Thursday, February 25, 2016

Jason Lewis: The Establishment Strikes Back

Jason Lewis is a former long time radio talk show host in the Twin Cities currently running in Minnesota's Second Congressional District to replace the retiring Rep. John Kline (R). Lewis comes from the libertarian wing of the republican party although his ideas are broader than that or any other single political label. He knows his own mind & is good on his feet. He speaks easily and knowledgeably on politics, economics, culture, law and history. This both sets him apart from most republican candidates as well as makes him the frontrunner by any measure.

He has three other competitors in the race for the endorsement but the main one, business woman Darlene Miller, has said she will not abide by it but will compete in the primary. This is what a candidate manufactured by a desperate establishment does.

Miller's campaign is staffed largely with Kline people and her first forays into the public arena have been painful and clumsy. She had to be dragged into the race by the establishment and it shows at every turn.

Clearly she's a candidate of necessity for the donor class. She has money but zero political ability. Think Chamber of Commerce. Think Jeb Bush. Please clap.

Miller will easily lose in the general election to far left DFL candidate Angie Craig but the right people will make money as she does so. This explains most of Minnesota republican politics.

A week out from the March 1st republican caucus, the Star Tribune hilariously ran several hit pieces that it thought would damage Lewis by taking comments made on air and in his 2011 book, which is a sustained argument about how the federal government must enforce civil rights, grossly out of context.

The hit mob seriously expects voters in CD 2 to believe that Lewis countenances slavery or that twenty something women shouldn't vote. These sorts of hyper-manufactured attacks simply don't work anymore. A rump Twitter group echoes them, claiming that "one word destroys campaigns." They don't possess the self-awareness to be embarrassed for themselves.

Several serious issues, however, have been generated by this bought and paid for establishment hit.

The Star Tribune Investigates

The Star Tribune has a mixed reputation at best in Minnesota. I know most of its political reporters in some way, often being sought out for background. Most reporters are decent people trying to do their job although the more honest ones freely admit the demonstrable leftwing-bias that infuses the newspaper at every level. 

Still, the paper tries to adhere to the minimum of so called journalistic ethics and standards, if for no other reason than marginal self-respect. Consequently, the breathless hit piece that said Lewis replied "it's kinda of hard to say" when asked whether the civil war was worth fighting for, is shown to be rank dishonesty. 

Here's the full exchange:

"TheDC: Well so do you think that the Civil War was a war worth fighting?

JL: Well there are those who advocated, at the time, for emancipated compensation. And that was the idea — and this had happened in other countries across that globe — where, “alright, we want to eradicate slavery, it’s a horrific institution, nobody disputes that, but, do we really wanna shed six hundred thousand lives in America?” So the idea was, let’s pay the Southern slave owners money to give up the slaves, and they would end the institution, and that would be it. Now, people say, “that’s a little bit odious, you’re paying people to do the right thing.” Well is it really more odious than six hundred thousand lives? Lincoln actually presented it to his cabinet late in the war, but they rejected it, and Lincoln had the opportunity to go, move forward on it earlier in the war, but he never did, so it’s kinda hard to say. As I said, it was a bit of a Hobson’s choice for Lincoln, he didn’t want to be the president to preside over the breaking up of the union."

To the question above, the Star Tribune only quoted as Lewis' answer: "so it's kind of hard to say."

If you argue this wasn't intentionally malicious, you have a heavy burden of proof.

This deliberate misrepresentation by the Star Tribune was brought to its attention by John R. Lott, Jr., Ph.D., President, Crime Prevention Research Center who wrote the introduction to Lewis' book.

No less than Dennis J. McGrath, Star Tribune Deputy Digital Editor, thanked Mr. Lott for pointing this out on February 22nd, saying "Thanks, John.  This is helpful.  I’ll look into it and get back to you."

As Special Correspondent to Minnesota Conservatives, I will keep readers posted as to the course of the investigation into this disturbing unethical matter. We can only hope the Star Tribune issues a correction and an apology so that it salvages what's left of its journalistic integrity.

MNGOP Deputy Chair Chris Fields & NRCC Collusion

Rank and file republicans were shocked when they read comments by Chris Fields that gratuitously piled on the false and sleazy Jason Lewis hit job currently under investigation by Star Tribune management. His comments violated clear rules and bylaws that forbid state officers from speaking for or against any candidate pre-endorsement. 

What I have learned, however, is that Fields has been attempting to coordinate with the National Republican Congressional Campaign, the entity that attempts to increase republican membership in the U.S. House of Representatives. The NRCC is a tool of the establishment which advances the interests of its donors while steadfastly ignoring concerns of its citizen base. It supports Kline's handpicked candidate Darlene Miller while strongly opposing the change agent Jason Lewis.

My understanding is that the NRCC would support Chris Fields in his hopeless attempt to become the next Chair of the Republican Party of Minnesota, going so far as to arranging funds that would eliminate most or all of the party's debt. Fields would be a wholly owned tool of the NRCC in exchange. His comments to the invented Star Tribune story was part of this arrangement. 

The backlash to his comments has been swift and severe. Fields would likely never have succeeded to Chair given how poorly he's viewed by the base, from what I'm told. Now, however, that path seems likely foreclosed for good. 

Darlene Miller's Crony Capitalism

Miller is "CEO and president of Permac Industries, a Burnsville precision parts manufacturing company that received federal stimulus funds under President Obama and took advantage of tax incentives under President George W. Bush," reports Maya Rao of the Star Tribune. 

Establishment candidates are precisely like this: sucking on the government teet while telling their want to be base that they are on their side. Miller isn't just inauthentic, she's a certifiable fraud. 

There's no evidence that Miller was interested in politics before being recruited by GOPe. In Rao's story, she hid from the reporter's questions, sending out her campaign manager instead (full disclosure: a friend of mine, a good guy). 

A strong, confident candidate would be at ease with questions, not hiding from them. Now, eat the dog food. 


The establishment has done its best to try to damage Lewis but, like all things inauthentic in this age of Trump, it has failed miserably. CD 2 voters, like all voters, simply are not stupid no matter how much Lewis' opponents and detractors might want them to be. The idea that he is retrograde, bigoted, or backward is simply, to use an expression from my friends in the South, a dog that won't hunt.

He responded forcefully in a piece published yesterday and pretty much put an end to this silliness. His response can be read by clicking here. This story is over but surely, look for more. Dog, hunt.

The world is on fire, America is in decline as a matter of choice, the middle class is being decimated, wars abroad have been proven demonstrable follies and Minnesota CD2 establishment republicans and their dishonest media allies continue to care only about feathering their own nests.

No wonder Lewis threatens them.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Rubio Campaign Comes To Minnesota

Marco Rubio is now the Republican establishment candidate this cycle now that Jeb Bush had dropped out. As befits a political season in which no one knows anything, polling taken after Jeb's exit showed Donald Trump gaining strength as some of the former's supporters went to the latter, against all intuition.

Rubio was permanently damaged in the New Hampshire primary debate when he was shown by Gov. Chris Christie to be a shallow, brittle, robotic candidate who is highly scripted and trotted out only in carefully controlled environments. He has one stale stump speech which he delivers as his handlers and bundlers move him about the country like a Stepford candidate before Stepford audiences.

It was to see firsthand this unimpressive performance that brought more than a thousand people to downtown Minneapolis late yesterday afternoon. Crowd estimates were as high as 1600 though there was some dispute as to the real numbers. By any estimation, however, it was a very good sized crowd for a candidate who came in third in Iowa, fifth in New Hampshire and barely second in South Carolina. He was in Minnesota the day of the Nevada caucus and moved on from here to Michigan, actually saying "Goodbye Michigan" at the end of his performance instead of Minnesota.

I followed along on Twitter which increasingly is better than real life, except for the penchant of its owners and management to persecute conservatives and conservative ideas on that troubled platform.

The entire event seemed like some sort of elaborate ritual which no longer had any power or meaning but which went on regardless because the production company no longer had any idea what to put on stage and the audience had an inability to desire anything different from that which had come before.

In short, more cowbell in an election cycle in which cowbells were thrown out the window, beginning June 16, 2015.

No matter, this is Minnesota republicans, who haven't managed to win a statewide race in more than decade. Like the incompetence of the consultant class nationally, state republicans, activists and vendors care demonstrably more for making money than for any given candidate to actually win.

To get a sense of just how marooned the Minnesota republican establishment has become, look at this interview between Neil Cavuto and Saudi Arabian lobbyist and former Senator Norm Coleman. The reason proffered to vote for Rubio is that he isn't Trump. Neither is Ted Cruz so what's the case for Marco? Coleman trots out the usual reasons but none are persuasive, either individually or cumulatively. You can watch that video by clicking here.

* * * *

I saw some tweets during the Rubio rally with the hashtag "grow the party." Well one candidate is doing this in ways unimaginable until just recently and that candidate isn't the donors' choice Rubio. When I saw pictures of the event there didn't seem to be many minorities so what exactly was being grown remained unknown to me. One progressive asked on Twitter if Rubio made any mention of the Iron Range to which I replied that those uploads hadn't been installed yet.

The Rubio campaign is a last ditch effort to return things to the status quo before Trump announced and changed the political landscape of America forever. It's not possible to do that, of course, but those who made good livings off of not being very good, but instead connected, aren't willing to see the corrupt system that supported them die off without a fight. 

One of the animating issues in this presidential race is illegal immigration and its disastrous effects on our nation. Without Trump in the race the subject would never have gotten the attention and traction that it has. Republican donors want cheap labor at any cost and democrats want uneducated, unskilled voters dependent on government largesse. It's an unholy alliance that's ruining our country without the consent of the governed, the chief republican proponent of which was Marco Rubio. 

Because I was not following his speech in real time online, I asked a reporter from the Star Tribune if Rubio had addressed immigration whatsoever in his remarks. The reply I received: no. There you have it. Or rather, don't.

It's emblematic of Minnesota republicans to crowd behind a candidate who has no clear path to the nomination, who cannot name a single state he will win in next Tuesday's Super Tuesday primary and where he leads the polling in exactly none of the states that will vote. This, this is the political acumen of Minnesota republicans who in the last presidential caucus went with that winner Rick Santorum. 

The Minnesota Marco rally was surreal because it took place as though the old order wasn't under assault and failing badly, as though Trump hadn't thoroughly upended politics in ways never seen before and as though the Rubio campaign didn't need to adjust in any meaningful way. Another word for this is denial. The dog food is served. Eat the damn dog food. 

The scene was so out of touch with reality that at one point I tweeted it reminded me of the Russian Provisional Government following the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II, only not when it first was formed but instead in September, 1917.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Trump Campaign Comes To Minnesota

Last Saturday evening the first official event by the Trump campaign was held in St. Louis Park. It was an informal affair, an opportunity for those politically active to meet with several Trump campaign officials and surrogates. I wasn't able to attend but what I learned from various sources suggest this powerhouse of a campaign has no use for mediocre activists who go from one failed campaign to another, or to a caucus staff position or to the staff of a member of Congress. The stale direct mail monopolist routinely employed by Minnesota republican candidates (he's been known to threaten retribution via his legislator wife if his services aren't used) will make no money from the Trump effort this cycle. The other usual vendors will be out of luck as well.

In that regard, they are of a piece with the national political consulting class who can be daily seen on Twitter whining and complaining, often with the foulest language, about Trump and his supporters. For supposed experts in their line of work, and for the sheer awfulness that they say is Trump, it's remarkable--and an indictment--that none of their candidates can damage or slow him down, let alone catch and overtake him.

From those present at the gathering, it seemed the Trump people had an ability to readily sort the wheat from the chaff when it came to political help, something many of us have desired for ages. Polite, courteous, they seemed unimpressed with party titles or former positions on former campaigns. When you stop and think about it, this is all of a piece of an incredible phenomenon. You actually have to go out of your way to remind yourself that Trump has never before run for office.

The crowd this event attracted is perhaps the most interesting feature of the night: young and old, a black hair dresser with friends from St. Paul, Hispanics and Asians, high school educated, college educated. The broad demographic appeal of Trump is played down by the mainstream media and the consultant class. Yet even in Minnesota the people that took time out on a Saturday evening to learn more shows just how varied it is. It shows what a Trump general election victory would look like.

Minnesota is a joke in presidential years because of the mindless liberal voters here. Yet Trump clearly believes it's worth some of his people's time to make an appearance and to rally his supporters. And some of those liberals were among the crowd last weekend. I'm under no illusion that Trump will win the Minnesota caucus on March 1st. In fact, second place would be remarkable although I think it more likely Sen. Ted Cruz will win that spot.

A Trump gathering that same weekend in Duluth attracted over one hundred people. A few photos from that event were posted on Facebook and can be seen by clicking here. That there could be many traditional Iron Range democrat supporters of Trump is something my DFL sources tell me is an ongoing worry. Hillary Clinton is simply not liked in rural Minnesota and no amount of Twin Cities metro cheerleading will be able to change that.

Minnesotans aren't known for either their honesty or their bravery, Minnesota republicans even less so. Consequently I believe there are many in what's come to be called "the Trump closet." This is in greatest evidence in caucus states where one's vote is not private.

Standard issue conservatives here seem to have fallen into line behind Sen. Ted Cruz. The republican establishment in Minnesota is mostly behind the unaccomplished, robotic Marco Rubio who was destroyed in the New Hampshire debate by Gov. Chris Christie. He's currently battling Cruz for second place in South Carolina.

Rubio won't be our nominee but it's fitting that the establishment has dully fallen in behind him. After all, Minnesota republicans haven't won a statewide race in a decade and these people think things are just fine, it always works out for them. In 2016, however, they're in for a rude awakening.

Forget winter, spring is coming.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Death & Debate: Justice Antonin Scalia & the South Carolina Republican Presidential Debate

When I first agreed to my friend Denyse O'Leary's request to guest blog from time to time on the well respected Canadian blog site Blazing Cat Fur, I could never have imagined covering, however briefly, the untimely death of America's greatest living jurist. The initial reports came in on Twitter, with only a San Antonio newspaper as a source. I texted several friends that "Scalia may be dead" only to follow it up with "confirmed."

His death was universally recognized as a great loss for American jurisprudence, with praise coming from Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as well as Cass Sunstein. President Obama couldn't be bothered to wear a necktie because at moments like this the smallness of him becomes evident in the passing of a great man and he knows it. His words were as trite and banal as the community organizer formerly known as Barry Soetoro would lead one to expect.

I address the death of Justice Scalia passingly in my piece for my growing Canadian audience and then move on to my best analysis of the debate among GOP presidential candidates last Saturday in South Carolina. Early indications would seem to bear out my thoughts: a PPP poll taken entirely after that exceptional debate showed Trump in the lead by almost 20 points.

My article about the loss of Scalia and what the South Carolina debate means can be read by clicking here.

Photo credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Thursday, February 11, 2016

The New Hampshire Debate & Primary Explained to Our Bewildered Canadian Friends

I'm continuing to cross post here my guest blogging for Canadian conservatives and others at Blazing Cat Fur, a premiere blog of the right in Canada. I try to timely respond to the various developments of our presidential race and post within twenty-four hours or so. I'm linking to them here in case my readers would like to see my take or think that I'm not blogging about the republican presidential race with all its wonderful twists and turns. I also examine the sad democratic race and assess whether Lady Macbeth can fend off an increasingly serious challenge from the walking ghost of Eugene V. Debs.

I wrote about the surprisingly consequential New Hampshire debate, which can be read by clicking here.

I also wrote about the impressive win by Donald Trump in the New Hampshire primary and resulting fallout in the race, with an eye toward South Carolina. That post can be read by clicking here.

Thanks as always to Denyse O'Leary for this opportunity. Readers can follow her on Twitter: @itsdesign

Saturday, February 6, 2016

KIPP Academy: The Cowardice Of Hope

My friend Cam Winton is chairman of the board for KIPP Northstar Academy located in north Minneapolis, a traditionally poor and minority area of the Twin Cities. He'd mentioned KIPP to me over the last several years when we met for coffee or lunch. I knew it was a charter school for which he had great enthusiasm but beyond that did not know much.

During National Charter Schools Week he invited me to visit the academy to learn more about it. I took him up on the opportunity and was delighted that I did so.

KIPP stands for "knowledge is power program" and what I saw at every turn during my visit there reinforced that mantra again and again. I joined others who were visiting that day and we were given an overview of the school, its origins, its pedagogical premises, its administrators, teachers, staff and, most importantly, its students.

KIPP stresses rigorous academic preparation directed toward maximizing each student's chance at attending the college of their choice. Every student is seen as possessing this ability despite what is freely acknowledged as widely varying backgrounds, both educationally and socially. The school addresses each student where they are, involving the family by way of an actual home visit to explain what is expected should the child and the family choose to enroll at KIPP.

In everyday school life, students wear uniforms, walk in groups from class to class in formation and are expected to complete daily homework in a timely manner, as well as participate in classroom discussions. Most remarkably to me, everyone's progress is charted out in the open for all to see. Rather than mimicking the conventional wisdom which posits this would discourage those behind their peers, KIPP's social and emotional environment ensures that the precise opposite occurs to the greatest extent possible. To see this firsthand was to experience a genuine revelation.

Competition is good. The real world is made of it. Don't make excuses, make another, stronger, better effort to achieve, to raise the test score or the overall grade. I could hardly believe what I was seeing.

A network of support for KIPP students exists within and without the school. In the school, obviously, from start to finish each day. And yet teachers and staff are available to students and to their families outside of the normal school day as well. In addition, as students leave KIPP (it currently only teaches fifth through eighth grades) advisors and counselors stay in touch as they move through high school, always with the eye on the prize: college admission.

It's been said by people from across the political spectrum that quality education is the civil rights issue of our time. There I was among the adults who not only realized that, but were dedicating their lives to acting upon that premise for the demonstrable benefit of these young children. I hadn't been this impressed since I couldn't recall.

You can learn much more about KIPP by visiting its website. Click here. If you are so inclined, you can make a donation or volunteer as you see fit. By all means contact the school directly as indicated on the website to learn more or to answer any questions you may have.

The epigram for this blog is a quote from Oswald Spengler (1880-1936): "Optimism is cowardice."

What Spengler meant by that, of course, is that the current situation is so dire, on any and all fronts, that to affect an optimistic attitude about it was simply to engage in the easy way out. Cowardice. It's a fitting quote for the style and the substance of my blog, generally speaking.

Yet coming face to face with the inspiring work done quietly in a residential neighborhood in north Minneapolis was to disabuse me of that comfortable mindset and demonstrate that real good can be done in the here and now for those most in need of it.

KIPP made me an optimist and if by my own metrics that makes me a "coward," I'll happily plead guilty.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Oh Canada: Pre & Post Iowa Blogging Up North

I've continued my collaboration with Denyse O'Leary of Blazing Cat Fur in Canada. She's generously asked me to discuss the American presidential cycle with her readers and I must say the exercise is an enjoyable one.

I'm used to writing what I think for a Minnesota and American audience, but here the task is to help Canadians understand what appears to most of the democratic world a ridiculously long and at times Byzantine process for electing our President, in addition to providing my own reflections. I find it highly rewarding and will continue to cross post my Northern Exposures here.

I wrote about the state of play before Iowa voted. Note that I say clearly it wasn't essential for Trump to win Iowa. I wasn't just hedging my bets, I actually believe it.

That post can be read by clicking here.

I stayed up last night to write my thoughts about the results of the Iowa caucuses, trying to blend my own reactions with what narratives I saw taking shape on Twitter and in the larger media in the early hours after the results were in. This includes a brief analysis of the Democratic race.

That post can be read by clicking here.

As I've said previously, I think there's value in reading the comments whether favorable to me or not.