Friday, October 30, 2015

The Friday Link for 10/30/15

Happy Halloween everyone.  Of course I'm going to give you a few laughs for a Friday night:

Classic Bugs Bunny on a Halloween, not much better.  There were so many cartoons which featured a spooky theme, but this is one of the better ones from 1956.  Chuck Jones was a super genius when it came to these gems.

The other video comes from Nightmare Before Christmas, and extremely underrated film, which gets caught in between two very different holidays less than two months from each other.  This song is weird on a lot of levels.  First, the notes and key are real bizarre, and shouldn't make anything close to a listenable song.  The second is the tone of it.  The three scamps are Lock, Stock and Barrel.  They are tasked with 'bringing' Santa Claus to Halloween Town, and by the end of it, they're talking about chopping him up into bits.  Talk about your mixed messages.

Where it's inappropriate for Christmas, it is perfect for Halloween.

Don't drink and drive, have a safe night tomorrow and Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Nader 2000 Voters Don't Brag

The only way the GOP will win in 2016 is if the Democrats turn on each other in a fit of arrogant self righteousness.  Funny, some of the Democratic voters seem to be welcoming it.

I get it.  Obama hasn't done everything exactly as you wanted.  He has let me down with drones, Wall Street policy, domestic spying and Guantanamo, but does that mean I wish McCain or Romney would've become president?  Of course not.

I get it.  Either Hillary or Bernie upsets you.  My personal choice to run for President isn't there either, but I don't pin all my hopes on the re-encarnation of Williams Jennings Bryan or FDR walking through the door.  Do I completely agree with either major Democratic front runner?  No, but whomever gets the nomination will get my vote, without a doubt.

It's sad to see Democrats spewing all this hatred towards other Democrats. What gets really old is two things; 1) the insistence the target of the hatred is worse than the Republicans, and 2) the wish of physical harm being done upon the Democrat of their dislike.  In regards to the second one of those, just stop it.

You really don't understand the difference between Democrats and Republicans if you imply in any way Sanders, Clinton or Obama are FAR worse than the GOP.  Do you want to know what the Republicans are going to serve up if they win in 2016?  War in Iran, a return to 'bankruptcy or death' health care, a rescinding of gay rights, massive budget deficits, more pipelines and sulfur mines, more fracking, less civil rights, far fewer women's rights, the dismantling of unions and worker's rights, thirty more years of an ultra conservative Supreme Court, more tax breaks for the ultra-wealthy and bigotry written into every law.  Ripping on Democrats while never once acknowledging the REAL dangers of the Republicans is like jumping into a swimming pool to avoid getting damp from a little drizzle.

A lot of this frustration is, in part, due to marketing efforts put forward by the righto's who want to drive a wedge into the Democrats.  How can the people saying the worst vitriol not understand that; not see how they're getting manipulated?

Back in 2000, some voters insisted on sending a message to the Democrats, bragging about how they were going to vote for Ralph Nader.  I agree with Nader on some things, but the guy is a grandstander, more running for himself than for the betterment of the country.  Republicans realized if they started to run ads for Nader in states where the race was going to be close, they might be able to win it for W.  It worked.  Ralph Nader created enough of a wave in Florida and the GOP was able to use a corrupted court system to award the presidency to Bush.

Sure, initially, some Nader supports thumped their chest and proudly bragged about making a difference, and boy did they!  9/11, Iraq, torture, massive budget deficits, the worst housing crisis since the Depression, Katrina and the economic collapse of 2008 can all be credited, in part, to Ralph Nader supporters and their role in helping Bush win.  They stopped bragging about what they did somewhere around late 2002.

Wake up to the right's game plan, and don't be manipulated.  Have vigorous debate.  Work hard for the candidate of your choice and may the best candidate win, but enough of the all or nothing bluster.  If you don't understand what will happen if the GOP wins in 2016, then you're far more foolish and dumb than I ever dreamed.

I will proudly vote Democrat in 2016, with a smile on my face.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Quick Hits for 10/27/15

First I wanted to follow up on some things I mentioned on the show:

This morning, I broke down the real problem with guns.  We allow the dumbest people on the planet to amass arsenals worthy of a Central American military, and then allow these stupid idiots to imagine the gun as something other than a gun (a toy, a tool for drilling holes, a paperweight, a replacement for a lack of male equipment).  A gun is a lethal weapon designed to kill human beings.  It should never be glorified as anything else, and anyone attempting to do so, even with disclaimers and warnings, is only making our gun problems worse.  Thirty thousand gun deaths a year demands we treat guns seriously, not as the prop in a jovial prank.

Yesterday morning I went on a rant against the non-racist and non-bigoted members of the Republican Party for allowing the racists and bigots to become the main voice of he Republican Party.  After having a right leaning friend accuse me of falsely labeling the party, I told him this is not my problem, but rather his.  I asked him, "when was the last time you called someone out for saying something blatantly racist?  When was the last time you insisted the worst stereo-typing of women, a race of people, or a sexual orientation was not what your party should be known for?"  I then went to HIS Facebook page and pulled up three messages from his timeline, all of which had a lot of racist undertones, but not only did he not challenge the people who initially posted them, he hit the 'share' button.  He insisted I was wrong and tried to redefine clearly racist things as not racist.  When I asked him if he would mind me sharing HIS post and thoughts with the minority his status updates targeted, he said, sternly, "No!'  That's when I said, "you just proved my entire point."  Don't think I'll be hearing from him for awhile.

As he heads out the door, John Boehner just gave the GOP a Christmas gift.  A budget deal and extension of the nations debt ceiling until 2017 will definitely help the Republicans.  If the GOP, led by the extremist far right, demanded Planned Parenthood be wiped off the planet and Obamacare be completely rescinded in order to get a budget or debt ceiling extension passed before the election, the government's finances would be in chaos, with a government shutdown being just the beginning of our problems.  The blame for this scenario would fall of the conservatives, spelling out doom for the Republican Party, guaranteeing a Democrat in the White House for another four years, a likely 60 seat Democratic Senate, and possibly putting the incredibly gerrymandered US House up for grabs.  Boehner might not like the way he's being shown the door, but he clearly still loves his party.  By getting enough Republicans to go along with the minority Democrats to pass this deal (a deal the Senate and President will likely sign off on too) he ensures the Republican Party lives past 2016.

I met Flip Saunders once, years ago.  I talked to him for ten minutes and one thing came across loud and clear; he loved basketball.  He talked about it like my son talks about baseball.  He loved studying it, loved coaching it, loved reimagining it,  and I bet he wished he could've still laced them up with his team at game time.  There's something rejuvenating about talking with someone who lived their dream.  Flip will be missed.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Drive Time

We desperately need our Minnesota political leaders to address the biggest problem facing our state for the next two decades, and no it's not a mine on the Iron Range, or transgender bathroom rights.  It's a basic function our government is supposed to maintain and upgrade as needed, but due to the conservative mindset this country has had for the last 35 years, it as become a ticking time bomb.  It's transportation, and in Minnesota, as well as many other places in this country, it's a mess.

It wasn't always this way.  In post WWII America, we took pride in our transportation policy.  We began to build the Interstate system under Republican President Eisenhower.  We expanded busing and mass transit into the 70's, and even began to develop biking and hiking trails across the country, many utilizing abandon rail lines in a great show of recycling.

Then it all changed.  Reagan-era Republicans realized if you gave wealthy people back most of their taxes, they'd gratefully write you a big campaign donation, or give you a cush lobbying gig after your political career was over.  The Republicans started to go over every line item in federal and state budgets to find additional cash to hand over to their benefactors.

Conservatives developed an interesting strategy when they got to transportation.  They realized transportation was a necessity, something everyone wanted, so how do you convince people to start fighting against their best interest?  They insisted mass transportation (buses, subways, light rail, ferries) was just using tax dollars to subsidize transportation for poor people.  They sold it with faulty arguments like, "If they were real Americans, they would all have a car and drive," ignoring the people who are 16 and younger, the elderly who no longer drive, people who can't afford a car, people whose health issues prevent them from driving, and the individual who just liked the convenience of not having to pay for gas and parking to go to work.  The minute the left said, "What? Are you insane?" the lines were drawn.

To their credit, most Democrats and Independents are sane, and call for plans which include money for road expansion and mass transportation.  The Republicans molded their initial vilification of mass transportation into a "road expansion only" platform.  This war between common sense and self serving political greed, by itself, would've underfunded transportation spending, but here's the catch.  Republican lawmakers NEVER have followed through on their promises to spend the money needed for the road expansion plans they've put forward.  They call for road expansion, but then dramatically limit the amount of money to be spent, causing transportation's downward spiral to go faster and faster.

You want some examples of how intentionally (or unintentionally...I guess it really doesn't matter) bad the GOP is at a balanced transportation policy?  Let's start with Tim Pawlenty's disastrous idea; the toll lanes.  After the Hiawatha Light Rail line was opened, and it proved to be "one of the best mass transportation launches the country had ever seen" (not an opinion, but a statement from a MNDoT researcher), the GOP had a lot of egg on their faces.  They'd insisted light rail would be unused and wasteful, so jam packed train cars exposed them as wrong.  A rational person would've said, "well clearly the people of the Twin Cities want these, so let's start building more."  Not the GOP!  They came up with the idea of taking the carpool lane on 394 and making it a "pay to use" lane.  Here's the problem with that; its cost is too pricey for most people, so the main group of people taking advantage of it are the ones where $3 each way is not a concern, the super-wealthy.  The GOP created a class tiered roadway system, with the rich able to avoid having to mingle with the 'heathens' in the regular traffic lanes.  And, the toll lanes have yet to even get close to making a profit.  The Republicans fought what they labeled 'subsidized transportation for the poor' by having the taxpayers subsidize transportation for the wealthy.  Nice!

Then there were the two gems from when Carol Molnau foolishly thought the Lt. Governor could easily run the Department of Transportation.  Carol was not bright, and, being someone who insisted mass transportation was the devil's work, was the last person who should've been in charge of transportation.  But her failures on mass transportation weren't her biggest mistakes.  She gave up the GOP ghost when it came to road expansion in Minnesota.

The first was the insanely stupid idea to close the Crosstown Commons for three years and rebuild it, but for some reason not increase the amount of lanes entering, on, or exiting the Commons.  She went with the cheapest plan on the table, basically a three year re-paving.  After howls of laughter at her foolishness, she and the Republicans came up with more money to make the expansion happen, which, for the record, was still under done.

When the 35W bridge collapsed, Molnau once again showed her biggest concern wasn't an effective transportation plan, but rather how cheap could the replacement be.  The initial bridge plan she endorsed had no way to expand the bridge in the future, no way to integrate mass transportation and a budget contractors were insisting was way too low.  Common sense ruled again and a better bridge was built in the end, but Carol proved the Republican call for "road expansion, ubër alles" was a lie.

What do we need to fix our transportation problem?  Three hundred billion, and that's to start.  I know I just lost a few of you, but that 300B would've been already spent if we hadn't had political hacks turn transportation into a budgetary football.  Here's what needs to be done:
  • Expand every Interstate in the core metro (94, 394, 694, 494, 35W and 35E) to at least four lanes in both directions, not including access lanes.  Four continuous lanes in both directions.
  • For all major roads coming towards/and in the 494/694 loop (169, 100, Crosstown, 36, US 52, 280)  there should be 3 lanes, and no traffic lights within the 494/694 loop, or for five miles approaching the loop.
  • Every major secondary road in the 494/694 loop (think Hwy 7, US 61, Hwy 55) needs another lane in both directions, or at least a redesign which limits the amount of traffic lights and utilizes more on/off ramps.
  • Begin construction of the SWLRT, the Bottineau Line, and at least three more light rail lines heading out of the core cities into the most populated communities.
  • With the new light rail lines, create bus hubs at every major stop, most effectively utilizing the light rails stations.
  • Repair all state bridges which are ranked 50% or less stress tolerance immediately, and put into place a game plane to replace all of them which are 80% or less within ten years.
  • Upgrade the top five roads in every county in the state.  
  • All US Highways in the state should be two lanes, traffic light free, in both directions.
  • Build a commuter rail line from Fargo to St. Cloud to Minneapolis, Duluth to Minneapolis, Rochester to St. Paul, and Eau Clair to St. Paul (at least to the St. Croix river).
  • Fix every deteriorating sidewalk in the state.
  • Maintain our trails throughout the state.
  • Expand bike lanes through out the Twin Cities, as well as Rochester, St. Cloud and Duluth.
Pretty common sense stuff, stuff that should've been done in the last 35 years, stuff that shouldn't have been sacrificed so a select few could have massive tax breaks.  The most controversial proposal, the immediate expansion of the light rail lines, is only controversial because it goes against modern GOP transportation ignorance.  If you start adding all of what I proposed up, nothing which is outrageous by any means, you start to understand how I say 300 billon is just a start.  And this IS only the beginning.  All of these things need to be done by 2030, when a new round of maintenance and upgrades should be embraced.

Used to be, if the major roadway was backed up, there were plenty of good alternatives which allowed you to get around the back ups.  The other day, Baker Road, a minor north/south road which cuts through Minnetonka, and used to be a great alternate for 494 and 169 in the west metro, had a two mile back up at Minnetonka Blvd, almost to Excelsior Blvd.  Frustrated and furious commuters were shooting off into residential neighborhoods in an effort to try to find a different route, speeding recklessly through quiet, residential roads.  This back up wasn't due to an accident or a major construction project (it was like this before they began working on Shady Oak Rd., and they route that traffic to Hopkins Crossroads).  It was just a Tuesday. 

The GOP made this mess.  I pray someone fixes it before the cost will be a trillion.

Friday, October 23, 2015

The Friday Link for 10/23/15

I survived...

It's late but I have to do what I have to do!  With us getting towards the end of the month of October, I thought some Halloween based videos would be right.

The first is a great video from Ellen.  Ellen Degeneres is an amazing talk show host.  I find myself watching parts of it every week.  She's has some of the funniest moments of any talk show, day or night, but this one takes the cake.  It's from last year.  She sends her producer Andy and his assistant Jacqueline into a pretty scary haunted house and the results are a riot.  I love how he is "helping" his assistant get through the scares.

The second video for a Friday is from Disney; old Disney.  First a warning about old Disney, they had some real racist stuff in some of those early cartoons.  Really ugly stuff too.  I've watched this and I didn't see any racism, but if I did miss something let me know and I'll pull it down immediately.  I can't stand racism.

This cartoon, The Skeleton Dance was great for three reasons.  First, you can tell they are using some fairly new techniques (for 1929) with the animation, namely when the four skeletons are dancing against the background.  I imagine this was one of the first instances of that.  Second is this is a cartoon not made for kids.  Sure kids could watch it, but in 1929, the audience was mainly adults. And thirdly, there are some very cool artistic images in this video.  Enjoy on a Friday late night!

A Quick Note!

Sorry the blog has been light this week, but, you know, birthday celebrations and all.

Tonight's Friday Link might be delayed until Saturday.  I'm hosting a birthday party for a bunch of 14 year old boys and needless to say, it is demanding a substantial amount of my attention.  If I survive, merriment will ensue!

Pray for me...

Monday, October 19, 2015

Lessons Learned

Forty seven.  That is how old I am today.  Born in 1968 at Fairview Southdale.  It's been a great run so far.

Over the years, I've been asked for advice by my younger friends, and me being a person who rarely shuts up, I oblige.  Here's my list of 21 things I would tell my 21 year old self, if I could go back and do so:

(NOTE - This is not about judging anyone, or making anyone feel bad.  This is just advice I'd give any 21 year old.  I doubt they'd listen anyway.  Many of these things I've learned first hand, others by observation.  Somethings I learned by trial and error, some things I just lucked out on.  The first three are financial.)

1) Start investing in your retirement early.  Not a lot, but some.  Even $20 every paycheck, when you're 25, will pay back nicely over 40 years.  Here's a simplistic online program to show you the benefit -

2) Do not over extend yourself on credit early in your life (before you are 30).  I know people today who have a gorgeous house, a few nice cars, a kick caboose boat, and all the gadgets anyone could ever want, but they also have a massive debt load.  If you can't afford it, you getting it usually ends with a long term bill.

3)  Try your best to pay off your credit cards every month.  I know these first three might not seem glamorous, but trust me, they're HUGE.  I've had times when paying off my credit cards was hard, real hard, but I stuck with it.  Not having credit card debt is a major stress relief.  If you can't pay it off one month, do your best to extremely limit the amount you put on the card the next month.

4) Travel.  Most people have two real windows in their life to travel, wherever they want to, whenever they want to:  their young 20's, and the time after their kids leave the house.  If you want to go someplace, especially someplace that's not kid friendly, go early!

5) Make sure you do something you like, because you'll be doing it for a long time.  I could walk away from radio and find another job, but it'll never fulfill me like doing the morning show does.  I was lucky enough to stumble into the career field of my dreams when I was in the military (Armed Forces Radio - Nuremberg).  After my first on-air shift, there was never another option.

Yes, monetary concepts should be applied, but even if your major is not something easy to make a buck with (I'm looking at you non-teaching historians and artists) make sure you're always doing what you love in some capacity.

6) Don't be afraid to have your heart broken.

7) Try things you've never thought of trying before.  I wouldn't know I love sushi and hate line dancing if I hadn't tried them.

8) Eat healthy, and find some sort of exercise you like to do.  It doesn't have to be triathlons, but it should be something.

9) Drinking is fun at times, but social drinking can become stress relief drinking, can become crutch drinking WAY too quickly and easily.

10) Don't buy something in an attempt to impress someone who's not worthy of your attention, or because you feel a need to keep up with the Jones'.  Competitive consumerism is killing this country.

11) Live in different places .  Live in the city and in the country.  Live overseas for awhile (THAT will open your eyes).  Live in different parts of the country and don't just mope about because where you're living is not your dream locale.  Find things to do wherever you end up.  There's always free things to do in every community.

12) Put down the freaking phone!

13) Online friends exist online.  Real world friend exist in the real world.  There is a MASSIVE difference.  Don't confuse one for the other.  By the way, that misunderstanding goes in both directions.

14) Never stop learning.  I personally think you should always be striving to finish up your college degree, but even when you have your degree in hand, keep exploring knowledge.

15) Don't be afraid of aging.  You are not going to be 25 forever, and only a fool tries to be.

16) Compliment people.

17) Say "please," "thank you" and "pardon me."

18) Don't regret your life.  You made it.  Either embrace it, or ask yourself what you have to do to change it.

19) You're always going to be your biggest advocate and cheerleader.

20) Don't ever be afraid to do something by yourself, or doing something that's goofy.

21) Embrace it.  The main thing I have learned is how quickly life goes by.  A freaking blink of an eye.  My son turned 14 yesterday.  I remember holding him in the hospital the day he was born.  It doesn't seem possible it's been 14 years.  Remember every laugh, every kiss, every love, every cry.  Call your friends and family, even the ones you haven't talked to in awhile.  Take a lot of photos and videos, but never forget to live in the moment.

The other life advice I'd add is to make sure you only use your home owners insurance when there's a real big problem.  You probably get one, maybe two claims against your home owners policy in your life, so wasting it on a freezer full of Sam's Club bargain buys after the power goes out is a foolish thing to do.  Also, make sure you have all your life paperwork in place (will, power of attorney, health care directive, estate and trust executor) before you have kids.  Since that advice doesn't apply to 21 year olds only, I left them off the list.  You're welcome!

Friday, October 16, 2015

The Friday Link for 10/16/15

As you've heard, I'm an absolute nut for Mad Max: Fury Road.  Hands down the best movie of the year (and that is including Inside Out), and (no joke) top 10 all time for me.  I will seriously be upset if this movie doesn't get an Oscar nod.

The movie is simple: a crazed road trip through post-apocalyptic Australia.  But it has more action than most action movie franchises, better thought out scenes, shockingly deep secondary plots, and, frankly, it's one of the most beautiful movies I've ever seen.  It should be a no brainer for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Cinematography.  Easy.

Yes, I know there are a lot of people who will NEVER watch this movie.  Your loss, but to help you at least have the know how for water cooler talk come Oscar time, I'll lean once again on the Screen Junkies and Cinema Sins guys:

First the Honest Trailer for Mad Max: Fury Road:

Next it's everything Wrong with Mad Max: Fury Road.  The funny part is how these guys are constantly taking off sins for how cool this movie really is:

With my birthday on Monday, this is my gift to you!  Enjoy!

Autumn at the Arboretum

I highly suggest you all go to the Arboretum.  Yes it is a bit of a drive, but it is gorgeous.  Look for yourself...

Wednesday, October 14, 2015


My job as a politically liberal radio host, in my opinion, doesn't demand I publicly proclaim who I'll support for the Democratic nomination for President in 2016.  I've no problem ripping apart the right.  After the civil and rational tone of the Democratic debate last night, the Republicans were exposed as the reality show frauds they really are, a howler monkey exhibit we tune into when they're about to get fed the media attention they crave.  The Democrats, on the other hand, are the educated adults in the race, and hence I need to treat their selection process with thoughtful reverence.

This means I keep quiet.

There is another reason I've decided to be an observer at this point.  The devoted fans of the two main candidates for the Democratic nomination, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, are always looking to vilify anyone who they think, rightly or wrongly, is against their nominee.

Last night I posted this image on my social media pages:

I meant it as a little reminder; at the end of the day, we're all Democrats, and we need to coalesce around the Democratic nominee.  Democrats should be ecstatic after last night.  A debate with substance and follow up questions.  Opinions about issues which actually affect every day Americans being presented to the American people, a stark contrast to the "who can grunt loudest" questions the GOP is fielding in their debates.  We have the two best candidates for president residing in the same party.  We should be vigilant, but proudly optimistic.

Overall, as a neutral observer, I feel as if Hillary slightly out performed Bernie, but only slightly.  I think Martin O'Malley gave people a reason to look at him a little more closely, and I think Webb and Chafee should head back home.  These thoughts were mimicked, independently, by main stream media, non-sell out media, and left leaning online media.

Today's rhetoric from both the Sanders and Clinton supporters has been insane. 

Some Hillary supporters are doing a combination of spiking the domination football (like they won the election itself by 50%), contrite insincerity towards Sanders and O'Malley (a 'better luck next time/impress me and I might make you Veep' message), and dire warnings to Vice President Joe Biden to stay away, (or Hillary will cut you)!

Some of the Sanders people are going even more crazy.  It started this morning with comments about how, in their opinion, Sanders did slightly better than Clinton, to touting polls insisting Bernie "destroyed" Clinton and the bias media is lying about the 'real' outcome, to Clinton is really a Republican.  Seriously, they're insisting Hillary is a secret Republican with close ties to Jeb Bush.  

CALM THE F- DOWN! It was one debate, they both looked good, and they both held their own.

This highlights something I'm very concerned about in regards to the election of 2016.  How many of these current supporters of Clinton and Sanders will actually show up and support the other if their candidate doesn't win the nomination?  I think large numbers on both sides will sit the election out, especially Sanders' supporters.  Many of them quite foolishly think if it's not Bernie, then it doesn't matter who wins; they're all the same. 

Meanwhile, the GOP is banking all of their hopes for 2016 on that misinformed mentality.  They'll spend millions of dollars to drive a wedge between the Clinton and Sanders supporters. Disenfranchising a large portion of the Democrats is the only way they can win.

I'm still neutral.  I'll be proud if Sanders, Clinton, Biden or O'Malley is the Presidential nominee.  Let's let the people decide this through the primary process and support their choice.  We can't even begin to think of fixing Citizens United, Hobby Lobby, the TPP, Wall Street, government spying, drones, the war on women's rights, environmental terrorism and injustice in our own streets if the President is a Republican.

Please remember that.

Friday, October 9, 2015

The Friday Link for 10/9/15

With a busy Friday night ahead, I have to make this quick, but it's worth it.  

WARNING - Adult Content!

Robot Chicken can be outrageously hilarious, or painfully weak.   The show has become a cult favorite on the Cartoon Network's Adult Swim, as it takes beloved characters from our youth and...well, let's just say they go from there.  Lucky for us, they're more funny than fail when it comes to their take down of the Star Wars movie franchise.  

First up, the phone call by Darth Vader to the Emperor explaining the Death Star has been blown up.  I love how they have cast the Emperor as the struggling manager of a business.

Then there is his trip to the Death Star where he ends up being done wrong by business travel. 

Then  finally, Vader has to deal with Jar Jar.  Enjoy!

A Higher Quality, More Sophisticated Fart

This morning, I ended the show on a low note.  I know, I'm a jerk.  I was talking willy nilly about farters and non-farters, but I swear, the talk was on point for the discussion AND about the best analogy I could ever make.

Let me explain...

On Thursday's Morning Grind, I criticized Alejandra Matos, the blogger for Class Act on the Star Tribune's website, for publishing a very unflattering story about the Minneapolis Public School system having a graduation rate below 50%.  The story relied heavily on a study done by a Washington state group called the Center for Reinventing Public Education, or CRPE.  The study goes onto say that only 4% of all Minneapolis high school students take either the SAT and ACT.  Two things missing from the story were 1) what was the recommendation the CRPE concluded from the study, and 2) what was their methodology for achieving their numbers, basically the 'Why' and 'How' of the study.  There was also a few peculiar statements in Matos' original piece, so I went to the CRPE website for more information.

It was clear within five seconds, the CRPE is a pro-charter school organization.  This itself was not bad, but it should've been part of the story.  These pro-charter school organizations are common, but they're notorious in their attempts to make public schools look bad, in an effort to make charter schools look better, usually with iffy numbers.  The fact that the whole original story by Alejandra had no purpose, outside of bashing on public schools, should've been a real big red flag.  On air, I made the point the pro-charter school attitude of CRPE, and the lack of purpose to the study, should've been addressed, and how it looked like Matos had just published talking points from the CRPE.

This morning's Star Tribune had a follow up story from Alejandra, indeed addressing these points directly.  She now correctly identifies the CRPE as a pro-charter school, anti-teacher tenure organization with an agenda, takes to task the non-sensical formulas the CRPE used to come up with there "conclusions," and basically establishes that no one should ever take a CRBE study as a neutral, independent study ever again.

The funny part is how the follow up story exposed the tricks the CRPE used to make public schools look bad, including folding the numbers for charter school graduation rates and placement testing into the total numbers for public schools, in turn, making them look worse.  You see, charter schools perform worse overall in these areas, so to make public schools look worse, they had to add the bad charter school numbers.  A reminder, the CRPE is a PRO-charter school group who knows charter schools preform poorly overall, but still wants them to replace public schools.  In one case, they knowingly took one charter school's dismal graduation numbers, the Minnesota Transitional Charter School, and counted them as public school graduation numbers FIVE TIMES in the same study.

Let me repeat:  The CRPE knows charter schools perform worse than public schools, but yet they still advocate for them, even being extremely dishonest by representing charter school numbers as public school numbers, to make public schools look worse, with the end goal of replacing the better performing schools, public schools, with a poorer quality of school, charter schools.  WOW!

The whole agenda pushing aside, this has got to be one of the most self abusing groups I have ever seen.  They're self deprecation is on the same level as the albino monk dude from the Davinci Code.  This is a level of self serving sycophant you rarely ever encounter.

Because I'm a child, a great analogy to the CRPE came to me in the form of a pro-farting group.  Stay with me; you'll see where I'm going...

Say you have an organization which is committed to farting.  They know they make the room smell far worse than the non-farters, but they need to promote their ideology.  They release a study which says all non-farters are far stinkier than anyone ever dreamed, with no purpose to the study outside of making non-farters look bad.  A quick look at their website shows they're a pro-farter group, and so their study should've included their point of view.  You then delve deeper into their anti-non-farter study to discover they actually used a faulty methodology, adding the farters to the non-farters to make the non-farters smelliness increase, even going as far as counting one farter's stench five times in the same study.  This completely misrepresented the non-farters, falsely implying their aroma is far worse than it really is.  And the funny part is they're doing this to get rid of the less smelly people, the non-farters, so they can promote the group they represent, the far smellier farters, as the freshest smelling people out there.

That's funny.  I'm glad we cleared the air. (HA!)

Thursday, October 8, 2015

I Love it When I'm Right!

Last week, in the blog post Whig-ing Out, I made the assertion the Republican Party in this country was starting to crash and burn around us.  Today, the evidence supporting my theory is flowing like molten lava through the GOP.

A few hours ago, the US House GOP insisted that a functioning government was too much compromise, and through secret ballot (because I guess they're like the Little Rascals in a treehouse) have torpedoed the House majority leader, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, from his ascension to the House Speaker position, to the audible crying and moaning from whatever is left of the Reagan Republicans (I am not making up the crying and moaning part!).  McCarthy, at best, would've been the Speaker until the holidays, when the far right, loony bin, paddy wagon would've come to drag him from his seat for suggesting the House approve another stop gap spending agreement to keep the country open for business, but his real downfall was due to his alter-ego, Captain Blabby, for validating what the world already knew, the Benghazi hearings were only about hurting Hillary Clinton's chances in the general election.

What this signifies is simple.  After screaming you should never trust government for 35 years, the GOP has become convinced by it's own rhetoric and feels the best thing you can do is shut down the government from within.  They don't understand what they're proposing.  They don't understand the trillions of dollars of costs this will incur, they don't understand the hardships this will place on many in the nation; they don't see the forest for the trees.  They feel they can force the President to eliminate Obama Care, make gay marriage icky again, and completely defund Planned Parenthood, by torturing the country.  Dick Cheney's legacy lives on!  Under the never ending deluge of "President Obama is you enemy!", they've made a herd of blood thirsty zealots who are willing to cut off their nose to spite their face.  They think this way: Government is EVIL, President Obama is EVIL, so turning the United States into a dumpster fire is a valid idea.  It's trying to shoot a duck with a tomahawk missile; you're going to wildly miss, and there's going to be a tremendous amount of collateral damage.

And the best part, President Obama won't compromise!  He already has tried to compromise over and over with these fools, and they only want 'their way or the highway.'  The President will not be receptive to them trying to hold a gun to his head.  The GOP will take the blame for adding trillions of dollars to the deficit, expose themselves as being useless at leading in this country, and in turn doom themselves for 2016.

Who'll take over the US House Speaker position?  I don't know, but the mandate from their own party is to shut down the government.  I hope it's a real far righty, one of those guys who spews an amalgamation of misquoted scripture, libertarian ideals and Ted Nugget lyrics.  That would be hilarious!

But the problems don't stop there for the GOP.  We now know the Republicans never really cared about the four dead at Benghazi, only using the investigation to politically hurt one person(!), but the Planned Parenthood hearings are on shaky ground too, as the president of Planned Parenthood spanked the House GOP for using the most outrageous anti-choice talking points to try to take her down.  They also failed to realize using heavily edited and grossly doctored videos as a spring board into an investigation was never going to hold up, so now they have to do everything to avoid calling the "experts" who started this charade, as those people will have no problem coming up to Capitol Hill and saying, "yes we doctored the videos because we hate Planned Parenthood."  They'll try to keep it going, but without fresh evidence of wrongdoing, it'll go nowhere.

The GOP Presidential race is still going great...for the Democrats.  Trump still leads.  Carson, the number two, is sounding like a crazy man, with his tone-deaf, non-sensical, and insensitive defense of guns.  The number three, Carly, is now doing everything to avoid her talking errors, and still has yet to come up with a way to explain her God awful CEO experience.  Meanwhile, legitimate candidates who might at least have a respectable showing in 2016 are slowly running out of money, and having to exit the race.

Let's look at Minnesota!  We had a sex scandal between two married GOP leaders, both of whom were members of the House ETHICS Committee (WOW!), both of whom called a law enforcement officer a liar, and never really apologized to the officer directly.  Then there is the debacle in MN-02, where the imminent retiring of Rep. Kline has created a MNGOP vacuum, with very few Republicans, and none of the prominent names, wanting to try to fill it.  When Jason Lewis, a former radio host who thinks Democrats should be rounded up, is your great white hope, that's not gong well.

But the real sign the MN Republicans are struggling to is the return of Stewart Mills the Third, the transplanted, silver spooned, spoiled brat who ran agains Rick Nolan in the MN-08 race last election, with tons of financial backing, obscene support from the NRA, a local media who was belligerently favoring him and a national GOP wave, and he LOST!  Why would anyone allow him to run again, unless you already know no one else wants to?  Maybe that's it; since no one else wants to waste their time, let Stewie do it again.  At least he has a family inheritance he can waste on it.

How long until the money people who prop up the GOP quietly turn their back and walk away?  How long before they look at this mess and ask the question good business people ask, "what's my return on investment?"  The money might not all dry up, but as of this afternoon, the money for the right is going to become dramatically less.  Without the money to blind the public to their inferior candidates, what will the Republicans do then?


Monday, October 5, 2015

Requiem for the Twins, 2015

Warning:  Sports content!

I love baseball, and I love the Twins.  The 2015 season was remarkable.  This team was not only picked to be the worst team in the American League Central, and the American League as a whole, I saw two predictions where the Twins were called the worst team in all of baseball.  They weren't relevant all the way to game 162 of the season, but they made it to game 161.  The fact they went into the final series of the year with a legit chance at making the playoffs was amazing.

Really, we should applaud the Twins.

I know many people will point to the senior leadership of Torii Hunter as the justification for giving him the MVP.  He had an outstanding beginning of the season, but his impact faded as the season went on.  Joe Mauer lead the team in hits, but he can't be the MVP (more on that in a second), and Brian Dozier was great, but he too faded as the season went on.

No, the MVP of the Twins this season was rookie Miguel Sano.

He only played half of the season, but without him in the lineup in July, August and September, we would've been eliminated well before Labor Day.  His swing is pure, and as a rookie, he's already lofting pitches into the upper deck.  Just do me a favor, do not try to turn him a singles hitter and do not trade him for nothing to the freaking Boston Red Sox, like you did to the greatest player in baseball for the last 15 years (David Oritz).

I also want to give a shout out to our catcher Kurt Suzuki.  As I've followed the team this year, in almost every win Kurt's name shows up in the scoring summary.  He doesn't have monster numbers, but he always seems to be sacrificing a runner, getting a clutch single or scoring a go ahead run.  He also is a pretty good catcher.  Most underrated Twins player of 2015 for sure.

With the good comes the bad.  Three worst things this season:

3) Joe Mauer.  Yes he lead the team in batting average and hits, but those numbers pale in comparison to real impact players in the league.  He's a $9-12 million a year player at best, not a $23 million.  His contract is hampering the team greatly.  That contract is one of the worst things the Twins have done the last 25 years, worse than trading Oritz (he wasn't hitting well when they sent him to the Red Sox), or even the Bill Smith tenure as General Manager (at least he did bring in some future prospects).  It won't be the worst contract the league has ever seen, but if you step away from the hometown rose colored glasses and evaluate the contract on the merits of the performance, it might end up being top 3 worst contracts in Twins team history.  His moderate return for that much money hurt us in 2015.

2) Mid-July to mid-August.  What a God awful month of baseball that was.  Great teams turn up the heat in July, but we decided to turn up the AC.  We were in command of our destiny at the beginning the month, but by the time we got into August, the shine was gone, and we were scrambling just to make it to September.  Yes they did make it a legit season by recovering midway through August, but this team folded in the summer heat.

1) September 15th through the 19th.  That's when we lost the playoffs.  We lost two to Detroit, and then lost three to the Angels, AT HOME.  That five game slump is what eliminated us from October.  The Angels were a good team (who also did not make the playoffs, for the record) but losing 3 out of four to them when you needed wins was hard, but I prefer to focus on the utter collapse against the Tigers, a team which was a traveling tire fire.  A legit team, in the middle of a playoff chase, should've taken that series at home, verses the worst team in the American League Central, if not swept them.  Those two games cost us the playoffs.  Those two loses were inexcusable.


Anyway, the best part of baseball is the following line, "there's always next year!"

Friday, October 2, 2015

The Friday Link for 10/2/15

It is well documented I love the Peanuts comic strip and all of it's various holiday TV specials.  Always have.  One of my earliest memories of going to a movie was going to see a Peanuts one.  I think it was "A Boy Named Charlie Brown."

Today, October 2nd is the anniversary of the comic strip debuting!  Sixty five years ago, in 1950, the strip began, and it looked a lot different from today:

If you get the complete works, you get to see the characters transform over time.  The entire book series is very gratifying.  

I'm very excited to see the new version of the Peanuts coming to the theaters this Fall.  I've been surprised the amount of people bashing on the new movie re-launch.  My guess is they're bothered by the idea of changing anything from the original TV specials.  No one is trying to do that, no one could, but it is a popular franchise, and the desire is to keep the money coming in.  It's why they have, successfully, relaunched the Muppets, again.

These doubters and haters must not realize there are tons of specials they've made over the years.  I buy a DVD of Charlie Brown Christmas, and it comes with three other features I've never even heard of, and I'm a fan!  If anything, I think a reboot will do the franchise some good, with less focusing on the secondary characters.  I like my Shermy, Violet and Rerun like the next guy, but not at the cost of losing one of the main characters.

October means "It's The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown!"  I give you two great scenes from the special.  First the opening scene with the iconic music, and the second is a jewel of a scene with Snoopy and Schroeder.  The end of his sing along always makes me laugh.  Enjoy!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Sadly Predictable

It is October 1st, 2015 and today we had another mass shooting in this county.

Within minutes of the shooting, the pro-gun crazies were out in force, without any knowledge of what happened in the shooting, insisting more guns would have saved the day, the school's gun policies were really to blame, how we should force people to carry guns, and how massive government regulations (which do not exist) are the real problem.

The gun nuts then went on the offensive.  They insisted the anti-gun people shouldn't say anything at all, that their 1st Amendment rights need to be rescinded, because they're bias against the purity of guns and bullets.  Or they say, "Thank God a gun and a bullet stopped the shooter!  Don't look at any of the other guns or bullets from the crime scene, just focus on the one which stopped the shooter," like the murders didn't really happen because the shooter was eventually shot himself.  Then there is the False Flag people, who are already insisting this wasn't a shooting in a school, but some sort of covert government incursion into public domain, with the ultimate goal of rounding up all the guns.  This comes from the same people who insisted Jade Helm was about putting Texas under military rule.  How did that go, idiots?

I asked a question a few gun massacres ago (sigh), only a few months ago (sigh), what would it take for the most staunch gun people in the country to finally admit we have a problem.  I came up with a God Awful scenario (WARNING!!! - this imagery should disturb and scare you.  It did me), a massive slaughter of young athletes, 100 or more, at a fund raising event.  As horrible as that sounds, I realize now even that wouldn't be enough for these gun worshipers.  They'd do exactly what they did this time around, insisting the athletes should've been carrying weapons for the entire event, how the family members who died trying to save their loved ones were the real bad guys for not having a gun to stop the shooter, how 8, 7, and 6 year olds should be allowed to carry weapons all the time, how non-existentnt, un-enforced laws were the real culprit, and how video games need to be banned.

Guns don't fire themselves, but they are by far the most lethal method of killing people we have.  The gun culture we have created is one where insanity rules all.  Cars, alcohol, birth control and cough medicine are all regulated far more than guns.  The gun and bullet manufactures have bought off most of our government, laughing in delight and glee when another massacre happens, as they can scare witless morons into buying more weapons.

The gun and bullet makers want a world like the Walking Dead, with everyone walking around, weapon drawn, loaded, a round in the chamber, safety off and finger on the trigger all day long.  And they already are prepared for when that world proves to be a murder spree failure.  They'll argue "You have two hands but only one gun.  The REAL problem here is you need a drawn weapon, loaded, a round in the chamber, safety off and finger on the trigger in EACH hand!"

If there was a political party which had common sense gun control as their main platform, they would win around 40% of the races they would compete for in 2016.  Then, only after it started looking like a common sense gun control party would gain control, would the industry and their bought and paid for politicians scramble to find some consolation, a bone to throw at the common sense gun control people to say, "who ever said we were against gun laws?!?"

Who wants to help me begin the Common Sense Party.  It'll be for education, women's rights, gay rights, fair treatment of all, an immigration plan which welcomes and fulfills without sacrificing American's rights, Veterans rights, environmental rights, transportation upgrades for all forms of transportation, a fair tax code, universal health care, no publicly funded stadiums, and of course, common sense gun control.