Monday, September 30, 2013

Tom Emmer's Staggering Lack Of Judgment Redux

An especially astute republican insider once said of Tom Emmer, in connection with his narrow republican endorsement win for the Minnesota governor's race in 2010, that it was "like someone winning the lottery who suddenly thinks he's good at business." As if to leave no doubt and to put the knife further in between the shoulder blades, this adept added: "[U]ltimately nominating the Bill Buckner of Republican politics was probably not, in retrospect, the smartest idea." The insider who made those telling observations was Michael Brodkorb in an interview with MPR's Tom Scheck. The entire article can be read by clicking here.

I interviewed Brodkorb in connection with the MPR article for this blog on December 4, 2011. It's worth re-reading for its trenchant criticism of the embarrassing, pathetic Emmer campaign. Click here.  

Emmer went on to lose to Mark Dayton in a year that produced record republican victories across the upper midwest and the country generally. Emmer never apologized for his spectacularly poor campaign and for letting down the people of Minnesota. Indeed, when reference is made to his campaign's implosion Emmer insists nothing of the kind happened. This is perverse, if not clinical.

In 2011 he ran for National Republican Committeeman but lost to Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson. When the results of the election were announced he stormed out of the state central committee meeting room without so much as a handshake and a forced smile for Johnson. I don't know if he ever got around to doing the right thing and could care less if he did. The reaction that day was Tom Emmer. If you're small, petulant and thin skinned, he's your guy. Emmer's hard core supporters, generally a dim-witted and unsophisticated group, hate it when his conduct is brought up. Bombast and no substance impresses them; they're at a loss as to why it doesn't everyone.

Emmer, having no accomplishments in the Minnesota House of Representatives, went on to sell himself to the highest bidder as best he could. In office he was fiercely opposed to lobbying efforts to restrict certain kinds of oncology practices. As the guy who lost to Mark Dayton (Mark Dayton!), he needed a job and promptly hired himself out as a lobbyist for the forces who wanted government to restrict oncology practices that he had heretofore been steadfastly against. It's impossible to respect such a man.

He sold out to the National Popular Vote, a far-left, George Soros funded attempt to vitiate the Electoral College, even going so far as to "testify" before the Pennsylvania legislature in support of this travesty. Pay Tom money. He performs tricks. There's a word for that but conservative or principled isn't it.

He then went on to co-host a morning drive radio show in the Twin Cities where he repeatedly tore down fellow republicans because of his holier-than-thou complex. Emmer supporters resent it when this is pointed out.

That's it. The whole megillah. Zero accomplishments. Now he wants to force himself on the republicans of Minnesota's Sixth Congressional district. They deserve better and can have it.

Today we learned that Emmer cooperated in an endorsement video for an outfit known as Integrity Exteriors (the "T" in the logo is in the shape of a cross so we have that going on as well). Apparently this firm had done the build out of his current campaign office. Local progressive blogger Sally Jo Sorensen broke the story of this 30 second endorsement running on the CW channel in the Twin Cities. Her story can be read by clicking here. In short order it became a national story with Politico, the New York Times and respected political scientist Larry Sabato all mentioning it on Twitter.

Despite one friendly blogger's rush to judgment that this would be a one day story at best, no less than Roll Call has picked up on it. Roll Call anticipates that a complaint will be filed with the Federal Election Commission and though a severe penalty seems unlikely, the incompetence of Emmer and his hapless handlers shines through again. That's the real point. The Roll Call article can be read by clicking here. In addition, the St. Cloud Times, the Associated Press, the Pioneer Press, Mediaite and the kids at DailyKos all are reporting on the story. The same incompetent people who brought you tip-credit want you to think there's nothing to this latest foolishness. Except there is.

Paul Demko, of Politics in Minnesota, attempted to get an explanation from Emmer for this latest catastrophe but Emmer hates to be held accountable for his incompetence and begged off, claiming he was fundraising til the last minute on this, the last day of the third quarter. Demko's story can be read by clicking here. His campaign put out a statement that Tom simply made a video at the request of the company. That no money, in kind contribution or quid pro quo was involved misses the point entirely: Emmer has neither the judgment nor personal integrity for elected office of any kind.

Republicans in CD 6 should choose Anoka County Commissioner Rhonda Sivarajah: a true leader, one with solid accomplishments in advancing smaller government and lower taxes. Rhonda is thoughtful, not a blowhard. She knows it takes more than preening and surrounding yourself with yes-men to get real things done. Among other things under Rhonda’s leadership the Board has reduced the county property tax levy by 7.43%—the largest reduction of any county in the state and one of only two counties to reduce their levy; reduced county debt by $30 million; repealed the prevailing wage ordinance for projects that are funded exclusively with local property tax dollars; pulled county support for the Northern Lights Passenger Rail to Duluth and reduced lobbying expenditures by $200,000.

In addition, Sivarajah has been selected by the House GOP caucus for inclusion in Project GROW: growing republican opportunities for women. Learn more about this honor by clicking here.

The stale, old, white boy network has gathered around a genial, easily-manipulated, ego-centric mediocrity. Emmer will do as he's told; he's never been his own man. Just ask Linda Runbeck.

If elected, republicans will have to spend money every cycle defending him in what should be a relatively safe seat. If he wins the primary, he could easily lose the general election to a good DFL candidate. Then we'll be treated to another rendition of it wasn't Emmer's fault, nothing ever is. He should be avoided at all costs.

Republican primary voters should select Rhonda Sivarajah because she will make them proud. To learn more about the next republican Congresswoman from Minnesota, please click here.

The Return of Amy Koch

Last Friday former republican senate majority leader, and friend, Amy Koch took her place on the mind-numbing couch on TPT's Almanac program. Despite my justifiable disdain for this mediocre program, I was nonetheless delighted to see her there. Perversely, having been asked to appear on Wednesday for the Friday show, Michael Brodkorb (also friend) settled his high profile lawsuit against the Minnesota Senate that intervening Thursday. I'm not sure I believe in God but if He exists he must have a sense of humor. Who wants a joyless God? That would make Him a liberal and we've all had quite enough of them this side of the grave.

Koch dominated on the show's segment that consisted of former legislators from both parties. The first question, of course, was about the Brodkorb settlement.  The breathtakingly incompetent and repulsive for hire boy Steve Sviggum was given the first shot at answering the lame question put to him by married hosts Eric Eskola & Cathy Wurzer. They're so bad they make Stefanie Cutter on Crossfire look good. But public television and public radio are like public education: they embody the worst of their so called professions.

At any rate, Koch deftly responded to Sviggum's lame statement that, more or less, the guilty should be punished. As if he would know. She said, correctly, that the entire matter had been badly handled. As indeed it had: those loser senators who wanted to take out Brodkorb should have left Koch intact. I've always maintained Amy was collateral damage. Just our luck we didn't have smart enough male senators at the time to know what's what. Then again, I might underestimate them; they may have understood the sheer talent of Koch and, threatened, responded accordingly.

No matter. Amy Koch's appearance on Almanac only served to re-confirm her place of preeminence in the Minnesota political landscape.

Those who think her political career is over understand neither politics nor the human condition.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

MN Republicans & The Obscenity of 9-11 Truthers

Please click on the photo-above before continuing to read. I sometimes say, at the end of a post, that a photo can be enlarged. Here, however, it is crucial readers do first what I most often suggest last: click on the photo.

That's because there are human beings on those ledges, if you can call them ledges. Clutched onto the frames of windows never designed to be opened in buildings never thought to have been flown into.

Last Friday a local group brought in a Truther who had moved on since 9/11, as every good showman has since then. According to him & those like him, we killed those people you just looked at.

This charlatan's self-proclaimed mission is to be in search of the Truth. Aren't they all?

Google Ben Swann on your own.

It took me some time to realize that  preeminent Ron Paul supporters like Marianne Stebbins or Nathan M. Hansen, Esq., were not in attendance. Now why would that be? The groups that brought in this fraud seem to be different than the cultists who foisted the hapless Kurt Bills on us to run against Amy Klobuchar last year.

What appalled me last Friday wasn't that this infection of the Minnesota Republican Party finally brought to town their own political Cirque du Soleil, it's that republican candidates who think themselves serious and reputable attended, even sponsored this crime.

Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson was physically present before the VIP dinner but, from what I was told, didn't actually sit down to sup with the devil. Twitter has the photos. His campaign logo was featured on the scrim in the auditorium before the main event.

Also complicit was Phil Krinkie, who had a table in the foyer with literature and someone staffing it. Johnson did as well.

What's wrong with these people?

Not to be let off the hook is Dave Thompson, who I'm told had paid $200 in order to speak to the assembled believers of the theory that says 9-11 was an inside job. He only bailed out after those with a lick of common sense and some knowledge waved him off.  No points are awarded for the staggering poor judgment in wanting to speak in the first place. It is, though, in keeping with what Chris Van Guilder tweeted earlier in the week from the Carver County gubernatorial forum that Thompson fancies himself an "orator." Right.

I understand, if disagree, with candidates wanting to reach out to the so-called "liberty" people. If you want to infantilize yourself, knock yourself out. Johnson seems not to realize that the Ron Paul contingent is a shadow of itself. He misreads the zeitgeist continuously: get over it, he sanctimoniously lectured us in May 2012 at the MNGOP convention and then proceeded to complain forever about a rule change he didn't like at the RNC meeting that August in the hopes of ingratiating himself to the Paul faction.

It doesn't help that I admire Jeff personally and am grateful for his leadership for sound conservative principles on the Hennepin County Commission. Why he'd sponsor a 9-11 Truther gathering is simply beyond me.

The same can be said of Phil Krinkie and Dave Thompson: what were they thinking? Were they thinking? Yes, Thompson did not per se sponsor but had paid to speak. Krinkie didn't speak but had a table and recognition as a sponsor. It's all pretty much the same sin in my book.

I'm not like my liberal friends: I don't seek to extinguish speech with which I disagree. Let a hundred 9-11 flowers bloom. I do think, however, that lines can be drawn and cogently at that.

If you're offering yourself up for elected office as a republican in Minnesota, you have no business associating with ideas that make ourselves the murderers of ourselves, which is precisely what the Truthers believe. That you did so disqualifies you. Republicans should support anyone but them.

UPDATE/CORRECTION: I've been informed that Dave Thompson never paid anything when contemplating speaking at the event.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Syria, Eric Black & Liberal Agonistes

I haven't met Eric Black, a writer at MinnPost, but hope to at some point; possibly next year's MinnPost Roast when I expect a fair number of republicans (finally!) take up MinnPost's standing offer to participate in their yearly festivity. I do read him although not always closely depending upon his choice of subject matter. I get the sense that he is well thought of in the liberal Twin Cities community and, although our political views are rather different, haven't found him particularly strident or obnoxious. Both sides of the aisle could use more of this approach. For my conservative readers, I would characterize his writing as straightforward and thoughtful from, admittedly, the wrong point of view.

I bring him up in order to reflect on a larger point, using him in the process in what I hope is a good natured way: the confusion and division of the left with respect to President Obama's disastrous foreign policy leadership. You won't find much mainstream media discussion about it because, well, it's embarrassing even to them. You can find, however, if you look, reporting on the nation's foreign policy elite and they are appalled, mortified, gobsmacked, pick a word. After Obama's laughable performance before the Swedish media in which he claimed he didn't lay down a red line with respect to the use of chemical weapons in Syria, our faculty president President went on to St. Petersburg for the G-20 summit, where the United States continued to be shamed before the world.

What about closer to home? I thought. Enter Eric Black's recent writings on Syria, of which there are three. They seem to me to distill perfectly the discomfort in addressing the current mess directly and, tellingly to me at least, seek not to describe current events so much as to prescribe how (liberals) should think about them. Their collectivist impulse, again, of which our friends on the left are genuinely unaware.

In his first piece, not under discussion here, Black refers fretting liberals to the never-to-be-trusted John Judis at The New Republic. Judis's article is titled "Not Sure How To Feel About Syria?" Feel? I suppose liberals don't think very often because they're not particularly good at it, so feelings are the way to go because how can a feeling be wrong? Besides, the stronger the feeling the better, more earnest the liberal. Let's all bike over to Kingfield Farmers Market now. Naturally, Judis, as Black points out, doesn't take a position on what Obama should do about Syria. He feels deeply about it, though!

Black's most recent article is titled "Some bigger questions beyond who wins or loses the vote on Syria." At the outset, Black is unable to say "Obama," only an unidentified "who." There is no other "who" and that's the problem. Obama only will win or lose the Congressional vote on authorizing military force in Syria. It's remarkable, really, this resistance to holding him accountable. Then again, once started there would be no end to totaling up this president's failures. Can't have that.

"This Syria thing is a big, complicated deal" is how he starts. Well, ok then, commence chin-pulling. How did it get to be a big, complicated deal? He won't tell us.

He does tell his, presumably fellow-liberal readers, how to think about it. In my experience, once told how to think about any given issue, liberals do so until the grave. They believe this a virtue and tend to give each other awards for it, be it in popular culture, literature or junk science.

Perhaps you have to be a conservative to appreciate how breathtaking it is to read "[w]atch out for the mainstream media narrative." Do go on, Eric, we're all ears. It took Syria and the hash of the Obama presidency to bring you to this epiphany? Any port in a storm.

He goes on to speak about the "objectivity paradigm," whatever that is, as well as to take a swipe at neoconservatives who, possibly he hadn't noticed, haven't been in charge for five years now. He does make the excellent point that "[t]his [debate over Syria] is a partisan stereotype scrambler and that is healthy." I couldn't agree more but, unfortunately, he leaves it at that. Exploring further why it is and what it may mean would have been a vein worth mining further. Here's hoping he returns to it in his future writing.

He goes on to engage in a Tevya "on the one hand, on the other" analysis in reviewing the evidence as to whether the Assad regime actually used chemical weapons. In getting to his as-of-now-he'd-vote-no conclusion, he takes pains to distinguish Syria from Iraq. "Bush was looking for an excuse to start that war" is how he puts it. He's usually more thoughtful, less objectively stupid, than this but remember: liberals are desperate to figure out what to do with this president without saying Obama is utterly incompetent in the job. That Syria is per se different from Iraq is a necessary lie for liberals. I understand; conservatives, of course, would just accuse them of hypocrisy and they'd be right.

Ultimately, one can feel the discomfort, Black says he agrees with Obama that if we don't act then the United States sends a message that using chemical weapons is ok. I searched but found no record of Eric Black writing anywhere when the world knew Saddam Hussein gassed fifty thousand or more Kurds that we had to respond militarily. He's trying to tell other liberals how to think themselves out of the box Obama has put them in; consistency has nothing to do with that.

Finally, toward the end of his piece there is this curious bit of weapons-grade incoherence:

"So, if a brief, relatively non-lethal show of U.S. force to punish Syria and diminish its capability for future uses of chemical weapons could occur with the likely effect of significantly buttressing the international prohibition on such weapons, without bringing on a parade of horrible unintended consequences, I think I would vote yes."

Not one of those series of delicate conditions, layered one upon the other (I counted six), obtain in the real world. Now what, Eric? Such is the thinking of people who believe recycling their bourgeois trash saves the planet. To have the right intent vouchsafes them from recognizing the disastrous outcomes their feel-good policies cause. It's illustrative of the tentativeness which liberals approach the world as it is, always having to condition any actual decision making with an insufferable welter of platitudes and magic thinking. Moral clarity, for liberals, is hard, almost wrong. They had no idea whatsoever what then Cardinal Ratzinger meant when he referred, in his homily at the funeral of Pope John Paul II, to "the dictatorship of relativity." None.

Critical thinking is wholly missing from Black's musings on Syria. Any honest assessment would justly excoriate a stunningly incompetent president but this one is of the wrong skin color and party for him to do so. Obama has no credibility on the world stage and is seen as feckless and over his head by most foreign leaders. Establishment Washington is aghast at his complete lack of leadership. Black can't admit that, just can't get that real, as it were. Conservatives understand; we see such paralysis of truth daily from our friends on the left.

In this, it seems to me, Black represents the liberal condition, the liberal dilemma, throughout the nation. I'll be interested to see if he can analyze the coming events with a bit more clarity and even-handedness. I hope he avoids the "Obama lost the House vote because of hateful republicans" or the "this mess in Syria wouldn't have happened if House republican war mongerers had been shut down."

In either event, Black won't blame Obama. Obama doesn't blame Obama. Why should his acolytes?

Black's piece mentioned above can be read here.

He has two other pieces which predate that one and which can be read here and here.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Remembering Seamus Heaney

My friend, the local Jewish but universal playwright, Jenna Zark, said to me a number of years ago, in astonishment and with a bit of self-rebuke: "You're the only one I know who reads poetry."

I can't say how I found myself in this predicament, I just did. I hadn't taken a single poetry course in undergraduate nor none since then nor since graduating law school. It wasn't as if I hadn't wanted to but the formal structures of poetry, something grand, and the rise of free verse, with its hideous, Joni Mitchell-like confessional nature to it but without her talent, was an argument I could follow but not actually engage in. No matter how unlettered I might be in it as an intellectual construct, I knew that language found its highest expression, in every culture, in every tongue, throughout human time, in poetry. There is simply no argument.

Not so long ago, the "average" American could quote Longfellow. Now, we have poetry slams, which are a linguistic and cultural cancer. The correlation between those two things and the decline of public education is more than approximate.

Enormous coverage has rightfully been generated in the wake of Heaney's passing. I have only one bon mot to add, a small one indeed but, as it happens, actually happened to me with him. And long before he won the Nobel Prize for Literature, an award far too often lavished on the untalented but politically correct.

As a "bright young thing" in the late 1970's at St. John's University, Collegeville, MN, I was tasked, along with other bright young things, to travel to the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport and fetch Mr. Irish Poet and bring him behind the pine curtain. This much, our mentors thought, we could do without adult supervision. They failed to take into account we were fetching Seamus Heaney, their intellectual construct, as opposed to a real, live, breathing, drinking human being. Also, an Irishman.

We found him, apparently, with no particular problem. What I remember to this day is the drive north toward St. John's. He had asked the driver of the car to stop at a package liquor store which he dutifully did. There seemed to be nothing more than several Guinnesses for each undergraduate and perhaps a pint or half a pint of Irish whiskey for the master.  The magic liquid, that devil, was enough for all of us to urinate somewhere beyond passing traffic into the fields of Minnesota. We continued on, literally laughing all the way. Heaney was a presence and, although too young to really know, we could at least tell we were in the presence of an exceptional man. The word poetry had not been uttered all this time.

Realizing we were to a man half-in-the-bag as we approached the concrete spire of St. John's, we tried to assemble ourselves. Heaney was both repelled and attracted to the architecture of the Abbey. A fellow Roman Catholic, Heaney was still, at this time, making allowances for the variety of its expression in the new world, the one in which his people and mine had fairly conquered, coming far from when the British would kill or imprison those who taught the native language, not Gaelic, thank you, but Irish.  So, so many years before Sinead.

We parked and trudged toward the President's Lounge or some such nonsensical but important place on campus, the place we had been instructed to deliver him to. This was all going according to plan but had gone wildly off course. We were the only ones who knew it, though, but with Seamus amongst us proclaiming all was well, who were we young ones to argue?

We arrived at "the end of all our exploring" and began to trundle into the lounge in which sat all the most important people of the University. The half-in-the-bag fellow bright young things went in first, pretty much giving the game away.

All but Seamus Heaney had gone before, I was directly behind him, the last to enter after our noble guest, having been Irishly fetched from the Twin Cities.

With a knowing smile at my youth, The Poet turned to me before taking the stage, and said to me, his fellow Irishman:

"I think the experts have diagnosed our condition."

Requiescat in pace.