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.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Star Tribune's Suki Dardarian At Year One: "Everything That Rises Must Converge"

"An identity is not to be found on the surface."
-Flannery O'Connor
A year ago this month Suki Dardarian started work as the Star Tribune's new managing editor. There was minimal coverage of what I considered to be an important development in Minnesota media.

Dardarian came to the Star Tribune from the Seattle Times, where she had been passed over for promotion to editor. Later in the year her husband, Peter Callaghan, joined MinnPost. I wrote a two part blog about her arrival which can be read here and here. Aside from that, I know of no other coverage of her in local media, traditional or new. That should tell us something.

Since that time, the Star Tribune has moved from its previous headquarters of 95 years, a stand alone building not entirely lacking in architectural beauty, to three floors of a ghastly glass building which pockmark downtown Minneapolis, adding to the ugliness of that part of the city. For all the sneering at St. Paul, where I live, the most cursory of visits to the two downtowns quickly leaves no doubt which city understands urbanism-as-humanism better.

Even Star Tribune reporters understood what was being lost, as they tweeted fond reminiscences of the work space they were losing, sometimes at a level of treacle that made me blanche but not respond. Being Irish, I recognized mourning despite the very different garb in which it was clothed in this instance and mourning should rarely be mocked, at least in public.

New office space with a worse product is my assessment of Dardarian's first year. To be fair, which is an important value to me, I don't know how the internals of the Star Tribune have played out vis-a-vis Dardarian and her boss, executive editor and white Hispanic Rene Sanchez. Any outside observer can reasonably assume that she has executed the ideas--the vision thing--for which Sanchez hired her. And certainly one year is a short amount of time, especially given the move of the newspaper to a faux Google-like environment.

And yet a number of changes took place undeniably engineered by Dardarian. On the reportorial level, perhaps none was as noticeable as the letting go of Rachel Stassen Berger, a long time, predictably liberal reporter for the Star Tribune. The Pioneer Press picked her up and the cover story was the age old "better opportunity" one. It may well have been but something tells me not. Again, to be fair, Berger has said publicly that this is precisely what happened. And who among us would distrust the media?

David Brauer & Brian Lambert both speculated about the move but neither suggested the change had anything to do with Dardarian. It might not have but to leave that possibility out was telling. Brauer is an interesting follow on Twitter (@dbrauer) and readers should. We have something of an entente cordiale and it works. Lambert is not on Twitter (I admit to being intrigued by that) and he likes me when I criticize my team and ignores me when I do the same to his. Pure MinnPost, which is not a legitimate news source. Still, I could do worse.

But coverage of media personnel bores me and it should bore you. Why? Because where any given reporter works is far less interesting compared to what they are covering and how. Or, as is so often the case, what is not being covered by local media. Our insipid local Fourth Estate seems never to mind getting scooped repeatedly by national and foreign press on stories under their noses. Political correctness essentially explains why.

"Morning Hot Dish," previously Berger's beat, has been taken over by a new Dardarian hire, J. Patrick Cooligan. It's awful: bullshit chatty, lowbrow and full of media self-references.

Worse, it steals unapologetically, in both tone and substance, from Blois Olson and his well read and deservedly well regarded free-subscription based "Morning Take." No honor among thieves, one gathers.

Which brings us to the one thing Dardarian has done: hire lots of truly mediocre reporters who write badly and on abysmal and idiotic topics. In this, perhaps, she's just imitating her boss, white Hispanic Rene Sanchez: hire no one who will threaten you but whom you can fire if things get rough. Allison Sherry in the DC bureau, who took over from the accomplished and well respected Kevin Diaz, now at the Houston Chronicle, as is Dardarian's predecessor, is the worst among the lot. If you're intelligent, you don't actually read the Star Tribune so much as put up with it; the Board editorials are a monument to brain dead liberalism. I'm not sure what this portends for its business model.

Of course, there was a turgid 5 part series about the dangers of ATV's that fairly screamed "nominate us for a Pulitzer about an invented story the general public doesn't care about." It bombed and when the reporters went online to have a real time discussion about the "issues" it raised, one was put in mind of a digital cemetery.

I thought, mistakenly, that Dardarian would view her new job in a new town as an opportunity for truly fresh, creative thinking, writing and reporting. Putting aside the exegiencies of print media in a dinosaur-like decline, Minnesota would have benefitted from someone in her position who wanted to shake things up.

As I wrote previously, and however fatuous the premise, Suki Dardarian said she went into journalism to change the world. Instead, she does what pleases management in order to get her paycheck and oversees a daily product of breathtaking incuriosity. Sic transit liberal arts majors.

This is odd because we've had, for example, a few articles about sleazy public education officials abusing their expense accounts. Why not more of this?

The renowned journalist Jack Shafer, of all people, said to me on Twitter that the Pulitzers are a "shit prize." Indeed they are (as are Polk & Peabody and those awful "regional" Emmys). But Dardarian has twice been on a Pulitzer jury so it's all she knows. Given her readership, though, who could tell the merely mediocre from the truly awful?

It takes some doing to make the Star Tribune worse than it was just a year ago but Suki Dardarian has done just that. Again, this must be what management wants but the product is truly awful. Any Minnesotan can ignore this newspaper and be equally if not more fully informed.

The new, revamped, highly touted Star Tribune website was supposed to launch last Sunday. As of this writing, it hasn't. Some might say this is emblematic of the comprehensive incompetence at all levels of the Star Tribune.

In preparing to write this post I found that Dardarian has me blocked on Twitter. I've never engaged directly with her, to my knowledge, and have a reputation of at least being polite with those with whom I disagree.

I can't take it personally. I can only assume that Dardarian isn't used to having her journalistic ideology challenged. From the falling arc of her career, it shows.





Photo credit: Suki Dardarian, Instagram

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Tom Emmer Goes To Washington

Tom Emmer has long been a Rorschach test for Minnesota republicans: one saw in him what they wanted. Or, in my case, didn't. Now, however, his reach having certifiably exceeded his grasp, it is less easy to make of him what one wants, what one prefers, what one wishes. This is because Tom Emmer is now Congressman Emmer and even in that less than honorable chamber, one can't escape the consequences of one's behavior, here defined as voting.

I've watched with detached bemusement over the last several months the reaction in Minnesota to how Emmer has voted since becoming a freshman member of Congress in January of this year. Real time blogging interests me less and less in this age of Twitter & Periscope. Paradoxically, after a bit of time passes, blogging about something can have real value.

It takes a certain form of sophisticated naivete, together with a failure to have carefully observed his behavior before entering Congress, to think that Emmer would not vote for John Boehner as Speaker of the House. Yet many in Emmer's district, Minnesota's Sixth, famously--or infamously--represented previously by Michele Bachmann, were distraught that he did just that. To expect that a freshman member of Congress would, right out of the starting gate, castrate himself politically is absurd. Emmer cast the only vote that he could and one I fully understand. The critics of this vote want him to be both effective and a bomb thrower. The former is a matter of opinion while the latter role precludes any realized expression of it.

However, it is Emmer's subsequent vote, along with a distinct minority of fellow House republicans, to fully fund the Department of Homeland Security, and thereby not attempt to withhold funding of President Obama's illicit amnesty, that caused him real grief, both in and out of his district. Together with the Boehner vote this had made Emmer natives restless indeed.

Yet to focus on that angle is to miss the story, at least in my view. Naturally, local media focused on that angle.

It's true, of course, that this vote was highly unpopular with many in the Sixth. The Tea Party in Minnesota, which really doesn't exist truth be told, was in high dudgeon. Left or right, is there anything more tedious than people in high dudgeon? I confess to outrage fatigue.

Emmer's vote was amplified by his critics when he abandoned a previous commitment to appear at a local political convention, heavily attended by ersatz Tea Party members. Avoiding being held accountable by constituents was the tag assigned to the story and local media dutifully reported it as such, in keeping with their pledge not to tell you anything you either didn't already know or pretending it was the real story when it was anything but.

When a conservative white male, who heretofore has never talked about civil rights in his long public life, plays the Selma card, a certain admiration is due, despite simultaneous revulsion. And play the Selma card is precisely what Tom Emmer did in order to get out of the pre-existing commitment. Are you going to criticize his attendance at the Selma remembrance? No, bullet proof.

There is some dispute as to whether the local political convention was or was not on the Congressman's schedule. Again, this is beside the point.

Emmer, along with his chiefs of staff David Fitzsimmons & Sarah Walker, knows full well that he has to go back to his district and talk about his voting record, something which usually doesn't happen this early in a freshman's career. But there it is and activists in the Sixth had better get used to it.

Why?

Because Congressman Emmer was already predisposed to take the easy path, the one of least resistance and the one which can, and likely will, advance his interests on Capitol Hill.

David Strom has a reasoned piece about this at True North, where it originally appeared in Politics in Minnesota. It can be read by clicking here.

In it, Strom makes the case for Emmer no longer being an avatar of the activist base that got him into Congress but, instead, coming into his own as a legislator. It's a view worth considering. In a constitutional republic, the tension between representing and leading always exists.

Yet Emmer previously and eagerly took money to shill for the National Popular Vote initiative which would eviscerate the Electoral College. Pro-choice republicans have infinitely more credibility than these paid flacks. I'm one of the last to insist on litmus tests yet NPV surely must compel all decent republicans to repudiate those on our side who have taken cash to sell out our most essential principles. What else is left, if not this? "Oh, I don't know," I hear Jack & Annette Meeks say. Therein lies our problem.

In a similar vein, I took David Fitzsimmons to task some time ago when he ran as one thing and voted as another. He then blamed his constituents for not understanding whiplash when he lost the republican endorsement. Please. I admire Fitz, as people call him, because I admire successful people. Yet my sources tell me Emmer's DC office is run unprofessionally, causing him to be thought of less by other Members of Congress. This is something that should be corrected.

Despite the desperate veneer of culture, cool and camp that liberal elites insist exists in the Twin Cities, once outside of Minnesota the state is seen as a higher level of hicks but hicks nonetheless. No need for a sloppily run office to reinforce that notion in DC.

What won't be corrected is Tom Emmer becoming ever more a happy and willing participate in the DC republican establishment. I'm half surprised he hasn't already endorsed Jeb Bush. To be fair, Emmer joins the equally undistinguished John Kline and Eric Paulsen in thriving in that establishment.

Which brings us back to who really controls Minnesota republican politics: those moral cancers Vin Weber & Norm Coleman. The former is a lobbyist for Gazprom & the latter for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Whatever your definition of political whores is, they fit the bill.

Until the republican base understands those who really call the shots, with their enormous reservoirs of cash and influence, they will continue to be played by the likes of Tom Emmer. On a fundamental level, they deserve it.












Friday, November 7, 2014

Local Television Absorbs City Pages' Aaron Rupar

   
Aaron Rupar first caught my eye with his blogging at City Pages some years ago. Left or right, democrat or republican, if a story had legs, or he could provide it with some, you saw it written up on City Pages' Blotter in a style not seen in Minnesota journalism. We've never met.

This was fresh in a state overwhelmingly stale; it wasn't hard for me to smell fresh.

Mary Franson? We're so old we can remember when I was her only friend. True fact.

Or the in-front-of-our-eyes-brilliance of photographer Glen Stubbe, who, if memory serves and it does, I pretty much first championed?

I remember meeting him in Amy Koch's kitchen when she was preparing to give her first genuine, post scandal interview to Baird Hegelson of the Star Tribune. By that time Stubbe knew me by my Twitter name. I spoke about his manifest talent then unacknowledged & he thanked me for the noticing of it.

My point is not to champion myself, despite appearances, so much as to say that some things are seen just as easily from afar as from up close.

Over a short time Rupar became mainstreamed in a way I don't think he could have anticipated. Which is to say, more tiresomely and predictably liberal. The more he was, the less he interested me.

Still, when Aaron Rupar was absorbed by television I felt a sense of extinguishment.






Friday, October 31, 2014

Who Is The Star Tribune's Suki Dardarian? Part 2

For lack of a better term, I would say the feminine values are now the 
values of America, sensitivity is more important than truth, 
feelings are more important than facts.
--Bill Maher

Suki Dardarian is a past president of the Associated Press Media Editors (APME). This professional association might well qualify as the most sclerotic in existence. A quick check of its web site reveals it hasn't updated or modified its Statement of Ethical Principles since 1994. It's understandable, I suppose, given how rarely journalists are ethical.

Remember, before being welcomed by the liberal media borg extant in the Twin Cities, Dardarian lectured that ethics was the single most important quality anyone wanting to go into journalism could bring. It appears this is a one and done type thing in her world, a world of checklist boxes to be tic'd so as to verify that you are indeed sensitive, warm and inclusive by covering, at least once, those subjects to which the checklist boxes apply.

Liberals themselves are the ultimate social construct.

Dardarian's Twitter feed is nothing exceptional; it has a feel of duty about it until a real life friend punches through and a person emerges from the self-conscious newspaper manager. Otherwise it's the usual menu of stories from her own paper and other media outlets. A thoughtful person will rarely find anything thoughtful for them to click on in her feed.

Who Dardarian follows on Twitter exemplifies what someone who thinks news is "curated" would follow. This is why you'll find both the Heritage Institute account as well as the usual give aways, like Valerie Plame. You wonder if Dardarian even knows who Richard Armitage is?

What's interesting, though, is that Dardarian appears not to know how to use Twitter in any conversant sense and this is confirmed by her subscribing to only one public list: food trucks.

I swear I'm not making that up. Private lists exist so perhaps she has subscribed to several of them. Something tells me no, however. For someone who was supposed to have had large digital responsibilities, Dardarian's social media presence appears to be a flat circle of time.

* * * * 

She can, however, live tweet events when needed, as she did when she attend the 2014 APME conference in Chicago earlier this year. Membership is limited to those who hold senior positions of management in newspapers. The tweets were instructive. #Editors2014

For instance, we learned: "many news organizations don't really know what engages their readers." How odd. 

Then again, it's been said that journalism is the only business where the owners don't care what the customers think of their product. Eat the dog food.

We also learned in Chicago that Voxdotcom is "smartly starting to rewrite news media ecosystem rules." This sort of jargon means nothing but doubtless the attendees ate it up. Voxdotcom is a laughing stock on and off Twitter, with a horrible factual track record and almost daily corrections. Yes, American media, Ezra Klein is your answer. 

Finally, one got a sense of media's unwarranted self-importance and post-graduate abuse of language when one speaker said "We must ask, what is the promise of this collection of words?" Promise? Like life after death? For starters, how about: are the words accurate and free of bias? No, apparently the question is the promise. Of this collection of words. That no one will ever remember. 

* * * * 

About a month after being in the new but same job at the Star Tribune, Dardarian was interviewed by Scott Faegerstrom, which resulted in two separate, very good articles written by him for MinnPost. In them, we learn that she has cred because of the Pulitzers won by the Seattle Times and being past president of APME; the coins of the newspaper realm. 

Job one for her will involve "public service journalism." That's essentially another word for liberal agitprop but cosseted in the virtue of service. It isn't news reporting and it isn't even journalism, if such a thing still exits. Faegerstrom notes with approval that Dardarian is a woman because the week prior to the interview Jill Abramson of the New York Times had been fired and this, he notes, "aroused such ire." 

Why yes, women can't be fired when they screw up. Nor can blacks, latinos, asians, gays, lesbians, atheists or any other atomized demographic in the ridiculous worldview of liberalism. Abramson was fired because she was a bitch and couldn't work with people, as New York Times' sources put it anonymously. These are certified, tedious, New York City liberals making such comments, mind you. The reflexive support for her among the wider media simply because she was a woman underscored again how easy it is to be a liberal: stop thinking critically and go with the herd of individuals. 

Faegerstrom quotes one journalism professor as noting how similar Seattle is to Minneapolis and the lack of any challenge in moving professionally from one to the other: "I think this will be a very smooth, quick entry for her." But the game is given away when that professor says "It isn't like she's parachuting into Texas." God forbid. That would require real change and real diversity; she might even learn something new. Keep it comfortably numb, please, in Minneapolis. 

* * * * 

It's not news that newspapers are dying. Approximately only a third of Americans under the age of 35 look at a newspaper even once a week. Lately I've seen liberals I follow on Twitter tweet pictures of different sections of the Star Tribune and I'm always shocked at how thin and awful the pages look. Whatever the opposite of reading is, it invites it. 

Recently, Robert G. Kaiser wrote a piece called "The Bad News About The News." Kaiser spent more than half a century at The Washington Post as a reporter and editor. Journalists too often attach themselves to media outlets like barnacles; MPR, NPR and "public" television have disconcertingly large numbers of lifers. Can you imagine looking back over a career of such vapidity? 

At any rate, Kaiser laments a number of things about the current travails of newspapers. Craigslist wiped out the classified ad revenue (which 20 years ago accounted for more than a third of WaPo's revenue!) and circulation plummeted at the same time for a variety of reasons. He deserves credit for being forthright: "Despite two decades of trying, no one has found a way to make traditional news-gathering sufficiently profitable to assure its future survival."

At seventeen quickly read printed pages, I recommend the piece if you're at all interested in newspapers, journalism, the media and its collective future. You can do so by clicking here.

Of course Kaiser remains a creature of his time and of his intellectually monochrome mind, like most in media. He talks about the time before "digital technology" changed the world, noting that "the news was quite orderly and predictable." Well yes, Robert, wasn't that part of the problem, predictable news? And isn't putting it that way avoiding the unpleasant truth that elites, almost always liberal, suffused reporting with their many biases? It is. He goes on to observe that "[t]his small, nearly-closed world rarely provided any surprises." Quite.

In what for me was a moving passage demonstrating the power of intellectual blindness, if not bankruptcy, Kaiser asserts calmly that for "nearly four decades after World War II, mainstream journalism was notably non-ideological." No serious observer of media now, or any historian of modern media, would make such a statement. These creation myths of present day media are important to the Woodward & Bernstein generation of journalists who are reaching the end of their days. WaPo's Ben Bradlee recently died, a totem of not only an age gone by, but, for people like Kaiser, one that never really existed except in their minds. Everything passes and it is with that awareness one should be compassionate in assessing that generations' colossal media failures. 

* * * * 

It's virtually impossible to notice any change to the quality, tone, tenor and embedded bias to most Star Tribune reporting in the time since Dardarian arrived. This is a function, I believe, of both the bland sameness of reporters and employees there (including a batch of new reporters, all uniformly liberal and of widely varying talent) as well as her limited time as managing editor. She did, however, in the video interviews I linked to in part one of this topic, say that she believed a goal of good journalism was "to raise hell a little bit." 

I've searched but can find no evidence that Dardarian has done such in her career. Consequently, and at no charge, I thought I'd offer some hell raising suggestions for her to pursue as a government watchdog, brave speaker of truth to power and teller of stories that enrich the community:
  • Is Gov. Dayton mentally well enough to govern for another four years? Is he on any medications for mental illness, what are they, at which dosage levels and is he under the care of a psychiatrist?
  • Can the Governor hold a valid driver's license? Does he? If not, why not?
  • Have you ever suggested embedding a reporter, such as they are, to see if Dayton can manage a forty hour work week? 
  • If Tina Flint Smith is the functional governor of this state, which many in local media tell me is precisely the case, why would you not explore that in depth? 
  • Is there substantial public corruption among black politicians and black community activists that guilty white Twin Cities liberals are afraid of investigating aggressively?
  • Why such reticence to understand what caused that building in Cedar Riverside to explode? Hint: it wasn't a gas link.
  • What is the source of increased violence in Minneapolis? Why in a metropolis filled with earnest education liberals would there exist the nation's worst achievement gap? What isn't being looked at? 
I could go on but there's no need. For any inquisitive journalistic mind there wouldn't be enough hours in the day to cover things that would "raise hell a little bit." 

To make it hit home, why not a feature on whether your boss, Rene Sanchez, executive managing editor, is a white hispanic? That's the term the New York Times invented and applied to George Zimmerman to keep a white/black race narrative going. As a friend noted, by that logic President Obama is a white black. Welcome to your own world. 

Better yet, how about a series on the enormous violence between blacks and hispanics? What are its sources and what are its possible remedies? I realize your problem: this discussion of racial strife leaves out whites so of what possible use is it to the media?

* * * * 

The internet destroyed the liberal media monopoly that Robert Kaiser fondly recalls and which is missed daily by Social Justice Warriors in today's media. Matt Drudge running the spiked Michael Isikoff story on Monica Lewinsky & Bill Clinton was a watershed from which there was no return. 

Media bias could no longer hide and its agents no longer be seen as anything other than that which most are: democrats with a by line. It's only going to get worse, by which I mean not Lenin's imperative--the worse the better--but worse for a media that won't adapt to the new journalistic age and new expectations of honesty and fairness.

Before he died Andrew Breitbart called the media evil. It took me a long time to understand that he was right. But there was nothing else to call them when an NBC producer deliberately altered the audio from George Zimmerman's 911 telephone call to make him appear racist. That producer still works in television. 

The new journalism, the bloggers, the online start ups, the falsehood destroying power of Twitter, all this reminds me of what, years ago, was said by the critical legal studies movement's Roberto Unger about the legal education establishment. His words seem to me today, however, to apply more exactly and fully to citizen journalists against the media ancien régime:

"When we came, they were like a priesthood that had lost their faith and kept their jobs. They stood in tedious embarrassment before cold altars. But we turned away from those altars and found the mind's opportunity in the heart's revenge."

©2014 John Hugh Gilmore & Minnesota Media Monitor™ All rights reserved.

Photo credit: Suki Dardarian, Twitter.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Who Is The Star Tribune's Suki Dardarian? Part 1

"The bias of the main stream media is toward sensationalism, 
conflict and laziness."
Jon Stewart to Chris Wallace

Suki Dardarian, 57, is Vice President and Senior Managing Editor of the Star Tribune. She spent the previous fourteen years at the Seattle Times. Dardarian had been one of two managing editors but lost out to Kathy Best, the other co-manager, who received the promotion to editor, replacing David Boardman, who resigned after a mind numbing 30 years to become Dean of Temple University's School of Media and Communications in Philadelphia. Media insularity can hardly be better demonstrated than by Boardman's career change. 

The liberal ethos dictates that no one can ever lose, no one can be better than another and, so, Dardarian was given the consolation prize title of "Director of Audience Development and Innovation." That title, as Christopher Hitchens would be wont to say, is enough to make a cat laugh. No one really knew what that meant but it took Dardarian out of the newsroom, hardly an encouraging career development.

This week we learned that the FBI sent a message to a teenager who had been sending bomb threats, some seven years ago, that masqueraded as an email from the Seattle Times. Kathy Best, its now editor, said in an email statement that she hoped it was a one time mistake and "not a symptom of a deeper lack of respect for the role of a free press in society."

Is she out of her mind? Remember, this is the person Dardarian lost out to! Best has to be on another planet not to know that the Obama administration has been the worst persecutor of the free press in American history. Media are loathe to report on their own attacks by thugs in Eric Holder's Department of Justice. Just yesterday Susan Page of USA Today said out loud what everyone already knew: the Obama administration is the most dangerous to the media in our nation's history.

Yesterday as well Glenn Greenwald tweeted "That Obama is horrible on press freedoms is a virtual consensus" and proceeded to link to the New York Times, The Guardian and the Washington Post. Had this been a republican president, the coverage wouldn't be intermittent and fitful but sustained and just short of hysterical. The hypocrisy of American media knows no bounds.

While Dardarian was at the Seattle Times the paper won two Pulitzer prizes for breaking news coverage. Breaking news coverage awards are basically the white Ford Broncos of the Pulitzers: something explodes under your journalistic nose, you cover it ("flood the zone" in self-important news speak) and your peers will praise you for it. 

Pulitzers are liberal awards handed out to (mostly) other liberals in the media and in some of the arts. A stray conservative is awarded one often enough that the enterprise can be defended as not being completely liberal, so what's the complaint? Dardarian twice served on a Pulitzer jury. That's a credential I instinctively tend not to respect. 

I remember well when Dorothy Rabinowitz, opinion columnist for the Wall Street Journal, was passed over once too many times even for those who ran the awards. The Board intervened and reversed the Pulitzer jury, giving the award to Rabinowitz that had been denied her previously for years because journalists on the jury didn't care for her political views, the extraordinary quality of her thought and writing notwithstanding. 

The Pulitzer family is worth an estimated $1.5 billion. One heir suffered a nasty divorce in the 1980's involving lurid claims of drug use, orgies, lesbian assignations and generally white trash behavior, including sleeping with an heiress to the Kleenex fortune. Google "Pulitzer family scandal" and have yourself some fun. 

* * * * 

Before her hermetically sealed life was transplanted from a Seattle terrarium to a Minneapolis one, Dardarian sat for an interview that can be  viewed by clicking here. Her answers are both confirming and revealing at the same time.

For example, we learn that she went into journalism to "make the world a better place." That's an actual quote, a howler to be sure, something out of a media parody account. Manifestly that's not the function of journalism but it's the first thing out of her mouth. Yet not one person with whom Suki Dardarian worked previously or currently would disagree with that statement of hers. Not one.

Tellingly, the most used word in her interview is "stories." News per se might still exist like some Platonic ideal or some occasion of calamity. Beyond that, "story speak" speaks and it doesn't shut up. Journalists now have expansive conversations with themselves and their navels about how best to tell stories. How those stories get picked goes unspoken because in this audience they know the answer very well; indeed, they are it.

Storytelling represents the irreversible infantilization of journalism, the triumph of sociology majors as reporters and editors. It is a synonym for propaganda of the writer's preferred views on any given subject.

She went on to say, with a straight face, that media are a government watchdog, they hold power accountable and community building, whatever that may be, is now part of its mission. Finally, when asked what skills are needed most in her profession, Dardarian embodied the deeply rooted nature of the lies media tell themselves. What was the one skill needed more than all the others? The answer, said she, was ethics.

That takes some brass. And an impenetrable force field of denial. Political reporting in this country, to say nothing of Minnesota, resembles a journalistic "Truman Show." "Cue the sun."

Ethics are the last thing media have a claim to.

* * * * 
Once the packing material was removed, Suki was free to move about the cabin. A liberal Seattle newspaper editor makes a seamless transition to the Twin Cities' culture of liberal newsrooms. Life in this bubble is nothing but a comfort zone filled with similar thinking people who never challenge or question their own conventional wisdom despite the hubris that they are fierce truth tellers. They are nothing of the sort.   

There is nothing easier to be in America than a liberal. 

Dardarian quickly adapted to her new, but utterly familiar, cultural environment. She observed the 50th anniversary of the BWCA, which is something liberals do, give birthdays to legislation. They appear not to notice the whiff of the totalitarian in that. She attended the Paul McCartney concert in St. Paul recently, presumably without a second thought. 

Her Facebook account embodies a relentlessly middle class aesthetic. The usual bromides and cultural references for someone in her milieu are posted. Though I could only find a BA in Political Science & Communications from the University of Washington for her, I'm certain she kept up to intellectual speed by reading books recommended by National Public Radio or another narrow-cast liberal media outlet through which she knew everything else her colleagues did but no more, despite rote professions of fealty to diversity. She seems like a nice lady.

Earlier this month she attended a reading of her "pal" Lisa Westberg Peters' embarrassingly self-absorbed book "Fractured Land: The Price of Inheriting Oil." It was a full house at the repulsive Garrison Keillor's lovely bookstore, Common Ground, for the event. The smug must have been near black out levels had some random conservative wandered in, not knowing the Coven had been summoned.

A bored Minnesota liberal inherits some North Dakota land from which oil is extracted. Writes faux angst filled book about it. The tribe turns out to support the effort. I think Evan S. Connell's masterpiece "Mrs Bridge" needs to be updated for 2014 and situated in this world. The magnification of the immeasurably trivial, but personal (i.e., it happened to ME), is a hallmark of modern liberal life. It is breathtaking in its inconsequence, nauseating in its narcissism. Such people are at a loss to understand what Evelyn Waugh meant when reviewing a book of J.F. Powers': "life has a weak plot line."

The Peters' book reviewer in the Star Tribune was as self-absorbed and ridiculous as her book sounded. He praised the author for "openly acknowledging the moral ambiguities so many of us confront each time we start our car." One needn't be Freud to see such nonsense as the child demanding to remain the center of attention throughout life. Starting a car as moral paralysis: these people border on the pathetic. I myself am frequently paralyzed mid-morning-mouth with a hoisted spoonful of Rice Chex: "What if some GMO's got into this?"

Every moment of our lives is politicized by these types. That's the hallmark of North Korea and any totalitarian society; there's no room for the individual, for the truly private. Just yesterday the laughable Keith Ellison wrote in an op-ed that politics "is in everything we do." Of course it isn't but intellectual midgets like Ellison want it to be, the more so for the far left to control people.

* * * * 

Dardarian's hiring was announced in March and she started in April of this year. In August, her spouse Peter Callaghan was hired by MinnPost. Imagine not even having to age out, steeped in bitterness at the Star Tribune and at life in general, before writing for them! Callaghan's background and life experiences appear to be as homogenous as his wife's. He seems like a nice guy.

It would be churlish not to wish a couple to both find work in a city one of them must move to for employment. I note Callaghan's media perch simply to point out, again, how seamless the liberal media ecosphere is and can be. I've called this environment mediaocrity.™

In a similar fashion, I examine Suki Dardarian not because she is particularly accomplished or exceptional, she is neither, but because she's ubiquitous.



Friday: Suki in situ, or, Who Is The Star Tribune's Suki Dardarian, Part Two.

© 2014 John Hugh Gilmore & Minnesota Media Monitor™ All rights reserved.

Photo credit: Suki Dardarian, Facebook. 


Friday, October 17, 2014

Tina Flint Smith, Governor

My post last week asking if Governor Mark Dayton was mentally competent was, I'm told, the talk of the town and, if my traffic is any indication, apparently so. I'm not Powerline and I don't blog on a regular basis. But the simple question of whether our state's governor is mentally competent was said to have been a taboo, one I broke. It's 2014 and Minnesota pretends to be a progressive state. In fact, it's backwards and parochial, with a high school level of politics mirrored by a high school level of political reportage. Almanac and At Issue prove the point every time they air, to say nothing of print, online, wire and radio.

I myself was fascinated by the lack of media coverage outright of what I wrote and the attempt to insulate Dayton from the worst aspects of it. I wasn't surprised on either count.

Remember, I wondered out loud both whether Dayton was up to the task of governing and if, in fact, Tina Flint Smith, shown above, wasn't the de facto governor already. Her being moved from Chief of Staff to Lt. Governor candidate for this year's election simply confirmed what, at a minimum, she'd already been.

The day my piece posted the Associated Press rushed out a quickly thrown together story claiming in "an interview" with Dayton (readers are never told when it took place nor at whose request) that there was no truth to the "rumors" that he would not serve out his full term should he win next month and be replaced by Smith. Mission accomplished, or at least one half of it: the idea Dayton would step down was refuted by the end of the day my post appeared. Weirdly, the governor himself is quoted in that piece talking about "acuity," a word I used in my post. No one has a claim on a word, of course, but I could be forgiven for noticing.

The AP reporter, naturally, never asked the salient question about Dayton's mental health. This is how it works. Instead, the focus was on Dayton's hip injury and recovery. Absent the unforeseeable or the catastrophic, our bored dilettante of a governor is going to sleep walk his way through another four years.

The rumors referenced in the AP report were also never explained to the reader. What rumors? Where did they come from? For how long had they been circulating?

The fact is media and democrats themselves are the source of those rumors, something never revealed in the story. This omission created the desired effect: such questions are coming from those crazy republicans. Again.

The story also repeats the myth that former Lt. Governor Yvonne Prettnor Solon "decided against another term." Of course she didn't: she was frozen out the entire first term and then pushed off the ticket.

Is this the truth? Yes. Do media know it? Yes. Are they liars?

Let's just say that they don't begin to report what they know.

Here's a question, then:

Is is true Dayton cannot hold a driver's license because of the levels of his medication?

Let's see if any media suss out that one. If I'm wrong, they will. If right, crickets. At any rate they'll have done more original research about Dayton than at any other time in his tenure.

I confess to thinking that perhaps Morning Take would have, at least cautiously, linked to my post with all the appropriate caveats so the client base wouldn't punish the proprietor. It's previously linked to bloggers with stories that damage republicans so I thought my post would be of interest because the owner is said by himself to no longer be partisan. But no.

Brian Lambert, who writes "The Glean," a twice daily feature in MinnPost, has previously publicly and privately admired my writing, for which I've thanked him. He's linked to me regularly in the past. He, too, passed on linking to this piece although he generously quoted from and linked to my "MN Republicans' Simulacrum of Competitiveness," calling me the "iconoclastic conservative blogger."

This is how you get stroked when they approve of you.

MinnPost seems unable to live up to its own billing, "a non-profit news organization providing high quality journalism for news intense Minnesotans." This is called a conceit and Joel Kramer seems content with feeding his aging liberal audience, through mostly aging former Star Tribune reporters, the same pablum and "world view" that has kept them from having a new political thought for forty years. They're edgy only in their minds or when able to pronounce items in the latest food fad.

MPR, of course, remains the land of the invincibly ignorant (that's actually a Catholic theological term of art) so I had no expectation that the praetorian tax-supported guard there would do anything constituting real political journalism.

I only mention the lack of "break out" in traditional media of my piece questioning Dayton's mental health not because I want the press, so to speak, as much as to show how little true, genuine, challenging reporting our media do.

If you can go to the Governor with rumors about his physical health, why not his mental, where concerns about it have been on display for years?

Tina Flint Smith has effectively been governor for most of the last four years. What makes me say this? The same sources that wondered out loud to me about Dayton's mental capacity. Even if Smith doesn't take over from the obviously impaired and not fully functioning Dayton, she would remain the power behind the throne. The continuity would be seamless; the reporting deceitful.

Recall that when her "candidacy" was announced local media outdid themselves to praise her. You have to laugh at these people; it's like they think no one with an intellect is watching. The Star Tribune's first sentence was:

"Her boss is one of the most demanding and critical politicians in Minnesota--and she is friends with his ex-wife."

Bootlicking doesn't come any more appalling than that. Remember, there are "stories" to tell now in journalism, the very idea of news, short of breaking catastrophes, something of an idea driven out of town. You can be pretty not bright and tell stories, thanks, and our general political reporting environment is much too filled with those sorts.

Smith oversees some of the most important projects in the state, with immediate and long term consequences of a relatively high order (it's just Minnesota, after all, xenophobes). In one sense it's doubtful she could further ruin the state given its brainless liberal autopilot. Minnesota democrats remind of me Kabuki extras: there, barely noticed and unessential. Special far left forces have already shaped the rough outlines of a second Dayton term and they are so organized it will mostly fall into place. How I hate republicans obsessing over an occasional small time democratic squabble, as if that were the game, while whole agendas go sailing into enactment. We play the game so very badly compared to them but don't need to. Yet nothing changes.

What also doesn't change is a media with no accountability.

God forbid the truth about Minnesota politics, or at least a real question about it, pierce the miasma of the Twin Cities' media outlets. If you want to know what's going on politically in Minnesota, you won't learn it from them. Instead, you'll get--how to say it?--a simulacrum.




Photo credit: John Doman, Pioneer Press






Friday, October 10, 2014

Is Mark Dayton Mentally Competent To Govern?

The mental and physical condition of any elected official is a proper question and the subject of inquiry in any free and open society. Citizens have an absolute right to know if anything is amiss that would affect the discharge of that individual's duties once in office. Those who argue otherwise, for any reason whatever, ask us to be serfs. I decline.

Oddly, the question of his health has not been asked of Gov. Mark Dayton since a ten minute interview in December of 2009. One and done in this state's media, a wholly owned subsidiary of the DFL. In that interview, Dayton said "I am a candidate for governor and I think people have a right to know this about me." That right to know is not a limited time offer; if anything, subsequent behavior in office has made it more compelling than ever.

Dayton's lifelong history of maladies is well documented; there is no need to go into them here. In the last few years, however, his physical appearance, mental acuity and clarity of speech have all degraded to a shocking degree. Readers know instantly that this is truth, the only question being whether it is improper to discuss it in public. It is not and those who wish to stifle such a discussion have agendas, paid or unpaid, and not particularly hidden ones. Their protestations only underscore the need for having the subject out in the open.

The governor's website stopped posting video of him in 2013. In gambling, that's called a tell. Some believe that something happened in June of that year, given his Kim Jong-un like absences from the public eye for long periods of time. We can never know for sure but we can  observe, and judge, Dayton's countenance and behavior in the time he's been governor. Only we don't know how much he's actually the governor and how much he's manipulated by others around him. The Kim Jong-un analogy is surprisingly apt.

It is a routine entry in Blois Olson's "Morning Take" that "today the Governor has no public appearances but will meet with Commissioners and staff throughout the day."

Does he? We don't know; how would we? How many business days in each year has Mark Dayton made no public appearance? No one in the press has bothered to check, nor will they, and the men and women behind the curtain are not about to tally it up for us either.

We are asked, sotto voce, to act as if we don't notice (for Tom Emmer supporters that means in a low voice, so as not to be overheard). But we do notice. As if we live in some Scandinavian North Korea, however, we are discouraged from speaking about this out loud. Whenever the slightest comment about the subject is made, on Twitter for example, an interesting overreaction occurs. "Keep it classy" and "out of bounds" are the politest expressions of this defensiveness. This is sheer hypocrisy, of course, as those same types would be the first to launch a frontal assault on a governor of the other party. These people are not to be taken seriously.

Dayton hasn't released his medical records so we don't know for sure which medications he is being administered. It defies firsthand experience and common sense, however, to pretend that he is not frequently heavily medicated in public.

Can anyone imagine an engaged Mark Dayton on a full time basis, in public view most of the day for a solid week? Of course not. He's carefully handled to appear for only limited amounts of time in public. Even then, most people cringe out of compassion given his performance. I know I do. The rest of the time when he's out of the public eye one's imagination runs riot. I've come to think of Mark Dayton as a vulnerable adult.

Some disturbing images of Dayton can be seen in the excellent ad released by Jeff Johnson just yesterday. Click here to view it; tell me things are fine.

Media know how impaired Dayton has become but don't particularly care: they're on the same team and none of them would do anything to harm the progressive agenda. If a republican governor, however, were this manifestly troubled, Minnesota media would cloak themselves in the phony "the public has a right to know" rubric and have at it.

Want in on a little secret? Actually, by now it's an open one:

Media fully expect Mark Dayton will not serve out his full term should he win next month and Tina Flint Smith will take his place. Smith at one time was vice president of external affairs for Planned Parenthood of North & South Dakota and Minnesota.

It's difficult to convey to the average person the sanctifying effect that that barbaric credential has on democrats in Minnesota. Our Lady of the Dismembered. One imagines her hands perpetually ice cold.

Smith was Dayton's chief-of-staff in his first term. A great many people recognized her as the real power in the governor's office.  Think Mrs. Wilson.

Lt. Governor Yvonne Prettnor Solon was not about to be the first female governor if the people who run the executive branch were to have anything to say about it. That hick can be dispatched back to Duluth. She was essentially frozen out from the beginning of Dayton's administration, but only if it were a republican governor treating a woman this way would our media pay attention.

I can name the names of reporters (print, television, radio, online) who know this, who have admitted it to me and to others, and who look forward to the calculated change of chief executive for Minnesota, with no regard for the electoral dishonesty, the betrayal of public trust they enable.

They'd all deny this, of course, and it would be my word against theirs as I don't tape record people surreptitiously (only people without any integrity do that).

I wrote about Dayton's "dissociative" episode when he gave the Lecture to the Policy Fellows of the Humphrey School of Public Affairs in September of 2012 (see the blog archive to the right for that date if you wish to read it: "Fisking* Dayton's Humphrey School Lecture").

In the audience for this major speech were Vice President Mondale and University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler. I called that speech disjointed and incoherent. You could feel through the audio alone Dayton take intermittent leave of reality.

Larry Jacobs, head of the school, famously told me on Twitter that the lecture wasn't videotaped because videotape "is expensive" and promptly blocked me. Only the audio was released and you can sense the glue holding the mental joints together dissolve as Dayton receded further into his past while holding his audience of liberals hostage. To be fair, I could feel the audience's discomfort during the many pauses in the speech, before Dayton took off in a completely different direction, a lecture of non sequiturs.

To this day I have not been able to obtain the video of an incumbent governor giving a major public policy speech at a public facility. Now why would that be?

MPR has since removed even the audio of this event. The memory hole triumphs! Click here to see its initial story but no links to the audio of the speech or to the audio of the Q&A remain. The first line of the first comment, however, succinctly sums up the experience of listening to the speech, as I did for a mind numbing twenty-five minutes.

Mark Dayton's fitness for office is a concern commonly remarked upon by Minnesotans from all walks of life and throughout the state. That the media refuse to address it tells you all you need to know about whether there is something to those concerns.

They'd ask but they're afraid of the answer they already know all too well.

Forget Hillary, they're ready for Tina.

UPDATE: MPR tells me that the audio of the Dayton Lecture has been restored on the site linked to above. Happy listening.

Friday, September 26, 2014

MN Republicans' Simulacrum of Competitiveness

I last blogged more than three months ago. I had nothing since then to say, so I said nothing. Why waste both of our time?

This doesn't mean I wasn't watching; to the contrary. And, to the contrary, I said nothing. But here we are, less than forty days out from the election, and while it's been obvious to me for some time, it's just now that some are able, barely and pretending they're brave, to admit that the major races are over and republicans the losers. Well great; how about some more throat clearing?

Mike McFadden's US Senate campaign has, I'm afraid, turned out as I called it very early this year. Remember early this year? It seems like, well, years.

I called it "Kurt Bills With Money." I'm trying to see where I went wrong in that and can't find it.

It's difficult to justify much time spent analyzing how poor a campaign McFadden waged. That's an undertaking worth the effort but for now it all adds up to losing to a terrible candidate, Al Franken. For god's sake, Al Franken himself knows he's a lousy candidate but he has already pulled off the disappearing act McFadden complains about in his ads. How is it that it is the campaign itself which realizes these things last?

Three pathetic television ads aired, one lousy one after the other. Had no one told Mike he had a 30 plus gender gap among women with Franken? Might, you know, that somehow be addressed? Is anyone ever awake at McFadden headquarters since Brad Herold sensibly left and returned to Florida to work for Marco Rubio? It seems not. The McFadden campaign is filled, of course, with Coleman & Emmer people; not a strong pool of talent but everyone knows each other so that's what counts.

No part of this campaign excelled in anything but redistributing republican money amongst favorite groups and people. That distribution was largely controlled by Norm Coleman. If this is news to you then you really haven't been paying attention. Surreally, we learned several days ago that Coleman is a registered lobbyist for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. What was that song John Lennon wrote about Paul McCartney? Oh yes, "how do you sleep?"

The McFadden campaign has never seemed authentic because at its center it is not. Maybe we should just fund raise by issuing "vanity senate race" permits; why not massage a wealthy ego who pays us a small fortune for the privilege of running while having no realistic expectation of actually winning? This could be the ultimate in monetizing the loss.

If debates matter, and I tend to believe they really don't, then they will favor Franken who knows television intimately. This is what allows this fraudulent, essentially unserious and nasty man to become and stay Senator. Better than a horse, one supposes, but at times the choice is tempting.

* * * * 

Jeff Johnson's campaign for governor should be euthanized to be put out of its misery. And ours. It's wrong to want to sometimes strangle a smaller man like Jeff but I'm not the only one who's had that impulse. The key, people, is not acting on your feelings, a concept foreign to liberals.

Uninspired, tired and bereft of true vision or principles, Johnson offers voters no compelling reason to vote for him instead of "that guy" Dayton. Johnson's chronically lagging fund raising is frequently noted but never really adequately explained. It's not hard.

Once Charlie Weaver, of the Minnesota Business Partnership, and the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, got behind former state representative and former Speaker of the House Kurt Zellers, no one else had a chance at their financial support. It was their guy or nothing and their ads almost got them there as Zellers finished second in the primary. His race was the proposition that money can buy primaries but neither his nor Scott Honour's campaign managed to do it. That proposition has now arrived despite this outcome; look for the Zellers model to be replicated in the future.

All this, of course, because, as Speaker, Zellers did these supporters' bidding by bringing the Vikings stadium bill to the floor. Mission accomplished. Business isn't beyond keeping its word.

That business community, however, is neither conservative nor republican; it's the business community, first, last and always. Why this isn't more widely understood somewhat baffles me. Republicans are as easily bought and sold as democrats, they're just more cheerful about it, waving around their 100% voting record with the Chamber as though we are as stupid as they apparently believe. I can't be the only one who has taken the red pill; others must surely see this as well.

Johnson seemed never to know what to do next, once he won the primary with a mere 30% of the vote, except strike a tiresome deer in the headlight pose in various parts of the state, inevitably speaking to the already convinced. He'd be a shoo in if he was running for governor of Tapioca.

Johnson is running while practically apologizing for doing so at the same time. He never caught on with the base apart from a resigned, dutifully loyal segment. Let's be candid, though: even with lots of money Johnson's campaign likely wouldn't have improved.

Johnson released his first television ad this week. Apart from pre-disposed activists who mechanistically praised it, the ad reinforced the notion that this is a campaign that has no idea what it is about. How is that possible? Even the grossly overexposed and shallow Larry Jacobs opined that there were an endless array of issues with which to go after Dayton.

Flat, lifeless, using his family as a prop, Johnson promises to audit all state agencies in the ad. That's it? No undecided voter will be convinced by it and the ad's half-hearted attempt to tie Dayton to the new senate office building and MNsure failings seem completely after the fact. "Dayton doesn't get us, Johnson does." I hope no consultant got paid for such poor quality work but doubtless they did. Maybe Johnson should audit his campaign first but it's too late to make changes, the new campaign manager notwithstanding.

It's almost as though the quality of candidates matters first and the mechanics of campaigning second. This thought always escapes republicans; we simply don't want to learn the lesson, even when we lose to it year in and year out in Minnesota.

* * * * 

Whether republicans retake the Minnesota House or not is a question no one knows the answer to. Consequently, this affords me my only ray of optimism, as well as a ring side seat, as attention shifts from the doomed senate and governor's races to the House. It resembles something like political Twister. 

House Caucus members have been concerned for months about the campaign efforts led by leadership and their appointed people; they have little confidence in Kurt Daudt and Jenifer Loon. Lately, democrats have expressed increased optimism about keeping the House, while republicans say they'll get the handful of seats they need.

But retaking the House is only worthwhile to the degree to which republicans in the that future majority hold to consistent and reasonable conservative positions. That actually isn't that hard to do so it's depressing to worry that this group won't pull that off.

Although, speaking of bought and paid for republicans, they're almost full up with them in the House caucus. As Sheila Kihne and her supporters came to learn, it's hard to win a primary against those types. 

* * * * 

The Republican Party of Minnesota has become the wholly owned fiefdom of its Chair, Keith Downey, with occasional appearances by an Executive Committee which most resembles a basket of not terribly poisonous snakes but snakes nonetheless.

Under Downey, we will have all the latest analytics to tell us why we lost. Isn't that an advance? He has made headway on reducing party debt and deserves credit for doing so, although it would be foolish to minimize the amount of debt remaining. And yet it must be said that some of his harshest critics make you want to support him just because of who they are.

I worry, though, that the party is basically Downey's echo chamber, his private comfort zone. There are limits to which even the RPM can be run like a closely held business. 

Downey isn't particularly popular but, as the astute reader has by now deduced, Minnesota republicans are suffering from a talent famine. We have no one willing to run who would be better; plenty willing to run who'd be worse. This is the depressing truth and we mostly know it. 

* * * * 

Media have been consistently relaxed in their political coverage the more likely it appeared we'd keep one party rule in Minnesota, an environment with which they seem completely at home. Does it never occur to them that the comfort and ease in their jobs might signal an essential hollowing out of what used to be one of journalism's core functions? Apparently not. It takes a strong stomach to follow their self-congratulatory smugness on Twitter.

* * * * 

In some sense, properly understood, it can be said that there isn't a republican party in Minnesota. Instead, what exists are disparate and unconnected efforts to advance a potpourri of ideas and goals, often at odds with other ideas and goals. Little unifies them except the fleeting, quasi-identification of "republican" coupled with an appalling willfulness to be coopted by the highest bidder.

Indeed, so perverse is this situation that when you call out bought off officials, the problem becomes you pointing this out. Remarkable. These are republicans, mind you.

There are similar situations in and around other republican political offices and bodies. The problem is that it is getting increasingly difficult to tell these kinds of republicans apart from democrats. The recent debate in Edina between Dario Anselmo and Ron Erhardt consisted of them essentially agreeing with each other and for most of the time.

The problem which that encapsulates is not limited to that particular race. This attitude is now endemic among the operative pulleys and levers of the elected republican apparatus at all levels. Precisely how do currently organized republicans offer Minnesotans a clear voice and a refreshing alternative to the relentlessly incompetent, amazingly infantilized democrats who run this absurd state and their slavish local media who apparently don't have enough collective self-esteem to notice what they have become? You start to see why I haven't written for three months.

Norm Coleman lobbies for Saudi Arabia. Vin Weber lobbied for the old Ukraine government. These are the kinds of men who run republican federal races in Minnesota and we are vastly the poorer for it, in every debilitating way. Everyone knows this but essentially see no other way around it and so buy into the pre-existing relationships through which this power, influence and money is exercised.

These men gave us a Senate candidate who supports amnesty. It's not possible to be further out of touch with the base that they pretend to respect. Locusts make a sound and you'd think republicans in the upper midwest would recognize it anywhere.

At the state level we are forced to endure chuckle heads who don't know how to govern well nor how to exploit an opponent's weakness. If you can't do one, try at least the other. If you can't do either, leave. They don't, of course. They just keep hiring each other. A boatload will go to DC when one fraud follows another in CD 6. Idiocy in the republican party is fungible; more will just replace those located East.

I don't have the strength to point out the obvious vis-a-vis 501(c)(3)'s and (c)(4)'s, through which astonishing amounts of progressive money floods into the state.

Minnesota republicans seem paralyzed about figuring out who they are and what they stand for after two years of one party DFL rule and six years of the catastrophic Obama regime. This is because what would otherwise be the constituent elements of a cohesive party have been severed and sold individually. The same people keep making money in this way and you're not among them. The desire of too many to want to become one of them keeps substantive change at bay, seemingly forever so. We've become masters at explaining electoral failure to ourselves while a certain segment of us makes real money.

This isn't a political party, it's the Stockholm Syndrome.








Above: René Magritte, The Treachery of Images, (Ceci n'est pas une pipe), 1929