Little Straw Men

A few weeks ago, I saw the new film adaptation of Louisa May Alcott “Little Women“. I’m told there are seven different versions on film out there – I’ve only seen parts of the 1933 version with Katherine Hepburn, and of course the 1994 version with Winona Ryder (of which the less said, the better).

I liked it. A lot. Yes, it’s a“Chick flick“, and I don’t care, because all I really care about is “is it a good movie“.

Around the same time, I saw a new statistic; a solid majority of doctors under the age of 35 or women.

That’s after a couple of decades in which the share of undergraduate degrees going to women has reached three out of five, on its way to an estimated two out of three in the next decade or two. This, as the education system becomes more and more dogmatically feminized, with the attendant treating of “boyhood“ as a pathology to be medicated into submission , and as the media seems to be incapable of showing males above a certain age as anything but loutish buffoons.

So I could see, perhaps, men staying home from yet another film that shows men as expendable cads (which, by the way, “Little Women“ doesn’t); It’s not like men don’t get a steady diet of that anyway.

But here’s an experiment for you: read this article – not a review – from the utterly underwhelming Kristy Eldridge  whom the Times helpfully notes, is “a writer”, entitled “Men are Dismissing “Little Women““. The article points out that the movie finished third in its opening week, behind two tent post blockbusters (Star Wars and the new Jumanji), and throws in a lot of pro forma “men just don’t care about female writers/artists/films“ whingeing.

One thing it doesn’t do is quote any men who don’t actually like the movie, or show any demographic evidence that men are shunning it any more (or less) than any other “chick flick“. Given that the film would seem to be at least a modest success (especially compared to the boat anchor 1994 version, which played like a high school production), that’d seem to be a little impossible if all those female viewers weren’t hauling their boyfriends/husbands along with.

The article promises male rage. It delivers Little Straw Men.

I have to suspect the article was written long before the movie opened

One Day In The Star/Tribunes “Morgue”

SCENE: It’s the “Morgue” at the Star-Tribune’s “Morgue” – a room full of file cabinets, deep underground, where no light has penetrated since the Kennedy administration.

The door opens, and the MINNESOTA DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES STORY, wherein mismanagement under two DFL administrations led to hundreds of millions of dollars in fraud, including credible allegations of welfare money being transferred to terrorists – is tossed into the room, which is crowded with other news stories.






(The other stories chuckle)


(The question is met with a few guffaws)

ILHAN OMAR’S ANTISEMITISM STORY: When the Strib reports about Minnesota having “paradoxically” liberal gun laws and the lowest crime rate in the nation for a state with a major metro area in it.




Film Review: “The Overnighters”

I went to the Saint Anthony Main theatre on Friday night for a showing of The Overnighters.

It’s a good movie.  It’s worth seeing.

But it’s more complicated than that.

The Punched Social Ticket:  In reporting on life and the people in the Square States (aka “Flyover Land”), our culture’s self-appointed elites have a fairly consistent three-part narrative:

  • Prosperity in the square states is at least a bad thing:  at worst, it’s an unmitigated tragedy.
  • People in Flyover Land are conservative in all the wrong ways:  Whether it be a staid, stolid “that’s not how we do it here” to a cripping setness in one’s ways to a harsh, unforgiving bigotry, the Square States are like Deliverance Lite in the eyes of our coastal cultural elites.
  • Faith in general, but especially Christianity, is always a veneer over boundless depravity: Christians, in the narrative, are deluded and usually bigoted dullards at best; hypocritical unto evil at worst.  The notion of redemption is always exposed as a toxic lie in the end.

Keep those narrative points in mind through this review.

We’ll come back to that.

Baggage:  Before I get to reviewing anything, let me be up front; I have a chip on my shoulder.

I grew up in a place that barely qualified as a cultural punchline for most of its history; a place famous for durum wheat and George Armstrong Custer and scary fringe characters and Minuteman missiles and the nastiest blizzards in America, and not much else.  A place that some don’t believe exists, that some have tried to abolish and cede back to nature (before all that oil), that still provokes a lot of ignorant babble from “cultural elites” and newbies alike.

And when I was getting established in the big city, almost thirty years ago, it wasn’t a long trip for a lot of people from “you’re from a punch line” to “you are a punch line”.

And pushing against that turned into a hot ball of rage that kept me warm on many a cold night in my twenties.

That, like the narrative, will return to this review.

Hopeless Opportunity:   The film is set in Willison, North Dakota.  It’s the epicenter of the oil boom.  Ten years ago, Williston had maybe 8,000 residents; today, it’s probably pushing 30,000, and nobody’s sure about that.

The movie’s protagonist – and for the first 90 minutes or so, hero – is Pastor Jay Reinke, minister at Concordia Lutheran Church in Willison.  We see at the beginning of the movie that Reinke is busy running an ad hoc program – the eponymous “Overnighters” – to provide shelter for people who are new to Williston and have noplace to stay.

It’s frequently a tough battle.  While North Dakota’s job market is smoking hot, it’s also more expensive to rent an apartment in Williston than in New York or San Francisco.   Property values and rents have risen to the point where some locals, especially people on fixed incomes, can’t afford to live there anymore.

And the job market’s not great for everyone; Reinke sadly informs an older black man who just got off the train that the oil fields are a young man’s trade, with brutal work and long hours and very difficult physical conditions.  For others – truck drivers – background checks trip them up.

In fact, if you didn’t look carefully, you would miss the parts where the filmmakers acknowledge the fact that the oilfields, overall, have a crippling labor shortage and that the unemployment rate is half the national average, and that Williston is a place where people with high school diplomas and (as one new arrival, a black man with a Chicago accent, notes on a cell phone) people with multiple felonies can make six-figure salaries.

It’s an acknowledgement, of sorts – a drive-by, if you will.  But beyond that?

The movie’s website says (emphasis added):

In the tiny town of Williston, North Dakota, tens of thousands of unemployed hopefuls show up with dreams of honest work and a big paycheck under the lure of the oil boom. However, busloads of newcomers chasing a broken American Dream step into the stark reality of slim work prospects and nowhere to sleep. The town lacks the infrastructure to house the overflow of migrants, even for those who do find gainful employment.

Grapes of what?

You’d think they were moving to Detroit or Camden.

To assert otherwise would be to break the narrative; there is no real prosperity.  There’s just bitter, broken people serving the monstrous, otherworldly oil rigs that loom on every horizon.

The movie follows several of Reverend Reinke’s “overnighters” – men who had spent time camping out at Concordia; a young guy from Wisconsin who starts at the bottom and soon moves his way up to a supervising position and an RV; a black truck driver from parts unknown; a hopeless electrician from Georgia; a former meth addict from somewhere down South; an enigmatic and very intense New Yorker who leaves thematic elements dangling like ripped-out telephone wires.

And all of them, every last one, leaves Williston a broken man; the young Wisconsinite, driving while exhausted, rolls his truck and ends up with a broken vertebra; the electrician’s wife, lonely and overworked with the kids, demands he return home or else; the truck driver flunks a background check and walks away, embittered with Reverend Reinke.  And the latter two?

That gets into spoiler territory.

Not Invented Here:  Reinke starts out as a fairly unadorned hero; a plainspoken, very Lutheran-looking man who seems to be doing a superhuman job serving as minister, homeless shelter operator, counselor and rescuer.  At the beginning of the film, it appears his biggest enemy is Willison’s status quo; a city council that’s maneuvering to curb the Overnighter program; neighbors that are alarmed at all the new people coming to the church and working their way up the hierarchy (they usually start out sleeping in cars in the parking lot, at least in the mild summer weather at the beginning of the film; then they move up to floor space in the hall; then, finally, a cot in the fellowship hall).

The other glimpses we see of the locals are straight out of central casting; city councilpeople intoning their reservations, locals outraged about their status quo being upset; I was almost surprised John Lithgow didn’t come to the City Council and demand a ban on dancing.

Truth be told, outside the congregation and City Hall and the central casting Small Town Regulars, we see very little of Willison; neighbors that Reinke canvasses to try to reassure them about his charges; a newspaper publisher and his greasy, slimy reporter; one farm woman who, burned by a man who’d rented RV space before relapsing into methamphetamine, greeted Reinke and his film crew with a hunting rifle and a broomstick.

And then comes the word that some of the men have “sex offender” on their background checks.  And the movie’s third act begins.

Faith No More:   I’m going to try to walk the thin line between spoiling and reviewing, here.

Reverend Reinke, it turns out, falls short of his Christian ideals, as a believer and a minister.

On the way there, of course, we find that nobody was saved.  The unemployable are still unemployed.  The homeless end up with noplace to live.  The unredeemed, aren’t.

I say “of course” because that is the cultural elites’ narrative these days; faith is beyond futility; it is absurdity.  A few of the plucky heroes whom Reverend Reinke “saved” earlier in the film turned out to be pretty spectacularly un-saved.

All that is good in the movie turns out to be “good” – in sarcastic scare quotes.

Including – no spoilers, here – Reverend Reinke himself.

Every single person in the movie ends up, on one level or another, destroyed.

Expectations: Now, I don’t mean to say The Overnighters isn’t an excellent bit of storytelling.  It is.

And I’m not saying it’s not worth seeing, if you get the chance; it is.  The cinematography is absolutely glorious.  The editing and pacing and the storytelling itself is enthralling.  If I had to give it a rating, I’d say “Four stars, and I didn’t like it”.

Because truth be told, I walked into the movie fully expecting:

  1. Prosperity to be shown as a curse (or a mirage),
  2. North Dakotans to be depicted as clenched, bigoted caricatures, and
  3. Faith, the Church and its people to be shown up as frauds, hypocrites and hollow shells of sanctimony (or, at best, people whose flaws overwhelm and overshadow all good about them).

And I expected it because – the guy for whom the little ball of rage still burns deep down inside tells me – that’s the way it’s always been.  From the intelligentsia’s chortling about “Buffalo Commons” a decade ago, to MPR’s tut-tutting about all that unseemly prosperity on the Plains, to the NYTimes’ Gail Collins giggling her idiot giggle about having no place to shop and waiting in line at the Williston McDonalds, The Overnighters is an excellent story that fits squarely, unsurprisingly and predictably within the narrative.

It’s exactly what I expected.

And I wasn’t disappointed – or, put another way, I was deeply disappointed.

Doug Grow, Narrative-Fluffer

I was down at the State Capitol yesterday for a press conference, as Representative Deb Hilstrom (DFL Brooklyn Park) introduced the gun bill/s we talked about yesterday.

The bills, as we noted yesterday, would exert the state to solve actual problems – close gaps in the background check system, add mandatory penalties for using guns in crimes or possessing them illegally…

…y’know.  Controversial stuff.

At the presser, I saw a big group of legislators from both chambers and both parties lining up to support Hilstrom’s proposal.  Reps, Senators, Democrats, Republicans – it was probably the most bipartisan assembly I’ve seen that wasn’t in the lounge at the Kelly Inn after hours.

Not just legislators; guys in uniform.  They weren’t just there for the fun of it – guys in uniform never are.  No, they were from the Minnesota Sheriff’s Association.

And I saw media.  Oh, lord, did I see media.

And Heather Martens was there, naturally; where there is truth about the Second Amendment, Martens will be there.  To lie.  And lie and lie and lie (note to the media who bothered to speak to her; she has uttered not one substantial word of truth in her years at the capitol.  Ask me).

And the “groups” she represents put out a call for their “membership” to turn out in force to oppose this bill – probably remembering the hundreds of Second Amendment supporters who turned out daily to oppose the DFL’s gun grab bills a few weeks ago.

We’ll come back to them.

One person who was not there was Doug Grow, from the MInnPost.

To be fair, I haven’t seen Grow in person in over 20 years; I might not recognize him.

But judging by the story he wrote about the conference, and the bill itself, even if Grow was there, his story was pre-written, and would have appeared in exactly the same form had Mothra emerged from the Supreme Court chamber shooting flame from wherever Mothra did whatever he did, since I never watched the movie.

Rep. Debra Hilstrom, DFL-Brooklyn Center, has discovered again that there is no comfortable middle ground when the subject is guns.

At noon at the Capitol, Hilstrom, standing with Hennepin County Sheriff Richard Stanek and Rep. Tony Cornish, the gun-toting legislator from Good Thunder, introduced a gun bill that she said “can bring people together’’ on the volatile subject of guns.


Scare quotes.

No, no bias here.

The Astroturf Consensus

Grow, like most of the Twin Cities mainstream media, labors under the delusion that there’s a large, organized mass of people supporting gun control, and that they were out in force yesterday.

Her words were still echoing in the Capitol when critics, who had hoped for much stronger actions from the Minnesota Legislature, lambasted the effort of Hilstrom and a bipartisan group of 69 other legislators to “close gaps’’ in current state gun law.

“This is just a band-aid over a huge problem,’’ said Jane Kay of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense, an organization formed in the days following the mass shooting of school children in Newtown, Conn.

Only in America can a two-month old pressure group with fewer members than there were legislators standing behind Hilstrom get the breathless adoration of the media.  Which is what “Moms Demand Action” and “Protect Minnesota” both are; astroturf checkbook advocacy groups funded by liberal plutocrats with deep pockets – with “membership” numbers in the single digits.

Provided they share the goal of fluffing the left’s withering narrative on gun control.

Of course, Grow wasn’t the only offender; Pat Kessler of Channel 4 asked Hilstrom why the bill included no universal background check which, he asserted, “70% of Minnesotans oppose”.

The correct answer – the polls ask people about background checks without explaining the consequences of those checks as the DFL and Governor Messinger Dayton currently propose them; they will result in a de facto gun registry, which is a necessary first step to universal confiscation.

More on gun-related media polls in another piece soon.

The Pre-Written Story

But Grow himself is the real problem here.  His piece, while short on the sort of insight that actually engaging people on both sides of the issue might have given it, is long on  evidence that Grow wrote the story long before yesterday’s press conference.

There’s the inflammatory reference to every leftymedia member’s favorite boogyman:

 The bill has the support of the National Rifle Association, presumably because it does nothing to require background checks on all gun sales and because it does nothing to restrict sales of military-style weapons or even the quantity of rounds in ammunition magazines.

Well, no.

The bill has the support of gun-rights organizations because instead of wasting time and effort putting niggling restrictions on the rights of the law-abiding that didn’t affect crime in any way the first ten years they were tried, they actually address the real problem; criminals, the insane, the addled, and the holes in the data the state sends to the Feds for the background check system.

(And while the NRA makes a nice, recognizable, stereotyped boogeyman for the lazy propagandist, the NRA actually has very little to do with the day to day heavy lifting of the gun rights movement in Minnesota.  It’s the Gun Owners Civil Rights Alliance that turned out 500 or more people a day to attend the gun grab hearings a couple of weeks back.  Grow either doesn’t know that, or doesn’t want people to know that.  You know where my money is).

More evidence that Grow wrote the story entirely off of DFL and “Protect Minnesota” chanting points?

Despite the fact that it’s a bill that authors hoped would unite people, it seems to be dividing. Yes, there was a mix of Republican and DFL representatives standing with Hilstrom, Cornish and Stanek. But there were no law-enforcement organizations represented at the news conference where the proposal was unveiled.

That’s false.

Here’s the video of the press conference: 


See all those guys in uniforms?

Scroll in to 1:12.  That’s Sheriff Rich Stanek, Hennepin County Sheriff, speaking on behalf of the Minnesota Sheriff’s Association.

Either Grow is lying, or he wrote the entire story with no knowledge of the facts of the story.

Short On Fact, Long On Jamming Words Into Peoples’ Mouths

Grow follows by saying…:

There also were no DFL senators, though presumably the bill will be as attractive to outstate senators as it appears to be to many outstate DFL representatives.

Grow throws that in there as if it’s a substantive fact related to the bill itself.  It’s not.  While most outstate legislators no doubt remember the DFL debacle of 2002, it’s also more than plausible Tom Bakk wants to keep his powder dry.

In other words, presence of no DFL senators is a non-factor, unless you’re a low-information reader.

Grow next swerves through fact – and in so doing, undercuts his own premise.  I’ll add emphasis:

Rep. Michael Paymar, DFL-St. Paul, and the chairman of the House public safety committee, has indicated he has no desire to have the bill heard by his committee. Paymar is pushing a bill that would require purchasers of guns at flea markets and gun shows to go through background checks.

Yet, given the large number of co-authors with Hilstrom, there likely are ways for the bill to weave its way through the legislative process.

Yes.  There are a large number of co-authors; so many they had to submit it not one, not two, but three times to get them all on.  Over half of the House is signed on as authors of the bill.

Michael Paymar wants to thwart the will of the representatives of over half of Minnesota’s voters?

Putting Thirty Shots From An AR15 Into A Strawman

Finally, Grow takes his whacks at some of the legislators who’ve violated the DFL’s narrative:

[Representative Tony] Cornish, usually a lightning rod in the gun debate, said he was taking a different role regarding the fate of this bill.

“Several of my statements (in the past) have been controversial,’’ he said. “Today my role is to be a peacemaker.’’

No sooner had he said that than he uttered a statement that raises the hackles of those hoping for stronger gun measures.

“I want to thank the NRA for helping (on the bill),’’ he said. He went on to say that the bill “contains nothing for gun owners to fear.’’

Er, who’s “hackles” got “raised”, here?  And why?

Was it the involvement of the NRA?  Your dog whistles aren’t our problem.

Or was it the quote about gun owners having nothing to fear?  Is that the actual goal, here?

Hilstrom, in her seventh term, refused to talk about her true feelings of the bill. Rather, she kept speaking of the importance of “passing a bill that will solve real problems.’’

She did point out that she never has sought the endorsement of the NRA and that in the past she has received a “C,’’ “D,’’ and “F’’ from the NRA.


So what?

If she’s doing the right thing – which, for a majority of Minnesotans, is “solving problems”, rather than attacking the law-abiding gun owner – then I don’t care if she’s a life-time “F” rating.  And I don’t care about her true feelings; I don’t care if she’s being used as an escape hatch by the DFL to get out of the embarassment of the Paymar/Hausman gun grab bills.

Guess Who!

Finally:  I owe the Twin Cities media an apology.  I’ve said that Larry Jacobs is the most over-quoted person in the Twin Cities media.  And he is.  David Schultz is right up there.

But in the “single-issue” category, Heather Martens – “Executive Director” and, near as we can tell, one of less than a half-dozen members of “Protect Minnesota” (and de facto representative of House District 66A) and a woman whose entire body of public assertions is lies, dwarfs them all:

Heather Martens, executive director of Protect Minnesota, derided the bill as “NRA-approved.’’

Boo!  Boogeyman!  Hiss!

Listen, MinnPost-reading dogs!  There’s your whistle!

“Any bill that fails to address the gaping holes in our background check law falls far short of the public’s demand for the right to be safe in our communities,’’ Martens said in a statement.

And there’s another lie.  The bill does address the gaping hole that exists in the background check laws.

No, not the misnamed “gun show loophole”, which is another media myth.   The real gap is  the data that the state isn’t sending to the feds; the Hilstrom bill fixes it.

GOCRA’s Mountain, Grow And Martens’ Molehill

Leaving aside the fact that Grow got pretty much everything in this story wrong – and wrong in a way that suggests not only that he wasn’t at Hilstrom’s press conference but that he wrote the whole thing straight from chanting points long before Hilstrom took to the microphone – the most pernicious thing about Grow’s story is that it tries to create the impression that there’s a genuine battle between two titanically-powerful sides to this debate.

There’s not.

In terms of legislators?  A bipartisan sample of over half of the House is on board co-authoring Hilstrom’s bill(s).  A thin, runny film of metro-DFL extremists is backing the Paymar/Hausman/Simonson gun grab bills.

In terms of the public?  Last month, GOCRA put out a call for people to come to the Capitol.  And they did.

No, really:

“Protect Minnesota” and “Moms Demand Action” put out a call yesterday for people to come out and protest against Hilstrom’s bill.

Here they are:


Well, not literally.  But no, other than Heather Martens, nobody showed up.

There are literally more DFL legislators co-authoring Hilstrom’s bill than there are members of “Protect Minnesota” and the “Moms Demand Action” put together.

Chanting Points Memo: Slouching From Fargo

How do you measure success in a politician?

If you’re a liberal, it’s likely in terms of sheer volume of legislation created and money moved about.  Because to a liberal, government is about creating reams of paper, rules, laws, stuff for government to do.

If you’re a conservative, it’s probably more a matter of princple; of getting government out of the way, of taking pointless laws and needless regulations off the books.

We’ll come back to that.


Mike McFeely is a talk show host in Fargo.  He’s the current house liberal at KFGO, which was at one time the WCCO of the Fargo area, and like WCCO has shrunk greatly since its heyday (and since I left North Dakota).  He fills the role Fast Eddie Schultz used to play on the station, the token lefty.  Like Schultz, he’s apparently a former small-market sportscaster; like Schultz, he sounds like it.

And like a lot of liberal D-list pundits and pseudo-celebs, he’s got a jones for Mary Franson, GOP incumbent in District 8B and, like most uppity female and minority conservatives, the same sort of catnip for lefties that Michele Bachmann has been for the past decade and a half.  It started  a few weeks ago, with McFeely’s Schultz-like chanting of rumors that even some of the smarter regional leftyblogs long ago debunked.  McFeely came across in that case as a small-town crone abusing the “power” of his radio bully pulpit (and as much as KFGO has atrophied, it’s still not chicken feed)

I’ll give the guy kudos for at least trying to go legit in this letter to the editor in the East Otter Tail County Focus last week.

Rep. Mary Franson does not represent Greater Minnesota values and, by her own admission, will not have a strong voice for her constituents in House District 8B if she is re-elected.

Now, whenever a critic says their target has said something “by their own admission”, you can usually be pretty sure someone’s trying to play a rhetorical card trick; they admitted nothing of the sort.

While Rep. Franson has made embarrassing headlines nationally and statewide for, among other things, comparing her constituents who receive food assistance to wild animals (a claim she repeated even after “apologizing” for it on social media)

Now, when you’re a sportscaster, you can pretty much babble any kind of crap you want – because it’s just sports.  McFeely – like Schultz before him – seems to think politics is about the same.

But no – the smart people dispensed with that meme, too, and months ago; Franson pointed out, correctly, that long-term dependence dehumanizes people, and casts government in the role of the benevolent, responsible pet owner.   The remarks were taken out of context during a fractious session by a DFL noise machine that exists only to provide grist for their campaign mill.

And like a lot of D-list talk show hosts – and yes, my NARN pals and I are better than this – McFeely and “context” are never really on good terms:

At the event during which she repeated her comparison of assistance recipients to wild animals, Rep. Franson admitted that members of her own party did not support her and distanced themselves from her.

Yep.  During the “Animals” fracas, the House leadership shamefully backed away from Franson – one of several “ready fire aim” moments in a trying session for GOPers.

But teapot-tempests come and go; at the end of the day, always, “it’s the economy, stupid”.  McFeely takes a brisk dip into actual fact:

Despite low unemployment in Douglas and Todd counties

Wait – back up.  This Republican corner of the state is doing pretty well, you say?


So let’s take a quick breather and set up some actual, factual history:  Representative Franson was…:

  1. …elected in the Tea Party wave in 2010 on a conservative ticket…
  2. …to represent a traditionally conservative Republican part of the state…
  3. …that’s doing relatively well, and apparently – by dint of having sent a conservative freshman legislator to the legislature in the middle of a grueling recession – wants to keep it that way.

Just so we’ve got that straight.


Instead of spending time in St. Paul fighting for issues specific to her constituents – such as lowering property taxes for farms and small businesses in rural Minnesota – Rep. Franson spent her two years in the Legislature authoring bills that accomplished nothing.

Perhaps McFeely would favor us by showing us the bill where Franson raised – or declined to lower – property taxes.

Go ahead, Mike, We’ll wait.  Cough up that bill.

[Mr. McFeely – don’t look at this next statement.  Scout’s honor?  OK – all the rest of you know that property taxes are the role of county commissions and city councils.  The legislature doesn’t set property taxes.  Now, the Democrats have spent the last two years babbling about how lowering Local Government Aid inevitably raises property taxes.  McFeely would have you believe that on Franson’s watch, taxes rose as a direct, cause-and-effect consequence of lowered LGA.  It’s one of those chanting points the left throws out there to gull the ill-informed.  But, again, that’s the job of the counties and cities.  Assuming LGA was cut.  Was it?  We’ll come back to that – but I’ll give you a little spoiler; McFeely makes Ed Schultz look smart and ethical].

Got that bill, Mike?  Hint:  It’s between the snipes and the half-round squares.


Next, McFeely botches history – and by “botch”, let’s be charitable and assume he just doesn’t know the actual facts involved; if he does, then he’s just lying:

In her two years in St. Paul, Rep. Franson authored 36 bills. None became law. Very few were even discussed or forwarded. Even her own party wasn’t interested in the agenda Rep. Franson was trying to push. That is the definition of an ineffective legislator.

Wait – authoring laws that don’t get passed “defines” “ineffective?”

Let’s go back to the beginning of the post; conservatives don’t believe generating new laws defines success.

But let’s go by the left’s – and McFeely’s – definition of “effectiveness”.  None of Franson’s 36 bills passed into law.

Which is exactly the same record as House Minority Leader Paul Thissen; none of the two bills he authored passed into law, either!

Or how about a more rank-and-file member?  Ryan “The Intellectual Id Of The DFL Caucus” Winkler chief-authored 22 bills.  None passed; none even came close.

And do you know what?  Neither Thissen’s 0/2, Winkler’s 0/22 or Fransen’s 0/36 are even below average – because in a typical session (for example, 2008, the latest one with statistics) over 4,000 bills are introduced, and around 100 get signed.  That’s about 1 out of 40.

In other words, McFeely tossed out a number that is in itself meaningless without context.  Just like the “Animals” comment and his “property taxes” comment; either he doesn’t know what he’s taking about and doesn’t care, or he does and he’s hoping nobody checks his facts.  Like all Democrat campaigns, he – and by extension, the Cunniff campaign that McFeely is supporting – is hoping people aren’t curious enough to poke at those numbers.

Oh, we’re not done.


McFeely turns next from misleading context to just-plain-ignorance:

At the same time, Rep. Franson consistently voted to raise taxes on residents of Greater Minnesota. She supported elimination of the Market Value Homestead Credit, raising property taxes on all Minnesotans and particularly those in rural Minnesota.

MVHC was a subsidy of metro-area housing; it kept metro-area property taxes artificially low, and subsidized spending by the wastrel DFL governments in Minneapolis, Saint Paul and Duluth.  Like LGA itself, it transferred money from the parts of the state that support themselves to our basket-case metro areas.

But at least that was a chanting point with a coherent argument.  Next, McFeely wafts away into fantasy-land:

Rep. Franson sided with metropolitan legislators by failing to fight for an increase in Local Government Aid, a tool that provides property tax relief primarily for Greater Minnesota cities and towns.

Local Government Aid, as we’ve discussed in the past, was originally a way to transfer money to poor, outstate towns from the wealthy Metro, to allow them to buy some of the amenities of modern life; modern schools, roads, water treatment plants and the like.  It’s turned into a subsidy of Minneapolis, Saint Paul and Duluth (although Iron Range towns get the most aid per capita).

(And while McFeely doesn’t name, and I suspect doesn’t know, the “metropolital legislators” with whom he claims Franson sided, it’s worth noting that the Metro is divided between cities that are constantly begging for more aid, and suburbs that largely receive none).

The GOP ran in 2010 on a platform of returning LGA to its original purpose – supporting smaller towns that don’t have the tax base to buy the necessities of modern government. And how’d that work?

State funding for LGA has been cut 25 percent over the last 10 years and has remained flat since 2010.  Eliminating or reducing LGA will seriously weaken regional centers like Alexandria and small cities like New York Mills.

McFeely gives a statewide number – but since McFeely’s writing about Franson’s performance in re her district, 8B, let’s ask what are the district’s specifics?

Let’s track LGA payments in 2008 and 2011 – payments, not pledges – for the three counties in Rep. Franson’s district, as well as the state averages and the metro areas (measured in per-capita dollars actually paid to the various jurisdictions).  All figures come from that noted conservative tool, the State of Minnesota:

City or County 2008 Payment ($/capita) 2011 Payment ($/capita) Change
Douglas County 123 118 -5
Otter Tail County 237 245 +8
Todd County 262 273 +11
State Average 101 98 -3
St. Paul 178 175 -3
Minneapolis 178 166 -12
Duluth 321 321 Bupkes

Ah.  So that’s why McFeely gave a statewide number!  Because since 2008 – the only period Rep. Franson had any control over as a legislator – LGA actually rose in Otter Tail and Todd counties; it shrank by an insignificant amount in Douglas County, where Alexandria is. and where as McFeely himself admitted, the economy is doing better than the state average.

So if you’re a liberal?  District 8B’s LGA was steady to slightly up.  More money!  Franson was effective!

And if you’re a conservative?  LGA spending in the district was in line with the GOP’s platform, raising payments to smaller out-of-state jurisdictions that actually need it, and were the original intended target of this spending.  Franson was still effective!

And if you have a functioning BS detector?  Mike McFeely is out of his depth writing about anything that doesn’t involve throwing a ball, and is serving as a trained chimp reciting DFL chanting points he may not understand, and certainly hopes you, the voter in District 8B, won’t.

Like the following:

Under her watch, property taxes have risen sharply…

Although, as the state’s figures show, not because of anything the legislature did, least of all in District 8B.

…while she has embarrassed her constituents with controversial national headlines.

Which were cowardly manglings of context by people who are getting more and more desperate at their prospects in two weeks, and for whom female conservatives are like red capes in front of bulls.

Franson did get an 86 from the Taxpayers League, among many other spiffs from conservative groups.  She was one of the freshmen “Tea Party” class that held the line on things like spending, tax hikes, and giving money to Zygi Wilf, while erasing the deficit, reforming regulations, keeping Minnesota’s unemployment rate way below the national average, and working to reform our state’s business climate.

In short, she did what the majority of (pre-redistricting) District 11B’s voters – mostly Republican, mostly conservative – sent her to do.

And if this is how desperate her opponent, Bob Cunniff, and his campaign are getting, it looks like she’ll do the same for new district 8B.

And if you live in the area, feel free to let the East Otter Tail Focus – and Mike McFeely – know I said so.


So we started the article by asking how you measure a politician.  The answer – whether you’re left or right – most likely involves doing what one is sent to the Capitol to do.  Has Mary Franson done this?  That’s for the people in her district – not talking heads from Fargo or the Twin Cities – to decide.

So how about a media figure, an uninvited pundit?

Getting one’s facts straight, or at least being honest, would be a great start.

Matt McKinney’s Whitewash Job

Earlier this week, when three media outlets (WCCO-TV, KSTP-TV and Rick Kupchella’s Bring Me The News) released near-simultaneous hagiographies of Darren Evanovich – the Minneapolis man who was shot by a “good samaritan” with a carry permit after Evanovich allegedly robbed and pistol-whipped a woman in a grocery store parking lot – I said (in the comment section of an MPR piece on the subject), somewhat hyperbolically, that this looked like a concerted campaign by the media to whitewash Evanovich and demonize the shooter.  The Twin Cities media, of course, have always hated “shall-issue”, and have spared no perversions to “journalism” to try to kill it.

I thought I’d seen the worst the Twin Cities media had to offer.

I was wrong.  So very very wrong.

Mark McKinney at the Strib has delivered what may be the worst piece of journalism I’ve ever seen on a Second Amendment issue in  my depressingly-long career of finding awful journalism on the subject:

Nine days before his death, Darren Evanovich stopped by the south Minneapolis office of MAD DADS to say hi to V.J. Smith, who heads the local chapter of the street anti-violence program.

Evanovich made a video aimed at kids contemplating the thug life:

“Jail is not fun,” Evanovich confides at one point, “Not being able to see your brothers and sisters grow up isn’t fun. … You don’t see nobody. You have no friends once you step in there.”

We know how this ends, of course; last Friday, Evanovich (and, allegedly, his sister and one other accomplice) went down to the Cub on 26th and Lake.

McKinney relates the story – sort of:

On the evening of Oct. 20, a little more than a week later, a 53-year-old woman was accosted in a supermarket parking lot off E. Lake Street. The stranger was armed with a handgun, and after taking her money, he struck her in the head with his weapon, police said.

That sounds so cold and matter-of-fact.  Let’s put this in some context.

Evanovich – as we related this morning – robbed a woman twice his age, a Hispanic woman who cleans offices for a living.  He beat her in the face, with a pistol, giving her two black eyes and a bad cut and, let’s not forget, a very legitimate fear of being shot dead in a parking lot.

McKinney – with emphasis added to loathsome bits of agenda journalism:

A man nearby saw the attack. He had a state permit to carry a pistol, and he had one with him. He chased the robber behind a restaurant and shot him dead.

How does that read to you?  Like “the man” stalked, tracked and hunted Evanovich like he was a wild animal, perhaps?   Like Evanovich was just a leaf in the autumn wind, blown into the wrong place at the wrong time, the wrong parking lot with the wrong remorseless Dirty Harry wannabee?

No mention of the facts from the police’s statement on the incident: that Evanovich allegedly turned and pointed his own gun at the “good samaritan” (according to some accounts, fired a shot at him); indeed, only the most oblique possible reference to the fact that Evanovich was carrying a gun that could still be considered “honest”.

No mention of the fact that had the shooting been even in the least bit ambiguous, the shooter would have been detained, arrested, booked and charged pretty much immediately.

Apparently nobody involved in the case had any choice!

No, really:

The investigation ensnared Evanovich’s sister, Octavia Marberry, this week when she was jailed on allegations of fraud and aggravated robbery. She had been with Evanovich the night he died, and according to their mother, held him in her arms as he took his last breath.

Back that up a minute, here; Marberry was allegedly part of the robbery.  She allegedly participated with her brother in giving an older woman the choice “give us your grocery money or we will kill you” – the act that directly led to the chase, her brother’s alleged move to end the life of the man chasing him, that would justify the “good samaritan’s” alleged shooting and, finally, the heart-rending scene McKinney favored us with.

Evanovich grew up in Minneapolis and Gary, Ind., one of five children.

“He has a good, loving family, and he has lots of friends. He wasn’t 100 percent bad,” his mother, Mary Evanovich of Minneapolis, said in an interview Thursday.

Two members of that loving family were apparently involved in pistol-whipping a Latina working-stiff-ette, of course.

Look – I’m a parent.  I’m not going to do the end-zone happy dance over someone getting killed, even if it’s justifiable homicide.  As much “fun” as I had raising my own kids, I can’t imagine what it must be like watching yours go off the rails as badly as Mary Evanovich’s seem to have.

But let’s eschew the bullshit, here.  Darren Evanovich’s death is a personal tragedy; the path that led him to that godforsaken parking lot was a social tragedy.

But the shooting?  That was (so it seems right now) self-defense; as the late Joel Rosenberg taught us all, the second-worst of all the possible outcomes – if you were the “good samaritan” seeing a gun pointing at you in that wretched alley.

UPDATE: A source – let’s call him “Zack” – with extensive knowledge of the issue and some knowledge of the case – wrote an email to McKinney.  He sent me a copy.  He reached about the same conclusions, but more economically. I’ll include it below the jump.

Continue reading

Protocols Of The Elders Of Times Square

Freedom can be confusing.

We’ll come back to that.

I’ve told this story many, many times.  I think it’s still illustrative.  Back in the nineties and early naughties, you could predict a few things about GOP gatherings.

  • At precinct caucuses, you could be assured that there would be an avalanche of pro-life/anti-stem cell/anti-gay-marriage resolutions.  In the former two cases, they would be largely redundant with what was already in the platform.  No matter; they had to be debated and voted up or down, one at a time.
  • At legislative district (“BPOU”, in the MNGOP’s curious parlance) conventions, there’d be two big clusters of people in the room.  To stage right, there’d be a group of pro-lifers.  To stage left, there’d be everyone else.  And if one was running for a district office, one could expect a series of questions about one’s commitment to life.  “Are you pro-life?”  “How pro-life are you?”  “Please describe exactly how pro-life you are?”  “If your pro-life-ness were a mountain, which mountain would it be – Denali, K-2 or the Matterhorn?”

And pro-lifers weren’t the only single-issue voters.  During the nineties, after the nadir of the Clinton crime bill and Alan Spears’ various attempts to ratchet up gun control in Minnesota, the shooters came out.  And it could lead to comical results; pro-lifers would occasionally express revulsion at rolling back gun controls, while some of the shooters were visibly bored at the pro-life talk.  They came for their issues, and their issues alone.

That was then.

Now, we have the Tea Parties.  And while the left and media (pardon, as always, the redundancy) likes to try to portray the Tea Parties like Nick Coleman once referred to “peasants beating on the observatory door” with pitchforks and torches, they are actually a whole lot more complex – John Kerry’s word was “nuanced” than that.  You see a lot of people at these rallies who, two years ago, didn’t care about politics, who a year into the Obama administration have taken it upon themselves to educate themselves.

And there are many roads to education; there are as many stories at the Tea Parties are there are participants.  Some reacquainted themselves with Reagan.  Many others in Minnesota arrived via (Minnesota-based syndicated talk show host) Jason Lewis’ long-running Tax Rallies, and Lewis’ heady introduction to the Federalists and Limited Government; Lewis, with his MA in Political Science, gives a pretty compete education in Federalist history.  Others come via other media figures – Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Hugh Hewitt – to a new appreciation iof what limited government means, and how far off from that ideal we currently are.  Another contingent were brought to politics by the Ron Paul campaign.  And you can find others who filtered into the movement from immigration reform, pro-life and other groups, including a few from groups that we can tactfully call “the fringe”.

All of them – the good, the weird and the rhetorically ugly – come together for one reason; they want to put government back in its place.

Which, compared with the anything-goes, single-issue-bound GOP of 2000 and 2004, is pretty exciting stuff.

And as with anything that excites conservatives, the left and media (pardon, as always, the redundancy) must spin it as some sort of potential depravity or another.

Commenter “Master Of None” drew my attention to NYTimes piece on the Tea Party movement yesterday.   I read it.

At first read, it was almost encouraging; it seemed at first blush to pay some service to the most important facet of the Tea Parties; that represents a wave of self-education, an “awakening” if you will, on the part of an awful lot of people.   It almost seemed like the NYTimes might start portraying Tea Partiers as people; actual individuals with their own motivations, each as unique as they are.

I said almost.

The Tea Party movement has become a platform for conservative populist discontent, a force in Republican politics for revival, as it was in the Massachusetts Senate election, or for division. But it is also about the profound private transformation of people like Mrs. Stout, people who not long ago were not especially interested in politics, yet now say they are bracing for tyranny.

I chewed on that last clause for a bit.  A phrase like “bracing for tyranny” has two different meanings in our society.  To a big chunk of “Red” America, it means “being aware that unlimited government can not end well”, with a twist of “so let’s not let it get out of control” on top.

But to an NPR-listening, Times-reading, down-the-nose-at-the-hoi-polloi-looking putative “elite”, it’s a code phrase, for something the “fearful, Jebus-clinging, John Birch-reading gun freaks” do.

In other words, it’s something foreign.  Un-American.  Worthy of fear and, inevitably, fear’s eldest child, hatred.

These people are part of a significant undercurrent within the Tea Party movement that has less in common with the Republican Party than with the Patriot movement, a brand of politics historically associated with libertarians, militia groups, anti-immigration advocates and those who argue for the abolition of the Federal Reserve.

“Militia groups”.  It’s another media code word; the unwashed, insane, depraved, usually racist undercurrent that Blue America sees hiding under every rock between the Hudson and the Sierra Madre.

Urged on by conservative commentators, waves of newly minted activists are turning to once-obscure books and Web sites and discovering a set of ideas long dismissed as the preserve of conspiracy theorists, interviews conducted across the country over several months show. In this view, Mr. Obama and many of his predecessors (including George W. Bush) have deliberately undermined the Constitution and free enterprise for the benefit of a shadowy international network of wealthy elites.

“Shadowy international networks”.

You see some of that at the Tea Parties.  Again, it’s the fringe; the people with the beards and camouflage and the huge potbellies and the pamphlets that gather around the fringe of  the Tea Party rallies, mixing uneasily with the vast majority; the people in dockers and polos, or work boots and embroidered shop jackets, who make up the vast majority of people at the Parties.  People like you and me and, someone tell the Times, your typical Times reader as well.

Oh, the Times gets parts right – enough to make the whole thing worth a read:

The Tea Party movement defies easy definition, largely because there is no single Tea Party.

Defiance of easy definition notwithstanding, the Times wants you to accept their facile definition anyway.

And those facile definitions are always based on fear of the great unwashed unknown:

At the grass-roots level, it consists of hundreds of autonomous Tea Party groups, widely varying in size and priorities, each influenced by the peculiarities of local history.

“Ah”, I thought.  “This could be good!”.   The rural west is a fascinating sociological hodgepodge; my own hometown in North Dakota jumbled college professors with their urbane, sometimes far-left beliefs, together with engineers (from a few local manufacturers) and business people (mostly fiscal conservatives) and agribusiness types (conservatives who loved farm subsidies)  to a few drastically-misplaced hippies, and always, always the farmers – including a few who’d been driven to radical populism by the hard times.

Who do you suppose the Times would be focusing on today?

In the inland Northwest, the Tea Party movement has been shaped by the growing popularity in eastern Washington of Ron Paul, the libertarian congressman from Texas, and by a legacy of anti-government activism in northern Idaho. Outside Sandpoint, federal agents laid siege to Randy Weaver’s compound on Ruby Ridge in 1992, resulting in the deaths of a marshal and Mr. Weaver’s wife and son. To the south, Richard Butler, leader of the Aryan Nations, preached white separatism from a compound near Coeur d’Alene until he was shut down.

Of all the “local peculiarities” to pick, what do you suppose the odds were?

The piece focuses, throughout, on the Tea Parties’ most paranoid lunatic fringe – almost as if to say “pay no attention to the populist awakening behind the curtain, Boston and New York and San Francisco!  They are unclean!  These are the bitter, gun-clinging Jesus freaks we warned you about!”

If they can’t beat the Tea Party on the facts, it’s logical that the next step will be fearmongering.

Day Late, Millions Short

Brian Lambert shows why KTLK-FM had such a rocky start in the Twin Cities, in a piece that purports to be about Air America tanking; along the way, it also shows why liberalism is starting to gasp for air in the age of Obama.

Lambert starts with the genesis of his short-lived radio show:

I was summoned to a meeting with Clear Channel Communications “talk radio guru”/consultant, Gabe Hobbs, after only a couple weeks on the job. Having just spent a chunk of the previous 15 years covering radio consultants, or more accurately, the inanity and chaos they left behind, I was prepared to sit across from a complete cartoon.  (OK, not every radio consultant I had met or interviewed was a “complete” cartoon. But that’s a little like saying “some cigarettes are good for you”, to which you reply, “yeah, the ones you don’t smoke.”)

Lambo got that one right.  But I digress.  But so did he.

In their wisdom the local Clear Channel group had decided that “a WCCO for the 21st century” was the way to go for the FM talk experiment they were starting up.

Which was how I put it at the time; for whatever reason, a generation of consultants decided that conservative talk was dead (based largely on wishful thinking after the 2004 election), and tried floating the “all things to all people” format all over the country, including KTLK and KSTP-AM.

After saying that he wasn’t sure what to make of the idea of dogs and cats playing together, Hobbs conceded he was intrigued by the righty-gal vs. the lefty-guy dynamic. And then he got to the nut of modern (conservative) talk radio.

(I’m paraphrasing a bit here, but I swear the essentials are accurate.)

And he’s right about the consultant’s opinion being accurate – an awful lot of “talk radio gurus” deeply hate conservative talk; some of them are ideological liberals, but most of them are just dying to come up with a take on a format that clicks, somewhere, and makes them millions of dollars in consulting fees.  It’s not going all that well, by the way, after almost 20 years of trying.

One of the problems is the contempt these people have for “the talk radio audience”.  Mr. Hobbs would seem to have shared his with Mr. Lambert:

“Try to keep in mind,” said Hobbs, “that the average listener for a show like yours is a 42 year-old guy who doesn’t follow the news all that close but is listening because he doesn’t want to be left out of the discussion. What he wants from you is something he can bring to conversations at work and at home. Something that makes it appear he’s in touch with what’s going on. You’re not here to educate him so much as you are to give him a few ideas he can throw out to feel like he’s part of the conversation.”

Well, it must work; Pew shows that Limbaugh’s audience is better-informed on news and current events than the average American, testing about the same as the famously-smug NPR audience in terms of overall knowledge.

Which is – even Lambert might admit – at odds with what the consultant had to say about ’em.

Well, maybe Lambert wouldn’t admit it:

Since this image so thoroughly gelled with the image I’d had for years of the Limbaugh Dittoheads…

The point being that talk radio doesn’t square well with having contempt for one’s audience.  Consultant Gabe Hobbs’ advice famously splattered; KTLK-FM’s first incarnation, the “WCCO for the 21st Century” famously cratered on impact.  (Does anyone remember their first lineup?  Colton and Guest in the morning?  Pat Kessler? Sarah and Brian?  Dan Conry?  They wanted to be all things to all people so badly they practically adopted Norwegian accents).  Part of it was the concept; part of it was some of the talent wasn’t that talented.  But mostly, it’s that whether people really are as stupid as Gabe Hobbs thinks they are (and that image “gells” with that of Lambert, who is lest we forget one of the Twin Cities foremost media columnists) or not, they can tell in this day and age when they’re being condescended to.  When the whole concept for your format is based on the kind of cynicism that Lambert and Hobbs shared, you think it doesn’t show?

It did!

No, really:

A radio audience of middle-aged guys who, for whatever the reason — distraction, indifference, laziness and/or stupidity — haven’t done their own homework on the big events of the day but want to pretend they have among their workmates, pals and spouses, by staying up to date with the bumper sticker slogan du jour. Hmmm, and I guessed “Make Love Not War” wasn’t exactly what these guys wanted to repeat down at the office, across forklifts in the warehouse, or over dinner, to impress the wife and kids with how tough it is out in there in a real man’s world.

That is, of course, the conceit that drives the entire mainstream media; you, the people, are bunch of mindless cattle that need your news, your entertainment and everything short of your food carefully pre-digested for you, lest you choke from trying to think about something too big. Information is too precious a gift to get in too big chunk – at least for all of you lumpen peasants.

No.  Again, really:

Beyond Hobbs’ carefully parsed point, is this: The “pretense” of thoughtful consideration, at least in terms of a commercially successful narrative delivered via mass media, requires much … much … heavier doses of simplicity and indignant finger-pointing than scholarly nuance.

Lambert mentions “simplicity” – as opposed to condescenscion – like it’s a bad thing.  As if making complex ideas “simple”, or simpler, isn’t among the most important missions for all of journalism, from Edward R. Murrow through NPR down to the Highland Villager.

This is all a lot of set-up for a couple thoughts on the little-lamented demise of Air America, the “liberal alternative” to the monolithic presence of conservative-radio. There are roughly 12,500 radio stations in the U.S., 22% fall under “news/talk” and “religious”. The former describes a few, like WCCO, and WBBM in Chicago, but mostly its conservative talk,  and the vast majority of the “religious” are conservative-driven. Moreover, a significant of those conservative stations are full-power licenses, broadcasting across the entirety of  all of the biggest metro areas in the country. By … stark … contrast, from its inception in 2004 Air America was confined to much lower-power AM stations that only barely blanketed the entirety of the few  metro markets they could buy in to.

Lambert, the media columnist who chided [his mental caricature of] the conservative talk radio audience’s “simplicity”, apparently needs to oversimplify the issue himself.  Radio stations aren’t sinecures; every format has to prove itself at every station, every time the ratings “book” comes out.  Big conservative talk – Limbaugh, Hannity, Beck – settled on big AM stations because it pays the bills.

And the fact that Air America had to “buy in” to metro markets shows what an awful concept it was.  Becuase nobody pays to get Limbaugh.  The Rush Limbaugh show (and Hannity, and Beck, and Hugh Hewitt, Michael Medved, Dennis Miller and every other conservative show that matters) is free to the stations that carry it, provided they agree to carry the network’s commercials, 5-8 minutes worth per hour.  That’s it.

If there were any organic demand for Air America, they’d have been able to do the same.  But there was not.  So in New York, Chicago and LA, they had to pay radio stations to carry the programming.

And even that didn’t work.

It’s not as simple as saying “conservtives got all the big stations!”, but it’s in fact the truth.

But the bigger problem — by far — is the mindset of your average liberal, who, in my unscientific survey is a somewhat different animal than Gabe Hobbs’ mythical under-informed 42 year-old male.  For one thing, if the gender breakout of national delegates is any indication, the average liberal is more likely to be a woman than a man. But, in my experience, there’s also the very familiar liberal quality of believing you already are the smartest guy/gal in the room, which means you hardly need some cartoonish radio bloviator spoon-feeding you your “fact of the day”. More likely — if you’re a liberal in the media — the liberal audience with whom you think you are simpatico will rear up and quarrel with every interpretation of statistics, trends and historical reference you dare make. They know better and if just given the chance could do better.

Which is an interesting view which, I suspect, has more to do with Brian Lambert’s view of himself than the NPR/MSNBC/Air America audience’s actual merits.

Where conservative media audiences display a startling affinity for what I’ve called “The Big Daddy Guru Complex”, pompous-to-preposterous all-knowing father figures, liberals, more often than not, maintain the attitude that “big daddy” is a bit of a ponce, and needs to be brought down a peg.

Dunno, Lambo.  I sat in front of a room full of Air America fans with Matt Entenza, Michael Medved and Fast Eddie Schultz a while ago.  And the AA fans were a lot more prone to chanting pre-approved slogans and hissing on command than the people to stage and ideological right, if you catch my drift.

The idea is a trend in search of evidence; the closest they come to “evidence” is the fact that, yes, people listen to Rush Limbaugh.

But it’s a fact of human nature that any mass group of people gets pushed, or pulled, by someone, and that the best way to pull is not through the mind, but through the heart; Someone who captures the group’s fancy on some level; Martin Luther King, Richard Simmons, Rush Limbaugh, Thomas Jefferson, Bill Clinton, Lech Walesa, John Lennon, Jerry Falwell and Ronald Reagan all led people in improbable directions by simplifying complex ideas into forms their followers could feel as much as think.

Lambert quotes a few talking heads re the “problem” liberalism under Obama faces, and concludes:

The takeaway is this: The Conservative narrative dominates this country because it is simple, asks (and requires) nothing of its audience other than that they accept it and express a kind of rote indignation … at others.

Leaving aside the poison-pen fuming about the audience’s motivations – Lambert’s wrong, but then he’s supposed to be wrong about conservatives.  Simplicity in a narrative is a good thing.

And at the end of the say, it’s not all that simple.  Conservatism itself takes a lot more mental energy to wrap ones mind around than liberalism; the ideas of abstemiousness, enlightened self-interest, and rejection of instant gratification both personally and culturally are tough ones for modern people to choke down.

As opposed to leaden cop-outs:

Given the lack of 2000-plus radio stations to amplify a counter-narrative,

Which is balderdash; the liberals have four broadcast networks, NPR, and practically every newspaper in the country.

It’s just that their narrative, at the moment, isn’t selling, and certainly isn’t up to the competition it’s getting in the marketplace.

I actually let this post sit for a couple of days as I tried to figure out how to respond to this next line:

as well as liberal resistance to paternalistic “guru-ism”,

Remembering the masses of liberals who “rejected guru-ism” by chanting in unison waiting for Obama to appear, I’m going to have to keep thinking about it.

Obama and the few bona fide liberals in D.C. are at a profound disadvantage when it comes to a very real battle of relentless accusation and sloganized consensus-building , which, sadly, is what works quite effectively on largely apolitical 42 year-olds who just want to sound like they know what they’re talking about.

And just like Gabe Hobbs, Brian Lambert leads with the contempt.  We’ll see how it works.

And he says about the Chicago politican…:

Bottom line: The burden to deliver such a message of constant attack — utterly justified in the case of how this economic disaster started — falls to a guy, Obama, who finds shamelessly demagogic rhetoric and divisive-ness-baiting beneath him and his idealistic standards of statesmanship.

Speaking of simplification.

Distrust But Verify. Then Distrust Some More.

The Violence Policy Center has a long record of cooking data to try to build a national case against civilian ownership of firearms.

They’ve failed, of course; more Americans own guns today than ever, while the idea of a link between crime and the demonstrably law-abiding armed citizen is almost too specious for modern physics to measure.  Gun control is a third rail like few others in American politics.

Which doesn’t mean they won’t try; the VPC – the very definition of an astroturf group – has masters with deep pockets to obey. And so they keep cranking out the material.

Like this “study” (which should be getting slavering coverage from the bought-and-paid-for lefty media) to show pervasive violence on the part of carry permit holders nationside.

The “study” summary:

As the impact of lax CCW laws grows, the evidence is now overwhelming that these laws have completely failed to reduce crime or increase public or personal safety.

Overewhelmingly lacking, at any rate; John Lott proved the case, and while astroturf hacks like the VPC may jump up and down and cry otherwise, they are bringing jackknives to sword fights.

But that’s really not the issue:

On the contrary, these laws have armed individuals who have murdered law enforcement officers and innocent citizens. Review of the devastating facts surrounding the 30 incidents detailed in this study alone should immediately halt any effort to create a national concealed carry system and, in addition, impel the
repeal of state “shall issue” laws allowing the carrying of concealed handguns.

Well, it’s an interesting conclusion.  Although not only is it not borne out by evidence in general, but even the VPC’s own evidence, viewed in detail, convincingly refutes the VPC’s own claim.

  • Over the two-year period May 2007 through April 2009, concealed handgun permit holders have slain seven law enforcement officers resulting in criminal charges or the suicide of the shooter. All of the killings were committed with guns. An additional three law enforcement officers were injured in these incidents.
  • Over the two-year period May 2007 through April 2009, concealed handgun permit holders have slain at least 43 private citizens resulting in criminal charges or the suicide of the shooter. All but one of the killings were committed with guns. An additional six private citizens were injured in these incidents.
  • In six of the 30 incidents (20 percent), the concealed handgun permit holder killed himself, bringing the total fatality count to 56.

So let’s look into the numbers in detail.  As noted above, “Carry permit holders” accounted for seven dead and three wounded law enforcement officers; 43 dead and six wounded citizens, and six suicides (all of them after other shootings).

But if you look at the individual cases, some facts emerge that the VPC found inconvenient to stress.  I broke them out into several categories:

  • Self-Defense Cases Gone Seemingly Awry: One of the problems with self-defense claims is that ones’ decision to respond to an attack that needs to be made in seconds under mind-warping pressure will be picked apart by prosecutors and jurors who have leisurely days and weeks to judge the results.  Two of the killings – one not charged as of yet, one resulting in a manslaughter conviction – fit this description.
  • Self Defense Against Law Enforcement Officers: One of the trickiest cases in all of self-defense is when a citizen believes – legitimately or not – that a law enforcement officer (whether known to them or not) presents them a lethal threat.  Law enforcement enjoys special protections under the law – usually for good reasons.  But cops screw up, too; in Minneapolis a few years ago, a SWAT team executed a no-knock raid – on the wrong address.  The owner of the house, an Asian man in a crappy neighborhood crowded with scumbags, had no idea who was charging into his house; he was eventually exonerated.  In the VPC report, two law-enforcement officers (federal and local) were killed and two wounded.  In one case, the killing was the result of a seemingly stupid response on the part of the shooter, and ended in a manslaughter charge (although, significantly, not murder). The other killing, and the two wounded, were the result of no-knock raids seemingly gone awry.    Note that these cases all took place in the citizens’ dwellings – and thus have nothing to do with the carry permits.  You don’t need  a permit, in most places, to have a gun.
  • Accidents: One of the killings was an accidental shooting involving a pistol owned by a carry permittee.  Tragic, certainly – but it has nothing to do with the permit.
  • Shooters Who Shouldn’t Have Gotten Permits: It’s generally agreed that people with criminal records, or records of mental illness or just-plain-violent behavior, should not be granted permits.  When this happens, it’s usually a matter of less-than-thorough investigation by the granting authority (usually a county sheriff), or, as is the case in jurisdictions where permits are issued purely by police discretion (this was the case in a shooting in New York state), faulty use of discretion.  Shootings involving people who should never have been issued permits included 12 incidents, involving 24 dead and two wounded.

And with all of those out of the way – the ambiguous cases or the people who should never have gotten permits at all – that leaves us with the actual, unambiguous crimes where a carry permit holder did something for which they were clearly, unambiguously at fault; Ten cases, involving 20 deaths.  It’s skewed a bit, of course, as it includes one mass murder case, the Michael McClendon case in Alabama which claimed ten people and the shooter.

Of course, concealed carry permits are hardly a direct contributor to mass spree killings; many have happened at the hands of people with no hope of ever getting a permit.  But for purposes of dealing with the article, let’s grudgingly count it among the 20 unambiguously wrongful deaths where no blame is shared with other peoples’ negligence.

Now – how many carry permits have been issued nationwide?  Nobody has a complete count, but the general rule seems to be about 1% of eligible citizens seem to apply; that ratio holds true in Minnesota (5 million people; over 50,000 permits issued).  Other states are higher, some might be lower.  Now, about 220,000,000 Americans live in states with shall-issue laws, or with no restrictions at all (Alaska and Vermont, where no permit is required); it seems reasonable to assume that 2.2 million Ameircans have some sort of carry permit.

2.2 million Americans with permits divided by 20 murders committed over the course of two years equals less than .5 murders – half a murder – per 100,000 carry permittees per year.  Even using the VPC’s numbers exactly as they are in the “study” means the 2.2million permittees are responsible for 56 wrongful deaths over the course of two years (ambiguous or not, related to carry permitting or not) gives a murder rate of about 1.4 per 100,000 permitted Americans.  Of course, the chance of any American being wrongly killed by a permit holder (using the VPC’s statistics, which as we’ve seen above are poppycock) are .014 per 100,000 Americans.

The overall murder rate in America in 2007 was 5.9 per 100,000.  In other words, Americans are 1/421th (roughly) as likely to be murdered by a carry permit holder as they are by a typical citizen – and that’s using the VPC’s numbers without qualification, which as we’ve noted in the past, one should never do.  If we leave out the ambiguous cases, the accidents and the others that have nothing to do with concealed carry, the average American is almost three orders of magnitude less likely to be killed by a legal carry permit holder than by, say, anybody else.

Let’s be clear, here; we want no unjustified killings by holders of carry permits, which are supposed to be a tool for the law-abiding.

But when you see this VPC study being flogged by the media, pass the word; there’s less there than meets the eye.

About 1/421th as much.

Hero Worship

Growing up, I dreamed – among a few other things – of being a news reporter.  Let’s just say it’s a good thing not every dream comes true.

But I digress.

One of my “role models”, of sorts, was “Joe Rossi”, a character played by Robert Walden from the Lou Grant TV series.  One of the things about “Rossi” that I remember admiring, and to which I aspired, was fanatical detachment from everything – groups, people, society – supported by a hard-bitten cynicism about just about everything else.  “Rossi” went overboard, of course; never voted, never joined any groups, never did anything that’d compromise this detachment (which was sent up in a memorable episode in which the rest of the staff, in an orgy of chain-yanking, signed Rossi up for every organization they could – the AARP, the NRA, severel political parties, the AAA…

OK, it was  TV show – but that was one of the things (supported by my later experience and a little formal education in the field) that I carried with me through my brief, fruitless career as a reporter; reporters should have a healthy skepticism about everything.
Including reporters.

And I suspect most reporters would agree – at least as a platitude.

That needs, of course, to be combined with ravenous curiosity (which was one part of the craft that I did get right), including the ability to question ones’ own gaps and, dare I say, preconceptions.  We’ll come back to that.

“Skepticism”, of course, has its limits.  Reporters are human; they follow baseball teams, they read books, they vote – they have preferences.  None of them – not even “Joe Rossi” – attains their perfect ideals, whatever thepy are. So it’s not a surprise that, among other sins, reporters are just as big a bunch of fanboys as the rest of us, when you get down to it.  Or so it’d seem, seeing the coverage of Seymour Hersh’s appearance last week at the U of M, as partof the U’s “Great Conversations” program.

I didn’t go – I don’t think the “U” is especially aggressive about inviting non-believers to these things, but I have no idea, honestly.

But it was all over the place; Hersh dropped a few “bombs” (as reported by the local media, who did attend in droves) that got picked up by the big leftymedia.

More on that angle in a bit.

Eric Black of the MinnPost was there:

At a “Great Conversations” event at the University of Minnesota last night, legendary investigative reporter Seymour Hersh may have made a little more news than he intended by talking about new alleged instances of domestic spying by the CIA, and about an ongoing covert military operation that he called an “executive assassination ring.”

Heady stuff!

Hersh spoke with great confidence about these findings from his current reporting, which he hasn’t written about yet.

In an email exchange afterward, Hersh said that his statements were “an honest response to a question” from the event’s moderator, U of M Political Scientist Larry Jacobs and “not something I wanted to dwell about in public.”

Of course, when it comes to “covert executive assassination squads”, you don’t have to do a lot of “dwelling” for the story to grab attention, do you?

Hersh didn’t take back the statements, which he said arise from reporting he is doing for a book, but that it might be a year or two before he has what he needs on the topic to be “effective…that is, empirical, for even the most skeptical.”

Hersh, who is most famous (recently) for releasing the Abu Ghraib story (which the Army had been investigating, and which CBS was sitting on at government request) must be complimented for his focus on “empiricism”.

You might be too, if you’d had enough of your claims – apparently the less-“empirical” ones – turn out to be complete squibs.  I’ll direct you to this story from two years ago; Hersh claimed (amid a flurry of publicity) that US Special Forces were operating in Iran, preparatory to a US invasion.  It’s a claim that’d seem to have fallen down the memory hole; I have read no accounts of any of the journalists present at this or any other appearance questioning Hersh about it.
So perhaps it’s a good thing he’s waiting.  Except for the whole “Dropping the bomb in a talk at the U of M” bit.

The evening of great conversation, featuring Walter Mondale and Hersh, moderated by Jacobs and titled “America’s Constitutional Crisis,” looked to be a mostly historical review of events that have tested our Constitution, by a journalist and a high government officials who had experience with many of the crises.

Or, in Mondale’s case, were intimately involved in causing the crises.

Again, I digress.

Black continues:

And it was mostly historical, and a great conversation, in which Hersh and Mondale talked about the patterns by which presidents seem to get intoxicated by executive power, frustrated by the limitations on that power from Congress and the public, drawn into improper covert actions that exceed their constitutional powers, in the belief that they can get results and will never be found out. Despite a few references to the Founding Fathers, the history was mostly recent, starting with the Viethnam War with much of it arising from the George W. Bush administration, which both men roundly denounced.

Nothing like working a relentlessly friendly room.

That’s not a digression.

We’re getting into the interesting stuff here:

At the end of one answer by Hersh about how these things tend to happen, Jacobs asked: “And do they continue to happen to this day?”

Replied Hersh:

“Yuh. After 9/11, I haven’t written about this yet, but the Central Intelligence Agency was very deeply involved in domestic activities against people they thought to be enemies of the state. Without any legal authority for it. They haven’t been called on it yet. That does happen.

And we’ll wait for the evidence on that.

I’m not saying I doubt it, necessarily – it’s just that I hope Mr. Hersh isn’t too busy waiting for the invasion of Iran to show us the evidence.  Someday.

Now, here we get into the part of the story where it might have been useful to have some journalists in the room with Mr. Hersh:

“Right now, today, there was a story in the New York Times that if you read it carefully mentioned something known as the Joint Special Operations Command — JSOC it’s called. It is a special wing of our special operations community that is set up independently. They do not report to anybody, except in the Bush-Cheney days, they reported directly to the Cheney office. They did not report to the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff or to Mr. [Robert] Gates, the secretary of defense. They reported directly to him. …

Let’s take a brief time-out here.

Re-read Hersh’s explanation of JSOC.  Assuming Black is reporting his words accurately (and I’ve expressed my complete confidence in the honest of Eric Black’s reporting in the past), Hersh explains JSOC as if…:

  1. He expects nobody has heard of it (probably not an unfair assumption, given his audience)
  2. He wants people to believe that its status is something unique, sinister, and unique to the Bush Administration.

It’s buncombe, of course.  Joint Special Operations Command was established so that key, vital, high-risk special operations – hostage rescues, counterterrorist missions and the like – could take place without the paralyzing overburden of the military’s bureaucracy and its effects on these types of operations.

And it reports to the Executive Branch – the Secretary of Defense – rather than Congress; of course, the entire Executive Branch reports to the Executive Branch!  But JSOC is isolated from much of the miltiary’s bureaucracy; it does things that need to be done without bringing 535 other commanders into the chain of command.  JSOC reports to the Secretary of Defense, and thence to the President and Congress.

This chain of command – directly to the highest ranks of power – was established  after an infamous military disaster caused by, among other things, interservice bureaucracy, and micromanagment by civilian officials.

The disaster was “Desert One”.  And the order to create JSOC came from President Jimmy Carter.  The boss of Hersh’s fellow guest on the panel, former Vice President
Walter Mondale.

A roomful of journalists might have known that.

“Under President Bush’s authority, they’ve been going into countries, not talking to the ambassador or the CIA station chief, and finding people on a list and executing them and leaving. That’s been going on, in the name of all of us.

And I’m sure we’ll wait for evidence of the “executions”, in Hersh’s book, upcoming in a year or so.

But barring that “evidence”, there’s a point of order here:  the military doesn’t have to clear its operations with ambassadors or the CIA!  The military doesn’t report to either of them!

There’s no question that JSOC – the umbrella for the US’ clandestine military, including the Joint Special Operations Detachment Delta (“Delta Force”) and the Navy’s DEVGRU (formerly “Seal Team Six”) – does things that aren’t supposed to see the light of day.  And some of these things are by their very nature controversial.  Mark Bowden chronicled the Clinton-era use of JSOC troops to track and kill Medellin drug boss Pablo Escobar; one wonders where the chorus of demands for constitutional due process were back then?

It’s not an idle question for any democracy; in the UK during “The Troubles”, Britain’s Special Air Service – the unit that “Delta” and many of the world’s other special forces are modeled after – garnered decades of controversy in its clandestine surveillance and, in some cases, direct action against the IRA.  While Britain’s constitution recognizes a closer relationship between the military and civil authority than we have in the US – something that helped spawn our tradition of Posse Comitatus, in fact – it’s the sort of thing that a free society needs to watch out for and be aware of.

But, until we get Hersh’s “evidence”, really, all we have is innuendo
A roomful of journalists might have known this, and asked Hersh to square his account with history and, while we’re at it, JSOC’s stated organization, oversight structure and (since it can be reasonably assumed Walter Mondale was there) three-decade-long mission.

“It’s complicated because the guys doing it are not murderers, and yet they are committing what we would normally call murder. It’s a very complicated issue. Because they are young men that went into the Special Forces. The Delta Forces you’ve heard about. Navy Seal teams. Highly specialized.

“In many cases, they were the best and the brightest. Really, no exaggerations. Really fine guys that went in to do the kind of necessary jobs that they think you need to do to protect America. And then they find themselves torturing people.

“I’ve had people say to me — five years ago, I had one say: ‘What do you call it when you interrogate somebody and you leave them bleeding and they don’t get any medical committee and two days later he dies. Is that murder? What happens if I get before a committee?’

“But they’re not gonna get before a committee.”



Because the Obama Administration has found that there’s nothing illegal about what Bush sent JSOC to do?  Distasteful to modern, urban, urbane, small-l-liberal (and usually big-l-Liberal) products of the university system, perhaps, but not illegal?  Indeed, necessary under the circumstances – just as Jimmy Carter found when he plugged the whole thing in three decades ago?

A roomful of journalists might not have known this – but, armed by the skepticism that I and probably not a few of them used to think was a key part of the trade, you’d have thought someone might have asked.

A roomful of star-struck hero worshippers?  Not so much.

Am I being unfair in characterizing the room – people paralyzed, if not by Walter Mondale’s suffocating gravitas, by Hershs’ reputation as, as Black put it…:

…the best-known investigative reporter of his generation…

…as a bunch of star-struck fanboys? Who are acting like the shrimp-league lefty commenter on Marty Owings’ show last weekend whose entire line was “who are you to question Sy Hersh?”


But just as someone has to question the government – and its servants, like JSOC – someone needs to subject Seymour Hersh to some skepticism, too.

And I’m sure that roomful of Journalists will do just that.

After Hersh gets done covering that invasion of Iran he warned us about.

Open Letter to Ms. Sensitivity

To: Molly Priesmeyer, Rent-a-Blogger and Snark-Minx

From:  Mitch Berg, Unpaid Hack

Re:  John McCain’s Teeth.

Ms. P,

 I realized that I said that I’d try to contact you the next time I had a question about your coverage of an event.  And since the Sorosphere is suddenly all afroth over the state of Senator McCain’s teeth (that’s why we go to the Sorosphere; all that cogent analysis!), it’d be a good time to ask you…

…except your email address doesn’t seem to be anywhere on the MNMon’s (really, really badly-designed) site.

Sorry.  Pinky swear, I tried!

So anyway, here’s my question:  When you copy and paste a line that 5,000 other leftybloggers write:

If bloggers are saying one thing about John McCain this week it’s that the 71-year-old has some serious grit. Of course, that grit comes in the form of McCain Mouth, a deformity that apparently causes teeth to look like a mess of yellowed and contorted Chiclets. Today, has picked up on the mouth meme, turning McCain’s piano-key chompers into an official phenomenon.

The consensus? “They’re old.”

Well, not nearly as old as the Senator is. 

Because – you do realize this, don’t you, Ms. Priesmeyer? – Senator McCain had a bunch of his teeth broken off at the gumline while he was being held as a POW.  Which, of course, can set a guy up for a whole lifetime o’ dental hurt. 

But you didn’t know that – right?  If you’d known that, you’d never, ever have written such a deeply, disturbingly dumb piece.  Right? 

Seriously – please plead ignorance. I’d like to know that even the MNMon has a level below which even they won’t sink – although reason tells me my faith is probably misplaced.

While looks are an easy and lame target,

[Being more mature than he used the be, the writer bites his tongue at the too-easy retort, knowing he’s a better person for it] 

 it’s at least refreshing to see McCain’s teeth get a razzing (though, unfortunately, not a cleaning). It gets a little tiring listening to the same sexist cries that Hillary Clinton is just too ugly to be president. Hatin’ on the looks of all the candidates? Now that’s equality!

No, that’s just stupid and sophomoric.  Dinging Senator Clinton on her looks is stupid and sexist.  Ripping Senator McCain for the appearance of a mouth that had the living sh*t beaten out of it by NVA goons is its own punishment, at least among people with consciences.

Glad to see Steve Perry’s bringing some professionalism to the good ol’ MNMon!

UPDATE:  Brodkorb is even less-amused:

This is really disgusting attack on Senator McCain and Minnesota Monitor should be embarrassed

Michael has more faith in Steve Perry than I do. 

UPDATED UPDATE: I’m gratified to see that the lefties in Brodkorb’s comment section are even more cheesed-off than the rest of us. 

RE-UPDATED UPDATE:  Mo’N @ Jo’T has the photoshop of the day.

UP-UPDATED UP-UPDATE:  I never actually put Minnesota Monitor on my blogroll, so I can’t remove it in a fit of pique.  I’m considering adding it for about five minutes, so I can gas it. 


Too Loathsome To Loathe. But I’ll Try.

Michael Brodkorb said it best in his headline:  PAWLENTY HATER NICK COLEMAN HITS NEW LOW.

First came his first, deeply stupid column on Friday, which blamed the “No New Taxes” pledge for the disaster as rescuers were still frantically combing the wreckage for survivors, roughly 12 18 months before the NTSB actually expects to know what actually happened.

Then, his – I’ll be charitable – scabrous and incoherent appearance on MSNBC.

And now, Saturday’s column, an apologia for the politicizing of this tragedy, and an attempt to seize “moral authority” on behalf of the likes of Coleman – fact-free politically-motivated ranters – from people who actually stayed awake in math class, went to engineering instead of J school, and actually have to deal in facts and science for a living.

The column distills everything that make Nick Coleman America’s worst working columnist into a melange of gutless lying that is almost too depressing to fisk; indeed, I’ve almost given up critiqueing Coleman, since under normal circumstances he’s become an irrelevant self-parody.

But people are dead, and this – I’m done being charitable – gutless illiterate habitual-liar political hack is trying to use this catastrophe to bully the ill-informed into accepting his deeply, abidingly stupid politics.

According to the pundits, the president’s response to the disaster at our end of the Mississippi is an effort to be seen as more compassionate than he appeared in 2005, when he just looked out the window of Air Force One after the levees broke in New Orleans.

Minnesotans will welcome the president. We need presidents to be comforters, and leaders, at times such as this…But let’s not pretend his visit isn’t all about politics, too.

Everything about this disaster — except the heroic efforts to rescue and recover the victims — has been steeped in politics. And the most calculated political effort has been the posturing and spinning by public officials trying to act commanding while making sure they don’t get pinned with responsibility for the collapse.

Alternate – and as it happens, factual – explanation:  They’re working their asses off to get ahead of the lies that people like Nick Coleman are telling about the situation; lies that are contradicted in Coleman’s own paper; lies that can only be aimed at swaying the gullible and ill-informed (i.e., Nick Coleman’s entire audience) into taking a desired action at the polls.

If you think everyone should play nice about it, you are living in Pollyanna Land. We are in a bare-knuckled political brawl in this country, and the government is in the hands of government haters who want to starve it or, in the alleged belief of presidential ally Grover Norquist, want to “drown it.”

You can’t drown government. It is people who drown.

Again, Coleman lies.  Not only does nobody this side of Ron Paul seriously discuss dismantling government, but one of the things tha so irritated wahabbi-DFLers like Coleman before this tragedy was their “myopic” focus on…roads and bridges, as opposed to boondoggles like the Ventura Trolley.

Friday, the Taxpayers League — the heart of the No New Taxes beast — called on us not to point fingers. They probably disconnected their phone and took down their sign, too.

Actually, sources tell me they were inundated with hateful calls, likely as not from people inflamed by ignorant  moral vermin like Nick Coleman.  Unlike Nick Coleman, the Taxpayers League took the phone calls, and responded.  Try calling Nick Coleman sometimes; he may sound like a stroke victim (no offense to stroke victims or, for that matter, vermin), but he can sure dish out the verbal abuse.  I have the voicemail tapes to prove it.

No New Taxes is not a slogan that works anymore.

We wouldn’t know, would we?  Remember – this bridge was first drawing red flags under the Moe Ventura Administration, when the DFL was spending the surplus like a crack whore with a stolen Gold Card.

That means don’t blame the people in charge for letting 140,000 vehicles a day — 1.7 every second –cross a bridge that wasn’t fit for traffic.

And again, Coleman is not just a gutless, cynical liar, but an illiterate, ignorant one too.  He repeats the lie that the “50” rating implied a “50-50” chance that the bridge was going to collapse, or that it wasn’t fit to be driven on.  His own paper iterated that, in fact, it was a rating; a rating that caused a response (more inspections, more scrutiny, and a focus on the year 2020, when the bridge was scheduled for major reconstruction or repair).  These were decisions made by engineers, people who deal in fact, calculation and empirical conclusions.  The opposite of Nick Coleman.

No one knew it might fall? Give us a break. What do you need? They were talking about bolting plates on it to keep it up. Maybe duct tape was next.

Nick, you lying, illiterate numbnuts:  You state this (“bolting plates”) like it’s some kind of anomaly.  That’s how you maintain bridges – indeed, any big steel-girder construction – when you have neither the option nor the need to take the whole shebang out of service.

And, in the opinion of engineers who do this for a living and for whom it is a matter of empirical science rather than ill-informed opinion, they didn’t need to take it out of service.

If they were wrong, it was not a matter of insufficient money.

The rest of Coleman’s paper doesn’t seem to have a problem getting that fact out there.

Why does Coleman?

Bottom line: It fell.

At least he got one fact right.

Is it political to be angry about that? So be it. Everything is politics. Politics is not a dirty word by itself. Politics builds bridges and schools and hospitals. And politics can make them fall down.

Catch that?

It sums up the problem with people like Nick Coleman.  “Politics” doesn’t “build” anything.  It decides how things like taxes are gathered, and how government budgets are spent.  Since we live in a “democracy”, that process is going to be bumptious and imperfect.  Perhaps Coleman would prefer a dictatorship?

But politics doesn’t build anything; engineers, ironworkers, carpenters and masons do.

And barring the odd war here and there, it doesn’t “destroy” anything either:  wear and tear does.  Time does.  “Acts of God” do.  Traffic does.  Design flaws and construction errors and undetected flaws in material do.   More often, confluences of all of the above do; the Titanic wasn’t sunk by an iceberg or a design shortcoming (un-capped watertight compartments) or faulty assumptions (that only three compartments would vent to the sea) or misplaced arrogance (doing flank speed at night in an ice field); it was the combination of all of them that doomed the ship.

Likewise, it’s every bit as likely that some combination of material flaws or deterioration combined with decades of heavy use and occasional abuse, construction practices, heat, weight of traffic, and undetected material faults caused this catastrophe as it was the nonexistant “lack of money”.

When Pawlenty vetoed the transportation bill in May, “Commissioner” Molnau was beside him, smiling. Dear, Minnesota. A transportation commissioner who grins while her department is being knifed is not a transportation commissioner.

Could we please follow this logic into the newsroom?  A “journalist” who makes s**t up as he goes along isn’t a “journalist”.

Now, a bridge has fallen and people are dead. The buck has to stop somewhere. Molnau was in China when it happened. She probably kissed the Minnesota turf when she got back. Because a Chinese transportation commissioner whose bridge collapsed might lose her head.

And a columnist who gang-rapes fact to chase a further his politics should certainly not be working in a town that values “fact”.

Jay Reding also guts Coleman like a fish.

Snivel Radio

Taylor Marsh addresses the Center for American Progress report in the same way that Hugh Hewitt addresses a new football season; with preconceptions firmly in place, and no perspective to lend any credence whatsoever – a shortcoming that is neither of their fault, per se, but still renders their commentary meaningless:

Boy did American Progress stir up a storm. Never has one report gotten so many wingnuts in a tizzy. It’s positively delicious.

Yeah, some of us get that way when half of our political system wants to sodomize the First Amendment.  Some of us even get upset when they come for Taylor Marsh’s freedom of speech.  Not that I’d expect reciprocation.

If your party is in free fall and your base is demoralized what do you do? That is, what do you do if you’re a Republican? You create an issue. Sew panic.

Sew panic.

With the needle of alarm, perhaps?

Perhaps Ms. Marsh means “sow” panic. 

I digress: 

Rev up that fear mongering machine! Never fear, Fox “News” is here. The trouble is that wingnut talk-radio has as much to fear from their own.

She mentions some Fox droid who lamented the likes of Trent Lott – as I, myself, did. 

Next on our incoherent swing through the stream of Ms. Marsh’s consciousness, we get to a big of history.  She actually comes close:

When Reagan deregulated the airwaves and nixed The Fairness Doctrine, up came the rise of Rush.

Unfortunately, throughout the 1990s, Democrats remained clueless. I was talking to people about wingnut radio in the 1990s only to see their eyes glaze over.

Why do I suspect it had nothing to do with the subject?

No, I’m not snarking.  Well, not just snarking.  Because in her next line, Ms. Marsh shows that she’s been toking from the same bong of cluelessness that’s seemed to have driven all liberal talk radio in recent memory, save perhaps Fast Eddie Schultz and Stephanie “Like Laura Ingraham, but Liberal” Miller.  

 Most just wanted radio shows that drew listeners and raised ad revenue. Fine. All I wanted to do was provide a counterpoint. See eyes glaze over again.

“Oh, Christ.  Marsh is babbling about counterpoint again.  Doesn’t that woman understand that radio’s a business, not a hobby?” 

Profit is critical, absolute reality, but outright ownership of the airwaves is the public’s job and there are a lot of liberals in America, as well as independents who deserve to hear more than one point of view without having to pay satellite prices.

I’m a Veronica Mars fan.  Don’t I “deserve” to have my show un-cancelled?  Even though I was part of a cult following that didn’t make the show close to profitable for its network?

Marsh’s paragraph is so full of raw talking points, it’s hard to know where to start.  So let’s start at the top:

  1. Ownership of the airwaves hasn’t been “the public’s job” in the entire history of the medium.  Since the very beginning, the “airwaves” have been a trust, licensed to companies.  The Electromagnetic Spectrum is no more the public’s property than all seawater within 12 miles of the US coast is “government property”. 
  2. Are there a lot of liberals who “deserve” talk radio programming?  I’m sure there are.  And they find it – on NPR, and on middle-of-the-road talk stations like Minneapolis’ WCCO which, while it’s not a Guevara-T-Shirt-wearing, alpaca-clad, Volvo-driving Air America affiliate, certainly skews left of center vastly more than right.  And they found that – Air America – in America’s greatest liberal bastions, New York and Chicago and Portland and San Francisco and Minneapolis, on big, powerful, clear signals.  And they didn’t listen, in droves.  Even after their sole initial major-market success (in Portland, Oregon), the format, as well as the network sank like a rock. 

Back to Ms. Marsh:

When Republicans found out what radio could do their greed reached a peak. They used it on Clinton throughout the 1990s and it worked, with that success fueling more campaigns. They cemented Hillary Clinton’s persona as well. They’re doing it again with immigration, which is what has brought Trent Lott and others out.

The Fairness Doctrine is one issue, but the bottom line truly is regulation of the airwaves so one company and one political party doesn’t own them.

I can almost imagine Ms. Marsh saying the word; “companyandpoliticalparty”.  Like Clear Channel – which owns Rush Limbaugh – is an arm of the GOP.  Of course, Clear Channel si also the company that broadcasts the most “progressive” talk among the majors (behind CBS as a percentage of airtime devoted to liberals – but Clear Channel is much bigger, and accounts for more hours of lefty broadcasting nationwide).  

As if Clear Channel were a Republican operation, and they wouldn’t drop Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh in less than a news cycle if liberal talk got better numbers, and hence more profit.

Ms Marsh repeats – without apparently understanding them – the CAP’s statistics on the comparitive number of hours of conservative vs. liberal talk, and accepts without question their conclusion that “it’s not the market – it’s the ownership”. 

And with that presumption of ownership collusion comes…

Karl Rove has used right-wing radio for years to pump up the EMOTION of right-wingers, because that’s what gets voters to the polls and right-wing radio listeners vote. The same tactics are continued on “Christian” broadcasting networks throughout the country. It is quite simply the most formidably dangerous weapon the Republicans have to wield against Democrats come election time. Local conservative hosts gain trust with listeners to great affect. It hurts Democrats at the polls.

But behind all that is the simple fact that conservative talk radio is powerful because people listen to it. 

Something has to give; something has to be done. The de-regulation of the airwaves was the single most destructive act aimed at the public interest to hit media since talk radio began.

Well, no – in her own words, Ms. Marsh showed that it was the single most destructive act aimed at liberal hegemony over the media.   

A media she is woefully ill-equipped to understand:

As a progressive radio host without a home, except on the web, I don’t expect to stay on the air if I can’t pay the bills.

 What a crock of crap.

Ms. Marsh; you’re on Blog TalkRadio.  Blog Talkradio is free.  Any moron can put a show on BTR (and so can some excellent, talented hosts, like my real-radio colleague Ed Morrissey). 

So don’t be yapping about paying the bills, since you clearly have no understanding of how real radio people do exactly that – and like your liberal-radio friends, the only answer you have is to run crying to government. 

Advertisers and ratings are crucial. But most progressives can’t even find a spot on terrestrial radio from which to launch a show and test it for enough cycles to get ratings. That’s just a fact.

 No, it’s just buncombe.

Air America has been “tested” for four years now.  By the time Rush, Sean, Hugh, Michael, Dennis and the rest of talkradio’s household names had been on for four years, they were all unqualified successes.  Air America peaked within a year of its debut, never made money (and arguably was never intended to), and is circling the drain faster every day.

Sort of like Ms. Marsh’s command of the facts on this issue:

So enter fear mongering. Shaking the radio base. Making them feel they’re going to lose Rush, Sean, et al. Are you kidding? They’re huge money makers and no station manager is going to get rid of them no matter what. 

 No, but that’s not what the Fairness Doctrine would do.  If a station broadcast Limbaugh and Hannity for six hours a day, they’d have to “balance” their schedule with six hours of “progressives” that nobody would listen to, replacing shows that have an audience with six hours of shows that never will.

On the corporate-owned stations of the Salem Network (for one of whom I do the Northern Alliance show on the weekends) which are all-conservative, 24/7, that’d mean a mandatory quota of 12 hours a day of “progressive”, ratings-killing, money-sapping, just-plain-lousy talk.

Raising the fear factor is just a tool to help them get the job done.

The word Ms. Marsh is looking for is “awareness”.

And looking.

And looking.

Babble Radio

As we on the right have been predicting for quite some time, the left – unable to match conservative talk radio in either the marketplace of ideas or the marketplace, wants to bring in Big Brother to do what their own feeble talent and intellect can’t.

A report by the “Center for American Progress” – of which more later – writes:

As this report will document in detail, conservative talk radio undeniably dominates the format.

Our analysis in the spring of 2007 of the 257 news/talk stations owned by the top five commercial station owners reveals that 91 percent of the total weekday talk radio programming is conservative, and 9 percent is progressive.

Each weekday, 2,570 hours and 15 minutes of conservative talk are broadcast on these stations compared to 254 hours of progressive talk—10 times as much conservative talk as progressive talk

A separate analysis of all of the news/talk stations in the top 10 radio markets reveals that 76 percent of the programming in these markets is conservative and 24 percent is progressive, although programming is more balanced in markets such as New York and Chicago.

This dynamic is repeated over and over again no matter how the data is analyzed, whether one looks at the number of stations, number of hours, power of stations, or the number of programs. While progressive talk is making inroads on commercial stations, conservative talk continues to be pushed out over the airwaves in greater multiples.

These empirical findings may not be surprising given general impressions about the format, but they are stark and raise serious questions about whether the companies licensed to broadcast over the public airwaves are serving the listening needs of all Americans.

Radio isn’t supposed to “serve the needs of all Americans” (barring, say, local, regional or national emergencies). It’s supposed to provide stuff that listeners want to tune in to – something that the progressives liberals Fabian Statists have proven themselves dismal at (even in liberal strongholds like New York and Chicago, where the 3-1 disparity in programming hours is generous; the listening audience is even more lopsidedly conservative.

The CAP claim that almost a quarter of talk radio’s audience is identified as liberal – and that, therefore, the market should be coerced to provide liberal programming to “serve their needs” – ignoring, of course, that MPR (of which more in a moment) and the rest of the entire mainstream media establishment already provide this 24/7.

The CAP’s report (WARNING! PDF FILE!  GIVE UP ALL HOPE OF REASONABLE PERFORMANCE OR USABILITY!) lists several recommendations (which I’ll summarize, since copying and pasting from PDF is such a pain):

  1. Restore caps on ownership of commercial radio stations.
  2. Expand “local accountability” in radio licensing
  3. Extort money from station owners who “fail to abide”, give it to “Public Broadcasting”.

By the way, the CAP’s report (look starting around page 12 in the report) has some interesting data – or, to be more precise, makes you wonder precisely what “data” the CAP was using to figure out its ratios, and exposes the weakness of these kinds of surveys, where “conservative” and “progressive” mean precisely what the surveyors want them to mean – if you dig into it a bit.

For example, they credit KTLK-FM with 16 hours of “conservative” talk a day – but the only overtly political shows are Limbaugh, Hannity and Jason Lewis, which rack up nine hours a day among them (John Hines isn’t especially conservative, and Dan Conry is aggressively down-the-middle).   By the way, for all the CAP’s carping about centralization of radio station ownership, most of the “progressive” radio that is actually broadcast is on Clear Channel stations; CBS has a higher listed percentage of “progressive” talk programming, but they’re a much smaller network.  Smaller networks like Cumulus and Citadel broadcast virtually no “progressive” radio (Salem, I’m proud to say, actively squelches it at a corporate level).

Speaking of CBS – they list WCCO-AM in Minneapolis as having no political talk on either side.  WCCO broadcasts Eleanor Mondale, former (alleged) Clinton paramour, daughter of Jimmy Carter’s vice president and sister of paleoliberal Ted Mondale, as well as Jack Rice, Don Shelby and Dark Star; while none of these shows are explicitly political, their tone and topic selection and, when the chips are down, core beliefs do pretty well come blaring through.  They may not be “Air America” material, but they are, if not “progressive”, at least exceedingly friendly to the traditional Minnesota paleoliberal status quo.  The CAP study doesn’t account for this in the Twin Cities (or presumably any other market)…

…but they do call John Hines and Dan Conry “conservative”.

Food for thought.

Oh, by the way, the “Center for American Progress” – just a bunch of concerned citizens, right?

Not quite.  Michelle Malkin:

What is the Center for American Progress and why are they proposing this Government Talk Radio Grab? It’s a left-wing think tank headed by Clintonite John Podesta. It manages a radio studio used daily by left-winger Bill Press’s syndicated radio show. The syndicator is the nutroots Jones Radio Networks. CAP officials appeared frequently on Al Franken’s show and Air America’s airwaves. Seed money for the think tank came from–where else–George Soros, among others, according to the Washington Post.

Robbing Peter To Pay Patricia

I was having an email discussion the other day with a friend who took exception to my continued criticism of Strib columnist Syl Jones.

To be fair (to Jones and to me), unlike most conservative commentators I’ve actually found reason to agree with some of Jones’ work – but it’s been a rare thing.  For starters, I’m desperately sick of his whole “ice people” slur – the whole Melanistic conceit that people of color are inherently emotionally and mentally healthier than white people because their sun-drenched past made them more open and less repressed they’ve “got no soul”, in effect.  Leaving aside the simple fact that no white commentator could get away with doing the same thing in reverse for any reason (assuming they’d want to – and what, indeed, is the point of slandering an entire race’s “soul”, anyway?), it’s a stupid conceit; anyone who can say that a strand of ethnic groups (linked only by skin color, for crying out loud) that produced Bach, Michaelangelo, Beethoven, Turner, Shakespeare, Tolstoii, Byron, Chekhov, Mahler, Ibsen, Hemingway and Ramone “has no soul” is pretty clearly deluded.

But I come neither to bury nor praise Syl Jones.

One of the remarks in my email exchange that grabbed me was the idea that my criticism of Jones was “white-guy-apologist stuff”.  Which prompted me to think – calling someone “white male”, to a fair chunk of our society, is taken as a sort of rhetorical trump card.  The twin involuntary sins of being Caucasian and male are taken as an explanation for the whole gamut of offenses; colonialism, the oppression of women, war, the despoiling of the environment, the alienation of the Industrial Revolution, bad awkward dancing.  Throw in Protestant Christianity (the dreaded White WASP male), and you add emotional rigidness and frigidity, homophobia, unsatisfying sex and patriarchalism.

It’s an “argument” (and I say argument in scare quotes, since there really is no discussion; “you’re a white guy” is tossed out like a rhetorical stun grenade, intended to knock out everyone in the room, without much backup plan as to what happens if it doesn’t work.  One left-leaning woman, on meeting me a few weeks ago and learning I was a conservative, snarked “a white male who’s a conservative.  There’s a surprise!”.  I chalk it up to my inherent restraint that I didn’t respond “a white, upper-middle-class, never-married, childless fortysomething professional woman that’s a DFLer?  Ibid!”) that I’ve pretty much seceded from.  What, indeed, is the point?  Can someone criticize, say, Syl Jones for his many individual misapprehensions of fact (which have nothing to do with anyone’s skin color), as well as the generalized caustic ugliness of constantly referring to “ice people” in his columns – itself “racist” by any rational measure – without having one’s own race dragged into it?

Or does a white male need to subcontract his own critique out to, say, a Hispanic lesbian ghostwriter for it to be valid?

Whatever.  I’m not the one to untangle this society’s angst about race, which started three centuries before any of my anscestors came to this country. Still, if I must be seen to engage in “white guy apologetics”, I’ll just get it out of the way right now.  Every society on this planet that must interact with other societies, from tribes in the New Guinea highlands barely removed from the Stone Age (many of whom have waged constant war on each other for millenia) to tribal clans in Central Asia and the American steppes (whose inherent discrimination against other clans is reflected in the very language the culture uses; the term for “human” in many indigenous languages around the world becomes more derogatory the farther removed from the home clan the subject is), to large, multiethnic societies throughout history.  And of all the thousands and thousands of such societies, from extended family tribes to globe-spanning empires, which ones have been the ones to even attempt to combat systematic racism, to make the genders equal, and to build societies that transcend such bigoties and hatreds?

I’m just saying.

I can’t begin to untangle the issue of race in this society, much less worldwide – partly because a fair chunk of this society’s punditry considers my opinion invalid (I’m a white guy, remember?), and partly because whatever my skin color, I’m not smart enough.  Nobody really is.  It’s something that’ll resolve itself despite the demigoguery and the rhetorical short-cuts and all the other baggage, eventually.  I  hope.  Maybe the demographers are right – the whole race issue will diffuse itself in another fifty generations, as all the races interbreed and the whole planet comes out looking tan.

So maybe the whole “white” part of the “white male” conceit will die off on its own, eventually.  But the “male” part?  That’s where this gets interesting.

Now, I am and remain the foremost feminist I know.  And it both troubles and amuses me to note that many of my fellow guys who call themselves “feminists” seem to feel that the only way for a guy to express “feminism” is to prostrate oneself before women and demand their forgiveness for the sins of ones forefathers, whatever they may have been and whenever they may have happened.

This, of course, is not only rubbish, it’s dangerous – to feminism.

I have a question.  Feel free to discuss it in the comment section.

Background:  This earth has tens of thousands of different societies and cultures.  Many of them – Islam being a key example – are intensely patriarchal (run by men).  However, many are very matriarchal, either behind the scenes (many Asian societies at the family and clan level) or quite overtly (many African cultures).

It’s a given (for most) that boys and girls are different, of course; in kindergarten, boys tend to be physical and spatial, while girls tend to be verbal and social.  Girls, stereotypically, play in groups and gossip about each other (and no, it’s neither a sexist stereotype nor a product of middle-class Western culture, so don’t go there); boys tend toward aggression (almost always stylized, although the feminization of the school system has arguably destroyed the socialization that taught boys to control that aggression, leading to ever-more real violence), physicality and a more-detailed conception of the physical world around them (recognized even in preschoolers as boys’ typically-greater conception of three-dimensional space compared to girls – which helps counterbalance girls’ greater verbal skills).

History’s great conquerors, of course, have all been males; Alexander, the Romans, Genghis Khan, Napoleon, Ditka, the British (who were sometimes ruled by queens, but the queen ran a very patriarchal system) and so on.

Who have been the great rulers of matriarchal societies?   Who knows?

The theory I’ve heard – and I can’t remember when or from whom, sorry – is that matriarchal societies tend to be more inward-focused; it’s in matriarchal socities that it’s believed that “it takes a village to raise a child”; according to the theory, a matriarchal society behaves more or less like a group of girls will act; verbal, group-oriented, alternately supportive and undercutting.

Patriarchal societies, says the theory, act like boys; outward facing, rules-based, individualistic.

Most societies, of course, mix the two in some way or another, more or less.  And when two societies collide in conflict, it’s usually the patriarchal one that prevails (see:  the spread of intensely patriarchal Islam across heavily-matriarchal Africa).

Again – as I noted above, the only large, significant society in all of history that has seriously addressed the notion of equity among races, beliefs and genders is the patriarchal, Judeo-Christian western civilization.

Question:  If the Judeo-Christian West were a matriarchal society, would it have developed into small-l liberal democracies?  Or would they be recognizable to us today?  Would they be viable?

Discuss away.  Stupid comments (as judged by me and only me) will be excised.  Not mutilated; I want to stay on the subject, not on a bunch of tangents introduced by certain commenters’ peculiarities.

Oh, and anyone who replies “why does Mitch Berg hate women?” will earn a rhetorical wedgie.