Monthly Archives: May 2017

Beren and Luthien, sitting in an Ent. (New Tolkien LOTR Book)

The brand new just published (June 1) book Beren and Lúthien presents the story of the human (or should I say “Man”?) Beren Erchamion, or “The One-Handed” (AKA Beren Camlost, for “the Empty Handed”) and the Elf-maiden Lúthien Tinúviel.

If you read The Lord of the Rings you may recall Aragorn telling their story to Frodo.

This Man and this Elf-Maiden lived over 6,000 years before the time of the Lord of the Rings, and their story is told in several places throughout the LOTR literature, in books that, frankly, most people don’t read. Christopher Tolkien, heir of J.R.R. Tolkien, and mapmaker of the The Lord of the Rings, created Beren and Lúthien from those original texts, and the book, much delayed, is coming out right now. You can pre order it here.

The story is in the form of Hercules’ myth, with the quest set to Beren to steal a Silmaril, which is a special jewel, from the Ainur Melkor. That would be roughly like trying to steal Donald Trump’s tweeting device while he is under the protection of the United States Secret Service. Or maybe a little harder.

Beren is sent on this quest because it is the only way he can keep dating the Elf-Maiden Lúthien, according to her Elf-Lord father.

Tolkien, in his own tradition which was not as uncommon in, say, the 19th century as it is now, having slowly disappeared over time, played fast and lose with his stories, changing them quite a bit across published forms. This happened within some of the texts, like The Hobbit, but more pervasively, across different instantiations of the total lore-set. For this reason, the story of Beren and Lúthien changes a great deal across the full body of written work. This makes it impossible to simply extract the original story and make it into a single coherent book that is also “true” to a particular telling.

Personally, I would have been happy if Christopher Tolkien had just settled on a version of the story and made this into a regular novel, but I’m probably the only fan of Tolkien’s work that would accept that. Therefore, the new work is much more complicated, written from the point of view of the author JRR Tolkien, integrating text taken from the original work.

This new book also serves to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the publication of The Children of Hurin. Come to think of it, you might want to read The Children of Hurin first, because it kinda sets up the context. (Since this is about LOTR, people will disagree!)

Yes, there are orcs.

Donald Trump Signs Up for On Line Dating

A statement has just been released by the White House, regarding President Donald Trump:

President Trump has a magnetic personality and exudes positive energy, which is infectious to those around him. He has an unparalleled ability to communicate with people, whether he is speaking to a room of three or an arena of 30,000. He has built great relationships throughout his life and treats everyone with respect. He is brilliant with a great sense of humor … and an amazing ability to make people feel special and aspire to be more than even they thought possible.

There are a thousand ways to interpret this. And they are all AT THIS LINK

Hat Tip: Tracy Walker

Not many US Senators write this kind of book!

Al Franken, Giant of the Senate By Al Franken. This book claims to be this:

From Senator Al Franken – #1 bestselling author and beloved SNL alum – comes the story of an award-winning comedian who decided to run for office and then discovered why award-winning comedians tend not to do that.

This is a book about an unlikely campaign that had an even more improbable ending: the closest outcome in history and an unprecedented eight-month recount saga, which is pretty funny in retrospect.

It’s a book about what happens when the nation’s foremost progressive satirist gets a chance to serve in the United States Senate and, defying the low expectations of the pundit class, actually turns out to be good at it.

It’s a book about our deeply polarized, frequently depressing, occasionally inspiring political culture, written from inside the belly of the beast.

In this candid personal memoir, the honorable gentleman from Minnesota takes his army of loyal fans along with him from Saturday Night Live to the campaign trail, inside the halls of Congress, and behind the scenes of some of the most dramatic and/or hilarious moments of his new career in politics.

Has Al Franken become a true Giant of the Senate? Franken asks readers to decide for themselves.

As the person who personally got Al Franken elected to office the first time around, I’m sure I’m in this book in several places. I haven’t checked yet, but I thought you should know about the book.

The Best Children’s Books #2

Installment # 1 is here

Without delay, here are four five star choices and four four star choices:

The Emperor’s New Clothes, the classic story by Hans Christian Anderson, illustrated for the modern retro child by Virginia Lee Burton.

You know the story, so I won’t give you a summary, and the whole point is the illustrations so you should just click through to see. (The graphic at the top of the post is from within the book, illustrating the overall reading level and quality).

So Few of Me by Peter Reynolds.

Alternate title: Calming the helicopter parent.

Leo’s list of things to do keeps growing, until one day he wishes, “If only there were two of me.” Just as the words are out of his mouth, poof! Another Leo appears! Two Leos become three, three become four, and four become more . . . but Leo can’t help but notice that he has even more to do than before. As he struggles to deal with his overcomplicated life, Leo realizes that there may be a simpler solution to his overscheduling woes. Peter H. Reynolds, the award-winning author-illustrator of THE DOT and ISH, returns with an important message for readers of all ages: stop and take a little time to dream.

I’m Here a second installment by Peter Reynolds

I’m here.
And you’re there.
And that’s okay.
But…
maybe there will be a gentle wind that pulls us together.
And then I’ll be here and you’ll be here, too.

Pure, powerful and deceptively simple, bestselling author and illustrator Peter H. Reynolds reminds us that children—and the friendships they make—can take flight in unexpected ways.

Other books (not reviewed her) by Peter Reynolds, including a box set:

The North Star

Happy Dreamer

The Dot

Going Places

Peter Reynolds Creatrilogy Box Set (Dot, Ish, Sky Color)

Ish (Creatrilogy), a third suggestion by Peter Reynolds

Ramon loved to draw. Anytime. Anything. Anywhere.

Drawing is what Ramon does. It¹s what makes him happy. But in one split second, all that changes. A single reckless remark by Ramon’s older brother, Leon, turns Ramon’s carefree sketches into joyless struggles. Luckily for Ramon, though, his little sister, Marisol, sees the world differently. She opens his eyes to something a lot more valuable than getting things just “right.” Combining the spareness of fable with the potency of parable, Peter Reynolds shines a bright beam of light on the need to kindle and tend our creative flames with care.

Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type (A Click, Clack Book) by Doreen Cronin (Author) and Betsyh Lewin (Illustrator)

Keyboarding Kows:

New York Times bestselling duo Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin’s Caldecott Honor–winning book is now available as a Level 2 Ready-to-Read!

Farmer Brown has a problem. His cows like to type. All day long he hears:

Click, clack, moo.
Click, clack, moo.
Click, clack, moo.

But Farmer Brown’s problems REALLY begin when his cows start leaving him notes! Come join the fun as a bunch of literate cows turn Farmer Brown’s farm upside-down!

I Stink! by Kate McMullan and Jim McMujllan

This is more illustration than words, but the image gives you an idea of the words.

For fans of Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site and Steam Train, Dream Train comes a noisy addition to the hilarious read-aloud series from Kate and Jim McMullan, the popular creators of I’m Bad! and I’m Dirty!

“Know what I do at night while you’re asleep? Eat your trash, that’s what!”

With ten wide tires, one really big appetite, and an even bigger smell, this garbage truck’s got it all. His job? Eating your garbage and loving every stinky second of it! And you thought nighttime was just for sleeping.

The Three Little Aliens and the Big Bad Robot by Margaret McNamara and Mark Fearing.

Introduce kids to the planets and solar system in this fractured fairy tale retelling of the classic The Three Little Pigs. Parents and children alike will adore this out-of-this-world story, which is set in outer space!

GREEP BOINK MEEP! The three little aliens are happily settling into their new homes when the Big Bad Robot flies in to crack and smack and whack their houses down! A chase across the solar system follows in this humorous and visually stunning book from Margaret McNamara (How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin?) and Mark Fearing (The Book that Eats People). The endpapers even include a labeled diagram of all the planets.

Scaredy Squirrel by Mélanie Watt.

(I would have given this a five star, but Amanda gave it a four.)

Scaredy Squirrel never leaves his nut tree. It’s way too dangerous out there. He could encounter tarantulas, green Martians or killer bees. But in his tree, every day is the same and if danger comes along, he’s well-prepared. Scaredy Squirrel’s emergency kit includes antibacterial soap, Band-Aids and a parachute.

Day after day he watches and waits, and waits and watches, until one day … his worst nightmare comes true! Scaredy suddenly finds himself out of his tree, where germs, poison ivy and sharks lurk.

But as Scaredy Squirrel leaps into the unknown, he discovers something really uplifting …

From John Peters at Booklist:

Gr. 1-3. In a tongue-in-cheek tale that may help to prod anxious readers out of their hidebound routines, a squirrel discovers the pleasures of leaping into the unknown. As the world’s a scary place, what with the killer bees, green Martians, tarantulas, germs, and sharks that might be lurking about, Scaredy Squirrel keeps to his tree, and to a precise, minute-by-minute daily schedule–until a supposed “killer bee” actually wanders by, causing Squirrel to dislodge his suitcase-size emergency kit. A wild lunge to rescue it turns into a long glide (portrayed in a gatefold), as Squirrel discovers to his astonishment that he is a flying squirrel. Eventually, Squirrel returns in triumph to his tree and from then on adds a daily glide to his accustomed rounds. Despite the simply drawn cartoons and brief text, this is more sophisticated in tone than Martin Waddell’s Tiny’s Big Adventure (2004), though the message is similar.

Seven Stories Of Science Gone Wrong

What, with all the attacks on science and scientist these days, we may not want to be focusing on those times when science goes off the rails and makes a huge mess of things. But, science at its best and scientists at their best, will never shy away from such things.

Dr. Paul Offit just wrote a book called Pandora’s Lab: Seven Stories of Science Gone Wrong, which not about an evil black dog that escaped from a box, but rather, seven instances when the march of scientific progress headed off a cliff rather than in the desired direction. People died. Many people died. Other bad things happened.

__________
Note: I interviewed Paul Offit about his book on Atheist Talk Radio. This interview will be aired on Sunday, May 28th, and will be available as a podcast. It should be HERE.
__________

Readers will have different reactions to, and ways to relate to, each of the seven different stories, because they are far flung and cover a great deal of time, diverse social settings, and a wide range of scientific endeavors. Some readers will get mad because he talks about DDT and Rachel Carson, though I assure you his argument is mostly reasonable (I did disagree with some parts). All readers will be amazed at the poppy plant and all it can do and has done, and astonished at the immense apparent ignorance displayed by that plant’s exploiters, from back in the early 19th century to, well, yesterday. Those interested in race and racism, the use of poison gas to kill people, will find things you didn’t know in Offit’s carefully researched histories. Also, don’t forget to take your vitamins. Or, maybe, forget to take your vitamins.

The chapter “The Great Margarine Mistake” is a great example of the very commonly screwed up interface between food science, food production and marketing, and the shaping of food preference among regular people. You know, that thing where “They tell us not to drink coffee. Then they tell us to drink coffee. They don’t know nothin'”

My biggest disagreement with Paul is over malaria. He did not incorporate an often overlooked fact about the disease into his discussion, and had he done so, may have written a somewhat different chapter. Briefly, in zones where there are two wet seasons (or one long wet season and a very short dry season) there has never really been success in curtailing malaria. In zones where there is a very long dry season but it is wet enough for part of the year for the mosquito that carries malaria to exist at least most years, malaria is relatively easy to beat down using a wide range of techniques, no one of which is supreme. So, for example, today, the distribution of malaria in South Africa, where it is not actually that common (thousands of cases in a normal year among tens of millions of people) is determined mainly by how wet the eastern wet season is, integrated with the movement into that area of people, usually refugees, who are a) infected and b) not getting medical treatment. (See this.)

Malaria was wiped out in country after country prior to the use of DDT, then the DDT came in and helped a great deal, in those relatively dry countries. But the wet countries, not so much. Indeed, in a place like Zaire, there are absolutely no reliable statistics on how common Malaria is or ever was over most of the country, but when I lived there in the 1980s, it was as common as the common cold in New Jersey, and DDT was theoretically in use. (That is a second correlation with causation: the wetter the equatorial country, the less we actually know about disease. I recall leaving the deep rain forest to visit the “city” to get hold of a few courses of leprosy medicine for a handful of people who visited our clinic who had it, where I had dinner with a guy from the UN who was on his victory lap for having wiped out leprosy in Africa.)

In some ways, Offit’s final chapter is the most interesting, the eighth chapter (combined with the Epilog) in which he does two things. One is to identify the kind of reasoning mistake, or methodological mistake, each of his seven examples exemplifies. Such as failure to pay attention to the data, or failure to pay attention to the man behind the curtain. The other is to go quickly through what may end up being similar stories of science gone wrong just starting to brew today or in recent decades, such as the long term unintended effects of widespread use of antibiotics.

A question that Offit’s book raises, indirectly, is this: When a Pandora-like box opens and some sort of monster creeps out, why did the box open to begin with? Sometimes it is jostled open, like in the case of unintended negative outcomes from the use of antibiotics. Sometimes it is opened because someone can’t resist the treasures that may be inside. Sometimes it is opened because science is an open process and must always seek knowledge etc. etc. I wonder if the recent development of an engineered polio virus (three instances), or the Spanish Flu, is an example of such. Sometimes it is opened because of (Godwin Warning!) HITLER. Seriously.

I don’t know what knowing these reasons gets us, but one possibility is this: when we find ignorance as a root cause of calamity, perhaps an appreciation of knowledge is gained. That is certainly the lesson of Offit’s review of the products of opium, their invention, intensification, deployment, and use. Apparently addiction was simply not understood at all until fairly recently, and that lack of understanding caused science, medical technology, and medical practice to do the exactly wrong thing over and over again.

And of course, lobotomies. The invention of the latter method of doing this useless and horrible procedure is something that, if put in a movie as a plot element, would kill the movie because it is not possible to suspend disbelief to the degree necessary to stay seated in the theater.

Pandora’s Lab: Seven Stories of Science Gone Wrong is a great read and a necessary addition to the bookshelf of any practicing skeptic or science enthusiast.

Paul Offit, who is a pediatrician and the inventor of a rotavirus vaccine (see this for an interesting podcast on a related topic), is the Maurice R. Hilleman Professor of Vaccinology and Professor of Pediatrics at the Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania. He is also chief of Infectious Diseases and director of Vaccine Education at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

Aside from Pandra’s Lab, he also wrote Do You Believe in Magic?: Vitamins, Supplements, and All Things Natural: A Look Behind the Curtain, Deadly Choices: How the Anti-Vaccine Movement Threatens Us All, and Bad Faith: When Religious Belief Undermines Modern Medicine.

The Best Children’s Books #1

It is hard to find a good book for kids between the ages of 5 and 9. These are kids who can read, but at varying (and rapidly changing) levels, and who are too fancy for the little kid books (thick, big pictures, few words, boring).

Amanda and Huxley spend a lot of time figuring out what the good books are. They forage at two different libraries, they take home huge piles of possible good books, then narrow that down even more to identify just the best, and then, those are often re-acquired and re-read multiple times. We purchase some of these knowing that we can pass them on to the emerging younger cousins and that they will like them too because, as noted, these are the best books.

Recently, it dawned on me that others can benefit from Amanda and Huxley’s hard work. She uses a GoodReads account to keep track of and rate the books. Poaching her account allows me to pass some excellent recommendations on to you.

I’m going to do this over several posts, as it is a lot of work to put together the info and links, etc. I’ll give you her five star books as well as a few of the four stars, and I’ll ignore everything she gave fewer stars to.

I’m also providing the publisher’s descriptions and a picture of the insides so you’ll have a good idea of what the book is and what level it is at. Kids in this age group are in that strange zone where a book they can read and a book that they can enjoy having read to them are vastly different, but since they are in fact two different things, a book that can be read to them (like the first example I’m giving you, below) will later become a book they can read. And, in some cases, it can become a book they can have on their own bookshelves for a long time and go back to now and then.

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo.

Example of text

Once, in a house on Egypt Street, there lived a china rabbit named Edward Tulane. The rabbit was very pleased with himself, and for good reason: he was owned by a girl named Abilene, who adored him completely. And then, one day, he was lost. . . .
Kate DiCamillo takes us on an extraordinary journey, from the depths of the ocean to the net of a fisherman, from the bedside of an ailing child to the bustling streets of Memphis. Along the way, we are shown a miracle – that even a heart of the most breakable kind can learn to love, to lose, and to love again.

This is a fantastic book, excellent story. Huxley’s teacher read it to the students in class, then we got it out of the library, Amanda read it to Huxley, then I got a copy of it and now it sits on the shelf in an honored location.

If you recognize the author’s name, it may be because she also wrote Because of Winn-Dixie.

LINK TO BOOK

Lindbergh: The Tale of a Flying Mouse by Torben Kuhlmann.

One small step for a mouse; one giant leap for aviation.

These are dark times . . . for a small mouse. A new invention—the mechanical mousetrap—has caused all the mice but one to flee to America, the land of the free. But with cats guarding the steamships, trans-Atlantic crossings are no longer safe. In the bleakest of places . . . the one remaining mouse has a brilliant idea. He must learn to fly!

Debut illustrator Torben Kuhlmann’s inventive tale and stunning illustrations will capture the imagination of readers—young and old—with the death-defying feats of this courageous young mouse.

Example of text. This book is mostly illustration.
This is more of a picture book than a chapter book, but the text is chapter-book like in the sense that the vocabulary is middle level, it uses lots of sentences, etc. So this qualifies as a read-to book for kids in this age range, except the ones that are a bit older.

Torben Kuhlmann is mainly an illustrator and has done quite a few other books that we’ve not seen up close but that look interesting, in both English and German, and Spanish.

These include: Armstrong: The Adventurous Journey of a Mouse to the Moon and Moletown.

The next too books are categorized by Amanda as four star (the above were both five star) but they are quite good and Amanda is very picky, so they are worth a close look.

Ben Franklin’s Big Splash: The Mostly True Story of His First Invention by Barb Rosenstock:

Example text and page. This book has several pages with only a few words, but also, a time line and list of sources at the end. Very richly illustrated.

Every inventor has to start somewhere, and one of the greatest innovators in our history was no exception. Ben Franklin developed his first invention while doing what he loved best: swimming! Ben’s Big Splash is the story of Franklin’s first invention, his journey through the scientific method, and the surprising successes that result when you’re willing to make mistakes. Barb Rosenstock’s rhythmic, whimsical style is the perfect complement to S. D. Schindler’s pen and ink and watercolor illustrations. Together they recreate history in an engaging and unique way. Both author and illustrator worked closely with Franklin experts, and the book includes Franklin quotes, an extensive author’s note, timeline, and bibliography.

LINK TO BOOK

Otis by Loren Long is one of several books by that suthor, many of which are about “Otis.” He also illustrated Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters by Barack Obama.

New York Times bestselling author/artist Loren Long creates an unforgettable children’s classic.
Otis is a special tractor. He loves his farmer and he loves to work. And he loves the little calf in the next stall, whom he purrs to sleep with his soft motor. In fact, the two become great friends: they play in the fields, leap hay bales, and play ring-around-the-rosy by Mud Pond.

Otis example text.
But when Otis is replaced with the big yellow tractor, he is cast away behind the barn, unused, unnoticed . . . until the little calf gets stuck in Mud Pond. Then there is only one tractor—and it’s not big or yellow—who can come to the rescue. It is little old Otis who saves his friend. It is Otis who saves the day.

In a wonderful new palette, and in the tradition of classics like Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel and The Story of Ferdinand, Loren Long has crafted an unforgettable new story—and character—celebrating the power of friendship and perseverance.

LINK TO BOOK

OK, that’s all for now. June is Book Month on Greg Laden’s blog, so they’ll be more of this series and other great stuff about books coming up.

CLICK HERE TO SEE: The Best Children’s Books #2

Freedom of Speech, Resolute Forestry, Stand.Earth, Greenpeace: New Developments

A little while back I posted this: Taking The Axe To The Environmental Movement: Resolute v. Greenpeace.

Some of you complained because you don’t like Greenpeace. But that is hardly the point. Greenpeace has a history of working towards important goals and sometimes even attaining them, and there are a lot of whales that want you to lay off and give them credit.

Anyway, the point of that post was to let you know about a SLAPP lawsuit Greenpeace had been slapped with by Resolute Forest Products.

The long and the short of it is this: Resolute, if they get legal traction and win, are setting up a situation where environmental advocates can be told to sit down and shut up because their activism opposes businesses doing business the way they want to. That is not something you want to happen.

Anyway, we have this development. This is not from Greenpeace, but from Stand.Earth, another organization being threatened:

THURSDAY MAY 18, 2017 • Posted by Todd Paglia, Executive Director, Stand.earth

You may have never heard of Resolute Forest Products, Canada’s largest logging company, but you’re likely to be hearing more about the wayward company in the coming months. Resolute CEO Richard Garneau has earned a reputation as a thin-skinned executive who bullies and threatens his employees, competitors and critics. The parallels between him and Trump are uncanny — to the point that when he sued my organization (Stand.earth) and Greenpeace — he hired the law firm that Trump used to threaten the New York Times for publishing his tax returns and which vigorously defended Bill O’Reilly against multiple charges of sexual harassment.

Garneau’s lawsuit against us is pure bully strategy – come up with an outlandish legal strategy that forces your non-profit critics to spend precious resources defending themselves. Not very elegant or admirable, but it’s a $300 million (Canadian) legal threat nevertheless. Just like Trump is thankfully running into the constraints that our democracy provides, Garneau is crashing into the reality of the justice system. This week he got his first surprise, and likely not his last.

Garneau brought the lawsuit against us in one of the most inconvenient places possible – and an area he presumably believed held plenty of sympathy toward logging companies: the Southern District of Georgia. This week the court ruled that the lawsuit should be heard in the Northern District if California, where many of the key staff for both Stand.earth and Greenpeace live and where we both have offices.

We thought this change in venue was unlikely to be granted given that the judge was a fair-minded but conservative Bush appointee and he seemed unlikely to have a lot of sympathy for advocacy groups. His order this week may be an indication of just how ludicrous this case is.

Resolute may try to appeal having their case removed from Southern Georgia to San Francisco, but their hands are tied – the judge has broad discretion to “transfer” a case and once he does so it is extremely hard to reverse. It gives us a great jury pool, a better chance at a more progressive judge, the amazing 9th Circuit Court of Appeals should an appeal occur, and a location that is easy for us to get to.

You might wonder whether the Resolute Board of Directors is paying any attention to the company they bear fiscal and legal responsibility for. Their CEO has presided over a plummeting share price (from over $20 two years ago to under $5 today) and the company has questionable business fundamentals (Resolute made a huge bet on, of all things, the newsprint market among other questionable calls). Despite a faltering business, Garneau appears obsessed with bringing down Stand.earth and Greenpeace. Garneau has spent millions of the company’s funds pursuing what appears to be nothing more than a personal vendetta. Now his already incredibly remote prospects of winning are fading further.

On top of all that, Garneau’s behavior has made many of the big brands that it sells to uncomfortable. Who wants to be known as doing business with a company serially suing non-profits and attacking the First Amendment? As the judge in his ruling stated: the lawsuit claims that we “illegally criticized” Resolute’s clearcut logging practices. Criticism may be illegal in Russia and maybe that’s where Garneau should be pursuing his lawsuit. Dozens of Resolute customers have reduced or eliminated their purchases from the rogue logging company. That seems likely to pick up pace.

Book publishers like Penguin, Random House, HarperCollins, and Simon & Schuster are still doing business with Resolute despite the company’s destructive logging and anti-First Amendment problems. They and other big brands will be increasingly faced with choosing between being loyal to a company like Resolute or living up to their values. The choice is clear.

Whether the Resolute Board of Directors ever reels in their increasingly unhinged CEO, the company is in trouble. It is a brand risk to do business with Resolute on multiple levels already. And, Garneau has established himself as a Trumpian CEO who is obsessed with spending company time and money threatening critics instead of focusing on the business he is supposed to be running.

Resolute’s future looks turbulent at best. Sound familiar?

Go here to help them out if you like.

And now, an inspiring video for you to watch and share:

Notable Women in the Physical Sciences

Did you ever hear the expression, “You’re a real card!” Well, if you are a notable woman in the physical sciences, you just might be a card!

My sister has a project, and Amanda and my niece Koren and some others are involved, that puts notable women in the physical sciences on cards, with a bit of biographical information. The idea is to underscore women in STEM while at the same time getting cards! The long term model is to sell the cards to interested buyers, such as YOU, and use the net thusly obtained to get decks into classrooms.

So, here’s what you need to do. Click here, and buy two decks of cards. One, you keep and play cards with, the other, you give to someone, perhaps a teacher or perhaps a young female who has shown interest in the physical sciences. Or, perhaps, you place one of these card decks somewhere were cards go, like a local bar or coffee shop that has some games, or at the cabin or something.

In addition, at this early stage of their project, they could use some plain old donations, so please consider doing that as well.

I have already heard from several physical science teachers that these cards are great and that they are doing things with them in the classroom.

As a science writer, I was at first shocked and dismayed to find that the science writers in the deck were on the Joker card! But when I asked my sister about it, she told me the Jokers are the most sought after cards for the science communicators, because Jokers are the most flexible and a bit on the wild side, and can cope and adapt to any situation. So, I suppose that’s OK (or is she joshin’ me?).

Anyway, have a look, pass it around, pick up some cards (buy double if your game is Canasta). I am not joking when I say the cards are great!

Taking down New Orleans’ monuments: Not what you think

In The Day Freedom Died: The Colfax Massacre, the Supreme Court, and the Betrayal of Reconstruction, Charles Lane describes the events — several years of events including the Civil War and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, though only briefly — that led up to the Colfax Massacre. What happened was incredibly complex and only a very detailed description can do justice. But, I’ll try to summarize it his way: A war was fought over slavery, and slave holders lost. A conflict then ensued between the new, victorious, anti-slavery government and the racist pigs of the Confederacy, who insisted on repressing blacks and, essentially, emulating slavery in any way possible. In Louisiana, some two thousand blacks were killed over a period of time, maybe more, between the Civil War and the Colfax Massacre, and another 150 on that day. The Colfax massacre was the largest single one-event racial killing event in the United States. The exact number killed is uncertain, but it is known that most of those killed had been captured by white supremacists who had formed an illegal militia. The prisoners were then summarily executed. Many, possibly most, of the bodies were tossed in the river.

This is how Democrats and Republicans used to do politics in the South. (Reminder: In those days, the Republicans were the good guys, the Democrats were the bad guys, and in Louisiana, of where we speak now, that is not an oversimplification.)

The Colfax Massacre has a lot more to it than that, and The Day Freedom Died: The Colfax Massacre, the Supreme Court, and the Betrayal of Reconstruction gives those details, including the famous United States v. Cruikshank ruling by the Supreme Court. It occurred on April 13th 1873. But it is an event that ocurred a little while later, on September 14th, 1874, that I’d like to draw your attention to. It was known as the Battle of Liberty Place.

The back and forth between Democrats and White Supremacists on one hand and Republicans and Free Blacks on the other hand had involved military and paramilitary battles, individual homicides, massive voter intimidation efforts, and so on. The Colfax Massacre was a key point in that series of events. The Battle of Liberty Place was a continuation. Five thousand white supremacists, organized as the “White League” (a paramilitary group that was part of the Democratic Party) fought the New Orleans police and the state militia. Federal troops eventually showed up to end the fight. The battle was over who should be placed as governor. There was one election but there were two sets of vote counters, the white supremacists on one hand and those representing the Federal Government and the state on the other.

Caesar Antoine (1836-1921). US Federal Army Capitan. Multilingual, son of Creole war of 1812 veteran (father) and West Indian woman. Well respected barber. Served as a delegate to the Louisiana Constitutional Convention of 1867-1868 where he made significant contributions. Served in the state Senate and elected Lieutenant Governor in 1872. Later, he was president of the Cosmopolitan Life Insurance Company. Still later, as white supremacists gained more power and ended the ability for southern blacks to be elected, he worked on racial discrimination issues.
Unlike the Colfax event, only a few dozen were killed, and the deaths were more even on the two sides.

Years later, in 1891, a monument was erected at the site of the Battle of Liberty Place. It was erected at the time to commemorate the white supremacists and their attack on the Republicans and government, and to reify their position that the election had gone their way (it had most definitively not). Eventually, in 1932, an inscription was added to the marble obelisk, in line with the original meaning of this edifice. It read:

[Democrats] McEnery and Penn having been elected governor and lieutenant-governor by the white people, were duly installed by this overthrow of carpetbag government, ousting the usurpers, Governor Kellogg (white) and Lieutenant-Governor Antoine (colored).

United States troops took over the state government and reinstated the usurpers but the national election of November 1876 recognized white supremacy in the South and gave us our state.

That monument is one of the monuments that has been removed in New Orleans in recent days. It is a monument to the murderous repression of African Americans in Louisiana over decades of time following the loss by the Confederacy of the Civil War.

You hear talk about these monuments, about how they are Civil War monuments and how they commemorate the dead on both sides. This monument was clearly erected to celebrate an event that happened many years after the Civil War was over, and it was erected to commemorate a failed paramilitary insurgency by self described white supremacists.

Later, an interpretive marker was put up near the monument. This was in 1974. It read:

Although the “battle of Liberty Place” and this monument are important parts of the New Orleans history, the sentiments in favor of white supremacy expressed thereon are contrary to the philosophy and beliefs of present-day New Orleans.

That was nice to do that. But probably not enough. The monument was moved in 1993, to a warehouse, with the diea of eventually putting it in a museum. But the idea of putting giant monuments nobody knows what to do with in a museum is easier said than done. No museum in its right mind would accept such an artifact. So, it was placed in a new location, less central, still in New Orleans. At that time, the original inscription was replaced with this:

In honor of those Americans on both sides who died in the Battle of Liberty Place … A conflict of the past that should teach us lessons for the future.

Davidson Bradfute Penn (1835-1902). Probably a slave owner. Captured during the Civil War. Nothing else notable. Oh, he was the fake Lieutenant Governor for Louisiana for a while.
Which, of course, is a bald face lie.

And that is the history of what would by 1860 become the Republican Party and the coalition of Democratic abolitionists and others in the North, on one hand, and the would be Confederates on the other, from the 1830s to the war itself. To a Democrat, compromise looked like making the other side do what you want and screaming bloody murder when that did not happen. To the Republican coalition, led eventually by Abraham Lincoln, compromise looked like agreeing to do much of what the opposition insisted you do, red-faced and clench-fisted, tantrum enthralled, and violent, and hope they don’t hit you. When the Republican coalition looked like it might gain sufficient power to lead the country out of absurd treasonous states rights and slavery, the south violently attacked the north and started the war. After the Union destroyed the South in a war the South would not allow to end until the maximum number of their own people, and a good number of Yankees, were dead on the battle field, the south continued to kick and scream and whine and fight and punch and shoot and kill.

This is a monument to that. And when the monument was being dismantled a few days ago, threats to shoot or lynch those removing the monument were made. Representative Karl Oliver (koliver@house.ms.gov) said this:

“The destruction of these monuments, erected in the loving memory of our family and fellow Southern Americans, is both heinous and horrific. If the, and I use this term extremely loosely, “leadership” of Louisiana wishes to, in a Nazi-ish fashion, burn books or destroy historical monuments of OUR HISTORY, they should be LYNCHED! Let it be known, I will do all in my power to prevent this from happening in our State.”

The other monuments in question were of Jefferson Davis, General P.G.T. Beauregard, and Robert E. Lee.

Davis was, of course a war criminal for a number of reasons, not the least of which was Andersonville. Lee had nothing to do with New Orleans. Beauregard was a native of Louisiana but his involvement in the Civil War included that famous moment: Attacking Fort Sumter to begin the war. Otherwise, he fought in and around Virginia and the Carolinas, but never in Louisiana. After the war he got a job as the supervisor of the Louisiana Lottery. So, maybe they should have kept that one statue up. For good luck.

Rebecca Otto: by far the strongest and most progressive candidate for Minnesota Governor in 2018

Here’s why: All the available data strongly indicates that Otto will beat all the other contenders across state in the upcoming Governor’s race.

Democrats have two major problems to face in 2018 and beyond. First, how do we win elections? Second, how do we remain true to our progressive and liberal roots?

For Democrats, 2018 is a must-win election, and Minnesotans have a lot at stake. Will the state remain the shining star of the North, or will it go the way of Wisconsin, and sink into a Republican dark age of union busting, environment polluting, professor bashing, service slashing, and economic activity destruction?

Of all the candidates running or suspected of running for Governor in 2018, Rebecca Otto is the only one who can most clearly win and at the same time preserve and advance core, human based, Democratic ideals, in my opinion.

The following text was added on December 17th

One of the arguments I make here is that party “insiders” should avoid jumping out of the gate to “endorse” candidates early on in a process like this. I put “insider” i quotes because it has no definition. I put “endorse” in quotes because it has a precise definition (one regulated by the Federal Election Commission in some cases) but is used widely to mean “like,” “give the thumbs up to,” “Publicly Support” and that sort of thing. At the time I wrote this piece I did not specify what I meant by party people supporting a given candidate, Tim Walz, too early, but it has recently come to my attention that my arguments is being seen as invalid because in fact there were no such endorsements.

And that is true. Technically, there were none.

Except, that there were. To give an overall gestalt of what I mean, consider this item form MinnPost from last April, written during the time of the flurry of excitement that Time Walz was running for governor.

One step at a time
For now, many DFL insiders consider Walz the de facto frontrunner in the governor’s race. That may or may not change should he be joined by another candidate, such as 8th District Rep. Rick Nolan or Attorney General Lori Swanson.

But Walz is moving to lock up support from influential Democrats around the state. Before Walz made his bid official, 7th District Rep. Collin Peterson reportedly announced his endorsement at a party dinner in his district. (Peterson confirmed on Tuesday he’ll be backing Walz.)

“The congressman has a good amount of steam at this point,” Broton said, “at this point, you could probably classify him as being the front-runner. But Democrats are fickle people.”

On April 19th, the Pioneer Press reported and endorsement that wasn’t an endorsement by a man who is arguably Minnesota’s top democrat, since he is from Minnesota, represents a congressional district in Minnesota, and is Deputy Chair of the national party, Representative Keith Ellison.

Rep. Keith Ellison expects Rep. Tim Walz will be Minnesota’s next governor

U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison predicted Wednesday that his fellow Minnesota Democrat, Congressman Tim Walz, will be Minnesota’s next governor.

“I’m not advocating; I’m simply predicting,” Ellison said of Walz during an appearance at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs. The event was co-moderated by political science professor Larry Jacobs and Pioneer Press Capitol Bureau Chief Rachel Stassen-Berger.

Knowledge is knowing that is technically not an endorsement. But a wise person refrains from putting tomato in the fruit salad.

The Star Tribune reported, about the same time, the following:

U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, officially in the governor’s race, won the endorsement of former Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak. Walz needs help in the Twin Cities, where he is less known, so this was a key endorsement if Rybak is active.

RT Rybak was mayor of Minneapolis, and after leaving that position, became a director at large for the national party. I’m told this is not an official endorsement. Yet …

Anyway, long after I wrote this post, partly in response to the above endorsements and similar, Congressman Walz, anointed, found himself between a rock and a hard place as more than one tragic mass shooting caused the big giant spot light that seeks out NRA supported candidates and shines all over him. Walz’s pro-gun (and anti-environmental) positions may indeed help him out state in a general election, but he is essentially done within the party, in my humble opinion.

End of the added text.

The smart move for the DFL in 2018 is to turn to a candidate that has won several times statewide and has strong name recognition, positive feeling among the voters engendered by her commitment to widely held values, and a strong base of support. State Auditor Rebecca Otto is the only candidate with that resumé. Otto has racked up several historic victories, including the largest upset of an incumbent in 112 years, and is positioned to do it again in 2018. Her statewide electoral prowess far outstrips her nearest competitor, Tim Walz, who is largely unknown outside of his first district, and is untested statewide. Beyond that, Otto stands for strong for Democratic values, while Walz has shown himself to be a DINO-style Democrat. Walz enjoys a very high rating from the NRA, for example, and in February of 2013 was one of only six Democrats in Congress to vote to expand gun sales to the severely mentally ill, over the objections of senior generals including David Petraeus, Michael Hayden and Stanley McChrystal.

On the environment and climate change, Walz again voted with Republicans on anti-environmental bills progressives strongly opposed. He voted with Republicans in favor of building the Keystone XL pipeline. He introduced a bill, siding with Eric Paulsen, to expand offshore oil drilling. Walz refused to provide voters with positions on several other key issues covered by the 2016 Vote Smart Political Courage Test, despite repeated requests. Historically, candidates have failed to complete the test in part due to “fear of negative attack ads,” according to that group. In contrast, Rebecca Otto opposes unrestricted gun sales and supports common-sense, reasonable measures to prevent mass shootings by mentally ill individuals. Otto is also the acknowledged statewide leader on environmental issues, and cast multiple courageous votes against multinational corporate interests, in an effort to protect the environment even while being harshly attacked by industry advocates. Indeed, she and her husband live in a solar home they built with their own hands.

So why are some party elites pushing Walz over the far more progressive, experienced, and courageous, and environmental Rebecca Otto? Because they think we need a DINO to win, and appear to have lost touch with the party rank and file, just as they did in 2016. Walz is a talented but glad-handing politician, and older DFLers, the kind that promoted Hillary Clinton despite the rank and file’s strong preference for Bernie Sanders, find an old white traditional male politician to be a safer, steadier choice when the stakes of losing run high. But that is EXACTLY the kind of thinking that loses elections, because it disenfranchises party activists, it is reactionary instead of visionary, and it selects candidates from on high who are less able to capture the imagination of voters as something new and different. Considering that Democrats have never won the Governor’s seat two administrations in a row, that lack of contrast and imagination is a major concern in contemplating a Walz candidacy.

In their fear, the party elders who have endorsed Walz are willing to overlook Walz’s anti-progressive, anti-environmental voting history, thinking a DINO is what voters want. But they’re wrong. Hillary Clinton was anointed by the same party elites, and she underperformed Barack Obama in Minnesota by 180,000 votes. Hillary Clinton had many good qualities, but last cycle, Minnesotans showed they were ready to embrace bold, progressive leadership, the kind of leadership that they believe, based on track record, won’t sell them out on key issues when the going gets tough. They want a candidate who runs outside strict party affiliation, who thinks independently, and who takes stands for ordinary people instead of the wealthy elite or big corporations even if it means the corporations will mount attacks. They want the kind of principled, fearless leadership shown by Bernie Sanders and Rebecca Otto, not the calculating, fearful, history of Tim Walz.

But what about Trump? Didn’t Greater Minnesota go heavily for Trump? Didn’t the Minnesota Senate go Republican and the House go even more Republican? Considering all this, don’t we need a more conservative and calculating Democrat from Greater Minnesota to bridge the so-called “urban-rural divide”? That’s what some party elites argued when pushing Tim Walz. But Rebecca Otto is the only candidate who resides at the intersections of urban, suburban, exurban, and rural, on a small farm outside the Twin Cities. This means everyone can claim her as theirs.

But more importantly, the “urban-rural divide” appears to be a Republican myth that Democrats should not buy into. The evidence shows that Donald Trump received almost the identical number of votes in Minnesota as Mitt Romney did in 2012, so the notion that Donald Trump surged in Minnesota is false. Rather, Hillary Clinton underperformed Barack Obama’s 2012 Minnesota numbers by nearly 180,000 votes. The congressional districts that went the most heavily for Donald Trump in the general election (7, 6, 8, and 1) also largely went the most heavily for Bernie Sanders in the primary.

Clinton’s underperformance meant that 180,000 Democrats stayed home not just from her race, but from all races. That meant there were fewer Democrats out voting while Republicans were out in their usual numbers, so despite the DFL spending record dollars, Democrats lost every close race. Some portion of this has to be laid at the feet of party elites who, for all her advantages, interfered in the process by backing Clinton too early and loudly, lining the machine up behind her as “the front runner” and disenfranchising Sanders voters who, the above numbers show, stayed home. Some of these same elites are making the same costly mistake in 2018 by backing Walz.

The results of the 2016 election can more accurately be interpreted as an anti-establishment vote and not reflective of an urban-rural divide — and that is a reading which favors Rebecca Otto as the DFL candidate for governor.

Unlike Walz, Otto has always run largely without the support of the party kingmakers and big money players, focusing her energies on rank-and-file grassroots activists, in the style of Bernie Sanders and Paul Welstone. In so doing, she has always outperformed the DFL candidate for Governor, racking up historic victories in election after election. This approach also led her to an historic victory in the 2014 primary, when a self-financed candidate outspent her 4 to 1, and she beat him 81%–19%.

Rebecca Otto does very well on the Iron Range, and understanding why that is so leads to a full appreciation of her standing with Minnesota voters. Otto voted to protect the BWCA and Lake Superior watersheds from copper-nickel mining until we get better financial assurances from multinational mining companies. Many assumed this would hurt her on the Range and cost her the election as governor, but the facts show just the opposite. Indeed, the “done on the range” argument is from the Republican, not Democratic, playbook.

Otto vastly outperformed both Governor Mark Dayton and Congressman Rick Nolan in every county on the Iron Range and across the entire 8th Congressional District in 2014, improving her margins after her vote. To see if Otto’s brave and thoughtful stand on nonferrous mining cost her any votes, we can compare her margin of victory in the 2010 and 2014 races in the Iron Range counties. (Note: The margin of victory is recognized as the best way to compare across counties, etc., because of differences in ballots across different precincts or elections. These data are from the Secretary of State’s office.)

Otto grew her margin in every Iron Range county in 2014 by an impressive average gain of 9.51 points, for a 72% bigger margin across the Iron Range as a whole. Remember, this happened after the controversy on the range, in which Rebecca Otto took what many thought would be the less popular stand, knowing it was the right thing to do. This happened after Otto explained her position and helped people see, through an examination of long term goals and shared values, that her position was the right one for the people of the state in general and the Iron Range in particular. This is a reality that her Republican (and other) detractors on the range do not like to hear about and tend to react rather poorly to, in my experience.

The most important thing DFLers need to realize is that Rebecca Otto was the only Democrat to actually vote for Democratic values on this issue, while others were afraid to. Otto can rightly borrow Paul Wellstone’s phrase, “I represent the Democratic wing of the Democratic party,” when others cannot. If Democrats don’t stop compromising on their key values they will continue to lose like they did in 2016 because there will be no reason for DFLers to vote for them. I believe voters are well aware of this, this and appreciate Rebecca Otto for it.

Was it a fluke? Maybe Otto just had an easier race in 2014. Let’s look at Governor Dayton’s Iron Range performance and see if there is any difference.

Here again, Otto’s 2014 margin of victory on the Iron Range was 1.54 points higher than Gov. Mark Dayton’s and 4.41% higher than Dayton’s across the 8th CD as a whole. While Otto performed better in every county in 2014 than in 2010, Dayton lost points in 5 of 7 Iron Range counties and across the 8th CD as a whole.

When comparing Otto’s margin to Nolan’s margin, Otto’s outperformance becomes even more striking. Here, Otto completely trounced Nolan’s performance in his own congressional district, to a truly stunning degree.

Otto outperformed Nolan by 12.15 points on the very Iron Range that was supposed to cost her re-election. And Otto’s margins were even better on the Iron Range than they were in the 8th CD as a whole, where she outperformed the Congressman’s margin by a stunning 10 points. Otto’s strong popularity is why Nolan asked her to headline or speak at events. Often, she was the only statewide elected official or party officer there for him at these events.

The evidence is absolutely clear and abundant that Rebecca Otto’s courageous stand on nonferrous mining earned her votes on the Iron Range. Suggestions to the contrary are not backed up by the facts.

What about Otto’s appeal in urban and suburban areas? The candidate with the best chance of winning the Governor’s race can appeal to voters in both Greater Minnesota, and in urban and suburban areas. So, let’s look at Otto’s performance in the state’s most liberal, urban, and populous area, Congressional District 5, home of Minneapolis. We’ll use its high-profile Congressman Keith Ellison as our benchmark.

Rebecca Otto and Keith Ellison both began their terms in 2003 as State Representatives. In 2006 when Otto was elected State Auditor, Ellison won the DFL endorsement for a rare open seat in Congress, making him the shoe-in in the general election because of the CD5 DFL index.

The following compares Rebecca Otto’s CD5 performance to the Ellison benchmark in each house district in the congressional district:

It turns out that Rebecca Otto is also an exceptionally strong performer in urban/suburban areas, outperforming Congressman Ellison’s margins in 14 of 20 house districts, and across the 5th CD as a whole. Note that Ellison’s performance in his own district is stellar, so Otto’s comparable but better performance is stellar-plus.

Rebecca’s urban and suburban support is not limited to CD5. In CD4, Rebecca outperformed the benchmark Congresswoman McCollum’s margin in 13 of 21 House districts in, and across the congressional district as a whole.

Because of her strong performance and experience in urban, suburban, exurban and rural areas, Rebecca Otto outperformed the margins of every gubernatorial candidate she has been on the ballot with — Tim Pawlenty, Mike Hatch, and Mark Dayton — in 2006, 2010, and 2014.

Rebecca Otto also unseated an incumbent, and she did it by the largest margin in 112 years, in a race for a seat that had been occupied by Republicans for 134 of its 149 years. This was an enormous and historic upset — on a level that Walz can only dream of.

Otto then made history a second time when she won a tough re-election against the same opponent while being heavily targeted by the Republican Party, and without help from the DFL Party, becoming the only Democrat to be re-elected to the Auditor’s post in Minnesota history. Otto is now in her third term, and made it a third time with her absolutely crushing defeat of Matt Entenza in the 2014 DFL primary.

There is only one candidate with both the electoral experience and the track record of standing up for what’s right without fear or favor, and it is Rebecca Otto. Rebecca is authentic, warm, humble, yet tough, willing to fight for what is right, and these aspects of her character are already widely known. She is widely recognized by State Auditors around the country, winning every major award and serving as president of the national organization of State Auditors. She has Republican support as well as Democratic. In fact, it was former Governor and State Auditor Arne Carlson who first asked her to run for State Auditor. She has strong executive experience at the state level, and she knows how to manage the legislature. On all these measures, Governor Otto would be one of the most qualified new governors on her first day in the State House.

This is a year in which voters are looking for a truly progressive candidate, and it is right that they do so. Voters want a candidate who actually contrasts with Republicans instead of voting like one of them, a candidate who has powerful statewide executive and electoral experience and yet has demonstrated that she won’t sell out progressive values. Rebecca Otto is exactly that candidate.

In a year when so much is at stake, it is time to give voters a strong contrasting choice instead of a Democrat In Name Only practicing familiar old-style politics. It is a year when Minnesota is finally ready to elect a populist female governor, and we have such a candidate with the state executive and electoral experience to make that a reality. With only stunning and historic victories behind her, Gubernatorial candidate Rebecca Otto is in ready to make history yet again.

Rebecca Otto: by far the strongest and most progressive candidate for Minnesota Governor in 2018

Here’s why: All the available data strongly indicates that Otto will beat all the other contenders across state in the upcoming Governor’s race.

Democrats have two major problems to face in 2018 and beyond. First, how do we win elections? Second, how do we remain true to our progressive and liberal roots?

For Democrats, 2018 is a must-win election, and Minnesotans have a lot at stake. Will the state remain the shining star of the North, or will it go the way of Wisconsin, and sink into a Republican dark age of union busting, environment polluting, professor bashing, service slashing, and economic activity destruction?

Of all the candidates running or suspected of running for Governor in 2018, Rebecca Otto is the only one who can most clearly win and at the same time preserve and advance core, human based, Democratic ideals, in my opinion.

The smart move for the DFL in 2018 is to turn to a candidate that has won several times statewide and has strong name recognition, positive feeling among the voters engendered by her commitment to widely held values, and a strong base of support. State Auditor Rebecca Otto is the only candidate with that resumé. Otto has racked up several historic victories, including the largest upset of an incumbent in 112 years, and is positioned to do it again in 2018. Her statewide electoral prowess far outstrips her nearest competitor, Tim Walz, who is largely unknown outside of his first district, and is untested statewide. Beyond that, Otto stands for strong for Democratic values, while Walz has shown himself to be a DINO-style Democrat. Walz enjoys a very high rating from the NRA, for example, and in February of 2013 was one of only six Democrats in Congress to vote to expand gun sales to the severely mentally ill, over the objections of senior generals including David Petraeus, Michael Hayden and Stanley McChrystal.

On the environment and climate change, Walz again voted with Republicans on anti-environmental bills progressives strongly opposed. He voted with Republicans in favor of building the Keystone XL pipeline. He introduced a bill, siding with Eric Paulsen, to expand offshore oil drilling. Walz refused to provide voters with positions on several other key issues covered by the 2016 Vote Smart Political Courage Test, despite repeated requests. Historically, candidates have failed to complete the test in part due to “fear of negative attack ads,” according to that group. In contrast, Rebecca Otto opposes unrestricted gun sales and supports common-sense, reasonable measures to prevent mass shootings by mentally ill individuals. Otto is also the acknowledged statewide leader on environmental issues, and cast multiple courageous votes against multinational corporate interests, in an effort to protect the environment even while being harshly attacked by industry advocates. Indeed, she and her husband live in a solar home they built with their own hands.

So why are some party elites pushing Walz over the far more progressive, experienced, and courageous, and environmental Rebecca Otto? Because they think we need a DINO to win, and appear to have lost touch with the party rank and file, just as they did in 2016. Walz is a talented but glad-handing politician, and older DFLers, the kind that promoted Hillary Clinton despite the rank and file’s strong preference for Bernie Sanders, find an old white traditional male politician to be a safer, steadier choice when the stakes of losing run high. But that is EXACTLY the kind of thinking that loses elections, because it disenfranchises party activists, it is reactionary instead of visionary, and it selects candidates from on high who are less able to capture the imagination of voters as something new and different. Considering that Democrats have never won the Governor’s seat two administrations in a row, that lack of contrast and imagination is a major concern in contemplating a Walz candidacy.

In their fear, the party elders who have endorsed Walz are willing to overlook Walz’s anti-progressive, anti-environmental voting history, thinking a DINO is what voters want. But they’re wrong. Hillary Clinton was anointed by the same party elites, and she underperformed Barack Obama in Minnesota by 180,000 votes. Hillary Clinton had many good qualities, but last cycle, Minnesotans showed they were ready to embrace bold, progressive leadership, the kind of leadership that they believe, based on track record, won’t sell them out on key issues when the going gets tough. They want a candidate who runs outside strict party affiliation, who thinks independently, and who takes stands for ordinary people instead of the wealthy elite or big corporations even if it means the corporations will mount attacks. They want the kind of principled, fearless leadership shown by Bernie Sanders and Rebecca Otto, not the calculating, fearful, history of Tim Walz.

But what about Trump? Didn’t Greater Minnesota go heavily for Trump? Didn’t the Minnesota Senate go Republican and the House go even more Republican? Considering all this, don’t we need a more conservative and calculating Democrat from Greater Minnesota to bridge the so-called “urban-rural divide”? That’s what some party elites argued when pushing Tim Walz. But Rebecca Otto is the only candidate who resides at the intersections of urban, suburban, exurban, and rural, on a small farm outside the Twin Cities. This means everyone can claim her as theirs.

But more importantly, the “urban-rural divide” appears to be a Republican myth that Democrats should not buy into. The evidence shows that Donald Trump received almost the identical number of votes in Minnesota as Mitt Romney did in 2012, so the notion that Donald Trump surged in Minnesota is false. Rather, Hillary Clinton underperformed Barack Obama’s 2012 Minnesota numbers by nearly 180,000 votes. The congressional districts that went the most heavily for Donald Trump in the general election (7, 6, 8, and 1) also largely went the most heavily for Bernie Sanders in the primary.

Clinton’s underperformance meant that 180,000 Democrats stayed home not just from her race, but from all races. That meant there were fewer Democrats out voting while Republicans were out in their usual numbers, so despite the DFL spending record dollars, Democrats lost every close race. Some portion of this has to be laid at the feet of party elites who, for all her advantages, interfered in the process by backing Clinton too early and loudly, lining the machine up behind her as “the front runner” and disenfranchising Sanders voters who, the above numbers show, stayed home. Some of these same elites are making the same costly mistake in 2018 by backing Walz.

The results of the 2016 election can more accurately be interpreted as an anti-establishment vote and not reflective of an urban-rural divide — and that is a reading which favors Rebecca Otto as the DFL candidate for governor.

Unlike Walz, Otto has always run largely without the support of the party kingmakers and big money players, focusing her energies on rank-and-file grassroots activists, in the style of Bernie Sanders and Paul Wellstone. In so doing, she has always outperformed the DFL candidate for Governor, racking up historic victories in election after election. This approach also led her to an historic victory in the 2014 primary, when a self-financed candidate outspent her 4 to 1, and she beat him 81%–19%.

Rebecca Otto does very well on the Iron Range, and understanding why that is so leads to a full appreciation of her standing with Minnesota voters. Otto voted to protect the BWCA and Lake Superior watersheds from copper-nickel mining until we get better financial assurances from multinational mining companies. Many assumed this would hurt her on the Range and cost her the election as governor, but the facts show just the opposite. Indeed, the “done on the range” argument is from the Republican, not Democratic, playbook.

Otto vastly outperformed both Governor Mark Dayton and Congressman Rick Nolan in every county on the Iron Range and across the entire 8th Congressional District in 2014, improving her margins after her vote. To see if Otto’s brave and thoughtful stand on nonferrous mining cost her any votes, we can compare her margin of victory in the 2010 and 2014 races in the Iron Range counties. (Note: The margin of victory is recognized as the best way to compare across counties, etc., because of differences in ballots across different precincts or elections. These data are from the Secretary of State’s office.)

Otto grew her margin in every Iron Range county in 2014 by an impressive average gain of 9.51 points, for a 72% bigger margin across the Iron Range as a whole. Remember, this happened after the controversy on the range, in which Rebecca Otto took what many thought would be the less popular stand, knowing it was the right thing to do. This happened after Otto explained her position and helped people see, through an examination of long term goals and shared values, that her position was the right one for the people of the state in general and the Iron Range in particular. This is a reality that her Republican (and other) detractors on the range do not like to hear about and tend to react rather poorly to, in my experience.

The most important thing DFLers need to realize is that Rebecca Otto was the only Democrat to actually vote for Democratic values on this issue, while others were afraid to. Otto can rightly borrow Paul Wellstone’s phrase, “I represent the Democratic wing of the Democratic party,” when others cannot. If Democrats don’t stop compromising on their key values they will continue to lose like they did in 2016 because there will be no reason for DFLers to vote for them. I believe voters are well aware of this, this and appreciate Rebecca Otto for it.

Was it a fluke? Maybe Otto just had an easier race in 2014. Let’s look at Governor Dayton’s Iron Range performance and see if there is any difference.

Here again, Otto’s 2014 margin of victory on the Iron Range was 1.54 points higher than Gov. Mark Dayton’s and 4.41% higher than Dayton’s across the 8th CD as a whole. While Otto performed better in every county in 2014 than in 2010, Dayton lost points in 5 of 7 Iron Range counties and across the 8th CD as a whole.

When comparing Otto’s margin to Nolan’s margin, Otto’s outperformance becomes even more striking. Here, Otto completely trounced Nolan’s performance in his own congressional district, to a truly stunning degree.

Otto outperformed Nolan by 12.15 points on the very Iron Range that was supposed to cost her re-election. And Otto’s margins were even better on the Iron Range than they were in the 8th CD as a whole, where she outperformed the Congressman’s margin by a stunning 10 points. Otto’s strong popularity is why Nolan asked her to headline or speak at events. Often, she was the only statewide elected official or party officer there for him at these events.

The evidence is absolutely clear and abundant that Rebecca Otto’s courageous stand on nonferrous mining earned her votes on the Iron Range. Suggestions to the contrary are not backed up by the facts.

What about Otto’s appeal in urban and suburban areas? The candidate with the best chance of winning the Governor’s race can appeal to voters in both Greater Minnesota, and in urban and suburban areas. So, let’s look at Otto’s performance in the state’s most liberal, urban, and populous area, Congressional District 5, home of Minneapolis. We’ll use its high-profile Congressman Keith Ellison as our benchmark.

Rebecca Otto and Keith Ellison both began their terms in 2003 as State Representatives. In 2006 when Otto was elected State Auditor, Ellison won the DFL endorsement for a rare open seat in Congress, making him the shoe-in in the general election because of the CD5 DFL index.

The following compares Rebecca Otto’s CD5 performance to the Ellison benchmark in each house district in the congressional district:
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It turns out that Rebecca Otto is also an exceptionally strong performer in urban/suburban areas, outperforming Congressman Ellison’s margins in 14 of 20 house districts, and across the 5th CD as a whole. Note that Ellison’s performance in his own district is stellar, so Otto’s comparable but better performance is stellar-plus.

Rebecca’s urban and suburban support is not limited to CD5. In CD4, Rebecca outperformed the benchmark Congresswoman McCollum’s margin in 13 of 21 House districts in, and across the congressional district as a whole.
?

Because of her strong performance and experience in urban, suburban, exurban and rural areas, Rebecca Otto outperformed the margins of every gubernatorial candidate she has been on the ballot with — Tim Pawlenty, Mike Hatch, and Mark Dayton — in 2006, 2010, and 2014.

Rebecca Otto also unseated an incumbent, and she did it by the largest margin in 112 years, in a race for a seat that had been occupied by Republicans for 134 of its 149 years. This was an enormous and historic upset — on a level that Walz can only dream of.

Otto then made history a second time when she won a tough re-election against the same opponent while being heavily targeted by the Republican Party, and without help from the DFL Party, becoming the only Democrat to be re-elected to the Auditor’s post in Minnesota history. Otto is now in her third term, and made it a third time with her absolutely crushing defeat of Matt Entenza in the 2014 DFL primary.

There is only one candidate with both the electoral experience and the track record of standing up for what’s right without fear or favor, and it is Rebecca Otto. Rebecca is authentic, warm, humble, yet tough, willing to fight for what is right, and these aspects of her character are already widely known. She is widely recognized by State Auditors around the country, winning every major award and serving as president of the national organization of State Auditors. She has Republican support as well as Democratic. In fact, it was former Governor and State Auditor Arne Carlson who first asked her to run for State Auditor. She has strong executive experience at the state level, and she knows how to manage the legislature. On all these measures, Governor Otto would be one of the most qualified new governors on her first day in the State House.

This is a year in which voters are looking for a truly progressive candidate, and it is right that they do so. Voters want a candidate who actually contrasts with Republicans instead of voting like one of them, a candidate who has powerful statewide executive and electoral experience and yet has demonstrated that she won’t sell out progressive values. Rebecca Otto is exactly that candidate.

In a year when so much is at stake, it is time to give voters a strong contrasting choice instead of a Democrat In Name Only practicing familiar old-style politics. It is a year when Minnesota is finally ready to elect a populist female governor, and we have such a candidate with the state executive and electoral experience to make that a reality. With only stunning and historic victories behind her, Gubernatorial candidate Rebecca Otto is in ready to make history yet again.

UPDATE:

Tina Liebling Endorses Rebecca Otto for Governor

Liebling calls Otto “bold and progressive,” says she “can go toe to toe” with any Republican>

In the first endorsement of a DFL gubernatorial candidate by a former candidate for the office, State Representative Tina Liebling (DFL-26A) today endorsed State Auditor Rebecca Otto for Governor of Minnesota.

“For too many Minnesotans, opportunity seems out of reach. They know that the economy is rigged against them, and they are looking for a leader who will stand up to the special interests and fight for them,” Liebling said in making the endorsement. “Rebecca Otto is that leader. She has a bold, clear, progressive vision for Minnesota with ordinary people at its center.”

Liebling also said she believes Otto is the strongest candidate electorally. “She can go toe to toe with any candidate the Republicans put forward and will give Minnesotans a real choice in November,” said Liebling. “Campaigns can’t be won without money, but money will not win the campaign. For that we need a candidate who is both progressive and bold. I believe that Rebecca Otto is both, and I am pleased to endorse her candidacy for Governor of Minnesota.

“I have always had great respect for Tina as a smart, progressive leader who is not afraid to tackle issues of great importance,” said Otto. “I am very honored to have her support. Having Tina on our team will be critical to securing the DFL endorsement at the State Convention in June.”

Otto said she appreciated Liebling’s policy expertise on issues she has heard about repeatedly in listening sessions and on the campaign trail. “Representative Liebling has important health care expertise and has worked for years to move Minnesota to a Single Payer health care system,” Otto said. “She will be a great partner in moving Minnesota to a more efficient, cost-effective health care system that is no longer tied to your job – a system where everyone receives high quality health care, where we remove administrative burdens for our doctors and medical professionals and allow them to focus back on our health.”

Otto also acknowledged Representative Liebling’s work and advocacy around the legalization of marijuana. Last session, Liebling introduced a bill that would legalize and regulate personal use of marijuana.

“I respect Tina for leading this important discussion. We need to move away from the failed criminal justice approach to drug use and focus on a public health approach,” said Otto. “Prohibition of cannabis does a lot of harm to our state and disproportionately impacts people of color. As governor I would support decriminalizing marijuana and expunging criminal records for those convicted of non-violent marijuana-related offenses. We need to have a thoughtful, open, evidence-based conversation as a state about how to reduce the harm of addiction while respecting the autonomy of Minnesotans.”

Rebecca Otto was first elected Minnesota’s State Auditor in 2006, unseating a high-profile Republican incumbent by the largest margin in 112 years for a seat that had been Republican for 90 percent of state history. She is the first woman Democrat to be elected State Auditor, and the only Democrat to be re-elected to the office. Prior to that she served as a State Representative from the St. Croix Valley area, and before that as a School Board Member in the Forest Lake Area school district.

James Bond Incarnations In Order

Roger Moore just died, and you will hear that he was the third, or second, or fourth, “James Bond.” He wasn’t. Here is the list of James Bond actors:

Barry Nelson, who played in “Casino Royale” in 1954. This was an episode in the “Climax!” TV anthology series, like they used to do a lot.
Sean Connery is often regarded as the “original” or “first” James Bond, and in a way he was, since he was the first to repeat the role in several movies. But he was actually the second actor to play the role in front of a camera. He did seven Jame Bonds.
David Niven, who played also in “Casino Royale,” a movie directed by Ken Hughes. Peter Sellers and Ursala Andress were also in the movie.
George Lazenby played James Bond in tghe 1969 “James Bond: ON Her Majesty’s Service.”
Roger Moore, taking up the role as the fifth actor to do so, started in 1973 and played the role seven times.
Timothy Dalton played two Bonds in 1987 and 1989. Many claim, I’m told, that Dalton played the most true-to-the-novel Bond.
Pierce Bronsan started to be Bond in 1995 and played four times.
Daniel Craig played Bond starting in 2006 and has made four films.

An interesting trend in Bond films: The time between films has steadily (but not very uniformly) increased. Once the thing got going, there was about one a year, but this slowed to about one every two years and eventually about one every three years. The last one was two years ago.

Why do I even know this? Because I regard about half the James Bond films ever made to be among the worst things ever put on film, and to have fueled and developed the rape culture our patriarchy embraces. At the same time, I like spy films a lot. Therefore, I thing a handful of the Bond films are great, many should be erased from our cultural memory, and a few others are bla at best.