Friday, November 22, 2013

JFK 50 Years On: Remember Strong Women?

They don't make them like this anymore. Jackie Kennedy boarding Air Force One by herself with her husband all over herself.

Click on the photo to enlarge, as they say.

For Jane

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Sen. David Hann's Messaging Incompetence

Yesterday Republican Senate minority leader Sen. David Hann told staff and fellow senators that he had hired as Director of Research Bill Walsh. Together with the current Communications Director, Brad Biers, he will be responsible for the republican senate caucus messaging.

The cumulative effect of Sen. Hann employing these two men, who simply do not know what they're doing, is akin to hiring Captain Smith to be at the helm of the Olympic had he survived the voyage of the Titanic. Smith's a known quantity, to be sure, but what on earth would be the substantive case on the merits for bringing him aboard? Apparently in the republican senate and house caucuses, familiarity doesn't breed contempt but a job offer, no matter how mediocre or outright incompetent the friend. Super.

The extraordinarily poor judgment exhibited by Minnesota legislative republicans since 2010 can fairly be reduced to that: friendship put ahead of whether a particular person is best suited for a particular position. Once ensconced, of course, those straphangers are virtually impossible to remove, even if there were brains and spine enough in leadership to want to do so.

A defining moment for me came when, as a State Central delegate in 2011, I watched the assembled Senate and House leadership, together with hangers-on and wanna-be's from their respective caucuses, line up behind Tom Emmer on the dais in support of his bid to be our Republican National Committeeman. One after another they prattled, utterly unable to read the mood of the delegates before them. Obsequious, vain, shallow and stupid: I may never see so many morons in one eyeball-full again before I die. Or at least before the next State of the Union address.

"I have Chris Christie on speed dial!" bellowed the guy who looked, and still does, like a used car salesman. The assembled legislators behind him clapped like trained seals. It's embarrassing when people who demonstrably are not think they're the cool kids.

The majority of us voting delegates on the floor turned to each other with a look that said: "These people just got elected and constitute a republican majority? We're in worse shape than we thought." The State Central Committee refused to reward failure, mediocrity and "friendship" and elected Jeff Johnson the RNC committeeman. Those on the dais went on to lose our majority status in as short a time as humanly possible; they deserved to be beaten with thin white Birch sticks.

Republicans live with that fallout to this day, only with some of those same failed people now haunting the political scene, not only unchastened but even, if possible, politically dumber than they were then.

Today, Brad Biers is in place solely because Sen. Hann likes him as a friend and colleague. He has no skill whatsoever in crafting and maintaining effective political communications. This doesn't appear to matter; if it did he'd be gone.

Hann indicts himself twice by adding the demonstrably failed Bill Walsh to the mix. The provenance of his failures is impressive, in its own depressing way:
  • His mentor, Tom Mason, was the genius in the 1990 Senate race who came up with having Rudy Boschwitz invent and play the "I'm more Jewish" than Paul Wellstone card because Rudy's kids were raised Jewish, Paul's Christian. That worked out well because not only do most Minnesotans actually not know any Jews, they don't much care for religious so-called divisions to be used as a decisive factor in electing one of them to federal office. No one who knows Boschwitz believes him to be a jerk but Mason's infamous "Jewish letter" made him out to be one. Boschwitz was the only incumbent senator not reelected that cycle, showing just how good we Minnesota republicans are at being screw ups. Mason's role in promoting Walsh simply cannot be overstated.
  • Walsh came up with the ill-fated "tip credit" issue when he worked on the Tom Emmer gubernatorial campaign in 2010. No amount of alarm or panic could dissuade this tone deaf communications "guru" that the issue was killing our candidate. When the not very political person on the street knows about the goofy guy who thinks restaurant and bar servers make $100,000, you know the cause is lost. Unless you're Bill Walsh. To be fair, the inner circle of the Emmer campaign was as message-incompetent as he was. Perversely, they currently all, in one way or another, now seek to be rewarded. Whatever happened to failure having consequences?
  • On top of the tip credit idea came the "town forum" harebrained scheme which resulted in a lovely, endless, video loop of the man who would be governor being showered in bright shiny pennies by some leftist loon activist. Emmer practiced his method acting by being a server in a Mexican restaurant, kind-of sorta undercover but with the campaign taking grainy, faux cinéma vérité video. We won't even go into when Walsh, as Executive Director of the Republican Party, left sensitive party documents at Moscow-on-the-Hill, a Russian restaurant in St. Paul, the last time anything interesting happened there because its food was and is abysmal. 
Rep. Matt Dean is also another influential booster of Walsh; indeed the latter is said to be the former's right hand man. You can make of this what you will; despite what some feel, I don't, in fact, blog or tweet everything I think.

Walsh also recently served in varying appalling capacities in the RPM under the tutelage of Chair Keith Downey. The messaging from the party during that time was so poor it defies description. The length, the tone, and the content of party messaging were all incompetent.

But Walsh is a friend of Keith's and it's Keith's friends who get hired or are given favors. The cronyism is worse than it has ever been under any previous chair & that takes some doing. Apparently (its never been announced to my knowledge) the party has an Executive Director making $125,000 who hailed from a healthcare company and has never worked in politics before. His qualification? Friend of Keith's.

Downey himself was given enormous financial support by Bob Cummins via the Freedom Club, whose members pretend they count; they don't. It's pretty much just Bob and Joan; eat your lunch. At any rate, so poor a candidate was Downey that even the hundreds of thousands spent on his inept campaign couldn't rescue him. Downey is doing the best he can repaying the favor to Cummins by giving contracts to Civis, Cummins' group, in excess of $300,000.

Oh yes: Downey fancies himself gubernatorial material but then some days so do half of the populace.

When Downey was unable to get Walsh hired by the party, Sen. Hann stepped in to reward the loyal apparatchik. Sen. Hann himself floundered at the end of his race last year and many thought it quite possible he'd lose. Cummins poured in money and, unlike Downey's, Hann's cause was not lost. Of course republicans lost both the house and the senate and no one was to blame! It just happened.

Cummins was the foolish engine behind the traditional marriage ballot initiative; our majorities in the legislature had neither the ovaries nor cojones to stop that completely stupid idea which caused enormous damage. There's a whole creepy evangelical angle to a lot of these relationships that I can't go into because I can suppress nausea for only so long.

Here we are then: a minority party that has learned nothing about either governing nor about how to message while in the wilderness, repaying incompetent friends because they are friends. When we need to be at our messaging sharpest, using the gale-force winds of the Obamacare debacle to advance our vision of less government while not abandoning traditional safety nets, we have people who are without a clue, calling the President a communist or a socialist.

Does anyone in the republican party realize we're north of the Mason Dixon line?

And what of the other republican senators? They seem missing in action but each of them fancies himself a leader. How can they see abject failure at every turn and do nothing? Practice, apparently.

The only race republicans in Minnesota have a realistic chance of winning next year is taking back the House of Representatives. If those in that chamber learn nothing from the ongoing failures of the party and the Senate, Minnesota will be doomed to be a one party parody of progressivism for the foreseeable future.

"Optimism is cowardice."

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Twin Cities Media Bias & Race Reporting

Ich kann gar nicht so viel fressen, wie ich kotzen moechte 

I can't eat enough to puke as much as I want to

—Max Liebermann

In June of this year the United States Supreme Court ruled a section of the Voting Rights Act unconstitutional. Without getting into the legal weeds about the subject, this decision had been coming for years. In fact, in a prior case involving similar issues, the Court fairly begged Congress to look at its statutory scheme in light of its apparent constitutional infirmity. This is called deference to a co-equal branch of government; it's the opposite of judicial activism.

Congress did nothing and so, in due course, the Court ruled accordingly.

Demagogues were quick to jump on the decision and characterize it as five Supreme Court justices finally having gotten their way to hurt African-Americans in this country. Because, on the Left, if you disagree, you aren't just wrong, you're racist, bigoted, homophobic, you name it. The majority may as well have worn white robes on the bench instead of black according to these hacks.

Locally, DFL Rep. Ryan Winkler made The Drudge Report by tweeting that Justice Clarence Thomas was an Uncle Tom. Often over-looked was his equally repulsive claim that the other four justices in the majority decision were "accomplices to race discrimination." Twitchy has a good run down of the tweet and various reactions that can be read by clicking here. Full disclosure: I hadn't realized until researching this post that one tweet quoted is mine. Ah, the glamor.

I noticed at the time that our local media treated this otherwise career ending move with exquisite care. In effect, the local media took down every insincere, ass-covering word Winkler uttered in a panic to salvage his career and left it at that. DFL handlers handled their Eddie Haskell, and otherwise fierce seekers of truth and power holding accountable types merely repeated what was said. No hard questions. No outrage. No suggestion that the tweet betrayed a mindset unfit for public office.

Mission accomplished: one could feel the reluctance of local media to cover the story but they did the minimum. Democrats can't be racist; that's the opposite of the narrative they advance at every opportunity. One guy on their team screws up but no problem: they had his back.

The Star Tribune story, which can be read by clicking here, shows as much. The word racism never once appears. That's not an accident. The most honest the story gets is saying "racial slur" which really, when you think of it, isn't quite the same, is it?

As telling, the reporters supinely feed the demagogue from their team a soft question: will use of this term on social media "hurt his future political career?" Winkler is given as much ink as he likes to say no, he's really a good guy. The article could not have been easier on him than if he had written it.

To show you how pathetic the coverage was, the article states at one point "Winkler soon learned just how offensive the term is to some. . ."

To some? Would those reporters say that of the word niggar? Of course not. Their job was to save Ryan, the ersatz educated democrat, whose political ambition is in inverse proportion to his talent. Consequently, only "some" could take offense at the use of Uncle Tom. See how that works?

City Pages was equally quick to give Winkler political cover while pretending to journalism, the outre, brave kind. To City Pages, he was in "hot water" for using a "racially insensitive term." No use of the word racism in this reporting either. Go figure. You can read its coverage by clicking here.

City Pages too largely lets Winkler write the arc of the story. No challenges from that quarter. No: will you resign? Perish the thought! They save that for their political enemies. When Winkler repeated for the umpteenth time the preposterous claim that "there seems to be some debate" about whether calling a black man an Uncle Tom is racist, you'd think he'd be challenged simply for taking his journalistic interlocutors for abject fools. But no. You're all in when you're all in.

FOX 9 News did manage to use the word racist but wrapped up its reporting that gave the last word to Minneapolis City Council member Don Samuels who ignorantly claimed the decision destroyed the advances of the civil rights movement. Had FOX 9 any desire to educate its audience (a dubious proposition given that we're talking television) it would have said that the majority pointed to the very success of that movement for making the 1965 based statutory criteria obsolete to the point of unconstitutionality. Another disclosure: I had originally been asked to be interviewed for that story but declined. Given the inarticulateness of who they scrounged up in my absence, I regret the decision. FOX 9's reporting can be viewed by clicking here.

Politics In Minnesota covered the story by reporting on coverage of the story. If you're not paying attention it's almost enough, if done well, to make you think such constitutes actual coverage. Which, of course, it is not. By repeating the coverage (think of journalism at 35,000 feet) one would be surprised indeed if the story sought anything new or asked out loud whether Winkler should resign. Naturally, it did neither. Its water bug journalism™ can be read by clicking here.

The local Associated Press coverage was a masterclass in bias, both factually flawed and ideologically tilted. Guess what word is never used in that story either? That's right. The story claims "[t]he ruling makes it tougher for federal officials to prevent states and localities, primarily in the South, from adopting policies that add barriers to voting." That's simply, breathtakingly wrong but said with an unearned air of factual authority. Reading the press these days actually makes people dumber.

The story quoted no republican, made no mention of the national attention brought to the tweet and couldn't bring itself to use "racial slur," instead demoting Uncle Tom to a "connotation." Viola! Democrats must have a peace of mind republicans will never know by having the Associated Press in their back pocket, although, to be candid, it's a mighty crowded media-filled back pocket. Of course, national and local media were largely silent when we learned that President Obama had secretly obtained telephone records of reporters for the national Associated Press. You're all in when you're all in.

Compare this forced coverage, then, by local press to the laughable hysterics over a posting of a tasteless analogy to slavery by a hapless Chisago County republican activist to the county's Facebook page. We've all seen the grotesque bumper stickers that bark: "Don't like abortion? Don't have one." The Facebook page had an image of a slave auction making the same non-sequitur point: don't like slavery? Don't own a slave. Stupid.

Ah, but here was something per se racist because any mention of slavery by a republican makes it so and local press was keen to jump on it. Jump they did. To my dismay, almost no republican rebuked the race mongers on foundational grounds: the analogy to slavery is always tasteless and wrong. It does not constitute racism itself. Of course, this was lost in the flood of faux outrage which local media both reported on and added to. I'm pro-life and am always careful never to call abortion "another Holocaust." Well meaning types on my side of the issue who do so are wrong but not anti-semitic.

The same holds true for the posting by the Chisago County Republicans. We can't seem to learn how to push back, question premises and start another narrative. To be sure the media will fight us in that but that's how the game is played. "There is no fate that cannot be surmounted by scorn," said Camus, and so too is it with the dishonest, biased media, despite seeing them die by degrees in the internet age.

The Star Tribune's coverage was typically hyper ventilated: "Local Republican Group's Facebook Page Sparks Firestorm."

Really? Why firestorm? Oh right, it fits the reporter's and the newspaper's narrative. The story goes on to note national coverage about the posting, including the number of views and other analytics. There was no such notice of the Winkler Uncle Tom remark, no reader was informed his tweet was covered by BuzzFeed and then The Drudge Report.

Wouldn't that qualify as a "firestorm?"Any honest person would think so. The story included quotes from Republican Party Chair Keith Downey who wouldn't know how to message if his party's life depended on it. Which, by the way, it does. DFL Chair Ken Martin sanctimoniously weighed in, all full of concern despite liberal policies which have proved ruinous for blacks in America. Martin never condemned Winkler's Uncle Tom tweet, something the article made a point not to mention. You can read the vastly different coverage of this incident by clicking here.  

Only Republican Party Secretary Chris Fields, himself a black man, made the sensible point that a poor analogy does not make the maker a racist, an anti-semite or whatever the subject matter of the analogy.

City Pages, naturally, was not to be outdone in the faux outrage department. They have low information readers to pander to! "Chisago County Republican Party Publishes Extremely Racist Facebook Post." Where to begin?

Is there a secret, brain-dead liberal stylebook that could be shared with us knuckledraggers so we know when something is: 1. a racial slur, 2. a racially insensitive term, 3. a connotation, 4. racist and 5. extremely racist. Actually, we've no need of it. We know how the terms are applied. We just remain amused at how well media regards themselves. It's like they don't think anyone is watching. As someone said, journalism is the only business where what the customer of the product thinks is unimportant. You can read the City Pages article by clicking here.

You can read the brief coverage given by the Pioneer Press by clicking here. The Pioneer Press used an Associated Press story when it covered the Winkler Uncle Tom tweet.

It's not often that Minnesota republicans and democrats both have a racially tinged story with which they must deal. Here, each had one within five months of the other. The vastly different ways local media handled each instance tells a reasonable person all they need to know about the state of play for republicans in the local media market.

Republicans in Minnesota are particularly inept at messaging. When they find themselves in a jam, unfortunately usually of our own making, they cannot rely, like our friends on the other side, on the good graces of the media to tamp down the controversy, to have our backs.

Like national media, local media have taken sides. We pretend otherwise at our peril.