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

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Anne Frank, Political Correctness & Time

Twenty one years ago this Friday my article on Anne Frank was published by the Star Tribune. I doubt whether the newspaper would publish it now, given the stale liberalism of its editorial board.

At any rate I thought readers might like to see that some of my concerns and themes expressed in this blog have a long provenance.

Click on the image above to read or click here to view it at Scribd where you can save it or download it to your dartboard.

Several days after the article's publication I received hate mail calling me a Jew lover. I could never foresee, of course, today's world in which global anti-semitism is exclusively a feature of the left, routinely ignored by media.

You don't have to be Catholic to laugh at the notion of progress (outside of the hard sciences).

This idea is exquisitely demolished by philosopher John Gray in his best selling book "The Silence of Animals: On Progress And Other Modern Myths" which can and should be purchased here.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Sheila Kihne & Republican Incumbent Entitlement

One of the most interesting political developments this election cycle involves Sheila Kihne, a well known conservative activist in House District 48B, and friend, who single-handedly denied the republican endorsement to incumbent Jenifer Loon, Republican Deputy House Minority Leader. Kihne's challenge came late and without much warning. Loon apparently expected an easy time of it but at the end of the day was left with a divided convention voting no endorsement. So much for grass roots support.

To the dismay of entitled Minnesota republican incumbents everywhere, Kihne followed through with her effort by registering to run in the primary (photo above). This was thought of by many as very bad form indeed. People are entitled to their views but I see it as rather the opposite: keeping us true to ourselves by reminding us, unpleasantly, of how easy it is become DFL-lite in this state. If you like Arne Carlson, you'll love Jenifer Loon.

The conventional take on this race, and Kihne's candidacy, is that it all comes down to her disagreement on Loon's vote for same sex marriage. Spare me the martyrology of politicians who preen that they must vote their conscience because they're brave things and then whine like spoiled children when they suffer adverse consequences. The brave don't whine and if you do, we're entitled to conclude you were never brave to begin with. What do the phony do for an encore?

I've written about this at length concerning former Rep. David FitzSimmons and that piece can be read by clicking here. Eric Lucero won the endorsement over FitzSimmons and a great hue and cry was heard about the land. In fact, the hash tag #IStandWithFitz was popular for a time among the, how to say it?, Twitter tough guys.  ™Andy Parrish.

By the way, has endorsed 6th Congressional District republican Tom Emmer endorsed Lucero? Lucero has a primary challenger; a weak version of the empire strikes back.

Or will Emmer pull a Bachmann and encourage a vote for the person who is bucking the endorsement process? Bachmann endorsed McFadden for US Senate at Rochester's endorsing convention at the end of May. The DFL has already run ads denoting him as her favorite republican. That's rich, given how much Norm Coleman can't stand her. "Bachmannistan," anyone?

Remember, we're a high minded and principled party. Until we aren't.

The gloss that this race is same sex marriage redux is understandable but ultimately false. Even Sally Jo Sorensen, who blogs at Bluestem Prairie (Minnesota's best blog in my envious opinion) pretty much treated it as such when she wrote about Lucero encouraging his supporters to donate to Kihne. The idea, however, that this has very much to do with a women's front group funded by Bob Cummins "scorning" Kihne is simply wide of the mark. (When the group's leader doesn't know to from too, scorn runs in the opposite direction). Given that Bluestem is on the outside looking in, I understand the analysis. Sorensen's post can be read by clicking here.

There's much more involved here, however, and that more consists of the voting record of Rep. Loon. If a politician's voting record is not something from which we may object once they are in office, then republicans in Minnesota may as well join the Phyllis Kahn Legislator For Life Caucus. And this is what has bothered me about republicans in the House and Senate: they believe people like Sheila Kihne shouldn't do what she is doing. They won, once, and should be reelected again and again by the same voters, only to be taken out by a democrat should the tide change. Breathtakingly, they act as if how they vote is really no concern of republicans.

No thank you. Winning once doesn't give you carte blanche to stray so far (and I'm giving wide berth here, as anyone who knows me would agree) from conservative, republican principles. And yes, we are north of the Mason-Dixon line so a lot of far right agendas won't and shouldn't play here. But that isn't what Sheila Kihne is about in this race, despite what her detractors say. She's running against a specific candidate with a specific record.

Loon's record is not that widely known: it's appalling.

Loon introduced legislation that would reduce property taxes for businesses owned by women. At a time when we, as republicans and a nation, are trying to move further and further away from identity politics, here comes a left-wing democrat idea. Who was it that said to me on Twitter last week we don't promote women simply because they are women? Perhaps that woman can talk to Jenifer and set her straight (or is that word hetero-normative?) about republicans not being a party that gives financial breaks for some taxpayers simply because of their gender.

She voted against legalizing Wisconsin-type fireworks, which legislation eventually passed but was vetoed by Governor Dayton. She knows better, you see. This is how a liberal democrat thinks, acts and votes. She appears comfortable with her arrogance; at once of a piece with her membership in the deeply mediocre House leadership. They keep hiring their friends instead of real talent; that's worked out so well recently why change?

Loon voted for making failure to wear a seat belt a primary offense, meaning police could pull you over for such a failure alone, including the failure of your backseat passengers to use them. She's from the government and she's here to help.

She was an author of two separate bills to grant HOV lane privileges to hybrid or electric cars. Loon should move to California, where she'd fit in with the brain dead liberals who run that state.

She co-authored, with uber liberal Rep. Ryan Winkler, a HEAD Start bill that would have allocated $150 million to low-income pre-schoolers despite abundant evidence such programs do no good. As John Derbyshire recently noted, its "been failing for 50 years but the elites still believe in it."

Spare me "feel good republicans." They are worse than democrats, who at least believe their tripe. Loon thinks women in her district are stupid and will buy such nonsense. They aren't and they don't.

She voted for the misnomer anti-bullying bill, in a previous incarnation, not the one signed into law, which does nothing but create legal and bureaucratic nightmares for our school districts. Of course, it makes people who vote for it feel good about themselves and doubtless Jenifer invites you to feel good about her.

There are a multitude of other issues and votes with which any sane conservative in HD 48B could take issue in Rep. Loon's career. The high school sensibility (and concomitant sophistication) of both senate and house caucuses regarding Loon being challenged tells any reasonable observer what dire circumstances the Minnesota republican party is in.

Here's the question then: why should republicans continue to vote for state officials despite--instead of because of--their record? Why should a challenge to an incumbent, who may technically be a republican but surely no conservative, get the backing, reflexively, of the entire party apparatus? And if you don't think the stale establishment was behind Loon (for fear they were next, mostly,) then you should click here to see their fund raiser invitation for her. The invite claims she's a champion of "less intrusive government" and has many legislative accomplishments. I'm not sure it's possible to articulate how dumb they think you are.

Minnesota republican incumbents would do well to remind themselves that they serve at the pleasure of their base, initially, and then the general electorate. No, not every challenge to an incumbent will be sound or warranted so I decline to fight that straw man.

But some are and Sheila Kihne's race against Jenifer Loon is one of them. Loon is accountable but resents it. In this she mirrors her peers. But to say such is only to mark how far afield those in office have come from those they pretend to represent.

Please make a donation of whatever amount you can to Sheila Kihne by clicking here. 

Correction: The original post has been changed to make clear that Loon voted for a previous version, not the enacted version, of what would ultimately become law and known as the anti-bullying bill.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Minnesota Republicans Lose Their Minds

Last weekend's Minnesota Republican state endorsing convention was a debacle by any measure of the word, and not simply because my preferred U.S. Senate candidate, Julianne Ortman, failed even to make it to the fifth ballot. She missed the cutoff for that vote by .03%. I was a paid consultant for her campaign for April and May, with research and writing my main tasks.

I met many fine people on that campaign. Rob Doar, the deputy campaign manager, has a deservedly bright future. Keep an eye on him. Better yet, hire him, Brad.

I should have known that any Minnesota republican candidate having a Somali woman on the dais speaking Somali in front of the delegates would be doomed to failure. Plus the candidate being a woman is a disadvantage in our party. The idea that we need to reach out to others besides the blindingly white audience seems to be taken as a personal affront. The convention eventually went on to endorse six white males for the six statewide constitutional offices on the ballot this fall.

If you're fine with this, you're part of the problem.

I waited until today to post. I trusted my instincts and I'm glad I did. Yesterday morning on Twitter I was accused of promoting women simply because they were women. No one who reads this blog, or who knows me, would fairly say that of me. I'm the last to endorse identity politics.

That said, do we really have no women or minority republicans worthy of advancement? If that's your argument, you have a heavy burden of proof.

I know we kill the messengers in this party but by now Rasputin has nothing on me.

What's really remarkable about the convention is how confused and divided in their own minds the delegates were: no guiding principles, no consistent code of conduct for behavior nor any sense of what it takes by way of fielding candidates in order to defeat the democrats this fall.

On the first ballot for Senate, it was a three way tie between Chris Dahlberg, Mike McFadden and Julianne Ortman. The latter lost votes in each subsequent ballot. Ortman gave, by what even her opponents said, was a gracious and sincere exit speech. Pointedly, she refrained from withdrawing. Yesterday she reached out to McFadden to congratulate him and urge unity. If an accomplished, gracious and conservative woman like Ortman doesn't have what it takes for higher office in the Minnesota Republican Party, then I'd suggest no woman, or minority, does.

This is a recipe for political extinction.

Once Ortman was no longer on the ballot, it was a race to bludgeon Dahlberg supporters into submission. Mike has money, Chris doesn't. Once Julianne was out of the way, the conventional, consultant driven wisdom kicked in. Besides, neither campaign had people who didn't look like us on the dais. Alas, that's still not nothing in Minnesota republican politics, despite the pretense of minority outreach.

Ortman tried to show what an inclusive future looked like, both by her own candidacy and by those whose supported it.

No sale.

The balloting went late into that Friday night and when Dahlberg agreed to resume the fight the next morning he gave up all momentum and lost, on the tenth ballot, to Mike McFadden, who had vowed not to respect the endorsement if he didn't get it. Keith Downey, chair of the MNGOP, was a strong supporter of the effort to suspend Friday night's voting. It hurt Marty Seifert and that was fine with him. Downey claimed the delegates had to be out of the building by two in the morning but in fact the party had the hall for the entire night. This is called lying.

But here is what's important: an endorsing convention's delegates gave their support to the guy who said he wouldn't respect them in the morning. Fuck us anyway, they said.


Make of it what you will, my only point is that the clearly declared intent of one candidate to go to a primary was not a bar for the delegates to ultimately endorse him. And to feel creepily good about themselves in the process. If this doesn't constitute losing your mind, nothing does.

The smug factor in Rochester was positively liberal. This is important in understanding, or not, what happened later in the gubernatorial race.

I tweeted my congratulations to Mike, Brad Herold, Kevin Poindexter and Tom Erickson the day of their victory. I'll work to help Mike win but in the process make sure he's something other than Norm Coleman-lite. I have my doubts but going forward Mike has the benefit of them, for now. Here's to his beating Al Franken this fall.

In between Senate votes (I was working the convention, only returning to my seat when I needed to vote) I had the opportunity to hear, partially, some delegate complain about vaccinations and how "no government" is going to tell her what to put in her child's body. These aren't republicans, they're kooks. Why are we indulging them? Not vaccinating your children puts the rest of ours at risk. Welcome to modernity. Besides, just let that mother try not letting her child have a life saving blood transfusion. What have republicans become?

After Ortman departed the race and the convention, I was resident in her hospitality suite along with the other members of her faded effort. I confess to laughing heartily when the doors suddenly swung open only to see Rob Doar hauling in Andy Parrish, campaign manager. Andy had been expelled by the Sergeant At Arms from the convention floor.

He slapped an activist, calling him a cream puff.

Somethings are self-evident and I put this in that category. Parrish, appropriately, apologized the next day. The hilarity was undeniable, however, and  I'll be forever grateful to him for it.

Like a bad dream, I woke up Saturday in Rochester still in Rochester. Inception-like, I thought: "when's the kick coming?" Like so much in life, it never did. Bad coffee in the room followed. I left at noon.

By the time I reached St. Paul, McFadden had won, to the surprise of just about everyone. Brad Herold, campaign manager, and his team brought their A-game and it showed. Forget the cheesy indoor fireworks and the geriatric balloon drop. They got the delegates to eat the dog food and like it. You have to respect that.

The repulsive Michele Bachmann played a part by endorsing McFadden, thereby proving again her lack of principles and integrity. Heretofore she had insisted on the importance of supporting only candidates who agreed to abide by the endorsement.

The vote for governor was grossly delayed, however, and that delay must be figured in to what happened subsequently.

Dave Thompson withdrew after the third ballot and addressed the convention. Marty Seifert addressed the convention immediately after and released his delegates, many of which were from CD 7 and 8 and who had to get back home. In a greatly diminished convention, Jeff Johnson won the endorsement. Republicans have a four way primary for governor this August.

The reaction to Seifert releasing his delegates was as embarrassing as it was deeply ignorant. Not very bright people outdid themselves in an effort to act stupid. They succeeded. One buffoon declared it his intent to "end" Seifert's career. Please. Another called on his running mate, Pam Myhra, to withdraw from the ticket. Welcome to high school.

Yesterday we were treated to six white guys flying around the state in a small plane. The DFL and its allied groups immediately emphasized that fact. You don't have to like it but the reality is that the resistance of Minnesota republicans to opening up their party meaningfully to women and minorities will continue to be exploited and to their detriment.

How could it be otherwise?

The common reaction, in my experience, to pointing this out is irritation and resentment. But at some level everyone knows its true. The longer passive aggressive Minnesota republicans pretend everything is fine the longer we'll be in the political wilderness.

Yesterday Keith Downey said that the contested gubernatorial primary will be a good thing because it will increase voter participation. He's not bright enough, really, to understand that this is a fundamental argument by those of us who support a primary system over the archaic and dysfunctional endorsing process. But there it was, said as if there was no contradiction. When republicans at this level have a hard time processing reality, it's an open question whether there's any realistic chance of improving the party.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Marty Seifert For Governor

I believe only Marty Seifert can defeat Mark Dayton. Because of that belief, I'm announcing my support for him to be our republican endorsed candidate.

I previously, and very early, supported Scott Honour. I did so because at the time I thought a competent businessman with real ties to Minnesota, one who, for G-d's sake, was raised in a trailer, could have a real shot against the perpetually damaged Mark Dayton. Unfortunately, there was no growth in either the candidate or his campaign. I hope Scott, an honorable man, continues to be active in politics as I think he can make an important contribution to Minnesota. At the end of the day, however, his campaign wasn't enough in this cycle and we can't beat something with nothing.

Seifert has undeniable appeal to Greater Minnesota and rightly so. This kind of candidate is the only way we republicans can take back the governorship. Seifert has been calm and cool in this regard. Remember: he got into this race relatively late. All the better for his cool head. That bespeaks a confidence not found in other candidates.

Seifert has the only balanced ticket. Geography and gender matter, no matter how much that makes me roll my eyes: it remains true and these things count. They count if you want to win.

The issues also favor a Seifert/Myhra ticket: mining in the northeast of the state, the ridiculous light rail projects that are disfiguring our two major cities and environs, and the malignant Met Council. This is a ticket that can reach out and get independent and moderate democrat voters. Any republican who wants to win must be able to do so.

Marty Seifert can bring the fight to Mark Dayton. Money alone can't win races although this is heresy in some republican circles this cycle. But it's true. A good candidate is fundamental. The old rules still apply. Seifert knows this. Seifert can win.

This weekend in Rochester, I encourage fellow delegates to endorse him.

Friday, May 16, 2014

India's Cataclysmic Election & Narendra Modi

India's poor voted to no longer be poor.

That's the level best I can do in trying to get across to Americans the scope and significance of India's election returns, which started coming in to us last night and continued throughout the day. The scope of Narendra Modi's victory can hardly be overstated. In fact, it left virtually all political observers in and out of India grasping for words, for metaphors, for some image that can adequately convey what is clearly a historical turning point for the world's largest democracy and, consequently, the world itself.

Modi's political party, the center-right Bharatiya Janata Party or BJP, won in almost every state, in every direction throughout India, in areas where it hadn't won for a long time and in many cases where it never had before. In India's parliamentary system, a total of 272 seats are needed to form a government and for the last several decades they have been coalitions of various parties, with the Congress Party ruling for the most part. Congress is the party of Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and most recently Sonia Gandhi, who took over after the assassination of Rajiv, her husband. These Gandhis have no relation to India's most famous one, Mahatma Gandhi.

Modi was the former Chief Minister of the state of Gujarat, population 50 million. His achievements there were nothing less than spectacular, ensuring steady power to homes and businesses, clean water, sound education to every level of society and more. In short, Gujarat worked because Modi worked. He took his tested accomplishments to the nation and, fundamentally, asked it if it wanted to stay poor under Congress and its allies or if it was ready for the future, for India's destiny. The answer astonished even the most jaded.

The BJP won a governing majority outright, with 285 seats. Together with parties aligned with it, the number reaches 340 out of a total of 543 seats. India has never seen election results like this. I won't belabor the details here because I wanted to give Americans a quick understanding of this election, the consequences which will play out dramatically in the next five years.

However, readers should know that in the West the backlash against Modi has already begun. Why might this be? Because India has slaughtered liberalism on a scale unprecedented in the modern age. Everything generally liberal or progressive in the West was embodied in the Congress Party. A nation of more than one billion has turned its back on it; from this there is no return.

Consequently liberals in the West, in the media and academe, will say the usual tired things about Modi they said about Reagan, or Thatcher, or to a lesser extent Deng Xiaoping, each a leader who transformed their country.

Don't buy the criticism, especially that Modi ignored communal rioting in 2002 that left many dead, mostly Muslims. That charge has been thoroughly vetted in India and was found to be without merit. This doesn't stop Westernized Indian liberals like the ridiculous Pankaj Mishra from claiming the world's largest democracy just elected a mass murderer. Right. Couldn't he at least have worked in climate change to the mix? In America, the once respected magazine The New Republic was hot off the blocks in making a similar but less pointed case against Modi. Yes, that's all they've got but a wholesale rejection of liberalism in India puts the entire world's liberal agenda in peril. Good.

While I said at the start that India's poor no longer wished to remain so, clearly most other segments of society in the world's most diverse country also saw something in voting for Modi. There is no other way to explain 340 seats in parliament. Remember this when the intellectual thugs and despots of the Left come calling to trash this election and results.

Yet, if you're for the advancement of the human condition, if you're for the dignity of the human person, if you're for compassion instead of suffering, if you're for the equality of women, if you're for the advancement of culture, technology and knowledge, you'll welcome the advent of Prime Minister Modi.

But mostly, here's to the average Indian voter, literate or illiterate, who had the courage and genius to realize that the future does not come often in elections and as a nation seized it with both hands.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Mike McFadden For Senate & Republican Denial

The political mise-en-scène was to have an accomplished private sector man with no record, capable of being programmed by Norm Coleman and Vin Weber to be a plausible alternative to Al Franken, thereby clearing the field of competitors and uniting the Minnesota republican party after a cycle controlled by Ron Paul zealots now returned to party regulars. The Cipher Candidate™ would mouth enough generic platitudes to convince the activist base to fall in behind him and the large money needed in order to take out Franken would flow, the implicit representation being that here was a guy who could self-fund if needed (never true).

Before that scene could be shot, however, reality intervened, leaving the script in tatters.

The first thing anyone learned about the previously unheard of McFadden was that he was wealthy (he's more like Euro trash wealthy; he's not, for example, Alida Rockefeller "we don't smile we're so wealthy"). The second thing you learned about him was that he was going to a primary, period. Curiously little attention or thought was given by the base and activists to this arrogant pronunciamento. If he's so great, wouldn't he win the endorsement by acclamation?

To be fair, the last time a republican endorsing convention offered up a senate candidate they gave Minnesota Kurt Bills, so one can't fault the men behind the curtain from being leery. But two years is a long time in politics and if either of these influence peddlers without scruples had been paying attention, they'd have realized May 2012 in St. Cloud was the Paulers' high water mark. For a trip down memory lane, you can read what I wrote about it at the time, "What I Saw At The Hemp & Raw Milk Revolution," by clicking here.

The McFadden campaign, however, has turned out to be a case study in tone deaf kingmakers, money men, consultants and staff. I realize Mike's the actual candidate but I put him last in assigning blame for the ridiculous show to which Minnesota republicans have thus far been treated. Somehow, in my heart of hearts, I just know he was told it would be very different.

The decision was made to keep McFadden from much exposure to the base. This was very stupid, but Vin Weber crowed to MinnPost that it was exactly the right move, keeping him on the phone dialing for dollars. The reporter never thought to ask Weber why the candidate couldn't have done both; most do. As a result, the ones McFadden most needed to get to know never got a chance to meet him. As time wore on, it became clear that it was actually McFadden who desperately needed the exposure to the base, not the other way around. Having squandered virtually all of 2013 by keeping him under wraps, his consultant driven handlers tried deploying him as a real person in 2014 with increasingly disastrous results.

The two most recent events should suffice as I've blogged about this campaign for some time and interested readers can click on the archives to the right should they wish to read that analysis.

The first involves McFadden campaign manager Brad Herold traveling to Washington, DC to hold a press availability about the career of Mike McFadden, without the career guy himself present. This was bizarre but in the cloistered world of consultants it somehow made sense. OK then.

The campaign tried to thread the needle between different types of equity: investment bankers (McFadden) as opposed to private equity (Mitt Romney). The point of the event was to make the useless, and graceless, point that McFadden isn't Romney. I look forward to another such event where they try to differentiate the unknown McFadden from, say, David Duke. Why not? You never know what that dastardly Al Franken may throw our hero's way!

And isn't always being on defense the best way to win an election? The Star Tribune's story can be read by clicking here. McFadden's Twitter supporters were left to critique the media, which is a topic I pretty much own in this town but anything to avoid blaming an awful campaign.

The second recent event involved Mike as Daniel: into the den of Tea Partiers went he.

I actually was fascinated by this decision when it was announced a week or ten days ago (who can keep track of time, especially when on Twitter a lot?). Jake Duesenberg & Jack Rogers have ginned up the Tea Party in Minnesota this cycle. While I'm not a per se Tea Party republican, I welcome everyone into the tent who wants to defeat democrats.  Jake & Jack had previously been rather harsh on Mike for avoiding the Tea Party and the conservative base. Hence the about face of the McFadden team to have Mike address the North Metro Tea Party last week made me wonder if they couldn't yet get it together.

Turns out they couldn't and then some. Disastrously so.

How could The Borg not prepare MM for what he would encounter there? How could he so obviously filibuster in order to avoid answering questions? How could he be so cringe-inducingly unprepared to answer just the basics? Why bother to attend when he said he needed to leave after a mere 40 minutes? Even then, after getting off the stage, he mixed with attendees as Duesenberg asked him from the stage if he hadn't said he needed to get going? This was after McFadden called for an end to the republican circular firing squad only to have a boisterous member of the audience point out that going to a primary constitutes holding the gun. Before the event staffers patrolled the premises attempting to keep people from recording him. Remember, it's the smart set running this campaign.

Worse, how could one of McFadden's high ranking aides appear to threaten Duesenberg? That, at least, is the allegation. From a public relations standpoint, this appearance could not have gone worse if Al Franken was in disguise advising.

The Star Tribune's Rachel Stassen-Berger wrote up the proceedings which can be read by clicking here. Jake Duesenberg put his own thoughts together on Facebook, which can be read by clicking here.

A depressingly large number of republicans have bought into this dog and pony show; their better judgment clearly eclipsed. Some of them are my friends; some of them used to be. Funny, that.

At the end of the day, however, almost all of them know, at some level or another, that the guy they saw stumble through his own press conference last month can't beat Al Franken. They've already signed onto the effort, however, and see no realistic (for them) reason to either abandon this sinking ship or switch outright to another candidate. So they bide their time, thinking the endorsement means nothing and that the primary will vindicate their readiness to be bought.

Except that McFadden winning the primary is another word for Franken winning the general. And for their dishonesty in refusing to admit that there is still time to select another, infinitely more qualified and viable candidate, I cannot forgive them.