginnit. Kevin Diaz of the Strib reports that NBC cameras captured a true crowning moment in Bachmann foot in mouth disease. At a barbeque restaurant in the cradle of the American Revolution, Concord, North Carolina, Bachmann said:
“You want to know why we have an Arab Spring? Barack Obama has laid the table for an Arab Spring by demonstrating weakness from the United States of America. The Number One duty of the president is to be the commander in chief.”
Bachmann's saying that we should have had Moammar Gahdafi's back and defended his murderous, terrorist-sponsoring regime instead of organizing NATO airstrikes to prevent a massacre of civilians.

Bachmann is saying we ought to back the Bashar Al-Assad regime against the Syrian civilian uprising against oppression.

For Bachmann the most apt analogy for the uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Syria, etc. is the collapse of the regime of Iranian Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi in 1978. In her view of history we "didn't have the Shah's back," which then led to the rise of "radical jihad."

Of course, the rise of Al-Qaida doesn't trace back to Shiite Iran, but rather to Sunni Saudi Arabia. And if we're going to pick a President to tar with the rise of "radical jihad," we might as well pick Ronald Reagan for his support of the mujahadeen in Afghanistan. After all, that's where Osama bin Laden learned his trade.

You can't make this stuff up, and it would be precious if it came out of an eighth-grader's history report. But from a serious candidate for President, it's just insanity.

Perhaps most ironically, Bachmann's saying that our foreign policy toward the Middle East ought to look like Don Rumsfeld chummily assuring Saddam Hussein that his dispute with Kuwait is an internal affair. After all, anything to keep the dictators in power, right? Without dictators to keep the rabble in line, we'll have chaos!

By the time this is over, Michele Bachmann may not be electable as a candidate for the Lake Elmo City Council, let alone for the Presidency of the United States.

Follow me on Twitter @aaronklemz

King David with pom poms

The Bachmann campaign: a study in self-aggrandizement

Dump Michele Bachmann, your complete source for all your Bachamann-mania needs, has the text of a recent plea for -- what else? -- money by Michele hubby Marcus. Here's just the opening grafs:
Michele is the real deal.

Not only does she continue to inspire me every day with her strength, but she is the same woman of character as when I first met her 35 years ago. Michele is not your typical politician. She is not about climbing the political ladder for her personal benefit, or a popularity contest- Michele is a leader because she knows and believes Americans deserve better.
Let's take Marcus at his word that Michele has the same character she did thirty five years ago -- she probably does. Michele and Marcus met when Michele was fresh off her experience as a high school cheerleader.

No popularity contests involved there, nosiree. Let's face it, so to speak, her entire campaign is about the cult of personality, carefully, um, groomed. Bachmann is a witless Bible thumper whose claim to know what is best for the United States is theocratic and insane.

She's even got staffers comparing her to King David? Who's next? Moses? Jesus?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Drinking Liberally TONIGHT: September 29th

We'll meet at the 331 Club from six to nine PM as usual tomorrow night, September 29th. The 331 Club is at the corner of 13th and University Avenues N.E. in Minneapolis.

There will be some special guests arriving around eight: Justin Krebs, one of the founders of Drinking Liberally, and Lee Camp, a standup comedian who some of you know from his Moments of Clarity. I am not sure if the stage will be available for Lee to entertain us, but I'm trying to arrange that now.

Justin and Lee are in town for the AFL-CIO Young Workers Summit. You can read about the goals of the summit at the link.

Update: Here are three short video clips about collective bargaining brought to you by the AFL - CIO and Laughing Liberally. You might actually see both of Thursday's guests in one of them.

Further update: We do expect Justin and Lee to be part of an abbreviated program that will begin later than usual, around 8:30. Come earlier, though, and chat with the assembled.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

ALEC's Lackeys: Who's the boss? edition

Previous installments of ALEC's Lackeys here on the Cucking Stool have focused on the legislators who are carrying the water for corporations. This edition turns its attention to the Minnesota-connected corporations who are members of ALEC or have been in the past.

ALEC is the embodiment of crony capitalism. Every state's delegation is co-chaired by a corporate member and a legislative member. The Minnesota State Chair of ALEC is currently Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer (R - Big Lake), "appoint[s] a Private Sector State Chairman to serve concurrently with the State Chairman. . . . State Chairmen duties shall include recruiting new members, working to ensure introduction of model legislation, suggesting task force membership, establishing state steering committees, planning issue events, and working with the Private Enterprise State Chairman to raise and oversee expenditures of legislative scholarship funds." Those legislative scholarship funds are corporate money raised to send legislators to the annual ALEC conference. Since they are "educational," they don't run afoul of state ethics laws that prohibit gifts.

Minnesota's corporate co-chair is Bloomington resident John Gibbs, Vice President of State Government Affairs for Comcast. He's well acquainted with Minnesota Republicans, having donated $18,000 to Republican PACs and federal candidates (including Erik Paulsen and Tim Pawlenty) over the last three election cycles.

But the area that has gotten the most attention recently is the connection between ALEC's corporate sponsors and model legislation that serves their interests. For example, I detailed the connection between ALEC, Altria/US Tobacco, and proposed changes to Minnesota's moist snuff taxation in August. In an August Twin Cities Daily Planet article, Rep. Kiffmeyer brushes off the connection between corporate members and influence on legislation:
Kiffmeyer bristles at questions about corporate influence on model bills at ALEC. She said it’s her constitutional right to associate with whomever she wants, and said it would be “anti-American” to exclude any one party. “You mean I actually talk to people in other states who are legislators. Oh my gosh, what a shock,” she said. “How terrible that I’m serving my district by getting more educated and informed, using my time to do so, and having it portrayed as somehow that’s abnormal.”
And, continuing the "I'm just talking to people in other states" theme:
Kiffmeyer said that hasn’t been her experience at ALEC. She said the conference included many more nonprofits than companies, and said she hasn’t seen any Minnesota companies present.
I'm sure it will come as a shock to Rep. Kiffmeyer how many large Minnesota companies have been involved over the last decade.

Present Members
UnitedHealth Group: Minnesota's largest publicly-traded corporation is a significant supporter of ALEC. It was Chairman level ($50,000) sponsor of the 2011 ALEC Conference and led a presentation titled "Medicaid Crisis in the States: Private Sector Solutions You Can Use" at the 2011 ALEC Conference. I'm sure that Sen. Hann got the notes from somebody.
Xcel Energy: Minnesota-based Xcel is one of many energy companies that support ALEC. 2011 Wisconsin Delegation co-chair Amy Boyer is a Wisconsin-based lobbyist for Xcel and Koch Enterprises.
Vogel Law Firm: Vogel is a law firm with offices in North Dakota, Moorhead, and the Twin Cities. Bismarck based partner Joel Gilbertson is the 2011 North Dakota Delegation Corporate Co-Chair.

Past Members
Hutchinson Technology
West Publishing

Rep. Kiffmeyer hasn't seen any Minnesota companies? C'mon.

Follow me on Twitter @aaronklemz

Separated at Birth?

From the heralded "Separated at Birth?" series here at the Stool. Well, okay, I haven't done one for a while, and the best one is still the first one featuring Katherine Harris and Michele Bachmann, back in 2006. Two thousand and six? It seems like yesterday.

But this one is pretty good, I think.

That's Adam Sandler as Billy Madison.

And that's Rick Perry, fresh off his debate performance last week.

I heard this comparison floated somewhere on the 'net today, but I cannot even recall where. So my muse will remain, well, unheralded.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Somewhere out there

...Bradlee Dean is torn between his ego-driven joy at being profiled in the New York Times and his frustration that it's above the fold in the freakin' STYLE section.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Michele Bachmann's crony capitalism

This is what true opposition to crony capitalism looks like
Suddenly, cries of "crony capitalism!" are all the rage in the Republican primary field. While the provenance is a bit murky, Michele Bachmann's use of the term to pillory Rick Perry's association with Merck Pharmaceuticals seems to have started a Republican embrace of the term. Since then, Sarah Palin, John Boehner, David Vitter, and others have joined the bandwagon.

Crony capitalism has a long history in America, and Republicans are skilled practitioners of it. Bachmann's embrace of the term stings, and not just because of the obvious hypocrisy. Republican presidential candidates accusations of crony capitalism has gotten more media attention than the thousands who have gathered on Wall Street this week to truly protest crony capitalism.

The anti-corporate left has been vigorously opposing the increasing entwined political and business class for a very long time. Corporate media and corporate politicians have fastidiously avoided covering their protests and have consistently expanded their agenda of deregulation and corporate welfare. And now, after all this time, it's Michele Bachmann who grabs headlines with it? It burns, it burns!

Bachmann's latest j'accuse, branding President Obama a crony capitalist because a large investor in wireless startup LightSquared bundled contributions for Obama in 2008, is quite a case study. Philip Falcone, billionaire investor and hedge fund manager, is the investor in question. LightSquared is a 4G wireless startup that's had some trouble with the FCC because of possible interference between their network and GPS devices. Bachmann accuses Obama of leaning on the FCC to approve LightSquared's application, the FCC, the White House, and LightSquared all deny it. But the affair is much more than an "investor buys influence by donating to one party" story. It's a twisted narrative that starts and ends in Minnesota.

Philip Falcone's roots in Minnesota run deep. He grew up in Chisholm and became a star hockey player in high school who parlayed that into a scholarship at Harvard. He grew up poor, but has acquired  immense wealth through investing and his hedge fund Harbinger Capital Partners. He's a minority owner in the Minnesota Wild hockey team, and continues to donate to Minnesota political interests, including the Republican Party of Minnesota and Senator Norm Coleman. He made a big chunk of his money by shorting subprime mortgage bonds in 2007. And he's had a few run-ins with regulators. The SEC investigated Falcone over accusations a $113 million loan he received from Harbinger wasn't properly reported, and that Harbinger gave preferential treatment to some investors who wanted to withdraw funds during the financial meltdown. He sounds like just the kind of job creator that Republicans would want to protect from the grasping hands of financial regulators.

Falcone, like most Wall Street folks, has hedged his bets by spreading campaign donations widely among politicians of both major parties, though he is a "registered Republican." The recipient of his largesse? Everybody from President Obama to George W. Bush, from Norm Coleman to the Pro-Growth Action Team PAC. That's how crony capitalism works, it is a bipartisan enterprise where those who do business with the government seek to influence it.

Back to Minnesota, if there's one industry where Michele Bachmann should know about crony capitalism, it's the financial industry. She's carried more water for them on the Hill than Gunga Din, for God sake. A centerpiece of her "pro-growth" agenda is the repeal of the very tepid Dodd-Frank financial regulations. Not surprisingly, the financial industry is lining up to support Bachmann's presidential bid, an extension of their long-standing patronage of Bachmann's House campaigns.

It is the epitome of crony capitalism to deregulate very industry that's responsible for plunging us into a deep recession. It's even more jarring when you consider that of all the parts of this economy, it has been Wall Street that's received the most public assistance and is raking in record profits while Main Street suffers. Why do you think thousands have camped out on Wall Street this week to protest?

While it's offensive and ridiculous that Bachmann has gotten media traction with her "crony capitalism" charges, it's also an opportunity that progressives should seize. Cronyism is indeed rife in D.C., and that's a big reason for the American public's distrust of government. If we can't do a better job of articulating how the system is broken than a corporate shill like Bachmann, we're doomed to be ruled by people like her.

Follow me on Twitter @aaronklemz

(Photo courtesy of Flickr user David Shankbone)

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Garofalo appears in court on child neglect charge

Garafalo confers with counsel
Strib photo
It's the court of public opinion, of course, but that's still a court. The charge was laid, inter alia, in the Strib in an editorial on Sunday: The pass-along pain from school cuts.

Garofalo is a Republican member of the Minnesota House and served last term as the chair of the K-12 finance committee. He mounts his whining defense, Un-huh, don't look at me, in the Strib today.

First, the indictment:
In November, voters in just more than a third of Minnesota's 340 school districts will have school levies on their ballots. They'll be asked either to extend a previously approved tax or to raise property taxes to help local schools.

Traditionally, districts have used referendums to seek funds for buildings, special projects or other educational "extras.'' That's no longer the case.

A majority of the levies on ballots this fall would fund basics such as materials, books, technology and even teachers -- in other words, essential educational assets whose costs used to be covered by the state.

The growing dependence of schools on voter-approved dollars for basics demonstrates an ongoing problem in Minnesota.
The problem, quite simply, is Governor Gutshot and his merry band of Republican ideologues who have kicked the can of school finance -- and damn near everything else, too -- down the road for a decade.

And this absolutely takes the cake, also as recounted in the Strib editorial:
It's even more galling that some GOP lawmakers -- including Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, the chairman of the House Education Finance Committee -- have pledged to campaign against referendums, according to Minnesota Public Radio.
Here's Garofalo's stirring defense:
I am simply asking for accountability in this process. Even though districts are receiving $400, $500 and even $600 in per-pupil funding, some DFLers and district officials have falsely claimed that there were cuts, or that failing to pass a second increase in spending would result in cuts.
Accountability is a Republican synonym for "cut."

It isn't accountability you're after Pat. Two things of prime importance to Minnesotans: good schools and an affordable property tax burden. The Republicans took an extra shot at each this year, and Garofalo is justfiably worried about being fingered for the crime of damaging schools and raising property taxes.

Beth Hawkins at MinnPost also explains that Garofalo is being a bit of a manure spreader (the other post title under consideration) with his numbers. As with so many things with these can kickers, there is some accounting trickery involved. Particularly when inflation is factored in, it's no increase at all. (Please read Hawkins' article; it's too lengthy and too good to try to summarize.)

The other sweating defendant in the dock is the Republican Senate tax chair, Julianne Ortman, who was also out with her mea nota culpa in the Strib on Sunday. The thing that she doesn't want you to blame the Republicans for is the increase in local property taxes. Blame your local officials; we had nothing to do with it, squeaks Julianne! We're not cutting LGA! Except that the Republicans did cut LGA several years running, especially for cities "of the first class." Chanhassen, the site of Casa Ortman, is not a city of the first class.

Ortman is another of the bright lights in the Republican party who never heard of inflation.

Of course, there's also the little thing about getting rid of the homestead tax exemption. But I guess that's not the Republicans' fault, either.

With the delivery of property tax statements and the flurry of school district levies for operating funds, the not me act of Pat and Julianne won't play so well, except perhaps in the fat exurban districts where they live.

Swanson joins lawsuit against for-profit colleges

Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson announced Thursday that Minnesota would join a lawsuit against Education Management Corporation, owner of local for-profit colleges Art Institutes International Minnesota and Argosy College. The lawsuit alleges that EMC illegally paid recruiters bonuses for the number of students they recruited and seeks repayment of over $11 billion in federal financial aid received between 2003 and 2011. Since the False Claims Act, which is the basis of the federal lawsuit, allows for triple damages, this is potentially a $33 billion lawsuit.

While Minnesota's portion of the lawsuit only adds a measly $1.3 million in claims to the suit, the role of state aid in the financial structure of the for-profit college industry is vital. Federal regulations state that no more than 90% of a for-profit college's revenue can come from Title IV federal financial aid or it can lose financial aid eligibility. The 90/10 rule, as it is called, is meant to prevent for-profit colleges from existing solely as financial aid mills, but the rule is riddled with loopholes. Rep. John Kline has spearheaded efforts to modify or repeal the rule from his perch as Chair of the House Education and Workforce Committee. 

For example, Minnesota State Grant funds aren't federal aid, so they don't count toward the 90% cap. That means that every state aid dollar that goes to a for-profit school allows them to take another 9 dollars in federal financial aid. Therefore, the $1.3 million that EMC received in Minnesota State Grant funds allowed them to receive another $11.7 million in federal aid funds without violating the 90% cap. That's particularly relevant, since Argosy (one of the colleges named in the lawsuit) reports all of their campuses together for the 90/10 rule. As of 2008, Argosy got over 82% of its revenue from Title IV. The Minnesota State Grant money comes in handy as Argosy approaches the 90% cap.

Also, some forms of federal student aid don't count toward the calculation. The biggest one is college aid for military veterans. Not surprisingly, this has meant an aggressive push by for-profit colleges to recruit veterans, since every dollar in college assistance means they can take 9 more Title IV dollars without violating the 90/10 rule. The Star Tribune reports that EMC's most recent securities filing showed that they received 90.3% of their revenue from federal aid. 

Swanson's choice to join the suit is especially important since Minnesota is one of the most generous states in subsidizing for-profit colleges with state aid programs. Hopefully it will shine a light on their dubious recruitment practices and the outsized debt burdens their students bear. And maybe, just maybe, it will lead Minnesota to reinvest in the public higher education system that's seen its funding slashed over the last decade.

Follow me on Twitter @aaronklemz

Senators like this, please

It's all over the place today, but if you hadn't seen Elizabeth Warren's very direct take on taxes and job creators, you needed to see it.

Follow me on Twitter @aaronklemz

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

I'm sorry, have we met before?

Troy Davis may or may not be dead as I write. He was convicted of capital murder in Georgia (where Furman v. Georgia arose, invalidating the death penalty when Spot was just a pup, or a legal pup, anyway) on the basis of mostly recanted eyewitness testimony.

Have you even gone to a party -- or any other gathering, for that matter -- and introduced yourself to the same person twice? I'll bet you have.

Or seen someone in a place where you aren't used to seeing him or her, and being unable to come up with a name? I'll bet you've done that, too.

Cognition and recollection are uncertain things; all human endeavor is fraught with error.

It takes a lot of hubris to put a man to death under the circumstances presented in the Davis case. Circumstances that will, I hope, haunt the Davis death merchants for the rest of their days.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

I am not a scientist!

Really, Michele, we kinda had that figured out

But that doesn't stop Bachmann from stating or repeating pseudo-scientific drivel. Just the latest is the remark about the HPV vaccine causing mental retardation. As the Des Moines Register points out, Bachmann is not only not a scientist, she isn't a doctor either, and she ought to quit playing one on the teevee.

As this clip of one of the Drinking Liberally Players quoting Bachmann shows, Bachmann has known she isn't a scientist for quite a long time. You'd think perhaps it would have sunk in by now.

Who wants to play the dead person?

Jesus Camp: the road show

"Twisted evangelist" Becky Fisher takes Jesus Camp on the road to Singapore.

Via Buzzflash and JoeMyGod.

Watch for the next exciting episode when Pastor Becky has the kids reenact Abraham's sacrifice of his son Isaac where Isaac is saved at the last minute! Careful with that knife, kids!

But Michele, who will pay your salary?

Because the tooth fairy won't do it

Hot Dish Politics reports that Michele Bachmann responded to a question from a student ("Out of every dollar that I earn, how much do you think that I deserve to keep?") by saying, "I think he deserves to keep every part of the dollar that he earns."

This was on a radio show (the question was from a student in Florida who asked it during the recent Tea Party debate, but Bachmann didn't -- apparently; I didn't watch -- get a chance to answer) in Chicago yesterday afternoon.

We can speculate about the difference between "every part" and "all" in the mind of Bachmann; it seems an odd construction, since "what part" wasn't even in the question.

Even more odd is the reaction of the Bachmann campaign to the question and its later followup by media, What's that supposed to mean?
Bachmann's campaign spokesman and woman did not respond to a request for clarification of what exactly Bachmann meant and if she would do away with taxes.
Note that it now takes two people to issue evasions and blow smoke to cover for Michele. It is a big job!

The very first comment to the Strib story, posted just a few minutes after the story, raised the question that forms the title to this post: Who will pay Michele's salary? Who will pay Marcus' clinic for its sub rosa program to pray away the gay?

Or Michele, who will pay for the military to keep all the scary Muslims at bay?

Here's an illuminating comment made after Bachmann's answer to the question:
"It's his labor and too many people think that government owns that money when Tyler is the one that earned it," Bachmann said.

"The equation is all wrong. Now government says hey we want to spend this money, you better go out and earn it so that we can spend it. Government just assumes that all of our money belongs to them. That's what's wrong with government today," she continued.
Michele, Michele, Michele. You know that the Republican Party doesn't mind taxing labor! It's capital that Republicans don't want to tax! You've said yourself that poor people should pay some income taxes.

The anthropomorphic claim that government "assumes that all our money belongs to them" is patently stupid -- and demagogic. Government is an "it," not a "them," and it doesn't make assumptions because, well, it can't. The idea that anyone in government thinks it should have all of everybody's money suffers from paranoia. Federal tax rates are the lowest they have been in my lifetime; the consequences for our economy and our society are apparent.

Let's be direct: Michele Bachmann is not a patriot, Tea Party or otherwise; she is a simple sociopath who panders to the other character defectives like her. She never exhibits the smallest concern for the well-being of the nation or all of its citizens. Hiring her for the job will just accelerate the decline of both.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Cravaack calls for fire suppression, votes to cut fire suppression funds

Brant Lake in BWCA, 4 years after fire
Rep. Chip Cravaack stated last Thursday that the Forest Service should change its policy to quickly extinguish any fire in Boundary Waters Wilderness. At a Friday press conference, he stated "What we need to do is, we need to make sure that we have the vehicles and the capability of being able to fight fires." But in March, he joined with his party and voted to rescind $200 million from the Forest Service's wildland fire management program.

The arrival of Chip Cravaack on the scene of the Pagami Creek fire demonstrated why politicians should stay out of wildland management decisions. I could use the word "demagogue" to describe his actions, but perhaps I should choose one of its synonyms: firebrand, hothead, inflamer, or simply politician. For politicians like Cravaack, a natural event like a forest fire is a chance to stoke the smoldering resentment from the sixties and seventies over the designation of the BWCA as a wilderness area.

Appearing with Governor Dayton and Senators Franken and Klobuchar on Friday, Cravaack deferred a reporter's question about his plan to seek an act of Congress to force the Forest Service to immediately fight any fire, saying "now is not the time to be pointing fingers." Of course, that's exactly what he is doing by criticizing the policy to allow natural fires to burn unless they threaten private property or human lives.

The 90,000+ acre Pagami Creek fire began as a lightning strike one month ago and smoldered for weeks in a remote area of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Rising winds and weeks of dry weather turned what looked like a harmless brushfire into one of the largest conflagrations in state history. So far, the Pagami Creek fire has been nearly entirely contained to the wilderness area and has destroyed only one structure, a DNR warden cabin. Let's hope it stays that way.

While review of this fire should lead the Forest Service to examine why their predictions about the threat from the Pagami Creek fire were incorrect, the policy itself is a sound one. In wilderness areas, fire is a natural part of the landscape. The 1988 conflagration in Yellowstone National Park shows that when you suppress fires, you create the conditions for larger, more destructive fires later.

In any case, Cravaack's sudden concern about wildfires is interesting, considering just 6 months ago he joined with his party to vote for a continuing resolution that slashed $200 million in funds from the Forest Service's fire management account. And Senators Franken and Klobuchar don't get a free pass - they voted for it too. 

Cravaack's laudatory words for the firefighters and his sudden interest in legislation to substitute pandering for scientific wildfire management shouldn't be allowed to conceal this vote.

Follow me on Twitter @aaronklemz

(Photo taken by the author in August 2011, video courtesy of The Uptake.)

Jason Lewis tilts at windmills

It's not the worst thing he ever wrote, Mitch

You can buy a suit
just like Jason's at
But perhaps it's among the funniest things he ever wrote. Because on Sunday, he dons an eagle suit to play environmentalist and shed crocodile tears (don't bother to write) about the birds killed -- including the avatar for our nation, the bald eagle -- by windmills.

On the next breath, Jason pens this:
Meanwhile, hope for a more-sensible energy future remains hostage to a few activists who get their talking points from movies like "Gasland" (environmentalists used to love natural gas until they realized you had to drill for it). Hydraulic fracturing, known pejoratively as "fracking," has the potential to dramatically alter America's economic landscape by lowering the costs of domestic energy poduction [sic, but that maybe the way Jason spelled it in the edit-free environment in the Strib editorial department].
Followed by this:
The Rand Corp. (a nonprofit research organization) says there are 800 billion barrels of recoverable shale oil -- three times the reserves of Saudi Arabia -- in the United States alone. Remarkably, "if the full potential of domestic oil and gas production could be achieved while also increasing imports from Canadian oil, all of America's liquid fuels could come from secure North American sources within 15 years," notes the American Petroleum Institute [not a nonprofit research organization] in a study released last week.

One key component of fracture drilling is silica sand, ubiquitous in the sandstone bluffs throughout southeastern Minnesota. That's why another Texas company, Windsor Permian, wants to start constructing sand mines and transportation facilities in and around Red Wing for its operations in the lucrative Permian basin. And it plans to do it with no "renewable energy credits" or state CBED tariffs.
So if you're following this, Jason stands foresquare with the eagles but thinks it's fine to mine and frack away! He moans about the noise and vibration of the windmills (!) but doesn't mention the noisy mechanical hell of excavating equipment and the fleet of dump trucks to haul the stuff away.

And as to fracking itself, it is becoming ever more apparent that it is environmentally risky.

Here's a bit from an op-ed in a Hudson Valley (NY) newspaper:
THE matter [of the safety of fracking] deserves an honest, scientific look, which, quite simply, it has never gotten thanks to an extraordinary exemption from federal regulation that the practice received in 2005 [gee, who was the president then, or the vice president, for that matter?].

The New York Times has dug into the matter and found that many scientists and regulators increasingly have questioned the environmental safety of hydrofracking.

Potential environmental harm includes the use of known carcinogens in fluids injected into wells, the creation of wastewater that is often inadequately treated, and the discharge of radioactive wastewater into surface waters, some of which are sources of municipal drinking water.
Some of you have probably seen the news reports of residents near fracking operations who can set the water piped into their homes afire, too. Neat!

The flat-out amazing part about all of this is that Jason almost (?) certainly doesn't get a nickel for his oil-world propaganda.

It is regrettable that birds are killed by windmills, and we ought to do what we can to mitigate that. Birds are killed by tall buildings too, but Jason's not advocating pulling them down. People are killed by the thousand by cars, but Jason isn't saying we should go back to horse-drawn wagons.

If you look around, I am sure you can find conservatives just like Jason who have said about, say, nuclear power, that all energy production entails some risk, and that's true.

But when you look at the health, environmental, and climate change risks of hydrocarbons and compare it favorably to wind energy, well then, you're a fool in an eagle suit.

Update: Science Lags as Health Problems Emerge near Gas Fields:

Pro Publica photo

Sunday, September 18, 2011

"Hardly different from lying"

Jay Rosen, the journalism professor at NYU, has been sharply critical of National Public Radio for its "He said, she said" treatment of a story about new -- and Kafkaesque -- restrictions on providers of abortions in Kansas. Here's what Rosen wrote:
In last week’s NPR report, the dispute was about the new requirements for abortion clinics in Kansas. These rules were an attempt to drive the few remaining clinics out of business, said abortion providers and their defenders. Nope, just common sense policies for protecting women’s health, said opponents of abortion. I didn’t think that leaving it there was good enough, so I sent a complaint to the NPR ombudsman.
NPR reacted, and the reporter did, too, saying they didn't want to "take sides."

Ladies and gentlemen at NPR: the truth doesn't have a side.

The media commentator Steve Buttry picked up the story, and you can really tell this guy is old school:
Jay provides an excellent example of reporting that is accurate but falls short of the journalistic principle of seeking the truth. That was a key point of the workshop [that Buttry recently taught]: Yes, we taught about getting quotes accurate and verifying facts, but we stressed that accurate but incomplete or accurate but lacking context doesn’t fulfill the responsibility to seek, find and report the truth.

While I have called for updating some of the details in the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics, I love the direct, elegant wording of its first principle: Seek Truth and Report It. “He said, she said” reporting shrugs off this responsibility. In fact, it presents lies equally with the truth, which is hardly different from lying.
For me, this crystalizes a truth about modern reporting and the discomfort that I have with it. It isn't editorializing to try to get behind the quotes; it's just trying to find the truth.

And here's an update before the post even goes up: read the comments to Rosen's post, linked above.

One of two things is true


Our military is infected with treason, OR

Andrew Brietbart is an even bigger poisonous, bilious windbag than we thought.

You know where my money is.

Thanks to Roger Ebert.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Our man Doug Tice

Is certainly a man of limited vision, isn't he? Here's the gauntlet he threw down for readers:
With a serious and long-term budget crisis facing America and Minnesota, the Star Tribune’s opinion editors invite readers to join a discussion about what’s to be done -- and about the need for shared sacrifice. The question, recently posed to public policy experts by a local think tank, is this:

What governmental services and benefits are you personally willing to give up to help balance the public books? Could you live with lower Social Security or Medicare benefits? A later retirement age? Fewer national or state parks? Reduced school funding? Less highway or mass transit construction and maintenance? Higher taxes – for yourself?

These are just examples to get your thinking started. But readers will have the best chance of publication online and/or in the print newspaper if they sincerely try to identify personal sacrifices they are willing to make [emphasis added].
Who is this local "think tank?" Doug doesn't say but, of course, it's the Center of the American Experiment, the sheltered workshop where Katherine Kersten hangs her rhinestone tiara.

"Long term" is a, well, term, that can be applied to our current situation, but "serious" and "crisis" are not. Tice is just playing the clumsy propagandist here.

Some of the possibilities Tice doesn't offer include: 1) reducing the bloated military budget substantially to a point where we maybe spend only half as much as the rest of the world combined (although that would undoubtedly bother Peter Hagseth, another of the poisonous windbags who writes at CAE), 2) cutting back on subsidies to giant agribusiness companies, 3) genuine enforcement of tax laws, 3) elimination of tax breaks to oil companies, and well, the list goes on.

But Tice, and Mitch Pearlstein, and Katie, and Peter Hagseth want Grandma to write in and offer up her blood pressure medication. Anti-American knaves and blackguards, every one of them.

Who has the better production values?

Michele Bachmann or Osama bin Laden?

If you go and look at some Osama bin Laden videos on YouTube, you'll see that bin Laden usually beats Michele, no plastic plants, anyway, and especially on the audio, even though he's the one in the cave.

The Bachmann video has been posted so many places I can't even remember where I saw it first.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Tea Party brigade struggles to put out BWCA fire

Plywood walls were plastered with maps showing the growing footprint of the wildfire that's raging across Minnesota wilderness of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. Dozens of officials summoned to help subdue the blaze that has consumed more than 100,000 acres of forest crowded into a small conference center to discuss the difficult task facing 500 firefighters. 
It's complex and dangerous work. The vast landscape means it can take hours for firefighters to reach the flames. Many teams have to paddle canoes to the front lines, then set up makeshift campsites. "We have a challenging situation," said Jim Sanders, Superior National Forest supervisor. 
The quote and the picture are real enough and from the Strib, but the headline -- obviously -- is fictional. There is, in fact, some controversy whether the Forest Service moved fast enough after the fire was started by lightning and whether logging should have occurred after the blow down in 1999 (the fire isn't exactly in the blow down area), but there isn't any question that the Forest Service -- an instrumentality of the dag nab gubmint -- is performing a social good.

Which brings me to the real point of the story. Walter Hudson, the spittle-flecked chair of the North Star Tea Party Patriots, penned an op-ed that appeared in yesterday's Star Tribune. He's speaking to the adoption of a supermajority requirement to raise taxes in Minnesota, but here's what Walter thinks of social goods:
Government ought not "function" to any whimsical end. Government should function only when its aim is proper, only when it protects individual rights.
You can read how Walter concludes that a simple majority vote is whimsical; I'm not going to try to explain it.

What is whimsical is the fact that Walter heads a group with the word "patriot" in it. Patriots love their country. Walter's patriotism extends no further than the tip of his nose, or his stomach, whichever sticks out farther.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Another Republican myth exploded: Federal outsourcing costs government billions

A new report from the Project on Government Oversight has found that " 33 of 35 occupations, the government actually paid billions of dollars more to hire contractors than it would have cost government employees to perform comparable services." It shouldn't surprise anyone that this directly contradicts conventional wisdom perpetrated by Republicans and even many Democrats.

In her excellent book Shadow Elite author Janine Wedel explained in detail how we've come to this point, and it's not a pretty story. Wedel explains that the theory of competition for federal contracts is a complete chimera and that federal outsourcing merely replaces a semi-transparent and accountable federal workforce with an opaque and unaccountable private monopoly workforce.

First, for many federal contracts there is no competition. Oftentimes there isn't even a bidding process anymore. Secondly, the companies that obtain federal contracts many times don't even use their resources that serve the private market to service the federal government. Instead, they setup separate divisions of their companies to deal exclusively with Washington so that any supposed efficiencies derived from private enterprise are obviated.

While partisan Democrats may latch onto this study to show the hypocrisy and error of Republicans in pushing the privatization of public services, it was a Democratic president and vice president who put the policy on steroids. Bill Clinton and Al Gore's program of "re-inventing" government radically shrank government payrolls while expanding spending and reducing both the transparency and oversight of federal government work.

Wedel explains in her book that Clinton and Gore radically changed the structure of federal contracting. Prior to the the Clinton Administration federal agencies that outsourced contracts had to post the desired work, take bids, and award a contract. Federal employees then monitored the work and evaluated it after the contract was finished.

Clinton/Gore changed the process to one of a company being "pre-approved" for government contracting. The result was that agencies now can contract directly with an outsourcing firm for work with a pre-approved contractor. Contracts are still required to be posted and bid on, but in reality it doesn't happen much of the time. Instead federal employees use personal contacts with private companies to hire them for work. Often times the requirements for the work are not publicly posted before, during, or even after the work is done. And because Clinton/Gore fired so many federal workers the institutional memory is so destroyed that no one is left to either monitor or evaluate the work, sometimes resulting in separate divisions of the same private company being hired to do the work, oversee it, and evaluate it. Is it any wonder that oursourcing federal work now costs twice as much as doing it in house? The only surprise is that it took so long to prove it.

Aw, who's an ALEC?

I contacted Rep. Kiffmeyer's office a couple of times to get a roster of members of ALEC -- the American Legislative Exchange Council -- in the Minnesota legislature. I believe it was Rep. Kiffmeyer (she's the chair of the state's ALEC delegation) who said there were thirty members of ALEC in the legislature, but a handful are still unaccounted for.

Anyway, I got phone message from Rep. Kiffmeyer's LA Wednesday, relaying a message from the representative:
ALEC is a private organization, so you should contact it directly for membership information.
I'm not outing anybody.
Why an organization so involved in public policy and having members who are public figures and public officials should be private is beyond me, but there you have it.

The Cucking Stool: People's Choice Most Valuable Blog

CBS Local (WCCO radio and television) has announced the winners of it inaugural Most Valuable Blogger competition. And mirable dictu, the Cucking Stool won as the People's Choice in the local affairs division. Our thanks to all the people who voted for us, and to CBS for sponsoring the competition.

There was a great group of nominees; I especially want to mention a couple of them. First, congratulations to the eponymous Minnesota Brown for the win of the Editor's Choice in the local affairs category. It is also a small irony -- at least -- that some of us here found out we'd won from a tweet by Karl Bremer, the proprietor of Ripple in Stillwater, one of the other nominees. Karl does great investigative reporting (including for the Dump Bachmann blog) that he couples with effective activism in his home town.

Thanks again, everybody.

Update: I started the blog a few years ago, but it is now a group effort. Thanks to MNO, Rob, and Aaron.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Netroots Nation Eve Drinking Liberally: the video

Many of you were there on June 15th for the Netroots Nation Eve edition of Drinking Liberally at the 331 Club. Here's a short video of some of our guests that night. See how many DLers you recognize.

I am sorry this took a while to post; I gave up on the complexity of the editing, and our videographer that night was kind enough to put this together.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Spotty (tm) - Twitter division

This is the first Spotty (tm) ever awarded for a Twitter post. It goes to Mike Murphy, who is described by the Slate's John Dickerson as a GOP strategist:

Remember, a Spotty (tm) is awarded to the author of an op-ed, a letter to the editor, a blog post or comment - and now a tweet - that Spot wishes he had written himself.

Medallion by Tild

Won't somebody think of the free market?

The antics of college partisans are always cute, but the Minnesota College Republicans really are masters of the image event that backfires. I mean, who could forget their 2004 masterpiece shaming Matt Entenza for not shoveling his walk. And what a visual it was, when they showed up with media in tow to see a perfectly clear stretch of sidewalk. Zing!

While the cast of characters has changed since 2004, the same penchant for hackneyed protests has apparently remained strong among the MNCRs. This time, the eager puppies turned their boundless energy toward the College of St. Benedict's removal of bottled water from the bookstore and vending machines. CSB still permits bottled water on campus, they just don't sell it anymore. The problem? A violation of free market principles. Confused? Let Chairman Ryan Lyk explain:
“We are defending the free-market system. Our message to the administration is that college is a time for learning. If the students do not want to buy plastic water bottles, they are free not to do so. However, just as government should not ban plastic bottles in America, a school administration should not ban the sale of plastic water bottles on their campus.”
I'm pretty sure you can get your Milton Friedman secret decoder ring confiscated for this.

There's nothing free market about compelling a proprietor to sell a product. Let's say the vegan club organizes a protest on campus to decry a lack of vegan options in the bookstore's convenience food section. Would the MNCRs say that's a violation of the free-market system? 

I agree with Lyk, if students don't want to buy plastic water bottles, they are free not to do so. But the MNCRs are arguing for the converse of that statement: if a student wants to buy a bottle of water, it's the school's obligation to sell it. I don't think you'll find many free-marketeers to support that statement.

And of course, the student has a choice in the free market to attend CSB or to go elsewhere for their education. 

Actually, Tony Angelo said it best (and much more succinctly):

Follow me on Twitter @aaronklemz

We are doomed

From Politico, we hear of Michele Bachmann's comments on television this morning demonstrating her grasp of science, this time aimed at conjuring up more reasons to stop the use of the vaccine against cervical cancer:
"I will tell you that I had a mother last night come up to me here in Tampa, Fla., after the debate. She told me that her little daughter took that vaccine, that injection, and she suffered from mental retardation thereafter," Bachmann said.

She continued: "The mother was crying what she came up to me last night. I didn't know who she was before the debate. This is the very real concern and people have to draw their own conclusions."
Bachmann uttered this the morning after taking Rick Perry to task in last night's debate for requiring the vaccine in Texas for girls of a certain age. Don't worry, Perry flip-flopped on the order and quickly realized that dead women are the way into the hearts of the Republican base these days, so his campaign is not doomed.

Between Bachmann's lies aimed at stopping the use of a life-saving vaccine, the cheering last week about Perry's execution record in Texas, and the shouts of "let him die" during a question aimed at Ron Paul last night, there is little doubt that the GOP is the party of death. One can almost hear the quiet clicking of Madame Defarge's needles.

Bradlee Dean is back on the air!

Bradlee and Jake have gotten their traveling christian freedom patent medicine show back on the Patriot, AM 1280 on Saturday afternoon. The station must really need the money!

Many of you will recall the tracksuit preacher's "prayer" at the Minnesota Legislature last spring, and his subsequent stepping off the airy stage at AM 1280. But now he's back, and many of us, including Ken Avidor, want to know why:

Well, station honchos -- at least the ones among the worshippers -- aren't saying, are they? At least one wag remarked that it was because Avidor is not a journalist. He's not only a journalist, he's a biographer, a regular Bachmann's Boswell and chronicler of all her fellow travelers.

Democratic think tank lies about charter schools in report shilling for them

In a crucial sector President Obama is killing the progressive movement: education. Not only are his policies devastating to teachers and their unions, his Race to the Top and the focus on testing, and its concomitant narrowing of curriculum,  is destroying the teaching of critical thinking skills. If you add in the authoritarian teaching methods Obama has set the movement back decades in this important sector - the shaping of young minds.

Unfortunately the Democratic think tank Center for American Progress is aiding and abetting the attack on public education, as this evaluation of a CAP report by the Great Lakes Center for for Education Research and Practice makes clear:
Review: Center for American Progress Report Biased, Ignores Facts

Report cherry-picks evidence to promote charter school agenda, new review finds

EAST LANSING, Mich. (Sept. 13, 2011) — A Center for American Progress (CAP) report that advocates for turning struggling public schools into charter schools is biased and ignores extensive contrary evidence, according to a new academic review released today.

The report, Charting New Territory: Tapping Charter Schools to Turn Around the Nation's Dropout Factories, was written by Melissa Lazarín, CAP's associate director of education policy. Lazarín's report was thoroughly reviewed by Dr. Tina Trujillo, an assistant professor at the University of California, Berkeley, for the Think Twice think tank review project.

The review was produced by the National Education Policy Center (NEPC), housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, with funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

Charting New Territory argues that charter school operators should have a more prominent role in "fixing" America's consistently low-performing high schools. The report based this recommendation on the experiences of the Los Angeles and Philadelphia school districts. However, Lazarín overlooks preliminary research on Philadelphia's charter "turnarounds," which showed an increase in the number of uncertified, inexperienced teachers.

Lazarín's report calls for expanding Charter Management Organization autonomy over all aspects of school operation. The recommendations include weakening union contracts, ensuring financial support for turnaround schools, relaxing regulations on these schools, and cultivating greater public support for such arrangements.
However, the report's recommendations and findings were based mainly on conversations with charter school operators, district administrators, education "reform" consultants and charter school advocates lacking previous turnaround experience, according to Trujillo's review. Trujillo also found that the report also drew heavily on a variety of non-scientific sources such as blog posts, charter operators' marketing materials, and ideologically oriented think tank publications, thus making it a dangerous guide for policymakers looking to turn around struggling schools.

Furthermore, the "reforms" suggested in Lazarín's report would do nothing more than turn our nation's neediest schools into "laboratories for educational experiments, notwithstanding existing evidence that the experiments will not succeed," according to Trujillo.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Another September anniversary

The one the right wing in America wants you to forget

Where were you the morning of September 15, 2008? What did you do, as you watched the markets spiral downward in one of the biggest drops in the history of the Dow Jones? What did you think, as you watched the employees of Lehman Brothers filing out of the office tower with their possessions in cardboard boxes? Or have you already forgotten how we got into this mess?

Three years ago, the collapse of Lehman Brothers and purchase of Merrill Lynch over one September weekend represented the scariest moment in the financial meltdown. The announcement that there would be no bailout for Lehman and the corresponding bankruptcy filing set off a chain reaction. Lehman's collapse was followed the next day by an $80 billion bailout of AIG, and the passage of the Troubled Asset Relief Program on October 3rd. Lending seized up, housing values plummeted, and the economy ground to a halt, losing over 500,000 jobs a month for the rest of 2008.

By the time Barack Obama took the oath of office in January 2009, the economic tailspin had resulted in over 2.6 million lost jobs in the previous year. The Recovery Act was passed with only 3 Republican votes in February 2009. That same month we lost another 651,000 jobs. By then, the first time anybody had done anything to boost employment, the U.S. had already fallen a staggering 6.2 million jobs behind what was needed to maintain 2007 levels of employment. At the beginning of 2009, we had 11.1 million unemployed people in the U.S. As of August 2011, we have 14 million. That's nearly the combined population of New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago, America's three largest cities

Over 6 million of those have been unemployed for over 6 months. When you include all people who can work and want to work full-time but are not so employed, 16.2% of the U.S. working age population is unemployed or underemployed. That's nearly one in six American adults. This is a crisis. Worse, it's a crisis with a genealogy that has been denied and obscured by the same people who are its progenitors. The DNA of this crisis is a right wing agenda of deregulation and tax cutting abetted by Democrats who too often share the belief that regulation and taxation are the problem. 

Consider Michele Bachmann's 9 point plan in her response to President Obama's job speech:

1)   Repatriate American business dollars earned from overseas,
2)   Massively cut spending and the size of government,
3)   Repeal Obamacare, which is the government takeover of America’s healthcare system,
4)   Cut taxes, including corporate taxes,
5)   Repeal Dodd-Frank,
6)   Repeal job killing regulations,
7)   Increase exports by finalizing free trade agreements,
8)   Spur new investment in America, inspire innovation,
9)   Provide job creating energy solutions, including decreased regulations on developing new energy supplies from our abundant domestic energy resources.

Far from being short on cash, American corporations quickly returned to profitability and are now sitting on the largest pile of cash in recorded history. Unregulated credit default swaps, junk mortgages packaged as AAA bonds, and years of blind faith in a self-regulating financial sector caused the financial collapse. Tax rates had never been lower in my lifetime than they were in September 2008, and they are even lower today. Dozens of Fortune 500 including giants GE, Exxon, IBM, and Yahoo pay little or no corporate income tax since 2008. The number of local government workers has fallen by 550,000 since its peak in September 2008. Despite ratifying free trade agreements with 11 countries during the Bush presidency, we saw labor shift overseas. Despite 8 years of a Texas oil man in office, with all of the corresponding access and subsidies, gasoline averaged over $4/gallon on September 15, 2008. Or have we forgotten that too?

We do not have an over-taxed, over-regulated market place. There is no shortage of corporate cash or corporate profit. The "job creators" have never had lower tax rates on their capital gains or their income. We have "freer" trade than ever. We have fewer government employees, and continue to slash their wages and benefits. Real wages for American workers have been falling for a decade, and American labor productivity is incredibly high. 

The bottom line is that the economy will not recover until we have more people working for higher wages and with more job security. So far, conservatives have successfully played on the fears and divisions of American workers to advance their political ambitions while rewarding their corporate donors. And at its best, President Obama's triangulation strategy blunts the worst of the GOP agenda while accepting the premise that taxation and regulation are the problem.   

The transformation of the people who caused this crisis into victims of a "gangster government" will go down as one of the greatest PR campaigns in history. But we are reaching the nadir of this message, if only someone has the courage to articulate a response.

This response starts by remembering September 15th.

Follow me on Twitter @aaronklemz

(Photo: Wikipedia)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Michele Bachmann on the causes of hurricanes and earthquakes!

The Drinking Liberally Players got back together at the 331 Club last Thursday night to declaim more quotes of Michele Bachmann, especially on her "evolving" position on the causes of natural disasters. See if you can count 'em all!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The twin towers were bombed by cultural relativism

Or Evil = Muslim
Strib photo
That is the subtext of Katherine Kersten's column Sunday, September 11, 2011. It is indeed a regrettable thing that the Strib's star bigot got the Sunday slot for the tenth anniversary of that horrible day.

Katherine Kersten is the lament of the Plain of the Blackbirds, the Horst Wessel song, and every other ethnic revenge fantasy you can think of rolled up into one odious, vicious little ball. Kersten's hatred is boundless, still in full flower after ten years.

As she has done on numberless occasions, she equates the evil done by men to the act of Lucifer -- or maybe Mohammed -- and bemoans our failure to pay close enough attention to Western Civ 101. If we had only followed through with Pope Urban II, or even the Spanish Inquisition -- and the way it dealt with those pesky Spanish Moors -- we wouldn't have the problems we have today!

I don't intend to quote a single word of her poisonous screed; you'll have to read it on your own. But it would be a mistake to think that she is doing anything beside stoking the fires of religious and cultural hatred.

Dante never ran into her, or he would have imagined another circle of hell.

Update: I was reading again this evening (Sunday) the words of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson right after the attacks of 9/11; see if you think they are the melody for Kersten's tone deaf harmony:
Television evangelists Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, two of the most prominent voices of the religious right, said liberal civil liberties groups, feminists, homosexuals and abortion rights supporters bear partial responsibility for Tuesday's terrorist attacks because their actions have turned God's anger against America.

"God continues to lift the curtain and allow the enemies of America to give us probably what we deserve," said Falwell, appearing yesterday on the Christian Broadcasting Network's "700 Club," hosted by Robertson.

"Jerry, that's my feeling," Robertson responded. "I think we've just seen the antechamber to terror. We haven't even begun to see what they can do to the major population."

Falwell said the American Civil Liberties Union has "got to take a lot of blame for this," again winning Robertson's agreement: "Well, yes."
You ought to be hearing the echo of Michele Bachmann here, too.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Don't pin Michele on us!

The new book by the Dump Michele Bachmann authors

Many of you know by now that the authors of the Dump Michele Bachmann blog (and Ripple in Stillwater, too) have written a book about Bachmann that will come out about the same time as her own book, God is my Straight Man. (That's won't really be the title; it is just my suggestion.)

Andy Mannix at City Pages interviewed Ken Avidor, one of the authors, about the book; you can find it at the link). One of the motivations for the book, tentative titled The Madness of Michele Bachmann: A Broad-minded Survey of a Small-Minded Candidate, was:
I cringe whenever I hear people say, "What's wrong with you Minnesotans?" It's nice to have a book that kind of explains the Bachmann phenomenon, so people have an idea that we're not all to blame for this.

It's thumbs down for the needle, Rick

AP Photo
This is a photo from the recent debate by the candidates for the Republican nomination to run against President Obama in 2012. The gesturing, grinning boob on the right -- looking especially presidential -- is, of course, Rick Perry. Will Ferrell can do this guy in his sleep.

Perry's biggest applause lines came when the subject of the number of people executed on Perry's watch came up. That is what the "thumbs up" was doubtlessly about -- acknowledging the people who clapped the loudest for death. This applause was the most telling part of the debate, revealing for everyone to see what the modern Republican party has become.

An open letter to people who write open letters

Please don't.

That's it. Because if you do, you will probably -- nay, with virtual certainty -- pen such a turgid, self-aggrandizing polemic, so full of grievance and resentment -- not to mention simple pig ignorance -- that you will doubtlessly reveal yourself as the narcissistic boob that you are.

If you don't believe me, I offer this:

First paragraph of Bradlee Dean's letter
You can read all of Pastor Bradlee's plea for a return to sanity -- and the Bronze Age -- at Dump Michele Bachmann.

So all of you out there with pen poised -- and you, not to mention we -- know who you are: save yourself some embarrassment.

Obama's jobs and schools proposals: Is this a backdoor to the further destruction of public education?

Jim Horn at Schools Matter has a disturbing post about how President Obama's proposed stimulus plan plus a new House Bill might pave the way for an expansion of charter schools and further corporatization of public education. I'm quoting the first two paragraphs of his post, but please read the whole thing:
As the President warms up his teleprompter for this evening's big speech, the House is talking up H.R. 2218, a bill intended to hasten the corporatization of K12 schools and the further demise of public education, from pre-K through College. The numbers haven't been worked out yet, but hundreds of millions and maybe billions in public school funds will end up diverted to corporate welfare charter schools if this bill becomes law.  The Bill contains grant provisions for charter schools and charter school construction, which no doubt will fit in nicely with Obama's plan to finally fund some school construction.  Could the big announcement this evening provide cover for supporting this bill to fully energize the resegregation of American schools?

Charter schools offer a terrific example of the coalesence of both neoliberal and neconservative goals around a single issue, even though both sides are coming from different angles.  In the case of neolibs like the George Miller (one of  2 Dems co-sponsoring this school corporatization plan), they favor the No Excuses charters as a cheap way to create children who are eager to become adults trained to be complicit in their own subjugation by the corporate state.  This cheapest form of social engineering for disadvantaged children celebrates, in the end, the 40 to 50 percent of kids who work through these corporate reform schools and, thus, are cognitively and behaviorally altered in the KIPP or KIPPist methods to produce transformed, automatistic adolescents.  The ones who wash out are thrown back to the exploded public schools of last resort that have been labeled as failures by a decade of racist and classist testing, where they are allowed to mature enough to be tried in an adult court, and sentenced.  This is the neoliberal method of dealing with the "civil rights issue of our generation," as Arne has called this psychologically abusive and miseducative imposition of a segregated "self-help" protocol on steroids.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

NCLB Waivers -- Relief For Schools, Or More Of The Same?

I haven't posted around here for awhile, but today I have a guest post up at the Campaign For America's Future website on No Child Left Behind waivers. Check it out if you have the time.

ALEC's Lackeys: Official King Edition

Earlier, I noted an eerie resemblance between Rep. King Banaian's budgeting "reform" ideas and ALEC's state budget playbook, erm, "toolkit." I was curious because neither of the stories about ALEC that came out in August (one from Minnesota Independent and the other from MinnPost) listed Banaian among ALEC members.

Well, now it's official. Spot reports that legislative staffer Kevin in Banaian's office confirms that King is a member of ALEC. While it's not surprising in the least, it fills in one of the blanks from the 30 members that ALEC state chair Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer claims belong to the organization. Previously, MnIndy reported 24 members, now we have 25.

No word, yet, on whether Rep. Keith Downey is a member of ALEC. Nor has ALEC chairwoman Kiffmeyer responded to Spot's requests for a list of the 30 members.

In his piece on ALEC and first-term state legislators, MinnPost's Jeff Severns Guntzel asks:
Going through four decades of ALEC coverage, the echo again and again was of a bold voice, determined to produce bold legislation. It makes all of the secrecy around the organization seem a little counterintuitive. When backing bold moves and following bold voices, why not be, well, bold about it?
It's a great question. Kudos to Rep. Banaian for being forthcoming about his ties to ALEC.

Follow me on Twitter @aaronklemz

Taxes, etc.

The Republican debate in 45 seconds from Buzzflash.

It left out the part about the clapping for the death penalty and all the people that Rick Perry executed.

Maybe we'll talk about it at Drinking Liberally tonight: six to nine at the 331 Club in northeast Minneapolis.

The fullness of time has almost arrived

Tomorrow, September 9th, is the last day to vote in the CBS local Most Valuable Blogger plebiscite.

That means you can still cast two votes, we hope for us here at the Cucking Stool.

Warren's dirty war on democracy

Warren Limmer's bill would disenfranchise thousands

Senate photo
I read an article in Rolling Stone online the other day, and it reminded me of Sen. Warren Limmer's bill from last session. The article was The GOP War on Voting, and the bill was Limmer's bill to require a photo ID to vote (there were other disenfranchisement provisions in the bill, e.g., making registration harder, too).

Although it could be called Warren and Mary's dirty war on democracy, because Rep. Mary "Jesus in the Conference Room" Kiffmeyer introduced companion legislation in the House, it was Limmer's bill SF509 that was passed and vetoed by the governor.

Kiffmeyer is the chair of Minnesota's American Legislative Exchange Council delegation, and according to his staff, Limmer "used" to be a member of ALEC. Voter ID is one of ALEC's big initiatives. Here's the Rolling Stone article's description of Republican voter disenfranchisement efforts:
Just as Dixiecrats once used poll taxes and literacy tests to bar black Southerners from voting, a new crop of GOP governors and state legislators has passed a series of seemingly disconnected measures that could prevent millions of students, minorities, immigrants, ex-convicts and the elderly from casting ballots.
Well, not so disconnected, of course, as the article recounts:
In a systematic campaign orchestrated by the American Legislative Exchange Council – and funded in part by David and Charles Koch, the billionaire brothers who bankrolled the Tea Party – 38 states introduced legislation this year designed to impede voters at every step of the electoral process.
The hysteria of legislators like Limmer and Kiffmeyer is just that, hysteria, designed to manipulate people into thinking there is a real problem:
A major probe by the Justice Department between 2002 and 2007 [under Republican Attorneys General and U.S. Attorneys] failed to prosecute a single person for going to the polls and impersonating an eligible voter, which the anti-fraud laws are supposedly designed to stop. Out of the 300 million votes cast in that period, federal prosecutors convicted only 86 people for voter fraud – and many of the cases involved immigrants and former felons who were simply unaware of their ineligibility. A much-hyped investigation in Wisconsin, meanwhile, led to the prosecution of only .0007 percent of the local electorate for alleged voter fraud. "Our democracy is under siege from an enemy so small it could be hiding anywhere," joked Stephen Colbert. A 2007 report by the Brennan Center for Justice, a leading advocate for voting rights at the New York University School of Law, quantified the problem in stark terms. "It is more likely that an individual will be struck by lightning," the report calculated, "than that he will impersonate another voter at the polls."
The answer to why Republicans are making such a big deal out of this is clear, if we but remember the stirring words of of Paul Weyrich, again quoted by Rolling Stone:
Republicans have long tried to drive Democratic voters away from the polls. "I don't want everybody to vote," the influential conservative activist Paul Weyrich told a gathering of evangelical leaders in 1980. "As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down."
That's one of the more honest things a modern-day Republican ever said.

Some form of voter ID requirement as constitutional amendment is likely to wind up on the ballot in 2012. The proponents are both mendacious and craven. The initiative is anti-little-d-democratic, racist and classist. It is none too early to start identifying it as such.