My Tax Day At The Capitol Mall

So I not only got to attend the Tea Party at the State Capitol yesterday, but it was my immense privilege to be the lead-off speaker; mine was the first in a long stream of excellent speeches, including that of my NARN cohost  Ed Morrissey, whose speech I videotaped and is currently up at Hot Air, and Twila Brase, and Katie Kieffer, who will no doubt post video, also gave an excellent speech.  There were more.  Many more.

Lil ol me.  Courtesy Peter Anderson.

Lil’ ol’ me. Courtesy Peter Anderson.

I estimated about 1,500 people at the event at its peak around 6:30 or so.  It was good-sized, jovial crowd – but not quite as big as last year.  Some people were worried about this.  I’m not; last year, people were upset, and wondering what the hell to do, and the Tea Party was like a psychological life ring to a whole lot of people whose political activism had never gone beyond going to the polls, maybe, every couple of years.  Over the past year, though, conservatives have changed; we turn out for rallies; we call Congresspeople in vast numbers; better yet, of the 11,000 who attended last week’s Bachmann/Palin rally, over 1,000 volunteered to be election judges.   We saw similar results last night.  Conservatives are doing what they need to do to turn the spirit of the Tea Parties into the action this nation needs.

One group that was not in evidence were the “crashers”; this wasn’t the case everywhere, and the Saint Paul Tea Party was ready with a sizeable group of volunteers armed with orange vests and cameras to handle security – but other than half a dozen “Tax Me More!” activists who stood across the street for about half an hour, and a “Thanks To Taxes” billboard-truck that desultorily circled the capitol grounds (the billboard seemed to imply that we have children, sunshine and sex because of taxes), there was really no “opposition” at all.

And while last year I saw a few signs that made me cringe, I didn’t even see much of the far-out fringe in the crowd this year, either.  I mean, if you’re one of those lefties who gets the victorian vapours over references to John Galt, then yeah, I suppose the crowd was big and scary.  But the far-out, Alex Jones fringe was mostly absent from the rally itself.  I saw not a single “Birther” sign, much less anything I”d call racist.  Indeed, almost all the far-out fringe contingent…

…was up on stage.   For some reason, one of Toni Backdahl’s co-MCs was a guy from AM1710, a little 15 watt AM station in Maple Grove that could be charitably said to be out there on the Alex Jones fringe of the movement.   And one of the opening “musical” acts was a kid in an “” t-shirt (these are the folks that make the radical Randers shake their heads and go “good lord, how wierd”) who did a pseudo-rap rant that might have fit in at an anarchist rally and whose message would have made me cringe even had the kid not considered “intonation” part of a socialist conspiracy.  There were also a few speakers that sputtered about the unconstitutionality of the income tax, which is pretty much the norm at these things.

Now, I don’t fault the Tea Party’s organizers for including a lot of people that I, personally, disagree with strenuously – because that’s the whole point of the Tea Party.  It’s a group of people, some of whom would not normally agree about anyting, gathering together for a common cause; making government smaller, more responsible, and less frivolous with our rights and liberties.

And so I say “Yay” to all; the mainstream-of-the-mainstream Republican, the disaffected Democrat, the Ronulan, and everyone in between, and all of us who are united behind the idea that we are all created equal, and that people aren’t free until government is limited; let’s all kick ass in November.

Indeed, the only problem I heard about involved a reporter from “The Uptake”.  He’s a local leftyblogger who usually blogs anonymously; he went by “Steve” on the Uptake’s video.  Now, he interviewed me briefly last year; I never saw his final product, although I was told either his voiceover or his editing really mangled the context of my interview; I wouldn’t know – I don’t watch the Uptake much.  I did another standup with him after I got offstage – I figure if he and the Uptake want to Maye what I said, it says more about him and them than it does about me.   He referred to the people around him as “tea-baggers”; I gently corrected him, but I got a sneaking hunch it was a tell as to “the Uptake’s” overall tone of “coverage”.

But shortly after that, a few of the orange-clad security guys came up to me and said they’d been getting complaints about the Uptake’s crew.  I asked them for specifics; they took me to a couple that that said the Uptake’s crew hadn’t identified themselves as a “news” crew that was going to publish an interview online, and that they seemed to be trying to get them to say something stupid, to make them – Tea Partiers in general, it seemed – look stupid.    The woman said that the “reporter” seemed to be trying to pick a fight with her, trying to one-up her on her knowledge of issues; “I”m not an encyclopedia, I can’t answer all the questions he has right away”, she said, still visibly exasperated.   Her husband, a Vietnam veteran, echoed his wife’s thoughts; “he was trying to pick a fight; he was harassing us”.

I walked away, wondering – is “the Uptake” still trying to be an actual news organization, or are they down to trying to do bogus Jon Stewart-style “attack” man-on-the-street interviews?   It’s entertainment, I suppose, watching a self-professed “smarter-than-thou” taking pot shots at those he and his viewers consider inferiors for cheap yuks.  But is it “news?”

Now, I haven’t contacted The Uptake about this, and I doubt that I will; when it comes to “reporting” on the Tea Parties, even the mainstream media seem to find waterboarding context acceptable.  But I think it’s curious that an organization that is fighting for its standing on the Capitol Press Corps would seemingly take such gratuitous liberties with the whole idea of “journalistic ethics”, whatever they are, with this kind of behavior, if true.

Bill Salisbury at the Pioneer Press, and Jessica Mador of MPR both did good, balanced jobs of reporting on the event; or at least I got no complaints from security about either of them (except from the guard that Salisbury bowled over in his rush to interview Katie Kieffer).

I’ll be looking forward to next year.  Goodness knows there’ll be work to do.

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Victim Culture

To balance the state budget, Governor Pawlenty has “unallotted” – pulled the funding for – hundreds of millions of dollars of state spending…

…including the state program that refunded campaign contributions to people.

Naturally, Lori Sturdevant is painting campaign donors as  victims of unallotment:

The Campaign Finance Institute, based at George Washington University in Washington, issued a statement Wednesday noting that its studies have found that small donors play an unusually large role in Minnesota’s elections for legislative and state constitutional offices. The state leads the nation in the share of campaign funds raised in increments of less than $100 — the maximum contribution amount from a married couple that the refund program would reimburse.

Well, not. If that trend survives this unallotment, then that will be true.

If it does not, then the State of Minnesota will have led the nation in campaign funds raised in small doses.  In other words, all of Minnesota’s taxpayers have been subsidizing Minnesotans’ political habits.

“Eliminating the rebate would remove an important force for democracy in Minnesota government,” said the institute’s executive director Michal Malbin. In most states, campaign donations come in larger amounts from fewer donors, many of whom expect to gain influence with their contributions.

That is right – and whether the donation is small or large, that is the way it should be.  If I give $5 to the NRA, it’s because I want to “gain influence” in Saint Paul or Washington when my contribution forces NRA-endorsed candidates over the top to win elections.

So in what ethical universe is it right for Greta Hellemoen in Fergus Falls to subsidize my political donations?

Common Cause Minnesota is urging the 2010 Legislature to restore the program,

Another good reason to cut it.

and Republican activist Robert Carney of Minneapolis has threatened to initiate a class action lawsuit to stop Pawlenty’s unallotment. His argument is that depriving taxpayers of a promised refund sets an unwelcome precedent for the next time the state faces money woes.

Perhaps, arguably.

Allowing the DFL to spend money like crack whores who’ve rolled their johns is even more “unwelcome”, one might think…

So What Are You Willing To Do?

Yestrday, I wrote about Saint Paul Mayor Chris Coleman’s Saint Paul Mayor Chris Coleman’s budget proposal, which attacks an awful lot of spending that directly impacts the public.  As I wrote yesterday, I suspect that’s the goal; to scare people into demanding more taxes at all levels.

In the meantime, property taxes are up sharply – 40-50% in many cases, and slated for more – even as services are slashed, crime rises,and vacant homes spatter the cityscape.

So what do we do about this?

Well, if you’re a Saint Paul Republican, the traditional answer is “grit your teeth”.  The GOP in the Fourth District doesn’t really do a whole lot.  And in all of Saint Paul, there is precisely one elected Republican official – School Board member Tom Conlon.

Living in a one-party city causes all sorts of problems for any “opposition” parties in town. Leaving aside the obvious – one party controls all levers of city government – the big problem is that the public discourse is entirely framed, in the citizens’ minds, by the arguments one side makes.  The opposition never even registers on the radar.

Now, the GOP in Saint Paul and the Fourth District tries,after a fashion; they run candidates for Congress (Ed Matthews thrashed Betty McCollum in the debates) and for most state legislative races – but it’s all very perfunctory.  The most demoralizing part?  Legislative district conventions kick off, frequently, with a stirring call from one state party functionary or another to…

…try to make a showing, to soak up DFL money and effort so it can’t go to challenge Republicans in stronger districts.

Who can’t get behind that?

The fact is, the GOP needs to do a couple of things.

  1. We need to form coalitions with other groups in Saint Paul, which are not necessarily Republican.   Property rights is a huge issue in Saint Paul; many property activists are Democrats.  We need to find the obvious common cause.
  2. We need a coherent message.  That can be hard for Republicans; we are  the nation’s only big-tent party, which makes message discipline difficult.  I’m going to suggest finding the things we agree on and hammering on them, and softpedaling the disagreements rather than trying to bash out acquiescence. To an extent, that means the Saint Paul GOP has to come to terms with the huge number of Ron Paul supporters that showed up last year.  And by the way…
  3. The Ron Paul supporters will need to deliver.  Running a guy for President is fun and all, but 99% of politics is local.  Do you really want to see Rep. Paul’s message of civil liberty and low taxes implemented?  Then you’re going to have to get together with enough other people, and find enough common ground,to make it connect with people who aren’t members of any party.  Which means using that boundless energy you devoted to Rep. Paul, certainly.  It also means compromising – something your experience on the Paul campaign didn’t teach you much about.  So whaddya say?
  4. We’ll need to make a point of running conservative candidates for every single community council. The community councils are a traditional hotbed for of DFL-centric politics, and a breeding ground for DFL politicians.  They are also where all the community development money in Saint Paul gets spent – and that is some serious political clout.  In 2007 Republicans took over the Highland Park Council; last year, we got Republicans elected to two or three other councils. It’s a start – but we need to follow through.  This means in every district, we’ll need people who volunteer to run for office, sure enough.  It ALSO means we’ll need to get people to come out and vote for Republicans.  These seats are winnable.  And we need to, because this is where we develop talent for the next stop:
  5. In 2011, we’ll need to run credible candidates for City Council in all seven wards. Not just warm bodies on the ballot, mind you – we’ll need to find people who can take a campaign to the street; find people who can put in the shoe leather to help that battle; raise money to run seven serious campaigns; most of all, to get noticed, and noticed positively.
  6. In 2013, we’ll need to take a credible shot at the Mayor’s office.

To make it a real challenge – the Saint Paul GOP will need to do this, it seems, without any help from the State or CD4 GOPs.

So how does this happen?

More later this week.


Since pitchers and catchers are working out down south – you know what I’d like to see this baseball season?  I’d like to see all of the teams in the major leagues work together, so that all of them win the World Series this season!

Absurd?  Of course.  To most of us.

But to those who fuss over “bipartisanship”? Not as absurd, as Thomas Frank points out in a partly-correct series of observations in the WSJ:

The way I remember it, the No. 1 issue in the election was the collapsing economy, followed at some distance by the Iraq war. On both of these questions, Mr. Obama prevailed because he was the candidate who promised most convincingly to reverse Republican policies — not because he planned to meet the GOP halfway across the charred ruins of American prosperity.

The reason the Washington media think bipartisanship is the top issue, even when economic disaster stomps Americans like Godzilla, is because of the way it reflects their own professional standards. They are themselves technically impartial, and so it’s only natural for them to wish for a hazy millennium in which everyone else in Washington is impartial, too.

As anyone familiar with the incestuous relationship between the media and the left in Minnesota knows, Frank has it only partly correct.   The media do see themselves as technically impartial, but they’re not; they’ve merely redefined their own biases as “the norm” as far as the public is concerned.

“Bipartisanship” means “everybody working together to do things our way”; see every Lori Sturdevant column ever written for prime examples of how this manifests in real life.

Frank does get this part right:

It is supposed to be high-minded stuff, this longing for a bipartisan golden age. But in some ways it is the most cynical stance possible. It takes no idea seriously, since everything is up for compromise. The role of the political parties is merely to cancel each other out, so that only the glorious centrists remain, triangulating majestically between obnoxious extremes.

…before proving that he is himself from Planet Beltway:

What’s more, bipartisanship’s boosters can’t even discern friend from foe. The Republican caucus in the House of Representatives, which seems to be growing even more conservative as its numbers shrink, has clearly resumed the strategies of the early Gingrich era — obstruction, bomb-throwing and more obstruction. But to the mainstream media, the angry Republican pols seem to mainly discredit Mr. Obama, who failed to win over the GOP. Which will, of course, encourage the bitter-enders to obstruct even more.

Never has Beltway orthodoxy looked as clueless and futile as it does today. Confronted with the greatest failure of economic ideas in decades, it demands that the president make common cause with people for whom those failed ideas are still sacred. To think we can solve our problems in this way is like hoping to chart a route to the moon by water.

That’d be the cheap irony of this situation; the Republicans spent the last four years as they did the years from 1936 to 1976; governing like Democrats.

We have political parties because people believe different things; while at the end of the day people will reach a compromise (provided they don’t run back to their corner of the country and grab their followers and their weapons – and after 233 years, we’re still avoiding that fairly well), the point, as I wrote last year, is not to cast away the highlights of ones own beliefs cheaply, but to pull like mad for them to affect and inform the final compromise.

In other words, “Bipartisanship” comes after you reach the final result of everyone pulling for their partisan beliefs.
They say “politics isn’t bean-bag”; it’s not just because some people ignore common civility.  “Politics” comes from the same root as “polite”; it’s not just the art of compromise,but the art of advantageous compromise; of “Getting to Yes”.

I’m going to give a wedgie – rhetorically, probably – to the next idiot “journalist” to carp about “bipartisanship”.
(Via Chad the Tweeter)

Well, This Should Fix Everything!

Who do you think wrote this?

The Reformers are coming! They are many  and hungry to redress the
steep slide of mostly mainstream media into an abyss of cultural waste
infotainment, shallow journalism, ignorance of real issues, celebrity
worship and lockstep support for government folly  war, corporate
power, enriching the rich, and consolidating their own power! This has made
mincemeat of the medias responsibility to be Americas watchdog, not
Americas lapdog. First Amendment protections have been combined with
untold wealth and control over the flow of useful and important information
citizens need to govern ourselves.

Someone confined to an institution, maybe? 

No – one of many local shills for the “National Conference for Media Reform“, taking place next week at the Minneapolis Convo Center.  Built around the premise that the media is too conservative, and that it must serve a social agenda, the conferences promises enough leftymedia talking heads to prove the greenhouse effect for a couple of days.


Well, there don’t seem to be any in the conventional sense of “people I’d really like to hear speak”.  But there are some notables anyway:

    Allie Pates – Females United for Action  [not really a “notable”, so much as it sounds like it will be oh so fun]
  • Alondra Espejel  – Minnesota Immigrant Freedom Network [presumably “media reform” means enabling carefully-selected people from politically-correct groups to ignore the law]
  •  Amina Fazlullah U.S. Public Interest Research Group [Uh huh]
  • Amy Goodman Democracy Now!
    Andrew Slack  – Harry Potter Alliance [Oh, I get it – going after Voldemort O’Reilly!]
  • Arianna Huffington Huffington Post [“Vit enoff money, anyone can make a divvrence, dahling”]
  • Bill Moyers – Bill Moyers Journal, PBS [Yes, that’ll teach us to be fair and balanced.  Whooie]
  • Bob Edgar – Common Cause [making politics safe for elitist wonks for several decades, now.
  • Camille Cyprian – Wellstone Action [Moral of their story:  If the media pays you unquestioning obeisance, you can make a difference!]
  • Cenk Uygur  – The Young Turks [“If you are an immature, blowhard wannabee thug, people will pay attention to you!”]
  • Chantz Erolin – Yo! The Movement [Sounds like one for Ryan Rhodes or Learned Foot to tackle] 
    Dan Rather – Dan Rather Reports [Huh?  The poster child for the sclerotic arrogance of the “old media”?  This makes no sense – assuming “reform”, rather than institutionalizing the status quo via “the Fairness Doctrine”, weren’t what this charade were all about]
  • David Schimke Utne Reader [I’ve had about enough…]
  • Duncan Black  – Eschaton / Media Matters for America [I’d like to go to the convention, and ask him “WHY DO YOU HATE LOGIC?”]
  • Gina Cooper – Netroots Nation [A self-fisking entry if ever there were one]
  • Jane Hamsher – [“If you are shrill and trite enough, you can make a difference”]
  • Jeff Cohen Park  – Center for Independent Media
  • Jefferson Morley –  Center for Independent Media [ I wonder if Mr. Soros makes these guys share a room with Duncan Black and the Minnesota Monitor people?]

…and on, and on, and on…

Never were so many gathered to talk so much about changing so little.

Spenduletta Vs. Son of Doctor No

Lori Sturdevant apparently hopes that none of her readers really paid attention in high school civics class in her Sunday column in the Strib.

Six months ago, who’da thunk that Gov. Tim Pawlenty was headed for his most influential legislative session since 2003? “We were the only ones who remembered that he only got 47 percent of the vote,” sighed DFL Sen. Ann Rest the day after the 2007 Legislature went home.

Well, for this state’s good, let’s hope Ann Rest and the rest of the DFL horde keeps obsessing over that meaningless figure.   

 Far from being cowed into conciliation by the big DFL majorities in the House and Senate, the Republican governor’s near-defeat experience apparently left him rarin’ to veto any little (or big) bill he didn’t like.

Whenever the Democrats are on the ropes – as, unaccountably with their crushing majorities in both houses of the Legislature, they are at the end of the just-finished session – they turn to talk of “compromise”.

Tell us, Lori Sturdevant – when, during all their years in power (or, with the likes of Arne Carlson in office, de facto power) did the DFL “compromise” with the GOP conservatives? 

Sturdevant unleashes her wish list:

Indulge a Capitol basement-dweller in some reverse speculation. (Doesn’t that sound gentler than “second-guessing”?) Might the session have had a different outcome — or at least left a different aftertaste — if this had been the DFL strategy?

• Reduce expectations.

House DFLers had six bullet points on the “Back to Basics” to-do list that served them well during the 2006 campaign. But Pawlenty’s reelection, and the November revenue forecast of pred’near no new money after paying for inflation, should have whacked that list down to size.

Let’s call a shovel a shovel; the DFL got drunk with power before they even got the cork out of the bottle. 

It should have been clear that even if the DFLers could sneak a tax increase past the governor, it wouldn’t be big enough for a spending surge in both education and property tax relief. Further, to most Minnesotans and the governor, gas taxes are taxes too, even if they don’t flow into the general fund.

What?  The average Joe on the Minnesota Street isn’t a wonk?  The hell you say!

Rein in ambitions and pick one big, focused fight for more spending on one good cause, and DFLers then could:

• Sharpen the message, and spin it forward.

Read:  find a way to tell Minnesotans that a duck is a dog.

Pawlenty had a crisp message about growth in the coming two-year budget: “Isn’t 10 percent enough?” DFLers needed a compelling comeback. They needed to make the case that Minnesotans’ lives, or their children’s lives, would be better if the state spent more on their top priority.

And to do that, there needs to be such a case.

Maximize common cause with the governor.

…That would let DFLers look like reasonable folks intent on breaking the gridlock that Minnesotans had grown sick of seeing. It also would have made it more difficult for Republicans to paint DFLers as radical tax-and-spenders, when the endgame came.

The mere presence of Phyllis Kahn in the House and Larry Pogemiller, Ellen Anderson, and (fill in just about any metro Senate DFLer) in the Senate makes it easy for us to paint DFLers and radical tax-and-spenders.

• Court moderate Republicans.

Despite their depleted numbers, GOP moderates held the keys to achieving the top DFL goals.

They also realize something that Lori Sturdevant apparently doesn’t: 

DFL legislators had voters with them in November.

Nope.  The GOP had voters against them.  That’s why you had spasmodic reactions like Phil Krinkie losing by 50-odd votes.   

These options are humbly offered with no promise that they would have brought the session to a more satisfying conclusion.

I wonder if Lori Sturdevant’s Memorial Day barbecue will involve shovelling bags of ten dollar bills into the fire for a “satisfying conclusion”.