Pondering The Imponderable

I was at a comedy club a few weeks back.

A very angry – and not especially funny, while we’re on the subject – woman who, I kid you not, identified herself as having been a political science major, told a joke (I’ll be generous) about “science”.  She ended with something like “That’s called ‘science’.  Take that, creationists!”

But it started me thinking about the contempt that the left feels for creationists. 

Now, I’m not one of them – if you read the biblical creation story as allegory, there is no conflict between the Bible and the record that is captured in the physical science of the world around us. 

And I wanted to stand up and ask the “comedian” something.

“So if we have to choose between…

Someone who believes the Earth is 6,000 years old, and lives their life accordingly – whatever that means?  A belief for which there may be little empirical basis, and even less empirical impact outside the faith community?  Or…

Someone who believes that:

  • raising taxes during a recession helps the economy,
  • banning firearms for the law-abiding lowers violent crime
  • jacking up regulation on market economies will stop the climate from changing like it’s been doing for between 6,000 and 20,000,000,000 years
  • Unionizing daycare providers will alleviate the scarcity of daycare
  • Raising the minimum wage will alleviate poverty
  • Pouring a bottomless bucket of money into Public Education will ever give us a better-educated populace
  • Mandating increased healthcare services without increasing the supply of caregivers won’t raise the price of healthcare
  • “Racism” is harming black Americans more than the Public Education system, a toxic “urban culture”, fatherless families and voting for Democrats who want to keep them that way are
  • Giving terrorists a “save the date” card for leaving one of their homelands isn’t going to result in an epic surge of bloodshed
  • “Anti-Poverty” programs have alleviated poverty over the past fifty years
  • Barack Obama deserved that Nobel Peace Prize,

…which does more actual harm to the world?”

It wouldn’t have made a great “heckle”, unfortunately.

#FixEverythingBad!

Mark Steyn on hashtag diplomacy:

Plenty has been written about all the things that this photo…

…says about the United States today.  None of them good.

Steyn notes – as many have quoted – that it’s certainly not going to matter of inveighing Boko Haram (Nigerian for “So Long, Suckers!”) to “give the girls back”.  Someone’s going to have to either engage in some incredibly tough negotiation (the Bokos know they hold the cards), or take them back, if they can be found (and it’s likely they can’t).

But he brought up two other points – both of them tying the Boko Haram kidnappings to a story I wrote about last week, in which a California school issued an assignment asking students to present evidence that the Holocaust never happened.

Being unaware of the background details, I thought it might juuuuuust be possible it was a debate point, asking kids to step outside their comfort zone (waaaaay outside) to debate a point.

It wasn’t, of course (I’ll be adding the odd bit of emphasis) not, and my vestigial faith in the integrity of public school teachers is, as all-too-frequently, wasted:

That’s never a smart idea. The California schools superintendent who wanted his Eighth Graders to turn in essays arguing that the Holocaust didn’t happen is called Mohammad Z Islam. That’s why they got the assignment, not because they wanted to turn themselves into the Oxford Union. As Laura Rosen Cohen pointed out, there are all kinds of lively topics Mr Cooke might propose for our schools: Did Mohammed exist? What’s the deal with his nine-year-old bride? But in the real world even mild questioning of whether Islam is a “religion of peace” is beyond the pale, and across the Continent the Holocaust is disappearing from school curricula.

That’s the problem. There’s no point winning an Oxford debate if the other side win everything else.

And he notes that modern eighth-graders rarely know what the Holocaust is, much less how to have an Oxford Union-style debate on the subject.

And of course…:

In 1984, George Orwell wrote, “Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.”

And it’s be hard to argue that the good guys are winning the present.

A Public Good

To: Daniela Hernandez, Dartmouth PC natterer
From: Mitch Berg, campesino ingobernable
Re: Nuestra dva sprache

Ms. Hernandez,

Language is the supremely public good.

Nobody owns it. Even the French discovered that the full weight of national power can go so far in governing how people use your language.

Now, you’re the woman who’s been nattering at the supremely gullible administration at Dartmouth (“the poster child for the higher-ed bubble”) about peoples’ use of Spanish terms like Fiesta.

Since you’re only getting a degree from Dartmouth, I’ll explain this slowly:  people adopt works from other languages, usually (not necessarily always) because the word works better than the local word.

So you have ever, even once, sat in your sauna drinking rooibos tea from an itsy-bitsy bamboo demitasse listening to the music blare from the frat, you can thank the Finns, Hungarians, South Africans Afrikaans speakers, the Dutch, French, the Dutch again, and Latin.  Or stop oppressing them.  Your choice. 

And since, like all the words above, your fellow PC indoctrinees students are using “Fiesta” to mean roughly exactly what it means in Spanish, I suggest you relax.  Or contact your ombudsman…

…oops. Norwegian.

That is all.

 

A Critique

SCENE:  Mitch BERG is walking through the garden store looking for organic potato seeds.  He spots Avery LIBRELLE, over in the tomato section.  BERG turns and tries to quietly leave, but LIBRELLE turns and sees him.

LIBRELLE:  Merg!  (Hurries over toward BERG)

BERG:  Oh – uh, hi, Avery.  What’s up?

LIBRELLE:  I read your stupid piece yesterday about the supposed decline of logic

BERG:  Yeah? 

LIBRELLE:  The first thing I thought was “It’s only Berg.  Who cares what he has to say?”

BERG: In other words, the ad hominem…

LIBRELLE: Oh, shush with all your Greek words.  It lowered my self-esteem for a bit – until I realized something; an argument can be fallacious but still be logical!

BERG:  Er…sorta.  You can use logic to persuade people of something that’s not true.  I mean, that’s basic rhetoric.  But the problem is in the audience’s ignorance, or the lack of information they have, or…

LIBRELLE:  Exactly!  Logic is one of those things lawyers use to hide the truth.  Anyway - what I do is, at the beginning of an argument, I ask “What is the truth”.

BERG:  Er…OK.  So before the debate starts, you find out….what…

LIBRELLE:  I find out whatthe truthis.  And then I run with that. 

BERG:  OK…so you just ask “what is the truth, here?”

LIBRELLE:  Yep!  Because the truth of something isn’t related to how well it’s argued!

BERG:  So you figure “I’ll just go straight for the truth”.

LIBRELLE:  Yep.  Truth is truth, whether people or know or discuss it or not. 

BERG:  Huh.  And so how do you find what is “the truth”?  Say we’re on a jury, and the prosecution has their version of what happened, and the defense has a different version of what happened.  Do you just ask the judge “what is “the truth” here?”

LIBRELLE:  Well, empirical evidence helps.

BERG:  OK, now we’re onto something!  Where does “empirical evidence” come from?

LIBRELLE:  Western Thought!  And modern western thinking started when thinkers became willing to consider the illogical!

BERG:  Good lord – the process of getting “empirical evidence” is called “the scientific method”, and it is built on classical logic!   And then when your evidence leads you to a conclusion, you have to convince others that your conclusion is valid!  And logic is how you build a valid argument that focuses on fact!

LIBRELLE:  Just like Johnny Cochrane did! 

BERG:  Er, “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit” was part logic, part rhetoric.  It was closer to marketing than classical logic…

LIBRELLE:  I demolished you with that!

BERG:  Look – logic is how we convince ourselves, and others, what the truth is.  For example, if I’m trying to convince you that “Stand your Ground” laws make sense, I would show you, logically, how such laws are immediately correlated with drops in unjustifiable homicide…

LIBRELLE:  …and then I call you racist!  Because I read something in the Daily Kos that said so!

BERG:  Er… (slowly backing away) I hadn’t thought of it that way… (notices that LIBRELLE has started chewing on a tomato start.  BERG slowly turns and walks away .

(And SCENE)

(AUTHOR NOTE:  While the names and flow have been changed, the conversation above actually happened with a liberal on Twitter.  Yes, it did.  Remember; the left are the smart ones).

The Left’s War On The Western Intellect

One never needs to look far for a Berg’s Seventh Law violation.  But this one may be the big daddy of them all.

For all the left’s bargling about how smart they are and how stupid the teabagging wingnuts are, it’s the left that’s waging a war against the intellectual traditions that made the West a great, and – by world historical standards – free, prosperous and enlightened place.

The Late, Great Debate:  I did debate team for one year, and speech team for two in high school.  And with all due respect to the debaters in my social circle – including John Hinderaker, a national college debate champ – there was no question about it; debate team was the lesser set of skills.  The best “debaters” merely honed their ability to rattle off, auctioneer-style, factoids in a coherent-sounding case; oratorical style and even audible legibility didn’t make the cut as priorities.  Debaters tended to make lousy “forensics” speakers.

But debate teaches a vital skill – indeed, perhaps one of Western Civilization’s most vital skills; classical logic.  A good debater knows how to contruct a logical argument, quickly, steering clear of glaring logical fallacies which will, of course, cost them points with literate judges.

Or rather, they knew it.

John Hinderaker relates the story of the decline and fall of collegiate debate, where teams are now winning “debate” tournaments while ignoring the stated topic and swerving into their own personal polemics, often in “slam poetry” and hip-hop styles and, dumber still, declaring the idea of “logic” and “structure” to be racist:

The assertion that “the framework of collegiate debate has historically privileged straight, white, middle-class students” is puzzling. By “privileged,” the writer apparently means that these are the people who have been good at it. Historically, most college students have of course been white and middle-class, but so what?

“Collegiate debate” has turned into the MinnPost comment section!

I’m tempted to declare that the structure, rules and equipment of the NFL are ageist, classist and ableist, and play using only a shotgun and a hockey stick; why should those privileged with athletic talent and lack of years have all the fun and money?

Well, no – I won’t.  Because I’m not an idiot.

The underlying message from the academy (and hip hop forms notwithstanding, the end of collegiate debate is a battle between academic points of view, not tastes in music) is that logic and structure – the building blocks of western philosophy, “liberal” government, modern science, and indeed every Western intellectual tradition worth preserving – are matters of racist “privilege”.

Would we have had a small-”l” liberal government, ann Enlightenment, a Renaissance, math and science as we know it, a legal system remotely worth having, and any common intellectual tradition without classical logic?

Happy To Be An Intellectual Midget For A Better Minnesota!:  Of course, it’s more than just a national thing; the Minnesota Left has been doing its best to make politics and public life in Minnesota  dumber, coarser, nastier thing.

Bill Glahn dials this tendency in as remorselessly as a sniper:

As the 2014 election campaign heats up, a drearily familiar pattern is repeating itself. Flush with big dollars from out-of-state donors, Democrat-front group Alliance for a Better Minnesota (ABM) is attacking Republican candidates under the theme Wrong for Minnesota…Back in the dim mists of time—when dinosaurs still trod upon the earth—I was taught that arguing against the person (ad hominem) rather than what the person was saying, defied the laws of logic.

When I was in debate in high school, and moreso when arguing points in college, leading with the ad hominem was a good way to have your thesis sent to the showers.

I was taught in classical Greek rhetoric that a message that relied exclusively on raw emotion (pathos)—rather than reason (logos) or an appeal to values (ethos)—was considered the lowest form of communication.
Ad hominem and pathos are the only form of expressions ABM is capable of. The reason why ABM relies on these tactics is because they work. The object is not to engage in debate, but to end debate by surpressing voter turnout. ABM is not trying to convince you that you should vote for Democrats, they are trying to convince you that no Republican possesses the personal character worthy of your vote.

And it works.  A potential candidate for higher office talked with me about ABM’s efforts last year; this person wanted very much to run for an office that would be up for election this year, but couldn’t; while they have the political savvy, experience and record to do the job, ABM would make their personal life – things unrelated to politics, of course – a living hell.  And so a good candidate opted out of the race – leaving that bit more room for an inferior Democrat.

To add insult to injury?  The same media full of Lori Sturdevants and Keri Millers that snivel about the “vitriol” and “anger” in politics, are utterly silent about the Alliance’s crimes against logic:

Should a Republican whisper about the health of our current governor or the temperament of our junior senator, they are immediately shouted down by local media.

Either because of personal relationships or broad sympathy with the aims of ABM, these tactics are never questioned by local media. ABM’s increasingly fantastic and desperate claims against Republicans are never subjected to the “fact-check” apparatus.

And why is that?

Why has MPR, especially their “Fact-Check” operation, “Poligraph”, never systematically looked into ABM’s propaganda?  Catherine Richert?  Mike Mulcahy?  Tom Scheck? Anyone?

This Is What Hatred Of Democracy Looks Like

If you had “within minutes” as your entry in the  ”When will the Democrats blame their Colorado rebuke on GOP perfidy pool, you’re a winner.

Democrat National Committee chair Fran Drescher Debbie Wasserman-Schultz is blaming the crushing rebuke at the polls on “Vote Suppression”. 

“The recall elections in Colorado were defined by the vast array of obstacles that special interests threw in the way of voters for the purpose of reversing the will of the legislature and the people. This was voter suppression, pure and simple,” Wasserman Schultz said in a statement.

This has been part of the extremist Democrat playbook since 2000; things that go well for them are signs that democracy works; reverses, on the other hand, are signs that democracy is rotten to the core. 

It’s a play for the low-information voter that still gets their information from CNN – and giving her extremist special interest base an “out” for having been humiliated by Real Americans even after outspending them 3:1.

Conversations I Hope I Hear Someday

WOMAN:  You’re “mansplaining”. 

GUY: Huh?

WOMAN: “Mansplaining”.  When a guys gives a condescending and inaccurate explanation that the assumption that I’m entirely ignorant on the subject matter or topic.

GUY:  You are utterly ignorant of the subject matter and topic.  Our discussion has shown you haven’t the foggiest clue about the subject.  90 degrees removed from literacy.

WOMAN: You’re doing it again.  You’re mansplaining.

GUY: You’re being a whineanist.  You need to unisexshushupandlearnsomething.

(And SCENE)

Oh, It’s That Michele Bachmann Again

Can you imagine what would have happened if Michele Bachmann, rather than Sonia “The Wise Latina Woman” Sotomayor, had said this:

Mr. Olson, the bottom line that you’re being asked — and — and it is one that I’m interested in the answer: If you say that marriage is a fundamental right, what State restrictions could ever exist? Meaning, what State restrictions with respect to the number of people, with respect to — that could get married — the incest laws, the mother and the child, assuming they are of age — I can — I can accept that the State has probably an overbearing interest on — on protecting the a child until they’re of age to marry, but what’s left?

But #crickets.

 

Open Letter To The Entire American People

To:  Everyone in the USA
From: Mitch Berg, Peasant who’s been through it all before
Re:  ”Sequestration”

Hey, everyone,

You may not remember this, but we’ve been through all this before.  Remember the “partial government shutdown”, back in the nineties?  It was a whole big nothing-burger.

Oh, the Clinton Administration tried to make sure that the people felt whatever pain was generated – closing parks, cramping down on the voters.  But as a rule, the whole thing affected nobody.

And here in Minnesota, we had a “complete” shutdown two years ago (which, again, wasn’t – the courts kept most of the government going as “essential”).  It lasted a few weeks.  Then Governor Messinger Dayton abandoned it, when he realized Minnesotans, for all his efforts to squeeze and scare them – shutting down state parks and highway rest areas, threatening to lay off teachers – barely noticed any difference.  While the media did its best to prop up the Messinger Dayton line, the people of Minnesota heard the gales of calumny but saw and felt a big fat nada burrito.  Even Governor Messinger Dayton – as cosseted and isolated from reality as his staff keeps him – noticed; on his trip around the state to whip up support for the DFL budget, he saw tepid crowds of union droogs, and a few professional protesters, and realized he had nothin’ (which may be why Dayton makes so few public appearances these days).

So it’s time for “sequestration” – the “radical” budget cuts that Obama and the super-di-duper commission agreed to as a stick to lead everyone to the “carrot” of an actual federal budget.  We’ve been waiting nearly 1,400 days for a budget from the Democrat-addled Senate, so Washington figured a “stick” was needed.

By the way – how radical and drastic are those cuts?:

Yep. They’re not even cuts.  They’re reductions in the increase.  Indeed, almost completely worthless, if cutting spending is your goal, but really nothing but a fart in the wind; sort of like “dropping HBO” in your family budget, even though your gas bill is rising and your teenage kids are costing more and more.

Obama will try to make “sequestration” hurt; he’ll slow down the TSA lines, he’ll gundeck some ship overhauls and clamp down some military maintenance budgets, he’ll inveigle some big cities to lay off a few cops and teachers, he’ll shut down Yellowstone as the cameras record photos of crestfallen children.  Hell, Joe Biden may even personally try to close the gates at Disney World.

But there is no there, there.  It’s a scare tactic, engineered by Obama and his compliant media.

It needs to be ignored.

That is all.

 

Language Note

Over this past six weeks of fairly constant writing about Second Amendment issues, it’s occurred to me that I’ve been letting the Orcs drive the discussion by controlling the language involved.

It’s time to roll that back with extreme prejudice.

So from now on on this blog and in all personal and public discourse on the matter, the following terms shall be used, with the following meanings:

 

Definition Out In
Keeping guns out of the hands of criminals and the insane in a meaningful way that results in actual impact on crime (Media uses no current term) Gun Control
Restricting the access of law-abiding citizens to firearms “Gun Control” Victim Disarmament
Weapons with collapsible/folding stocks, large-capacity magazines and bayonet lugs “Assault Weapons” Ugly guns
People who favor restricting the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding Americans “Gun Safety Advocates” Orcs
Heather Martens “Leader of “Protect Minnesota”" Pathologial Liar

That is all.

Doakes’ Law

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

Godwin’s Law says the first person to bring up Hitler in a debate, loses. Is there a comparable law for playing the race card?

“The person who attributes opposition to a public policy proposal to racism is presumed to have no valid arguments in support of the public policy proposal and the opponent no longer need participate in the discussion, having won by default.”

Joe Doakes

Como Park

Well, we should at least try to get this generally accepted.

New Addition To The DFL Dictionary

One of this blog’s most enduringly-popular features is the “DFL Dictionary“.

First written in 2002, it’s been updated bit by bit over the last nine years, to serve as the greatest single lexicon of DFL-to-human and Democrat-to-citizen translation in existence.

And we have a new entry:

Fact-checking:  Noun: To check the congruency of a Republican’s statement with Democrat conventional wisdom.   Verb: The act of consulting the list of Democrat chanting points for such congruence.

Apropos not much.

You Call It “Weasel”; “Progressives” Call It “Mink”

The Democrats have been waging a war for the English language.  Part of that war is harping on how the Republicans are…well, waging a war for the English language.

Rhetoric – using language to try to control how people think about issues – is as old as politics itself.

And Jill Klausen – writing at Kos, Re-Elect Democrats and Alternet and, no doubt other members of the big leftyblog cluster-cuddle - has some suggestions for the left on how to do it more effectively, with her list of five terms Democrats should never use.

But not before explaining a bit about how the Republicans have learned a thing or two:

We talk about the “Death Tax” and not the proper term, “Estate Tax.” Two little words—”Death Panels”—were capable of nearly derailing the best thing that’s happened to health insurance in this country in decades.

Um, yeah.

That was a good one, actually.  Smart Democrats went “wow – that WAS effective”.  Democrats with intellectual opportunities said “there’s no such thing!”, ignorant of how managed care has always worked.  Too much explaining for them to do; it was a great term.

Misleading?  Well, not really, not the way Republicans actually used it; in managed care, you do have a group of doctors, attorneys and administrators figuring out what treatments would and would not be cost-effective.  Is it a death panel?  If you were 95 and had liver failure and the group figured a liver transplant wasn’t the best use of a donor liver, yes, it could very well be.  What DO you call that group?  Is it different when it works for the government, as opposed to an HMO?  Of course!

But this isn’t about real explanations; this is about language:

Harvard-educated President Obama is universally considered “elite,” while Yale-educated George W. Bush is considered “down home.”

Give it a rest, Dems; not only did you spend eight years chanting that Bush was stupid, you’re the ones who claimed an Ivy League education one of Obama’s great qualifications!  Bill Maher – the exposed intellectual id of the Democratic Party on the national level, in the same way that “Two Putt Tommy” is for the Minnesota DFL – once “joked” “you hate Obama because he went to Harvard, and you resurface driveways for a living”.

So while this article is about using language to frame things, you sort of did his one yourself.  Just saying.

And it’s all a diversion, because the article actually is a useful primer on how framing is done.

As Progressive Democratic linguist George Lakoff explains it, this “framing” is crucial to how they’ve managed to win so much of the debate…This sleight-of-tongue has managed to manipulate at least half the country into believing things that simply are not true.

Well, yes and no.  Rhetoric – “framing” – is never about truth, and it’s never not about truth; it’s about using language to get people to believe things.

It can be a big, clumsy club, designed to woo the stupid – like Alliance For A Better Minnesota, whose “Tom Emmer Favorited Lowering DWI Penalties” gulled 43% of Minnesota’s less-gifted.  Or it can be incredibly subtle.

Ms. Klausen has some suggestions of her own – the aforementioned “five things” Democrats shouldn’t say:

1. Never say Entitlements.

–Instead, say Earned Benefits.

Which, worst case, would send Republicans into a frenzy of explaining that those benefits are almost never “earned”, while Democrats cash in all those votes from the dumb people whose egos they’ve stroked.

2. Never say Redistribution of Wealth.

–Instead, say Fair Wages For Work.

By which they mean “Fair Wages For Other Peoples’ Work”.

3. Never say Employer Paid Health Insurance.

–Instead, say Employee Earned Health Insurance.

That’d be a tough one to reframe.  My suggestion would be “unicorn-paid health insurance”.  That’s where Dems think money comes from.

4. Never say Government Spending.

–Instead, say The People Are Investing.

They’ve been trying this one for decades.

5. Never say Corporate America.

–Instead, say Unelected Corporate Government.

Now, this is the first genuinely dumb idea in the article, and I do hope the Democrats run with this one hard hard hard.

So as I’m working away at my day job today, paying for other peoples’ earned benefits and fair wages for my work, wondering what rathole the people elected by the dumb people are “investing” my money down, I’ll be watching for the Unelected Corporate Government Press Department doing this sort of framing for our good-heavens-not-elite President.

New Edition

My “DFL Dictionary” first came out in 2002.

The Dictionary – a glossary of terms that explain the world and English Language as the DFL sees them – has been pretty stable since then.  It’s time for an update.

I made an addition yesterday – “Intransigence: n. When a Republican sticks to their “principles”. (See also: “Princples”)”.

But we need more.

So – for the first time in almost a decade, I’m taking submissions for the DFL dictionary!

Times have changed.  The DFL hasn’t – not since 1972 – but it’s time the Dictionary did!   Please send me any definitions I’ve missed over the years, and I’ll get the update underway!

Leave your entries in the comment section.  Winning selections will be…well, included.

Correction

Earlier today, I wrote about an op-ed from over the weekend in the Strib.  Reading it, I assumed that the piece – by “Hinda Mandell”, formerly of Edina – was incredibly bad, overly over-the-top, broad-to-the-point-of-unfunny, stereotype-clogged parody.

Mandell is, in fact, a real person, with a twitter feed of her own; Ms. Mandell is apparently a real mid-level “communications” academic whose brief seems, ironicaly, to include parsing communication so finely for the wispiest hint of perceived victimization that “communication” of any type will eventually be rendered impossible.  The article was apparently on the level.  Not to mention the first thing I’ve ever read that was actually too dumb to be on Minnesota Progressive Project.

Ryan Rhodes figured it out before me – and after almost ten years of blogging, he’s just as worth reading as he ever was, by the way. He commemorated Ms. Mandell’s raving with the gifts of art…

and fisk.

Who says there’s a higher education bubble? Note to aspiring communication students: Avoid the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York, lest you come out of college much, much, MUCH dumber than when you went in.

Anyway – I guess there are a couple of lessons from this whole thing:

  • We have too many academics.
  • The higher ed bubble is about to explode. And when it does,and if (heaven forfend) Hinda Mandell has to find another gig, wouldn’t it be ironic if she had to get a job as a barrista?

I apologize for the error.

I’m off to tell my farmer friends to stop referring to “Hard Red Spring Wheat“, before Hinda Mandell claims they’re bigoted against Native Americans.

School Of Parody: Grade C-

An actor friend of mine tells me that the hardest roles to play are “dumb” people.  It’s easy to play the less-intelligent too broadly, like a bunch of “dumb people” cliches.  Making them sympathetic, nuanced and interesting?  That’s hard.

Parody is kinda the same.

The Twin Cities conservative blogosphere has more than its fair share of brilliant satirists and parodists – people who attack with humor, and by getting inside their targets’ styles, peccadillos…heads for comedic yet pointed effect.

The roll call is long and distinguished; “Sisyphus”, “Nihilist in Golf Pants”, “Wintryminx”, Brian “Saint Paul” Ward, Joe “Learned Foot” Tucci and Ryan “Dirty Shroom” Rhodes are all known quantities who dominate in print (and conservatives going by the names “Spotty”, “MNob” and “Phoenix Woman”, their true identities unknown, do spot-on sendups of smug, overpraised, overwrought “progressive” bloggers); Tom “Swiftee” Swift is by far the most talented, iconoclastic visual satirist in the Twin Cities; and of course, James Lileks is the Segovia of multimedia satire.

Doing good adversarial satire is like playing a dumb person; it’s easy to do badly, and very hard to do well.

So I’m puzzled as to who wrote this Strib parody masquerading as “op-ed”, entitled “The subtle racism around us (even in a cup of coffee)”.  With a stable of satirists like we have in the Twin Cities, we could certainly come up with something less over-broad and hamfisted.

For starters, the “writer” is “named” “Hinda Mandell”, and is purportedly an “assistant professor of Communications at Rochester Institute of Technology”, who graduated from Edina High in 1998.  Why not name “her” “Golda Schimmelfarb-Williams, adjunct visiting scholar in Victimization Studies at Radcliffe”, while you’re at it?  Have her come from North Oaks? Maybe have her complain about her asthma and constantly ask if it’s too cold in the room and start sentences with “oy vey” before nattering about white privilege?   If you’re going to run with the cliché, why not go all-in?

Cliché is not satire, and stereotype is not parody.

Anyway – with that out of the way, the piece is about that ultimate “progressive” cliché, hYpStR coffee!

What do you do when a favorite coffee shop features various coffee blends with racially tinged names?

Just a tangent here; twenty years ago, when gourmet coffee shops were a new thing, and I would order a cup at the Dunn Brothers by Macalester College.  And I’d occasionally ask – “are all you liberals aware that the coffee you’re ordering, from Ethiopia and Java and the Celebes and Peru and Venezuela, supports a lot of ugly, authoritarian regimes?”

They’d stare blankly.

Just a tangent.  Apropos nothing.

Emphasis is added below as “Ms. Mandell” continues:

I was sitting in this beloved joint in New York recently, with its hipster-hippie ambiance, when I overheard a conversation. I’m convinced that the barista and customer, both white, were oblivious to the racially charged nature of their utterances.

Asked the customer: “What type of roast is the Jungle Roast?”

The barista, who looked on the younger side of 20, answered: “It’s a darker roast.”

I sat there flabbergasted. These two women were engaging in a practical conversation — is the coffee a light or dark brew?

But because of the name of the roast — and its richer flavor — they were in fact reinforcing the notion of the jungle and its people as “dark.”

Now, this is funny – but pretty rote.  An overweening liberal petty academic,finding racism in coffee?  It’s freshman level stuff.

Perhaps you think I’m making too much of a simple exchange.

Oy.  To the serious parodist, saying “maybe you think I’m making too much of this” is like waving a sign saying “I’M PRETENDING TO HAVE THE VAPORS FOR COMEDIC EFFECT.  PLEASE LAUGH NOW”.

And, unfortunately, it’s a rookie flub that telegraphs a descent into hamfisted absurdity rather than good parody:

But consider, too, that while eavesdropping I was sipping on a luscious coffee blend that the shop calls Jamaica Me Crazy. It’s seasoned with fresh cinnamon. Maybe that’s what they drink in Jamaica? I don’t know, since I’ve never been there.

But I do know that if the coffee was labeled Protestants A Plenty, Catholics Be Crazy, Jews be Jivin’ or Blacks Be Boppin’, there would be an uproar. Of course, Protestants and Catholics, as part of the religious mainstream, do not typically face the brunt of prejudice in the United States.

As I drank my French Roast this morning, trying to recover from last night’s Irish coffee and Swedish meatballs, I shook my head.  Too obvious.

And most know that intolerance against Jews and blacks is not publicly accepted. Blatant bigotry is easy to spot, while covert bigotry — where an entire group is used to sell coffee — can be easier to stomach and therefore ignore.

Right there – that’s the bit that threw it over the top.

The key to great parody is painting a picture of your target that is just sympathetic enough to be plausible.  It’s the touch that separates a good parody – Dwight Schrute, for example – from a bad one, like Stephen Colbert.  Is Hinda Mandell sympathetic?  About as sympathetic as a turd on your kitchen floor – a turd that nags and hectors you about the racial overtones of the dark stain you used on your bedroom floor!

It’s been nearly a decade since I learned one of my biggest life lessons. Difference is all about perception.

For instance, perceiving that coffee that is roasted to a darker hue is “dark”?

Seirously – calling this “satire” is like calling someone who walks onstage and bellows “Durrrr! I am teh DUMMY!” “acting”.  Whoever is writing this “Mandell” character just swerved past parody into group defamation.

I mean, how is this – “Durr, I am a spoiled, cossetted pseudo-academic who draws lessons that impugn others from my own provincialism!” – any different?

Do I embarrass the cafe manager by saying something? Do I become complicit by ordering a medium Jamaica Me Crazy with steamed milk, please?

Yes, unknown parodist – we got it.  ”Hinda Mandell” is tortured by the racism in the mundane.  Let it go.  I’ve given up on finding a reason to like “her”; I’d settle for believing “she” was plausible.

Deciphering these messages might be the easier part. Figuring out what to do with them afterward is a lot harder.

The scary part is, someone apparently wants us to believe we have an entire academic discipline to help people “figure out” “hidden racist messages” in everyday objects – if you believe that “Hinda Mandell” is real.

But I think we all know better.

Chanting Points Memo: They Really Think You’re Idiots

Back in college, when I was still a liberal, I was involved in the elections for the leadership of the Young Progressives.

I campaigned in favor of Rebekah Zildjian-Grothman.  Her opponent, Joshua-Micah Belcher, got wind of this.

“Mitch – don’t drop out of college if I win!”, he said at a meeting.

“I had no plans to”.   It seemed simple enough.

Oddly enough, all his posters had fine print at the bottom; I was standing by the bulletin board outside the cafeteria when Angie Schlegel pointed it out;  “I disclaim responsibility if Mitch Berg drops out of college shoul I happen to win”.

Angie looked at me, concerned; I shrugged my shoulders.  “I have no idea what he’s talking about”, I said, baffled.

The election happened.  Joshua – excuse me, Joshua-Micah – won.  As he gave his acceptance speech, he looked at me.  “And now, we’re going to watch Mitch Berg kill himself!”.  He reached into his pocket and handed me a “Withdraw From College” form.

“Huh?”

“You were going to drop out of college if I won!”

I threw the form back at him.  “That was a story you made up…” I started.

“Don’t change the subject!”, he bellowed.

———-

The DFL’s current “tactic” (scare quotes fully intentional) is, if anything, dumber than my fictional story above.

Let’s walk through the facts:

  1. While setting up the 2010-2011 budget back in 2009, the DFL-dominated legislature, using the auto-pilot formula they use for these things, forecast a budget of almost $39 billion.  The increase – 21%, overall – was predicated on inflation (relatively low) and putative increase in demand for services.  The forecast was nothing more than the DFL’s wish list. it was focused entirely – 100% – on forecast increases in demand and price.  Nothing more.
  2. The leadership of the then-DFL-controlled legislature subtracted the then-forecast revenues – around $32 billion – from the forecast, and declared that there would be a “$6.2 billion deficit”, primarily to put pressure on then-governor Tim Pawlenty.
  3. The GOP – first during the Emmer campaign, and then after the November elections – declared that they could do a budget that would live within what were forecast to be government’s means; as of 2009, that was $32 billion.
  4. During the 2010 Governor race, Mark Dayton made it clear that he was going to treat the $39 billion forecast as the gospel for the budget.
  5. In response, Tom Emmer made it clear he and the GOP would not raise taxes, but force government to live within its means (and reform the system to help that happen.
  6. Once it became clear that revenues were going to rise.  Tom Emmer made it a key part of his campaign; “living within our means” meant $33 or $34 billion.  Not $32 billion.
  7. Emmer lost – but the MNGOP swept to commanding majorities in both chambers of the legislature.
  8. The new GOP majorities made it clear that they were not going to raise taxes; that living within our means, and reforming our government and tax systems to make that possible were the orders of the day.
  9. Time marched on.
  10. Mark Dayton released his budget – which was greeted with all the enthusiasm of Vanilla Ice’s sophomore album.  Last week, Dayton had make a grand show of telling the DFL not to vote for his budget when the GOP brought it to the floor – to cover the fact that nobody was going to anyway.

At this point, the DFL knew what was coming; that the revenue forecast was going to show exactly what Emmer predicted, that government’s “means” were going to grow to $34 billion, and the GOP was going to use that fact.

And so they started perhaps the most cynical, transparently-desperate political memes I can remember – worse than my ol’ buddy Joshua-Micah’s, from so many years back:

The GOP’s all-cuts budget is late!  And if it’s not all cuts, then they’ve failed!

Put concisely, it was “the party that released all-tax-hike budgets in mid-April the past four years wants you get outraged that the GOP is releasing a balanced, no-tax-hike budget in March”.

The GOP released its budget last week – a budget that lives within government’s means – those means being $34 billion in revenue.  And the DFL’s chant-bots have been trying to cash that meme in.

House Minority leader Paul Thissen launched a broadside on the House DFL caucus Facebook page:

Apparently, “living within our means” is not as easy as the Republicans made it seem to Minnesotans on the campaign trail. Republicans promised Minnesotans that $32 billion was more than enough to balance the budget and that it could be done holding school children, seniors, and the disabled harmless.

And Thissen is lying.  The GOP never said “government’s means” was $32 billion, now and forever.

Today’s release of Republican budget targets proves that the magic act Republicans promised Minnesotans is running into hard reality. The $32 billion that was enough a week ago is now more than $34.

Thissen, and the DFL’s, plan is pretty transparent.  With a weak governor, no legislative power, and a $39 billion wish list, they are trying to convince Tea Partiers – including the moderate DFLers that deserted the party last fall – that the GOP, the party of no tax hikes and the $34 billion budget, are the spendthrifts.

This is the hallmark of a party that is desperate for a win – and fully confident that the media will not seriously question them about such a transparent bit of spin.

As a result, middle-class Minnesota taxpayers should start guarding their wallets against a Republican pick-pocket budget characterized by hidden taxes.

That’s another oldie but goodie, a very cynical bit of carefully-waterboarded context; “if the government cuts LGA, it will hike property taxes”.  That is, of course, the job of the local governments involved.  It has nothing to do with the legislature.

And hard-working Minnesotans should also guard their jobs. We know that the Republican budget will do more harm to Minnesota’s fragile economic recovery than a balanced approach. Cutting nearly 50% of Jobs and Economic Development, raising property taxes – the largest tax businesses pay already, and slashing the workforce are a recipe for job killing, not job creation.

Another bit of cynical distortion; the “Jobs and Economic Development” spending creates very few jobs and very little economic development, for the money we’ve poured into it.

Republicans heralded $300 million in new tax cuts for middle and lower income earners.

And that is a lie.  The “new taxes” will come from city councils, who can no longer camouflage their own spending by having state taxpayers subsidize it for the.  And as we showed last year, those city councils are run by DFLers.

Playing poker with a pair of deuces, Thissen is passing on the most transparently cynical set of chanting points I can recall in all my years of watching Minnessota politcs.  Thissen can get away with these statements – lies, grossly-waterboarded context – because he knows the mainstream media statewide won’t disturb his narrative.

Gary Gross at Let Freedom Ring responded as well;  you should read the whole thing.  Money quote:

I’ll just be blunt. Rep. Thissen isn’t an impressive leader. His credibility doesn’t exist because his constant sky-is-falling predictions aren’t believable. People might or might not agree with the Republicans’ plan. I suspect more do than don’t because that’s how they voted in November and because people understand that spending $34 billion is substantially more than spending $30.7 billion.

Gary’s right.

Worst case?  That’s what the DFL is counting on; the idea that there are enough Tea Partiers who will see “Two Billion more in spending”, and ignore the “that’s what we have”.

Years ago, I heard a great cliche while I was playing poker. That cliche applies to this situation. Sometimes, the best way to throw a hand is away. The DFL’s hand is awful. Their plans aren’t that appealing. It’s time for the DFL to admit that it’s time to throw this hand away and return to the proverbial drawing board. They won’t win this hand with the hand they’re playing.

I wish I could be as sanguine as Gary.  The DFL is counting on there being a majority of the population that pays no attention beyond the chanting points they and their compliant media present for them.  The last election showed he’s a little over 43% right.

The message, if it comes up at the water cooler?  The GOP budget lives within the state’s means, without needing to jack up taxes to do it.  There are hikes, there are cuts – but it’s a sane, sensible budget for tough times.

Thissen, like my old pal Joshua-Micah Belcher, thinks if he can deny it often and loudly enough, people will believe it.

NOTE: I know, I know – neither my college friends Zildjian-Grothman nor Belcher actually existed.