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James Dean made smoking a blow against The Man
Once upon a time, the tobacco lobby was bulletproof. The scientific and societal consensus was that tobacco was harmful to health, but Big Tobacco’s well-organized lobbyists and pernicious marketing blocked reform. The downfall of Big Tobacco’s stranglehold on America holds a lesson for those who seek to implement meaningful gun regulations in the wake of the Sandy Hook school massacre. The lesson is about marketing.

Smoking was always the province of rebels. James Dean was the iconic smoker – young, cool, anti-authoritarian. The last adjective is the one that made smoking such a difficult behavior to regulate. The more you cracked down, especially on youth smoking, the more socially desirable it became. To smoke was to take a stand against The Man, against adult authority figures, against growing up. Regulation could make it harder to acquire cigarettes, but as long as smoking was shorthand for rebellion, its popularity continued.

The contemporary marketing of guns is similar to the dilemma posed to anti-smoking advocates.

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Fri Nov 16, 2012 at 11:35 AM PST

Marriage equality for Minnesota Now!

by aaronklemz

The victory of the Vote No side on the Minnesota marriage amendment was righteous and joyous, but work remains to be done. Despite winning a clear mandate for marriage equality, the new leaders of the Minnesota Legislature have responded carefully when asked if they will take up the issue in this legislative session. "The budget comes first" is the right priority, but it deflects the real question "what then?"

I don't mean to be critical of Governor Dayton, Senator Bakk, and Representative Thissen. They are in a tough spot, caught between the enthusiasm of people who want to finish the job and the caution of a caucus that just got back into power at the Legislature. The electoral calculus is not easy, either. Many legislators would be happy to see marriage and LGBT equality fade as an issue, or wait for the courts to solve it for them. It's tempting for DFL leaders to put it on the back burner. In fact, unless they hear from their constituents loudly and clearly, that is exactly what they will do.

Do you want them to put it on the back burner, to be addressed "later?" Or do you want to send a clear message that you want marriage equality for Minnesota now?

Sign the petition and ask Governor Dayton and the Minnesota Legislature to pass and sign legislation guaranteeing marriage equality for all Minnesotans in this legislative session.

Join over 1400 people who've already signed (as of 1:45 CST Friday, November 16th) and add your voice!


Should the Minnesota Legislature pass marriage equality in 2013?

70%19 votes
7%2 votes
11%3 votes
11%3 votes

| 27 votes | Vote | Results


"Minnesota for Marriage," the primary group campaigning for the Marriage Discrimination amendment, has reached the "last minute slime" stage that has become the hallmark of Frank Schubert campaigns. This includes an two television ads that purport to show the "broken promises" from supporters of same-sex marriage, and to warn that "gay marriage could affect you."

The stories behind these ads, supposedly of concerned parents, beleaguered small business owners, oppressed employees, and silenced pastors, are indeed instructive. But the lesson they teach isn't that gay marriage is a threat to freedom and family, rather, it's that the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) is willing to misrepresent and manipulate.

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Richard Mourdock, Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Indiana, recently stated:

"The only exception I have to have an abortion is in the case of the life of the mother. I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize life is that gift from God. I think that even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen."
This statement earned a repudiation from the Mitt Romney campaign, and sent shockwaves through other Senate races. But despite the backpedaling, Slate noted that Mourdock's position (no exceptions for rape or incest) has become the new Republican mainstream position. Frequently, this position is couched in absolutist language, like "100% pro-life." Even if the candidate side-steps direct questions about rape and incest exceptions, using that language is a dog whistle that signals support for a "no exceptions" position. Slate also noted that Kurt Bills, Minnesota U.S. Senate candidate follows that practice, refusing to answer direct questions about rape and incest exceptions, while using language to signal support for banning abortion in all circumstances.

To explore this, I took a tour of Minnesota Republican legislative candidate websites to see what they said about abortion.

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Sun Oct 28, 2012 at 07:58 AM PDT

Kurt Bills approves this message

by aaronklemz

On Friday evening, Minnesota U.S. Senate candidate Kurt Bills was on Twin Cities Public Television's Almanac to discuss — and defend — the one and only television ad that his campaign has run. That is, of course, his odious smear of Sen. Amy Klobuchar, based on a couple of stories by Tucker Carlson's baby, the Daily Caller.

The ad ran during the Vikings game against Tampa Bay on Thursday evening; the Vikings lost, too.

Sidekick Aaron has already written about the Daily Caller stories, and about "reporter" Matthew Boyle's claim that Richard Hettler provided only "color commentary" to his stories. It's all about the documents, according to Boyle, but Hettler was obviously Boyle's only source.

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Thursday evening, LeftMN published a story featuring an internet video created by Richard Hettler, a source for the Daily Caller's story claiming that Sen. Amy Klobuchar covered for convicted Ponzi schemer Tom Petters. In this 2008 video, Hettler lays out his case that there is widespread judicial corruption, that federal law enforcement is used as "the personal Gestapo" for these corrupt judges, and that dozens of political figures have ignored this corruption or covered it up.

Matthew Boyle, the Daily Caller reporter who wrote the stories purporting to connect Klobuchar to Petters, engaged me in a back-and-forth on Twitter this morning. He claims that:

Frankly, I was astounded by this response. Far from being a minor commentator in his piece, Hettler's interview provides the only direct "evidence" that Klobuchar knowingly ignored criminal activity by Petters.
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Conservative website the Daily Caller recently published accusations that Amy Klobuchar protected Tom Petters from prosecution when she was Hennepin County Attorney in the 1990s. In two stories, the Daily Caller has relied on Richard Hettler as a source to make this case. But nobody has examined the credibility of this source, nor has any media outlet examined the depth of the conspiracy that Hettler alleges.

While Republicans have desperately seized on this story in a search for anything that could make a mark on Klobuchar, deploying Petters (via Hettler) as a partisan political weapon is both shady and hypocritical. And the Kurt Bills campaign, in their first (only?) campaign ad has chosen to push this issue.

If you accept Hettler's version of events, you also have to embrace a sweeping conspiracy involving dozens of judges, politicians of both parties, at least three cabinet-level officials in at least two Presidential administrations, federal law enforcement officers, and others.

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If you haven't already read the excellent New York Times piece about the cognitive dissonance of Chisago County, Minnesota residents when it comes to government spending, you ought to. This article and the interviews that built it are a Rosetta Stone for understanding Tea Party conservatives who believe in cutting government spending.

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