NEWS DAY | Extending unemployment benefits and MN / Bulls-eye on Target politicking / Who is Shirley Sherrod?

Minnesota unemployed will get less help from the benefit extension passed yesterday by the Senate, writes MN 2020’s Senta Knuth, because Minnesota has a comparatively lower unemployment rate. One of the give-backs to Republicans in Congress was the agreement that states with lower unemployment would get 13 fewer weeks from the extension. Minnesota’s maximum benefit period will be 86 weeks, compared to 99 weeks for states with higher unemployment. Still, with the greater good of the entire country in mind, the extension can’t come fast enough – especially with this week’s initial unemployment claims numbers up by 37,000.

Knuth points out that Minnesotans may not be as well off as our 6.8 percent June unemployment figure indicates.

In June, the unemployment rate fell again to 6.8 percent, but not because we added jobs. Instead, we saw the depressing phenomenon of the official unemployment rate going down as people got discouraged and gave up their job searches. No longer counted as part of the workforce, these long-term unemployed aren’t represented in the numbers and the employment situation starts to seem better on paper. During last month alone, 13,824 people dropped out of the labor force; state labor officials say that retirements can only account for a small portion of the decrease. At the same time, employment rolls fell by 7,857, making the 0.2% drop a technicality as opposed to real improvement in the job market.

The bulls-eye is on Target for its corporate support of Tom Emmer through a $150,000 donation to MN Forward, which just aired a pro-Emmer ad.

  • The Colu.mn, citing Target’s corporate history as a “huge supporter of the LGBTQ community here in Minnesota,” asks its readers to contact corporate HQ with a protest about Target’s current support for “anti-gay GOP Candidate Tom Emmer.”

In public, Target presents itself as a diverse, inclusive, and progressive company. But behind the scenes, Target is contributing cash and services to support an anti-gay extremist as governor of Minnesota, Target’s home state.

MN Forward also scooped up $100,000 from Hubbard Broadcasting. KSTP, which is owned by Hubbard, ran the ad. David Brauer and Rachel Stassen-Berger blogged about it, noting viewers who said it makes Emmer look skinner than he actually is.

The bigger story is in the Minnesota Independent’s note on Hubbard-owned KSTP’s report on the ad’s truthfulness:

KSTP’s Tom Hauser gave a pro-Tom Emmer ad the “Truth Test” on Wednesday night’s newscast. But the station failed to mention that the ad was created and distributed by MN Forward, a group whose donations include $100,000 from KSTP’s parent company, Hubbard Broadcasting.

Hauser gave the ad a “B+,” the highest rating that Hauser has given to a gubernatorial ad so far this campaign season.

KSTP News Director Lindsay Radford told David Brauer that the station “should have disclosed” the corporate ties and will do so in the future.

Target is taking advantage of the recent Supreme Court ruling that allows corporations to contribute to electoral campaigns. Polinaut notes that Dayton campaign spokesperson Katie Tinucci “said Dayton expects to see an “onslaught of corporate money” coming into the race.”

Politics in Minnesota reports that a group of MN corporations are suing to extend that ruling by allowing direct corporate donations to candidates and by weakening disclosure rules for campaign donations.

“If they are successful in their lawsuit, corporations would be free to give to whoever they wanted, including candidates themselves, without us knowing what that they are giving,” Schultz said.

Who is Shirley Sherrod? The latest target of the right-wing media pundits is a plain-spoken black woman who lost her USDA job because of a deceptive snippet of video aired by Andrew Breitbach and his buddies.

When Breitbart first posted the deceptively edited and described two-minute video, part of a longer speech by Sherrod to a NAACP dinner, he charged that “Sherrod describes how she racially discriminates against a white farmer.”

In the full speech, Sherrod describes referring a white farmer to a white lawyer, and then discovering that the lawyer failed to help the farmer. She stepped back in, fought hard for the white farmer, and staved off bankruptcy. Today, the farmer’s wife calls Sherrod a “friend for life,” and credits her with saving their family farm from foreclosure. Sherrod said in her NAACP speech:

But working with him made me see that it’s really about those who have versus those who don’t, you know, and they could be black, they could be white, they could be Hispanic. And it made me realize then that I needed to work to help poor people, those who don’t have access the way others have.

The New York Times summarizes in a blog post:

The 43-minute tape of Ms. Sherrod’s speech released by the N.A.A.C.P. shows that she began the story of what she had learned from dealing with the white farmer by talking about how she had decided to stay in the Georgia and “work for change” the night that her father was killed by a white man who was never punished for the crime.

After their knee-jerk reactions to Breitbart’s race-baiting, the NAACP, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and the White House all apologized to Shirley Sherrod. Vilsack offered her re-employment in the USDA, and she’s considering the offer.

Speaking on CNN, Sherrod explained her take on the episode – “being so afraid of the machine that the right has put out there, that’s what driving this.” While conservatives initially lauded Breitbart, they quickly backed away when the full story emerged. Then, explains David Frum in The Week:

But you’ll never guess who emerged as the villains of the story in this second-day conservative react. Not Andrew Breitbart, the distributor of a falsified tape. No, the villains were President Obama and the NAACP for believing Breitbart’s falsehood.

Breitbart went almost universally unmentioned.

And then there’s the larger back story of USDA discrimination against black farmers for generations. In a longer, analytical article, TPM Muckraker puts that in context, noting that Sherrod is “uniquely positioned to understand the historical challenges faced by the USDA.”

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