Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Missing The Zeitgeist: Vin Weber & Tom Emmer at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs

Part Two: Tom Emmer

Tom Emmer's appearance was both a revelation and a confirmation for me. The odious, Soros funded cretin Mark Ritchie, former Minnesota Secretary of State, and far left state representative for life Phyllis Kahn, took time to attend. Also in the audience was former Senator David Durenburger. They all share a lack of ethics so their presence made sense. Emmer's desire to obtain the approval of these types was evident from every word he said. To be fair, it wasn't quite as debasing as his appearance at the MinnPost Roast earlier in the year.

Before questions from Prof. Jacobs, Emmer sketched his public life, detailing his rise from small town lawyer to Delano city council to Minnesota House of Representatives, then as the man who failed to defeat the flawed and damaged Mark Dayton for governor in a republican wave election. No mention of his rejection by his party for a seat on the Republican National Committee.

Tellingly, he omitted his stint as a morning drive radio host with Bob Davis on KTLK. He also failed to note his promoting for money any scheme, plan or idea that he could get his hands on. Shilling for National Popular Vote, designed to eviscerate the Electoral College, naturally went unmentioned.

He did emphasize his love of family and he & his wife Jacquie seem to be loving and wonderful parents to their many children. This is to their credit. As my friend Sue Jeffers once said to me, early on when I wandered into local and state politics, family first and always, politics a distinct second.

Emmer quickly came to the leitmotif he established shortly after being sworn into office: relationships are everything, relations are key. What this means no one quite knows and this is by design. Schmoozing requires little conviction or courage, attributes Emmer has never possessed and shows little interest in developing.

The most amazing thing, said Tom, about being in Congress was the amazing quality of the people he served with. I was amazed. I'm not sure how low one's bar has to be in order to consider the kind of people we send to Congress--from both parties--as amazing. To the political class, of course, this is simple common sense, one it's good to know the Congressman shares. How else is he going to be sent abroad on useless but expensive foreign junkets? Relationships are the new sucking up; cause and effect remain the same, however. Like Obama, Emmer seems primarily interested in the perks of the office rather than doing anything substantive with it.

"We all want the same things," declared Congressman Tom Emmer. From this category error many wrongheaded and ridiculous things flow.

One of his staffers had spotted me on the side before the event began and turned white. I assured him I was there to listen to Tom on his own terms and I was. I submitted no questions. Afterwords, I told him that this notion that everyone wants the same thing was absurd, only partially true and even then only at times well qualified. Yet if you want to know and understand Tom Emmer, "we all want the same things" is his mantra, with which he'll bleed out conviction, principles and ideas from the political arena in the hopes that talking such nonsense endears him to the liberal political, cultural and media elites in Minnesota and nationally.

It has, it does and it will continue to do so.

Consistent with this desire for approval, Emmer spoke highly of himself visiting the island gulag of Cuba. He spoke of the people, as if he were somehow their champion while being shepherded around the island by totalitarian minders. He told of a waitress who served him who cried when he asked her what she wanted: she wanted to travel. Yes, the imprisoned want to be free.

I kept waiting for Emmer to explain how lifting the US embargo would grant that women her wish. It never came because it never will. Emmer was slightly embarrassing in suggesting that it was the US embargo that kept Cuba impoverished. Does he not know the rest of the world trades with Cuba and it's still a dismal, impoverished fiefdom of the Castro brothers? But we all want the same thing.

Emmer said that his main role as a member of Congress was "constituent service." By this I took him to mean more efficiently delivering government "services" to those who contact his office. The idea that certain principles would be advanced because he--and not another republican candidate vying from the Sixth--was in that body never seemed to have crossed his mind; indeed this idea is negated by the juvenile "we all want the same things" bromide.

Mark Steyn is right: democrats, whether in or out of the majority, consistently deliver more of the kind of world their base wants to live in than do republicans, who crow about having won record numbers of offices since 2010. Emmer serves as a shorthand to that phenomenon: your check is consistently late? We'll be right on it. Defund Planned Parenthood with no government shut down? Crazy talk.

Professor Jacobs asked Emmer the same sort of limp, incurious questions that I had heard him ask Vin Weber a few days prior. I was amused that he asked about Bachmann's "PR heavy staff," not realizing that Emmer kept most of her staff when he moved in. Plus ça change & all that.

Emmer held forth on the need for personal relationships, gave lip service to some sort of "renaissance of federalism" without ever explaining how that would come about, and said Congress wasn't trained to compromise. This comes as something of a surprise given the spineless leadership of Boehner and McConnell.

Emmer has schlepped around the world as a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee and has changed his mind on foreign aid: it constitutes less than 1% of the budget. If that's the metric, then very few things could or should be cut. But we all want the same things so that analysis doesn't need to be engaged in. See how that works?

Emmer was supremely comfortable and condescending when asked about the Minnesota Tea Party. He said the founders were good guys and that at one contentious meeting he spoke for two hours and later got a standing ovation, which apparently meant "servant leadership" was still effective.

He correctly stated that the electorate was frustrated (but if we all want the same things, how can that be?) while fatuously suggesting that people's desire to "punch someone in the mouth" was unhelpful. He sounded like a liberal describing an imaginary conservative but given the company he's been keeping, I suppose he can be forgiven.

Emmer answered a few topic specific questions: Ex-Im Bank not coming back (it is; a discharge petition in House has succeeded), climate change is not a yes or no issue (news to the alarmists), coal can be good & the EPA is out of control, Syria is a mess & we have to be cautious about those whom we allow in. He's against term limits. Quelle surprise.

Tom Emmer is congressman for life should he wish it & I got the clear sense that he does. He will be relatively inconsequential and unimportant in that role as, to be fair, will most members of Congress. His goal is to be liked by not his base (shades of Jeb Bush) but by those whose opinions matter most to him: the center left and, at times, even far left. Relationships, you know.

Michele Bachmann is said to be actively trying to find someone to run against Emmer in the primary. Like so much of her career, this strikes me as a fool's errand. Tom is going to continue to suck up to the liberal establishment and get stroked in public for it. He practically purrs out loud. He'll turn to his voters in the district and bully them into another term. And another and another.

When he appeared at the MinnPost Roast earlier this year he disparaged his Tea Party critics to the hoots and hollers of the assembled brain dead liberals. I attempted to procure the video of that portion of his appearance but it was wisely not released by that so called media outlet.

Yet respect is key, he told his Humphrey School audience. Understanding the other is crucial, he held forth. Except when it comes to what should be considered his own. Then true feelings of contempt emerge and he gets applauded by those who think and act toward his base with relentless viciousness. Emmer is a useful idiot at the service of the professional left.

Can you imagine Keith Ellison mocking the riff raff of Take Action? Of course not. Or of Ken Martin mocking the ghoulish supporters of late term abortion? Never.

Emmer still has his supporters outside of his district, the types who think Alpha News is a problem. Whenever I wonder why Minnesota republicans can't win a statewide office, I think of them. The Stupid Party finds fertile ground here; indeed for many it's a chosen career of inconsequence with a paycheck.

In December Emmer will join Keith Ellison in a fund raiser to support MinnPost. If you're a republican and you don't find that remarkable then I can't help you. The putative topic is "Finding Common Ground." The event is pretentiously titled a MinnPost "salon." Please. Click here to find out more. It promises to be one of those gatherings in which liberals, as South Park once showed it, enjoy inhaling their own flatulence. Breathe deep, Tom.

* * * * 

Vin Weber & Tom Emmer, each in their unique and yet similar way, embody what is wrong with Minnesota republican politics and politics nationally. I don't blame either men for being of limited vision or intellect, creatures of their time trying to get as much for themselves in the here and now as possible. It's the passing themselves off as statesmen that's nauseating.

I do blame their enablers who profess to want something more and better. Where is the evidence of that? In a state with an organized and sophisticated opposition, abetted by a local media of astonishing bias, republicans seem not to believe strongly and consistently enough in anything to change.

Image: "Natura Morta" by Paulette Tavormina


Sunday, October 18, 2015

Missing The Zeitgeist: Vin Weber & Tom Emmer at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs

Part One: Vin Weber 

Last month I attended public appearances of both Vin Weber, well known lobbyist and disgraced former Congressman, and Rep. Tom Emmer, newly elected to the House of Representatives from Michele Bachmann's old district, Minnesota's Sixth.

I wanted to see what each had to say at this particularly interesting moment in political time. Weber appeared over the noon hour on a Thursday and Emmer did the same the following Monday. Neither appearance was linked to the other but I thought the scheduling by the Humphrey School allowed me an opportunity to see what each man had to say and to reflect upon their presentations, mostly Q & A after they made short introductory remarks.

It must be said that Professor Larry R. Jacobs, who heads up the Humphrey School and its annual roster of mediocrities known as Humphrey Fellows, is even more unimpressive in person than he is on television and in print. That local media routinely uses him as one of their two go to guys for political analysis is an indictment of them both. His questioning of both men was shockingly poor and incurious. Remember, he teaches students about politics and people wonder why the U of M is held in low regard academically?

* * * *

Vin Weber's remarks were, on balance, remarkably banal. Perhaps I was mistaken in having any expectation that he would be astute, deep or insightful. He's a lobbyist, after all, who left Congress rather than run for reelection after he passed 253 bad checks in the infamous House banking scandal. One of his current clients is Vladimir Putin's Gazprom. Weber is not synonymous with ethics. I had thought, though, that he might be with political insight. Not so.

A friend asked me, several days after his appearance, if my assessment of him changed. I responded honestly and said that I realized I had made him a caricature instead of a real person. That's not nothing but, at the end of the day, it didn't alter my fundamental view of Weber as a creature of his time, his milieu. " The vision thing" would never be his thing, even as a political prop.

Weber professed to being concerned that more than 70% of Americans think the system is corrupt and that the right track/wrong track numbers have been heavily underwater for years. He then blithely proceeded to predict that, the hoi polloi notwithstanding, Americans would have a robust choice between Jeb & Hillary. No wonder GOPe hasn't the faintest clue. 

The phenomenon of Trump, he held forth, was nothing more than a message being sent by the American people. How that message could possibly be answered with a dynasty ticket Weber left unsaid and Jacobs' mind doesn't work fast enough to ask that question.

He had little use for Trump, lest anyone in the audience be in doubt. And use is what lobbyists deal in, no? Weber said, accurately in my view, that people are very engaged at this early stage. He marveled that the kind of large audiences in various states that Trump was already generating is most usually found toward the end of general election campaigns. That Trump, on any number of levels, was already running a general election campaign was a possibility that never crossed Mr. K Street's mind. 

Remarkably, he said that Trump's support wasn't ideological. Except that it manifestly is, albeit in a form heretofore unknown, and hence unrecognizable, to Weber. He did make one of the few astute observations in his appearance when he said Bernie Sanders' supporters supported him for what he was saying; that Sanders' support was not merely derivative of Hillary antipathy. I think this is true and was glad to hear it said out loud. Several of the most astute Minnesota progressives that I follow on Twitter have long been for Bernie. Hillary who? He won't win, of course, but let's not get ahead of ourselves. 

Jacobs asked Weber what he thought was the source of the widespread alienation of the American people from their elected officials and the political system writ large. 

I was astounded at Weber's answer: new technology. 

"How do we talk about politics?" he plaintively asked. In Weber's insulated view, new technology gave rise to only "extreme" views. He gave no evidence for this except to state the country is polarized, the parties included. Welcome to 1776 and forward. 

What new technology does, of course, is arm and inform the American citizenry, on both the Left & the Right. Weber never expressed an understanding that the contempt many on both sides of the political aisle feel is revulsion toward an unresponsive, parasitic political class and its handmaidens, of which he is a corpulently successful one. 

Media, said Vin Weber, is the problem. One that needed to be "solved." Somehow I didn't think he meant the New York Times. That Larry Jacobs didn't immediately pounce and ask him what he really meant is a testament to his stupidity. Then again, Weber is on the Dean's Advisory Counsel of the Humphrey School so abject deference was the name of the game that day. It wasn't Kabuki but you knew you were taking part in a play. The lines were delivered flawlessly. 

Weber had watched the GOP presidential debate the night before and he felt confident enough to say: "People don't watch reruns of reality tv." True but do you really think that this is that? Because few others do. Or is that simply an indication of the low thought processes that occurs among your sleazy and not very bright profession?

Weber's remarks were made September 17th, which politically seems so long ago as to not be remembered. How many weeks in a row has Trump been leading since the moment he first announced? I understand the resentment from the ancien régime but have they no appreciation for the astonishment of it all? What are they, joyless liberals?

People aren't watching reality TV, they're changing political reality by supporting Trump. The smart set shouldn't have been surprised by this development save for the fact that they aren't smart. The usual reaction has been to savage Trump's supporters. That's a new, corrosive and consultant driven development in republican party politics.

And you wonder why they hate you?

* * * * 

Image: "Natura Morta" by Paulette Tavormina 

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Cuckservatives & Minnesota Republicans

Recently a new term has entered the right lexicon: cuckservative. I don't blame my more liberal readers if they have never heard of it; it's a fight we're having on the right in order to save the right, if in fact it can be saved given its lack of principles, its poisonous permanent consulting class and its inability never to find a hill upon which to die. 

A word of caution about deflection: this term has been used by some on Twitter who have what can only be called a racist agenda. This is not the use of cuckservative I'm speaking about. The legitimate targets of the cuckservative critique are the first to try to deflect and discredit it by pointing this out. It's a poor quality argument, one worthy of the sleazy left and media. I'm a vegetarian, Hitler was a vegetarian, ergo I'm a Nazi. That sort of thing. 

The true definition of cuckservative was set out by Milo Yiannopoulos at Breitbart London: 

“[C]uckservative” can mean many things. It could mean conservatives who are afraid of social exclusion and kowtow to the liberal media establishment. It could mean conservatives who play the left’s game of identity politics, accusing their internal opponents, such as Donald Trump, of being racist or sexist or rapey for spurious or opportunistic reasons.

Another popular use of the term is as a reference to conservatives who “virtue signal” with meaningless platitudes to suck up to places like MSNBC. Or it could just mean Sen. Lindsey Graham, Karl Rove, or, yes, Jeb Bush."

You should really read the whole thing.

When Yiannopoulos posted his article, the "moderate" right on Twitter had a melt down, commensurate with their beta male status. It was embarrassing to see but after National Review got rid of Ann Coulter and Mark Steyn, what can you expect? Sean Towle once said to me on Twitter that politics is a business. Yes, but indentured servitude? 

As if I had sent him the photo above, Charles C. Johnson (yes, I know so spare me) wrote:

“Cuckservative” isn’t about race but about how much power you allow the word “racist” to have over you. It’s about the fake, phony conservatives who enjoy watching the real fighters on the right get sodomized while they gleefully gawk."

Is there a better description of the "republicans" who tediously, routinely appear on "Almanac" and "At Issue?" No, there really isn't. Local media choose these people. Are you catching on yet?

I had to laugh when Johnson went on to say: "Not surprisingly the candidate many of those cuckservatives wanted in 2012 was Mitch Daniels, the former governor of Indiana who was quite literally a cuckold." 

I actually know such people. They're working for Jeb! now. 


Closer to home, do you think we can have any honest discussion about illegal immigration? Do you think McDaniel would ask Morillo about the death of Kate Steinle, who died in her father's arms on Pier 31 in San Francisco? The latter was silent as far as I know. Her alleged killer, deported five times, has a second grade education from a failed drug state we happen to share the border with. 

The Twin Cities as Calais. Only breached. Never mind the violence media won't report on; the wrong skin color won't advance their narrative. 

The 28th & 29th homicide victims in Minneapolis 2015? One black. One hispanic. Both immigrants, one legal, the other probably not. 

Discuss? Not in our local media: there's no white person to blame.

I'm still trying to find out the stats for violent crime committed by illegal aliens in the Twin Cities. Could Patricia Lopez, Ricardo Lopez or Rene Sanchez tell me where to look? Hmmm, and what's with the lack of diversity in those I just named?

Maybe David Brauer or Brian Lambert, two of our best, most insecure white boys from the stale '60's, could tell me if Rene Sanchez is a white hispanic? The New York Times declared George Zimmerman to be such. Your rules.

Back to Minnesota republicans: name a leader? 

You can't. You can't name a republican cuckservative: they're legion. 

I used to be a liberal. I used to be known as a RINO. I've left both labels behind because I thought, and continue to think, for myself. 

In Minnesota republican politics, it would be nice to have some company. 

Photo credit: Brian McDaniel, Twitter. Left: Javier Morrillo, Right: His republican cuckservative, Brian McDaniel 

Monday, July 20, 2015

Sober But Unserious: The Mayor of Minneapolis

Last Friday Betsy Hodges, the Mayor of Minneapolis, a city in decline before our eyes, tweeted she was that day 26 years sober. One would think saving your own life would be reward enough but ours is a confessional society which may or may not be blamed on Joni Mitchell as the precursor, accelerated by online social media. Gawker or death.

I favorited her tweet as a way of showing support but even then I felt somewhat uneasy. Why the need to publicize what should by now be easy, or easy enough? Yes, yes, you can slip at any moment, I hear the blog harpies say. Got it. But still: maybe say this in a 12 step program for booze, narcotics, sex, work, gambling, (Twitter?), you name it.

Lars Leafblad is the public face for much of the Twin Cities confessional culture. Such a culture betrays an immaturity at bottom: praise me and we'll all feel good, group hugs, readings from cheesy diary entries, an inflated sense of an otherwise unaccomplished self and, for the professional, perhaps a State Arts Board grant so your personal dreck of a psychodrama can have added life. While we're at it, does anyone keep their disease to themselves these days? Apparently not & we're the worse for it.

I once thought of killing myself. What sane person hasn't? Should I orbit around that "didn't die" date (true, I was never on the ledge, the gun never in my mouth, the thought never became fixed, it was all drama, like a democrat) and extract compliments from strangers? How desperate, needy, and shallow is that?

I didn't want to be "that guy" on Twitter to the Mayor, a woman I've never met but whose infrequent, not recent, direct interactions have been cordial and respectful, despite our enormous political differences.

Perhaps if Susan Spiller hadn't been murdered the night before I wouldn't have had this reaction. Spiller was part and parcel of the liberal fabric of Minneapolis and apparently died a horrific death, her back door kicked in and murdered in some way the details of which have not yet been released.

Expect the liberal establishment to respond in its usual ways, depending on the killer's skin color. They see nothing wrong with this. Indeed, it's who Betsy Hodges is and, apparently, with unadorned pride. So too the bulk of Twin Cities liberals and local media.

According to reports, there have been 26 homicides in Minneapolis and 11 non-fatal shootings this year. Chaos is routinely rampant in downtown Minneapolis after the bars close, such that a hare brained scheme of having dances & making hamburgers available to the crowds was floated as a solution to the problem. Even this was too much for city council members who shot down the proposal, so to speak.

In the face of Spiller's and others' death, Mayor Romper Room said "We know that these crimes are wrong." Well gee, Betsy, that observation gets us most of the way home toward a solution. She added "Everyone deserves to be safe." Two for two, the Mayor. Possibly if she pursed her lips when bleating such banalities the cure would take, problem solved.

The day after Spiller's death the Mayor tweeted about her own sobriety anniversary as well as climate change. She also tweets about protected bike paths and her upcoming meeting with Jesuit Pope Francis about "climate change." For conservatives and libertarians living in Minnesota, it's difficult to overstate how insipid and foolish liberals have become. They, of course, are blindingly ignorant to their own folly. To live in the Twin Cities is to live The Onion.

For the most part, the liberal establishment doesn't mix with non-liberals and the local media never seriously holds them accountable because the members of the press are as liberal, if not more so. David Mamet, after his enlightenment, called his prior self a brain dead liberal. The Twin Cities is filled with them. Some people actually move here because of that, lemming like.

What did the Minneapolis Chief of Police Janeé Harteau have to say about Spiller being slaughtered in her own home? Nothing. She was off hiking the Inca trail for some charity. She couldn't really be bothered. Harteau is held in contempt by the rank and file and not because she's a publicity seeking lesbian: is that shtick supposed to be edgy?

No, she isn't respected because she's incompetent. But remember: for liberals results are never the issue, they literally do not count. Just look at Twin Cities schools, to pick but one example from a myriad.

Minneapolis is in real trouble, trouble that shows itself with depressing regularity. A lack of seriousness on the part of its Mayor & Police Chief condemns it to ever worse crime and social decay. The other day someone I follow on Twitter marveled that a man urinated in broad daylight on Nicollet Mall. I responded by congratulating Minneapolis for finally having become like New York City, always a goal of its insecure elites.

De Blasio's New York.

Hodges' Minneapolis.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

American Horror Story: Tina Flint Smith, Fetal Organ Harvesting & The Silence of MN Media

Two days ago Americans with a conscience were sickened to learn that Planned Parenthood collects and then sells fetal organs and other tissues from the abortions they perform. In fact, the dismemberment of the child is done with care so that the organs can be sold intact. The story became an instant sensation throughout the country.

Throughout this time, however, local Minnesota media were silent on Twitter, neither mentioning it on their own or retweeting other reports. How odd for so called journalists.

I repeatedly wondered if the press had approached Tina Flint Smith, currently Minnesota's Lt. Governor but in reality acting governor, Mark Dayton being mentally unfit to be a full time governor. Flint previously had been Vice President for Planned Parenthood's upper midwest abattoirs, a Medea for our age.

Local media think highly of themselves, which is a laugh riot because they're exceptionally craven partisans who report--or don't-- based on their political and cultural beliefs. It's difficult to overstate their mediocrity and lack of integrity. Of course there are a few decent reporters but both hands would cover their numbers and leave some room.

Late in the day I saw that Tina tweeted her bloody support of Planned Parenthood's chief butcher by retweeting what you see below. Extreme and out of touch, Tina knows she's untouchable in this political and media environment. It makes her no less a disgusting human being, however.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Mata Hari, or Who Is Sarah Walker?

I met Sarah Walker when Michael Brodkorb introduced me to her at The Bulldog in downtown St. Paul in the fall of 2012. That was another lifetime.

With her was Nancy Haas, who to this day is the only person I've met who is both an attorney and a police officer. I found that combination terrifying but she was extremely cordial and intelligent, smartly dressed and savvy.

So too was Walker. I got a brief background on her from her and we spent a couple of hours chatting about a range of things. Eventually I got it: when people overshare, especially upon first meeting, it takes you less time to know them. Indeed, you already do and at their insistence.

I exchanged cards with her and with Haas and that was the last I've seen of them.  For awhile I followed Walker on Twitter @mnsecondchance until she blocked me for reasons unknown. Maybe it was after I published this? 

Being blocked on Twitter never bothers me: I'm invariably polite (when I'm not I apologize) so I chalk it up to intellectual impotence and fear. And anger: endemic on the Left. Is there anything more tedious than an angry liberal? But unlike some scolds, I don't tell people how to tweet or blog (with the exception of those lost souls who think Twitter is a shortened version of Facebook).

Until recently most republican activists had never heard of Walker although they had every reason to: Walker is a professional Leftist and a good one, as far as that poisonous, dishonest, damaging trade goes. The Left in Minnesota is flush with money and it supports people like Walker who otherwise have no visible means of support. Alinsky in faux Chanel.

I say this with envy and not scorn because Minnesota republicans are naive, short sighted and without any sufficiently compelling ideology for them to create and maintain a political ecosphere that takes care of our own. It isn't only Norm Coleman who'd lobby for the Kingdom of Saud if given half a chance. Distressingly, it's the Right in Minnesota that falls over itself in order to sell itself out. How else to explain the corrosive influence of the Chamber?

Borg-like, Walker perfectly encapsulates a smarter, faster, more well funded and long term opposition in Minnesota. Meanwhile, republicans are left with an idiot donor class, incumbents at the statehouse who should be culled and activists who show no sign of not still being in high school. It's depressing.

Visit www.SarahCWalker.com and see for yourself. I was put in mind of a highly decorated USSR apparatchik but that's just the Solzhenitsyn in me. Sarah Walker is an extremist. The term will make some people laugh at me, the ones who think nothing of late term abortions.

Walker appears mostly window dressing on the public face of any far left damaging effort du jour. If she's a serious policy person I've missed it. Yet where is our Sarah Walker? We couldn't even nominate a woman to run against Al Franken. Still, republican eunuchs tut tut that we should ignore Walker. Why?

Imagine Congresswoman Betty McCollum, who instead of sleeping with one of her staff and then making an honest victim of sexual harassment on the job out of him by marrying him, sleeps with a well known, accomplished republican political operative, one whose physical traits are wildly mismatched to those of his lover?

Then, apropos of nothing, she starts voting and acting very much differently from her past, from her public positions on a number of issues. Trust me, the Deviation Thought Police of the totalitarian Left would be on her immediately, Ken Martin in charge, closely followed by the third rates minds at MPR. Her paramour would not go unscrutinized. There might be something there, there might not be. But to think they'd let that relationship go unexamined is sheer political ignorance, something of a sine qua non for Minnesota republicans lately.

* * * * 

You can mock those rubes in CD 6 because they wondered aloud about the influence of Sarah Walker on Tom Emmer through David FitzSimmons. You probably already have because you're oh so smart. She's just his girlfriend, say the stupidest republicans in the nation, here warehoused in Minnesota.

We're so outmatched.

Out of all the men in Minnesota, Sarah Catherine Walker fell in love with David FitzSimmons. What dumb blind fucking luck. Sheer coincidence, not at all calculated.

As Christopher Hitchens would say, having read one or another preposterous quotes from the Bible to an interlocutor,

"Well you're free to believe that."

Photo credit: Sarah Walker, Twitter.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Tom Emmer And The Politics of Betrayal

Like Norm Coleman, Tom Emmer has long been a politician whose position on any given issue of the day was available for purchase. Oddly, this is at bottom a neutral observation and is certainly applicable to any number of Minnesota democrat politicians. I'm not a democrat, however.

Since becoming a member of Congress--just this year but why does it seem longer?--Emmer has moved to ingratiate himself to the Republican House Congressional establishment with a speed that would impress Cardinal Richelieu. This caused some initial consternation amongst his supporters who, mystifyingly, thought him to be a man of principle despite ample evidence to the contrary. As a friend of mine remarked to me, look at what he said, and then at how he voted, when he was in the Minnesota House of Representatives. The past really is prologue.

Recently, however, Emmer has come under more sustained criticism for his cavalier and arrogant approach toward his constituents, whom, it must be said, he appears to hold in contempt. Why this is, frankly, is anyone's guess. My guess, my Occam's razor, is a guilty conscience. Feel free to hazard your own.

What has recently brought all of the discontent to something of a boil, however, is an unsigned editorial, for lack of a better word, from Alpha News, a recently launched conservative news outlet. Some have said that they don't like it because it might be a creation of Bob Cummins and lacks transparency. I don't know, nor particularly care, about either point. A new communications outlet on behalf of the right in Minnesota should be generally welcome. Of course, many of these same complainers will insist that ours needs to be a big tent party; the contradiction never occurs to them. This isn't to say, naturally, that Alpha News should be beyond criticism.

Its recent, attention-getting editorial constitutes a decent litany of the complaints and dissatisfactions of much of the activist base in Emmer's Sixth Congressional District. It can be, and should be, read by clicking here. Another friend pointed out to me the less than persuasive use of turnout numbers employed in the piece, and shared his opinion that Alpha News itself appears to be closely aligned with the Tea Party, which term has no meaning to me in Minnesota. On that point, however, I realize I'm in a minority.

Emmer stands accused of abandoning most of his conservative principles and rapidly. This can hardly be denied though others deflect to trivial issues in order to avoid that discussion. I've already expressed my thoughts in "Tom Emmer Goes To Washington" which can be read here. The Alpha News editorial is not substantially different although it contains more examples of Emmer's political betrayals. I'm struck by how many activists somehow don't think that his voters are entitled to feel resentment at this obvious bait and switch. Why on earth not?

On Twitter last night there was a fair amount of pearl clutching that Alpha News mentioned Emmer's chief of staff and his tiresomely liberal girlfriend. Seriously, we now have republican snowflakes? I thought we got those only amongst the repulsive social justice warriors on the left. I previously referred to this couple as Emmer's Chiefs of Staff and functionally they are. Additionally, the relationship is flaunted and traded on, so this is hardly some sort of invasion of privacy. There's absolutely nothing wrong in remarking on it, given that none of the comments I've made, or seen made by others, are ad hominem. People are looking to see who is influencing Emmer. This is called normal.

Last year I helped my friend Sheila Kihne run for the republican endorsement against Jenifer Loon, an out of touch liberal republican in the Minnesota House. Kihne and her supporters were roundly castigated for having the nerve to challenge an incumbent. I called this brain dead group think "Loonism," standing for the proposition that once a republican is elected, peon voters and pain in the ass activists had better just shut up and eat the dog food, no matter how objectionable the voting record of that incumbent. Staffers think this way because they're paid not to think but the rest of us rightly reject the premise of Loonism.

So too here with Tom Emmer the objection is made to the very act of criticism, the substance of the criticism being ignored, deflected or explained away mendaciously. No thanks, this isn't what republicans in Minnesota or anywhere in the country should countenance. Emmer was said to have lost his temper several times in his last constituent meeting, a sure sign he no longer views voters in his district as entitled to question or judge him. So much for his bullshit, well worn phrase "servant leadership."

This is all of a piece with Emmer. Remember the sanctimonious "First Principles" speech he gave in 2010 while running for the gubernatorial endorsement? The gullible and easily impressed ate it up while I could barely avoid throwing up on myself. Remember how he never congratulated Jeff Johnson after he was beaten by him for Republican National Committeeman in 2011? I do, I was there: he stormed out of the State Central Committee meeting thoroughly enraged.

Republicans in the Sixth will have to sort out amongst themselves how great their dissatisfaction with Tom Emmer truly is--what's passing and what's more permanent--and then decide what, if anything, to do about it. My own sense is that a Tea Party challenge would be a certain failure. But for others to complain that this discussion is taking place, which embodies the very nature of representative government, of the grass roots level of politics, is to mark themselves as sycophants.

Until  yesterday I had no idea how great their number.

Photo credit: Amy Koch via Minn Post (clockwise from lower left to center: Amy Koch, Tom Emmer, Paul Thissen, Mayor Betsy Hodges, Franni Franken, Lt. Gov. Tina Flint Smith)

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Richard Dawkins In Minnesota

Last night I drove to Rochester, Minnesota to see in person the world's most famous atheist, Richard Dawkins. He's attained that level of worldwide cultural permeation such that to ask who he is is to disqualify you from among those who have been paying attention to important matters. I believe this was his first visit to our insecure, xenophobic state. I wasn't about to miss it.

He appeared alongside a third rate performer from Los Angeles, Julia Sweeney, a somewhat shrill woman who had an epiphany in Mass one day and saw through the whole thing. Unlike the Flannery O'Connor character who loses his Catholicism and becomes a tedious Bible thumping fundamentalist, Sweeney left religion altogether. Or so it initially appeared.

I wasn't sure what to expect and so had no substantive expectations. At a minimum, I thought I'd hear a thoughtful disquisition about biology, evolution and modernity's science-based crowding out of God from our lives, which has been going on for some time, certainly long before Dawkins saw a profitable role in being atheism's traveling minstrel player. Hawkin' Dawkins.

At more than 700 paying customers, the attendance at this event was nothing to belittle. A very warm, gorgeous Tuesday evening in this Mayo-centric place, the Dawkins event was the only show in town. I was happy to be reminded of the verdant beauty of greater Minnesota that I saw driving between St. Paul and Rochester.

The program began with an off-putting series of short videos, essentially haranguing the audience to become a member of the Richard Dawkins Foundation, with any number of membership levels available depending upon how much one wanted to pay in support of the cause. The similarity to televangelist pitches was so palpable that I couldn't shake it off for the balance of the evening. Of course, other analogies to religion and religious fervor and structure that I saw that evening didn't help.

At any rate a caricature of newly elected Iowa senator Joni Ernst appeared, with a comment from her about climate change. What this had to do with the thoughtful examination of life, biology, evolution and, not to be grandiose, cosmology I had no idea. Initially. Gradually, it dawned on me that the audience was to receive continuous reinforcement as to its specialness, its faux bravery in attending this event and its innate sense of superiority to those unenlightened fools who still believe.

After the hard sell to join the atheist borg, Dawkins and Sweeney took the stage, sitting comfortably in over-stuffed chairs with a small table between them. A somewhat scripted conversation took place between them, not without glitches and awkward pauses or unintentional non-sequiturs, for about forty-five minutes. In it, we learned that Dawkins sometimes identifies as a cultural Anglican, that Sweeney misses the community of her Irish-Catholicism despite her professed atheism even as she admitted, once Dawkins brought it up, that she was considering joining the Unitarian Church. She waxed oleaginous over Pope Francis and what she perceived as his very liberal social policies on any number of topics, marriage, sexuality and abortion notwithstanding. I could be forgiven for thinking, momentarily, that the entire elaborate event was designed to gaslight me.

The discussion between Sweeney & Dawkins was a missed opportunity. The audience was educated, attentive and obviously self-selected. Instead of a serious talk between two people about important subjects, we were treated instead to a devotee making nice to the guru, who indulged his not-as-intelligent stage companion. To his credit, Richard Dawkins is invariably polite and civil, no small accomplishment in the age of snipe, sneer and snigger.

Question time, however, was an even greater disappointment. Out of perhaps a dozen or more, I counted only two that had intellectual meat on them, and one of those dealt with the late Christopher Hitchens and the still very much with us Sam Harris. Oddly, the sound configuration of the auditorium made it hard for Dawkins on stage to fully hear what was being asked; this was a metaphor too obvious to miss.

I came close to being called upon but no luck. I had wanted to ask Dawkins about Thomas Nagel and his 2012 book "Mind & Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False." Nagel, himself an atheist, is one of the world's great living philosophers. His book caused an enormous upheaval in any number of disciplines. Specifically, I wanted to ask Dawkins what he thought about this quote from the book:

"The existence of consciousness is both one of the most familiar and one of the most astounding things about the world. No conception of the natural order that does not reveal it as something to be expected can aspire even to the outline of completeness. And if physical science, whatever it may have to say about the origin of life, leaves us necessarily in the dark about consciousness, that shows that it cannot provide the basic form of intelligibility for this world. There must be a very different way in which things as they are make sense, and that includes the physical world, since the problem cannot be quarantined in the mind."

For something like $250 I could have spent a couple of hours with Dawkins before the main event but I'm allergic to paying for access to people like that. Perhaps I was mistaken to think in a Q & A session with an audience this large serious philosophical questions could be entertained. Yet the premise of the evening's event was just that. It was never realized.

At the conclusion people rushed to stand in line for Dawkins to sign books in specially set-off rooms. He had asked that people refrain from requesting personalized inscriptions because of the additional time it took plus the invariable question as to spelling a particular name: is that Caitlyn with a C or a K?

Leaving the Mayo Civic Center I saw a young man barrel past me, a strong but grim look on his face. His t-shirt proclaimed "I think therefore I am an ATHEIST."

It provided an unwitting but perfect coda to my first attendance at a secular church meeting.

UPDATE: The Guardian ran a remarkable piece "Is Richard Dawkins Destroying His Reputation?" that was brought to my attention by my friend, Canadian author and blogger Denyse O'Leary. It can be read by clicking here.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Minnesota Media & The End of Session

"Some knew the answer.  Some wouldn't tell."
--The New Pornographers 
Minnesotans could be forgiven for thinking themselves well informed if by informed one means consuming Minnesota television, radio, print and internet news products. They aren't, of course, but in the final analysis they can hardly be blamed for what passes as media coverage in this state.

The end of the legislative session provided an object lesson in media homogeneity, media self-absorption and media malpractice. Viewing all of this through the transformative medium of Twitter was not for the faint of heart.

It was, of course, altogether another matter for the chuckleheads and suckups who pretend to know exacting journalism when they see it and thank, scattershot, all of the journalists who tweet, who "report," who publish. We're just so gol darn lucky to have them tell us what they think we should think. Saves us the effort, ya know? Tweets from the hysteroid personality incarnate, Lars Leafblad, exemplified this. It's hard to top his unctuous, end of session tweet to media, which can be seen by clicking here. Astute users of Twitter will see who retweeted it (five), who favorited it (twenty-two) and who replied (one).

My idea of hell is to be endlessly reincarnated as Lars Leafblad because not even killing myself would bring relief. Pangloss has nothing on him.

The idea of local media routinely falling short of excellence, of thoroughness and of being a critical lens through which to assess the actions of Minnesota's state legislators and its governor never crosses those types' minds. It's like the lousy food in this state: put it in front of them and they'll eat it. Come to think of it, why not News Trucks™, where the pablum is ladled out to grateful rubes? Food Frauds™ like Andrew Zimmern could continue to prosper while everyone else can pretend that they learn something watching "At Issue" or "Almanac," (the Olive Garden of political television shows) or reading the two local newspapers, or ingesting state sponsored radio.

It's Minnesota: lie back and think of Sweden.

Instead of quality journalism, we were treated to a simulacrum of it, a lazy "the-clock-is-ticking narrative," starting in earnest on the last Friday of the session when the democrat senate leader and the republican house leader announced a budget deal on the lawn of the he's-not-all-there Governor Dayton. As if to prove that fact, which the media know & talk about amongst themselves but never on the record, Dayton later that night gave an exclusive to his media teacher's pet who dutifully recorded that suddenly the deal which was brokered in his own mansion would be vetoed by him. A thoughtful reader--obviously not Minnesota media's target audience--was left wondering what sort of executive incompetence was in play given the governor's party controls the state senate and these negotiations stretched out over five days in his official residence.

Dayton suddenly claimed that "pre-K" education had been his highest legislative priority, despite the paucity of supporting evidence. Given the ruinous effect of our failed public education system, people from across the political spectrum objected. No matter. It was what our mostly part-time governor wanted because he was indebted to the state's most poisonous union, Education Minnesota. That this could damage private child care in the state was an added bonus to the vindictive governor's agenda who had failed to unionize them previously.

You won't find many stories about this topic, though. It makes a demonstrably bad democrat governor look worse. Dayton would go on to veto two more bills. Where had he been all year? Media don't know and won't deign to find out. Has any reporter embedded himself in the governor's office to see if Mark Dayton can put in a 40 hour work week? Of course not and for the obvious reason: they already know the answer.

Meanwhile, we were treated on Twitter to pictures of reporters being handed board games such as Scrabble while they waited for something to happen. When the principals to the budget negotiations wisely decided not to conduct them in public and refrained from speaking with the press in any substantive manner, the whining on social media became embarrassing except to the media whiners, whose lack of self-awareness is almost total. Democracy was somehow being undermined, said they, those who to a person couldn't find any solidarity with the slaughtered of Charlie Hebdo and who routinely get scooped by national and international outlets on subjects under their noses that they are too politically correct to report upon.

Nothing could top, however, the Star Tribune's worst reporter (so much competition for that title) playing chess with one of Gov. Dayton's top aids and tweeting a picture of such. An astute person pointed out to them that the chess board was upside down. Commentary is rendered superfluous but it captured the malpractice and insincerity of political coverage perfectly.

All this time, though, Minnesota's governor was held hostage by a special interest with direct and indirect ties to his own personnel. Media reported anything but that in a sustained way. Sure, there was the proverbial glancing blow, which is to say a mention, that some thought this was the case but it was never allowed, by design, to become a media narrative.

By contrast, had a republican been in the pocket of big pharma, big business or big pro-life (no such thing exists, alas), the media coverage would have been radically different. Which is to say, extensive. And with a negative narrative.

It's the kind of bias and double standard that even casual observers of Minnesota media have come to expect. What is a source of continuous astonishment to me is the unwarranted high regard in which they hold themselves. Some say that they don't know how biased and one-sided they are, similar to a fish not knowing that it is in water.

But fish do know, just take them out of water. And media do know, just critique them.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Once More Into The Buzzsaw: Minnesota Republicans, The Zeitgeist & Social Issues

Yesterday a group of Minnesota Republican Senators introduced legislation that would grant a limited number of businesses an exemption from providing wedding services to same sex couples on the basis of sincerely held religious beliefs.

Where, I thought to myself, have they been these last several months? And what, precisely, precipitated the need for introducing this kind of legislation and with only a couple of weeks remaining in the session? Republicans aid in their own marginalization in Minnesota by their ham handed, wholly incompetent handling and addressing of social issues. We've all seen this movie.

What, then, could be the explanation? According to the reporting of David Montgomery in the Pioneer Press, lead author of the bill Sen. Paul Gazelka said "a family in his district was fined for refusing to host a same-sex wedding on their property."

The usual suspects weighed in and were quoted in Montgomery's piece. His typically thorough reporting can be read here. Outfront Minnesota was polite but firmly against the bill. Why on earth would they be for it, in any shape? I confess to being amused that the Minnesota Family Council thought the bill granted too many "concessions" but were supporting it. The effort looked futile on its face: zero support from the left and wholesale reservations on the right. These senators appear to have no innate talent for politics.

And politics is what this is. Cue the media responses, which cast the measure in terms of anti-this and anti-that, not religious freedom or freedom of conscience. This is to be expected, of course, except early on I saw no indication that supporters of this out-of-nowhere bill understood it.

Javier Morillo was quick to cast this in the most extreme language: "When did gay hating bakers become a thing?" This is of a piece with the professional left and its routine demonization of anything with which it disagrees. A disagreeable tactic? In my view yes but too often quite effective. Conservatives need to do better to neutralize the over the top rhetoric--mockery is deadly to the deadly serious left--but this is precisely the sort of reaction one should have expected and been prepared to push back against. You can read Morillo's piece by clicking here.

Sally Jo Sorensen, writing at Bluestem Prairie, sees a wedge issue for exploitation by republicans in rural Minnesota in the 2016 election, with a focus on the bad guys capturing the Minnesota Senate. This was the first thought that crossed my mind as well but I'm not as confident in the red team's ability to pull this off as she appears to be. Then again, there seems to be little else, at least on the surface, and at least this early, to justify this development. Her post can be read by clicking here. 

Doug Grow, writing at MinnPost, notes accurately that "[t]here also appears to be no support from anyone the [sic] GOP’s leadership in the Senate or the House to take on this issue this year — or ever." His post can be read here. Gazelka even borrows the repulsive language of overgrown, petulant children known as college students and talks idiotically about "a public conversation that leads to a safe place so both sides can live their lives as they please.’’

Oh please. The last thing we need to do is incorporate language from the regions of cultural decay in order to advance thoughtless legislation the mere proposal of which is likely to harm republicans in Minnesota.

And that's the point: social issues, to the extent that they exist, needs must be handled adroitly and with finesse. Not even the most charitable observer of Minnesota republican acumen in this regard would give them a passing grade as of the last few years. Bringing up a topic that has divided the country lately, and with some nasty discourse primarily on the left, offers no benefits to a party that still can't think its way through a compelling message sufficient for Minnesotans to elect them to a single statewide office.