Saturday, February 28, 2015

Blue State Ball photos!

Here are all of the Blue State Ball photos I took with some annotations:

Stephanie Miller on stage at Aria.

My Producer Bryan and myself.

One of my heroes, former Congressman Bill Luther.

Kate and Audra!

Stephanie Miller and myself.  Speaking of heroes, for her to start her own radio studio from her house and run a national show is so unbelievably cool.  She is one of my heroes too.

Love the Ventrua print.


Meng from the station!

Me on stage.

Ben Johnson from City Pages, my regular Tuesday guest, and myself.

Thom Hartmann on stage getting the crowd fired up!


Aria has cool art everywhere in the place.  It is a great venue, one of my favorite ones.

Jack Rice and myself.

Head of the DFL in Minnesota and my Monday guest, Ken Martin.

Thom Hartman, another one of my heroes.  Smarter than me by a mile and a half.

The Attorney General for the State of MN, Lori Swanson!

Stephanie Miller.

I think this is the best photo I took last night.  Ian Levitt is the host of the afternoon show on my station, AM 950, The Daily Report.  He emceed the 2nd half of the show and did a great job!

Jackie Craig and I talking education.

Aaron Rupar from Fox 9, my regular Thursday guest, enjoying the evening.  Best creepy guy over the shoulder shot of the night.  I did have one guy who kept popping up in the background of a lot of my photos, but this is the best photobomb I got!

State Auditor Rebecca Otto.  A great speech from her too.

All in all, a lot of fun.  The bad news was due to Republican incompetence, US Representatives Ellison and Nolan were unable to attend as they were both working in Washington DC.  I'd rather have them miss the Blue State Ball and do their job then skip out and go to an event like C-PAC.  I did get an S&M bit in and gave away some t-shirts.  If I get the impression people want more of the shirts, I'll get more printed up.  

Thanks for a wonderful night.  And we'll see you next year!

Friday, February 27, 2015

The Friday Link for 2/27/15

I have to get this done early tonight as I'm headed to the radio station's Blue State Ball.  I'm looking forward to it.

Leonard Nimoy passed away today.  He is responsible for one of the top five most recognizable television characters of all time; his Mr. Spock from Star Trek is cherished.  He has a cult following today which rivals any science fiction character ever.

One thing great about him was his appreciation for what he had.  He understood he was Spock for hundreds of millions of people and he embraced it, revisiting his character for the Next Generation series as well as for the re-launched Star Trek movie franchise.  I respect the living daylights about that.  If you are known for something, then don't shy away from it or act like it's beneath you.  I can't stand musicians who refuse to play the songs they are most known for (I'm looking at you David Bowie).  The "it's beneath me" mentality is an insult to the fans which made you poplar.

Nimoy, for me, is also known for the precursor of all of the alien/bigfoot/monster hunting shows you see littered across cable TV today.  He began it all with his 'In Search Of' television series from the 1970's.  Watching a segment on fire walking led me to burn the bottoms of my feet very seriously as a kid.

Here are three video clips from his Simpsons episode.  They are quick, but they are funny, and since so many others will be airing Star Trek episodes and movies over the next few days, I'll fall back to the comedy.

See you at the BSB tonight!

Monday, February 23, 2015

What Would Minnesota Do?

A new report from a Democratic party task force is trying to identify why the Democrats had trouble this last election.  It says the Democrats have become confused and are losing the ability to get their voters to turn up.  That's the kid gloves way of saying it.  Let me rephrase: The problems Democrats are having are 1) they don't run proud Democrats 2) they are easily manipulated by the GOP 3) there's an overwhelming money advantage that convinces people Republican crap sandwiches are actually filet mignon, and 4) the GOP will stop Democrats from voting at all costs.  The real question Democrats need to ask is simple, what would Minnesota do?

Minnesota's election results were so polar opposite of the rest of the country, it's hard to fathom.  While the rest of the country saw a massive GOP wave, Minnesota saw a some minor GOP ripples, surrounded by DFL cannonball splashes.  The only reason the Minnesota House changed hands was because of the intense spending in rural districts, like US House Districts, 1, 7 and 8, where even though they didn't get Republicans elected to the US House, there was an inertia effect on the state level.  But the MN Senate is still in DFL hands and every state race was won by the left.  Let's point out the differences from election 2014 and see if we can help out the national party.

First, you need to run candidates who are proud to be Democrats.  When the train wreck of a Kentucky Senate candidate refused to answer who she voted for in 08 or 12 (hint - you say Obama!), the party should have pulled all spending out of her race.  The Democrats in Minnesota are proud of being Democrats and that's what propelled them to victory.  Being a strong Democrat is what fueled national wins in 2006, 08, and 12, and a lack of strong Democrats are why we lost in 10 and 14.  Remember the 50 state strategy.  Be a proud Dem, because most people support our policies.

Second, too many national Democrats buy the GOP talking point, 'you can't be a proud Democrat and win.'  Like I said, most people support Democratic policies.  Republicans know this and so their goal is to get Democratic candidates to question their own integrity and, in turn, make themselves look weak.  If you are wishy washy, milquetoast, or appear unsure of yourself, you will lose.  Do not give any credence to the GOP talking points of how you should run your campaign.  Don't always be defending yourself, go on the offensive, and make the right defend their horrific policies.

Third, the report sates, "In order to win elections, the Democratic Party must reclaim voters we've lost, including white Southern Voters."  I agree the Dems need to appeal to a wide group, but for God's sake, stop trying to win a voting block which is blindly obedient to the right.  If 40 years of nightmarish GOP leadership is not enough to convince Southern states to make a change, you trying to explain the nuances of the ACA or immigration reform are going to fall on deaf ears.  Win over the voters with a true Progressive platform; healthcare for all, better wages for all, tax breaks for people making less than 200K a year first, better education for all, equal rights for all, worker rights for all, safer communities for all, the American Dream for all.  If you stick with a platform like that, you'll win loyalty in all voting blocks.  And for Goodness sake, start hammering one the GOP's weaknesses, wealth worshipping.  In Southern states, I'd start talking the Christian message of how Jesus would be for taking care of the hungry, sick and homeless.  It's not wrapping the Democratic platform in a religious litmus test, it's pointing out that if you are a Southern Christian, and like to vote your Christian values, then the Democrats are for you.

And finally, the Republicans are for doing everything they can to stop Democrats from voting.  Restricting voter rights, mass media campaigns to discourage voting, scaring voters away from the polls, and misinformation campaigns are amongst the arrows in the GOP quiver.  How do you counterpoint such a massive money and media advantage?  Easy, you go directly to the people.  The GOP has done it for years with anti-abortion, voter ID, anti-gay rights and anti-Sharia law ballot initiatives.  What's good for the goose is good for the gander.  I would start calling for ballot initiatives which will get the left to the polls.  Things like minimum wage increases, expanded maternity/paternity benefits, equal pay for women for equal work, legalizing marijuana, GMO labeling, green energy initiatives (owned by the state) and higher education tuition assistance are great places to start.  I know not everything will win, or even make it to the ballot, but you start to force the debate into the realm of Democratic strength.

When it comes down to it, we need an electorate which is not so easily swayed to stay at home because of a Bond movie marathon.  Start recruiting the younger voter, with tales of what opportunity used to look like in the USA in the 70's and 80's.  It didn't involve living at home until you were 35.  Get the vote out, get active and do not take any election, or voter, for granted.  In Minnesota, we weren't glum the day after the election; we were proud.  Tried and true, a solid Blue, through and through.

Friday, February 20, 2015

The Friday Link for 2/20/15

Saturday Night Live turned 40 and the special was pretty good.  Who am I fooling, it was nice but it wasn't exceptional.  The best bits were somewhat ruined by the feeling that everyone had to get on stage.  Celebrity Jeopardy was funny, but it tried to get too much in.  The Californian's had way too many people and David Spade's Buh-bye skit ruined it at the end.  The Weekend Update segment with Tina, Amy and Jane, the music segment (with the best segment hosts of the night in Martin Short and Maya Rudolph), the Bass o Matic, the ESPN guys and Lovitz running bit all were worthwhile.

Some underrated moments in the history of the show for me are Tim Kazurinsky, the year with Crystal, Shearer, Guest, Short (the sketch Lifestyles of the relatives of the Rich and Famous is an underrated gem), Mike Myers saving the show (which he did), the run of Weekend Update hosts from Tina to Jimmy to Amy to Seth, and how did they keep it together and not accidentally misspeak when they did the cork-soakers skit?

I also don't mind when the SNL cast cracked up.  Monty Python and Kids in the Hall could't get away with it, but a live sketch show, like Carol Burnett, can find their best moments when the cast can't stop laughing either.  It makes us feel like we are getting the joke together.

Here is the best break down of a skit ever with another of my underrated gems, Rachel Dratch.  It might be the only time you can watch Lindsay Lohan and laugh for the right reason.  Enjoy.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Viva La Dance Dance Revolution!

If you have listened to the show the last week, you know I have been high kick deep in the controversy of the Minnesota State Dance Line High Kick Championships, a competition held last Saturday 2/14, where the Faribault Dance team won it, and then was nearly run out of Target Center by the other five teams who lost, Eden Prairie, Wayzata, Eastview, Chaska and Lakeville South.  I kept saying this seemed premeditated, and when I had this Facebook Post sent to me this morning, it somewhat validated my theory.  

I have no reason to doubt this woman's story and version of events.  This woman sized it up better than I could.  I will include the link to her Facebook post, but here is the post in it's entirety:

Dear friends, family, students, dancers, and parents,
As a dancer, coach, studio owner, and parent, I feel the need to express my stance on what occurred this past weekend at the 2015 Minnesota State Dance Team Tournament at Target Center, as many of you have asked my opinion. 
First, the facts: 
*All school sanctioned Minnesota High School Dance Teams compete at their respective Section Tournament during the last week of January or the first week of February, depending on each Section. 
*The top three teams in each Section in both High Kick and Jazz, go on to compete at the Minnesota State Dance Team Tournament at the Target Center the second weekend of February. 
*After their performance and first place win at the Section 1AAA Dance Team Tournament on February 7th at Bloomington Kennedy High School, the Faribault Emeralds Dance Team was accused of cheating, plagiarizing, and copying a routine from the Azurettes Drill Team of Copper Hills High School, in Utah. 
*Another coach (or group of coaches, who have not yet named themselves) from the Section 1AAA Tournament issued a formal complaint with the Minnesota State High School League about their concerns of plagiarism on Monday, February 9th. By Thursday, February 12th, all Dance Team coaches in the 1AAA Section received an official email from the Minnesota State High School League stating that they had received the official complaint, reviewed the routine in question, deliberated, and decided that no official rules had been broken, and that the Faribault Emeralds Dance Team would be allowed to compete in the State Tournament with the same routine and no penalties would incur. 
*At the AAA High Kick State Dance Team Tournament at the Target Center on Saturday, February 14th this is what happened: After Finals had commenced and it was time for all 6 finalists to return to the performance floor to receive placements and awards, something unprecedented happened. Instead of lining up in their official positions on the performance floor so the awards ceremony could commence, 5 out of the 6 final teams lined up shoulder to shoulder on the far end of the arena, these teams were Eastview, Wayzata, Lakeville South, Chaska, and Eden Prairie. One team out of the 6 finalists lined up where they were instructed by the Tournament officials, this team was Faribault. The Faribault Emeralds seemed confused for a moment and walked over to the other 5 teams in their “huddle” and tried to join in. At this point, the other 5 teams completely “shunned” them and “shuffled” even farther away from the Faribault team. The Faribault Emeralds Dance Team then quickly repositioned themselves at their official position on the floor, as instructed, at the far left side of the arena. Mr. Mathew Wallace (the official announcer and MC for the 2015 State Dance Team Tournament) then politely and professionally instructed the other 5 teams to “please take their official position on the performance floor so that the awards ceremony may begin”. There was no movement from the 5 teams on the far end of the floor. Then, Mr. Wallace instructed a second time, “Teams and Coaches, please take your official position on the floor in order to receive your placements and awards. As per the rules of the Minnesota State High School League, if you are not in your official positions, you will not be given your placements”. Again, there was no movement from the 5 teams in their “huddle” on the far end of the arena. It was obvious to all spectators at this exact moment, that the 5 other finalists were making some sort of statement and had no intentions of obliging the rules of the Minnesota State High School League, the official Announcer, or the State Dance Team Tournament. A moment later, the Faribault Emeralds Dance Team was awarded their first place trophy and medals, quickly celebrated, and left the arena. When the Faribault Emeralds Dance Team left the arena, the other 5 finalists suddenly “came to life” and made one giant circle on the Target Center floor and celebrated……something. 
Other important facts to know:
1. Dance Team became an official high school sport in the State of Minnesota, sanctioned by the Minnesota State High School League, in the early 1990’s. Up until then, Dance Team was deemed an “athletic activity” and was referred to as “Danceline”. Title 9 obligations (equal opportunity for athletics for both girls and boys) were paramount in this official move to make Dance Team an official high school sport in the State of Minnesota in the early 1990’s. 
2. Any High School in the state of Minnesota (including Athletic Directors, Administrators, and Coaches) who decide to offer Dance Team as an official high school sport, agrees to oblige by all rules, policies, and code of ethics set forth by their governing body, the Minnesota State High School League. 
3. According to the Minnesota State High School League, the Faribault Emeralds were ranked in first place according to all official submitted scores on the night of the AAA High Kick Finals. Even though all other 5 finalists “forfeited” and were disqualified because of their behavior, according to the Minnesota State High School League, Faribault DID NOT received their first place trophy by default, as they did in fact earn it, by receiving the highest scores and first place rankings by ALL AAA Judges on the night of State finals. 
Now that you have all the official facts, I would like to share MY official stance on this incident:
I am disgusted, saddened, and disappointed to have witnessed the worst case of poor sportsmanship and bullying by coaches, dancers, and parents that I have ever seen in my entire life.  

I was lucky enough to participate in dance from a very young age, and go on to be a member of my high school’s “danceline” in the early 90’s. I was so blessed to have the greatest coaches, who to this day, continue to be my mentors, role models, and friends in my life. I was blessed enough to have the opportunity, given by my parents’ support, to participate fully in something that I loved. I was also in the time frame where I participated in 2 years of high school “danceline” as an athletic activity, and 2 years of Dance Team as an official sport, sanctioned by my high school and the Minnesota State High School League. I experienced great success as a member of my High School Dance Team, and was elected captain for both my junior and senior years, went on to compete at State all 4 years, and won a State Championship with my team as well as 2 second place finishes and 1 third place finish in the State Tournament. 
I can tell you, as a previous competitive dancer, coach, and now studio owner and parent, these dancers are the toughest athletes around. They practice 3 hours a day, every day, from mid-October until mid-February. They train all year round to become strong, fit athletes for their team. They are determined, hardworking, self-sacrificing athletes who give it their all, day in and day out just like any other official sport on the high school level. In my opinion, these girls are athletes and artists at the same time; working on perfecting their craft, improving their technique, and coming up with innovative choreography, and have to do it all with a smile on their face and are given no chances for “do overs” or “calling another play”. They put it all on the floor for that 3 minute routine. 
What I witnessed on Saturday, February 14th was the most deliberate, pre-meditated form of poor sportsmanship and bullying I have ever seen. These coaches from these 5 other schools (Eastview, Wayzata, Lakeville South, Chaska, and Eden Prairie), decided to “stomp their foot” and pout like a petulant toddler in protest to a decision passed down by their governing board, the Minnesota State High School League. They actually pre-planned this act in which they bullied, ostracized, and outcast the team that was better than them in order to make a statement. They disrespected their own dancers, their parents, their high schools, their administrators, the judges, the fans, the Minnesota State High School League, and the Judges Association of MN (JAM), not to mention all the little girls around the State of Minnesota who were watching and dreaming of someday earning a place on that prestigious performance floor. 
Not only did these coaches get together, and pre-plan this horrible event, but they “passed around instructions” on the day of the State Tournament to all their parents and fans sitting in the Target Center, to “not clap or cheer for” the Faribault Team! This was deliberate bullying and I am personally shocked that the coaches were able to actually convince these parents and fans of participating in this act. 
As a coach, I am very clear about my expectations of my dancers at a competition. We cheer loudly and support every single team that gets out on that floor. My dancers know that they are to be the first ones walking over to congratulate the first place team, and that we will show good sportsmanship in every aspect of our behavior. We wish every team “good luck”, and praise their efforts and their placement on that day. I hold my parents accountable for the same behavior and good sportsmanship, and I tolerate nothing less. 
I have looked up to some of these coaches of these 5 offending teams for many years, one in particular. This particular coach has led her team to great success and so many State Championships in both High Kick and Jazz, that it is honestly difficult to keep track. I also worked with her briefly a very long time ago with another dance organization. I looked up to her like she was my hero. At 3A Sections in 2014, my daughter (then 9 years old) and I “ran” into her in the ladies restroom. After my reaction, and my interaction with this particular coach, my daughter said to me, “Mom, you acted like you were talking to Zack Effron or something”! It was so obvious to my daughter that this person we just ran into was a crucial inspiration to me at the time, whether this particular person knew it or not. 
As I watched this horrific act on Saturday night with my daughter, I was ashamed and embarrassed that I even knew this particular “coach” that I once looked up to as an inspiration. What these coaches of these 5 teams did at the State Tournament made a mockery and a joke out of a sport that I have dedicated my life to. They bullied and ostracized CHILDREN . . . and in the most public way possible. It is absolutely inexcusable. Pink slips should be issued to the coaching staff of all 5 of these teams for their deliberate, pre-meditated bullying, disrespect, and poor sportsmanship. It’s one thing to have a bad attitude about a specific ruling from a governing board, but it’s a completely different thing to instigate, instruct, and force your athletes to participate in such a heinous act. 
I have been reaching out to news outlets (both city and state wide) for the past 5 years to help get these athletes the coverage they deserve, and now they are all covering the 2015 State Dance Team Tournament because of this ridiculous controversy, not because of the sport, athleticism, or the devoted athletes. Shame on you Eastview, Wayzata, Lakeville South, Chaska, and Eden Prairie . . . you just put a huge black mark on this amazing sport. 
Watch the You Tube videos for yourself; Faribault did not break any rules. Were they inspired by a theme or concept of another routine? Absolutely. Did they make it their own, without breaking any rules, and without copying exact choreography? ABSOLUTELY. I recently watched the new version of “Annie” with my daughter and was inspired to plan an updated version of “Hard Knock Life” for my dancers next year . . . does that make me a cheater? Of course not. 
I will close with this: As a dancer, and a coach, I look to the world for inspiration. I listen to music, attend Broadway musicals, and look online for innovative inspiration to bring to my dancers. We make it our own, we are inspired by everything from “West Side Story” to “High School Musical”. Do I go up to a team at a studio competition and accuse them of cheating because they did a double pirouette, into a grand jete, into a “bug” position? Of course not. We don’t own our ideas in dance. This reminds me of when I was a young freshman, and my dance team (back then it was “danceline”), created this new move in one of our captains’ kitchens, on the linoleum floor during a Christmas break choreography session . . .it is now called the “Zipper” and if you’ve ever watched a High School Dance Team competition, I’m sure you have seen it. We didn’t own it, so when many other teams performed it the following year, I remember feeling proud, that they liked something we came up with so much, that they put it into their own routine. Did we throw a fit, and stomp our foot, and not cheer for this team in protest? Of course not. But, now looking back, I guess that was because I had wonderful coaches and parents who expected us to act like ladies, athletes, and good sports. 
Congratulations on your well deserved State Championship Faribault Emeralds! I am so impressed by your talents, resilience, and good sportsmanship! Thank you for setting a good example for my dancers, we will continue to look up to you with the utmost respect. 
Allison Rise
Owner, Studio52

Faribault was investigated by the MSHSL and found to have NOT cheated.  You can not redefine the rules of cheating and then retrospectively apply them to Faribault, overriding the sports governing body, to condemn Faribault after the fact, and attempt to excuse the inexcusable behavior of the five schools.  You just can't do that.  I don't like the New York Yankees, but I can't just retroactively change the rules and negate their World Series wins.  Faribault won, fair and square!

This brings a level of fraud to the sport which might not ever be able to be rectified.  They might end up having to decommission this sport from State Championship consideration, and when the young women who participate in it ask why, the answer should be 7 words:  Wayzata, Eden Prairie, Eastview, Chaska, Lakeville South.

The original Facebook post:

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Quick Hits - 2/17/15

Sorry, sorry sorry.  I've been very busy with family commitments.  I have a lot to get too, so:

It's now come to light that some of the dance teams who protested the Faribault High School State Tourney win stationed themselves outside of the Faribault locker room, screaming and bullying at the Faribault team after the awards ceremony.  Once again, the Minnesota State High School League investigated and determined no cheating had happened by Faribault.  Seriously, the coaches for Eden Prairie, Wayzata, Lakeville South, Chaska and Eastview all need to be fired.  Not only for the bad sportsmanship during the awards ceremony, but now, at the very least, being aware of a bullying incident towards the Faribault team, if not being complicit in it.  On one positive note, the Cannon Falls team, another rural team, was the only one who went and congratulated Faribault after their win.  In my mind, this is wealthy suburban schools being furious a rural school won.

In regards to the Dayton/Bakk blow up, where Senate Majority Leader Bakk, after the House and Senate last year gave Governor Dayton the ability to raise the pay rates of state commissioners, rates which had been unbelievably low, fell for the knee jerk reaction trap laid down by the GOP and voted to halt the raises, in turn taking an issue which was a non-issue and making it a major issue, I still don't get it.  What was Bakk thinking?  If it was due diligence, shouldn't that have been discussed last year when they approved the Governor doing this?  If it is oversight, everyone can see the commissioners were getting paid at a far lower rate than comparable positions, and even with the raises, it still puts them under the pay rates of lesser jobs in the state.  If this is Bakk grandstanding, well, good for you. It should also not be missed that many other Democrats who voted to give the Governor this power, voted against him wielding it.  It's so depressing when you see the Democrats get played so easily by the GOP.

Bobby Jindal, the Governor of Louisiana, is the latest GOP politician to show how amazingly bad the Republicans are on financial issues.  He followed the template I laid out earlier on the blog; give the wealthiest and biggest corporations massive tax breaks and then, after you've removed a third to a half of your projected income, start to try to work the budget.  He has had a financial mess, raiding every emergency fund the state has to try to fill in budget gaps, and he still comes up way short.  His answer to Louisiana's 1.6 billion dollar budget shortfall?  Leave it for the next Governor to handle.  Where have I heard that before...?  Oh that's right, Tim Pawlenty did the same thing on a lesser scale when he shifted the entire education budget into a future fiscal cycle.

Here's an interesting question:  If a GOP politician was forced to make a choice between a tax increase for the wealthy, an increase which would still put the wealthiest at a percentage far lower than the rest of their constituents, or completely defunding education spending in their state, which one would they choose?  Most of them would quickly choose to defund education.  The funniest part would be the media spinning it as how much better our society will be without an educated populace.

The best part of these conservative states getting absolutely screwed over by their Republican leadership is how they won't change.  Next election, even though 40 years of mostly unadulterated GOP rule in their state have doomed their quality of life for generations to come, Republican voters will still stream into polling stations in Texas, Kansas, Louisiana, and North Carolina and vote R.  I really wonder what it will take for these dim bulbs to wake up.

I've heard very angry rhetoric lately from the right in regards to President Obama, angrier and more bitter than usual.  I'm chalking it up to reality.  No matter how much they have tried to derail his Presidency, how hard they have tried to thwart him at every turn, and how hard they've tried to undermine all of his agenda and initiatives from day one, he's still been a massive success at rejuvenating the economy, something even the most fervent neuvo-libertarian or tea party stooge can't deny anymore.  That infuriates them!  Just imagine if the Republicans had tried to work with him. I don't mean just doing what he wanted to do, but imagine of they just had not been obstructionist all the time.

Once again, if you want the internet to stay the same as it is right now, with you having the ability to pull up any webpage you want, then you are for Net Neutrality.  If you want the internet to be treated like cable television, where you get a basic service package with 40 websites, and, if you want to get any other websites, namely ones who stream television, movies or music, you'll need to pay a premium price, just like cable TV, then you support what the Republicans stand for, getting rid of Net Neutrality.  Your call.

And finally, in regards to the story we talked about of 4th grade kids in Edina being part of competitive basketball teams, as long as there is money to be made, not only will we see kids younger and younger pushed by their parents into the world of competitive sports, but we'll see no end to the amount of adults who will be loud defenders of such unnecessary, intense, and borderline abusive treatment of kids under the age of 10.

Friday, February 13, 2015

The Friday Link for 2/13/15

I've had a light week on the blog.  Sorry.  Been really busy with things but I promise something new this weekend.

With running around a lot, I've been listening to the comedy channel on satellite radio.  It's mighty dirty at times, but I've been in near tears laughing with some of the bits.  Very enjoyable.

One comedian I've had the joy of following is Patton Oswalt.  Most people would remember him as the voice of Remy from Ratatouille or from the King of Queens, but the guy has been in so many things at this point that most people recognize him, even if they don't know where from.  One of my favorites is from the extremely underrated show Justified.

His comedy style is very relatable, as he makes most of his jokes while telling very engaging stories.  The stories he has about his kids and his life are sensational.  I love the bits about his car being bugged, New York City and about the big chicken leg.  Get his albums, they're worth it.

He's quite a good actor.  I mentioned the more serious Justified and he had a role in Caprica.  Most of roles he takes would be categorized as enjoyable comic relief, but do not underestimate his acting chops.

He is most known for his comedic TV roles and he's one of the greatest improv talents I've ever seen.  Both are highlighted tonight in a clip from the great TV show Parks and Recreation.  The scene required him to do an improv for as long as he could and he does not disappoint.  For me, maybe it's because he is so good at it, making his improv have intensity and purpose, maybe it's about everything sic-fi I love besides Doctor Who.  It's brilliance, plain and simple.  A great laugh for a Friday night.  Enjoy.

Monday, February 9, 2015

The Walking Dread

The Minnesota Republicans in charge of the State House are talking about implementing a new tax.  That's right, the party which claims to be anti-tax has seemingly reversed course and is discussing a brand new, never before seen tax on Minnesotans, but it's what they are willing to tax which is even more outrageous.  The Minnesota GOP wants to tax walking.

First, let's address the myth that modern Republicans are against taxes and are for responsible economics.  Quite the contrary, the modern Republican politician invokes the most reckless and foolish economic policies this country has ever seen.  They're for government spending at unsafe levels, and insist it's okay we don't actually pay our bills.  Some examples: they used a credit card model on the national level, making the bills for two wars, Medicare Part D and the W. Bush era tax cuts due in early 2009, after W.'s term, and they did an insanely dangerous shift of an entire segment of the Minnesota state budget into a future fiscal cycle, when Pawlenty used slight of hand on education spending. They then argue, with a straight face, they're somehow not the fox in the hen house.  It's what I expect from people who allowed the Minnesota State Chair, Tony Sutton, to bankrupt them to the point of near eviction.

The modern GOP'er is working an economic strategy which is best described as a horribly mutated version of trickle down economics, a flawed plan initiated by Reagan.  The proven false theory is to give the wealthiest people their tax dollars back, and they in turn spend it, trickling down to the rest of us heathens, who easily confuse sewer run off for a fresh Spring rain.  The problems with trickle down, as documented, fall into three categories:  1) wealthy people are not going to buy 6 more gallons of milk or 5 more loaves of bread every week, so day to day spending remains stagnant, 2) when they do buy high end items such as yachts, planes and 4th vacation homes, they buy them in foreign markets, immediately nullifying any benefit to the US economy, and 3) since there were no rules or incentives to spend, all this really did was pour money into long term investments, ensuring the grandkids of the wealthiest are never for want, but with the updated version of trickle down, the modern GOP is trying to ensure Millionaire and Billionaire's great, great, great, great grandkids never have to work a day in their lives.

The Republican slight of hand begins, without any consideration for the consequences, by giving massive tax breaks to the wealthiest individuals (people who make a million or more a year) and corporate welfare to the largest of corporations (no mom and pop operations allowed, unless their last names are Walton or Koch).  They give away a third of their income at the very beginning, insisting it's some sort of prerequisite before they can start addressing the budget.  It's not, it's creating a no win scenario which impacts every other aspect of the budget.  The Republicans are so committed to this first step, they treat it as an untouchable reality.  It's exactly what they have done in Kansas, and even though that state is looking at draconian budget cuts, most Republicans act as if the tax cuts for the wealthiest and corporate welfare they implemented are off the table, un-revisable in any way.

This 'guaranteed to fail' budget system is responsible for most of the political conflict of today.  Roads verses mass transportation, education funding verses vouchers, initiatives for public safety verses budgetary limitations.  Almost all of our political divisiveness stems from the flawed idea of first giving the wealthiest of wealthy all of their money back, and then some, and then never asking "why did we do something so fiscally irresponsible?"

Here's the ugliest part of this flawed economic policy, the GOP knows it doesn't work.  They know, even with deficits, they still need to bring in enough money to continue their high spending agenda.  The question Republicans have tried to answer is "how do we continue to outrageously spend money when the income in our budget model is fatally chocked off?  They've come up with two options.  First, don't help people who don't usually vote Republican.  In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the coasts of Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida, GOP stalwarts, got the money and resources they needed fast, getting their clean up taken care of quickly.  Not the case for mainly African American, Democratic leaning New Orleans, which still has segments of that town showing the effects of a Federal government who said F-You.  How about the north Minneapolis tornado from a few years back?  Minnesota Republicans couldn't find enough reasons to say we can't help, but when tornadoes hit Hugo and Rogers, they couldn't get the aid to those commutes fast enough.  For Republicans, it's no longer about stopping the funding for education, the environment and the arts.  Now they need to rip away funding from Democrats at the base level, emergency relief.  And a reminder, they call themselves Christians.

The other path is to implement taxes they're okay with, taxes they deem to mostly burden non-Republican voters.  They'll go after electric cars, wind power and other sectors they think will impact the left more, which gets us back to the Minnesota GOP's Walking Tax.  The GOP led house is discussing imposing a fee on people who walk and bike on state trails.  Representative Tony Cornish insists this new tax is justified because we charge snowmobilers extra to maintain the trails, so it's only fair.

Ignoring the reality that state tax dollars are already used in the creation, maintenance and promotion of the state trails, let's just focus on the obvious.  One snowmobile can do far more damage to a trail than 20,000 walkers or 5000 bikers.  This new GOP walking tax comes from the right wing ideology that wealthier people are more likely to have snowmobiles or ATV's, and liberal hippies are more likely to walk or bike.  Cornish even refers to the people being on their bikes in "leotards," an ill-informed, unintelligent, and slightly homophobic, swipe at people who bike.  In Republican minds, if the net outcome is a tax which hurts Democrats and their voters more, the GOP will give their hearty stamp of approval.

Quick side note to any Republican who says, "Matt, that is a fee, not a tax.  Label it correctly!"  First, the rightos are the ones who insist any fee collected by the government is an unfair tax, and secondly, the GOP tries to hide their new taxes by calling them everything but; fees, levees, bounties, penalties, charges.  It's a new fine Minnesotans will have to pay to get access to something they have already paid for.  It's a tax.

If you really are an anti-tax advocate, or if you have Libertarian leanings, this proposed Walking Tax should make you livid.  If you are for fiscal responsibility, ask your politicians why do we give the wealthiest of wealthy their money first and make the rest of us pay for it.  If your against wasteful spending, ask why Wall Street, the millionaire farmer, or the extremely profitable oil executive are getting money for just being themselves, paid for by us, with interest.  And then ask your GOP representation why the first tax cut proposed every year isn't one for all incomes under $100K a year.

Or you can say nothing, as you either don't want to disparage the GOP, or, down deep inside, you like penalizing people who politically disagree with you.  I'll be waiting for your outrage, but I won't hold my breath.  If the Minnesota Republican Party is willing to try to tax walking, I can't wait to see what other day to day bodily functions they will try to tax next.

Friday, February 6, 2015

The Friday Link for 2/6/15

"Yes, it's all coming back to me now."  "Murder?"  "You!"  "Not anymore." "Superintendent!"

It's Friday.  I need a good pick me up.  And so here is possibly the funniest 8 minutes of all time in film, courtesy of Inspector Clouseau.

It just keeps getting funnier and funnier.  Enjoy.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Gun Crazy!

Chris in Blaine this morning decided to imply no one ever insisted that Carry and Conceal would lessen or eliminate crime when they were debating the law.  I have spent my day going back in time to find some true jewels from the discussion about Carry and Conceal in 2003 and 2005, plus a few other gems too.

Rep. Linda Boudreau, R-Faribault and Sen. Pat Pariseau, R-Farmington co-sponsored the Carry and Conceal Bill, aka The Minnesota Personal Protection Act , Originally, in 2003, Senate File 842 and House File 261, in 2005, Senate file 2259.

She counted thousands of violent crimes in the 20 Minnesota counties where handgun permits have been most restricted and added: "It's time that we allow people to prevent the violence on themselves." "O.J. Simpson was not seeking a permit, But maybe his wife needed one." - Sen. Pat Pariseau of Farmington
Star Tribune

Sen. Pat Pariseau defends the new conceal-carry law because it imposes sanctions on those who misuse weapons - REBECCA THOMAN Pioneer Press Editorial 5/17/2004  It doesn’t in any way.

Rep. Lynda Boudreau, R-Faribault was the co-sponsor of the bill and while she never directly quoted crime rates herself, her committee hearings made it clear that the intent of the bill was to stop crime: Eight citizens testified before the committee and complained the current conceal-carry law allows sheriffs and police chiefs to deny permits unjustifiably. Theresa Schieffelbein said in a shaky voice that she wouldn't tell legislators how she planned to assure her personal safety. "That sheriff made sure that I was absolutely defenseless."

Rep. Lynda Boudreau, R-Faribault says the state would be safer because citizens would be able to defend themselves.

“I think there is some assumption...that people feel they need more protection.”  She predicted that anti-gun and pro-gun groups will quickly learn which business allow guns and which will not, and will make their shopping decisions accordingly - State Rep. Lynda Boudreau (R-Faribault)

"…firearms are not being lost and found by children." Rep. Lynda Boudreau Op Ed May 25 2003  She was WAY off base on this one.

"I'll tell you, this legislation undermines local control. The bill would make it very difficult to deny a permit to all but the most severely mentally impaired or chemically dependent person” - Rice County Sheriff Richard Cook, who was absolutely correct, but was then dismissed dismissed by Rep. Bordreau,

Other politicians and advocates who weighed in on the Carry and Conceal law

WCCO-AM radio show, Governor Tim Pawlenty said other states have not experienced more gunplay after making concealed weapons permits easier to get. "The 38 other states that have the (`concealed carry`) law, on a per capita or pro rata basis, are not experiencing any worse incidences of violent crime or gun violence than Minnesota…people will be safer and crime will be deterred." April 28, 2003

“Gov. Pawlenty deserves appreciation for immediately signing this bill…to make Minnesotans safer from crime.” Alan Gottleib

"For the person who's carrying legally, that person is trained, who's had background checks, who's got this permit legally and is a law-abiding citizen. As a matter fact, to be frank, the fact that there's a few of those people peppered around is reassuring to me because there's finally some folks that I can depend on that may come to my protection," he said. Rep. Fran Bradley, R-Rochester

John Lott was a person who was quoted extensively in the gun debate by both politicians and advocates.  The following quotes are ones which were designed to make it seem like carry and conceal would stop all crime.

“the survey I conducted during the fall of 2002 indicates that simply brandishing a gun stops crimes 95 percent of the time, and other surveys have also found high rates.”
John Lott, The Bias Against Guns, p 24 Regnery, March 2003.

The claim that there was something “funny” regarding the slightly different survey estimates is also false. I cited that 95 percent of defensive gun uses involving simple brandishing rather than 98 percent because a new survey was conducted almost six years after the first one.
John R. Lott Jr., Letter, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Aug 13 2003

Guns clearly deter criminals, with Americans using guns defensively over 2 million times each year—4.5 times more frequently than the 500,000 times guns were used to commit crimes in 2001. Over 90 percent of the time simply brandishing the weapon stops an attack.
John R. Lott Jr., Bound to Misfire,Tech Central Station, Nov 7 2003

"The only thing that's going to stop the threat is another armed threat." Rep. Tony Cornish, a Republican from Good Thunder

I feel better knowing that criminals may think I may be "packing heat." Richard Dischinger,

  I wouldn't worry about honest people next to me in church carrying guns," said Sen. Michael Jungbauer, R-East Bethel, a graduate of Moody Bible Institute. "But I would worry about the criminals." Star Tribune

Freedom Wins; Criminals Lose I don't know that I have a huge problem with this - although you can bet when the next church massacre happens, it'll be at a posted (no guns) church.

The House vote (2005) comes one day after all House members received an e-mail threatening them if they don't vote in favor of the legislation.

Referring to attempts to amend the Carry and Conceal bill, referring to alternatives being put out by the Democrats – “And the saddest part is, none of this is going to have any effect on violent crime” - John Caile, who represents the interest group Concealed-Carry Reform Now - May 2003

Let's get this very successful, now documented successful law back on the books where it belongs” John Caile, with the gun rights group, Conceal Carry Reform Now! Talking about passing the law in 2005 after struck down in 2003  What’s funny about this quote is there was no documentation at all when he said this. 

But backers say the law actually makes the state a safer place by raising the minimum age of gun owners from 18 to 21, and by making all applicants go through the safety training. By Patrick Condon, Associated Press Writer  This never was true, just make believe like a lot of the GOP/pro gun guy promises.

"Women want to be more self-reliant; they want to protect their homes and children on their own," Russ Thurman

Something against the carry and conceal aw that was dismissed, but absolutely correct:  Also, the dozen states with the highest rates of firearm deaths all have the system Minnesota is adopting. -

David Gadberry wrote:
>  If you are in a situation where deadly force might be required to
>  protect yourself or a loved one do you actually think that
>  the police will be around to deal with the situation??? 
>  Of course not - the police can't (and shouldn't) be everywhere. Michael Atherton

Right-to-Carry States
Since 1991, the number of privately owned firearms in the U.S. has increased by 70-75 million, the number of right-to-carry states has increased from 15 to 40, and violent crime has decreased 38%. Violent Crime
Three out of four violent crimes committed in the U.S. do not involve firearms. Since 1991, the number of privately owned firearms in the U.S. has increased by 70-75 million, and the nation's murder rate has decreased 43%. (BATFE and FBI)  NRA website

In regards to the first case of a Conceal and Carry permit holder shooting another individual "The guy decided to be a murderer. His permit had nothing to do with it” Joe Olson, president of Concealed Carry Reform Now

“The facts are every time guns have been allowed, concealed-carry has been allowed, the crime rate has gone down.” -Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.), on “Fox News Sunday,” Dec. 16, 2012

Then there is this, a look at part of the real motivation of the pro gun crowd:

How, a lot of those are directly on point too!  

So now, a intellectual coward like Chris will say, "that doesn't matter!  It's all about personal safety!"  Are you implying, that ever since the law was finally passed in 2005, not one Carry and Conceal person has been around a crime as it's happened?  If it's about personal safety, and they had the chance to use the weapon, why didn't they?  We can deduce then either the gun was useless because the person realized they were in over their head, or they were too afraid to use it.  Regardless, crime has happened, people with guns have been around those crimes, and they have done nothing to make themselves, or the people around them, safer, outside of not using the weapon.  

Keep your weapons at home.  Know your arguments about Carry and Conceal have been exposed as the lies they are.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Anti-Vaxxers and Universal Dangers

It finally happened.  Something many in the medical industry knew was coming down the line has materialized in a fantastically terrifying fashion.  A disease, we as a society had mostly conquered, has been rejuvenated by the actions of people who are convinced they know better than the undeniable proof in front of them.  Anti-vaccine advocates (anti-vaxxers), most of whom are relying on laughably bad science and math, refuse to acknowledge the reality around them, inoculations work, and the proof they insist is "flimsy at best," is the longevity of the undeniably healthier lives nearly all Americans enjoy due to vaccines.

A person who A) wasn't vaccinated against major, lethal, dangerous, contagious diseases, and B) knew they were sick with something serious, decided to visit the Disneyland Theme Park.  Why would they jeopardize so many people?  By the sounds of it, selfishness.  They wanted to go on a vacation, and didn't care about the consequences.  Regardless, they endangered many Americans with the measles virus and has created a real health crisis, far more serious than the made up Ebola hysterics from last Fall.  As of me writing this, 84 people have been infected in 14 states and it's expected to get far worse, especially in communities with high concentrations of anti-vaxxers.  Measles are extremely contagious.

The anti-vaxxers movement was started in earnest by Andrew Wakefield, a discredited British doctor who fraudulently put forward the idea of a smoking gun for parents desperately wanting one: Autism was caused by vaccinations.  This was a made up lie, a lie which has been researched over and over again, wasting valuable research dollars, to try to convince people who are un-convinceable of the truth, their smoking gun isn't real.  For them to continue to believe this lie, they've ignored the obvious proof in front of them, the surging life expectancy rates of Americans ever since the vaccines started to be widely used and the near extinction of diseases which used to annihilate families and communities.  Doctors warned if people started to opt out of taking vaccines, this exact scenario would eventually come to light.  Researchers also hammered on anti-vaxxers about their own math:  you're insisting on not taking vaccines because of a statistically slight risk of autism, and in turn giving yourself and children a far more likely chance of suffering from, and dying from, many other diseases.  It doesn't matter.  Anti-vaxxers think they know better than everyone else, that the American medical and scientific research community is lying, and if you're an American who has gotten inoculated and has not gotten a serious disease, you are part of the conspiracy.  

Melinda Gates, wife of Bill Gates, and a major advocate for vaccines, said it perfectly when asked about the current crisis, "[Americans have] forgotten what measles death looks like."  We have.  We've left in our past the days when a family would have ten children and six would not make it to 12, many because of diseases we readily inoculate for today.  It's the same reason we don't realize the warning signs of our current Conservative economic policies; the inevitable outcome of rewarding the 1% at the expense of the 99% is something we've seen before in the horrors of the Great Depression.  We insulate ourselves from the lessons of our past, and doom ourselves to repeat the mistakes.  Because we haven't seen widespread suffering and death at the hands of preventable diseases, not only have the anti-vaxxers downplayed the seriousness of the threat, they have taken the vaccines and turned them into "the real problem."  To help them get past the science they can't refute, they insist it's all about the profit margins for vaccination makers.  

There is also another bit of science the anti-vaxxers conveniently ignore.  We've had a few decades of this anti-vaxxer movement, and the stories you hear from children of the anti-vaxxers is heartbreaking.  Many of the anti-vaxxer kids spent long stretches of their youth in beds and in hospitals, suffering from serious health issues, which in turn have scarred them for life, even damaging their bodies.  These kids tell of how their inoculated friends never had the same problems they did, and ask the questions, "why did I have to suffer for my parents beliefs? Why did I have to be my parent's self righteous experiment?"  Not all anti-vaxxers get sick, but under their argument, they should all be far healthier than the rest of us, and that's just not true.

We all want answers to why autism rates have increased, but the obvious place to begin to try to find the answers is in the modern world in which we reside; the chemicals in our lives, the food we eat, cosmetics we use, clothes we wear, plastics and chemicals we surround ourselves with, and the workplace environments we commute too.  I guarantee none of these daily use products have been tested effectively in regards to what they really do to our health, and I know there has been extremely limited research in what these compounds do when they are combined with other compounds in other products.  It's much like the science of why the bees are dying off.  There is no one thing responsible, but rather a cocktail of chemicals from modern life which seem to be the culprit.  This modern life paradox would be the starting point of my research, unless you are looking for a quick, not necessarily correct, smoking gun.

At the end of the day, if a parent decides to not vaccinate their kid, I might laugh at them, but they have the right to be ignorant.  What they don't have the right to do is to spread their ignorance to others with glee and determination.  You want to not vaccinate your kid?  Fine.  You're not allowed to then ignore the dangers of taking that kid out into the world for them to potentially infect the rest of us.  If you feel your cause is so noble, then this should be a minor sacrifice, an inconvenience worth bearing.  What will stop this anti-vaxxer movement will be the inevitable lawsuit of a grieving family who lost their child to a disease contracted from the kid of an anti-vaxxer, an anti-vaxxer who knew the risks, and decided to be selfish instead of steadfast.  

What a wealthy world we live in when we can have a group of people make up their own science and math to validate what they want to believe, a belief which in turn jeopardizes the populace.  We've seen it play out over and over again.  Here is the link for the sensational Penn and Teller video about anti-vaccination.  It's worth viewing, but it does contain some swear words.  Viewer be advised:

As I wrote that warning about the Penn and Teller video, and viewed a discarded candy wrapper, something crossed my mind.  My kid's school has far more warnings and rules about peanut butter, than it does about people potentially exposing the school's population to serious deadly diseases.  That about sums up the world we live in today.