Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Dead Heat

While it's always problematic to look at polls before Labor Day, the latest from Minnesota Public Radio on the governor's race shows a dead heat between Tom Emmer and Mark Dayton. Both have the support of 34%, with Tom Horner checking in at 13% and 19% not offering an answer.

You can look at this a number of ways. Here are a few things I'd suggest:
  • Dayton and his minions (and I would include Matt Entenza in that collection) have spent millions of dollars demonizing Tom Emmer all summer long, with very little response from the Emmer camp. If the best they are able to do is get a tie, that doesn't bode well for Dayton.
  • There's no point in pretending that Emmer's campaign hasn't had a few hiccups up to this point. The tip credit flap was an unforced error and he's been slow to respond to some of the calumnies that have been heaped upon him thus far. While it's good to see him starting to respond now, his passivity has been puzzling and often maddening. It's not what we saw in the primary.
  • The current economic conditions in Minnesota aren't as dire as they are in, say, Nevada, which has allowed Dayton to run the sort of campaign that would have been laughed off elsewhere. That could change, though. One thing worth remembering is that many voters will start seeing the first fruits of Obamacare in October, when they get the bad news about their insurance premiums going up. That won't help the standard-bearer of the party that is responsible for these increases.
  • Some observers think that Horner will be a big factor, but I'm not convinced of that. He has the same problem that Jesse Ventura has: even if he could get elected, he'd have no friends in St. Paul and would have very little ability to move the debate. While it's been nearly a decade since ol' Jesse was in office, there are enough Minnesotans who remember what that was like and won't relish a repeat.


HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius might want to hit the rewind button on this one:

“Unfortunately, there still is a great deal of confusion about what is in [the reform law] and what isn’t,” Sebelius told ABC News Radio in an interview Monday.

“So, we have a lot of reeducation to do,” Sebelius said.

I believe they call that inartful phrasing.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Somebody else probably thought of this first, but

It occurred to me this morning. The key thing about the scurrilous ads that Mark Dayton has subcontracted Alliance for a Better Minnesota is this: the attacks on Emmer have more to do with Dayton's flaws than Emmer's. The two best examples:
  • If you keep hammering Emmer about drunk driving arrests from 20 and 30 years ago, it makes it more difficult for Emmer's campaign to mention that Dayton's problems with the bottle are far more extensive, and far more recent, than anything Emmer has faced.
  • If you hammer Emmer about missing votes in the Legislature (side note: how many votes did Barack Obama miss while he was running for president?), it makes it far more difficult for Emmer's campaign to mention that Dayton shut down his offices in 2004.

You have to give the Dayton people credit for figuring that out.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

What lives on, 20 years on

We refer to August as the Month of Ghosts around here, because August is the month that both of my parents died. Monday marks the 20th anniversary of my father's death.

I wrote extensively about Dad's death last year and doubt that I can improve upon what I wrote then. Mrs. D and I have done a fair amount of the work involved in raising our own family in the 20 years since my father passed away and that has been the most important thing that we have done. While it's sad that Benster and Fearless Maria never knew their grandfather, I see facets of his personality in them nearly every day.

My dad was a very funny man, but he was quite serious about the things he believed. He was probably the most generous guy I've ever seen. And he was always honest about what he believed, sometimes in inadvertently hilarious ways.

A favorite family story: while I was in college, he had taken my younger siblings to Mass with him, but he fell asleep during the homily. The homilist was a missionary who was a bit of a Liberation Theologian and his presentation was riddled with leftist bromides. At some point during the homily, Dad stirred but apparently forgot where he was. In a half-awake way, he said out loud, quite loud enough for the congregation to hear, "that's the biggest bunch of bullshit I ever heard." I'm guessing it was a little awkward.

Breaches of decorum pass. The many positive examples that Dad gave us in his all-too-brief life remain.

Honor and Moral Authority

Two takes on the question of honor:

First, Doctor Zero, over at Hot Air:

We dishonor ourselves when we create massive obligations with unsustainable financing. This shows disrespect to the future, and a craven refusal to face the realities of today. If time is money, then madcap deficit spending steals the time of the future… draining it away like so much sand down the neck of a broken hourglass. As parents love their children, we should be mindful of the future, and eager to shoulder our current burdens instead of passing them along, with interest. We cannot know the shape of tomorrow, or what hardships they may be facing when the bills for our indulgences come due.

Both political parties own that one, no doubt about it. And he also says this:

We reclaim our honor by turning away from those who believe the great mass of us are beneath their contempt, and compassion is best expressed through domination. They have no power we didn’t give them, which means they have no power we cannot take away. Let us begin.

Meanwhile, consider these comments from David Zuwarik, writing in the Baltimore Sun:

The brand of American history taught by Glenn Beck Saturday at his rally would not pass muster in a mediocre middle school. And in terms of what came across on TV, there were no moments of great emotional resonance or release until perhaps the finale of bagpipes playing "Amazing Grace" and a closing prayer.

And yet, beyond the huge crowd that attended the event in Washington, something important and even profound was taking place at Beck's "Restoring Honor" rally: The Fox News host was attempting to seize a mantle of moral authority earned and ultimately paid for with his life by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. And, sadly, I think in the eyes of some viewers, Beck might have succeeded.

But how might Beck have succeeded in doing that? Because nature abhors a vacuum. Zuwarik:

As I watched this specatcle Saturday, I started thinking how much recent American history has been about the struggle for moral authority since the death of King and Robert Kennedy. When LBJ lost his moral authority over Vietnam, he lost his ability to govern -- and he knew it. Richard Nixon never had moral authority, and Gerald Ford lost his when he pardoned Nixon. And so on and so on to Monica Lewinsky and Bill Clinton and then the election that many feel was stolen in the so-called Florida recount by the friends of George W. Bush.

That's what what was so powerful about November 2008 in Grant Park when Barack Obama took the stage on election night: Millions of Americans thought they were finally watching someone who brought moral authority to the White House and the land. I know I did. Sadly, millions now feel Obama has since lost it with too many morning-after flip-flops on moral issues, entertainment TV show appearances, and days on the golf course as the economy struggles.

We are a saner, more focused and calmer nation when we feel as if we have someone we can look to for moral authority. Glenn Beck understands that, and that is what makes what happened in Washington Saturday worth thinking about long and hard.

A couple of points:
  • It's easy to get a little nervous when you start to hear the rhetoric get ratcheted up, especially the blood of patriots evocation that Doc Zero provides in his piece. We aren't at that point, really -- while I fully agree that many of those who would govern us would prefer to rule instead, there is still a rule of law in this country and it's built on a strong foundation. We aren't at the point where we need to start thinking about a revolution. Yet.
  • Zuwarik is on to something, but he's missing the point. King's moral authority didn't come from his own personality; rather, it came from the evident rightness of his cause and because he ground his message in both the ideals of the Founders and his own faith tradition. Because he was consistent in his approach, he was able to reach people.
  • It's easy to laugh at the idea that a Chicago politician would have any moral authority, but I take Zuwarik at his word about his belief. During the 2008 election cycle I wrote more than once about the notion that people were looking for a reason to believe. There were clearly more people than Zuwarik who wanted to believe a new day was dawning. I knew that there would be great disappointment about Obama for that reason. Some of those people are in the Tea Party movement now. I'd be willing to wager that some of the people in Grant Park on that night in November, 2008 were in Washington yesterday.
  • But here's the thing: it never goes well when we see an individual as a source of moral authority. Individuals are fallible. We are all sinners. King's moral authority didn't come from who he was -- the historical record provides ample evidence that he was prone to sin in myriad ways. King's moral authority came from his willingness, at the most important times, set aside his own appetites for a cause that was greater than his own self-interest. Very few people do that. There was never any reason to believe that Barack Obama would do that. But there were a lot of people who were prepared to believe otherwise.

We aren't going to be able to impose honor from an address at the Lincoln Memorial. If we are to restore the honor we have lost, and the moral authority that comes with it, it's a job that has to start a lot closer to home than Washington, D.C.

Dude has an audience

I've managed to get to this point without actually watching an entire episode of a Glenn Beck show, although I've seen some excerpts here and there. Apparently he has an audience, though, based on the image of the crowd that gathered to hear him, Sarah Palin and a few other speakers yesterday.

When times are tough, people are looking for an answer and Beck appears to supply an answer for a lot of people. He spoke about things that we all think are important, especially the idea of honor. We're in an interesting place right now, because there doesn't seem to be much agreement about what constitutes honor and, for that matter, what is honorable behavior. I would like it very much if Beck's detractors would tell us what they believe honor is. It would be helpful to know that now.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Odd, that

Have you noticed that a lot of people who are angry about anti-mosque protests are equally angry about whatever the hell Glenn Beck has planned for this weekend? Wonder what that's all about....

Friday, August 27, 2010

Home Truth

Charles Krauthammer explains it better than I did:

The Democrats are going to get beaten badly in November. Not just because the economy is ailing. And not just because Obama over-read his mandate in governing too far left. But because a comeuppance is due the arrogant elites whose undisguised contempt for the great unwashed prevents them from conceding a modicum of serious thought to those who dare oppose them.
Yepper. Read the whole thing.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Tick Tock

Apparently, it was a hell of a concert:

After Eric Clapton's set was finished, over a ear-deafening applause, Clapton introduced "the best guitar players in the entire world." One by one, Buddy Guy, Stevie, Robert Cray, and Jimmie Vaughan all strolled on stage with their Fender Stratocasters for an encore jam to Robert Johnson's "Sweet Home Chicago", a fitting tune as all of the musicians were home-ridden to "Windy City". After 20 minutes, they finished off the tune, the lights went up, and the musicians strolled off stage. Stevie was last off stage, as he gave a wink before he disappeared backstage.
My sister was there that night, 20 years ago, at Alpine Valley Music Theatre in East Troy, Wisconsin. The Stevie mentioned here was Stevie Ray Vaughan, of course, the brilliant guitarist who had faced and conquered his demons and was playing the best music of his life. Unfortunately, he didn't know that this concert would be his last.

Tour manager Skip Rickert had reserved helicopters from Omni Flights to circumvent congested highway traffic. The helicopters chosen were Bell 260B Jet Rangers, which were enough for five people to be seated, including the pilot. Seats were reserved on the third Bell 260B Jet Ranger for Stevie, Jimmie and his wife, Connie. However, it is inferred that a miscommunication between Stevie's and Eric Clapton's management happened, as three members of Clapton's management took three seats. This meant that there would be one seat on the helicopter. Stevie was anxious to get back to Chicago, so, as the helicopters were starting their engines, he asked his brother, Jimmie, if he could take the last seat on the third helicopter. Since he didn't want to be separated from his wife, Jimmie told him that was fine. Jimmie and Connie would just catch the next flight.

In the pitch-black night, in very dense fog, the helicopters were clear for lift off at 12:40 a.m. Just past the lift-off zone was a 300-foot hill. Vaughan's helicopter was piloted by Jeffrey Browne, who was unfamiliar with the flight pattern for exiting the area over a high altitude and in dense fog. The helicopter was guided off the landing zone, flying at a high speed about a half-mile from take-off. It then, however, veered off to one side, disappeared into the darkness, and the helicopter crashed into the hill. Everyone on the rest of the helicopters made it to Chicago safely, unaware that one of the helicopters failed to return. The only people who were aware of the crash were officials at the Federal Aviation Administration, who had been notified that a helicopter was down.

At 7:00 a.m., sheriff's deputies arrived at the site and located the wreckage. According to observations, the helicopter had slammed into the hill at such a high rate of speed and it happened so quickly that Stevie and the passengers never knew what hit them. Their bodies were thrown across a 200-foot slope.

It wasn't the first time a talented performer had died in Wisconsin airspace -- Otis Redding had met his maker in the frigid waters of Lake Monona in 1968. I was just a kid then and it didn't mean much to me. Death means more when you are old enough to understand its implications. And we would have to contemplate the implications in a much greater way a few days later. But that's another post.

It's hard for me to believe that 20 years have passed since this tragedy. You can still hear plenty of Vaughan's music at our house. One of the songs he recorded with his brother Jimmie, only weeks before, contained the following simple chorus:

Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock people, time's tickin' away
Remember that
Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock people, time's tickin' away
And we don't know the half of it. Better not take things for granted, because it can all disappear in a hurry.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Magic Moments

I've been writing a lot, probably too much, about the things that divide us. Sometimes it's worth remembering things that we share. Music, for example.

I've read two very good books about American popular music this year: the first was a book that Night Writer tipped me to, Lone Star Swing, a funny and affectionate travelogue written by a Scotsman, Duncan McLean, who is a huge fan of the devoted style of music that is best known as Western Swing. The most notable figure in Western Swing was Bob Wills, who performed for many years with a group of musicians known as the Texas Playboys. While much of Wills's music, especially to the modern ear, sounds like country and western, it was actually a lot more than that, as Wills had tastes as vast and the Texas plains he traveled throughout his career. If you doubt that, try this one:

You can hear the jump blues of Louis Jordan quite clearly. This version of the song was recorded back in 1946, in a time when the music industry was as segregated as the rest of society and a band with the cowboy credentials of the Texas Playboys would have seemed an unlikely source for such a rollicking beat. But Wills wasn't one to sit in a musical silo and because he was adventurous enough to integrate influences beyond what might have been expected, he helped to get sounds into the ears of his audience that they might not have accepted otherwise.

I just finished reading a book about a very different group of musical figures, the habitues of the Brill Building in New York. The book, titled Always Magic in the Air by Ken Emerson, is more of a history of the era and is written in much more scholarly fashion than McLean's somewhat picaresque adventure, but it's equally instructive. Emerson details the lives of a group of individuals who held sway over much of American popular culture for a brief period in between the peak of Elvis and the arrival of the Beatles. Some of these songwriters, particularly Burt Bacharach, remain in the public eye all these years later, but many of them are now mostly forgotten, even though they made some very important records and their songs are now part of the Great American Songbook. Think about how well these songs have held up over the years:

Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller wrote songs of astonishing variety, with everything from the raucous rock of Elvis singing Hound Dog, the elegance of the Drifters with There Goes My Baby and the Kurt Weill-decadent reading of Is That All There Is that was the last great hit of Peggy Lee, a performer who was over a generation older than either Lieber or Stoller.

Burt Bacharach and Hal David went from working with Marty Robbins (The Story of My Life) to the precise, tricky readings of Dionne Warwick (I Say a Little Prayer), the cartoonish Tom Jones (What's New, Pussycat?) and the dulcet MOR of The Carpenters (Close to You).

Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil wrote three songs that would probably fit into the top 100 songs of the rock era, for three very different acts: the Drifters' version of On Broadway (the George Benson version is pretty good, too), the Animals' classic We Gotta Get Out of This Place and the greatest moment of the careers of Mann-Weil, Phil Spector and the Righteous Brothers, You've Lost That Loving Feeling.

Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman gave us classics from Dion and the Belmonts (A Teenager in Love), the Drifters (This Magic Moment and Save the Last Dance for Me) and fun kitsch for Elvis (Viva Las Vegas).

Carole King and Gerry Goffin, skewing younger, asked the eternal question (the Shirelles' Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow), threw us a dance craze big enough for Little Eva and Grand Funk Railroad (The Locomotion) and even helped get the Monkees off the ground (Pleasant Valley Sunday). King later went on to become an exemplar of the singer-songwriter movement with her album Tapestry in 1971.

Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich became the go-to songwriters for Phil Spector and his Wall of Sound, feeding the beast on behalf of the Crystals (The He Kissed Me), the Ronettes (Be My Baby) and even Ike and Tina Turner (River Deep, Mountain High), while also feeding the British Invasion (Manfred Mann's Do Wah Diddy) and some tough chicks from the Bronx (the Shangri-Las Leader of the Pack).

The book also spends time detailing the career of Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield, who were successful but more of a self-contained unit than the other teams.

There were two things that I think matter about these songwriting teams:

  • They were professionals, in the best sense of the term. They all saw their business as making people happy through entertainment. While it would be churlish to denigrate the brilliance of a songwriter like Bob Dylan, even in his moments of absolute brilliance there was always a hint of self-indulgence in Dylan's music and when lesser performers emulated Dylan, the results got worse over time. The Brill Building songwriters didn't have time for that. They didn't want to make a statement -- they wanted to make people happy. There's a lot of value in that.

  • They were multicultural, in the best sense of the term. What you had were a bunch of Jewish kids, mostly from New York, writing songs that absorbed the influences of what they heard and saw. It is not coincidental that some of the most transcendant sides recorded here were for the Drifters, an African-American group with a constantly changing roster of singers, who managed to maintain an astonishing level of quality despite the repeated roster shifts. You also heard in many of these songs a recurring rhythmic motif, the Afro-Cuban beat known as the baion. Even though the nation was still suffering from the ravages of segregation during the early part of the 1960s, the music coming from New York was an amalgam of various life experiences, written to speak to people universally. The notion that this music would be something any racial or ethnic group couldn't understand is completely alien to what these people produced.

Even as we approach a half century of desegregation and civil rights for all, we find our culture balkanized in many ways. I think we could use the forward thinking of people like Bob Wills and the songwriters of the Brill Building. Music can reach anyone, if we are open enough to listen.

This Morning's Pinata

Christopher Hitchens, writing in Slate:

Emboldened by the crass nature of the opposition to the center, its defenders have started to talk as if it represented no problem at all and as if the question were solely one of religious tolerance. It would be nice if this were true. But tolerance is one of the first and most awkward questions raised by any examination of Islamism. We are wrong to talk as if the only subject was that of terrorism. As Western Europe has already found to its cost, local Muslim leaders have a habit, once they feel strong enough, of making demands of the most intolerant kind. Sometimes it will be calls for censorship of anything "offensive" to Islam. Sometimes it will be demands for sexual segregation in schools and swimming pools. The script is becoming a very familiar one. And those who make such demands are of course usually quite careful to avoid any association with violence. They merely hint that, if their demands are not taken seriously, there just might be a teeny smidgeon of violence from some other unnamed quarter …

As for the gorgeous mosaic of religious pluralism, it's easy enough to find mosque Web sites and DVDs that peddle the most disgusting attacks on Jews, Hindus, Christians, unbelievers, and other Muslims—to say nothing of insane diatribes about women and homosexuals. This is why the fake term Islamophobia is so dangerous: It insinuates that any reservations about Islam must ipso facto be "phobic." A phobia is an irrational fear or dislike. Islamic preaching very often manifests precisely this feature, which is why suspicion of it is by no means irrational.

Is he right? Is he wrong? Discuss. And read the whole thing -- as is usually the case with Hitchens, there's something to offend everyone.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Explain (Shut Up, They Explained)

People are still talking about the proposed mosque near the World Trade Center. One of the best columns I've read about the issue is this one, from the Anchoress over at First Things. The key observations (emphases in original):

Resistance to a proposed Islamic cultural center and mosque two blocks from Ground Zero is not about bigotry or xenophobia; the demonstrated tolerance of Americans during the last nine years belies those unhelpful charges. Rather, the rancor is an amalgam; it is constructed of built-up feelings of anger, powerlessness, indignation and—most potently—disillusioned self-awareness and resentment against ham-handed, disdainful leadership.

Anger alone would be manageable. In our therapeutic culture we know that before a psych patient can get well, he needs to touch a needle to the crux of what is eating at him, like an interior boil-lancing, and sometimes it takes a lot of roundabout discourse and venting to locate it. Until the thing is touched upon, though, there is no chance of healing, just a general sense of disease, failure, and hurt.

We could find it, lance it, and start healing. But America is are being told—by the very people who have spent decades promoting the primacy of “feelings,” over thought, and who have declared that “a feeling is neither right or wrong”—to shut up, to not express its feelings, to not even have feelings, because those feelings are bad, stupid ones that are very, very wrong.
While I'm not sure about the notion of a "therapeutic culture," the sense I get is that a lot of people are finding the pedantry of the governing/ruling class quite tiresome. As the Anchoress notes:

Surrendering ones circumstance to a loving, trust-worthy God in challenging times is quite different from being nagged into acquiescence by people who you no longer believe even like you, or have your best interests at heart. President Obama, Nancy Pelosi and the press are no longer credible enough to convince the angry 65 percent of the country that Park51 could ultimately mean something good for America.
That's a huge issue right now. Read the whole thing.

A grim anniversary

Ann Althouse marks a grim anniversary. It was 40 years ago that radicals bombed Sterling Hall on the University of Wisconsin campus, killing a researcher who was working inside.

I barely remember this incident, as I was only 6 years old at the time, but I do remember the fear that it caused throughout the state of Wisconsin and my father's anger at the people who had done this deed. It's very easy to forget now, but 1970 was a very violent time in this country. Althouse quotes an editorial that ran in the Wisconsin State Journal following the event which holds up well, 40 years on.

They've been playing with murder for years.

Now they've achieved it.

It wasn't the "military-industrial" complex that was attacked here Monday morning. It wasn't cement and steel beams and equipment.

It was innocent human beings. It was a father who was killed. It was a fellow researcher who was injured, and it was a student, a working man, and a hospital patient.

It is always very easy to turn your political opponents into abstractions and straw men. It is equally easy to use hatred as a motivating agent. We do these things at our peril.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Lightning Round - 082310

Really fast.
  • Tom Emmer's first ad is here. It's straightforward and uses his telegenic family to good effect. Smart way to approach the matter, especially given the amount of demonization he's faced up to now.
  • On the other hand, there's Tom Horner's new ad. I agree with the assessment of Luke Hellier over at MDE -- creepy.
  • Heard some old dude was playing football last night, but that it didn't matter much.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Target Practice(s)

It's been fascinating to watch the jihad that the Left has been conducting against my former employer, Target Corporation. A lot of what you read in the mainstream media is rot, of course: Mitch Berg, who has been a one-man truth squad during this election cycle, does an outstanding job of debunking the "institutional investor concern" meme that the Star Tribune floated yesterday. The money graf (in more ways than one):

57.5 million dollars in Target stock equals about 0.0015 of Target Corp’s $38,190,000,000 (that’s thirty eight billion dollar and change) market capitalization; fifteen dollars out of every ten thousand worth of Target market capitalization.

That’s like taking fifteen cents out of a hundred dollars.

And as Mitch also points out, the institutional investors in question are boutique "social responsibility" funds of the sort that (a) prefer moral vanity to making money and (b) almost always underperform the market. But we'll leave that aside for the moment.

Even though Mitch is right that the institutional investors in question are gnats, there have been multiple reasons why Target has struggled with the machinations of those who wish the company ill right now. Target Corporation employed me for nearly a decade and I believe I have a few insights into how Target operates. I'd like to offer a few of the things that Target execs are weighing right now:

Target makes its money from impulse buying. We would talk quite a lot about the "typical Target guest." When I worked there, our assumption was that this guest (customer) was:

About 40 years old
Married, with younger children
Probably drives a minivan or SUV (the better to carry stuff)
Family income over $50K (probably about $65K now)

In other words, the typical Target shopper was there to pick up the basics, but likely had enough money to buy something on impulse on most visits to the store. Target shoppers are, in the main, more wealthy than Walmart shoppers, but because Target has to compete with Walmart on commodity items, Target can't make a lot of money on those purchases. So the key is to get the shopper to buy something else that delivers a higher margin: a cute blouse, Buzz Lightyear pajamas for the kids, a book or CD -- something like that.

Although Target has gone away from this design in more recent prototypes, that is why you used to have to drag your way through about five other departments before you got to health and beauty or the laundry detergent. Walmart is able to make more money on commodities because the Walmart buyers are geniuses at squeezing their vendors and the boys in Bentonville have perhaps the best supply chain logistics in the history of the world. While Target lavishes great attention to these matters and does a great job, they can't beat Walmart on "back of the house" procedures, so they have to make up the difference on the sales floor.

In the main, gays have discretionary income. Yes, it's a generalization, but there's no point in denying it -- many gays make good money and because they don't, in the main, have the sorts of financial commitments that the 40-year old suburban mom has. I'd wager that there aren't too many people living in the Loring Park area who are paying for ice time or hockey equipment every year. That makes gays a small but coveted demographic. Target couldn't care less about the gay lifestyle, except that in many cases it means a potential gay shopper will have more money to spend in the downtown store than the woman in Apple Valley who arrives in the Cedar Avenue location in a 2005 Murano.

Target's "philanthrophy" is all about image and image is good business. I was heavily involved in the Target Volunteers program when I worked there. We did things that were beneficial to the community. There's no question that when we cleaned up the shoreline along the Mississippi in St. Paul, or gave thousands of pounds of food to the Sabathani Community Center, it was a useful exercise. It was also good for Target's business. Image is a huge consideration for Target and it has had to be. It doesn't help the company if a certain percentage of the bien pensants thinks less of Target because they believe the rhetoric of the Human Rights Campaign, especially if the bien pensants have coin.

Still, Target has a business to run. And if you want to run a successful business, you need talented executives to manage your various operations. And talented executives don't come cheap. In fact, top Target executives are generally "rich." Target is based in Minnesota and if Mark Dayton becomes governor and starts taxing the snot out of talented executives, it will hurt Target's competitiveness in the market. The state income tax in Bentonville, Arkansas is somewhat less than than it is here right now. That could change. Meanwhile, there are other retailers who are headquartered in places like Texas, where the state income tax is zero. If you are a talented retail executive, are the advantages that Minnesota provides enough to make you want to live here, especially if the cost of living is higher? If Target wants to compete in the executive marketplace, Tom Emmer's approach will make it easier for Target to attract and retain top talent. Seen in that light, a $150,000 expenditure on Emmer's behalf would seem pretty wise.

So there you have the question. Are the potential lost sales from a small but noisy demographic (and the collateral damage from bien pensant customers) more damaging to Target than the long-term effects that a punitive tax rate will have on its executive team? That's the question that Gregg Steinhafel and the rest of his team is facing. And it's also a question that interests Wall Street, much more than the machinations of the gnats the Strib detailed yesterday. And if Target becomes less competitive in the marketplace long-term because its management is weaker, that has pretty severe implications for Minnesota.

Maybe Mark Dayton can find some sort of "supercomputer" to figure out the optimum tax rate for hoovering the wallets of Target executives (and Medtronic, and United Health, etc.) for the Better Minnesota he imagines, but it would require a level of insight that Dayton hasn't shown at any point in his career. Dayton's family once owned and operated the business that is now Target Corporation, but it's no coincidence that Gregg Steinhafel is at the helm there today, rather than Mark Dayton.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Home Truth

Barack Obama isn't a Muslim, even though apparently 18% of people believe he is, according to polling.

John Hinderaker makes the salient point here:

This whole controversy illustrates a basic point about politics. Those who are heavily into politics think in terms of policy and pay relatively attention to the personal qualities of candidates. Most voters, on the other hand, are less interested in ideology and focus more on who the candidate is. This leads to a disconnect between the political class and the average American, who is likely to be puzzled at best as to who, and what sort of a person, Barack Obama is.

One thing has been clear, at least to me, from the beginning about the man who is now President of the United States. The only thing that Barack Obama believes in, really, is Barack Obama.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Guilty Pleasures Part Seventy-One -- Fearless Maria Throws Her Hat Into the Ring

As you may know, Fearless Maria is a candidate for the Mayor of the MOB race. Fearless Maria is here tonight and she would like to make the following statement:

Excuse me, Mr. Dilettante -- this is the Blogger Police. You have been notified for a suspension for a false title: the girl known as Fearless Maria did not throw her hat into the ring. Reason A: you nominated her. Reason B: her hats are very important to her and therefore she never throws them into any sort of ring. Rather, she places all her hats neatly on a hook when not in use. Finally, Reason C, which is not exactly a reason: please don't get mad at this anonymous voice that you are hearing that is coming down from the heavens and start sliding out of an emergency exit of a plane like that JetBlue dude did, because then you will face a $500 fine for not setting a good example for the youth of America and will have to take remedial lessons from Gino, who runs the fine blog Shreds and never, ever sets a bad example.

Excuse me. Ma'am?


What did you do with my daughter?

She went out for coffee with Miley Cyrus, I think. Nice try, dude!

I think I know what's going on here -- you don't want to run for Mayor of the MOB, Maria?

I do, but I don't want any false titles on blogs and I intend to be a law and order candidate. So the best place to start is by laying the law down right here. And in music!

So Maria, what are your qualifications for the office?

Well, I have served two terms in the student council at Valentine Hills Elementary School, and I always get really good grades in spelling, unlike a former mayor we could identify, but won't. And I am returning as a safety patrol this year at Valentine Hills and will keep those kindergarteners in line on the bus. And I was also Star of the Week at Salem Pre-School!

Uh, Maria?

Yes, Dad?

Doesn't everyone get to be Star of the Week at Salem Pre-School?

Well, yeah, but some of those kids were more like polygons than stars, but we'll let that be. And a star is a polygon, of course.

Of course. But you were talking about music, right?

That's right, Dad. Every campaign needs a theme song and I don't think I should use "Smokin' In the Boys Room," because that would be a bad influence on the youth of America and I don't want to disappoint Gino. So do you have any suggestions, Dad?

Well, you could try this one, performed by Roger McGuinn of the Byrds:

Yes! Finally someone knows why it's important to have a force field, even in the olden days! If I get to be the Mayor of the MOB, do I get a force field, Dad?

I'll have to check the compensation package, Maria.

Compensation? Do you mean I'll get paid?

No, I don't think so. But I'll give you a few bucks if you clean your room.

Hey! My room is already clean! Except for that, uh, corner, that's about as big as I am. And trust me, I'm only about 4-7 right now.

Even at that height, I suspect you'll tower over a number of the other candidates, Maria. Anyway, what do you feel are the issues of the campaign?

Well, I heard that people are talking about raising taxes, maybe even to blog! It's an outrage, I tell you! Listen to the voice of reason, shouting somewhere in the Midwest, but you should be able to hear me because my neighbors can! And the Beatles made a cartoon about it!

Robin Hood? He never happened! Dad, that's pretty funny, but I don't think the Mayor of the MOB gets to impose taxes on anyone. And if the mayor does, when I'm Mayor I won't.

That's a stirring promise, Maria! But how do we know you're not just another one of those politicians who makes promises she doesn't intend to keep?

Well, Dad -- why would I make people pay taxes? Then I'd have to pay taxes and I don't have much money left after vacation!

So what are the other issues, Maria?

Well, if you've ever seen Benster in action, I think we need to be concerned about this:

Actually, I take that back, Dad. Benster dances a lot better than the people in that video! If that video was any more random, it would be just as random as if Sesame Street, Tom Petty, Tom Cruise and Mitch Berg were all on the radio at the same time, maybe on WKRP in Cincinnati!

Well, I'm sure Mitch will appreciate the plug of his show, Maria. But aren't you planning to be a crusading politician, Maria? Don't you have a transformative agenda of Hope and Change!

Dad, you told me that the Mayor of the MOB doesn't have to do anything at all! Besides,

But you know what, Dad? I wouldn't change the world too much or else everything would be all messed up. I think sometimes the real politicians forget that!

That's right, Maria. And when they promise that stuff, you know what happens?

Speaking of Mitch, doesn't he use that song as the intro to his radio show? You know, the one you make me listen to when we're driving around on Saturday afternoon?

Well, we like Mitch and he's running the election, so maybe you might consider being a little nicer to him about that....

Good point, Dad! I think Mitch's show is the best thing on the radio. At least when there isn't a Miley Cyrus song on or something, or maybe a Twins game. Sorry, Dad -- I'm trying not to be biased but I don't want to lie, either. And it's true -- you do make Benster and I listen to Mitch when you're out driving around on Saturday.

Well, we'll call that part of your education, Maria.

Okay -- maybe Mitch can work on getting a few Miley Cyrus references into his show next time, just for something different. Or maybe Ed Morrissey can do that!

I heard Ed is a big Miley Cyrus fan, Maria. Huge, even. We'll talk to him about it.

Great -- now let's talk about voting! You have two jobs. First, you should vote for your favorite song in the comments section of this post. Then, make sure you vote for me, Fearless Maria, in the MOB Mayor's election! Why? Because I'm fearless, of course. And how many 10-year old girls make jokes about Ed Morrissey?

Not nearly enough, Maria. Not nearly enough.


Okay, let's suss this one out:

There's a new argument emerging among supporters of the Ground Zero mosque. Distressed by President Obama's waffling on the issue, they're calling on former President George W. Bush to announce his support for the project, because in this case Bush understands better than Obama the connection between the war on terror and the larger question of America's relationship with Islam. It's an extraordinary change of position for commentators who long argued that Bush had done grievous harm to America's image in the Muslim world and that Obama represented a fresh start for the United States. Nevertheless, they are now seeing a different side of the former president.

That can't be right, can it? George W. Bush, former president, a/k/a Chimpy McHitlerburton, scourge of all that is good and just, needs to get in the game? Must be a delusion. Still, Byron York marshals the evidence:

"It's time for W. to weigh in," writes the New York Times' Maureen Dowd. Bush, Dowd explains, understands that "you can't have an effective war against the terrorists if it is a war on Islam." Dowd finds it "odd" that Obama seems less sure on that matter. But to set things back on the right course, she says, "W. needs to get his bullhorn back out" -- a reference to Bush's famous "the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon!" speech at Ground Zero on September 14, 2001.

York also quotes Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post and onetime New Republic writer Peter Beinart, both longing for Bush's help on setting things right. Beinart in particular seems to be shining the W. equivalent of the Bat Signal over the lonely city:

"Words I never thought I'd write: I pine for George W. Bush," Beinart wrote Tuesday in The Daily Beast. "Whatever his flaws, the man respected religion, all religion." Beinart longs for the days when Bush "used to say that the 'war on terror' was a struggle on behalf of Muslims, decent folks who wanted nothing more than to live free like you and me…"

Help us, Obi W. Kebushi -- you're our only hope!

One thing has been remarkably consistent about the post-presidential period of George W. Bush -- unlike his immediate predecessor, W. has maintained a very discreet silence about the work of the man who succeeded him. I'm confused why now he would should heed the calls of his detractors and get back into the arena. After hearing how stupid the man was for all these years, I would have thought his malaprop-strewn opinions were worthless and his duty was to slink away in shame, never to return. Instead, the bien pensants want him back in the game?

As a bright former New Yorker once said: strange days indeed. Most peculiar, mama.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Old Dudes in the Sports News

Let's just say I prefer one over the other.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Gordian Knots Cut While You Wait -- II

The obvious solution to today's headlines:

Brett Favre couldn't come back until now because he was on the Rod Blagojevich jury, which also seems to have a very difficult time making up its mind on things.

Every Picture Tells a Story, Don't It

Mark Dayton apparently doesn't like it when people with cameras are trailing him:

DFL gubernatorial hopeful Mark Dayton said Monday that GOP operatives harassed him at an outdoors expo over the weekend and prevented him from talking to Minnesota voters.

By following him at close range with inexpensive Flip cameras, Dayton said the video trackers "made it impossible for me to conduct normal campaign activities."

Republicans say that the staffers they hired to track and record Dayton were polite and that Dayton overreacted to a time-worn tactic that political parties use to keep tabs on rivals.
Two quick observations:
  • Ever since the "macaca" incident that sunk the political career of George Allen, it's pretty much been a given that political operatives would follow candidates looking for similar slipups. Dayton knows that, of course. And given the amount of grainy footage of Emmer we see on political ads, it's pretty clear that his campaign knows how to use a flip camera.
  • If Dayton is camera shy, running for governor seems like a strange thing to do, doncha think? He might consider a career with a less, ahem, public profile. Private citizen, for example. Just sayin'.

Gordian Knots Cut While You Wait

An easy solution to twin problems that bedevil us:

We allow gay marriages, but only if the ceremony is performed in the proposed Cordoba Center mosque.

Lightning Round 081710

Uncomfortable conversations edition:

  • One of the most important issues around is the state of our pension system. There are a lot of pensions out there, especially ones that are the province of organized labor, that are seriously underfunded. Someone is going to take it in the shorts -- will it be the beneficiaries, or will it be the taxpayers? The excellent blog Yid With Lid has a comprehensive and deeply disturbing roundup, which includes at least two Minnesota-based pension funds.
  • Via the magic of video, Ronald Reagan has a discussion with the current leadership of our country. How I wish I could trust the Republican Party to actually live up to the principles that Reagan espouses here.
  • I haven't written about the Ground Zero Mosque controversy because there's a lot of kabuki theater in the discussion, but I'm amused at how certain politicians have responded, especially since President Obama weighed in over the weekend.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Marburying Marriage -- Cherchez the 9th

The 9th Circuit stops the process in California:

A federal appeals court has extended a stay on same-sex marriages in California until it decides whether a ban on such unions is constitutional.

It is just the latest turn in a protracted legal battle over Proposition 8, the voter-approved ban. The ruling, issued by a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, came less than a week after a federal district court
judge, Vaughn R. Walker, lifted a stay that he imposed himself after ruling Proposition 8 unconstitutional. Even when lifting his stay on Thursday, Judge Walker allowed six days for the Ninth Circuit to review his ruling. That left many gay and lesbian couples and their supporters hopeful that same-sex marriages would resume on Wednesday at 5 P.M. when Judge Walker’s stay would have expired.

That will not happen. Now, such weddings will not resume until, at least, the appeal court hears the case.

Here's the interesting part. The current governor and attorney general in California, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jerry Brown, respectively, were not going to defend the statute. By the time the debate happens, it's possible that there will be new players in those positions, as William Jacobson points out:

Obviously it is interesting that the Court has ordered briefing on the standing issue, although the parties certainly would have done so anyway.

Equally interesting is the political impact, because there will be a new Governor and Attorney General elected in California, and possibly seated (not sure of California law on this, but Schwarzennegger was sworn into office on November 17, 2003).

The standing issue may go away if the new Governor or Attorney General chooses to defend the constitutionality (but not necessarily the wisdom - heh) of Prop. 8. And the position on the lawsuit clearly now is an issue in those elections.

I kinda think Professor Jacobson has a penchant for understatement with that last bit. Just so we're clear, the reason standing is an issue is that the appellant in the case right now is a private organization that favors Prop 8, not the State of California, because Schwarzenegger and Brown chose not to defend their own state constitution in this instance.

Jerry Brown wants to be governor again. He'll now have to talk about his opposition to Prop 8 in his campaign, and he'll have to talk about it rather a lot. It will be interesting to see how that works out for him.

Word to the Wise for SD50 Voters

My friend Steve Taylor reminds us of a few important details at Enlighten New Brighton. Rae Hart Anderson has decided to run again for the state senate. She has a number of signs up in the district. Anderson is not the Republican candidate for the office. She sought the endorsement of the SD50 BPOU but was soundly rejected, for good reason.

Gina Bauman is the Republican candidate for this open seat. As Steve points out:

Gina Bauman is the GOP endorsed candidate and is the only true conservative in the race. Gina earned the endorsement at the SD50 GOP Endorsement Convention with about 90% of the vote. She has solid conservative credentials as a twice-elected member of the New Brighton City Council where she has diligently advanced fiscally responsible, limited government policies. While she is best known for her demonstrated knowledge of fiscal matters, she also impressed convention delegates with her strong stands on the need for government accountability, personal responsibility, and pro-family values that resulted in the impressive show of support for endorsement.

Rae Hart Anderson no longer has any affiliation with the GOP and is not a candidate in the upcoming primary election. She was the endorsed candidate in the last election four years ago where she had to struggle to barely get the required percentage of votes for endorsement after multiple ballots. Back then many of the delegates did not feel that any of the candidates were worthy of endorsement and were leaning toward not making an endorsement at all. Anderson sought the SD50 GOP endorsement again this year and, as noted above, was soundly rejected in favor of Gina Bauman.

There's a lot more at the link.

Playing God is in the Details

If this turns out to be true, we can say it -- so it begins (via Althouse):

Just days after the recess appointment of Donald Berwick, the controversial new head of Medicare and Medicaid, the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance posted the following grim news: for the first time in history, an FDA-approved anti-cancer therapy may not be covered by Medicare.

To be fair, there's a difference between "may not be covered by Medicare" and "not covered by Medicare." These are the sorts of details that we need to discuss openly. It comes down to the question that advocates of "single payer" healthcare have to answer: what is your recourse if the single payer refuses to pay for your treatment?

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Windmill with a Spoiler

One of the problems with being gone for a week is that a lot can happen in the interim. The most important event of the week, at least politically, was the DFL gubernatorial primary, which delivered victory to Mark Dayton, barely, over the almost invisible DFL endorsee Margaret Anderson Kelliher. While I realize analyzing the campaign of Matt "Don Quixote de la "Entenza is like paying attention to the performance of the New York Knicks in recent years, I'm still interested in the role that Entenza played, in which he spent millions of dollars and never attacked Dayton once.

I've hinted around the question before, but let's ask it flat out:

Why the hell would you run for governor and not try to win? Because that is what Matt Entenza did in this cycle.

Speed Gibson makes an interesting point:

What enables a Matt Entenza? Money, of course, enough to be a net loss for the DFL. Money, not really his own, that he is apparently free to spend frivolously, like hiring private surveillance of rival Mike Hatch. Free money to spend on, to create in fact, a campaign nobody really wanted. Had he not entered, I doubt you'd have heard much grumbling among Democrats how neither Dayton nor Kelliher had the right stuff and therefore need another candidate in the Primary. Except for the money, Matt Entenza is what Patrick Reusse would call a "non-factor."

But as Speed notes separately, Entenza's campaign was a factor:

I think most would agree Kelliher would have won had Entenza stayed out. He was preaching the same "balanced approach" "Minnesota values" non-specifics as Kelliher that don't interest Dayton supporters. They want "soak the rich" until the budget is balanced, then soak them again to "re-invest" in ... you know the pitch: no meaningful spending cuts at all.

I do agree -- without Entenza's interference, which apparently included a last minute ding at Kelliher about No Child Left Behind, it's quite likely that Kelliher would have won. In fact, since Entenza spent millions on ads that often were bashing Tom Emmer, you could consider his entire effort a multi-million dollar, in-kind contribution to the Dayton campaign.

But again the question nags: why the hell would Entenza, and his seemingly rational millionaire wife Lois Quam, spend millions of dollars on a campaign that was a non-starter from the beginning? In particular, what could Quam get for the money that was spent?

I still think the answer lies here:

Founded in the spring of 2009 by Lois Quam, an internationally recognized visionary and leader on the emerging New Green Economy (NGE), and universal health care reform, Tysvar is an independent, privately held, Minnesota-based NGE, and health care reform incubator.

Our mission at Tysvar is:

• Bringing scale to the New Green Economy
• Universal health care reform

We are a strategic advisor and incubator of ideas, organizations and people working to facilitate and build the NGE to scale, which means our goal is contributing to a viable, profitable and socially responsible industry of sustainability, clean technology, and renewable energy sources.

One thing is certain: if Tom Emmer wins the election, you can forget about NGE initiatives gaining much traction in Minnesota, because private venture capitalists aren't likely to fund such initiatives unless the government is willing to hobble existing enterprises that leave NGE initiatives in the dust. You could build thousands more windmills on the Buffalo Ridge and they wouldn't come close to producing the reliable energy of a nuclear power plant, or even a coal-fired plant.

Would a Mark Dayton administration be willing to hamstring existing industries to benefit an NGE agenda? Let's look at his website:

“Green” technologies mean cleaner energy, a safer environment, and new jobs. As Governor, I will lead the way to that future, and develop incentives that will bring green energy industries to Minnesota.

More to come soon, please check back.

Don't worry, Mr. Dayton. I will. And I would also encourage the Eric Blacks, Bill Salisburys, Rachel Stassen-Bergers, John Cromans and Pat Kesslers of the world to check back, too.

August 14, 2000

I wrote this post last year but since today is an especially problematic anniversary, it seems right to use it again. I don't even know how 10 years have passed from this moment. I love you, Mom, and think about you every day.

When the phone rang at 3 a.m. on Monday, August 14, 2000, I knew what it meant. Things had been going badly from the start and we were now at the end. It was my brother on the other end of the line.

"Mark, she's gone."

"Okay. We'll be there later today."

There wasn't a lot more to say. I'd had a few days to steel myself for what was coming. I'd driven nearly 600 miles round trip by myself two days earlier, hoping to see something better than what I'd seen. It was a forlorn hope. Now it was time to return. This time it was time to say goodbye. My mother had passed away.

My mother was 67 years old. She needed oxygen because of her emphysema and had been diagnosed with breast cancer. She had gone into the hospital for a mastectomy six days earlier and complications set in almost immediately. She never made it out of the hospital. I'd gone home on Saturday for a quick visit, returning home the same day. Mom was tired, angry and somewhat incoherent. The attending doctors and nurses seemed concerned but optimistic and I thought that I would see her again. I thought wrong.

We started getting ready. We had to make some phone calls — let the office know I wouldn't be around for a while, let my wife's parents know, all the calls you have to make when a life-changing event needs to be explained. These days you might be able to put a post up on Facebook or a blog, but in 2000 those things weren't around yet.

Since we'd been on vacation the previous week, I'd driven well nearly 1,500 miles and was pretty much exhausted. We were still recovering from our vacation and we couldn't leave right away; there was laundry to do and arrangements to make. My son, then 4 years old, couldn't understand why we had to make another long trip in the car. I understood what he felt -- the last thing I wanted was another 289 mile trip. The trip from the Twin Cities to Appleton was about 5½ hours under the best circumstances; you had to take a somewhat convoluted path back then, driving through the back end of Eau Claire and Chippewa Falls before heading east on Highway 29. We also had a highly cranky infant daughter in the car and we had to make a number of stops along the way. As the light of the day began to fade, we pulled into Appleton and checked into the Microtel, a new but pretty spartan place out by the highway. We just wanted to get some sleep.

It didn't work out. The disruptions in schedule were a little too much for our daughter and she spent most of the evening crying. Eventually I had to try the old trick of driving her around to lull her to sleep. I put her in the car seat and began to drive around town. By then it was deep into the night, almost 3 a.m. the next morning. As I pulled out of the parking lot, I noticed the lightning flashing in the western sky. I turned on the radio and tried to find out what was happening; there was a severe thunderstorm warning and the potential of a tornado. Travel was not recommended.

Still, I continued to drive. The rain came down in sheets and the lightning crackled across the sky in weird horizontal patterns. My daughter, who had finally started to fall asleep, was awakened by a clap of thunder and began to cry again. I made another loop through the west side of town, down Mason Street toward my old neighborhood. I turned right on Cedar, then left on Outagamie, stopping briefly in front of my boyhood home. At that moment, the rain began to slow and my daughter started to fall back to sleep. As I wound through the streets of my youth – Reid Drive, Douglas Street, Prospect Avenue, past my high school, past St. Mary's cemetery, back to the highway, I craved sleep most of all. Sleep would come soon enough. The only good news was that the longest day of my life was coming to an end.

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Lights Are Back On

We have returned from vacation and regular posting will begin shortly. A few exceptionally quick observations:
  • Cleveland, Ohio is a long way from Minnesota, but it's pretty user-friendly once you get there.
  • I am very glad we do not have toll roads in Minnesota (assuming you stay out of the Lexus lanes during rush hour) -- the states of Illinois, Indiana and Ohio nicked us pretty good.
  • Chicago politics appear to remain quite screwed up.
  • It's going to be a lot of fun turning Mark Dayton into a pinata for the next few months.

Thanks to Mike for taking care of things here. More -- lots more -- soon.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Emmer v. Dayton

It looks like the polls were correct and Mark Dayton will be the DFL candidate for governor. As expected, Tom Emmer cruised to the GOP win.

Real quick thought before going to work...I am not sure that a campaign based on soaking the rich will work, even in 2010 with a bad economy. However, Tom Emmer needs to get to work on introducing himself. My inclination is that the DFL and their minions (Alliance for a Better Minnesota) have controlled the narrative on Emmer, and on conditions in Minnesota in general, with nary a peep from the other side. This needs to change, and quickly, if Emmer is going to have a snowball's chance in Hades of becoming governor.

Much more to come, I am sure.

UPDATE: I know, the IPers have their guy too (Tom Horner). As most know, it seems the question is where his 7-10% will come from.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Can you do a U-turn around a bullseye?

So, Mr. D posted about Target giving money to MN Forward, a group that supports Tom Emmer (R-Delano) in his gubernatorial bid the other day. As that post indicated, some weren't very happy about that (and that was just in the comments).

Well, in the past couple of days, the apology for the donation came from CEO Gregg Steinhafel. But, was it an apology?

So, what do you think? While MoveOn is not appeased, should others be? Is this enough? Should they have even apologized? Did they kow-tow, or did they do the right thing? Honestly, I don't think there is an easy answer to this from a business standpoint, which is what should ultimately matter to Target, Inc. Discuss!!

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Goin' away for a little while

We're going on a long-planned family vacation this week, so posting will be light to just about non-existent until we get back. There's a lot going on that merits comment, but I have every confidence that you'll find capable analysis elsewhere until I return. Thank you all for your support.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Marburying Marriage

Another federal judge plays God:

The federal judge who overturned Proposition 8 Wednesday said the ballot initiative that banned same-sex marriage was based on moral disapproval of gay marriage and ordered the state to stop enforcing the ban.

U.S. District Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker, in a 136-page ruling, said California "has no interest in differentiating between same-sex and opposite-sex unions."

The decision is here (note: PDF) should you want to read it. Although I know it's damned near impossible to set aside the question of gay marriage generally, I'm more concerned about the following points:

  • As I've mentioned recently, it's a dangerous game when a single individual who has lifetime tenure and is essentially unaccountable to anyone, sets aside the express will of legislatures, or in this case a referendum of the people of a state. While this decision will work its way through the rest of the 9th Circuit and on to the Supreme Court, federal judges have far too much power over public policy. Gay marriage advocates might cheer the result, but there will come a time when an issue they hold dear is decided adversely.
  • There's also a very important question that needs to be settled -- does state law mean anything, or does federal law (or in this instance the interpretation of a single federal official wearing a judicial robe) trump all state law? This is more than a statute passed by a legislature -- this was an amendment to the California state constitution that was passed through the proper channels. One would think that a court would give great deference to any law that is passed in this manner. Apparently not.
  • We are in a period of governmental overreach and this judge's decision, which tosses aside the considered wisdom and expressed wishes of a large majority of Californians, is part of a very disturbing trend involving untrammeled government. There's going to be a backlash and it's not going to be a happy one.
  • Judge Walker clearly hasn't learned a damned thing from the 37-year aftermath of Roe v. Wade. One of the reasons that we have a larger culture war in this country is that we have had far too many decisions imposed via judicial fiat. There's a strong argument to be made that abortion would have eventually been legalized without Roe, in a slow but steady process in which the advocates of legal abortion won the hearts and minds of the general populace. In fact, this was the process we were seeing in several states regarding gay marriage, where gay marriage initiatives were passed by legislatures. Just as Harry Blackmun unleashed a terrible set of problems with Roe, Judge Walker has done the same.
One last thing -- as the clip from the Los Angeles Times notes, Judge Walker's ruling says that California "has no interest in differentiating between same-sex and opposite-sex unions." If that were true, there would have been no possibility for Proposition 8 to have passed. Yet it did pass. When we discuss California, we must mean the citizens of California, right? Based on the evidence that Prop. 8 passed, California must have had an interest in differentiating between same-sex and opposite-sex unions. If a federal judge can decide that the people of California don't know their own minds, we are at a point where the will of the people means nothing. That ought to concern everyone, regardless of their views on the question of gay marriage.

The Dog That Isn't Barking - II

As I mentioned yesterday, it remains passing strange that Matt Entenza and Margaret Anderson Kelliher, the two candidates who are trailing Mark Dayton in the DFL gubernatorial primary, are not doing much of anything to derail Dayton's campaign.

It's especially strange in the case of Matt Entenza, who has spent millions of dollars on ads and building a campaign infrastructure. Entenza is a wealthy man, but mostly because he was fortunate enough to marry Lois Quam, who has been a highly successful executive at places like United Healthcare, among others. She earned millions there, many of which Entenza has blown through in an effort that will likely fall short.

Why would Entenza have done this? And why would Quam have let him do this? I suspect the answer is here:

Founded in the spring of 2009 by Lois Quam, an internationally recognized visionary and leader on the emerging New Green Economy (NGE), and universal health care reform, Tysvar is an independent, privately held, Minnesota-based NGE, and health care reform incubator.

Our mission at Tysvar is:
• Bringing scale to the New Green Economy
• Universal health care reform

We are a strategic advisor and incubator of ideas, organizations and people working to facilitate and build the NGE to scale, which means our goal is contributing to a viable, profitable and socially responsible industry of sustainability, clean technology, and renewable energy sources.

Quam has had to temporarily give up control of this entity while her husband has campaigned for governor, but she is still quite prominently mentioned all over the website and maintains a blog there.

As a practical matter, Tysvar will profit handsomely if any DFLer becomes governor, because they all march in lockstep on these issues and would be likely to pursue policies that favor green initiatives. Tom Emmer would be far less amenable to such things, which is Bad for Business if your business is Tysvar.

If Entenza does go on to lose the primary, watch what happens at Tysvar very carefully.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

I Blame Tom Emmer

You can always tell it's summertime when we see reruns:

Brett Favre's wavering nature makes it impossible to call anything official -- even when it seems to be that way -- but NFL sources said the quarterback began informing Vikings personnel late Monday night that he has decided to retire for a third time.
Now go away, or I shall taunt you again a second time.

The Dog That Isn't Barking

Either I'm just a crappy prognosticator or something else is going on in the DFL primary for governor.

One of the astounding things about the race thus far is that Matt Entenza has spent millions of dollars running for governor but has refused, thus far, to use any of that money to attack the frontrunner, Mark Dayton. Based on all the available evidence, Entenza continues to trail Dayton with the election only a week away.

Why would a candidate spend millions on a campaign and not do the obvious thing necessary to win? Eric Black at MinnPost wonders the same thing:

It’s almost too late to start. The one who has the money and, one might say, the motive, to go negative would be Entenza. But Entenza’s spokester Jeremy Drucker told me flatly last night: “You’re not going to see anything like that from us. From the very beginning, it’s been off the table because Matt wouldn’t let us do that.”

In recent weeks, and again in last night's debate, Entenza has made a virtue of his decision not to attack his opponents, saying the public is sick of "squabbling" politicians.

That's counter-intuitive, to say the least. Why would anyone spend millions on a campaign and get nothing out of the effort? And why would Lois Quam, Entenza's wife, let Entenza spend down a large part of the couple's personal fortune to run for governor and then not do everything necessary to win?

Black hazards a few guesses:

There are a couple of possible explanations. Drucker, who assured me that Entenza would not unleash a nastygram against his opponents in the final week, said the Entenza has said all along that the top priority is to elect a DFL governor this year. Entenza would like that to be himself, but he will risk helping Emmer by attacking his DFL primary opponent. All three have said all year that whoever gets the nomination will have unified party support.

It's also true that whichever DFLer started the intraparty attacks would get a lot of pushback from DFLers who, likewise, are desperate to win this year.

Lastly, attack ads are dangerous in a more than two-person race because voters often punish both the attackee and the attacker. The danger is that if A attacks B, the beneficiary will be C.
C in this case would be Margaret Anderson Kelliher. So does this analysis make sense to you? Or is there something else afoot?

Monday, August 02, 2010

Marburying Obamacare

Remember the federal judge who took it upon herself to swat away parts of the Arizona immigration law this week? Well, there are other federal judges, too, and they like to play as well:

A judge on Monday refused to dismiss the state of Virginia's challenge to President Barack Obama's landmark healthcare law, a setback that will force his administration to mount a lengthy legal defense of the overhaul effort.

U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson refused to dismiss the state's lawsuit which argues the law's requirement that its residents have health insurance was unconstitutional, allowing the challenge to go forward.

The new law is a major cornerstone of President Barack Obama's domestic agenda and administration officials have vigorously defended it as constitutional and necessary to stem huge increases in costs for health care.
I try to be intellectually consistent about these things -- I didn't like the intervention against the Arizona law and I don't like this move any better. We are supposed to have separation of powers in this country, along with checks and balances that prevent any of the three branches of government from gaining an advantage.

At this point, it's awfully hard to see any real check on the judiciary. I'm not sure it does any good to complain about it -- Marbury v. Madison has been in place for over 200 years now. Still, it makes me uncomfortable when federal judges play God, even if we have enabled such behavior for centuries.

Lightning Round - 080210

The rumble in the distance can only mean one thing.
  • The Star Tribune's Minnesota Poll came out yesterday and I'm actually surprised that Tom Emmer didn't come up with a polling number of about 4%, considering the millions that Mark Dayton, Matt Entenza and the rest of the exceptionally well-heeled DFL operatives have spent on demonizing him. The primary will be over in 8 days and there will be a short respite on the attacks. Emmer will go to the State Fair and start meeting people. Let's not worry too much about the polling right now.
  • It's been astonishing to see how much money Entenza has been willing to spend on this campaign. Paul Demko at Politics in Minnesota provides some details. I remain certain that Entenza will start attacking Dayton soon -- you don't spend over $4 million of your personal fortune (well, his wife's personal fortune) to finish second, or third, in the primary.
  • Okay, it's juvenile to mention this, but I am amused by what Luke Hellier at MDE happened to catch in last night's debate among the DFL luminaries. I guess mining is an important issue in the race and this was some sort of secret coded language that Mark Dayton used to show his solidarity with Iron Range voters.
  • I also see that the Strib will be making an endorsement in the SD50 race this week. It would be a shock if they don't endorse Barb Goodwin over Satveer Chaudhary. I would simply remind all voters in SD50 that if you want reform, you don't simply switch out another candidate from the same party. If you want to see things change for the better, you need to vote for Gina Bauman.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

A pair of deep thinkers

If you look to others for your wisdom, one must be very careful where one looks.

First, I encounter the wisdom of Ozzy Osbourne, who offers the following in the dead tree version of Parade magazine, buried underneath the Gander Mountain circular in today's paper:

I'm not the Bono of metal. If you're an entertainer, be an entertainer. If you want to be a politician, join the rest of the [bleeps].

Truth to power, baby. Meanwhile, R.S. McCain reads Howard Zinn's FBI file and learns a few things:

What is important to note here is that Zinn evidently joined the Kremlin-controlled CPUSA not during the “Popular Front” era of the 1930s — when many idealists were seduced — but after the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact in which Stalin cruelly and cynically sacrificed Poland to the Nazis. Zinn was a card-carrying Commie who advocated Marxism-Leninism after the Red Army’s ”Iron Curtain” occupation of Eastern Europe, after the treachery of the Rosenbergs and Alger Hiss had been revealed, and even during the height of Stalin’s anti-Semitic “Doctors’ Plot” purge!

If you were ever subjected to Howard Zinn's worldview as part of your formal education, and I was, this might have been good to know, doncha think? There's more -- a whole lot more -- at the link.