Sunday, September 23, 2012

Fisking* Dayton's Humphrey School Lecture

Recently Gov. Dayton gave a Lecture to the Policy Fellows of the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs of which local media have agreed amongst themselves to release only the audio to date. Getting the video into the public domain, where it manifestly belongs, is an ongoing story about which more later.

For now, I wanted to Fisk* the address that the Governor gave. I asked the Governor's Office if the speech existed in written form and was told it did not. In fact, no written record of any of the Governor's speeches since taking office can be found because none exist. He has no speech writer. He writes his own speeches, his communications office told me, and it shows. That he can't be bothered with a writer to craft speeches with vision and substance is telling. To be fair, he gives the same, tired, intellectually fossilized speech just about everywhere. We don't really have a full time fully functioning Governor, do we?

What follows is my best understanding of what the Gov. said Sept. 12 based on the audio provided by MPR. It can be found by clicking here.

Dayton begins by thanking Vice President Mondale who is in the audience, remembers he was hired by him for then Senator Mondale's staff in 1975. He learned about keeping his commitments & integrity then, you see, in that land of Jurassic Park liberalism. To change one's mind is tantamount, in this man's fixed-in-amber mentality, to betrayal of integrity. He learned everything--once--decades ago under vastly different circumstances and he's good for life, thanks.

What he means is: being dipped in stupid long ago means he doesn't need to keep up with new ideas in or out of government. This epistemic closure will soon be championed by Dayton later in his speech.

The day before his Lecture was 9/11 and the Governor told the audience he realized that on that day in 2001: "we were in for a rough ride." Well, yes, thanks so much for noticing. "Nothing will be the same after this." Right again.

He then applies the dread of post 9/11 to the current situation in our state. Why didn't we think of that? Because when I think of a budget short fall or a bloated anachronistic state bureaucracy closed for a mere 20 days, it puts me immediately in mind of the Trade Towers smoldering with the ashes of more than three thousand of my countrymen.

Apropos of nothing, Dayton brings up the recent 1988 book by Paul Kennedy: The Rise & Fall of the Great Powers. Dayton appears to be smitten by this tired, dated, middlebrow work of alarm. Nothing he says in the speech indicates he's read anything more current.

After oversimplifying the book, Dayton says national collapse is what we have to guard against. I'm in. I'm expecting to hear the alarm bells of a 16 trillion dollar national debt but it never comes.

Instead, Dayton jumps back in time (leaving the present to reminisce about the past is a disturbing feature of this Lecture) to the Clinton years to praise a budget balanced two years in a row. He fails to note that such only happened after republicans gained control of Congress. The previous two years were full of deficit, to use an inelegant phrase. I wouldn't be surprised if the the Policy Fellows themselves didn't know this. They're not exactly an impressive lot, nor, one gathers from the current state of academe, could they be.

Next? We're in the senate with Dayton again. Um, ok! Doing my best to follow, sir, because none of this hangs together and you're not yet five minutes into the speech. The senate scenes are a mashup of Bush bashing but weirdly mostly of when Dayton and Bush were at Yale undergraduate together. What happened to 9/11? Don't know, don't ask. Dayton tells one of his few W. jokes and the trained seals all laugh. There must be some comfort in life.

Dick Cheney is also thrown into the Yale Memory Mix.™ We should start a Gov. Dayton store. We could stock it with the most interesting inventory.

Continuing to recall things in ways that no other can, Dayton channelled Bush, saying the latter looked at President Ronald Reagan taking us down "a path of fiscal irresponsibility and getting away with it" and W approved. What on earth is this man talking about? Fiscal irresponsibility? "Getting away with it" from whom? Where do you locate the slight? "Getting away with it?" Sounds punitive to me. Tell us more about what makes you angry, Governor. The Humphrey School is a safe place.

Oblivious to the economic boom under Reagan (how is that even possible?), Dayton lurches toward President George H.W. Bush's political suicide of raising taxes. Naturally he praises it but that's to be expected of a liberal. So far, so good.

Incredibly, Dayton then says this "got us back on that track to economic growth and he paid the price politically for doing so." This is simply delusional but because it involved a tax increase it was a per se good. We had more economic growth under Bush One than Reagan? Anyone who believes that should not be a governor of any state nor, for that matter, in politics in a serious way.

The thinking isn't even simplistic. There isn't any thinking. This is a series, so far, of emotional associations interspersed with improvisational remarks.

At this point in the Lecture, we're not listening, we're observing the performer.

And what one sees is not reassuring: a basic, profound misunderstanding of the most simplistic economic principles, eg, tax cuts "cost" the state because all of your money (except his & his family's) belong to the state in the first instance. This is so ingrained that when you bring it to liberals' attention they really don't know what you're talking about for some time.

Dayton's memories of annual family meetings "up north" to discuss & decide wealth management issues is fascinating and as such is nowhere to be found mentioned by the Pioneer Press, StarTribune, MPR, AP or any local television station of which I'm aware. Why not? It's like he's an out of touch rich white guy: that meme is right in the media's wheelhouse. But no, nothing. It's almost as if they are covering for this appalling performance. That can't be though: local media talk truth to power and everything!

That Bruce Dayton guy made a big impression on little Marky and he's lived to please that impression his whole life, with substantial collateral damage to the public good.

Dayton travels furthest back in time in the first half of the speech when he quotes approvingly from Walter Heller. Doubtless most local media had to Google the name. I had to catch my breath: Heller is from the Kennedy Administration! Dayton is an intellectual mummy. Could he hold a sustained conversation with Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker? No and we all know it. Forget running again in 2014; I worry he won't make it until then even with the media's complicity.

Why is the Governor sharing these political ink blots with us? He goes on to bemoan tax cuts in Minnesota which has set us on a downward spiral. This man is planning a revision of our state tax code after the November election. Could anything be scarier?

He sees the tax code as helping to "reward innovation and success." No thank you, sir. That's the function of the private market. Is it possible for you to stay out of it in any meaningful way?

The next disassociative moment came shortly after when he "shared" a memory from youth: his "one summer job" at Target. Oh dear. This must have been worse than the two year compulsory military service for men and women in Israel, no? Marky was tasked with inventory and all that counting made him bored! He didn't know how to handle boredom then and he doesn't still, only now we get that inability to shake boredom expressed as antiquated public policy notions foisted upon us in a speech the media won't release on video.

When he spoke about the national debt he only got it wrong by two trillion dollars: 14 instead of 16 (which, Guv, was set during the DNC if you were awake for any of it).  No, you may not have elemental competence in your Chief Executive Officer. Dayton governs so poorly he gets the debt wrong before policy fellows. This isn't even mailing it in.

Citizens can make up their own minds simply by listening to the speech. It's only 25 minutes long. But audio is a good way for media to pretend to transparency while knowing full well the images are what do the damage in such situations. One tee vee station aired 20 seconds and even that was painful. No wonder the public has not seen the video of the speech, yet.

Disjointed. Incoherent. Devoid of leadership or ideas for the next few years. Keep in mind the title of this Lecture was:

"Minnesota's Future: Opportunities & Challenges"

All Dayton offers going forward is a listening tour. Original! He says he expects to hear "some" about taxes in a sort of "see how I suffer for you" attitude. Taxpayers are a bother, you see.

Near the conclusion of this train wreck of a Lecture, Father Bruce Dayton makes another appearance for, you see, he told young Marky, older Mark Dayton informs his audience, that "if you're going to put all your eggs in one basket, you better take mighty good care of that basket."

Just what the hell is the Governor talking about? What basket? Why would we put them all in just one anyway? What has this got to do with our state's future? He then gets off a few sentences about the University of Minnesota (if we can just identify and support its essential missions then economic prosperity will return to the state) and abruptly concludes.

This was the Lecture to the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs Policy Fellows before Vice-President Walter F. Mondale and current University President Eric Kaler?

No goals are outlined. No detailed synthesis of his first two years in office is provided. No mention of why republicans believe what they do and what, if anything, he can do to move toward the majority party in the legislature. He reveals his profound misunderstanding of Obamacare in saying that because "they" couldn't raise taxes enough on millionaires "they" had to shift the tax to medical devices. Does Governor Dayton mean "they" as in the democrats who alone passed Obamacare? That they? What if in his own mind Dayton associates "they" with republicans? It's entirely possible; entirely that unwell.

Dayton is as economically ignorant as Obama but for different reasons. How lucky for Minnesotans to have failed executives on both the national and local level, together with a national and local media that seeks to protect them at all costs. Strange days.

*Fisking: To Fisk means to analyze vigorously. Learn the origins of the term by clicking here.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Unbearable Lightness Of Gov. Mark Dayton

Why is it some children of enormous inherited wealth react to their condition by inflicting themselves upon the greater public under the misnomer of public service? If quizzed, none of us would recall asking these strange creatures for any assistance that they, by chance, might possess in governing ourselves. No, we're good, thanks.

Were that it was so easy to stop them. Minnesota's misfortune is to have had Mark Dayton insist that his destiny lay in such oppressive public service on our behalf. First he acted out on the national stage as a senator and failed as only such a hot house creature could. After his single term of absolutely no consequence (hint: that's called waste) some of us had hoped he'd do the "I want my own vineyard" bored wealthy thing or perhaps gotten involved in artisanal chocolate production. For those who main goal in life because of wealth is not to feel irrelevant, the possibilities were endless. Could he not have glommed on to Bill & Melinda's feel good social experiments? Surely from among the panoply of useless United Nations programs and causes there was one he could internalize? If it were sheer ego, why not freshen up a salad dressing line with his mug on the bottle and give Paul Newman a run for his money? He could have meetings and everything!

No, not our luck. In what had unavoidable masochistic overtones, Dayton decided he wanted to act out on the state level (again) by insisting he was governor material. That he won the office is no proof whatsoever of that premise and to date his performance is irrefutable evidence of its lack. He jammed his own party by running in the primary and using his own money. Either or both of these conditions usually elicits the loudest of clucking from democrats but, after Dayton beat Tom Emmer by a 8,000 vote whisker, they soon enough fell in line. The governor could be managed, they were told.

Gov. Dayton's first two years have been abysmal. What was it he wanted to do as governor anyway? Wouldn't a house and senate controlled by republicans offer him the perfect opportunity to lead? To show compromise? To get things done as these political types like to pretend they can? If one was a real leader instead of a lost soul looking for external housing to shore up the inner, yes. But a leader is not who Gov. Dayton is and it is not who he will be in the coming two years, either.

Last week the Governor, sounding like a vaguely fascist mandarin, simply insisted without any intellectual depth or sustained engagement that taxes must increase because of his perceived need of all that government must do. His idea of the size & scope of government is not open to discussion. There is no opting out from it because he knows best. What's that called again?

He made his statement at what, until just yesterday, I had been led to believe was simply a speech reported on by the press. Instead, as MinnPost reported the day before (as did the Pioneer Press), it was a University Lecture. MinnPost polished the knob by saying that the title "university lecturer" could be added to Mark Dayton's resume. No, really.

Yet what shocked is that this was a lecture grandly titled: "Minnesota's Future: Challenges and Opportunities" given to the University of Minnesota's Humphrey School of Public Affairs Policy Fellows (there's more intellectual diversity among supporters of Ron Paul by orders of magnitude; the Fellows are the stuff of David Mamet's nightmares). This was a liberal/progressive/left confab with Little Lord Fauntleroy in attendance.

But wait there's more! The event was closed to the public.

Pardon? Is this possible? Is Common Cause Minnesota on it? From whence shall our help come? Surely the event was taped and surely I will get my hands on it. Try making it private. The entire speech and question and answer session should be posted on the Humphrey School's website without delay. This event was not a private function.

Why would the press acquiesce in this? Access? Or just the usual hot dish politics? Both?

I listened to the audio of the Governor's 25 minute speech. It is appallingly bad. To learn only after the fact that it was a university lecture proper for a set of fellows was mind boggling. He spoke from notes as best from what I could tell. Meandering, at times pointless, at others a non-sequitur minefield, his speech revealed that there is serious trouble with our Chief Executive.

Our Governor's visual performance at this public event is what is being deliberately withheld from the public. What an odd thing to say about Minnesota politics.

But if the visual matches the audio, voters may well be in for a shock. Listening to several bizarre passages on the audio, none intrigued me more in wanting the visual as when Gov. Dayton spoke about his family's annual gathering to discuss wealth management. He reminisced about advice concerning the public good from his father and uncles. He's still executing orders from childhood! I wanted to clap my hands together loudly to snap him out of it while listening to this psychological excursion.

MPR and the StarTribune failed to note that this was a resume enhancing "university lecture" before the Humphrey School Policy Fellows with the President of the University of Minnesota in attendance. MinnPost stated that "Some media may attend, but it's not open to the public."

Do you see? People like us are not allowed in. Media, who are liberals by another name, "may attend." In other words, no one here but us squishes and we squishes will report on it. Media criticism can't possibly be this easy in this town, can it? Because I'll become quickly bored.

It's telling that media do not consider themselves the public. Has this ever been said before? Remember, these people think exceptionally highly of themselves and as having a combative posture toward power. What a laugh! In fact, if power flows from their favored party, they are eager to be co-opted and, as their publishing shows, used to advance that party's interests.

The StarTribune reported only that Dayton spoke "at the University of Minnesota." Not untrue and therefore meets the StarTribune's low threshold for accuracy and completeness.

MPR reported that he spoke "to a group" at the University of Minnesota. Also not untrue and apparently reported this way less any MPR listener assume that the Governor was walking around campus talking to himself.

The Pioneer Press was fuller, saying that the Governor gave "a speech at the University of Minnesota's Humphrey School of Public Affairs." Even that, however, was insufficient to convey the importance of the event to its own participants. Minnesota University President Eric Kaler attended the Governor's Lecture to the Humphrey School Policy Fellows. Indeed he should have: it was a very big deal.

"Some media may attend, but it's not open to the public." Remember that phrase.

In his so-called lecture, the Governor proclaimed that the failure to raise taxes would be the death of this country. Failure to raise taxes would be the death of this country. I swear you can hear the sounds of bobble heads on the audiotape. Revenue or death!

How is this relic our Chief Executive? He called raising taxes an acid test of his. Could anyone in the press appreciate how astonishing that truly is?

Not really. The introduction to the story in the Pioneer Press started out: "Count on Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton to swim against the tide."

Really? That wet a kiss?

The StarTribune wrote that Dayton had come back from a summer of silence "roaring." There's a neutral term. Fact check, please. It also wrote that the Dayton-responsible statewide government shutdown last year was "bruising." Actually, no one noticed the shut down very much (myself I felt filled with more liberty) which led to Dayton's capitulation 20 days later to the republican legislature's budget. But it is "bruising" now because an election is upcoming and that's how democrats want the issue colored. Consider it done!

"Some media may attend, but it's not open to the public."

Dayton is wildly out of touch with the times across this country. Where has he been since 2008 for him to have said that "public investments do create jobs." Is there even a flicker of a brain wave there? They create jobs but the wrong kinds of ones and even then frequently they don't last. Public investment does not equate to economic growth. This fundamental economic principle is exceedingly difficult for liberals to grasp because spending makes them feel like they are doing something. That their policies fail so routinely and disastrously without another thought also keeps liberals from holding themselves to account. Detroit is the physical manifestation of liberalism. Imagine if that city came to the end it has under republican governance. Democrats with a byline, as Rush Limbaugh called the media, would be all over that important story.

Did anyone get the chance to ask Gov. Dayton if he'd chatted up fellow democrat Gov. Andrew Cuomo about his work in New York state? It's an open question whether he'd take Dayton's call but that's another matter altogether. Has our governor heard of reformist democrat governors? We seem to have a leader who is intellectually uncurious about whether anything on the policy side may have changed since he first got into politics just yesterday in 1975. Are his handlers equally thick? Perhaps it's all one encompassing bubble? I hadn't considered that before.

Besides taking money from you in the amounts that he knows best in order to spend it on your own good, Gov. Dayton last week also disassociatively proclaimed he'd like to open trade with Cuba.

What? No, just no Governor. What are you thinking? You're aware you're in 2012, aren't you sir? Minnesota is surrounded by vastly more economically vibrant states. You may have heard of something called a boom (but not a firework so relax) in North Dakota. South Dakota has been siphoning jobs and businesses from Minnesota for decades now. Wisconsin? You know, Gov. Scott Walker who you are so very not?

How does our Governor bring nothing to the table of ideas but stale, failed ones? The laziest of postures are being struck. This begs the question just who are the Governor's current handlers? Who actually is part of the process that informs him as to what he thinks is good governance? We don't really get much coverage of that important and interesting subject. The lecture to the Humphrey School Fellows was just such an opportunity and therefore went largely unreported.

There was, fortunately, a ukulele player on Almanac last week so our media didn't let us down completely.

Eric Ostermeir, blogging at Smart Politics, had a fascinating overview of the dark, strange, paranoid, apocalyptic words the Governor used in his speech. Is this how liberals make themselves feel alive? More alive? Purposeful? (I feel assaulted when that word is used.)

The article is not lengthy but it is extremely observant in distilling Gov. Dayton and his performance last week. To read it click here.  It's almost as if Eric is onto something. Like a story.

It's telling that Gov. Dayton has nothing but exaggeration and the gloomiest of language with which to go into this fall's election. Grounded optimism requires a leader. General "can do" attitude usually works wonders with people. But this strangest of all Minnesota governors has no capacity whatsoever for that which smacks of the positive. To the contrary, his internalized conflicts leave him continuously searching for solutions which he then projects onto us by way of out of touch, top down, diktats whose implementation gives him psychological satisfaction. Of course that last bit was sheer psychoanalysis but wasn't it fun?

The reporting, as it were, suggests that democrats will increasingly use Gov. Dayton as legislative races heat up. I hope they're correct about the upside offsetting the down because this governor is the best reason why the DFL shouldn't get the legislature. Making him your poster child is fine with me. But having Gov. Dayton urge voters to increase taxes by voting democrat may not be the best way to get said votes.

Perhaps democrats didn't notice there's no shortage of issues with which to run against Minnesota republican legislators. But the lemming instinct is strong among progressives; when your ideas are weak continuous mutual reassurance they are strong is essential. What cliff? Forward.

If the Governor wants to make raising taxes the "acid test" of this election, it's an open question whether democrats can deflect that mistaken approach with something more likely to bring them to a majority in either chamber or, God forbid, both. I don't pretend to know the inner workings of the DFL, its legislators or activists and so can't hazard a guess as to which is more likely to win out.

I do know if it's a battle over raising taxes to fund more useless government, republicans will have the upper hand consistently across all legislative races. Why Dayton is channelling Walter Mondale's 1984 convention promise to raise taxes I've no idea.

I do know that it didn't work then and it won't work now.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Twitter & The End Of The Fourth Estate

Twitter has destroyed journalism as we have known it to date in America. The worst mistake anyone in the press or the media or journalism (do those words have sustained meaning today?) could have made in the age of the internet, smart phones and tablets was to have joined yet another new social medium which counterintuitively limited not just your words but your very keystrokes.

The mainstream media was reduced to its essence. The result was its demise.

On Twitter, journolists (shall we let them in on that word?) found themselves in the cyber presence of equally if not demonstratively sharper minds, much, much quicker wit & an ability to marshall facts as readily as the imagination of Bob Woodward. The few good ones from the herd shone. The rest, refusing to admit they were subtantially less special than before going on Twitter, gamely strode on.

Unfortunately, in doing so they brought the scenery down of what was left of the media game. The royal family in the United Kingdom, say what one may, did manage to survive its encounter with the media. Not so the media itself, which must be the definition of meta.

On Twitter, the media were defeated by journalism itself. Not by just the bright activists on both political sides but by the ability for other media from other countries on Twitter to link to a fascinating array of stories about the United States which our own press, as it were, kept from us. Why would they do that?

The question didn't last long and people starved for information instead of rubbish were off and running. It wasn't that these websites weren't online before Twitter; they were. What Twitter does is make the static web dynamic and with its rich content you have something unlike we've ever seen before. I've thought long enough about this to think the media as constituted today is at an end. I can see it from my house in my pajamas you might even say.

Media personalities, reporters and producers on Twitter, at various times and in sometimes quite revealing ways, eventually could not but help let their personalities come through. On the one hand, we were reassured that they were human. On the other, they themselves (take a bow) confirmed every known defect, vanity and shortcoming conservatives had long ago come to believe they possessed.

I'm not really sure if media and liberals on Twitter realize that the conservatives there stand around looking at the wealth of confirmatory evidence, wanting to shake our heads. Because we can't, we use avatars, our own buzzwords (this means you won't know you're being mocked), and hash tags (the pound sign #) which have almost become the exclusive provence of the right.

In hash tags conservatives reign supreme. Hash tag games are our most deadly weapon in this aspect of Twitter and largely for our own, self-congratulatory amusement. Again, some media standouts are in our league. See how the tables have changed?

Information is the name of the game though, no? Yes. Here marginal or clearly erroneous information is corrected quickly and efficiently. There is the speed of light, which we can't experience, and then there's the speed of Twitter, which we can. I recommend you experience it for yourself.

Tonight we're waiting to see what the American media will do with an explosive report from the British newspaper The Independent. From the material there, it seems very likely that Secretary Hillary Clinton was knowingly and grossly deficient in her prime directive as our Secretary of State: to safeguard the lives of her State Department employees. The story can be read by clicking here. This comes, of course, as we learn President Obama did not attend approximately 60% of his daily intelligence briefings.

The point is that much more information is needed and the media have no natural interest in obtaining it. They will be forced to report about their team. It has been a very long time since they did. It's at junctures like this that I recall the attitudes of those going into journalism: high minded if not prideful, certain of their commitment to truth and a belief that life could not inculcate in them sometimes wildly contradictory beliefs and opinions. And, of course, worship of that mythic goddess Objectivity.

What makes this development all the more remarkable is that it is coming at the end of a tumultuous week within Twitter & the media given the sickening and catastrophic murder and violence in Libya and Egypt.

Doesn't everyone know where they were when they learned "our Ambassador" to Libya had been murdered? I believe they do. I know I do. It almost never happens. When it does, that veneer of civilization is thin to the point of disappearing.

Without recapitulating days of back and forth, conservatives on Twitter were astonished to see the instinctive herd mentality of the media form almost immediately upon the news of a dead Ambassador, three more American citizens, and a consulate burned out if not to the ground. Carter! we heard their Borg-like minds shriek in the Twitterverse. We expected the usual apologies for incompetence that they'd automatically provided throughout the Obama administration.

What we could not have known is that in their feral, corrupt panic they'd have the shamelessness to attempt to make their journalistic reason d'etre the blaming and destruction of Mitt Romney. Ambassador Stevens died a horrible death: choking to death in a burning building. Romney put out a statement and the rest is well known: the media liked neither its content nor its timing. Obama condemned the statement before he condemned the violence at the American Embassy in Cairo, Egypt.

Any number of misrepresentations and lies were made by the media in its ongoing attempt to sustain a negative narrative against Romney. But the various narratives kept suffering from factual, ethical cardiopulmonary failure and couldn't be resuscitated. One by one they were cast off. Those for whom the media pretend to write were having none of what they wrote.

On Twitter, for the first time, media encountered a kill zone with them and their biases the kill. It is said that information wants to be free and with Twitter the media were not able to contain all the information before it had been shaped to their desired narrative. I wasn't the only one who saw, in real time, journalists deal with being out journaled. Fascinating, actually. I'm wondering now if it wasn't even anthropological?

Because conservatives were looking for the facts, any errors were quickly remedied. Some facts might be bad news for our side but we wanted them anyway. Yet because the media were now hopelessly propagandizing for President Obama, their narrative held no weight, being made out of their political prejudices and professional, ethical betrayals. Contempt for the media was involuntary.

And for themselves? Media were largely unaware of the fatal damage done. Over four consecutive days, across every platform imaginable, most of this country saw institutions which pride themselves on the enormity of their duty to the public in regard to truth and veracity debase themselves for the most pedestrian of political reasons. Repeatedly. Stupidly. Mindlessly.

Twitter was where all the action took place because it was the unknowing kill zone for media lies. Because lies were, at times, what it became: conservatives watched most of the Fourth Estate lie in the interests of a failed democrat President and say to us they weren't doing what was manifestly the case. We thought we'd seen it all when NBC News deliberately edited audiotape of George Zimmerman to make him look racist because the overwhelmingly white, liberal, guilt-riden media are obsessed with race. If only their attention resulted in racial progress instead of tension. Progressives so dislike progress they make sure it rarely happens.

The story remains to be played out for some time. I'm hardly predicting media vanishes per se. But its encounter with its dishonest, dirty self is one it will not be able to withstand. This post is best seen as a downpayment on a longer essay on this topic.

In the meantime, Twitter, like money, changes everything. Between now and the enormously important election of November 6th, there will be more battles with the media. This week's battles, however, mark a turn from which things can never return.

Everyone tweets and blogs now. Everyone, so it seems, has a smart phone. Everyone's a journalist but Twitter makes it impossible for the old order to endure.

Because when everyone's a journalist, there is, mercifully, no journolism.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Mutual Media Seduction: FOX 9 & Brodkorb

Michael Brodkorb, continuing his return from the land of the politically dead, went on FOX 9 News last night to talk politics on a show which looked like a pilot for something FOX wants to run up against "At Issue." Watching the show I was reminded of Faye Dunaway copulating atop William Holden to what looked like a more than satisfactory climax all the while talking market share in the landmark movie "Network." Paddy Chayefsky is what Aaron Sorkin hopes to be in the next life.

I was put in mind of Dunaway & Holden's mutuality, as it were, by what I saw last night on my tee vee after attending the media ignored (double agent  Cyndi Brucato was there) John Fund appearance in support of voter photo id.

I hadn't wanted to launch Minnesota Media Monitor™ right now because I have my hands full. But after taking notes from last night's show, I realized that this post would be my initial entree into that thankless task. Having said that, don't look for another media blog post from me any time soon.

The show started out pretending to report news: a substance free report on the Chicago teachers strike. This story was reduced by FOX to disputes over evaluations and principals' discretion to fire demonstrably lousy teachers. Nothing about drop out rates, illiteracy and the outrageous salary demands by these people who should be fired outright.

Next came two stories: first, a small Minnesota fire but everything is BIG when it involves the land of hot dish politics. You heard about Obama's shout out to Minnesota, dincha? Almanac had several segments on it.

Second, mere seconds of air about the Stillwater lift bridge being closed temporarily for repairs because lift bridges.

Now on to the main bill and the get of the year: Michael Brodkorb is in our petting zoo.

First, of course, came window dressing and badly at that: some talk of presidential fund raising, a mashup of polls (just guess who they favored? Hint: this isn't national FOX, it's local urban farmers FOX). But the axis question of the show came soon enough, more or less, to whit:

"What does the President need to do to keep up his lead?"

This is called a media narrative because the truth is the opposite of what is being reported: Obama is in big trouble so consequently he is ahead. Yes but the bounce? Look up the definition of bounce: they end. The point is to show in a favorable light the candidate they prefer. And to keep that partisanly framed narrative going through election day. Don't forget early voting (an abomination) will start soon. This style of coverage is designed to effect that under the rubric of news. I'm feeling postmodern.

Next came a token bit of a clip by Jeff Goldberg talking to a man and woman on, you know, the street.

It was as you might expect from Jeff's producers (hello Minnesotans, news is "produced." Yes, I realize you don't know what that means) and it was hot dish, not hot that scatological word. Hot dish politics, (as utterly representative of the reporting scene generally), puts the journalistic bar so low they make Kurt Bills look like a winner. I'm hearing some blue buses bearing bromides are coming on the market November 7th.

I also understand it finally dawned on the hapless Kurt Bills that he was used as a tool by Keith Downey in order to further the latter's gubanatorial ambitions. After Pawlenty & Dayton, the governorship bar is not low, it doesn't exist. How else to explain Kurt Zellers thinking he's leadership? I was hardly by my self in watching him fail. He, alone, seems to have missed his own performance. Is there a Hazeldon for political staffers who have risen too far above their abilities?

Speaking of which: the MNGOP seems to reaping the whirlwind of its appeasement of the Ron Paul crazies whom, with empirical evidence, are not, in point of fact, republicans. New blood, these Vichy Republicans told me, oblivious to vampires. If you're sick of hearing me talk about this topic, imagine me! More on this another time soon.

Back to FOX 9's Brodkorb Fest (FOX 9 ran promos in the afternoon about Brodkorb's appearance which is how I understand MN GOP Chair Pat Shortridge learned about it). A telephone call between the two, at the instigation of the Chair, ensued and yes, I heard both sides. Unhelpful.

After Goldberg's pointless clip with two white people on Marquette Avenue the topic changed, with no segue, to the Electoral College. Why?

To continue the media narrative. After rattling off OFA talking points about the latest manipulated polls, Jeff summarized for the exceptionally stupid Minnesotan who had not yet gotten the message: "things are looking a little bit tough for [Romney]." Well thank G-d for that, no?

By this time it wasn't just Jeff who was looking stupid: it was everyone on the show thus far. I could not imagine it would get worse. Which is to say . . . .

Tom "I used to be an investigative reporter, the only one in the Twin Cities, come to think of it" Lyden then said: Romney's pulled his ads in Pennsylvania. False Tom. Romney wasn't up on air in PA. Brodkorb didn't know enough to refute that. That is a measure of how off he is on his game. I'd rather have a dead Brodkorb than a neutered one.

That we are lied to our face by the media daily is but a truism. They went into journalism to change the world. Nothing self-aggrandizing in that. They think highly of themselves and you should, too.

Lyden, reprising his role in slashing Andy Brehm to ribbons on air a few weeks back [for whose unpreparedness in that interview there is no excuse], then said:

"Is there a way for Romney to win?"

Gee, Tom, I don't know. Maybe in something called an election? But you tell us because, you.

Why isn't your question: "Is there a way for Obama to win?"

We all know why. Why belabor the point?

Remember, these ace reporters had not yet mentioned the economy to this point in a presumed educated (for television) environment in a presidential race. And they think themselves knowledgeable enough to lecture us. Right.

Brodkorb proved entirely co-opted which is why he should not appear on tee vee for some time. Which, of course, is precisely why FOX 9 News wanted him in the first instance. We won't allow him, however, to become our Steve Schmidt.

Yet he was David Brooks in moronically saying that Mitt Romney needs to move to the middle, at which bobble head Randy Mier readily agreed: da midl. Anything about President Infanticide moving from the outer edges of the left political universe? No.

Mitt Romney? He IS the middle and I've been road kill for him locally fending off purity crazies and Ron Paul zombies. As someone said about these types on Twitter: forget elections, let's win arguments!
But for Brodkorb to say something as useless, if not outright wrong, as that is indefensible.

The intro to this segment by Lyden was classic media herd narrative: Romney has had a change of heart about some aspects of Obamacare. Untrue but on he droned. Pro tip: Yuval Levin on NRO's The Corner and anything Jennifer Rubin. I'm confident when you find the truth you won't report it.

The side show then moved on to Michele Bachmann. One stood in awe of the bravery of local media bringing her up. Such courage. The usual questions were asked. Norah Ephron, I mean Nancy Nelson, provided the more naked talking points the hosts couldn't quite bring themselves to say. Brodkorb punted but I give him full points. Some senate caucus staffers (aim high!) at O'Gara's last night were said to be unimpressed with his defense of Congresswoman Gardasil. Such an observation reveals why they remain staffers.

Still, Brodkorb erred by going on tee vee, even under the fake auspicies of FOX local which is a head fake to those used to viewing FOX NEWS cable nationally.

Being forced to watch local news was something of a revelation to me; I never watch. I knew why last night again.

Norah was suitably effusive in congratulating Tom & Randy on their new show at the beginning of her segment. The viewer who didn't know that this was the pilot for FOX's competition with "At Issue" would have wondered what the fuss was about. The hosts drank it in, South Park-like.

Weirdly, Tom Lyden whined about Michele Bachmann not being accessible to the local press. But she's the stupid one, right? He claimed she was allergic to the local media.

She has a great deal of company.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Clint Eastwood Political Rorschach Test

Clint Eastwood's brilliant interview of an absent President Obama during the Republican Convention's final night is a singular example of an earthquake happening while the political classes and media pretend not to notice.

Of course, they did notice but only to bemoan the performance they completely failed to comprehend. Media, dishonest & low as ever, dilated on the unscripted nature of the performance. Really, it doesn't take much thought to realize had Eastwood been scripted the effectiveness of his address would have been muted to the point of failure. It worked in large measure because every moment while we watched him we knew Clint was making it up as he went. Authenticity is often demanded by the media yet when it is encountered in real time--at a Republican National Convention no less--the whining begins.

Make no mistake: the press understood instantly that Eastwood had broken through their filter with a withering criticism of a failed president the media has protected at all costs, including the scraps of whatever integrity they possessed.

More distressingly to me, however, were those on my side who didn't get it. The Empty Chair has become a national meme. Twitter is filled with pictures of various empty chairs in an enormous range of settings and locales. The symbolism of an empty chair is perfect for the vapid, badly educated Obama and his disastrous administration. Photos of empty chairs will remain a hilarious leitmotif of this election down through November 6th.

Here's a tip to my fellow republicans: if media collectively start screaming bloody murder about something we've done or are doing, carry on. That's the surest sign that we are effective in the moment.

And it was just a moment. Some say it knocked Romney off message but there's approximately zero evidence for that. To the contrary, his and Ryan's appearances since the convention concluded have been packed. August represents the third consecutive month Romney has raised 100 million dollars. The selection of Ryan fundamentally changed, to use an Obama phrase, the presidential race. At a minimum we've argued Medicare to a draw, if not slight edge. The enthusiasm gap terrifies the democrats, as well it should. Media know it and consequently will never write about it.

I've gotten a sense that a lot of people are changing their minds since last Thursday night.  Eastwood gave something unlike anything anyone had ever seen before at a national political convention. But by today there's not much excuse for seeing this performance piece as anything but brilliant. Do yourself a favor and watch it again. Click here.

That sensible democrat Mickey Kaus noticed the shift in how to understand Eastwood. He wrote the day after:

Old CW: Eastwood a  disaster.
New CW: Eastwood brilliant, but Romney incompetent because his advisers fell for previous CW that Eastwood a disaster.

Too many republicans, and not just Romney advisors, fell for that media generated conventional wisdom. Do you think Andrew Breitbart would have? Well do you, punk?

Equally astute was Teri Christoph, co-founder of Smart Girl Politics, who tweeted:

"The fact that Obama and his campaign team are now saying nice things about Clint Eastwood tells me Clint is very popular with independents."

That's pretty much the game, isn't it? Let's hope republicans can be as smart as Team Obama, enjoy the laugh Eastwood provided, smile at the new verb "Eastwooding" and suppress laughter at the discomfort it brought the media. Phew, how much more can one 82 year old man do in a 12 minute speech?