Chanting Points Memo: When Is A Cut Not A Cut?

You just can’t keep some people happy.

The media and DFL have been chanting for the past week that Emmer hasn’t released his plan for completely re-engineering government.  I pretty well walked through the reasons not to yesterday.

But another reason might be that Emmer knows – as anyone who watches the Minnesota DFL can figure out – that actually answering questions isn’t the issue. 

One area where Emmer has put out actual numbers and concrete proposals is the issue of Local Government Aid.

And yet one of the DFL’s latest chanting points is that “Tom Emmer wants to eliminate Local Government Aid.  The four DFL candidates Dayton, Anderson-Kelliher, Entenza, and “Independence” Party  DFL-Lite candidate Horner all duly parroted the line at the “Green” debate, and Minnesota’s huge class of government hangers-on has uncritically adopted the line.

Naturally, it’s not true.

As we noted in my five-part series on Local Government Aid (Parts One, Two, Three, Four and Five - Six and Seven are actually on the way), Local Goverment aid…:

  1. …was originally intended to subsidize basic services in poor outstate cities,
  2. …has been completely inverted, with the Twin Cities, Minnesota and Duluth getting 2.5 times as much LGA per capita as the rest of Minnesota’s cities,
  3. …has become a vast money-laundering scam, to intended to conceal profligate local spending by fobbing it off on the rest of the state, and thus…
  4. …causing the Big Three cities to act like a heroin addict deprived of his fix when the funds are cut at all; the Big Three cities have become used to being able to hide their excesses by paying for it with other peoples’ money; when LGA gets cut, they face what would be a sisyphean choice for most government bodies, to cut or to raise taxes.  For the DFL-dominated cities, it’s not really a choice; they raise taxes and pass the proverbial buck.

So LGA has become a political kicktoy; big cities need it to keep up the spending and so secure their constituencies and still avoid the pain of excessive tax hikes;  the Republicans in their base – the exurbs – understandably ask why it is that a program that was supposed to ensure that Middle River could pay for a water plant now forces Minnetonka, which gets no LGA at all, to pay for Saint Paul’s fire department, so Chris Coleman can build more indoor ice rinks.

As Emmer’s campaign notes on its website notes on its website, Emmer has sought to stop the insanity:

Tom Emmer is the author of the Minnesota Fair Plan, a bill that would institute a new program to replace (not eliminate) the current system of local government aid (LGA). The Bill was HF 339 of the 86th Legislative Session of the Minnesota Legislature.

The Minnesota Fair Plan would eliminate the current practice of allocating LGA resources by city, a process that has proven rife with political wrangling, with a more equitable system of pooling LGA resources by county and placing responsibility for the distribution of such funds to the county commission. This is hardly the equivalent of “eliminating LGA.”

Emmer’s worked as a defense attorney; I suspect he’s had to shepherd more than a few defendants through spin-dry, and he knows that addicts like crackheads and major cities don’t just recover from their addictions instantly:

The transition from the current system to the new system is designed to take place over several years, to allow city councils to adjust to the Minnesota Fair Plan.

The base level of LGA will be reduced to 40% of the 2009 level for cities over three years with the balance of the funds given to counties to distribute among any and all of the localities within their county as they see fit. The total amount of LGA available will continue to be determined by the legislature. The amount for the current fiscal year listed in the bill was $526,148,487; or just over a half billion dollars.

Half a billion dollars.  To be accurate, the total LGA amount for 2009 (the year Emmer introduced the bill) was $526,141,547 – about $7,000 less than Emmer’s proposal, according to League of Minnesota Cities figures. 

So what Emmer has actually proposed isn’t eliminating LGA; it’s taking the cities’ share (all cities, from Middle River to Minneapolis) out of the cities’ hands and issuing it (over time) to the counties.

It’s not a matter of money; it’s a matter of control.  The DFL wants it; Emmer’s proposal would put a speed bump in the way – another level of accountability.

And the DFL hates speed bumps on the road to your wallet.

Gotta Be Fair

Barack Obama is doing so badly at foreign policy, at dealing with the economy and at running an administration that predictions that he may be “the next Carter” are sounding optimistic.

But when it comes to neutralizing his competition, he shows he’s learned something from all his years in Chicago:

Keep your friends close—and the competition closer. There has been a buzz about Petraeus and the presidency since about the fall of last year, and to many in the Republican Party—a party bereft of ideas and credible leaders—the general has increasingly taken on the aspect of a possible messiah. His impeccable military credentials, his undoubted intelligence, his mastery of personal and professional politics (you wouldn’t catch him talking to Rolling Stone in a million years), plus his undoubted (if carefully tailored) conservatism have led many to see in him a man who can take on Obama in 2012, and beat him. He is even the sort of guy who’d allow the GOP to broaden its tent, drawing in “undecideds” and independents.

This can no longer happen.

Gotta hand it to the President.

Dear Family Resource Council

To: Family Resource Council

From: Mitch Berg

Re:  Get a Grip

To whom it may concern,

You have gone on record against…shall-issue concealed carry laws?

A new piece from the Family Research Council blasts Grover Norquist (President of Americans for Tax Reform; Member of the Board of Directors of the National Rifle Association) for joining the board of GOProud, an organization of conservative gay Republicans. Among the alleged sins on the GOProud agenda :

Equalize “concealed carry reciprocity” amendment with gay rights via state rights. Support guns being carried and recognized across state lines, in order to further the agenda that gay marriages legal in only a few states be recognized legally in all. (July 2009)

Have you lost your minds?

For starters – self-defense is a human right, without which the innocent are murdered and society is made even more vulnerable to tyranny.

There are those who make the case that gay marriage is a human right.  I disagree, and so do y’all, but the way to make the case that it is not, is not to undercut other human rights.

And if you want to influence policy, you might want to remember that most of your group’s supporters are also Second Amendment supporters, and shall-issue is one of the most important Second Amendment initiatives there is.

So get right, or get off my side.

That is all.

Couldn’t See This Coming

Gregg Allman  gets a liver transplant:

In a statement, Allman said he’d turned his life around, but liver damage led to doctors recommending a transplant.

“I changed my ways years ago, but we can’t turn back time,” he said. “Every day is a gift, and I can’t wait to get back on the road making music with my friends.”

I had a college professor who’d worked concert security during grad school in the seventies who remembered having to carry Allman onstage and prop him up on the stool behind his Hammond B3.

I Want To Ride My Bicycle: Season 4, Month 4; Mental Health Day

I hate hot weather, especially hot and humid weather like yesterday – unless I can be biking constantly and intensely.

Oddly enough, being up and on the road inverts things completely; that same overheated/drenched with sweat feeling that’s so miserable when you’re cooking dinner, for example, is just wonderful when you’re out on the bike, working up a good productive lather.

I took a well-deserved and much-needed mental health day yesterday.  I did some puttering around the house, and then got on the road a little after lunchtime for a long hard ride.  I rode down the U of M Busway trail to the University, then across the Stone Arch Bridge over the Mississippi into downtown Minneapolis.

You know how they say having a life-threatening illness makes you appreciate life more?  Riding through downtown Minneapolis does about the same thing; the threats to your life – car doors opening, idiots texting, truckers misjudging their clearances – give one that keen focus on staying alive that cancer survivors and combat veterans talk about.  It also made me very happy to find the entrance to the Kenilworth Trail, close by Target Field.

The Kenilworth took me down to Lake Calhoun; a brisk lap around Calhoun and Harriett, and then back up the east side of Calhoun and back to Lake of the Isles, led me to the Midtown Greenway, a long bicycle superhighway across South Minneapolis built in a long-abandoned railbed.  The riding got very easy; the path is sunk well below ground level, which shields you from wind that’s coming from the north and south, but channels it if it’s from the east or west; I was getting blasted eastbound like a dart from a blowgun.  That felt good, after a hard ride out.

Running low on water, I stopped at Freewheel Bike Shop, a repair/coffee shop attached to the Midtown Commons development, down on the trail level.  I had an iced coffee and a lemon cookie and topped up my water.  And drained it (1.5 liters), and topped it up again for the road; I’d forgotten how much hot air and a howling wind will dry you out.

I rode down the Greenway back to the river, for the worst part of the trip – the punishing climb from the Marshall-Lake bridge up to Fairview Avenue.  It’s not an absurdly steep hill, but it’s just loooooooong.  Actually, it’s not even so much that it’s long – it just taxes my patience; “get done, already”, I practically mutter to myself, as if anger can re-mold geography.

But once I got to the top of the hill, it was a nice two mile coast home (not that I coasted; bad idea for the legs).  And I sat on my porch steps and polished off my water, drenched in sweat, and I felt…

…good.  Cleaner – on the inside, anyway; a shower was pretty much mandatory for the outside – and just plain happy.

Gotta do that again someday.

Interrogate This

To:  Ben Adler

From: Mitch Berg, uppity peasant

Re:  Your supernaturally stupid Newsweek piece

Mr. Adler,

I’m convinced that your piece, “Why doesn’t the media interrogate Tea Partiers’ Beliefs”, was a “black” parody written by a Tea Partier as a spoof of arrogant, agenda-driven inside-the-beltway dismissal and the media’s own smug self-satisfaction.

You wrote:

The media’s enduring, and understandable, fascination with the Tea Party movement continues unabated, as this weekend’s coverage demonstrates. Unfortunately, what appear to be false notions of objectivity—or perhaps a lack of interest in policy—is preventing that coverage from illuminating what the movement actually represents and what it would do if empowered.

“The Media” started its coverage of the Tea Parties in April of 2009 first by trying to pretend it didn’t exist.  Then it collaborated with the Democrats’ juvenile mockery for most of the spring. Then it dutifully chanted that the Tea Party was a bunch of violent rednecks.   Then it dutifully chanted in turn that it was a bunch of rich bitter white guys.

No, Ben Adler, I’m pretty convinced that it’s you that’s completely ignorant…

…no.  That’s unfair.  Or, rather, too fair.  I’m convinced it’s you that is driven completely by an institutional narrative about all those uppity peasants.

Case in point: the Associated Press just published a 2,300-word stemwinder examining how and why a variety of individuals became involved in the Tea Party movement without once asking what precisely the platform consists of. It tells you the back stories of representative Tea Partiers, dutifully quotes their antipathy toward government, taxes, and deficit spending, and their horror at the accusation that they are motivated by racial animus. But the reporter seems never to have posed any serious questions about what tradeoffs they would make to achieve their stated goals.

Well, that would be a fair criticism, if it weren’t for the fact that you pretty clearly have substituted “parrot the narrative” for “asking serious questions”, yourself.

No, really:

The closer you look, the more the Tea Party just looks like any other right-wing populist movement: it is motivated by fear of immigration, fear of new religious modes of expression, racial resentments, opposition to gay rights, and claims about taxes and spending that often don’t add up under scrutiny. Isn’t it time that we stopped treating the Tea Partiers like a curious sociological phenomenon and starting holding them to the same standards we should hold all mainstream politicians to?

Like the standards Newsweek held Barack Obama to?

Ben Adler:  you are the one that deserves the questions; your piece clearly oozes fear and beliefs that, ahem, could use the scrutiny – beliefs the AP article undercut, which is no doubt why  you are circling the wagons.

So here’s what we can do, Ben:  come on the Northern Alliance Radio Network with Ed Morrissey and I this weekend.  We can have a dialogue; you can ask us those probing questions about the Tea Parties that you’ve been fantasizing about.  It’ll be a two-way deal, of course; we can get to the bottom of your own ignorance, and maybe even enlighten you a bit.

Or at the very least start holding you to the same standard we should all mainstream media figures.

That is all,

Mitch Berg

Stuck On Stupid Wishful Thinking

The DFL is getting its money’s worth.

Figuratively speaking, naturally.

After the Strib, MPR and the MinnPost ran pieces that called (on rather specious grounds) for Tom Emmer to release his plan for re-engineering state government, the regional sorosphere is taking up the chanting point.  That’s how the DFL machine works.

Since it is a chanting point, however, there are a few points you’ll never hear, either in the media or among the DFL chantblogs:

Why Should Emmer Do The DFL’s Work For Them?:  The DFL not only have seven weeks to go until their primary, but the DFL seems to be mired in a huge passion deficit. Nobody cares about the DFL primary race.  Mark Dayton isn’t so much running away as ambling away with it – because it’s the most tedious primary field in Minnesota history, and its finish is all but inevitable at this point:  Mark Dayton is going to win, and nobody in the world outside the DFL cares about Margaret Anderson-Kelliher and the other guy.

So the DFL desperately wants Emmer to give them some red meat on which the three “contenders” can focus.

Which is why you see the articles, and the vigorous chanting from the blogs; because if the DFL doesn’t get something interesting to talk about soon, their primary turnout may be lower than Bert Blyleven’s lifetime ERA.   The DFL realizes that they’re facing a Republican “passion index” that is beyond anything in recent memory – it may dwarf 1994 by the time we’re done – and they have to do something to focus the troops.

So expect more “Heyyyy, what are you, chicken?  Buk  buk buk!”-style chanting from the DFL, their media supporters, and the chantblogs.

And do not expect Emmer to take the bait!

The Endurance Race:  Campaigns are like a competitive 10K race.  It’s a long slog – and you still need to have a sprint-like “kick” at the end.

And in a long race, runners will try to trick other runners into using their “kick” early, tiring themselves out, and fading in the stretch.

This governor’s race is like a 10K, against an opponent; let’s all that opponent Dieter.  He’s one of those East German athletic machines who’s been pumped full of steroids by his sponsors – the Star Tribune, MPR, the Pioneer Press and the unions – since age 10.   He’s dominated 10K racing for the past 80 few years.  And for all that, you know you can beat Dieter, because you’ve got a great kick…

…but you only have one kick.  And if Dieter jinks you into blowing your kick too early in the race, it’s all over.

The DFL is Dieter; smug, wealthy as all get-out, but starting to show the wear and tear of all the decades of abuse of the taxpayer steroids.  And Tom Emmer has a great “kick” – lots of energized volunteers, some campaign money, a great message…

…but only once.  It’s for the end of the race.  When it matters.

The DFL, of course, would love it if Emmer used his kick right now, while Dieter and the other three runners from Bulgaria, Singapore and Tuvalu were still getting into the starting blocks.

Look – Emmer’s up against not just the DFL, but the media and, by election-time, most likely plenty of national liberal donors and activist groups.  It’s a tough uphill battle in this state; the Strib and MPR have immense influence on voters, and the Strib (and the MinnPost, which is largely former Stribbers) is nothing if not reliably in the bag for the DFL.  Emmer has ever reason to husband his resources, his “kick” – money, ad time, volunteer energy, impact – for when they matter.

And every single DFL and media demand that he pony up his plan now, every single one, is the equivalent of Dieter telling you “vots ze mattah?  You a giiiirly maaan, afraid tur do your kick now, when ve are in ze locker room? hahaha…”

So when your co-workers come out with that time, put ‘em in place.  It’s getting old.

UPDATE:  Welcome MinnPost readers!

A Government By, Of And For Ed Schultz

Last week, in his video tongue-kiss to Obama before his (disastrous) “We Have Nothing To Fear But Oil Itself” speech, Fast Eddie Schultz wrote:

“Mr. PresIdent, I want to see the boot on the neck of BP tonight… it’s OK tonight to act kind of like a dictator and call the shots saying this is the way it’s going to be.”

Granted, Schultz is one of very few talk show hosts who actually is as stupid as conservative talk radio is supposed to be.

But according to Thomas Sowell, who daily excretes more intelligence than Ed Schultz ever had, Schultz may be  getting his tingly-legged wish:

Just where in the Constitution of the United States does it say that a president has the authority to extract vast sums of money from a private enterprise and distribute it as he sees fit to whomever he deems worthy of compensation? Nowhere.

And yet that is precisely what is happening with a $20 billion fund to be provided by BP to compensate people harmed by their oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

In other words, the Republicans who “apologized” to BP – over the perversion of US law, as opposed to over accountability – were right?  Hmm.

Many among the public and in the media may think that the issue is simply whether BP’s oil spill has damaged many people, who ought to be compensated.

But our government is supposed to be “a government of laws and not of men.”

If our laws and our institutions determine that BP ought to pay $20 billion — or $50 billion or $100 billion — then so be it.

But the Constitution says that private property is not to be confiscated by the government without “due process of law.”

Technically, it has not been confiscated by Barack Obama, but that is a distinction without a difference.

Because the problem is the next victim of government overreach won’t be a big bad capitalist like a BP.

With vastly expanded powers of government available at the discretion of politicians and bureaucrats, private individuals and organizations can be forced into accepting the imposition of powers that were never granted to the government by the Constitution.

If you believe that the end justifies the means, then you don’t believe in constitutional government.

Of course, many liberals don’t.

Dog Bites Lawyer

The Strib goes after Tom Emmer’s professional life in a hit piece today by Pat Doyle.

The piece, titled “Emmer’s Feisty Spirit Fuels Legal Fights”, relates four stories:

Emmer has mixed it up in civil cases and filed a report that led to a criminal case, court documents show. He has aggressively litigated some cases. His wrangling over money or other business matters is described in court documents, an ethics probe and interviews.

As opposed to the way the rest of the world behaves when swindled, dued and attacked?

The first incident related to an office manager that swindled over $7,000 from Emmer’s law office:

McElroy’s lawyer, Chad Throndset, wrote in one court document that Emmer was “scapegoating” her to justify the firing and “to cover up illegal and unethical business practices, client claims of illegal billing and legal malpractice, and to create a smoke screen.” Emmer called that accusation “unfounded and libelous” in one court document.

Three years after the case began, prosecutors agreed to “suspend prosecution” until Oct. 20, 2010, when the charges will be dismissed if she avoids similar charges, pays Emmer $14,146 and writes him a letter of apology. “The case was resolved with an order for full repayment of the moneys taken and an apology,” Emmer said in his written statement.

In other words, Emmer got redress from someone who’d swindled him.    Is that “feisty” or “temperamental”, or a victim’s right under our criminal justice system?

It’s Emmer 1, DFL/Strib 0.

Next – a landscaper sued Jacquie Emmer for shorting a payment for some landscaping work:

Emmer gave him $2,000 and said in his statement that the landscaper “overcharged for work.”

When Poppler took Emmer to small claims court to recover the remaining $1,237, Emmer sought $3,600 in attorney’s fees for his time in small claims court. Poppler didn’t back off.

In small claims court, District Judge Kathleen Mottl awarded Poppler his entire claim. She added that Emmer’s “request for reimbursement of ‘attorney’s fees’ is wholly inappropriate, as he represented himself.”

Emmer took his appeal to District Court, where his lawyer argued that he wasn’t responsible for the landscaping bill because his wife had initiated and modified the job.

Earlier, Mottl had disagreed with that notion. “She essentially did so as her husband’s agent,” she wrote.

But District Judge Dale Mossey ruled that Emmer was not responsible for his wife’s actions. Poppler said Jacquie Emmer has not paid the $1,237.

This bit leaves a slew of questions.  What were Emmer’s grounds for withholding the money – and I mean all of the grounds?  And why did the District Court toss the suit?

Emmer 1, Strib/DFL 0, one tie.

In another case, a woman sued Emmer in 1996 for a collision in which she’d been injured.  Emmer, it was claimed, ran a stop sign; Emmer claimed the sign was obscured.

Emmer’s attorney, Michael Schwartz, said the claims against the state and county for sign maintenance “served to protect the rights and safety of all motorists in the area.” He said all claims were settled.

So it’s Emmer 1, Strib/DFL 0, one tie, one “Get a life, he defended himself”.

Next:  Emmer sued someone for injuring him:

Emmer also sued a Dakota County man in 2003 for leg injuries Emmer said he received when the man’s vehicle struck him while he was standing in a driveway, according to court documents. Emmer claimed partial disability. The case went to mediation and Emmer won a $187,500 award. But the Dakota County man’s lawyer had difficulty getting Emmer to sign a release as part of the deal, court records show. After pressing for a year for Emmer to sign, the lawyer threatened to compel his signature. “Whether it be simple neglect, such neglect is inexcusable,” attorney Nicholas Klehr wrote in a court document. He said last week that the case was resolved to his client’s satisfaction.

“The claims were amicably and equitably resolved and the settlement was finalized without court involvement,” said Schwartz, who said selection of an annuity company to handle some of the payout delayed the process.

So it’s Emmer 1, Strib/DFL 0, one tie, one “Get a life, he defended himself”, and one “Gosh, legal proceedings taking a long time, notify the media…oh, wait you did!”

A client made an ethics claim against Emmer for a bill that’d caught him by surprise:

The director of the Office of Lawyers Professional Responsibility rejected the recommendation, saying that the rule doesn’t require regular written billing and that Emmer claimed he discussed the fee structure at the very beginning.

“Best practices would indicate that sending clients regular billing statements would be prudent in preventing situations like between Mr. Emmer and Mr. Ahlstrom,” the director added in the office’s written determination.

I’m not sure what percentage of lawyers get some kind of ethics complaint or another, but I’m told it’s rather high.

So it’s Emmer 2, Strib/DFL 0, one tie, one “Get a life, he defended himself”, and one “Gosh, legal proceedings taking a long time, notify the media…oh, wait you did!”

Finally – Emmer and a former law partner had a falling-out:

The dispute was settled. Lively said he and Emmer are barred from talking about the dispute because of a confidentiality agreement, but added, “It was just time to part ways. … Tom and I had been friends for a very, very long time and I really hold no animosity toward him at all.”

Said Emmer: “The case was resolved with the terms being honored.”

So it’s Emmer 2, Strib/DFL 0, one tie, one “Get a life, he defended himself”, one “Gosh, legal proceedings taking a long time, notify the media…oh, wait you did!”, and one “go figure, lawyers sueing each other, and how about some details?”

Can you see why the media wants to get at Emmer’s plan?

QUESTION:  Do you suppose Pat Doyle will cover this story?:

After a leave of absence, necessitated by health problems, from his position as a State Office Manager for Senator Dayton Brad Hanson was fired. He subsequently sued his former employer for discrimination on the basis of a disability and for failure to pay overtime compensation under the Congressional Accountability Act. Dayton argued, and continues to argue before the Supreme Court, that the Speech or Debate Clause of the Constitution grants him immunity from this action and therefore the suit must be dismissed. This case will turn on the issue of whether an administrative or personnel decision, such as firing an employee, is a legislative act within the meaning of the Clause.

Any bets?

Around The MOB: Questions And Answers

The Minnesota Organization of Bloggers has been stereotyped as a bunch of conservative bloggers.

And the driving force behind the MOB is in fact a bunch of bloggers who happen to be conservatives.  But the MOB is a lot broader than that; we include political moderates, center-lefties, liberals…

and not a few people who don’t write about politics at all.

One such is Wayne Moran of Questions and Answers.  You could take a whack at his person political preferences from his blogroll – but his blog is about photography.

Courtesy Wayne Moran Photography

Courtesy Wayne Moran Photography

Lots of it.

Courtesy Wayne Moran Photography

Courtesy Wayne Moran Photography

Oh, there’s writing, too…:

So today I received a call from AARP (Yes the huge senior’s organization).   At first I was thinking I was getting old and they were calling to offer me a membership.  But alas, it was something else.  They were calling to request that I would be their photographer at the Minnesota State Fair.  I would get all kinds of press coverage and get links to my web site and all that stuff bla bla bla…

I had to say No because I disagree with the organization on so many counts.  I told them I support The Association of Mature American Citizens (http://www.amac.us ).  The young man was a bit surprised.  I know this would be a great opportunity and it would be fun, but I had to say NO.   I guess this is an example of doing what you think is right comes at a pretty steep cost.  Oh Well.

I am thinking 90% of my readers will not understand this either, but that also is ok.

…and it’s good stuff.

Whichever you’re into, check it out!

Specifics

Last week, we discussed the media flap over what amounts, in the end, to Tom Emmer’s not releasing details on how he plans to change Minnesota government until he actually has an opponent.

Politics In Minnesota Weekend summed up the details:

On Monday, Tom Scheck reported a piece for MPR that digs into Emmer’s publicly stated plans to downsize state government.

The Emmer campaign responds via an “Emmer Truth” section of its website, implying that claims made by Sheck’s story are inaccurate and cherry-picked.

Enter Dave Mindeman (mnpACT!) and Eric Black (MinnPost), who call EmmerTruth “pretty weak” and “winging it.” Jon Tevlin at the Strib also gets his two cents in, basically repeating the cries for Emmer to get specific.

Mitch Berg (Shot in the Dark) and Gary Gross (Let Freedom Ring) hit back, generally with two points: Scheck’s and Black’s reports wereinaccurate/mangled the context, and it’s a legitimate and sensible strategy for Team Emmer not to give up the “master plan” so early in the campaign season.

Charlie Quimby (Across the Great Divide) comments on Berg’s blog: “I think if you put Emmer’s full statement in front [of] 100 voters, not many would find it definitive or conclusive or clarified.” And Berg in reply: “As to how 100 random users would perceive Emmer’s statement … I don’t disagree; presentation counts … But is it the media’s job to relate the actual facts, or to reinforce confusion?”

A terrific question, if a little antagonistic in the wording.

Antagonistic?  Moi?

The piece, by…well, I never got the name, but it’s someone on the Politics In Minnesota staff – summed up the issues pretty well, so far.

But perhaps more to the point, there was nothing confusing in the MPR piece. In fact, both EmmerTruth and the conservative blogs skip the entire point of Scheck’s reporting while digging around in the semantics: Emmer, as a candidate, has promised major redesigns of government, but the programs and agencies he’s highlighted so far are playing with thousands or millions of dollars, not billions. The “could not should” distinction is sort of absurd.

To be fair to Gary and I, we were reacting to the presenting issue; we had leftybloggers and the media chanting “Emmer said he’d hack a third of State Government!”. 

But the real issue is the beef.

Now, to most of the Twin Cities media, that question is…:

 If the media’s job is to relate actual facts, then it’s perfectly reasonable — no, responsible — for the media to ask Emmer, the candidate for Minnesota’s highest office, what he would do if elected. If the answer is, for now, that he’s not sure, then it’s the media’s responsibility to say so.

True. 

But it’d be useful for the media to also note that Dayton (and Kelliher, Entenza and Horner’s, not that it matters) plans are no more articulate; if Emmer is saying “Cut Cut Cut!”, as John Tevlin wrote, then the Four Stooges are responding “Tax Tax Tax!”, with no more articulation.

I hate to repeat myself, but I think I summed up my most serious response to this in my response to Erik Black last week:

Black:  And [Emmer] owes the voters of Minnesota some straighter talk, not about what he could do, but what he would do to balance the budget. (Not to say that all the other guv candidates have been clear abut how they would do it. They haven’t.)

Let me get this straight:  the DFL candidates have been “unclear”, but Emmer “owes” everyone an explanation now …?

Why does the MinnPost hold Republicans to a different standard than the DFL?

When Mark Dayton and the other three soon-to-be-chum contenders appear on Midmorning with Keri Miller, will Miller press any of them for details on how their “Tax, Baby, Tax!” agenda is going to lead to more (non-public-employee union) jobs?  How they lead to recovery?  How they will defy history by actually improving the economy?

Will Nick Coleman and John Tevlin and Lori Sturdevant demand more details amid their inevitable victorian vapours?

Will Erik Black and Tom Scheck write pieces noting how vague they’re being?

So there are two questions for everyone that’s demanding answers from Emmer, the Tom Schecks and Erik Blacks and John Tevlins and Charlie Quimbies:

  1. Where is the scrutiny of Dayton and the other three?  The double standard was plain as day in the Black quote above; why do you, as a group, observe it?  Or does supporting the status quo (only more of it) get one a pass with the media?
  2. I asked this before, I’ll ask it again:  What is in it for Emmer to put his entire platform out there six weeks before the DFL has a candidate, for the DFL-leaning media to spin and soften up while the DFL goes through its primary contortions?  How would that benefit Emmer and the MNGOP in their quest to win the race?  Because this race isn’t about making the media’s job easier, or making the DFL’s job easier; it’s about saving Minnesota.  Why does Emmer “owe” Minnesota any more than his opponents do?

 A listening tour is a fine populist idea, but with Minnesota accumulating red ink in Deepwater Horizon-like volumes, a candidate — from any party — should be able to talk state finances in real terms. We don’t buy the idea that campaigns for office build policy proposals around a master plan that remains absolutely secret until the last possible moment.

“Last possible moment?”  Of course not.   What’s unreasonable about waiting until he faces the real opponent, as opposed to the opponent’s legions of ringers?  Because Mark Dayton isn’t his only, or even his most serious, opponent in this race.

The Tea Party and the avalanche of dissatisfaction that are at Emmer’s back are driven by a fairly articulate demand for real answers; if Emmer doesn’t do better than the “Tax Baby Tax!” crowd, that’ll be a big problem.

I”m pretty comfortable he will have the goods on August 11, when Mark Dayton finally starts his campaign.

The Union Has Never Been At War With The District, Winston

Imagine how much  better criminal justice would be if prosecutors and judges worked with defense attorneys to speed up the judicial system?

Or if accountants and auditors were on the same team?

Or if the President, Congress and the Supreme Court spent less time checking and balancing each other, and more time working on ways to help each other increase their power?

Well, no.  They are all terrible ideas.  The whole point of having adversarial systems built into government is to ensure there’s accountability, or at the very least a speed bump in the way of unlimited power on the part of CEOs, Presidents, Governors, Congresses…

That’s why of all of Jesse Ventura’s mind-dissolvingly stupid ideas in his time-warpingly stupid administration, the dumbest of all was his constant lobotomized yapping for a unicameral legislature, so government could “get stuff done”.  Of course, keeping government from getting “stuff done” with impunity is one of the great virtues of both the bicameral legislature and the two-party system.

Of course, the Minnesota DFL has never understood this.  Their primary frame of historical reference is the period nationally between 1933 and 1980, and in Minnesota until about 2003;

This is a good thing; it means everyone’s working to hold everyone accountable.

Which may explain a lot why Doug Grow thinks this is a good idea:

The relationship between Mary Cathryn Ricker and Valeria Silva stands in sharp contrast to the common education confrontations that have dogged public education in Minnesota in recent years.

Ricker, head of the St. Paul teachers union, and Silva, the St. Paul school district’s superintendent, meet often and banter easily.

“Mary Cathryn asked me to attend a workshop (sponsored by the American Federation of Teachers),” recalled Silva.

“It was on a weekend,” Ricker said.

“I told her I’d go, but if I’m going on a weekend, it proves I must love you,” Silva said.

The two women laughed.

In other words, after years of saying that the Saint Paul Superintendent’s offices were subordinate to the Teachers’ Union, we see we were wrong.   It’s more of a “Lapdog/Master” relationship.

And Doug Grow thinks it’s a good thing:

Listening to the two talk is a night-and-day contrast to the ego-laced bouts waged between Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Education Minnesota leader Tom Dooher. Those two excelled at name-calling, door-slamming and political points-scoring with their respective constituencies. Unfortunately, they weren’t so good at sitting down in the same room and trying to understand each other and, in the end, Minnesota was not a player in Race to the Top money or any sort of meaningful K-12 education improvements in the state.

Hey, Doug Grow – do you suppose Valeria Freaking Silva will share an unguarded, giggly moment with me, a mere Saint Paul taxpayer who is alarmed by the district’s ballooning costs and tailspinning achievement?

Do you suppose that if the district’s chief executive needs to hold the Teacher’s Union accountable for its endless demands, she can stop painting Mary Rickert’s toenails long enough to stand up for the taxpayers for whom she supposedly works?

Clearly that’s not the purpose here:

Silva said she believes she was the only superintendent at the workshop, but quickly added that it was worthwhile.

“What I got out of it was the teachers’ perspective of pay for performance,” she said. “From the teachers’ standpoint, it’s really how do we measure a teacher’s performance. If we all have the right training, then, we could agree on a system.”

Ah.  As long as we mere parents and taxpayers are cut out of the system!

An alliance between the union and the superintendent’s office is no easy thing to maintain. Silva admits that even some members of her high-ranking staff are leery of how quick the superintendent is to pick up the phone and call Ricker.

Well, I’m glad someone at 360 Colborn is doing their job…

And Ricker suspects that at least some teachers are uncomfortable with a union leader who spends considerable time at district headquarters.

Which may be the most depressing commentary on the mentality in public education today that I’ve ever heard.

Silva is distressed by the public attitudes toward teachers — and the teaching profession. It’s hard enough, she said, to attract people into the profession, given the relatively meager starting paying, compared with other professions. But after years of bashing, fewer and fewer people even believe the profession deserves respect.

“Any other culture,” Silva said, “a teacher is greatly valued. That’s been lost here.”

Ms. Silva: get back to me about this episode, which your district has been trying to ignore for five years.   Until you have an answer that wouldn’t insult my dog’s intelligence, I won’t value your “profession”.

Maybe Mary Rickert will ask on my behalf?

Father’s Day

Via Night Writer, one of the better Father’s Day posts:

I was moved by the story yesterday of the Mentor, MN man who was killed when he used his own body to protect his 25-year-old daughter from debris during a tornado. The man, Wes Michaels, was the owner of the Cenex station in Mentor and was taking the day off to celebrate his 58th birthday. His daughter was covering for him at the station. When he heard the news reports of severe weather headed their direction he went to his business to check on things and to warn his daughter and their customers. Shortly after arriving he saw the tornado coming right at them, and directed everyone into the business’s walk-in cooler, finally laying himself down on top of his daughter as the tornado hit. She survived with bruises and some stiffness … and an eternal reminder of a father’s love.

It symbolizes for me the ideal of a father literally laying down his life for his child; I’d even imagine that Mr. Michaels didn’t even think twice in the moment but reacted automatically as he would have done if his daughter were five instead of 25.

Of course, Night’s daughter, Mall Diva, is having a baby pretty soon here.  Mall and her husband (whose name nobody can remember) (no, I’m kidding, it’s Ben, formerly of Hammerschwing, and currently of Grumpy Old Men) are planning on having a home delivery, a technique used in 35% of the births of first children and .06% of second and subsequent ones.  Night’s not going to participate…

As I confronted this in myself today I knew that my place is here. Not in the same room, but close by, praying, jingling car keys, lifting furniture…just — as I’ve always promised my girls — being there. Even if I’d rather face down a tornado.

Anyway, read the whole thing. And happy belated Father’s Day, all you dads out there.

Just Another Lost Number In A File

Today, the Northern Alliance Radio Network brings you the best in Minnesota conservatism from 9AM-3PM.

  • Volume I “The First Team” -  Brian and John or some combination thereof kick off from 11-1.
  • Volume II “The Headliner”Ed and I follow from 1-3PM Central.  What to talk about?  Was there news this week?  Sheesh, I dunno.
  • The King Banaian Show! – King is on from 9-11 on AM1570, Business Radio for the Twin Cities!  We’re broadening the franchise; two stations, now!
  • And for those of you who like your constitutionalism straight up with no chaser, don’t forget the Sons of Liberty, from 3-5!

(All times Central)

So tune in to all six hours of the Northern Alliance Radio Network, the Twin Cities’ media’s sole guardians of sanity. You have so many options:

  • AM1280 in the Metro
  • streaming at AM1280’s Website,
  • On Twitter (the Volume 2 show will use hashtag #narn2)
  • UStream video and chat (at HotAir.com or at UStream).
  • Podcast at Townhall, usually by Monday
  • Good ol’ telephone – 651-289-4488!
  • And make sure you fan us on Facebook!

Join us!

Regulation At Work

The Coast Guard shuts down sixteen oil-vacuum barges commissioned by the state of Louisiana…:

“We are all in this together. The enemy is the oil,” said Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Dan Lauer.

But the Coast Guard ordered the stoppage because of reasons that Jindal found frustrating. The Coast Guard needed to confirm that there were fire extinguishers and life vests on board, and then it had trouble contacting the people who built the barges.

Er, if the Coast Guard shares the same mission as Louisiana does, why couldn’t they have lent them the damn life jackets?  I’m told they own a few.

In addition to the story, I want  you to listen to two things in the following video:

1. Bobby Jindal – who is kicking as much butt as federal regulations will allow him to in this crisis, and who would seem to have redeemed himself from his flop of a speech last year, and I think it’s fair to say will be going back on the short list for GOP Presidential hopefuls shortly here.  He’s doing a great job with this catastrophe in a way that his buck-passing predecessor did not with Katrina.  Side note:  Hearing a man of Indian descent talking in a fluent Louisiana accent is a kick for this language geek.

2. Do you hear that other sound?  That wobbly sound in the background?  That’s the sound of the wheels coming off Barack Obama’s presidency.

Money Wasted While You Wait

There’s a “gun buyback” going on in Minneapolis and Saint Paul even as we speak:

Shiloh Temple International Ministries 1201 W. Broadway Mpls., MN.
Contact: Deseria G. [phone number redacted]
Gospel Temple COGIC 247 Grotto Street N. St. Paul, MN.
Danny G. @ [phone number redacted]

You will receive $50.00 gift card for revolvers.
You will receive $100.00 gift card for semi-automatics.
NO QUESTIONS ASKED!!

I took the liberty of calling Deseria G, the contact in Minneapolis.  After identifying myself as Mitch Berg, with the Northern Alliance Radio Network and a howling-mad conservative, I asked first where the money came from.

“Bake sales, events at basketball games and community events”, she started.  “Donations from the Minneapolis Police Department…”

Huh?  The perennially cash-strapped MPD is ponying up for a program as demonstrably useless as a gun buy-back?

“…and from [an inner city healthcare non-profit] – because this is a public health issue…”

I didn’t feel like arguing; she seemed like a pleasant enough person, highly motivated for her mission. 

But I had to ask:  “So it’s your position that these gun buy-backs actually reduce crime?”

“It’s aimed mainly at our youth, the ones who are doing the crimes”.

I thought about following up “do you honestly think the gang-bangers are going to trade their gats in for gift certificates?   Do you think you’re going to get anything other than guns cleaned out of attics, non-functioning relics, and pieces stolen from peoples’ parents or neighbors?”, but I wished her a good day and thanked her for her time.

Andrew Rothman writes, by the way, to note that the only reason the buy-back is legal is the “Gun-Show Loophole”. 

But that brought on another question; the publicity flyer notes the rules for the exchange:

Rules of engagement:
A. gun must be transported to either site in clear see threw freezer Bag.
B. gun must be separated from ammunition.
C. flyer should be on your person or in freezer bag. That is your pass to transport gun to site.

Erm, I’m wondering if the cops are strictly down with that?  A flyer gives people a de facto carry permit for twelve hours?  Seems dodgy to me, but then what do I know?

C’moooon, McDonald!

Obama’s Morning In America

The chirping of the bird outside your window sounds like a scrap-metal shredder.  Your eyes wrench themselves open into the searing early-morning sun blazing through your window. 

Your body does a silent status check.  Head:  a searing toxic void.  Esophagus: Making room for expansion.  Stomach:  Calling out “Outoing!”.

You shamble to your feet, and lurch for your door as you dimly remember yelling “Yes, we CAN…play quarters with Windsor!”.  You half-stagger down the hall, bouncing off the wall twice, as you race the impending stream of toxic heat racing up from the stomach to the bathroom.

You slap the door aside with your forehead and fall to your hands and knees in front of the throne, barely in time for the high-pressure jet of toxic spew blast forth from your mouth, nostrils and, near as you can tell, ears.   As your stomach spasms and your mouth curdles from the acid and your brain tries to hammer its way out the back of your head, you dimly remember telling a sternly disapproving-looking Macalester Womyn’s Stydies major “I hope you change your mind” and trying to remember what “extended middle finger” meant before everything went all cloudy.  You will your eyes to stay closed even as they roll open to see a roiling toilet bowl full of things you remember the nuns warning you about.

You crawl downstairs and lay on the couch, and lie in the fetal position as the air conditioner roars like a Stuka on its attack run, a stack of bills staring at you accusingly, mocking you for the fun you had the night before.

It’s morning in America.

Poll This

The KSTP/Survey USA poll yesterday confirmed my predictions on both counts.

First – as I’ve been predicting for the past few weeks, Dayton seems to be pulling away.

Dayton – 39

Kelliher – 26

Entenza – 22

There are still eight weeks until the DFL primary, but Dayton’s out-state name recognition and years as a “Senator” are giving him a huge head start.  

As I noted yesterday, Emmers numbers were (expectedly) off from the May, post-convention numbers – but the match between Emmer and Dayton is a statistical tie.

Emmer – 35

Dayton – 38

Horner – 12

Remember, Republicans – the Dems are going to play this like the election is already over.  Don’t believe the hype.  This is the  truth:  Dayton is a former US Senator with huge name recognition across the state – and he’s polling within the margin against a state representative who three months ago was unknown to most non-GOP Minnesotans.

That is, at the very least, not good news for Dayton or the DFL.

Note that Horner’s numbers from the ballyhooed PiPress poll from last week do seem, as we noted here, to have been BS – off a solid third.  If the PiPress poll wasn’t rigged (the poll was run by a friend of Horner’s), then it was too sloppy to worry about.

Emmer and Kelliher?  Not that it matters; it’ll take a miracle to get her through the primary…

Emmer – 35

Kelliher – 33

Horner – 12

…although Dayton has made a career out of giving his opponents miracles.  Still, at this stage it seems the DFL endorsement is on track to remain the electoral kiss of death.

Emmer and Entenza?  Who cares – Entenza is DOA. But here y’go:

Emmer – 37

Entenza – 33

Horner – 12

Stick a fork  in it.

Some perspective here:  in 2002, polls were showing Tim Pawlenty trailing Roger Moe by eight, and Tim Penny by 6 – in September.

This campaign is shaping up pretty well.

The Buck

Andrew Malcolm in the LATimes h notes for the benefit of his audience

…exactly what all of us were telling the nation two years ago; that legislators’ experience is lousy preparation for the Presidency:

American voters have taken many zigs and zags over the years when choosing their country’s chief executive.

But one of the amazing consistencies is: They prefer chief executives in the executive office. Five of the last six presidents have been executives — four governors and one sitting vice president.

The only exception is the current incumbent, Barack Obama, who as his bipartisan critics tried to point out in 2007-08, had never even run a candy store, let alone a country.

Huh.  Do tell, L. A. freaking Times?  Do you finally think so?

He was a law lecturer

…which was put out there as a key qualification.  “Constitutional Law is great background for a president!”, they say.  To which I, and a growing plurality of the American people, respond the President doesn’t need to litigate the constitution; he just needs to follow it.  The President needs to know the Constitution exactly as well as a fairly competent policeman to do his job.

a state senator and, briefly, a U.S. senator.

And it looks like the American people are finally starting to catch up with the GOP:

Overall, a new Rasmussen Reports poll indicated Wednesday, only 42% of Americans currently approve of Obama’s job, while 57% disapprove. Or compare Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s 66% state approval for his hands-on spill work vs 60% disapproval for the presidential visits, all four of them now.

Jindal is a great comparison of the difference between a real executive – someone on whose desk the buck stops, someone who makes decisions and gets things done – and a fake one like Obama, who is seemingly more into

Fact is, the two main political parties didn’t give American voters a….

… choice in 2008, nominating legislators for three of the tickets’ four spots — Obama, Joe Biden and John McCain. The fourth — gee, her name escapes us right now — was an elected top state executive, who seemed to gather more public attention than any of the others.

Pity it was the wrong kind.

Unexpected

While the unemployment results and lackluster private job creation numbers continue, month in and month out, to be “unexpected”, those of you who remember the Ford Administration and the “WIN” (“Whip Inflation Now”) button could pretty well bet something like this was coming up:

Vice President Biden today will kick off “Recovery Summer,” a six-week-long push designed to highlight the jobs accompanying a surge in stimulus-funded projects to improve highways, parks, drinking water and other public works.

Perhaps they can hand out “Whip United States’ Stagnation” buttons, too.

Polled

Channel Five is going to be releasing their next round of Minnesota Gubernatorial campaign polling today; they’ll reportedly be running DFL Primary numbers in the afternoon newscasts, DFL/Emmer matchup numbers at 10. 

It’s going to be a lot closer than the last poll Channel Five ran, which showed Emmer with a nice lead; it could very well show Emmer running behind.

The DFL/Establishment Media (pardon the redundancy) and their minions in the Sorosphere will try to spin this as a setback for Emmer;  their goal is to demoralize you, the conservative in the street.

Don’t buy the hype.  And don’t let anyone else buy it.

The GOP convention is six weeks in the past, and Emmer’s campaign is in the “face to face” stage; Tom is using his two month head start to travel the state, meeting people, shaking hands, kissing babies (or teaching them how to check) and listening to people around Greater Minnesota.  He has no ads running; the only “news” his campaign is making right now is the manufactured variety the DFL/Media toss out there.  

In the meantime, the DFL are moving into the peak of their primary season; they’ve got TV ads moving, they’re in full campaign mode, and they – at least, Anderson-Kelliher and Entenza and Horner – are working full-bore to increase their name ID (which is the least of former Senator Dayton’s problems).   They’re in the news – and even if you leave out the mainstream press’ outbreaks of partisan fawning, they are filling more space right now.

And the Emmer vs. DFL numbers will be skewed by the fact that none of the DFLers are “for real” yet; since none of them is the official candidate, none of them has any realy sticky negatives – unlike Emmer, against whom the DFL and their drinking buddies in the media are circling their wagons

So it’s to be expected Emmer’s numbers are going to cool off just a tad.  Indeed, if the Dems don’t post a lead of some sort, against a GOP candidate who is still building stateswide name ID, it could be considered a bit of a slap in the face at this point in the campaign, under the circumstances.

Remember – in September in 2002, Tim Pawlenty was trailing Roger Moe and Tim Penny, if you believed the polls.

So stay strong, Real Americans.  We have not yet begun to fight.

What If Matt Entenza Released A Plan In The Woods, And Nobody Heard?

Matt Entenza, running a weak third in the DFL primary race, promised to release a “bold” “education” “plan”:

DFL gubernatorial candidate Matt Entenza Thursday will release a “a bold education plan,” his campaign said Wednesday.

He’ll talk about the plan on campaign stops in Duluth, St. Paul and Rochester.

Entenza, who is vying in a DFL primary, took a hit at Republican candidate Tom Emmer in making his Wednesday announcement.

“During his tour Entenza will highlight a basic premise: to make Minnesota great again, we need to make our schools great again. It is a concept that Tom Emmer has failed to grasp,” the campaign release said.

The swat at Emmer is the left’s latest meme, trying to drag Emmer into talking specifics so the left and media (pardon the redundancy), as we discussed yesterday.  

Of course, you won’t see Mark Dayton or Margaret Anderson-Kelliher releasing “plans”.  Entenza, trailing very badly in the race, has nothing to lose.

Except that when he says it’s going to be a “bold” plan, set your expectations accordingly.  Entenza was the founder of MN2020, a think tank that has, among other things, been effusive in supporting the Teachers Unions, and  in reinforcing our wretched status quo at the expense of any new, better ideas.

So I believe it’s a safe bet that Matt Entenza’s education plan will be “bold” only in the brazenness of its support for the status quo and demands that we peasants fall in line.

Bathroom Review: The Flash Mahal

 As part of my ongoing series of reviews of the great bathrooms of the Twin Cities, I reviewed Flash’s newly-reopened master bathroom, the “Flash Mahal”. 

A frequent stop on visits to Flash’s Garage – the social center of the Midway – Flash’s master bathroom was once a fairly undistinguished little cubbyhole -  just a toilet, shower and sink.

But with his latest remodel job finished, the Flash Mahal may be perhaps the finest single space of any kind in Saint Paul.

It was a risky job – the all-white motif could have risked comparisons to 2001: A Space Odyssey  – but Flash and Mrs. Flash carried it off, somehow.  You feel like you could film a commercial,  throw a swanky party, even host a rave, in a space like this.

Some might say that, compositionally, the architecture is derivative of 1950′s Spanish Bano Blanco, but let’s be honest, there are worse influences to pilfer!  

I give it three and a half stars.  Zagat says four, but I don’t like to spoil people…

So kudos to the Flashes – who will be sharing Flash Mahal with one fewer kid next week!

Possibilities

Who would win if two major networks got into a gunfight over Helen Thomas’ seat in the White House press conference room?

Fox News Washington managing editor Bill Sammon says Bloomberg is a bad choice for Helen Thomas’ seat because it’s a “financial niche news outlet,” but Bloomberg’s Al Hunt contends that “no news organization is more committed to Washington or White House reporting” than his employer.

Answer:  the world.