$1 protest

Cook Report: "No Ebb in the Wave"

Comparing the 2006 mid-terms to the 1994 route of Republicans wielding laminated "Contract with America" cards, Charlie Cook of The Cook Political Report predicts good things for Democrats next week:

With the election just eight days away, there are no signs that this wave is abating. Barring a dramatic event, we are looking at the prospect of GOP losses in the House of at least 20 to 35 seats, possibly more, and at least four in the Senate, with five or six most likely.

If independents vote in fairly low numbers, as is customary in midterm elections, losses in the House will be on the lower end of that range. But if they turn out at a higher than normal level, their strong preference for Democrats in most races would likely push the GOP House losses to or above the upper levels.

MN Sec. of State errs on state, campaign sites

It seems the charge leveled by the Minnesota Democratic Party against Mary Kiffmeyer yesterday--that she failed to maintain accurate and updated information on the frequently-asked-questions page on the Secretary of State's website, including adding language approved in May 2005 that addresses voting elegibility for ex-felons--might also apply to the incumbent's campaign site as well.

After several weeks without any noticeable changes, Kiffmeyer.org--a site adminstered by her son, James Kiffmeyer--now shows new content on the endorsements page, altered on Saturday. However, since at least mid-September, the function that allows visitors to sign up for Kiffmeyer's e-mail newsletters hasn't worked. It only yields the message, "Error: Bad/No Recipient."

While her challenger, Democrat Mark Ritchie, wouldn't comment on Kiffmeyer's campaign website, he says that her management of the Secretary of State's site transcends mere carelessness.

"I've held several press conferences pointing out inaccurate information, incorrect information, failure to implement laws and failure to implement court orders," he says. "There's a pattern there that I think is inexcusable. It appears to be partisan, and it's unacceptable this close in to an election. I feel like the inaccuracies have been pointed out long enough that their continued presence on the website is intentional and therefore is a deceptive practice. It'll be up to the courts to decide if it meets the test of deceptive practices spelled out in Minnesota law."

James Kiffmeyer has not yet responded to an email asking for comment.



At least we're safer than Compton. In a new ranking of safest cities, Minneapolis scores woefully low: 345th out of 371 (St. Louis was the worst, Compton ranked 368. Best: Brick, NJ.) The rankings look at FBI statistics in cities with populations over 75,000. How safe is your city?


Like talking to a shrub...

In the noisy clutter of TV advertising, the best way to cut through is with a simple clear message. And a new spot by Harold Ickes' 527 group, the September Fund, uses an easy gag to take a swipe at our tin-eared president: getting answers on everything from an Iraq withdrawal to why the hurricane-struck Gulf Coast is so slowly rebuilding--is like talking to an actual bush (rimshot). According to the Washington Post, Democratic organizer Ickes has raised somewhere between $5 and $10 million to air the spots in key states, including the Twin Cities, during the final days before the election. As Republican groups prepare to sink millions on TV placements (and money is tight for Democrats) one last effort to link GOP candidates to the ever-unpopular Bush is probably smart, but to this writer, the ad offers a bit of comic relief amid the increasingly ugly barrage of attack ads.

adMN is an ongoing review of communications created to shape Minnesota's campaigns and culture.



Stay the course: Mark Kennedy promises more war

In his newest TV spot, Minnesota Senate candidate Mark Kennedy delivers a "stay the course" message on Iraq--a mantra even George W. Bush appears to be jettisoning--wearing crisp-pressed khakis in an idyllic country setting amid the somber swell of classical music. When Kennedy, a man who never served in the US military, tells of the "harsh reality" of the war (that if the US leaves, the country will become a "breeding ground for new attacks on America") he seems pretty far removed from said realites. He fails to mention the sacrifices of those who are there fighting or, worse yet, offer a single new idea on how to resolve the deadly conflict.

Kennedy seems to be banking on a tone of principled determination in the spot: he's the man tough enough to deliver truths that "may not be what you want to hear." It's a bold strategy--standing unequivocally for an increasingly unpopular war, even as the president admits that Vietnam (the 1968 Tet Offensive, to be precise) might be an apt metaphor for this point in the conflict--but it offers nothing to suggest his determination might yield positive results in Iraq. He rejects diplomacy outright, and chides opponent Amy Klobuchar by saying "securing the peace is a lot harder than wishing for it." But he offers nothing other than wishes for peace himself--and more war.


Support our... oops.

Even in a Star Tribune editorial endorsing opponent Coleen Rowley, John Kline's military service gets a mention: "He had a distinguished career in the Marines and retains a passion for military and veterans' issues." As one of only a few Republican members of Congress who served in the armed forces and has family in the US Military, Kline's service is worth mention, but does his "passion" for veterans issues translate into his voting record?

According to a new scorecard by the Afghanistan and Iraq Veterans of America (IAVA), America's largest Iraq veterans group, the answer is: sort of.

The 2nd district congressman scored a "C" in based on "his voting history on issues that affect US troops, Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans, and military families."

Kline scored far better on IAVA's tally than other Republicans in Minnesota--and the country. While Democrats Sen. Mark Dayton got an A- and Rep. Martin Sabo ranked a B+, Republicans Norm Coleman and Mark Kennedy scored a D and C+ respectively.

In fact, Republicans dominated the bottom of the list on their support-the-troops votes (155 Senate votes on matters that affect the military or military familes since 9/11/2001).

Here's how others ranked:

Find your representative here.

Coleman fails to clear air over global-warming proposal

Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN) wants to be "unequivocally clear." "Our goal is to strengthen emissions standards and any assertion to the contrary is simply false," he said in a statement issued Friday in response to a Minnesota Natural Legacy Campaign (MNLC) press release he claims inaccurately stated his position on reducing the gases responsible for global warming.

At issue is Coleman's draft version of a "Clean Energy Portfolio Standard" that doesn't call for a national cap on carbon dioxide emissions--a measure 81% of Minnesotans prefer, according to a new MNLC survey--but instead aims to limit the rights of states and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to establish stricter criteria for regulating greenhouse gases.

Coleman didn't specify how MNCL mischaracterized his stance (nor has his office replied to Minnesota Monitor's request for comment), but a review of his proposal, provided by InsideEPA.com, indicates that the non-profit's release was accurate in stating that it aimed to "block states and the EPA from limiting the pollution that causes global warming" by preempting non-federal governments from determing their own emissions standards.

Coleman's draft proposal is controversial for a few reasons: the two-page summary document outlines plans to offer "clean energy credits" to producers using traditional renewable technologies as well as to those generating electricity through nuclear power and goal gasification. (It also uses a phrase popularized during George W. Bush's 2003 State of the Union address: "clean coal," a term that prompted the Sierra Club's Dan Becker to retort, "There is no such thing as 'clean coal' and there never will be.") And it prohibits states and the Environmental Protection Agency from imposing its own emissions standards, while revealing, through use of the word "allegedly," that Coleman questions CO2's role in global warming:

Preemption of State Climate Change Policies Relating to Electric Power Sector

• States, and political subdivisions of states, are preempted from adopting or attempting to enforce any standard or other requirement the purpose of which is to control the emissions of carbon dioxide from any facility that generates electricity for sale to consumers. Furthermore, the language determines that carbon dioxide is not a "pollutant" under the Clean Air Act and that any harm allegedly caused by carbon dioxide emissions is not actionable under federal or state common law.

Inclusion of the EPA in the document is tied to a Supreme Court case to be heard November 29, says Kelly Scanlan, director of MNLC. Massachusetts, et al. v. Environmental Protection Agency, et al., a suit filed by 12 states, would force the EPA to regulate carbon dioxide as a "pollutant" under the Clean Air Act. While the case arose out of concerns about automobile emissions, it would set precedent for utility emissions as well.

"Our feeling is that this proposal is more along the lines of helping utilities and not so much about looking at the big picture--fighting global warming," says Scanlan.

Such interests are generous contributors to Coleman and the GOP: the oil and gas industry has donated four times more to Republicans than to Democrats, and Coleman has received nearly $330,000 in campaign contributions from electric utilities and the oil/gas industry since taking office (InsideEPA.com reports that St. Paul's Xcel Energy has been drawing up a similar proposal to Coleman's.)

Coleman contends his commitment to combating global warming has been bold and clear, but his record suggests a more muddled view. While he's been praised by MNLC as a "strong supporter of increased use of bio-fuels," he voted against reducing oil usage by 40% by 2025 (instead of 5%) in June 2005. And, although he kept his pledge to vote against oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, he's gotten consistently poor marks from the League of Conservation Voters for his voting record on environmental issues: 29%, 16% and 35% in the last three sessions (in sharp contrast to LCV scores for Sen. Mark Dayton [86%, 90% and 80%] and Rep. Martin Sabo [92%, 89%, 97%]).

"He hasn't been taking the lead on global warming," Scanlan concludes. "Our hope is that he'll take the work he's done on biofuels and vehicle efficiency and take it a step further."

Cross-posted at Minnesota Monitor.

Us & Dem: GOP yard signs omit party affiliation

Back in September--before the Mark Foley scandal and coverup exploded, before Rich Lowry of the National Review coined the word "precriminations" (conservatives' pre-election accusations of why they'll do poorly November 7)--GOP polling firm Fabrizio, McLaughlin & Associates knew Republicans were in trouble: they discovered last month that the more people knew of the party's ideas and initiatives, the less they liked it. (In July, the firm's namesake, Tony Fabrizio, likened Republicans going back to their districts to trumpet successes of an abysmal session as "trying to turn chicken droppings into chicken salad.") Just weeks before the election, things look even worse for them: Democrats' enthusiasm keeps going up, and a new Wall Street Journal/NBC poll shows Americans haven't been this unhappy with Congress--which the GOP now controls--since 1992.

Considering these trends--not to mention the GOP-led handling of Iraq, Hurricane Katrina, and scores of scandals that go by names like Ney, Abramoff, Cunningham and Delay--it's no wonder few Republicans seem to want to admit they're Republicans.

While far from definitive, an informal sample of political yard signs suggests that the trend of "stealth Republicans" online--GOP candidates who downplay or eliminate mention of the party on their websites--is mirrored on the ground as well: while nearly every Democratic sign in a survey of Minneapolis-area signs mentioned the party's endorsement (other than the highest profile candidates, Mike Hatch and Amy Klobuchar), none of the Republicans' did. And it seems to apply for metro-area races on every level: school board, county offices, state legislature (including State Senate District 58, pitting Democratic incumbent Linda Higgins against Republican Jim Lilly; above), and some national races.

Are Republicans hoping voters will forget their party loyalties? Are they deliberately trying to mislead voters? Is this a phenomenon only in Demomcratic-leaning Minneapolis, or is it a state- or nation-wide trend? Help me find out. Email me images of signs from your district (400 x 300 pixel digital photo, shot close up).

Note: I'm excluding offices, like Secretary of State and the State Auditor, that should be administered in a nonpartisan way and therefore shouldn't mention party endorsements; also not included are third parties, whose candidates almost universally use their party affiliation to differentiate themselves from Democrats and Republicans. (For non-Minnesotans: our Democratic party is called the DFL, Democrat-Farmer-Labor.)

Now, Democrats on the left, Republicans on the right:

Minnesota Governor
US Congress (MN 5)
Minesota Senate (44)
Minnesota House (44A)
Minnesota House (44B)

Minnesota House (58B)
Minnesota Senate (60)
Minnesota House (60A)

Hennepin County Sheriff


Slow learners.

It takes Republicans awhile. Just as addle-pated Sen. Ted Stevens thinks the internet is a "series of tubes," so George W. Bush calls Google "The Google"--oh, and he uses it, to look up maps. No surprise, then, that the GOP seems to be teetering on the brink of shifting its longtime "stay the course" policy in Iraq--thanks to record-low approval ratings for the war and internal dissent among poll-watching Republicans. Will a sensible withdrawal timeline for US troops be next?

Vote on a new logo for Architecture for Humanity

The humanitarian architecture nonprofit Architecture for Humanity (blogged about here) is getting a new logo, and it's asking its supporters to help decide on a final design. Here are the three options; go here to vote.


Random links

• Doggy bubble: Coolest inane pet luxury, a fence porthole for your dog, via The Nonist.

• Deadly: October was the deadliest month in 2006 for US soldiers in Iraq; for Iraqis, it's worse, with an average of 43 people killed each day of the month.

• "Place your hand on the Qu'ran." Former Rocketboom vlog-anchor Amanda Congdon interviews Keith Ellison for Minnesota Stories on what it'll be like being sworn in as America's first Muslim Congressman.

• Bush's amnesia: Fibbing is more like it; the president--despite much evidence to the contrary--now claims the White House Iraq strategy was never "stay the course."

• Copyright Merit Badge: The Boy Scouts of America and the Motion Picture Association are teaming up: Scouts can now earn a Respect Copyrights Activity Patch.

• Worldchanging Minneapolis and Beyond: Seattle-based sustainability site Worldchanging is launching satellite sites across the US next month, and they're looking for local bloggers. If you live in Portland, New York, Canada, Minneapolis, Chicago, Washington DC, Austin, Los Angeles, San Francisco, or Denver, drop 'em a line.
• The Art of Speleology: Caves have been a recurring theme at my day job of late. Closing today at the Walker Art Center is a cave by LA-born, Paris-based artist Cameron Jamie, and opening is the installation Cavemanman by Swiss-born, Paris-based artist Thomas Hirschhorn. Read about the installation and ideas behind the tape-and-aluminum foil hermit's hideout.


MN Gov. Race: Mudslinging & trash bags

Instead of yard signs, Independence Party gubernatorial candidate Peter Hutchinson is giving away lawn leaf bags. At first glance, though, the orange plastic bags with black lettering look like garbage bags--perhaps an allusion to the junk flung with such frequency by politicians in this final phase of an increasingly ugly campaign season? This interpretation seems more apt in light of a new web-only commercial by Hutchinson and the Independence Party's Team Minnesota:


Worldchanging Tour

Lots of changes are afoot at the green futurist site Worldchanging. My pal Leif is their new publisher, they've got a new book (designed by Stefan Sagmeister, with a foreward by Al Gore, an introduction by Bruce Sterling, and contributions on new thinking in green politics, consumerism, and design), and they're launching it at parties cross-country. Minneapolitans, get a first glimpse of the book Worldchanging: A User's Guide for the 21st Century here:

November 8th: MINNEAPOLIS - Event at Kingman Studios
Doors at 7:00; program at 8:00
1901 Grand St. NE
Minneapolis, MN 55418 USA

You've gotta RSVP. Click for more.
The tour hits other cities; see the schedule.


Report: Bush buys Paraguay paradise

Prensa Latina reports that George W. Bush has purchased a 98,842-acre farm in northern Paraguay, between Brazil and Bolivia. In one way, it makes sense: why not retire in the land where the US military has had a visible presence for over a year and that's ruled by a pro-market, Bush friendly president? Plus, Paraguay gives foreign investors all the same protections it gives its own: for people in Bush's income bracket, the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agreement Agency (MIGA) "insures investors against risks such as expropriation, currency inconvertibility and damages caused by revolution, war or civil strikes." (The cons for Bush are three-fold: Brazil's lefty president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to the east, Bolivia's lefty president Evo Morales to the north, and Argentina's lefty president Nestor Kirchner to the west).

But as corruption scandals pile up in the Bush administration and legal teams are assembled in anticipation of post-2008 life, perhaps this is the most telling fact about Bush's possible retirement getaway: while the US and Paraguay have an extradition treaty, there's one glaring exemption: "political offenses."


"God told me to run."

Michele Bachmann, the Bush-loving Republican Congressional candidate here in Minesota, may have put a local church's non-profit status in jeopardy when she took to the pulpit to discuss her campaign. The church's pastor personally endorsed Bachmann--a no-no for 501(c)3s--and Bachmann told her story of how "God then called me to run for the United States Congress.'

Congrats to Andy at Minnesota Monitor for breaking this (Huffington Post, Crooks & Liars, and others are linking to our lowly site).

MN Sec. of State Candidate: Despite ammo, ad stays positive.

There are two notable things about the TV commercial Secretary of State candidate Mark Ritchie launched today: that a down-ballot candidate is running TV at all, and that Ritchie didn't unload his best ammo on his opponent, incumbent SoS Mary Kiffmeyer.

Ritchie's commercial doesn't go after Kiffmeyer's infamous proclamation that the "five words" that are "probably most destructive" in America today are "separation of church and state." He didn't bring up her unsuccessful attempt to prohibit off-reservation native Americans from voting using tribal ID cards. Most obvious, he didn't recall her September 2004 memo (and posters) sent to polling places that outlined the "Behaviors of Homicide Bombers" who might attempt to disrupt elections (key characteristics included a shaved head or the "smell of unusual herbal/flower water or perfume")--a move many interpreted as an attempt to scare off potential voters (who would likely vote Democratic).

Nope, Ritchie goes for a positive, homespun spot that only hints at Kiffmeyer's performance by promising that Ritchie, the DFL-endorsed candidate, will "get the politics out of the Secretary of State's office." With a folksy sound score, the spot's voiceover comes from Joan Growe, who preceded Kiffmeyer as Secretary of State. Growe's endorsement packs a punch: not only is she featured as a "High Profile Hottie" in the current issue of Mpls.St.Paul (they dubbed her a "Political Pioneer Beauty"), but as a 24-year secretary of state (1975–1999)--and the first woman in Minnesota history to hold statewide office--her endorsement (of a man, no less) carries extra weight.

Steven Schier, a professor of political science at Carleton College, says Ritchie's upbeat approach is a no brainer. Considering the power of incumbency and the low name recognition of many down-ballot candidates, "the first thing you have to do is introduce yourself to voters. You can’t do a negative ad until people know you exist. It’s campaining 101."

Schier can't recall a case in Minnesota's history when down-ballot candidates ran TV (there are two: State Auditor candidate Rebecca Otto launched her spot today), but he approves. "Voter identification is key to winning votes."

He adds that an attack on Kiffmeyer by Ritchie could backfire: "You run the risk of being identified as a partisian seeking an office that should be administered in a non-partisan manner."

adMN is an ongoing review of communications created to shape Minnesota's campaigns and culture.


Broken Angel burns

Last week a fire damaged part of Broken Angel, the Brooklyn home built by self-taught architect Arthur Wood. His son Christopher writes in to say his elderly parents will be removed from their home of 30 years if they don't make code upgrades after the fire. If you can help, send donations in care of Arthur at 4 Downing street Brooklyn, New York 11238.


650,000 civilians killed in Iraq.

A new study by the British medical journal The Lancet puts the death toll in Iraq at 655,000 civilians. Bush--who has said that the figure should be more like 30,000--says the report's "methodology is discredited," but polling expert John Zogby says he's 95% certain that The Lancet's research is accurate. Watch CNN International's coverage: