Footloose

Photoshop out the football and you’ve pretty much recreated Chris Kluwe’s latest press conference

The most famous (or is it infamous?) punter in modern history tries to pin the Minnesota Vikings against their end zone.

Well, in his defense, he no longer has a job to be so focused on.

Chris Kluwe may possess a number of less-than-desirable qualities, but the former punter’s media savvy remains arguably his strongest suit.  Since leveling accusations against the Minnesota Vikings, in particular special teams coach Mike Priefer, of fostering an atmosphere of homosexual hatred which led to his firing by “two cowards and a bigot,” Kluwe has remained relatively quiet.  Perhaps partially motivated by a press corps seemingly less willing to believe him, or realizing that his legal strategy depended upon him dragging many of his former teammates into the mix, Kluwe and his representation had said little about the Vikings’ independent investigation in the past seven months.

That changed Tuesday as Kluwe charged that the Vikings’ investigation has concluded and that the lack of public disclosure over the findings proved Kluwe’s allegations of bigotry:

The onetime punter said Tuesday the team is “reneging on a promise” to release a copy of its completed investigation of alleged anti-gay sentiments expressed by special teams coach Mike Priefer during the 2012 season.

Kluwe and his attorney, Clayton Halunen, announced at a morning news conference that they will file suit against the Vikings alleging discrimination on the grounds of religion, human rights, defamation and “torturous interference for contractual relations.”

The move is self-aggrandizing and potentially premature (the Vikings said the independent investigatory group would provide a report this week).  Had the press conference included accusations of the team of being “lustful c**kmonsters,” it would have been vintage Kluwe.

It was also a somewhat smart public relations ploy.  Now, whenever Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi L.L.P release their findings, Kluwe can claim his pressure forced the team to do so.  And Kluwe’s willingness to forgo a lawsuit for a monetary settlement that goes towards an LGBT cause also assists both the Vikings, in helping the issue go away faster, and Kluwe himself as even old media allies questioned the punter’s motivations (the KFAN Morning Show, who often gave Kluwe free-rein to voice his opinions on all matter of subjects, openly wondered if he was making a money grab this morning).

But “somewhat smart” isn’t the same as “smart.”  Kluwe’s strategy only truly works if the independent investigation proves some or all of Kluwe’s anecdotes, in particular his claim that Mike Priefer suggested moving gay people to an island and hitting it with a nuclear bomb.  Not unlike the current Jesse Ventura defamation suit, Kluwe’s case ultimately comes down to a “he said/he said” legal battle.  Even if Kluwe is 100% accurate in quoting Vikings’ staff, he would still have to prove a correlation between comments like Priefer’s and his cutting in 2013.  The Vikings can respond about Kluwe’s declining skills and (for the position) high salary – reasons that even Kluwe cited…when cut last summer by the Oakland Raiders.

The outcome of the investigation – or any following legal action – may be pointless.  Kluwe’s defenders will continue to insist the end of his career was due to his gay rights activism, and not his next-to-last finish for punts inside the 20-yard line while making $1.45 million.  Kluwe’s detractors will continue to be maligned as being bothered by his politics rather than his penchant for vulgar name-calling to anyone who doesn’t share his views (on gay rights or other subjects).

Other than attorneys or an LGBT charity, it’s hard pressed to see who benefits from this continued fight.

To Those Who Say “You Can’t Legislate Morality”…

…and keeping in mind that I’m speaking in general, not necessarily about the “gay marriage” thing (and further keeping in mind that I barely believe in straight marriage as it’s currently done, much less the gay variety), let’s try a little thought experiment.

The next time someone offends you, carry out an honor killing (whatever your ethnic background, it’s probably been part of your culture at some point in the near or distant past).

See how very much we do legislate morality.  And pretty damn successfully.

Honor killing is an integral part of many cultures’ version of “morality” even today (and most cultures, if you go back far enough).   Ours, recently (as in “within the past 100 years” in some parts of the country) decided it’s not any more.  And they legislated it.

Ditto owning slaves, or having multiple spouses – although there’s no logical reason we won’t have the latter back within a generation.

That slogan “you can’t legislature morality” has always bugged me.

Bad Lieutenant

Can you fog a mirror? Then you too can be a lieutenant governor!

As Yvonne Prettner Solon bids farewell to the office of Lieutenant Governor, should Minnesota do so as well?

When it comes to political shockwaves, the announcement that Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon would not seek a second-term as Mark Dayton’s running-mate barely constitutes a ripple in the political waters.  And why not?  Over the past four years, Prettner Solon joined a long and undistinguished list of Minnesota lieutenant governors who served their time largely under the radar of the media and electorate.  Even Prettner Solon’s own webpage touts her “actions” as a small collection of out-of-state/out-of-country travels, with a dash of in-state touring on behalf of federal initiatives (helpfully spelling as a typo as well).

Prettner Solon’s (in)actions say less about her tenure than about the limitations of the office of lieutenant governor itself.

John Nance Garner’s infamous quote about the Vice-Presidency as “not worth a bucket of warm piss” (often sanitized as “warm spit”) might as well apply to Minnesota’s lieutenant governors.  With perhaps the exception of Lt. Gov. Carol Molnau, who served as the commission of Transportation in the Pawlenty administration, Minnesota’s lieutenant governors have served almost no active role in policy direction or political leadership.

Indeed, the trend-lines for the state’s lieutenant governors have seemingly further minimized an insignificant position.  Whereas past lieutenant governors had gone on to serve in higher office, such as Rudy Perpich, Sandy Keith, Karl Rolvaag, C. Elmer Anderson and Edward Thye, the past several decades haven’t even seen lieutenant governors make a post-office political impact.  Joanne Benson, Joanell Dyrstad, and Marlene Johnson all made bids for higher office in the 1990s (Governor, U.S. Senate and St. Paul Mayor, respectfully) and lost – badly.  None of them even made to the general election.

All of this begs the question – does Minnesota require a Lieutenant Governor?

Seven states forgo the position, with two of those states, Tennessee and West Virginia, having the office of lieutenant governor be only an honorary title on the Speaker or President of the State Senate.  The line of succession, often the only value to the office, goes either to the Senate President or the Secretary of State.  In Minnesota, about the only other value to the office is as a gender counterweight to the top of the ticket.  Lou Wangberg was the last male lieutenant governor of the state – a fact useful only as trivia for political nerds.  Otherwise, every winning ticket (and most of the losing tickets) have had a female running-mate since 1982.

Closing the office of lieutenant governor won’t save Minnesota much.  The combined office budgets of the Governor and his lieutenant are only $3.3 million.  But if Minnesota could willingly end a constitutional office like State Treasurer, which had at least some active management in state affairs, then why not do the same for a office that has strayed far from any meaningful policy or political moorings?  Every candidate for governor claims they will reinvent the office of lieutenant governor with their selection.  Dayton himself promised that Prettner Solon would become a “strong partner” if elected.  If travelling to Canada and opening a Duluth office were parts of Dayton’s idea of partnership, he didn’t say in 2010.

Outside of the endorsement process for both parties, the role of lieutenant governor serves absolutely no purpose.  And in an era where it appears both parties are drifting away from placing much value on being the endorsed candidate for governor, whatever justifications remain for the office are quickly disappearing.

ADDENDUM: Even Prettner Solon seems to have expected more out of her office, if her comments at her press conference were accurate:

She has said she and the governor have a distant relationship. She said she anticipated being more involved in more policy initiatives as lieutenant governor, but she carved out a niche of her own working on initiatives for seniors and Minnesotans with disabilities.

Deleted Extras

Minnesota’s Film & Television Board faces a legislative re-write.

Like Hollywood, Minnesota’s relationship with the entertainment industry has seen a tumultuous career trajectory.  From being the ingenue of Midwestern locations in the 1990s, resulting in a bevy of films such as Fargo, Grumpy Old Men, The Mighty Ducks, to a discarded destination left in favor of Canada, Minnesota’s greatest entertainment legacy seemed to come more from the state’s exports (the Coen brothers; Diablo Cody) than production imports.

Left in Hollywood’s wake, two institutions survived – a small, but dedicated core of film and television technical professionals and the bureaucratic Minnesota Film and Television Board.  One group has created jobs; the other has lobbyists and now $10 million in tax incentives:

Six months after receiving a record $10 million to lure films to the state, the Minnesota Film & TV Board is under fire, with some legislators and industry insiders questioning whether it should exist at all.

Legislative Auditor Jim Nobles’ concerns about the board have escalated to a point where he plans to seek a formal examination of it next month, when the legislative session begins. If the evaluation is unfavorable, funding for the program known as “Snowbate,” and even the board’s future, could be in jeopardy….

“In addition to an audit, an evaluation is really needed to address broad policy questions,” Nobles said. “Should the state be involved in supporting the film industry? If yes, what would be the most effective approach, and who should be in charge of that effort?”

The fate of the “Snowbate” and the Film Board itself seems to be a movie stuck on an infinite loop.  In the mid 2000s, and as recently as 2010, the necessity and/or effectiveness of the Film Board was constantly being called into question, as few films chose Minnesota as their location – even those scripted as taking place in the state.  Leatherheads, New in Town, Juno, Jennifer’s Body, Contagion and Young Adult all take place in Minnesota and with the modest exception of a few scenes of Young Adult, none shot a second of footage in the state.  Other films, like Homefront or Gran Torino were rewritten to reflect moving the location to outside Minnesota.

The Film Board has countered that they do create jobs, suggesting numbers as high as 338 full-time positions in return for $3.3 million in subsidies.  But film and television work, by its nature, is not “full-time” but merely temporary.  And considering the increasingly broad definitions of the Snowbate guidelines to include advertising campaigns and web-based content, it would appear that all the Snowbate is accomplishing is subsidizing temporary Minnesota-based work, not bringing in funds or employment from out of state.

Minnesota isn’t the only state that’s reexamining whether or not film tax credits actually bring in revenue.  Indeed, the trend-line seems to be going the other direction:

…It’s hard to get a good handle on the exact impact of an in-state movie production. In most places, the only reports on movie-production revenue and jobs come from the state film office–or the movie industry itself. Objective studies are relatively hard to come by. And even where independent studies of film incentives do exist, the data can easily be interpreted in myriad ways.

Take Massachusetts, which has offered a 25 percent film incentive since 2006 and already has attracted numerous big-name projects and stars, including Tom Cruise, Cameron Diaz, Leonardo DiCaprio and Mel Gibson. The Bay State is one of only a couple that require an annual, independent report on how the incentives are performing. When the most recent report was released by the Department of Revenue in July 2009, tax-incentive opponents said it unequivocally showed the credits weren’t working. According to the report, the state paid out $113 million in movie tax credits in 2008, while filming in the state generated $17.5 million in new tax revenue and created about 1,100 full-time-equivalent jobs for state residents.

Lost in the discussion is why so many films were attracted to Minnesota in the first place – the filmmakers were from here.  Mighty Ducks‘ director Mark Steven Johnson is a Hastings native.  Joe Somebody‘s writer John Scott Shepherd worked in the Twin Cities.  Thin Ice‘s director Jill Sprecher is a Wisconsin/Minnesota native.  And the list of below-the-line production people from Minnesota in Hollywood – the casting directors, the location scouts – is extensive.  Relatively few economic incentives were required (or even existed) in the 1990s to encourage filmmakers.  The same appears true today.  The limits of the Snowbate didn’t seem to stop the Coen brothers from shooting 2009′s A Serious Man in their hometown of St. Louis Park.

Minnesota isn’t going to win a contest of who can subsidize more Hollywood fare for little (or no) economic return.  And if even a navy-blue political state like Massachusetts can realize that film tax credits only result in a state being taken advantage of like a young actress on a casting couch, Minnesota might be able to come to a similar conclusion.

Memorial Day

On Veterans Day, you thank the servicemen  you can.

On Memorial Day, you remember the ones you can’t.

Today I’ll be doing what I do most Memorial Days – stopping by the memorial to the USS Swordfish, which I wrote about a few years ago - on my way about all the rest of the things the day brings.

Hope you have a good day, and that you all remember why we have the day off.

It Needs Occasional Reiteration

This was forwarded to me in an email chain the other day – one of those “please forward to your friends” kinds of things.

Now, I never, ever forward email.   I probably don’t even forward email that I should, sometimes.

But this, I figured, was worth forwarding to a lot more people than I could ever pick out of my email address book:

Holocaust denial isn’t exactly mainstream today – but since I first interviewed high-profile revisionist Ernst Zündel in 1987, it’s gotten a lot less outlandish, too.

And that’s bad; the worst evils are the ones that have become banal and commonplace.

Fifty Shades of Biden

It’s not the size of the gaffe that counts, it’s the motion of the back-pedaling

Joe Biden isn’t known for subtext – just text.

While the national media has treated Biden as something between a 21st Century Spiro Agnew and that crazy uncle who overstays his welcome during the holidays, Republicans have (dare I say?) celebrated Joe’s Bidenisms as occasional forays into the truth.  If Barack Obama represents the modern Democratic Party’s super ego, Biden represents it’s id – the innate instinctive impulses and primary processes.

All of which makes Joe’s latest bombast not terribly surprising:

Campaigning in southern Virginia on Tuesday, Vice President Biden told an audience that Mitt Romney’s approach to regulating the financial industry will “put y’all back in chains,” a remark that triggered a flurry of Republican criticism, including a sharp rebuke from the presumptive GOP presidential nominee.

“Look at their budget and what they’re proposing,” Biden said. “Romney wants to let the – he said in the first hundred days, he is going to let the big banks once again write their own rules. Unchain Wall Street. They are going to put y’all back in chains.”

Biden made the comments at the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research in Danville, where he kicked off a two-day campaign tour of southern and southwestern Virginia. He spoke before what appeared to be a racially varied audience of 900 people, and one prominent Republican suggested that his language could be interpreted as racially divisive.

The fallout fell on equally predictable lines.  The Romney camp tweeted that the comments were “outrageous” and reporters spent the afternoon filing bylines with stories repeating the VP’s gaffe.  If anything didn’t go according to script, it was the Democrat response – refusing to acknowledge any error in judgement and actually doubling down on the comment.  Biden’s attempt at “clarifying” his words still repeated the claim that Romney/Ryan would “shackle” the middle class.

Are Biden’s comments “outrageous”?  No, not by comparison to the media’s attempt to quasi-defend them by providing the sort of context that often seems to be missing from similar Republican errors.  Soledad O’Brien led off Anderson Cooper’s 360 by looping numerous Republican officials using the term “unshackle” (ergo, Biden was justified).  Politico decried the “death of the high-minded campaign” and despite having only one negative Romney example (in which he hit Biden for a 2007 comment about coal killing more Americans than terrorists), the website placed cover page photos of both contenders, suggesting that both camps have equally contributed to the debasing of the campaign.

Such defenders of context were no where to be found just days ago when Mitt Romney’s factual ad hitting Obama’s new welfare policies had politicos and pundits seeing racial politics.  Dan Milbank even unleashed a column that Romney’s ad “incites bigotry.”  Perhaps a conservative commentator will rush to pen a piece that explains how Biden’s comments were an attempt at “dog whistle” politics to African-American voters that not only will get published in a major newspaper but go by unchallenged by the Praetorian Guard of the Old Media.  But I wouldn’t suggest anyone hold their breath.

The issue shouldn’t be whether or not Joe Biden said something racial but that its become an acceptable part of the political discourse to accuse your opponents of putting voters in a form of bondage that doesn’t involve a safe word.  Such a mangled attempt to turn a phrase may pass for the talking heads at MSNBC or on whatever ham radio frequency that Air America continues broadcasting from, but without negative consequences, politicians will continue to feel free to double down on the harshest language possible.

Animal Farm

In 2004, lefty commentator Thomas Frank published a book “What’s The Matter With Kansas” – which analyzed the growing conservative majority in America’s heartland…

…in the most patronizing, contemptuous way I’d heard until the mainstream media’s response to the Tea Party five years later.  Frank hammered on the idea that conservatives in the heartland were “voting against their interests” by voting Conservative.

The ‘Interests”, of course, were limited to “having government take care of you, provided you send it enough taxes” (my phrase, not Frank’s)..  ”Kansas” – Frank’s home state on the one hand, and his and every lefty pundit’s short-hand for “all those dumb rubes I left behind when I went to an Ivy League school” on the other – has “interests” that begin with getting farm subsidies and end with single-payer health care.

Frank’s thesis, in other words?  States, and citizens, are dependents.  Like pets.  Like a herd of cattle for which a noble farmer is responsible; it’s in the cattle’s interest to make the farmer’s life easy.  Or maybe like children – little people who aren’t quite fully formed, who depend on the older, wiser, parents to keep them on the straight and narrow until a majority that never comes.

And it highlit one of the big disputes between “progressives” and conservatives:  what is the role of a person, a citizen?  To a liberal, it’s “vote when told to vote, pay your taxes when told to pay taxes, and don’t get in the way”.  To a conservative, it’s to be one of the free association of equals that consents to having a government, and – make no mistake – controls that government.

This argument came to the nation, and Minnesota, this past few months.

Last spring, Representative Mary Franson from the Alexandria area took nationwide heat for a comment which some of the local Sorosphere’s ‘dimmer bulbs yanked out of context (and a few of the less less-bright ones correctly called out as a dumb hit) which was, in its entirety, correct; long-term dependence on welfare does, in fact, treat people like animals.  Like pets, at best; little critters for whose well-being the master – the owner, or government, depending on which end of the metaphor you’re talking about – is responsible.

And about the same time the Sorosphere was denouncing Franson with florid indignation, the Obama Administration came out and proved that Franson was exactly right – that the government did in fact see citizens as monochromatic consumers, as ivestock, dependent on their owner/master/government for their ongoing wellbeing, with the fabulously inept and gloriously spoof-worthy and, beyond that, downright Orwellian “Julia” campaign.

David Clemens – in a piece called “Elvis Vs. Julia”, which is actually a defense of humanities education, the discipline of studying the why of humanity, which is in its entirely worth a read for its own sake - cuts to the reason “progressives” attitudes about the government / citizen relationship, as revleated by “Julia” are not just toxic, but dehumanizing:

This is why selling the Julia concept frightens me. She doesn’t yearn to be free, like a human; she yearns to be kept. Julia embraces the piano key life that the president offers, and like W. H. Auden’s Unknown Citizen, she will act and behave predictably, she will choose and think correctly.

But in literature (and life) we recoil from those who trade freedom for safety nets and soft landings. The great anti-utopian novelists warned us over and over what happens when we make that bargain: George Orwell’s Winston Smith, Aldous Huxley’s John Savage, Yevgeny Zamyatin’s D-503 would rather suffer or die than join the Party, take the soma, or blend into the One State.

So what I find most chilling about the Julia ad concept is its creators’ cynical view of Americans, particularly women. And what if her creators are right? As Michael Walsh writes, “It’s tough to accept that perhaps a majority of our fellow Americans would cheerfully trade liberty for a false sense of security.” That is, how many workforce-ready but literature-free voters see The Life of Julia and find her flat, subsidized, feckless life desirable? With the liberal arts in decline, how many “miss the connection?” One must have been exposed to Orwell, Huxley, and Zamyatin in order to see their relationship to Julia and hear the warning.

Clearly, much of the left does – or, worse, “gets it”, but feels the trade is worthwhile, or worst of all, sees themselves as the “shepherds” needed to manage all of us sheep, or Julias, or whatever line of metaphor you want to run with.

A perennial question that divides the political left and right is this: what sort of beings are we? Do we have an immutable, perhaps transcendent, nature that will surrender everything utopia for autonomy, agency, and freedom (Elvis) [who, it might be said, rebelled against the very security that his phenomenally-successful career ]? Or is there no inherent nature, and humans are just socially constructed, plastic, seeking nothing but safety and a reliable sense of well-being (Julia)? Political Science, Psychology, and Anthropology cannot answer that question, and the sciences can only measure what is measurable. The liberal arts and humanities, however, insist that we are like Elvis, and that those who trade liberty for comfort always live to regret it.

Well, some humanities observe this.  Others are waiting on their next NEH grant.

But the real question is – which is a better reflection of what humans are, and can be?  Conservatism, with its immutable standards and great consequences and sometimes greater hurdles?  Or a life bellied up to the government trough, like the one Obama and Mark Dayton clearly see for us?

What’s the matter with Kansas – and with Kansans like us?

We’re human, and we want to stay that way.

False Authority

Joe Doakes of Como Park writes:

See, this is why I hate lawyers who write social commentary:. They commit the most obvious logical fallacy and expect us to ignore the error but genuflect to their credentials.

“As leaders of law firms, we write in our individual capacity.” What the Hell does that mean? Does that mean “Every lawyer in the entire Big Shot law firm opposes . . . “ or does it mean “Some guys who work at the Big Shot law firms oppose . . . ?” Clearly, “individual” means NOT on behalf of the firms; they’re writing as individual lawyers like any of 35,000 other lawyers in Minnesota.

But they’re lawyers and it’s a legal issue, doesn’t that add weight to their opinions? But it’s not a legal issue. If it were, the matter would be settled in court where lawyers’ opinions might matter. This is a legislative issue to be settled in the ballot box, an issue on which the opinions of every citizen are equally valid. Lawyers – even those at big law firms – get one vote each, same as the rest of us. Their law licenses adds no weight to their opinions.

But they work at Big Shot law firms, doesn’t that add weight to their opinions? No, it means for 20 years of schooling they were the most outstanding test-takers, brown-nosers, box-checkers and teacher’s-opinion-regurgitators so they got better grades and therefore got hired by big name firms. They may have higher IQs than you and I, but this isn’t an IQ test so that doesn’t make their opinions more valuable than ours. The firm name adds no weight to the writers’ opinions.

But they’re the managing partners, the guys who run the firms. They manage dozens, maybe hundreds of employees, doesn’t that add weight? Why should the individual personal opinion of the managing partner at Big Shot law firm on a social issue be entitled to more weight than the managing archbishop of the local diocese or the manager of the local road construction company? Why should the manager’s opinion on a social issue be entitled to more weight than the employees’ opinions? Just because you’re management instead of labor doesn’t give you any special insight into how basic societal units should be structured, whether “family” should be one-man-one-woman, same sex, or plural. No, being the managing partners adds no weight to their opinions.

“Appeal to Authority” is a fundamental logical fallacy and they commit it in the very first sentence of the column. Their opinions have no more weight than mine and “Because I said so” quit working when I was 5 years old. With that poison opener, the rest of the column doesn’t stand a chance of persuading me these writers have the authority to instruct me how I should vote on this issue. I’ll make up my own mind, thank you very much.

Joe Doakes

Como Park

RIght.  But Democrats, being fundamentally hive creatures, tend to defer to authority first, and ask questions later.

Defining

As it happens, APM’s “Public Insight Network” is asking about the same bit fof the State of the Union that stuck in my craw the other night.

In his State of the Union Address to Congress, President Obama talked about what he called “the basic American promise” — that if people worked hard, they could afford a home, college for their kids and some savings for retirement.

Is that still YOUR expectation of America?

They’ve put it in the form of a survey question.

My answer went a little something like this:  It’s one of the questions that defines the difference between conservatives and liberals.

In my world, America isn’t defined by our government or any material possessions or financial status symbols.  It’s about opportunity and liberty; the opportunity to succeed by dint of my merits and talents (or fail through the lack of them).

My “expectation of America” is that the government that I elect will shut up and get out of the way and let private enterprise – me – take care of things.

That pretty much covers it!

Will The Real Conservative Please Stand Up, Part II – Dead Presidents

In a sense, this is one of the most glorious elections I’ve seen in a quarter century; for the first time, there is no “moderate” Republican.

“But wait!  Romney’s a moderate!”.

Well, by some standards, and on some issues, sure.  But as I started explaining Monday, there are really three main currents in American conservatism:  about this for quite a while; we have…:

  • Northeastern Conservatism:  Comfortable with big government (and generally very hawkish on law-and-order issues), but generally pro-business and anti-government-intervention, at least in re the economy.  We’re talking Romney, Giuliani, Chris Christie, the earlier Rockefellers, and George H. W. Bush….
  • Southern Conservatives:   Think Mike Huckabee and, to an extent, George W. Bush. We’ll come back to that later.  Anyway – standing well aside and hectoring them both – these days, from the high ground, in virtual control of the GOP grass roots – are the…
  • Western Conservatives:  Libertarian on social issues (at least as re government is concerned) and budget hawks.  They are big on Small Government.  Ron Paul is as far out as the GOP gets in this department; most of us Hayek buffs fit in here.
Anyway – I read something yesterday that kinda made for a good explanation for the uninitiated, to try to help them untangle the whole “who is a conservative” bit.More tomorrow.

I was reading this bit here, by Walter Russell Mead, on the legacy of the battle between Hamilton and Jefferson in the founding of the Republican.

Jefferson, of course, was the godfather of the libertarians; he believed in a weak federal government facilitating a very decentralized nation run, at the end of the day, by a free association of equals.  He believed the US should reside in splendid isolation, at least as re intervening in foreign affairs (until the Barbary pirates became too big an issue to ignore, politically or economically, at which point he created the Navy and Marine Corps we have today.

Hamilton?  He believed in a republic led by an elite that had the power to intervene in society – including a strong federal government.  Hamiltonians are a big part of why the US is a major world power.  They’re an even bigger part of why we have a huge national debt and a rampant national bureaucracy.

And both Hamilton and Jefferson appear both to the right and left of center; “Progressive” Hamiltonians are behind everything from the New Deal to, well, everything Obama has done.  Conservative Hamiltonians – think “Northeastern Conservatives” – believe in federal power, if not necessarily the bureaucracy to feed off that power (for example, the conservative case for the healthcare individual mandate).   Southern Conservatives?  They’re a lot more Hamiltonian than you might think; it was federal power that brought the South into the 20th and 21st centuries.  Western conservatives are Jeffersonian, to a degree – except, in many cases, on defense.

So to a degree, nobody is a purist.

The last 100-years of American history has been largely Hamiltonianism run amok.

But what about our politics today?

Here’s my attempt to illustrate our current field:

All of this leads up to talking about the Mead article I cited above. More on that later this week.

The Ostentatiously Alinski-matic Smear Machine

The Usual Suspects is one of my favorite movies.

In the movie, the legendary arch-criminal and unseen (?) antagonist, the Turkish uber-villain Keyser Söze, operates by the adage that to win, you need to be willing to go further than your opponent is – whatever that means.  To Söze, when his family was taken hostage by his drug-smuggling rivals, it meant killing the family first, as the rivals watched, dumb-struck – and then the rivals, leaving one alive to tell the rest of the cartel (before Söze killed him, and the rest of the cartel, and their families).

It makes for a great bit of movie characterization.

For politics in a representative republic?

Not quite as good.

———-

I’ve had one iron-clad policy on this blog; never, ever, Ever, EVER go after someone’s personal life, family or (non-elected) job just because their opinion differs from mine.  That’s how I run the blog – especially for my three pseudonymous co-bloggers; there is nothing in blogging lower than someone who uses anonymity or pseudonymity as a cover for unethical attacks..

In fact, I keep other bloggers’ personal lives and livelihoods completely out of bloggjng.  There’s a good reason for it.  For starters, it’s dangerous; peoples’ personal lives have nuances that can wash the unwary and the stupid up on the shores of Defamation Island without them knowing about it.  More importantly, it’s completely illogical; it’s the fallacy of the tu quoque ad hominem – the idea that some inconsistency in your opponent’s actions or claims yesterday undercuts his argument today.  Like, for example, if someone’s ever been ticketed for speeding, their opinion on transportation issues is discounted.

It’s stupid.

It’s also one of the most common themes in political communications, as practiced by the not-so-bright.  Accusing people of “flip-flopping” is generally dumb (I’ve “flip flopped” on gun control, abortion, government intervention, and conservatism itself since I was a kid; so did Ronald Reagan, for that matter.  To some Libs, that’s “flip-flopping”; to us, it’s a sign that we’ve thought about things, and gotten the right answer better late than never).

It’s a lot more sinister than that, of course; it goes way beyond discounting arguments.  There’s a school of thought – codified in Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals - that believes the best way to win in politics is to ratchet up the personal attacks about non-political issues to the point that none of your opponents can muster the emotional energy to stay in the contest; to bring things to the point where they fail Söze’s, and Alinski’s, test of commitment.

There is a pattern among the Twin Cities left; if you can’t debate someone on fact, you go for the smear.  The more outmatched they are, the more ugly and personal they get.

Which, given that a distressing number of leftybloggers usually has at most one round of “facts” to bring to a debate (because few of them have ever had to learn to debate like adults, since they’ve spent their entire lives in cities and colleges and unions run by “progressives”), means that almost any debate with a depressingly huge swathe of leftybloggers dives straight into the mud very early in any discussion.  It’s like the left, rhetorically, has raised a generation of kids with sense of how to carry on a civilized discussion, or manners, or conventional sense of right and wrong – but given them all guns and ammo.

Great example: one Twin Cities leftyblogger – a guy who shall remain unnamed, but is known to many on both sides of the aisle as “The Dwight Schrute of the Twin Cities leftysphere” – spent a few weeks waddling around grinning like a toddler who’d made a nice pants because he found a record of some checks I’d bounced, during a spell of short money and worse bookkeeping, almost eight years ago,.  Blathered it all over the place – as “evidence” that I shouldn’t talk about government budgets.  Now, I know the facts of the situation – something “Dwight” never had the integrity to ask about - so while it wasn’t anything i had cared to discuss publicly, it didn’t especially affect me.  The intention, of course, was to shut me up – not by dint of any facts “Dwight” could bring to an argument (he never has any) but by trying to make opposing them too costly in ways that have nothing to do with politics.  Because after ten years of failing at civil debate, it’s all they have.

Which brings us to Eric Austin.  He writes the Outstate Politics blog.  I’ve always gotten along with the guy..

But a while ago Austin apparently jumped onto one of the left’s most demented memes; that any “family values” Republicans whose family lives and histories aren’t pristine are “hypocrites” and beyond the ethical pale, rightly subject to any manner of ugliness.  He spotlighted a Republican legislator, Mary Franson, who’d recently been divorced, publishing some rumors about the circumstances behind the split.

As Lady Logician wrote yesterday at True North, Austin wrote about these rumors – as he put it, based on “two independent sources” who confirmed it to his own satisfaction.

Is Austin’s story true, or not?  Who cares.  It’s none of my business, or Austin’s, or yours for that matter (and if you’re someone who ever said “move on” or “it was just sex” during the Clinton administration, think veeeery carefully about your next answer).  Chalk it up to giggly prurience if you want – but that short-changes the depravity of the act.  It’s really part of the Alinski-ite dictum to scorch the opponent’s earth; to make engaging in politics against liberals too personally and emotionally costly to sustain.

LL posts a recording of a phone conversation between Franson and Austin – listen to it at the link above.

LL’s contention is that the story is a rumor; Austin apparently believes his “sources” are plenty good enough to justify writing…

…what?  A story about what should be the personal business of two people whose marriage was unravelling, with all the emotional shrapnel that always accompanies divorce?

Is it worth slopping the worst details of the worst episode in a family’s life out in front of the public – embarassing the parents, sure, but doing much, much worse for the children – to take a whack at a poliitician you disagree with about legislative politics?

Those last questions are usually rhetorical, academic ones.  In this case, unfortunately, it’s very literal.  LL notes, in what is the real crux of the article:

Then there is the point that Rep. Franson’s daughter was being bullied as a direct result of [what Austin wrote]. His only response was to accuse Rep. Franson of being directly responsible for the bullying of gay teens. His logic is highly flawed.

Listen to the recording, around the 2:30 mark; Franson notes that Austen’s allegations caused her daughter to get bullied at school.   Listen to his response after 2:30.  I’ll closely paraphrase; “so what about gay kids that get bullied?”

Catch that?

The message is this: Disagree with us, and not only are we going to work over every nook and cranny of your personal life, without regard to damage we may be adding to your family, but we will condone and abet the torture of your children – because you disagree with us”.  

LL notes:

 First off, there is the old adage that two wrongs don’t make a right. Second, Rep. Franson had no direct action in these children being bullied.

So what does Franson believe about bullying gay kids?  I don’t know – and it’s for sure that if Austin knows, it doesn’t matter to him; Franson and her daugther are bones to be chewed in service to Austin’s point. For all we, and Austin, know, Franson has risked life and limb to thwart gay-bashers in her private life. Speaking as someone who has put more on the line against the bullying of gays than Eric Austin ever has or will (long story), I believe bullying is bullying. no matter who it’s aimed at.  But in Austin’s world, the fact that I oppose a bill to create a special, double-dog class of victims makes me not only the same as a bully, but justifies smearing my personal life and making my childrens’ lives hell?

In re Austin’s apparent defense (via the audio in LL’s article) of Franson’s daughter getting tormented at school over what he’d written, LL writes:

Austin’s weak defense is even weaker when you realize that this man is a…

Y’see, there’s my conundrum.  I said I never, ever go after peoples’ (non-elected) jobs – and I don’t.  But Austin works in a field where he’s supposed to look after the best interests of kids.

And yet there he is, saying things that could reasonably be interpreted as justifying bullying.

I’m the kind of guy who gives the benefit of the doubt way too easily – but I’ll entertain some explanations.  Was Austin flustered and mis-speaking his real intent?  Did he try to drive down a rhetorical road that he didn’t have the gas to come back from?   Is there some context tucked in there that I missed? I’m open to suggestions.

But let’s take him at his apparent word.  What do you suppose Eric Austin – or the rest of the Minnesota leftyblog community’s pack of Alinsky-addled ethical Oompa Loompas – would say if Medtronic sold their grandmother a pacemaker that was 20% defective, because of Obamacare’s hike on medical device taxes?  Or if their restaurants cut Democrats’ portions 15% to make up for revenue lost to the smoking ban?

If, say, a conservative college professor docked students grade points equal to the tax increases the students favored?

They’d howl like stuck cats.

Rightly so; it’s unethical, and in the first case illegal.

There’s really little point in conservatives doing more than pointing this sort of behavior out.  It is all most of the Minnesota leftysphere can do.

The takeaways:  Conservatives have to not only smarter than their opponents, they and their families and their supporters have to be a lot tougher.

Bonus question:  There’s a technical term for someone who uses fear to affect a political end.  What is it?

———-

We all know how The Usual Suspects ended, right?

Continue reading

Fractured Aphorisms

If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day.

If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for life.

If you toss a man a can of bait worms and tell him to figure it out, you feed him for life and give him the problem-solving skills he needs to truly succeed. Or feed him for a day.  One or the other.

Neuropathological

Politics may not be rocket science, but apparently it is brain surgery.

Understanding the genesis of political orientation has long been a subject of biological interest, with every few years a new study suggesting our ideological differences aren’t skin-deep, they’re sub-atomic. 

Add to the list the findings of the University College London, which takes the theory of different liberal and conservative genes to another level.  Liberals and conservatives have always thought the other had their brains wired differently and, according to the University, physically speaking they’re right.

But the University’s study is also a case example in the sideshow of the politicization of science – namely, “proving” that conservatives are mentally (or genetically) deficient:

Using data from MRI scans, researchers at the University College London found that self-described liberals have a larger anterior cingulate cortex–a gray matter of the brain associated with understanding complexity. Meanwhile, self-described conservatives are more likely to have a larger amygdala, an almond-shaped area that is associated with fear and anxiety.

Using every inch of my larger amygdala, it’s hard not to notice how many of these studies inevitably lead to a conclusion that liberal physiological differences are viewed as genetically preferable – if not superior.  A similar outlook could be found just this last year with the ballyhooed discovery of a so-called “liberal gene”:

As a consequence, people with this genetic predisposition who have a greater-than-average number of friends would be exposed to a wider variety of social norms and lifestyles, which might make them more liberal than average. They reported that “it is the crucial interaction of two factors — the genetic predisposition and the environmental condition of having many friends in adolescence — that is associated with being more liberal.”

Outgoing, popular kids equals well-balanced, politically liberal adults?  Conservatives are creepy, adolescent shut-ins?  Curse my shriveled anterior cingulate cortex for reading anything into that study.

Of course, not all scientists are inferring that our political and genetic differences are so stark as to invite a Cro-Magnon/Neanderthal comparison.  In fact, some recongize the potential for political bias in such a report and actively work to tap down any broad-based partisan conclusions…including the actual authors of the study:

While the London study does find distinct differences between Democrats and Republicans, its authors caution that more research needs to be done on the subject. One unknown is whether people are simply born with their political beliefs or if our brains adjust to life experiences–which is a possibility, Kanai writes.

“It’s very unlikely that actual political orientation is directly encoded in these brain regions,” he said in a statement accompanying the study. “More work is needed to determine how these brain structures mediate the formation of political attitude.”

Talk about burying the lead.  And I thought we were just told that larger anterior cingulate cortexs led to understanding complex subjects better. 

Truthfully, we want our differences to be genetic for they absolve us of needing to convince others.  And seeking to find that absolution – that genesis of political thought – in the genius of others brings to mind the words of the discoverer of the double helix, J.D. Watson

One could not be a successful scientist without realizing that, in contrast to the popular conception supported by newspapers and mothers of scientists, a goodly number of scientists are not only narrow-minded and dull, but also just stupid.”

The Depraved Gourmet

Call the dour Calvinism of my Scandinavian anscestry rearing its head, but the wave of epicureanism – the Food Network’s various paeons to gluttony – have always rubbed me the wrong way.  Part of it is that the whole notion of glorifying ostentatious consumption strikes me as just wrong; you’re taking what you just plain don’t need (rural Scandinavians were crunchycons long before there was a term for it).  Part of it is the the way some “foodies” have turned gluttony into a secular religion, a cult of satiation.

B.R. Myers, writing in Atlantic, tackles the cult.  It’s a long read – four jumps – but very, very worth it.

Conclusion?

I used to reject that old countercultural argument, the one about the difference between a legitimate pursuit of pleasure and an addiction or pathology being primarily a question of social license. I don’t anymore. After a month among the bat eaters and milk-toast priests, I opened [former Motley Crue drummer] Nikki Sixx’s Heroin Diaries (2008) and encountered a refreshingly sane-seeming young man, self-critical and with a dazzlingly wide range of interests. Unfortunately, the foodie fringe enjoys enough media access to make daily claims for its sophistication and virtue, for the suitability of its lifestyle as a model for the world. We should not let it get away with those claims. Whether gluttony is a deadly sin is of course for the religious to decide, and I hope they go easy on the foodies; they’re not all bad. They are certainly single-minded, however, and single-mindedness—even in less obviously selfish forms—is always a littleness of soul.

Jumping to the conclusion, though, shortchanges you of a great read.  Go do that when you get a moment.

A Semiotician, A Rabbi And An Astrophysicist Walk Into A Bar…

This American Life, an NPR program, is a wildly mixed bag of a radio show; it’s frequently excellent, evocative, and sometimes leads you to some wondrous insights.  For a show that is entirely by, for, and about upper-middle-class, college-educated, espresso-guzzling, Prius-driving white liberal hipsters, it’s very often worth the hour it takes to listen.

Still, for those of you in my audience that produce TAL, I feel I need to clarify something.

Funny: The Onion, America’s great parody newspaper.  While it’s not quite as quirky and unpredictable as it was ten years ago (the move to New York from Madison didn’t make the paper any funnier), it’s still a weekly treat.

Not Funny: Listening to The Onion’s editorial panel not only making the sausage (which is mildly interesting)…:

…but analyzing the process to death, like they’re a group of philosophy professors debating the meaning of existence itself.   A bunch of journalism profs at a Columbia forum couldn’t possibly sound more pretentious and joyless.

Note to Onion and TAL staff; you’re not curing cancer.  Lighten up already.

All Wheel Drive Anxiety

I apologize.

You see when it snows like this – you know, constant, fine, light snow, the roads get slippery and when you hit the gas you slip and slide.

You sit and spin.

The thing is…ever since I got this car with all-wheel-drive, when I hit the gas, I just go.

Rain, snow, small animals, volcanic ash. Nothing can stop me!

Yes!!! It’s like I’m a God!!!!!

Lord of the Lanes! Baron of the Boulevard! Potentate of the Interstate!

Four-wheeled power – an advantage, right?! Sure…if you’re not in front of me when the light turns green.

And when you are, I get so very anxious. I’ve become an all-wheel-drive snob and I’m not proud of it.

“C’mon! Letsgo letsgo letsgo letsgo letsgo letsgo letsgo letsgo letsgo! What?! Are you paid by the hour!!!”

(not that there’s anything wrong with that)

It’s like being the guy that gets frustrated and everyone thinks is so annoying because his Mensa IQ affords him the luxury of “getting” things so much quicker, but then he has to wait until everyone else catches up while he rolls his eyes.

He’s not the one that gets the girl, is he.

Like that insipid commercial for AT&T where the portly passenger with the fastest network gets the download quicker than everyone else in the car, and laughs out loud. Thirty more seconds go by and the rest of the passengers get the download and do the same.

They’re the popular ones. They’re late, but having all the fun.

It’s lonely at the top.

This winter we’ve had way more than our share of snow and as a result we’ve been sitting in lines, three lanes wide, like cattle in a slaughter line, waiting waiting waiting to get to the office or home.

And there I sit, with the power to go go go!!!  …if it weren’t for the 1985 Crown Vic in front of me.

It’s like a curse.

God I miss my Harley.

Whilst Going About Your Business

I wasn’t going to write about this until I saw he’d written about it first.

Ryan Rhodes – who’s been running the “Rambling Rhodes” (among many other names) blog for about as long as anyone in Minnesota has been blogging, and has been a regular commenter on this blog ever since I’ve had comments – had a rough December.  He and his wife’s twins – Finn and Zoey – were born very, very prematurely, weighing a pound and a half apiece.

Finn died on New Years’ Eve.  But Zoey is hanging in there.

Unfortunately, the tragic turn of events that greeted us at the end of December, as well as the gaping hole left in our lives by Finn’s passing, has numbed my wife and me considerably when it comes to the sheer medical miracle that Zoey is still with us and fighting strong. We’ve been so mired in grief and sorrow, the everyday fact of Zoey’s continued existence almost seems like it’s the least fate could give us. Nay, owes us.

But, she is alive. And, it is rather miraculous.

She was delivered via C-section at a paltry 1 lb. 4.5 oz. I like to use the analogy of her being the size of a TV remote control, but that doesn’t really convey the reality. Her tiny size didn’t register for me until I saw her footprints alongside the footprints of my first son, Aiden, when he was born at 8 lb. 15 oz. The difference is truly staggering, like Andre the Giant next to Vern Troyer. And I remember thinking, 15 months ago, how the hell we were going to keep AIDEN ALIVE.

The delicate balance of drugs, medications, fluids, oxygen and general environment required to keep a 24-week old preemie alive is ridiculously complex. Each time I visit Zoey, I have to practically squint past the banks of machines and monitors to see the little wriggling putty of flesh that is my daughter.

He walks through the concentric miracles of both technology and infant physiology that are helping Zoey hang in there:

The lungs, which are about the most undeveloped organs in their whole bodies, can somehow be persuaded to kick things into developmental gear. It’s not an exact science, but the organs that are normally one of the last ones asked to perform can be coaxed from the bench and perform a game-saving series of plays that can make even the most die-hard pessimist hope, optimistically, for a victory. Preemie lungs are the Detroit Lions or the Cincinnati Bengals, or an expansion team.

Today was a good day. A much-needed good day. For all of us.

Tomorrow? Who the f*** knows?

But, you know what? I’m hopeful, and that’s huge.

So I’ll urge your to direct your prayers, karmic imprecations, best wishes or whatever your worldview calls for to Ryan, his wife, Aiden and, of course, Zoey.

To Air Is Human

Perhaps it’s the circle of radio life.  The First Team of the Northern Alliance gets shown the door

and Mark Dayton takes to the air:

Gov. Mark Dayton plans to do a governor’s radio show soon.

“I wish I could be on the air somewhere tomorrow,” Dayton said. “I can’t wait to get on the air. It is just a question of where and going through the proper procedure.

Dayton having a weekly radio show follows a tradition of past governors. Both Govs. Jesse Ventura and Tim Pawlenty had Friday morning shows on WCCO that were required, and sometimes interesting, listening for political geeks.

So gubernatorial radio will go from vain, to vapid, to…uh, is there a synonym for odd that starts with ‘v’?

Ventura and Pawlenty’s shows had their moments, but “fireside chats” they were not.  Ventura used the forum as a ricktey soapbox from which to deliver a folding chair to his opponents while Pawlenty’s often politics-lite interviews were professional but dryer than a Martini in the Sahara.  Unless Dayton wants to reminisce on his Haight-Ashburyesque days, 60 minutes of dead air might be more entertaining.

MITCH ADDS:  While First Ringer would have no reason to know this, I’ll add that the First Team wasn’t “shown the door”.  There were some revenue-driven schedule changes; management and John and Brian couldn’t agree on a change to the First Team’s schedule that worked for everyone.   There were no aspersions cast on either side; the logistics and timing for both the station and John and Brian couldn’t be made to match up.

It stinks; I was one of the First Team’s biggest fans.  But them’s the breaks in Freebie Radio.

Merry Christmas!

This past year, I’ve been vastly more blessed than I could ever deserve; wonderful friends, my kids whom I love so much, great opportunities – and even a few gnarly challenges requiring some creative solutions that, in the end, have turned out to be blessings, so far.

And like all of us, I’m blessed to live in a country where I can write this.  If you are, or have ever been, in the military, thank you for the Christmases you’ve spent away from home, standing on that wall brushing snow off your rifle or tank or F16 or destroyer while the rest of us drank eggnog somewhere behind you.

What can I say but “Merry Christmas”, and God bless you all!

So on behalf of Johnny Roosh, First Ringer and Bogus D, thanks for another great year, and whatever the holiday means to you, I hope you find it in spades!