You Have To Conquer It To Know What’s In It

SCENE:  Mitch BERG is waiting in line at the box office to buy advance tickets to see PJ O’Rourke.

Suddenly, Bill GUNKEL, chairman of the Inver Grove Heights chapter of Former Republicans for Ron Paul, walking by to find a place that sells pancakes, notices BERG.  

GUNKEL:  Hey, Berg!   Ron Paul was right all along about Iraq!

BERG:   Huh?

GUNKEL:  He opposed the war in Iraq from the very beginning.

BERG:  Well, no cigar for that; he opposes the Civil War.

GUNKEL:  Well, yeah for good reason…

BERG:  Before you launch into that, Bill, why doncha tell me what it was that Ron Paul knew about Iraq that the rest of us didn’t?

GUNKEL:  He had no WMDs!

BERG:  OK.  Right. Now – forget for a moment that the authorization to go to war had 23 different separate reasons, grouped into four different categories; Aggressive actions against its neighbors including sponsoring terrorism and paying for suicide bombers in Israel; gross human rights violations, including two separate mass genocides against the Kurds and the Marsh Arabs;  violations of the terms of the 1992 peace accord, and WMDs.  WMDs amounted to three of the 23 reasons for the authorization.

And pretty much everyone in the world that wasn’t regarded as a crank…

GUNKEL:  …hey!

BERG:  Sorry, everyone in the world that wasn’t regarded as a crank and Ron Paul looked at the same evidence that the President did, that showed there were WMDs, and believed it.  Including Hillary Clinton, John Kerry and Joe Biden.

GUNKEL:  But Ron Paul was right about the WMD!

BERG:  Right.  And almost nobody – none of the world’s major intelligence agencies, diplomatic services or anyone else – agreed.  And as long as Hussein was in power, nobody was going to know any better.

GUNKEL:  So Ron Paul is smarter than all of them!

BERG:  Er, sure.  And how do we know it?

GUNKEL:  Because there were no WMDs.  Or not many.

BERG:  And we know this why?

GUNKEL:  Because we never found any!

BERG:  Who never found any how, or when?

GUNKEL:  Our troops, in Iraq, after…the…  [GUNKEL pauses]

BERG:  In other words, the invasion, and only the invasion, confirmed Ron Paul’s thesis, and without the invasion, there’d have been no foreseeable way to confirm or deny it.

GUNKEL:  Statist RINO!

And SCENE.

Surplus Of Stupid

SCENE:  Mitch BERG is ordering a Banh Mi sandwich at iPho on University.  Avery LIBRELLE enters the store.

LIBRELLE:  Hey, Merg!   After four years, Minnesota’s economy is rocking under Mark Dayton, while Wisconsin is sucking pond water!

BERG:  How do you figure?

LIBRELLE:  Minnesota has a $2 Billion surplus

BERG:  Right.  After raising taxes by…$2 Billion.  Now, if the economy is humming along, you’d think that the surplus would be bigger than the tax increase, now, wouldn’t you?

LIBRELLE:  At least Minnesota has a surplus!

BERG:  Right – apparetly, entirely due to the tax hikes.  In the meantime, Wisconsin is headed toward a surplus without the need for tax hikes – or, as we call it, a sustainable surplus.

LIBRELLE:  Yeah, but our economy is still better!

BERG:   Most of Minnesota’s growth is in metro-area medical, medical device, insurance and financial services companies – the ones that benefitted from Obamacare and “Too Big to Fail” stimuli.  Things aren’t nearly as rosy in Greater Minnesota.  In the meantime, Wisconsin’s growth is being held back by the slow manufacturing sector – which is a much bigger share of Wisconsin’s economy than Minnesota’s, and isn’t doing all that well here, either.

LIBRELLE:  If Minnesota had elected Tom Emmer governor in 2010, we’d be in the same boat!

BERG:  Right.  We’d have two economies being dragged down by Democrat policies.

LIBRELLE:  What?

BERG:  The parts of Wisconsin that are dragging the state’s economy are the ones that have been run by Democrats for generations.  The decay of Milwaukee’s manufacturing base is the state’s biggest economic problem.

LIBRELLE:  Hah!  But in Minnesota, it’s the Democrat-run cities that are winning…

BERG:  …as a result of national Democrat probrams to transfer wealth from consumers to banks and health insurance companies.

LIBRELLE:  You should issue a rape trigger warning.

BERG:  Clearly.

[And SCENE]

Turn This Motherland Out

SCENE:  Happy Hour at the Nomad, in the Five Corners area of Minneapolis’ West Bank.  A group of Twin Cities Ron Paul supporters is having a happy hour before Rep. Paul’s speech at the U of M.  Mitch BERG is enjoying a Jack and Coke.  

Bill GUNKEL, chairman of the Inver Grove Heights chapter of Former Republicans for Ron Paul, notices Berg.

GUNKEL:  I wish Doctor Paul were running for president.

BERG: Well, at least you have Rand.

GUNKEL:  Pffft.  Rand has become a RINO squish.

BERG: Well, there is the little matter of actually having to get something done in a Senate with 40+ members who actively do like big government.

GUNKEL:  I’m surprised Doctor Paul hasn’t disowned him.

BERG: So why the animosity?

GUNKEL:  He’s gone all Warvangelical on foreign policy.

BERG:  Warvangelical?  More like realistic.  I mean, you have seen what Putin’s been doing, right?  Returning Europe to the Cold War?

GUNKEL:  Well, doy.  We make client states of all their former Republics, and we surround them with bases.  I daresay we’d be paranoid, too.

BERG:  Wait – did you just call breakaway parts of the former Soviet Union “their former Republics?”

GUNKEL:  Well, duh.  That’s what they are.

BERG: Well, in a sense.  But outside of Russia itself, the “former republics” were all either absorbed over history by the Czars, or forcibly annexed by the Soviets.  Anyone that spoke for independence, or even autonomy, would wind up in the Gulag.  And if the Soviets felt “their” republics were getting uppity, they’d turn the screws.  The Soviets starved millions of Ukrainians to death in the thirties to enforce their land policy.  They also deported entire ethnic groups from their ancestral homes, and replaced them with Russians – which is why Crimea “broke” from Ukraine last year.

GUNKEL:  Doctor Paul never talked about this…

BERG: …I don’t imagine he did…

GUNKEL:  …so I don’t believe it.

BERG:  Of course you don’t.  There’s a reason places like Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Georgia and many others revere Ronald Reagan; he gave them their chance at self-determination and getting out of the Russian orbit – in some cases for the first time since 1920, in others for the first time in hundreds of years.   To ignore that is either ignorant or intellectually dishonest.

GUNKEL:  Sort of like surrounding the Russians with military bases.

BERG: Yeah – you do know that from 1945 to the late eighties, the Soviets maintained an expressly offensive military posture toward Northern, Western and Southern Europe.  Right?  And those bases were put there to defend against that ?  And honest people can debate whether and how much those bases are still needed against Putin – but they can’t deny the history.

Presuming they knew it in the first place.

GUNKEL:  Hey – was that a shot at me?

BERG:  Not as far as you know.

And SCENE. 

One Morning At Starbucks

SCENE: Mitch BERG walks into a Starbucks and approaches the order counter.  Moonbeam BIRKENSTOCK, the barrista, is behind the counter.

BERG:  Large light roast and some of that lemon cake, please.

BIRKENSTOCK:  Sure.  But first – what do you think about race?

BERG:  Huh?

BIRKENSTOCK:  When did you first become aware of your race?

BERG:  The race I’m in to get to work?  About 45 minutes ago.

BIRKENSTOCK:  What?

BERG:  It’s a joke.  Research shows that race is among the first things babies perceive about people in the world around them.  Even tiny babies are uncomfortable around people that aren’t the same race as their parents.  So a form of “racism” – being uncomfortable around people like you – is born into human beings.

BIRKENSTOCK:  White babies?

BERG:  All babies.   And I think it holds true through peoples’ lives, and expands on itself.  People are more comfortable around people like them; they are uneasy around people who aren’t.  And it’s not just race – class is something babies learn later on – but race is a big one.  Some middle class whites are uncomfortable around blacks.  Middle-class blacks get nervous around blue-collar white people under certain circumstances.  Jennifer Lopez probably watches herself around people who still are “from the block”.  White MPR listeners avoid being around white people with leathers and Harley-Davidsons.

Everyone on earth – including Barristas who went to Carlton…

BIRKENSTOCK:  …eeeew.  I went to Saint Olaf!

BERG:   Exactly.  Now – could you leave a little room for cream…

BIRKENSTOCK:  What do you think about your privilege?

BERG:  My privilege?

BIRKENSTOCK:  White privilege!

BERG:  I think there’s a reason that black people – and white people with liberal guilt – talk about it, and Latinos, Asians, and African immigrants largely don’t.

BIRKENSTOCK:  They’re racists too!

BERG:  No, they and their ancestors largely came here of their own free will, while the African-Americans are culturally as well as geneologically descended from slaves.  And 150 years of emancipation and 50 years of full rights haven’t undone 500 years of cultural damage.  So the question is, what do you do about it?

BIRKENSTOCK:  Have I asked you about your privilege yet?

BERG:  The privilege is this:  I’m descended from a culture that, going back almost 1,500 years, was dominated by a patriarchal society that was ruled by a warrior elite and venerated fighting skill and still doesn’t have a word for “relax, man”, but had more words for “combat” than Eskimos have for “snow” or the Irish have for “vomit”.  And between geography, the market, and my ancestors’ skill at killing their enemies, nobody managed for the most part to enslave my ancestors.  And the biggest thing I have to say about privilege is that I’m sorry for those whose ancestors and their matriarchal, hunter-gatherer societies were unable to protect their people from slavery.

But what do you want me to do about it now?

BIRKENSTOCK:  So…do you think your choice of coffee is itself racist?

BERG:  (Turns and walks out the door)

BIRKENSTOCK:  Can I interest you in the new Cold Play CD?

(And SCENE)

All Talk

SCENE:  Mitch BERG is setting up a grill on his porch, getting ready for a little pre-spring grilling.  Victor VON-SCHLIEFFENBERG-MOLTKE pulls up, parks his car, and walks up the sidewalk to BERG’s porch.

VON-SCHLIEFFENBERG-MOLTKE: Hah, Berg!  The  GOP doesn’t have the guts to say anything like this:

IMG_3306.JPG

BERG: So you’ve got what, here? A slick, cutesy meme about what the Libertarian Party would do, if it were in power?

VON-SCHLIEFFENBERG-MOLTKE: Yep! The GOP doesn’t have the balls to say anything of the sort!

BERG: Huh. I guess you’re right. But I’ve got a question for you.

VON-SCHLIEFFENBERG-MOLTKE: Shoot.

BERG: Does the Libertarian Party have “the balls” to say anything like this?

MITCH BERG will save 8 TRILLION DOLLARS

by INSTANTLY PRIVATIZING THE ENTIRE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT!

 

WHILE SIMULTANEOUSLY DATING SCARLETT JOHANNSON AND JENNIFER LAWRENCE!

Has the Libertarian Party said anything like this yet?

VON-SCHLIEFFENBERG-MOLTKE:  Well, no…

BERG:  Statists!  RINOs!  Impure!  Unable to talk the big-enough-talk!

VON-SCHLIEFFENBERG-MOLTKE:  But…but…you can’t actually make any of that happen!

BERG:  Right!  And the Libertarian Party can’t make anything it says happen either.  So go away and don’t come back until the Libertarian Party can talk really big!

VON-SCHLIEFFENBERG-MOLTKE glumly shuffles back to his car. 

And SCENE.

Trouble

SCENE:  Mitch BERG is waiting for new tires to be put on his car.   

Bill GUNKEL, former Republican who is now chairmain of the Inver Grove Heights chapter of “Former Republicans for Ron Paul”, walks in.

GUNKEL:  Boy, is the GOP in trouble!

BERG:  Huh.  Hey, Bill.  Why do you say that?

GUNKEL:  Because a GOP legislator in Montana proposed legislation to ban yoga pants in public!

BERG:  Wait – that proposal was unanimously tabled by the GOP-dominated committee to which it was introduced, without so much as a hearing.   They killed it.  Dead.

GUNKEL:  Yeah, but this is proof that the GOP is in huge trouble!BERG:  Er, OK.  Why is that?

GUNKEL:  Because a Republican introduced legislation banning yoga pants in public! They hate liberty!

BERG:  “They” unceremoniously shot the bill down.  It’s dead. Gone.

GUNKEL:  Yeah, but this is proof that the GOP is in huge trouble!

BERG:  Right – you said that.  So given that the GOP also killed the bill, why do you say that?

GUNKEL:  Because a Republican introduced legislation banning yoga pants in public! They hate liberty!

BERG:  Look, the state of Montana is controlled by the GOP; the House of Representatives is 2:1 GOP.  Montana has very low taxes, in effect no speed limit, they’ve nullified both Obamacare and any unconstitutional federal gun laws, and they are in general a vastly freer state than most of the lower 48 – all under GOP control.  That’s as compared to Minnesota, which – believe it or not – all you Ronulans haven’t managed to turn into a Free State Project home base just yet.

GUNKEL:  Yeah, but pull your head out, sheeple; this is proof that the GOP is in huge trouble!

BERG:  Um, OK.  Why?

GUNKEL:  Because a Republican introduced legislation banning yoga pants in public! They hate liberty!

BERG:  Except the rest of the Montana Republicans took the bill OUT of contention.

GUNKEL:  Yeah, but this is proof that the GOP is in huge trouble!

BERG:  Don’t say “Because a Republican introduced legislation banning yoga pants in public! They hate liberty”.

GUNKEL:  Because a Republican introduced legislation banning yoga pants in public! They hate liberty!

Avery LIBRELLE walks into the lobby. 

BERG:  I never thought I’d say this, but Avery!  Thank goodness you’re here!

And SCENE

No Juthtith, No Peathe

(SCENE:  Mitch BERG is sitting in the waiting room at the dentist’s office, waiting on a checkup. Avery LIBRELLE enters the room, holding a throbbing tooth.  BERG tries to hunch down behind his magazine – but LIBRELLE notices him).

LIBRELLE:  Hey, Merg!  (Speaks with difficulty through pain) Thereth  an epidemic of rape on American univerthity camputheth.

BERG:  Wow.  Your mouth sounds painful. 

LIBRELLE: You’re dodthing the queththion!

BERG:  Well, no, I…OK, so how do we know about this “epidemic”?

LIBRELLE:  Becauthe American univerthitieth thay tho. 

BERG:  (Wincing in pain as LIBRELLE thpeakth) So in other words, university administrations, carrying out their own home-grown investigations, driven by a feminist lobby that actively disparages the idea of due process for those accused of rape, and with a vested interest in resolving all ambiguous cases – say, cases where everyone involved was blind drunk and there were no witnesses, or even the occasional malicious accusation – as rape, say there’s an epidemic. 

LIBRELLE: Yeth.

BERG: So you think data coming from university administrations – who act in these cases primarily as political rather than criminal-justice bodies – are the appropriate people to investigate allegations of felonious assaults which our society justifiably regards as second only to murder in moral gravity?

LIBRELLE: Of courthe.  Who elthe knowth more about thtudentth than the univerthity thythtem?

BERG:  OK.  So in the same vein – who knows more about priests than their various dioceses, arch-dioceses and the Vatican?  When priests were being accused of sexually abusing children, by your logic, the church was right to try to deal with it by itself.

LIBRELLE:  OF courthe not. 

BERG:  How so?

LIBRELLE:  Of courthe not. 

BERG: No, I mean why do you think not?

LIBRELLE:  And I anthwered you.  Of courthe not. 

BERG:  That’s no answer.

LIBRELLE:  Yeth it wath.

(ASSISTANT calls BERG’s appointment; LIBRELLE attempts to get up and leave the room ahead of BERG)

BERG:  Um, hello?

LIBRELLE:  Get an exthternal invethtigation, thucker.

(And SCENE)

Reform

SCENE:  Avery LIBRELLE is waiting at the light rail station on University Avenue. 

Seeing Mitch Berg driving past, LIBRELLE leaps and, incredibly, sails through BERG’s passenger side window and lands sitting upright in BERG’s passenger seat.

BERG:  What the…

LIBRELLE:  Hahahahahahahahaha, Merg!    You and your conservative teabagger friends “won” the South!  Now, you can keep it?

BERG:  Um, right.  Mary Landrieu lost, leaving not a single Democratic Senator, Governor or Democrat-controlled Legislative chamber in the entire old Confederacy. 

LIBRELLE:  Yeah!  You got all the racists!    The journey you started in 1968, when you inherited all the racists with Nixon’s “Southern Strategy”, is complete!  You guys got the KKK vote!

BERG:  You’re still babbling about the so-called “Southern Strategy?”

LIBRELLE:  Yes!  The racists, upset about the Civil Rights Act, all voted GOP!

BERG:  OK – let’s accept for a moment purely for sake of argument that the South is more “racist” than the rest of the country – which is deeply debatable, but again, it’s for argument’s sake – and that people vote first and foremost over racial issues. 

LIBRELLE:  Yep.  Absolutely!

BERG:  OK.  So the South voted for Nixon – but then, so did Vermont and California and, in 1972, Michigan, New York State, and even ultraliberal Minnesota.  So they’re all racists, too, right?

LIBRELLE:  The South were voting their consciences, though!

BERG:  Were they indeed?

LIBRELLE:  Even though these rhetorical questions of your always end up with me falling into a trap that makes me look stupid and uninformed, I’ll say “hell yeah!”

BERG:  OK – so the Democrats controlled every single southern Congressional delegation until 1994.  And the GOP didn’t win a majority of southern Governor’s offices, to say nothing of state legislatures, until well into the 2000s. 

By the way – the Klan hasn’t been a factor in Southern Politics since the sixties, maybe the seventies at the very latest.  So it would be more realistic to say that Republicans oversaw the extinction of mainstream racism in the Deep South. 

(BERG’s car pulls up to stoplight.  LIBRELLE steps out, walks between traffic to nearest train station).

BERG:  Avery?  Avery?

Fear Of A Dumb Planet

SCENE: Mitch BERG is walking through the woods in Como Park, looking for a place to practice the bagpipes.

Suddenly, Avery LIBRELLE jumps out from behind a tree. 

LIBRELLE:  Hey, Merg!  Your sides has been owned again!

BERG:  Er, Avery?  What are you doing in the middle of the woods?

LIBRELLE: Stakeout for climate criminals.  So anyway, we were talking about how your side has been owned again.

BERG:  “We” weren’t.  You were. 

LIBRELLE:  Hahaha.  And it comes from Canada.  Here.  Read it. 

20141112-102136-37296823.jpg

LIBRELLE: So yet again, a Canadian proves he knows what’s best for us better than the American electorate does. 

BERG:  Well, no.  He’s shown he’s absorbed Deb Wasserman-Drescher’s chanting points like a Macalester College poli-sci grad.  Pretty much every point Richard Brunt of Victoria British Columbia says is wrong. 

LIBRELLE:  No way!

BERG:  Way.  Corporate profits are high because companies are sitting on cash, rather than investing.  The “under 6%” unemployment number is a sham; the percentage of people in the workforce who are working is essentially unchanged since the lowest point in the depression.  The GDP growth rate Mr. Brunt is bragging about is the slowest of any recovery in the post-war era. This is especially noteworthy because, normally, steep sharp recessions have steep, sharp recoveries (see 1982). This one was a steep recession with a painfully-slow recovery. How painful? The current GDP growth is equal to the WORST quarter of growth in the recovery from the 1982 recession.

Gasoline prices are “falling” to about $1 more than they were when Obama took office. Worse than that when you adjust for inflation. 

LIBRELLE:  Hah, Merg!  There is no inflation!

BERG:  Does you or Mr. Brunt ever buy bread, beef, chicken, eggs or health insurance?  …? CPI shows low inflation, but that’s largely a function of the price of debt – which is being kept artificially low:

Oh, yeah – and oil imports are declining partly due to the slow economy, and partly due to drilling in the Dakotas, which is basically happening over Obama’s, let’s just say, passive-aggressive objection.

As to the “respected around the world” bit? That’s just delusional.

LIBRELLE:  That’s just like a typical Repblicon.  A message based on fear!

BERG:  Fear?

LIBRELLE:  Yeah.  Fear of black people!

BERG:  How did fear or black people enter the conversation?

LIBRELLE:  You’re afraid, aren’t you?  Boo!  There’s a black guy sneaking up on you!

(BERG turns, inflates the bag on his pipes, and starts playing random noises to drown LIBRELLE out as he walks back to his car).

A Parable

(SCENE:  A small aircraft is flying over the prairie.  Inside the plane are:

  • Carpal POX:  a golf pro from Wayzata, and Vice Chair for Ideological Purity at the Minnesota 5th CD Libertarian Party
  • Viktor VON-SCHLIEFFENBERG-MOLTKE: a professional fraternity organizer, and Vice Chair for Education at the 5th CD Libertarian Party
  • Stephanie Marie ANNAN: Community Organizer for the Minnesota 5th CD Libertarian party.
  • Mitch BERG:  Guy, travelling space-available
  • Buck SAVAGE: The pilot. 

Suddenly, the right engine bursts into flames.  The plane begins to vibrate and starts to swerve to the right)

SAVAGE:  Crap!  Everybody grab a parachute!  We’ve gotta bail out!

VON-SCHLIEFFENBERG-MOLTKE:  Oh, dude! Is this like one of those jokes, where the Pope, Hitler and Kim Kardashian are in a plane and there’s only two parachutes? 

SAVAGE:  No, there’s five.  Hurry up and put one on…

ANNAN:  …or what?  The (makes scare quotes in the air) “plane” will “crash” and “kill” us “all”?  How do we know this? 

BERG:  Um, yeah – I’ll take a ‘chute.  Thanks. 

POX:  Wait – I think there’s a third option.  Or maybe several third options. 

VON-SCHLIEFFENBERG-MOLTKE:  That means like third through maybe millionth options, you douche!

POX:  Let’s think about this.  Who’s to say there’s any absolutes, here? 

BERG:  (Frantically donning parachute) I’d say “the plane is crashing” is pretty absolute.

ANNAN:  That’s assuming the parachutes work.  I’ve read that they don’t always work.  Sometimes they actually cause accidents. 

SAVAGE:  Look, ma’am, pretty soon the fire in the engine is going to melt the wing spar, and the wing is going to fall off and the plane will go into an uncontrollable spin, and the centrifugal force will pin you to the wall of the plane so hard you won’t be able to move. 

ANNAN:  Oh, don’t even get me started on the melting point of steel. 

BERG:  The wing spar is aluminum, isn’t it, Mr. Savage? 

SAVAGE:  Yeah…

POX:  Look, the point is that this is a fine time to brainstorm for more, better options than the ones our authority figure – no disrespect intended…

SAVAGE:  (Handle on the hatch handle) None taken.

POX:  …tells us.  Because the biggest problem with the human mind is that we allow authority figures to shackle our imagines, and the bounds of logic to dictate the parameters of the possible.  What other options are there besides “flaming death” and “parachute?”

BERG:  “Dying while engaging in navel-gazing magical thinking?”

POX:  Not quite in the spirit intended, but there are no bad ideas here…

VON-SCHLIEFFENBERG-MOLTKE:  Dude, I reject the premise that there’s any difference between the two.  Choosing one or the other merely perpetuates a binary system.  I’m not going to pick either one. 

SAVAGE:  Well, yeah – you will pick one.  Or more to the point, it’ll pick you. 

VON-SCHLIEFFENBERG-MOLTKE:  Don’t tase me, bro. 

POX:  Benghazi!  Benghazi!

(ANNAN and VON SCHLIEFFENBERG-MOLTKE giggle)

ANNAN:  I’m done talking with people who think in terms of “life” or “death” as absolutes. 

BERG:  Well, that’s a perfectly fine metaphysical and theological point, but crashing in the plane sort of moots the discussion. 

ANNAN:  That does it.  I’m shunning you. 

POX:  OK.  Fourth option; we concentrate real hard and levitate the plane?  Again, no bad ideas, here.  Any more? 

BERG:  So I pull this ring here? 

SAVAGE:  After we’re out of the plane. 

POX:  Some people just can’t be cured. 

ANNAN:  There is no difference between the disease and the cure. 

VON-SCHLIEFFENBERG-MOLTKE:  I’m totally posting this to Facebook. 

(BERG and SAVAGE jump, count to three, and pull the rip cords, as the plane, engine ablaze, sails into the distance). 

ANNAN (in the distance):  Bunch of ‘chutists.

VON-SCHLIEFFENBERG-MOLTKE and POX:  ‘Chutists!  ‘Chutists! 

(And SCENE)

Unicorns Vote 100% Third Party!

SCENE:   Mitch BERG is biking in the southwest suburbs.  He pulls over into a coffee shop.

As he sits down, he notices Stephanie Marie ANNAN, Community Organizer for the Minnesota 5th CD Libertarian party.   She is wearing capri pants and a t-shirt with “He Gave His Only Begotten Son”, and a picture of Ron Paul walking across the water toward the camera.

ANNAN:  Hey, Mitch.

BERG:  Hey, Stephanie Marie.  Ready for the election.

ANNAN:  Yep.  I’m voting Libertarian. 

BERG:  Kinda figured.  So – why? 

ANNAN:  Because big changes need to happen.

BERG:  Yeah, that’s true.  That’s why I’m voting for Jeff Johnson as many times as Mark Richie will let me get away with it. 

ANNAN:  He won’t bring any changes.  The GOP is just as big a part of the problem as the DFL is. 

BERG:  Er…why do you say that?

ANNAN:  When people put the GOP in power, they were just as bad as the Democrats.  There is no difference between the parties. 

BERG:  Yeah, the GOP can be frustrating.  Although you’re oversimplifying.  Bobby Jindal has made a huge difference in Louisiana; under his leadership, the New Orleans Public Schools went all charter.  Other GOP governors – Pence, Haley, Walker, Martinez – have made inroads in reducing the size and power of government.  The GOP – and GOP candidates – have made a difference at limiting government and its impact over the years.   Reagan’s tax cuts were a huge help…

ANNAN:  Reagan grew the deficit!  He raised taxes!

BERG:   Bingo.  You’re making my point for me.  Reagan, being a Republican president dealing with a Democrat Congress run by a big-government ward heeler like Tip O’Neill, had to make compromises.  One of those compromises was that he had to trust O’Neill to keep up his end of the bargain on cutting spending – which, of course, he didn’t.  And for all of that, his “tax hikes” were a fraction of his tax cuts, and they happened at a time when the economy was humming along.  If you don’t think Reagan’s tax cuts in the early eighties helped immensely with the recession, you’re dreaming. 

Anyway – the GOP in 1994 made a huge difference in paring back Bill Clinton’s megalomania.  Remember “Hillary Care?”  Either does anyone else.  And the Tea Party class of the GOP, the people elected in 2010, have largely kept their promises. 

ANNAN:  But the Minnesota GOP had the governor’s office from 2002 to 2010, and the House until 2008, and both chambers in 2011 and 2011, and nothing changed. 

BERG:  Plenty changed.  “Republican” used to mean Arne Carlson.  It used to mean “go along with the DFL in turning surpluses into more permanent spending”. 

ANNAN:  The GOP raised the budget in 2011, and built the stadium. 

BERG:  Yep.  And both were wrong.  And in neither case did the Tea Party class of 2010 go along, at least without a fight. 

ANNAN:  Bla bla bla.  The GOP always compromises.

BERG:  Parts of the GOP – the older, “Moderate” wing of the party, especially, which still exerts way too much control over the party at the Capitol – certainly does.  Parties don’t change overnight.   The GOP still caves in on way too much.  It’s improving, as conservatives slowly replace moderates. 

And let’s be honest; Minnesota is a blueish purple state at best.   Minnesota is split between various shades of red and hard, deep blue.   When a conservative goes to Saint Paul, and wants to get anything done, compromise is inevitable.  There is no way anyone who gets elected to office as a conservative in Minnesota doesn’t have to defile the purity of their principles at some point or another. 

ANNAN: Yeah, well, I’m sick of voting for the lesser of two evils all the time.  I’m going to vote my absolute, pure principles and vote Libertarian. 

BERG:   And that way, you’ll promote liberty.

ANNAN:  Yep.  

BERG:  So let me get this straight; you won’t vote for Republicans because previous generations of Republicans have had to compromise the purity of their principles when they actually got into a room with the other side and had to actually try to get things done, to say nothing of having to stop the other side from getting worse things, like daycare unionization and gun control, done. 

ANNAN:   Yep. 

BERG:  And you’ll vote for someone who’s never had to test the purity of his precious principles by trying to enact any kind of policy at all, much less over the votes of a legislature that is at least 50% completely hostile to everything your candidate says. 

Don’t get me wrong.  I could see myself supporting Rand Paul for President.   

ANNAN:  Ew.  He’s abandoned his principles.  Not like Doctor Paul.

BERG:  You’re proving my point.  “Doctor” Paul never got elected to anything outside of a House district in Texas.  And for all his big talk about policy – auditing the fed, disengaging abroad, yadda yadda – he admits, albeit quietly, that he never could have done it.  He had no support in Congress. 

ANNAN:  Why do you hate liberty?

BERG:  Actually, I clearly respect liberty more than you do. 

ANNAN:  Hah!  How can you say that? 

BERG:  Because the only way you’re going to get your agenda passed is to elect a libertarian monarch who takes office, sweeps away a century of noxious policy by decree, and then steps down.  Hopefully.  And that’s fine, if “magical thinking” is good enough for you.   But that’s really all voting for a third party gets you.  A third party vote is a wasted vote.

ANNAN:  It wasn’t with Jesse Ventura!  He had principles and he stuck with them!

BERG:  No, he didn’t.  He ran on a promise of returning the entire plus to the people. And once he got elected, he had to deal with the fact that was a governor with no caucus in the legislature – two Democrats flipped over to the Independence Party over the next year, and that was it. So we had to run with his hat in hand to Roger Moe, the DFLSenate majority leader, and cut deals like a madman. Meaning that about a third of the surplus got paid back. And the rest of it got turned into permanent spending, the way the DFL wanted.

So where was the principal?

ANNAN:  He sent a message!

BERG: Yep. And that message was “voting for a third-party candidate is of nothing but symbolic value”.

ANNAN:  (Plugs ears, turns, starts running).  Bla bla blaaaaa can’t year youuuuuuu bla bla bla bla bla).

[And SCENE]

Hunky Dory

SCENE:  Mitch BERG is driving down the road, when he notices Avery LIBRELLE by the side of the road.  LIBRELLE is standing by the trunk of a Chevy Volt; on the trunk is perched a miniature windmill, attached by cables to a terminal under the Volt’s open hood.   LIBRELLE is blowing on the windmill. 

BERG sighs, pulls over.  He gets out of the car, notes that there is no wind – it’s a flat calm – and walks up to LIBRELLE.

BERG:  Hey, what’s…

LIBRELLE:  Hah, Merg!  The economy is doing fantastic!  You were wrong!

BERG:  Um, what now? 

LIBRELLE:  Unemployment is under 6%

BERG:  That’s that’s because so many people have left the workforce, as we see on this chart here…:

 

…which is the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Labor Force Participation Rate, representing the percentage of the labor force – able-bodied people between 16 and 70 – that are actually working.  As you can see, since Obama’s election, that number has plummeted from the mid-sixties to under 63%.  .

And six percent of them are unemployed, which means that the actual share of the population that’s working is more like this:

That’s the labor force participation rate minus the unemployed.  Now, if there were an economic recovery going on, that number would be ticking back up. 

LIBRELLE:  Hah, Hah, Hah, Merg!  You’ve been watching too much Faux News!   (Goes back to blowing on the windmill, spinning the blades madly)

BERG: That’s pronounced “foh”, not “fowks”.

LIBRELLE:  Standard pronunciation is a microaggression of the patriarchy!  Anyway – you lie.  The labor force participation rate is dropping because Baby Boomers are retiring!  Hah!

BERG:  That’s a great theory – because statistics show that older people are working less, and that hours and productivity are ticking up among people in their prime working years.

LIBRELLE:  Hah!  Got that right! (LIBRELLE blows on the windmill some more)

BERG:  Except that both of those statements are untrue.  Neither is actually the case. 

Older workers are the only group of workers who are actually increasing their share of the workforce:

And the “inactivity rate” of men between the ages of 25 and 54 – the prime income-earning years – is double what it was during the Reagan Administration…

…and a good third above what it was under Dubya.  And since the “end” of the recession, it’s just kept climbing. 

LIBRELLE:  So you admit you lied to me?

BERG:  Huh?

LIBRELLE: By saying that the stats said one thing, and then showing that they said another!

BERG:  Uh…right.

LIBRELLE:  (Resumes blowing on windmill)

BERG:  What are you doing?

LIBRELLE:  My car ran out of battery.  I’m trying to give it a sustainable jump start. 

BERG:  With a…

LIBRELLE:  With a Personal Wind Generator. 

BERG:   Er…where…

LIBRELLE:  I got it at Sharpened Image.  It was $499. 

BERG:  Don’t you mean “Sharper Image?” 

LIBRELLE:  No. Sharpened.  It’s from Nigeria. 

BERG:  Huh.  Have a great week.

LIBRELLE continues blowing on windmill as BERG walks to his car. 

And SCENE. 

This Is How Stupid They Think You Are

SCENE:  The Admiralty, London, May, 1940.  Winston CHURCHILL is poring over a map in the Admiralty’s operation’s center, looking over the deteriorating situation in France.  He is joined by Admiral Nigel FRIEDEN, head of the Royal Navy’s public health wing.

CHURCHILL:  It is clear that we are going to have to evacuate the British Army from France.  In addition to a maximum effort by the Royal Navy, we’ll need thousands of civilian boats to help get the troops off the beaches and evacuate them from the Nazis. 

FRIEDEN:  I’m afraid that’s a bad idea, sir.

CHURCHILL:  Why do you say that?

FRIEDEN:  If we evacuate the Army, it will just make the occupation worse in England.  Also, we’ll have to use the fleet to evacuate Germans from England, too, then.

CHURCHILL:  That makes no sense.

FRIEDEN:  I’m an expert. 

NEXT SCENE: The US Air Force base at Wiesbaden, West Germany, June, 1948.  General Lucius CLAY, commander of US Military Government in occupied West Germany, is looking at a map of the Eastern Zone.  Ominously, red Soviet stars sit astride the three road/rail routes supplying West Berlin; the Soviets have just instituted a blockade, trying to starve West Berlin into the Soviet sphere.  Clay looks pensive.  He is joined at the map table by Brigadier (one-star) General Maximilian FRIEDEN, head of his public health corps. 

CLAY:  Blockade, schmockade.  We will need to start the greatest airlift in history to keep Berlin supplied.  It will show Stalin that we’re serious about

FRIEDEN:  We can’t, General.

CLAY:  What the hell?

FRIEDEN:  If we bring food, medicine and coal to Berlin, it’ll just make the hunger, disease and cold worse.  Also, for every load of supplies we bring in, we’ll have to bring a plane-load of Soviet spies and commandos back. 

CLAY:  Whose army do you serve?

SCENE:  April 1975.  As the North Vietnamese Army overruns Saigon’s last line of defenses, US Marine Brigadier General Richard CAREY is discussing the upcoming evacuation of Americans and certain Vietnamese from Saigon.  Artillery is heard in the distance, as CAREY makes the final plans to remove the last Americans, and as many Vietnamese as possible, from the Embassy compound .  He is addressing a group of officers, including State Department public health attache T. Morton FRIEDEN.

CAREY:  And so we’ll bring in the helicopters from the aircraft carriers.  We’ll get the last of the Marines out by 1800 hours. 

FRIEDEN:  General, that’s a bad idea.  Evacuating Marines will only make them more subject to Communist rule.  And for every helicopter full of Marines you remove, you’ll need to bring one full of Vietnamese back from the ships. 

CAREY:  (Stands, slack-jawed).

———-

CDC director Thomas Frieden is telling us that wejust can’tstop all flights coming in from West Africa, because…:

It’ll Make the Epidemic Worse:  Because ancient tribal burial rituals, lack of information about handling infections, and superstitions about healthcare workers aren’t bad enough; dispersing the epidemic all around the world must be ten times better!

If we stop air travel, we won’t be able to bring supplies:  That’s only true if all flights from West Africa are on disposable aircraft, or are kamikaze flights.  Planes can fly in the other direction.  Hopefully to drop off supplies and trained well-equipped healthcare workers.  And return empty, until the crisis eases.

I imagine Mr. Frieden knows this.  But judging by the last round of elections, it’s a lot for a plurality of Amerians to understand…

UPDATE: You think I’m selling Dr. Friedman short? 

Read this – especially Dr. Frieden’s interview with Megyn Kelly

It only looks like one of my parodies.

Reasons To Raise The Minimum Wage

[SCENE:  John “FUZZY” Premisse, age 45, steps out behind a Burger King on a grimy industrial boulevard.  He is paunchy, his hairline a distant memory.  His face, doughy from decades of blue-collar food, is criss-crossed with stress lines.  In the background, the smokestacks of a high-tech incubator park belch smoke into the night sky, the glow of the open code hearth lending a faint glow to the background as he lights a cigarette.  ]

[FUZZY is joined by a much younger man.  It is  his son, Luke “STRETCH” Premisse.  Stretch, age 21, bums a cigarette off his father.  As he lights the cigarette, we see spatter burns on his forearms, accrued through hard years on the deep frier]

STRETCH:  [takes a puff] Busy night. 

FUZZY:  [Takes a long puff, holds it, lets it go slowly]  They’re all busy, in their own way.  [Stares into the distance

STRETCH:  Yeah.  Hey, Dad?  That guy who was talking with Erica the assistant manager?  Who was that?

FUZZY:  [Scowls, with an air of contempt] Pfffft.  Sheee-*t.  Buddy. 

STRETCH:  Buddy?

FUZZY:  Buddy Dayusexmachina. 

STRETCH:  Seems like a nice guy.

FUZZY:  [Spits with contempt]  Sh*t.  He’s a f****ng “earner”.

STRETCH:  “Earner?”

FUZZY:  Someone who earns more than minimum wage. 

STRETCH: Huh.  [Takes a puff on hiscigarette].      

FUZZY:  [also takes a puff].

STRETCH:  So – that’s a bad thing?

FUZZY:  [Looks at his son with an air of alarmed]  What?

STRETCH:  So he earns more than minimum wage.  That’s a bad thing?

FUZZY: [Alarm turns to comtempt].  What the hell?  Is that how I raised you? 

STRETCH:  [Takes a puff, flicks his cigarette, stands a little straighter]  What do you mean?

FUZZY:  We’re minimum wage earners.  My grandfather earned $.35 an hour at a burger joint in the forties.  My father before me?  He started at a buck and a quarter at this same Burger King, back in 1965.  Nineteen Sixty Five!  And he worked away, stayed at that minimum wage, til the day he died at the drive-thru.  I started here in 1983 – I made $3.35 an hour.  Flippin’ burgers, just like you do today!  You probably don’t even remember back in 1997, when Bill Clinton raised the minimum from $4.25 to $5.15.  You were just a baby.  But it was one of the proudest days of my life!

STRETCH:  But…why?

FUZZY:  [Steps aggressively toward his son]  Because the minimum wage got raised!

STRETCH:  Yeah, but…so?

FUZZY:  It’s how our life gets better.  When the minimum wage goes up, we get more money.  How f****ng hard is it? 

STRETCH:  Right.  I get that.  We’re the Premisses; the best burger flippers, frier operators and shake-pourers in the Valley. 

FUZZY:  Damn straight.  [Takes another puff]

STRETCH:  OK…well…Mister Dayusexmachina says that if I learn to run the scheduling system and how to count tills, I could move up to assistant manager.  That’d jack my pay up to $12.50…

FUZZY:  [Drops cigarette in shock, turns on son in muted menace]  What did you just say? 

STRETCH:  They said I could move up…

FUZZY:  [walks closer to son, rage building]  I hear what you said.  You wanna “move up”.  Is that how I raised you?   

STRETCH:  Er…what do you mean?

FUZZY:  We earn minimum wage.  You do.  I do.  My daddy did.  So did his daddy.  That’s what we do.  We’re the Premisses!

STRETCH: But – this would be more than minimum wage…

FUZZY:  [looks son in the eye] Mark Dayton just raised the minimum wage.  We all just got raises. 

STRETCH:  Yeah, but this is even more?

FUZZY:  What are you?  Getting all “too good for minimum wage?”  Going out and “learning new skills” to “get pay raises” and “move ahead in life” without waiting for the Feds to raise it for you? 

STRETCH:  Well…

FUZZY:  You think you’re too good for the minimum wage life?  The life that was good enough for your father, and his father, and his father? 

STRETCH:  It has nothing to do with being “too good”.  It’s just that I know how to use the computer, and that other assistant manager Shaylene got fired for dealing pot out of the bathroom, and…

FUZZY: You look at me, son.  Look at me!  Other people may “learn skills” and “move up”.  And some of them “screw up” and “move down”.   But we Premisses?  We are always here.  Reliable.  We do the jobs nobody else wants to.  And we’re the best at them. 

[Javier AMARILLO, President of the local SEIU chapter, steps into the frame and addresses the camera]

AMARILLO:  What we’ve seen here is why America needs to raise the minimum wage.  Because all across this great but racist and deeply flawed nation, hundreds of millions of hard-working Americans have chosen not to learn more marketable job skills, to better themselves, and to go to the job market without skills or education that would give them a skill that anyone would pay for.  Many of them, raised in a public school system that taught grievance-mongering and neglected hard work and striving to better oneself, have no concept of the idea that “bettering oneself” is not an entitlement, but a personal responsibility. 

And it’s for these hundreds of millions of Americans that we need to raise the minimum wage. 

So please join me in demanding your congressperson demand a raise to the federal minimum wage!  

FUZZY:  Hey, it’s Javier Amarillo, of the SEIU!  When are you going to organize fast-food workers?

AMARILLO: [Smiling blandly]  You don’t exist to me. 

STRETCH:  Do you make minimum wage?

AMARILLO:  As if.  I make $187,000 a year plus perks.  I drive a BMW.  I haven’t eaten at a “Burger King” in 20 years.  Get back to work, as****es.    I’ve got to get to a dinner meeting with Tina Flint Smith. 

[And SCENE, as a Pete Seeger song plays dimly in the background]

Lowballed

SCENE:  At the Mississippi Market co-op in Saint Paul.  Mitch BERG is shopping for steel-cut oatmeal.  He notices Avery LIBRELLE turning into his aisle, looking for free-range humane tofu.  He tries to turn and leave, but it’s already too late. 

LIBRELLE:  Hey, Merg!  The Free Market is collapsing!

BERG:  Er, OK – how do you figure?

LIBRELLE:  Preferred One left the MNSure network!

BERG: Um, that’s not a failure of the free market.

LIBRELLE: Sure it is!  They came into the plan with a low-ball proposal.  It didn’t work, so it’s a failure of the free market! 

BERG: Well, no.  It’s not.  The plans they’re pulling from MNSure are basically the same thing they’ve been selling to employers for decades, although more expensive, to cover all the extra Obamacare requirements, and a little extra to cover the fact that they’d only get paid after the money filtered through the MNSure system, which just isn’t working.  It’s the kind of plan they can sell by themselves just fine, and keep themselves in business. 

LIBRELLE:  Well, businesses shouldn’t profit from healthcare!

BERG:  Preferred One is a non-profit under Minnesota law.   And even so, they couldn’t financially justify the overhead that the MNSure system brought into the equation. 

LIBRELLE:  They should have come to the market with a plan that asked for more money!  Government subsidies would cover it anyway!

BERG:  And you have just explained why government subsidies promote inflation. 

LIBRELLE:  No I didn’t.

BERG:  Yes you did.  Businesses should raise their prices to smooth out dealing with the government’s incompetent bureaucracy, because another part of government is going to subsidize the transaction – which prices the business’s service out of reach of the unsubsidized.  It’s done for health insurance exactly what it’s done for higher education. 

LIBRELLE:  That just means we need single payer healthcare.

BERG:  Right.  So the same government that can’t produce a health care exchange on time and on budget, and get payments to providers efficiently enough to make the service worth providing, will now be directly in charge of every facet of your healthcare. 

LIBRELLE:  Well, at least it’ll promote transparency. 

BERG:  How so? 

LIBRELLE:  See the social justice that the IRS brought to political campaigning by denying teabagger groups their tax-exempt status?  Imagine the transparency we’ll get when The People can start denying them healthcare!

(LIBRELLE turns, starts walking away, but walks into shelf full of jars of organic peanut butter.  LIBRELLE falls as shelves of jars fall to the floor)

(And SCENE)

The Shorter “Every Liberal In Minnesota Responds To The Oasis Cafe’s Listing Its ‘Minimum Wage Fee’ On Its’ Receipts”

EVERY LIBERAL IN MINNESOTA:  “Clearly the owner of the cafe hates his employees, because he’s making the minimum wage an issue on his receipts.  So we’ll show our concern for the employees by boycotting the place and trying to put the employees out of work”.

(And SCENE)

War, War, War

SCENE:  Mitch BERG is having breakfast at the River Oasis Cafe in Stillwater. 

Avery LIBRELLE’s car, belching oily smoke, coasts to a halt outside the cafe.  LIBRELLE walks in, sees BERG, and sits down next to him.

LIBRELLE: Hey, Merg!  The War on Women is a real thing!

BERG:  Oh, hey, Avery.  Huh.   You don’t say.

LIBRELLE:  I do say.  It’s a fact.  Republicans want to shut down women’s access to Reproductive Health services and products.

BERG:  For starters, “reproductive health services” means “abortion”, which to about half the country means “killing babies”.  Say what you will about whether it’s a right, but there’s a legitimate discussion to be had about its morality and whether society should be condoning, much less paying for, it.  And evading that discussion by calling it “war!” is just intellectually craven. 

As to “goods”, the discussion is about whether business owners should be required to pay for goods and services that morally repel them.  Again, there’s a discussion to be had – and calling the discussion a “war” is intelletually cowardly.

So your “War on Women” is really a systematic avoidance of an adult conversation about two serious topics. 

LIBRELLE:  Hah!  The War on Women is a fact! 

BERG:  Well, lots of Democrats might want to leave the room before agreeing with you.   What we do have, on the one hand, is a “war” involving “representatives” of half the population objecting to being questioned about the moral implications of infanticide and the overrunning of other peoples’ religious freedom, and on the other hand half the population feminizing the education system to systematically oppress boys – even trying to turn boyhood itself into a pathology – or something to be un-selected in the reproductive process, a line of systematic oppression that has made the education system from kintergarten through college so hostile to boys that they only represent 40% of college students, which will have the long term effect of undercutting traditional male roles?   And of those boys who do go on to college being considered guilty until proven innocent of sexual assault on college campuses and other alleged sex crimes, along with the erosion of due process “protecting” people in such cases – no, even more due process, such as being presumed a rapist until you prove otherwise, being denied even the right to claim one’s innocence in front of campus “courts” that even kangaroos would disavow – and even being branded as a criminal even sooner , since college is apparently too late, in a system-wide series of policies and to bizarre double standards  that a cynic might say is designed to make (male) heterosexuality itself a crime.  And then going on into the work force, to be treated as guilty until proven innocent in employment sexual harassment cases, while it’s difficult for women to even be accused. And then going on, after all that, to maybe become a father, in a system that legally defrauds men “accused” of paternity and even those who disprove paternity, giving rise to an industry defrauding men and courts, or maybe even getting married, finding that divorce is much easier and more palatable to women because men are systematically denied rights in child custory litigation, and going on to see that the system ignores crimes committed against boys (remember the Nigerian schoolgirls?  How many celebrities did selfies with hashtags protesting the hundreds of Nigerian boys that have been not kidnapped but murdered by Boko Haram), and being abused for suggesting that maybe men’s rights need some attention, or even saying the war on men exists, then I need to ask you – who’s the actual war against?

LIBRELLE: …  [Slowly stands up, walks out, and drives away in a cloud of blue smoke]

[And SCENE]

A Brief History Of Proportionality

Act 1

[SCENE:  The New Jersey-side bank of the Delaware River, December 24, 1776.  General George WASHINGTON, having just led the ragged Continental Army across the Delaware River, is having a final conference with his senior officers before attacking the Hessians, who are passed out, hung over after their Christmas drinking binges, in their winter camp in Trenton New Jersey.]

WASHINGTON:  Our revolution has had major setbacks this past year.  Now is our time to strike back, re-set the balance of this war, and convince the French, Dutch and Spanish that the Revolution can be sustained!

[The generals cheer – except for A. LIBRELLE, a civilian bureaucrat attached to the Army by the group Justice For Britain].

LIBRELLE:  I’m sorry, General.  This attack is disproportionate.  Your men need to get drunk,, become hung over, and then wake the Hessians so it can be a fair fight.  And lose the cannon.

General Marquis de LAFAYETTE:  Sacre bleu, is this person mad? 

[And SCENE]

Act 2

[SCENE:  Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, July 3, 1863.  General George Gordon MEADE, commander of the Army of the Potomac, is at the front line atop Cemetery Ridge, alongside his battered, bloodied army.  Across a wide open field, Confederate General George Pickett is lining up his troops for their epic charge across the rolling field of grass, as MEADE’s artillerymen load their cannon]

MEADE:  Men – this is it.  It’s here that the union stands, or falls.  We hold here, or the war is over.   Who’s with me, boys!

[The men cheer – except for A. LIBRELLE, a representative from Quakers for Peace, whose head shakes and face scowls disapprovingly].

LIBRELLE:  Wait, General.  This isn’t proportionate.  You should move your men off this hill and away from behind these walls and fences, and move down into the field so that nobody has cover, and it’s a fair fight.  And what’s with the “men” and “boys” bit?  Isn’t that just a tad patriarchal?

MEADE:  It’s the Army…

[And SCENE]

Scene 3

[SCENE:  London, June 5, 1944.  Generals Dwight EISENHOWER, Bernard Law MONTGOMERY and Omar BRADLEY are firming up the final details of the next day’s invasion of Europe, known to us as “D-Day“.]

EISENHOWER:  The entire fate of Western Civilization hangs on tomorrow’s invasion.

MONTGOMERY:  Quite.

BRADLEY:  We’ve done all we can.  Now, it’s just down to the guts of the regular GI Joe.

[A. LIBRELLE, representative from the United Nations Office of Philosophy, interrupts]

LIBRELLE:  Wait – Generals?  This invasion is by no means proportionate.  You have battleships, paratroopers, waves and waves of bombers.  The Germans have none of theses. 

MONTGOMERY:  Then you suggest…

LIBRELLE:  Do the invasion without the battleships, the bombers, or the paratroopers. 

EISENHOWER:  That’s suicide!

LIBRELLE:  It’s proportional!

[And SCENE]

Scene 4

[SCENE:  Somewhere in the desert of Judea, early in the morning, 63BC.  Roman legionary RICHARDUS Magnus is addressing his Legion before their final assault on the Jewish stronghold of Masada, where dozens of Jewish patriots are making a last stand against the Roman conquerors]

RICHARDUS:  Legionaires!  Today we shall charge up the siege towers and scale the walls and build a pyramid of the enemy’s skulls!

[The soldiers cheer lustily, as A. LIBRELLIVS, a reporters from the news-scroll Tempus Romanii, stands, bored, kicking at clods of sand]

RICHARDUS:  [Looks at LIBRELLIVS with a look of ill-concealed disdain] Anything to add, Librellius?

LIBRELLIVS:  Nah, I got nothing. 

[And SCENE]

Everyone’s A Racist!

SCENE:  Mitch BERG is walking through the downtown branch of the Saint Paul Library.  He’s way back in the stacks, deeply engrossed in a book, when Avery LIBRELLE pops around the corner.  LIBRELLE notices BERG, and tiptoes up to him.]

LIBRELLE:  Hey, Merg!

BERG:  (Startled)  Huh?  Oh.  It’s you.

LIBRELLE:  Bar Louie is Racist!

BERG:  Oh, the story about the dress code?  That’s kind of a stretch. 

LIBRELLE:  They bar people wearing clothing that only black people wear. 

BERG:  You’ve never worked in a bar, have you?

LIBRELLE:   I’ve been to a few.  I love the Lurcat. 

BERG:  Naturally.  But I meant a bar.  A hangout.  A dive.  I worked in bars – places with pool tables and brawls on Friday and Saturday nights.  Some of them barred people wearing “colors”.

LIBRELLE:  Because they were racist!

BERG:  Well, no – it applied to motorcycle club colors just as much as gangs.  Our bouncers kept ’em all out. 

LIBRELLE: Yabbut Bar Louie’s dress code pretty much applied only to black people. 

BERG:  Like Vanilla Ice, Robin Thicke, Ad-Rock and Eminem?

LIBRELLE:  Exac…hey, wait ! Those are white guys who dress like…

BERG:  …like what?

LIBRELLE:  Like you’re a racist!

BERG:  Naturally.  So here’s a thought experiment for you.  Let’s say we started a club.  We had a dress code; guys have to wear suits with ties.  Is that racist?

LIBRELLE:  Of course! 

BERG:  Why?  Black people don’t wear suits and ties? 

LIBRELLE:  Of course they do.

BERG:  I thought they wore sports jerseys and flat-billed baseball caps? 

LIBRELLE:  Well, not all of them…

BERG:  …what’s that?  Not all black people are identified by their clothing?  

LIBRELLE: [stares blankly, jaw slowly undulating up and down]

BERG:  Let’s try this on for size.  Pick a bar. 

LIBRELLE:  The Lurcat!

BERG:  OK, sure, the Lurcat.  Let’s say as you’re walking toward the Lurcat, you see a group of burly white guys in biker leathers wearing motorcycle club colors.  They’re drunk, they’re looking aggressive.  Do you go in? 

LIBRELLE:  That’s silly. 

BERG:  Or a bunch of intoxicated white guys in grubby jeans and “wife-beater” tank tops waving pool cues about….

LIBRELLE:  Don’t be silly. The Lurcat would never…[pauses, stops]

BERG:  They’d never allow people in biker gang colors in their joint, much less set up pool tables to draw the blue-collar crowd?  Because they’re racists? 

LIBRELLE:  Because…[head slowly rolls about]

 BERG:  Because social cues have meaning.

LIBRELLE:  Stereotyping people!  That’s just so typical of you bitter gun-clinging Jeeeeebus freaks in flyoverland!

BERG:  Sure.  Later!

(And SCENE)

Flexible

SCENE:  The newsroom at the Star/Tribune.

Laird TORKELSON, political reporter, is sitting at his desk.  An ash tray overflows on his desk as TORKELSON, wearing a porkpie hat with a “Press” pass stuck into the hat band and a rumpled dress shirt pecks away at an IBM Selectric.

A push-button desk phone rings.  Then rings again.  Finally, TORKELSON picks up the phone.

TORKELSON:  Newsroom.  Torkelson.

(Carrie LUCKING from the Alliance for a Better Minnesota is on the line.  We hear her through the earpiece)

LUCKING:  Hey, Laird.  We’ve got some work to do here…

TORKELSON:  Hey, Ms. Lucking – I’m kinda busy covering…

LUCKING:  Bla bla bla.  Did I ask for your biography?  Now listen up.

(TORKELSON goes silent)

LUCKING:  Four years ago, the Strib did a good job of preventing outstate DFLers from flaking away from the Governor on Second Amendment issues by spinning Mark Dayton as a gun owner.

TORKELSON:  That wasn’t me, but OK…

LUCKING:  This time, we want to try to get libertarians inside the GOP to flake away from the Republicans.

TORKELSON:  Right – we did that earlier this month, with the “Governor Dayton is a Libertarian” meme.

LUCKING:  Right.  But now the polling is showing the governor in trouble.  So we need you to do a little more for us.

TORKELSON:  (pulling a notebook from his desk drawer, grabbing a pen).  OK, shoot.

LUCKING:  Governor Dayton is a black single mother.

TORKELSON:  (starts writing) A black… (stops writing) single mother?

LUCKING:   Yep.

TORKELSON:   But that’s completely implausible.

LUCKING:   (Bursts out in a dry, mirthless chuckle).  And “Dayton is a Libertarian” was plausible?  Look, I can get you a quote.  (LUCKING shouts, presumably across office) Larry!  Laird needs a quote!

(TORKELSON, puzzled, waits patiently)

VOICE:  Hello, Laird?  This is Larry JACOBS

TORKELSON:   Oh, hi, Larry.  You were visiting Carrie’s office?

JACOBS:  No.

TORKELSON:   Oh – um, OK.  So about this “Dayton is a black single mother” thing, what can you say on the record?

JACOBS (sounding like he’s reading off a cue card):   We can’t prove he’s not a black single mother.  It’s plausible.

TORKELSON:  Er…OK.  Thanks, Doctor Jacobs…

(LUCKING takes the phone)

LUCKING:  So we can run with that?

TORKELSON:  Well, assuming my editor clears space for it…

LUCKING:  Already talked to him!  Front page, baby!

TORKELSON:   Huh.  OK.  I should have it done by five.

LUCKING:  Make it three.  Thanks.  (Phone clicks dead)

(TORKELSON leans back in his chair, as camera pulls back to a wide shot, showing him in an endless, orderly procession of desks, as the sound of electric typewriters becomes more and more intense.

ABM Flies Above That Circling Fin

SCENE:  In the office of “Governor” Mark Dayton, at the Minnesota State Capital.  Carrie LUCKING, Executive Director of “Alliance For A Better Minnesota”, is sitting at a large, mahogany desk.  She is leaning back, feet up on the desk, looking idly upward at the paintings and carvings that decorate the ornate office in the classical romanesque structure. 

Across from her is a larger, more ornate mahogany desk.  The nameplate says “Alida Messinger”; it shows signs of being only intermittently occupied. 

A knock is heard on a door leading to a small closet (off right).  LUCKING barely stirs. 

LUCKING:  What?

GOVERNOR MARK DAYTON (dimly heard through door):  Can I go to the bathroom?

LUCKING:  Go.

(DAYTON opens closet door, walked quickly, shoulders hunched through the door to the left, as Hannah UNDERLING, a staff assistant, walks in)

UNDERLING:  Er, Miss Lucking?  House Minority Leader Daudt is calling for hearings on MNSure.

LUCKING:  Put out a press release calling him “extreme”.

(UNDERLING makes a note). 

That’ll be all. 

(UNDERLING leaves). 

(Time passes.  LUCKING indolently pecks a message into her cell phone, until T. Giles HUMID, a highly trained puppeteer and member of the Governor’s staff, enters the room).

HUMID:  Er, Carrie…

(LUCKING clears her throat)

HUMID:  …er, Miss Lucking?  A group of of Saint Paul school parents are demanding better results from the public schools for their children.

LUCKING (staring idly at the ceiling, twisting her hair):  Put out a call to Keri Miller saying they’re…extreme. 

(HUMID takes a  note, leaves the room).

(There is a knock on the door).

LUCKING:  What?

GOVERNOR DAYTON (voice muffled outside the door):  Can I come in?

LUCKING (Bored):  Yes. 

(DAYTON walks past, stops at LUCKING’s desk)

DAYTON:  Say, uh…

LUCKING:  I’m busy.

DAYTON:  Ok.  (He walks through the closet door again)

(LUCKING, bored, starts folding an origami swan.  It quickly starts resembling a badly-formed paper airplane.  She wads it up and throws it in a trash can that is overflowing with wadded-up pieces of paper)

(Tina FLINT-SMITH, the Governor’s chief of staff and Lieutenant-Governor candidate, enters the room)

FLINT-SMITH:  Carrie, I’m going to be out at a town hall meeting in Cambridge, and I need a term to use to refer to the GOP’s criticism of our budget.

LUCKING:  I’d run with “extreme”.

FLINT-SMITH:  Um…OK.  Do we use that a lot?

LUCKING:  No.

FLINT-SMITH:  Um…OK.  (Leaves the room). 

(More idle time).

(Finally, UNDERLING enters).

UNDERLING:  Ms. Lucking, I got a request from some DFLers from Greater Minnesota.  They need some talking points during upcoming debates.

LUCKING (sounding bored):  DFLers from where?

UNDERLING:  Um, Greater Minnesota?  (LUCKING stares, not compreheding.)  The part outside the Twin Cities Metro.

LUCKING:  Huh.

UNDERLING:  They want to know – what do we call Sheila Kihne?

LUCKING:  Er…hm.  Let me think.  I’d say “too extreme!”

UNDERLING: OK.  How about Jennifer Loon?  The rep whom Kihne is primarying? 

LUCKING:  I think we should call her…too extreme!

UNDERLING (sotto voce while writing): …too extreme.  OK – how about Dave Senjem, from Rochester, the leader of the “moderate” faction of the GOP in the House?

LUCKING (absent-mindedly twirling a piece of thread):  Oh, he’s “too extreme”. 

UNDERLING:  Hmm.  OK.  How about Julie Rosen?   Republicans are constantly complaining she’s too moderate.  What is the message about here?

LUCKING (staring into space):  Too extreme. 

UNDERLING:  And how about Tom Bakk.

LUCKING (visibly bored):  Too extreme. 

UNDERLING:  But he’s actually the DFL’s Senate Majority Leader.

LUCKING:  Oh.

(Ryan WINKLER walks in)

WINKLER: Hey, I was talking with Colin Peterson. He’s getting a run for his money from Torrey Westrom. How’s about we call him “shortsighted”?

UNDERLING: Really?

WINKLER: What?  You’re gonna say that’s racist, too? 

UNDERLING:  You don’t know…?

WINKLER:  What?  He’s a black lawyer, too? 

UNDERLING:  He’s blind. 

WINKLER:  I don’t get it. 

LUCKING:  He’s too extreme.

UNDERLING:  Right…

LUCKING:  But we must counter him as well.  (Turns toward DAYTON’s closet)  Hey!   Find some Ray Charles glasses and a long white cane!

(Silence from behind DAYTON’s door)

LUCKING:  HEY!

DAYTON:  Ok. 

(And SCENE)

One Day In The Governor’s Office

SCENE:  The office of the Governor of Minnesota.   Gathered around a table are:

  • Carrie LUCKING, the Executive Director of Alida Messinger’s “Alliance for a Better Minnesota.  She is at the head of table.
  • Bob HUME, the Governor’s chief of staff, sits at LUCKING’s right.
  • Tina FLINT-SMITH, the governor’s other chief of staff, is at LUCKING’s left.
  • Yvette PRETTNER-SOLON, the Lieutenant Governor, dozes at  far end of the table
  • Hannah UNDERLING is standing by.

LUCKING:  In the name of Alita the Mother Almighty, I call this meeting to order!

HUME, FLINT-SMITH and UNDERLING:  All hail!

LUCKING:  So what have you discovered?

HUME:  Well, honey… (LUCKING fixes HUME with a withering glare) …er, sir, the Republicans are facing an unruly split in the Libertarian wing of the party. 

FLINT-SMITH:  We believe they can be wedged. 

LUCKING:  In the name of Mighty Alita (a speaker blares a thunder sound effect in the background, and UNDERLING flickers the light switch of and on a few times) make it so.

HUME:  We’ll pass the governor off as a Libertarian!

FLINT-SMITH:  I’ll put Baird Helgeson on it, over at the Strib.  Hannah?

UNDERLING:  Yes, ma’am?

FLINT-SMITH:  Issue an order to the Strib.  The Governor is now a libertarian. 

UNDERLING: By your leave. 

LUCKING:  What else?

HUME:  We have reason to believe that the GOP is going to make a move for Somali immigrants.  They even have a candidate, running against Phyllis Kahn. 

LUCKING:  We shall make the Governor Muslim.  His middle name is Faruq.   (Thunder effect, as UNDERLING flickers the lights).

FLINT-SMITH (gets up and walks to and opens the closet door).  Mark?

GOVERNOR MARK DAYTON (muffled, from inside closet):  Huh?

FLINT-SMITH: You’re Muslim now.

DAYTON: (thinly) OK. 

(FLINT-SMITH closes the door)

LUCKING:  Next?

HUME:  The GOP had their convention.  They endorsed several candidates, but several are going to the primary.

FLINT-SMITH:  AKA “The DFL Way” .

LUCKING:  Who are these people?

HUME (pulling out clipboard):  The first is the governor candidate, Jeff Johnson.

LUCKING (thinking deeply):  We shall issue a press release saying he is Wrong For Minnesota. 

FLINT-SMITH:  Hannah?  Get on it.  (UNDERLING takes a note)

HUME:  The next one is the Senate candidate, Mike McFadden.

LUCKING (thinking even deeper):  We shall issue a press release saying McFadden is…Wrong For Minnesota. 

(UNDERLING takes a note)

HUME:  Dan Severson is running for Secretary of State.

LUCKING (deep in thought):  I think that we need to tell Minnesotans that Severson is…

(silence.  HUME and FLINT-SMITH wait with bated breath, as UNDERLING scribbles on her notepad and PRETTNER-SOLON snores lightly)

LUCKING:  Severson is Wrong For Minnesota.  (nods her head as the others jot notes).

UNDERLING:  How about Arne Carlson?

LUCKING:  Arne Carlson is…Wrong for Minnesota as well.

UNDERLING:  He’s not actually on the ballot. 

LUCKING (looks confused for a moment.  Then focuses on UNDERLING):  You are Wrong for Minnesota. 

HUME:  I brought brownies. 

FLINT-SMITH (taking a brownie, takes a bite.  Grimaces):  Um…did you use salt, or sugar? 

HUME:  Dammit.  Not again…

LUCKING:  The brownies are Wrong For Minnesota. 

HUME:  Oh, by the way, Carrie?  I couldn’t get reservations at Crave tonight. 

LUCKING:  That’s Wrong for Minnesota!

(And SCENE)

America’s Bargain

SCENE:  As America decides its political course for the next few years, an omniscient narrator asks an illustrative, rhetorical question.

THE OMNISCIENT NARRATOR:   So, American electorate:  if you have a choice between being beaten to death, or living a normal life, which do you pick?

THE AMERICAN ELECTORATE:  Those are the choices?

THE OMNISCIENT NARRATOR:  Yep.  Beaten to death, or normal life.

THE AMERICAN ELECTORATE:  And when you say “beaten to death”, you mean…

THE OMNISCIENT NARRATOR:  …pummeled with baseball bats until you bleed to death from multiple blunt force injuries.

THE AMERICAN ELECTORATE:  Huh.  Life, or getting beaten to death. Let me think.

THE OMNISCIENT NARRATOR:  Take your time.

THE AMERICAN ELECTORATE: Can we settle on just getting pummeled until we get badly injured?

(And SCENE)

All In The Timing

SCENE:  Mitch BERG is rigging a small “Snark”-class sailboat out for a day of sailing on Lake Minnetonka.  Among the modifications: the stepping of fore and mizzen masts, and the conversion of all three to square rigging, and a black with white-stripe and black “gunports” paint job, to convert the 14 foot boat into a small model of the USS Constitution. 

BERG notices Avery LIBRELLE paddling past on a recumbent bicycle that’s had two outrigger floats attached to the frame, and paddles clipped to the drive wheel, making the recumbant into a crude pedal-powered catamaran. 

LIBRELLE notices BERG before he can duck below the gunwales of the small boat.

LIBRELLE:   Ahoy, Merg!

BERG:  Er, ahoy, matey.  Interesting ride.

LIBRELLE:  Yeah, I paid for it with a government “green energy” grant.

BERG:  Of course you did.  What’s up?

LIBRELLE:  I’m on my way to a float-in observing the 44th anniversary of the Kent State shootings.

BERG:  Huh.  44 years.  Wow.  I remember seeing that on the TV when I was a little kid.

LIBRELLE:  Further proof that we the Masses need to be on guard against totalitarian rule!

BERG:  Huh?

LIBRELLE: Nixon ordered those murders!

BERG: Er, it was more a matter of National Guardsmen panicking under pressure.  There was no conspiracy – at least, none that 44 years of constant scrutiny has found.

LIBRELLE:  Only if you believe the conservative mainstream media.

BERG:  Er, right.  So speaking of coverups, how about Benghazi?

LIBRELLE:  Oh, stop. That was two whole years ago!

LIBRELLE pedals briskly away – running up onto a sandbar.  

And SCENE. 

 

A Critique

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

LIBRELLE:  Merg!  (Hurries over toward BERG)

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

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

BERG:  Yeah? 

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

BERG: In other words, the ad hominem…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LIBRELLE:  Well, empirical evidence helps.

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

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

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

LIBRELLE:  Just like Johnny Cochrane did! 

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

LIBRELLE:  I demolished you with that!

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

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

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

(And SCENE)

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