Sunday, October 31, 2010

Pulling a Train

From the Stewart/Colbert rally:

The ‘pro-sanity” part of the rally (lead by Jon Stewart) introduced Mr. Islam who sang “Peace Train,” only to be interrupted by Stephen Colbert (the ‘pro-fear’ part of the rally) who proceeded to introduce a surprisingly lucid Mr. Osbourne who sang “Crazy Train.” The battle was effectively a draw, only to be resolved by a surprise appearance by the O’Jays who sang “Love Train.” And the world began to heal.

Somewhere, Blackfoot is sitting by the phone, waiting for the call that never came.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Ah, diversity!

Here's the crowd at the Stewart/Colbert rally today in Washington. Since we've long seen Tea Parties denigrated as "overwhelmingly white," it seems appropriate to get a look at real diversity.

Thank God I'm Not Like Them

So the sane people are going to be on the Capitol Mall today, led by Daily Show host Jon Stewart. Tunku Varadarajan lays it out quite succintly:

For all their iconoclasm, Stewart and his sidekick-in-sanity, Stephen Colbert, calculate to honor mainstream liberal pieties. Daily, Stewart shores up caustically the conventional wisdom of a moderate-left orthodoxy, scolding what are perceived to be the extremes, almost invariably of the right, in a fiesta of self-congratulation.

That phrase, "a fiesta of self-congratulation," is spot-on. I'm not a regular Stewart watcher, but I've seen his act enough times to know how he operates. He's a professional smart-ass and he's generally pretty good at it. And America needs its jesters.

You can't build a political movement out of mockery, though. I remain convinced that much of what drives opposition to Obama and the Democrats is how they just ooze condescension. It doesn't much anger me, because I've spent much of my life dealing with people who look down their noses at the "great unwashed," as Katie Couric put it recently. Couric's defenders have insisted that she didn't mean the term as a put-down. And I believe these defenders, because they honestly don't see it that way. They don't understand why treating the Tea Party as a matter of cultural anthropology might rankle.

The Gospel of Luke features what Jesus said about the matter:

9To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: 10"Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11The Pharisee stood up and prayed about[a] himself: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.'

13"But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.'

14"I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."

There are a lot of Pharisees in Stewart's audience, who thank God they are not like NASCAR fans or bitter clingers or Glenn Beck fans. And there's never been any doubt that Stewart encourages his audience to think in those terms. The whole purpose of today's events in Washington is to mock the backward ways of those who gathered in Washington a few months back.

It cuts both ways -- conservatives sneer at liberals, too. And both sides imagine that the Other Guys are the Pharisees. I'll cop to it, since I do that pretty much every day on this blog. It's been a lifelong challenge for me, because I like to sneer and it's very easy to be cynical about human nature. But you aren't likely to build much of anything that lasts while you swim in currents of bile.

It's the paradox of politics -- we need politicians who are humble enough to understand their own limitations, but it takes a little bit of hubris to even contemplate running for office. The test for those Tea Party-endorsed candidates that break through on Tuesday is this -- will you remember why you were sent to office?

A lot of Democratic Party officeholders are likely to lose their jobs on Tuesday. As they ponder why they are out of a job, I would hope that they pay more attention to the Gospel of Luke than the Daily Show.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Betty McCollum's Extra Special Constituent Outreach

The first lesson of a scandal is this: the coverup is always worse than the crime.

So do we have a scandal concerning Betty McCollum? Maybe not yet, but the way she has handled the widespread dissemination of a video highlighting her 2002 omission of "under God" while leading the Pledge of Allegiance, is within shouting distance of scandal. You might recall that I wrote about my Congresswoman's behavior a few times this week, here and here. The first post concerned McCollum's performance in 2002. I didn't think it was a big deal and said as much. Later that day, someone posted a comment under the name "MN04" on my blog, directing me to a rather venomous press release that McCollum had posted on her official website. To refresh your memory, here were the kind words of my representative:

Conservatives are using an eight year old video clip to incite hate, racism, and intolerance among Tea Party Republicans. This right-wing effort to call into question Congresswoman McCollum's Christian faith, her belief in God, and her patriotism is blatantly anti-American and all too similar to the extremists who earlier this year mailed a soiled American flag to her Congressional office and threatened the Congresswoman with violence.

Congresswoman McCollum rejects this radical agenda and condemns the extremist tactics behind this poisonous political exploitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.

I'm reasonably certain that Congresswoman McCollum also believes that conservatives are responsible for the heartbreak of psoriasis, but we'll leave that aside. Here's the interesting part -- it turns out the this "MN04" person was busy that day. I found this passage on the NorCal blog. NorCal is the blog that found the original McCollum video and posted it. Check this out:

Then today I was given some information about a certain individual who has been making the rounds on the internet and spamming the blogs that have carried the video and written about Betty's disrespect for the pledge. This individual is using the name MN04, but the email address is ( a government address. So now we have a United States Congresswoman's campaign staff using official government equipment to attack citizens while doing damage control. Below is the comment that has been left on thousands of sites that posted the video of her disrespecting the Pledge of Allegiance on the floor of the Peoples House.

"Congresswoman McCollum has led the Pledge of Allegiance on the House floor several times before. Check out It's all there."

That is the exact comment I got on my original post. "Gate," the blogger at NorCal who wrote the story, follows the trail:

For any tech savvy individuals out there, here is the IP address { } from the computer that sent the damage control comment. It seems to have come straight from her Washington DC House of Representative office. Below are just a few of the places I found that are being hit with her damage control comment.

US Message Board


True North

MNCD4 Needs Change (I highly recommend that you read this guys letter to the editor of the St Paul Pioneer Press about McCollum.)

When I first attempted to check out the damage control site that was posted with her comment, I was first unable to get. Then I decided to drop the word "pledge" from the end of the URL they are passing out and I was able to get in to McCollum's official government financed web site. It's my guess they were attempting to throw me off with the wrong URL in hopes that I would just shrug my shoulders and forget about it. It is the same URL they have been using on all sites they are spamming with the message.

(Emphasis in the original. By the way, the True North piece was mine, as it was cross-posted at both Mr. Dilettante's Neighborhood and True North.)

Isn't that nice? So let's recap how Congresswoman McCollum has handled the revelation. She has:
  • Published an intemperate press release that suggests that anyone who criticizes her is "anti-American," "extremist" and "poisonous";
  • Posted that press release on her official government website, not her campaign website; and
  • Has someone in her office who decided it was a good idea to spam blogs, with government equipment, during office hours. And yes, it was during office hours, because the comment I received came in at 12:45 p.m. CDT.

Classy, huh? Now, it's possible that MN04 did these things on his/her own time, which wouldn't run afoul of the Hatch Act. Out of an abundance of caution, we'll assume that to be the case. It certainly would have been a lot better if they'd done this "work" outside of the office, though. And it would have been a lot smarter for McCollum to have ignored the video entirely. She didn't though. So it's a story now. And we'll keep following this story all the way to election day.

Cross-posted at True North

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- Jack Webb and Jackwagons Edition

Brett Favre might have to take a seat against the Patriots. Can you feel the HYYYYPPPPEEEE?!

No, I'm not feeling it, youngblood. Then again, neither is Brett.

Unlike Brett Favre, estoy en fuego, baybee! Did you catch that I was 6-0 last week? Well, did you, punk?

Yeah, I did notice that. Nice picking, Benster. But it's a new week and now you have to do it again.

Bring it on and watch me work.

The Ohio State University Buckeyes (-25 1/2) vs. Minnesota Golden Roadkill. So the Gophers are a 25 1/2 point underdog in their home stadium? What is up with that? C'mon, man! You would assume that the Gophers would come out tomorrow and play their hearts out, right? You thought wrong. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Ohio State is going to pass go, repeatedly. But don't worry, Adam Weber will throw a few touchdown passes in garbage time. Buckeyes 90, Roadkill 20.

I like Adam Weber. But I gotta admit he is the king of garbage time. And the problem is that Ohio State will still be in a foul mood and looking to mete out some damage this week. They need to start pounding on teams to rise up in the BCS. And the Gophers are a prime poundee. Ohio State 38, Minnesota 14.

Sparty the Spartan (+6 1/2) vs. Herky the Hawkeye. Man, they got some lame nicknames for these mascots 'round here, don't they? C'mon, man! Why not Trixie the Hawkeye, or Sparkles the Spartan? If you're going to go all wimpy, let's do it right, guys! Anyway, back to the game. I can understand why Iowa is favored. They are still angry about last week's loss to Bucky the Badger (and that's not a wimpy nickname, by the way -- write that down, kids) and because Iowa is a desperate team at home. If my theory about how the season will end is true, there will be only one undefeated team from the so-called power conferences. But it won't be the Michigan State Spartans. Hayden Fry Nation 20, Spartacus 17.

This one is tough. Based on what I've seen, Michigan State is the better team, but I agree with the youthful one that Iowa has to have this game, because they really don't want to go to the Champs Sports Bowl. And an Iowa win will set up a really interesting mess in the Big Ten standings. So let's set up that 4-way tie for first. Iowa 27, Michigan State 20

Oregon Quack Quack (-7) vs. USC Probation Nation. Remember how I was talking earlier about there being only one undefeated BCS team at the end of the year? Well, that team is Oregon. Oops, I just gave away my pick, didn't I? Well, back to the analysis. Oregon is just way too fast and you just can't stop them. Even though USC fans will remember losing last year, it won't matter. Even though the game is in Los Angeles, the Duck will prevail. Quack Quack 77, Probation Nation 0.

Uh, no. I shake my head in your general direction on that pick. Don't get me wrong -- I think Oregon is the better team and will win the game. They just won't win by 77, that's all. Oregon 31, USC 20.

Minnesota Stergers (+6) vs. New England Belichecks. It's tough to keep track of all the body parts of Brett Favre on the internet these days, although there are a lot of helpful websites that are keeping inventory. But it seems like his ankle is the problem in this game. Why, you ask? Because of the Glorious Green Bay Packers, of course! They tackled Brett and tried to keep his ankle in Green Bay as a souvenir. Clay Matthews needed a chew toy, apparently. Meanwhile, the Vikings spent the week trying to get Favre in playing shape without using any text messages. I've heard a lot of Vikings fans saying that Joe Webb should start. Not. Gonna. Happen. Maybe they should start this guy. Twice a year the Patriots have to deal with Revis Island. With Lito Sheppard coming to town, they have to deal with Gilligan's Island. Watch your head, Lito! New England 30, Don't Text Me, Bro 7.

Well, that was a tidy summation, wasn't it? I'm speechless, really. Better just make the pick. By the way, I assume Favre won't play, so that gives me a chance to wrong twice in one pick. Patriots 27, Vikings 17.

Glorious Green Bay Packers (+6) vs. J-E-T-S JETS JETS JETS. Now that the annoying Ghost of Favre is in the Packers' rear view mirror, it's time to go to Revis Island. Watch your head, Darelle! You would have to wonder if the Packers have a hangover from last week. You would also have to wonder if they have enough guys left on defense to actually field a team. They had to bring in guys off the street this week to play. That means it's Zombo Time! However, it also means that the Packers have a problem, because the Jets are good. However, Revis can't cover every single receiver. Green Bay 17, Gang Green 10.

I should trust you on this one, because you are picking my favorite team. But I just don't see it. The Jets are overrated, no doubt about it -- they reek of New York hype and I don't think Mark Sanchez is ready for prime time. But he won't have to win this game. Jets 24, Packers 21.

Pittsburgh Stillers (+1) vs. New Orleans Who Dat Brees. Who are dem Saints, anyway? They are only 4-3 and haven't been scaring anyone. C'mon, man! Meanwhile, the Steelers have been managing to get through the season with a lot of good luck. They should have lost last week (attention Vikings fans: that's how an official can screw up a game, so stop complaining already!) and they somehow won with Dennis Dixon, who almost was your next Heisman Trophy winner a few years ago but had the bad luck to bust up his knee. I think Saints fans will need to scare some little kids after seeing their team go down in flames on Halloween. Stillers 30, Who Dat? 0.

You must be down on Brees, considering he's your fantasy league quarterback. Just a little bitter there, Benster?

He's channeling his inner Marc Bulger! He needs to get out of mamby-pamby land and get some touchdown passes, the jackwagon!

Okay, thanks for sharing that. Anyway, back to the pick. The Saints gotta have this game. Atlanta might be the best team in the NFC and the Saints can't afford to fall any further behind them. So they won't. New Orleans 24, Pittsburgh 19.

Brett Favre could go as himself for Halloween. After all, it's not like he's going to try and play, right? Ben out!

Where is the race, really?

So, is the Humphrey Institute correct and Mark Dayton has it in the bag? Or is Survey USA correct and it's essentially a dead heat?

My guess is this: Dayton is leading, but his lead is soft. Very soft. The people who want to vote for Emmer really, really, really want to vote for Emmer. Aside from those who would directly benefit from a Dayton victory (AFSCME and Education Minnesota), there's only tepid support for Brave Sir Mark.

As is often the case, it comes down to the ground game.

The best thing Dayton has going for him right now is the timing of the election. Most people haven't received their insurance premium information for 2011 yet and don't really understand how much of a hit they are going to take because of the new Obamacare mandates. If they knew that, a big taxer like Dayton wouldn't get much more than 30% of the vote.

So if you are inclined to mark your ballot for Dayton, remember: we did warn you.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Radio Free Dilettante — November 2 Approaches Edition

iTunes makes its predictions:

Last Five:

I Zimbra, Talking Heads
Rock Around the Clock, Bill Haley & the Comets
The Ice of Boston, Dismemberment Plan
If This World Were Mine, Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell
Stubborn Kind of Fellow, Marvin Gaye

Next Five:

Lies, The Knickerbockers
Commotion, Creedence Clearwater Revival
Guns Guns Guns, The Guess Who
Hotel California, The Eagles
Had to Cry Today, Blind Faith

Real Minnesota Congresswoman of Genius

So the other day I mentioned the kerfuffle about Betty McCollum's leaving out "under God" when she led Congress in the Pledge of Allegiance, mostly in passing. I wrote:

There's been some outrage about the 8-year old video circulating on the web that features Betty McCollum purposely leaving out the words "under God" when she led a reading of the Pledge of Allegiance in Congress. I can think of a dozen reasons why Betty should be retired, but this isn't one of them. What is valuable about this kerfuffle is this: Betty has largely been invisible during her decade in Washington -- she's a one-woman echo chamber for Nancy Pelosi -- but the rest of the world now understands what a dunderhead we have representing us the 4th District.
In other words, I didn't think the Pledge thing was that big a deal. Someone named MN04 then pointed out this link, which appears on Congresswoman McCollum's official website. Feel the love, y'all:

Conservatives are using an eight year old video clip to incite hate, racism, and intolerance among Tea Party Republicans. This right-wing effort to call into question Congresswoman McCollum's Christian faith, her belief in God, and her patriotism is blatantly anti-American and all too similar to the extremists who earlier this year mailed a soiled American flag to her Congressional office and threatened the Congresswoman with violence.

Congresswoman McCollum rejects this radical agenda and condemns the extremist tactics behind this poisonous political exploitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.
Oy. A few comments:
  • Some people wave the bloody shirt. McCollum waves the soiled American flag. To question McCollum, or show her in a bad light, apparently makes you "blatantly anti-American," and "all too similar to the extremists who earlier this year mailed a soiled American flag to her Congressional office and threatened the Congresswoman with violence." Oh, and also "extremist" and "poisonous." Would it be extremist of me to suggest that maybe McCollum ought to try the decaf?
  • Riddle me this: why are these statements on her official Congressional website? I had always been under the impression that campaigning should be on a campaign website.
  • The guilt by association gambit is always a nice touch, too. Unless McCollum has evidence that the bloggers who ran with this story, including the respected Ed Morrissey, are the sort who send soiled American flags to congressional offices, she's out of line here.
  • One thing that is encouraging -- below the screed are three videos that show McCollum leading the Pledge and saying "under God." All the examples took place after 2002, which means that apparently McCollum is capable of learning, which many of us who observe McCollum from addresses north of Larpenteur Avenue had reason to doubt.

The 4th CD can do better, much better, than Betty McCollum. Vote for Teresa Collett.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Real DFLers of Genius

In the 18 years I've lived in Minnesota, it's been my experience that the DFL tends to be combative, nasty and sometimes dishonest, but almost never lazy or dumb. That seems to be changing this cycle.

By now you've likely heard about the mailers that the DFL State Committee, one of the many worker bee organizations that are part of the DFL hive, sent out to attack a non-denominational Protestant minister named Dan Hall. In the first, they depict a minister wearing a Roman Catholic-style collar who wears a button proclaiming: "Ignore the Poor." In the second, they've used the image of a high altar with a statue of St. Anthony, with large "VOTE" banners flanking the statue and a message attacking candidate Hall. I've posted two images above.

The problem is that in attacking a Protestant minister, they've used Catholic imagery. And there are a lot of Catholics who are unhappy about it. Derek Brigham has compiled quite a list of links at True North.

As it happens, DFL spokesman Donald McFarland is well pleased with the DFL's handiwork. Joe Kimball at MinnPost has the quote:

“I understand that some Republican bloggers have taken one image from the first piece, and claimed that the mail is somehow anti-Catholic. But the text explicitly criticizes Preacher Hall for distancing himself from policy views that have been taken by the Catholic Archdiocese, by the Lutheran Synod, and other leaders in Minnesota’s faith community.

“Dan Hall is willing to enlist God and religion in his campaign when it helps him — but in fact, his views hurt the poorest and sickest among us, and this mailing holds him accountable for those views."
Where to begin? Well, let's remember that Hall is a non-denominational minister. He's not subject to the aegis of the Archdiocese, any Lutheran synod or other unnamed "leaders in Minnesota's faith community." At a minimum, it would have been helpful to leave the Catholic Church out of this discussion entirely.

Second, there's been an ongoing debate among people of faith for a very long time now concerning the role and efficacy of government in ameliorating the problems that the poor and sick face. I have to imagine that McFarland and the rest of the folks at the DFL know this, but they don't seem especially troubled about asserting otherwise.

I've never met Dan Hall and don't know him from the man in the moon. I have no idea whether he is callous to the concerns of the poor and sick. Based on the available evidence, he does care, though. He has run a food shelf in Minneapolis for over a decade, which hardly strikes me as the work of someone who is callous to the needs of the poor and sick.

As for the image of the Roman collar, Kimball's MinnPost article relays what Hall has to say about the matter:

In an interview with EWTN, Hall said: “I’ve never worn a collar. It’s a slam on me, but they’re using you guys and it’s sad.”

"You guys" in this case are Catholics. And while some Protestant ministers do wear a collar, the majority do not. I would wager that 100% of the diocesan priests in this Archdiocese do wear the Roman collar, so it's tough to argue with Hall's formulation.

So, are the ads anti-Catholic? My guess is that they weren't intended that way, but they inadvertently betray one of the real problems the modern DFL faces. The DFL is so secular in its outlook that even its communications people don't understand the potency of religious imagery, especially Catholic imagery. It's especially stupid to use the image of a high altar and St. Anthony in this context -- the DFL could have easily found a stock photo image of a Protestant church, but they were too lazy to do so. It's usually the better call to chalk something like this up to sloth and/or stupidity rather than malice.

Where it gets interesting is that both of the two major gubernatorial candidates, Tom Emmer and Mark Dayton, are Roman Catholics. Emmer is an observant Catholic who attends Mass regularly and missed a debate earlier in the year because he was attending his son's First Communion. Dayton, from what I can tell, is more of a vestigial Catholic than a practicing one. My understanding is that Dayton has spoken in the pulpit at the ultraliberal St. Joan of Arc Parish in South Minneapolis in the past, but he's been more likely to hang out at the Esalen Institute than at Demontreville.

And you know what? That's Dayton's business. I oppose Dayton for a number of reasons, but his spirituality (or lack thereof) is not one of them. I am not in the position of judging, or even knowing, the condition of his soul.

But what the DFL needs to remember is that there are a lot of Catholics in Minnesota. Some are quite devout, others not so much. But misusing Catholic imagery is profoundly stupid. The DFL needs the support of at least some Catholics in order to win elections and this sort of thing tells Catholics, and some Protestants, that the DFL leadership is so secular in its outlook that it really doesn't care enough to understand the differences between non-denominational ministers and Catholic priests, or to understand why people of faith might differ with the DFL line.

As a partisan, I'm glad the DFL is so tone-deaf on the matter. As a Catholic, I find it troubling.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

One week out

We'll know more, potentially a lot more around this time a week from today. A few thoughts concerning where we are:
  • Despite all the heavy lifting that the local newspapers and superannuated Republicans have done on his behalf, it looks like Tom Horner is starting to fade, Tim Penny-style, and that means the gubernatorial election is going to be between Tom Emmer and Mark Dayton after all. That's probably just as well, because it means there is a clear choice for voters to make. Do you believe that Mark Dayton's plan to raise taxes to pay for more spending is the way to go, or do you believe that Emmer's more austere approach is better? There are a lot of people who will have to weigh that question closely. I remain hopeful that the undecideds will break Emmer's way, but it's not clear that they will.
  • There's been some outrage about the 8-year old video circulating on the web that features Betty McCollum purposely leaving out the words "under God" when she led a reading of the Pledge of Allegiance in Congress. I can think of a dozen reasons why Betty should be retired, but this isn't one of them. What is valuable about this kerfuffle is this: Betty has largely been invisible during her decade in Washington -- she's a one-woman echo chamber for Nancy Pelosi -- but the rest of the world now understands what a dunderhead we have representing us the 4th District. Teresa Collett is a fantastic candidate facing an uphill struggle against the DFL muscle in St. Paul that keeps McCollum employed. I've spoken with Teresa during a number of events this year and she's whip-smart, quick on her feet and knows policy up and down. In a normal congressional district, Collett would win easily, but districts don't get much more blue than the 4th.
  • Although I haven't lived there in over 25 years, I still care a great deal about the 8th Congressional District in Wisconsin. I grew up in the district and it's been distressing to see it represented for the past four years by a very odious fellow, Steve Kagen. Kagen got swept in during the 2006 wave election and held his seat in 2008 while riding Barack Obama's coattails. This year he's in a lot of trouble and it appears likely that he is going to lose to a political newcomer named Reid Ribble. I'm fond of candidates like Ribble, who take the Cincinnatus approach -- he's been a highly successful businessman in the roofing business and has also been a high school volleyball coach. He's the sort of guy who gets into politics because he sees problems that need to be solved. It looks like he's going to win and that's a happy thing. I'm also hopeful that he can light a fire under the long-time Republican congressman who represents the adjoining 6th District, Tom Petri, who is too much of a careerist for my taste.

Monday, October 25, 2010

A hell of a time to have writer's block

We're a week out from the election and I have been battling one of the worst cases of writer's block I've had in a long time. Trust me, there's a lot to talk about, but the words are just not flowing right now. There are a few things I would like to call to your attention:
  • I have been quite remiss in talking about the state house races, especially the local battle in 50B. Russ Bertsch is an excellent candidate and a very good guy to boot. Russ and his wife are raising a family in the district and is a successful businessman with a strong financial services background. Russ is a Cincinnatus-type candidate who has seen a problem and is now setting out to do something about it. He is a hard-working, resourceful man who has run his own business and he understands that we must have fiscal discipline in the next two years. He would do a great job representing our district, unlike the incumbent, Kate Knuth, who has accomplished nothing in her two terms in the state legislature. He really deserves your support and I'd strongly encourage you to visit his website.
  • We are continually assured that Mark Dayton is going to win the governor's chair in Minnesota and that the lead is at least 7 points right now, at least according to the always-silly Star Tribune Minnesota Poll. It's possible that Dayton is ahead, but he's not up by 7 points. If things were in the bag for Dayton, his henchmen wouldn't be re-running the incredibly scurrilous DWI ads against Emmer again. Which reminds me of something that needs to be said. Remember -- Emmer was arrested for DWI 20 years ago. Mark Dayton was in rehab for alcoholism within the last four years, by his own admission and has a long, well-documented history of mental illness. Who's more likely to have a problem dealing with the pressures of the governor's office?
  • Watch what happens on Thursday. I predict that Dayton's Alliance for a Better Minnesota button men will hit Emmer with something even more scurrilous than the ads they've run thus far.
  • I gave Rae Hart Anderson a well-deserved swat the other day. My friend Steve Taylor has posted a lot more information about Anderson that District 50 voters need to know over on the Enlighten New Brighton website.
  • And before I forget, my friend Angie Schottmuller is running for the North Oaks City Council. You would think that a place as prosperous and bucolic as North Oaks could run on auto-pilot. You'd be wrong. There's a lot that can be done to improve local governance and Angie has the active intelligence and leadership skills to make things happen.

More soon.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Line of the Year

Courtesy of the great P. J. O'Rourke, writing at the Weekly Standard:
This is not an election on November 2. This is a restraining order. Power has been trapped, abused and exploited by Democrats. Go to the ballot box and put an end to this abusive relationship. And let’s not hear any nonsense about letting the Democrats off if they promise to get counseling.

Emphasis mine. And of course, read the whole thing.

Rae Hart Anderson Makes a Mix Tape

I'm glad that someone noticed all the work that I put into transcribing and detailing the callous and ghoulish views of Barb Goodwin, the DFL candidate for Senate District 50, as expressed in her interview with the "Atheists for Human Rights." It turns out that Rae Hart Anderson, the sore loser candidate that the SD50 Republican caucus soundly rejected back in March, and that the Constitution Party rejected later on, has boosted the transcript that I prepared and put it on Anderson's website.

Without attribution, of course.

Three quick thoughts:
  • Anderson makes quite a show of her Christian beliefs, but she seems to have no qualms about posting the work of others without attribution. Draw your own conclusions about whether she walks it like she talks it.
  • Having said that, I guess I don't mind if the 7-10 people who might actually visit Anderson's website prior to Nov. 2 find out the truth about Goodwin, because people need to know.
  • Fortunately, there is a candidate who is far superior to the egregious Goodwin and the slippery Anderson. Her name is Gina Bauman and she strongly, strongly deserves your support.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- Don't Text Me, Bro Edition

It's on. It's the return of Favre, the texting terror! Ladies, watch out!

Yeah, 41 seems to be a little young to be a dirty old man.

Aren't you older than that, Decrepit?

Why yes, Benster. Yes I am.

No wonder you don't ever use text messages! Well, we have a message for you -- it's time to pick some games, even if Brad Carlson thinks we're no good at it.

Well, we'll keep picking and not worry about our critics. Lay it out, Seabiscuit!

Penn State Paternos (- 9 1/2) vs. Minnesota Horton Hears a Who. Speaking of really old dudes, JoePa is in town this week to administer a beatdown on Jeff Horton, who sounds like a Dr. Seuss character. So, do you think he speaks for the trees? This much I know, he cannot win a game here or there. He cannot win a game anywhere! He does not like the Nittany Lions. He does not like them, Decrepit You Are! Come to Penn State 35, Bartholomew Cubbins 10.

Well, I don't think I can top that outburst, grasshopper! Let's just say that the Gophers are going to wish they were on Mulberry Street when this one is over. The other thing to remember is that Obama will be in town tomorrow at the same time, so the Penn State team bus may end up on Mulberry Street. That's the only hope for the Gophs. Penn State 27, Gophers 20.

Beloved Wisconsin Badgers (+5 1/2) vs. Iowa Stanzis. Ricky Stanzi doesn't deserve to be a nickname. He's a senior quarterback who is likely to get the senior discount the way he plays. He's overrated and interception-prone, kinda like Daphne on Scooby-Doo, although he doesn't wear lavender tights as far as I know. This is a potential trap game for Iowa because the Badgers might have Jim Tressel trying to teach high school math after the way the Badgers schooled Ohio State last week. Badger Badger Badger 21, Herky Hawkeye 0.

Wow, I hope you're right. Then again, you're not. The Badgers don't win much in Iowa City. They put their all into beating Ohio State and it's going to be tough for them to avoid a bit of a letdown this week. I know they'll go in tough and probably take the lead, but if the pattern holds, Iowa will wear them down at the end. Iowa 24, Badgers 20.

Oklahoma Boomer Sooner (-3) vs. Mizzou Tigers. Decrepit warned me to be nice about this game, since the Night Writer is a Mizzou alum. And everyone loves the Night Writer -- just ask him! He's like Peter Cetera that way. But anyway, back to the game. It's obvious the Gods are angry because Boise State isn't number one in the polls or the foul, evil, wretched BCS. Did you get that -- I said, foul, evil and wretched! So what we need here is for Oklahoma, the false #1, to get their butts kicked in Columbia and restore order and decency to the land. May there be a playoff! And if Mizzou doesn't win, I'm holding Night Writer personally responsible. Mizzou 35, Joke-lahoma 0.

Lotta pressure the young fella has put on you, Night Writer! Well, leaving my son's well-known animus concerning the BCS to the side, this will be an interesting game. Mizzou has been flying under the radar this season, but now the tests begin. Can they beat OU? I'd like them to, but I don't think they will. Sorry, Night Writer! Oklahoma 31, Mizzou 24.

Minnesota Textings (+3) vs. Glorious Green Bay Packers. Watch out, Wisconsin -- it's the return of Favre! And this time he's brought back Randy Moss with him! I heard that Lambeau Field has had its goalposts sanitized prior to Moss's arrival in Green Bay. Probably a good move. I've heard a lot of Vikings fans saying that "Minnesota's gonna win" and "Rodgers is terrible!" and "half their team is in the hospital" and other things like that. However, Favre is starting to face both Father Time and Roger Goodell. We don't know which one is the tougher opponent yet, but he's probably going to lose to both of them in the end. What's nice is that the Packers can bottle up Jared "Cowboy Up" Allen with actual NFL linemen this time, instead of using the Swinging Gate and T. J. Lang. Also, keep in mind that the Vikings are a little short on defensive backs and that the Packers are going to come out swinging the Hammer of the Gods. I would not be surprised if this is the game where Aaron Rodgers finally makes us forget our Lebron James. Go Pack Go 50, Textings 20.

Pretty simple, I think. If Clay Matthews puts Favre on the turf a few times, the Vikings will have trouble scoring. If the Packers keep Rodgers upright, they will score a lot of points. As a Packer fan, I worry more about Percy Harvin than I do about Moss. But I think this time the Packers win. Packers 27, Vikings 21.

Washington Runaway Federal Spendings (+3) vs. Bear Down Chicago da Bearz. Washington does spend way too much -- not only the football team, but just about everyone else in that town. Are you reading this, Tarryl Clark? Of course the only way Clark will go to Washington is on a tour bus, but we'll leave that for another time. I'm still angry about two weeks ago, when the Redskins stole a game from the Packers. However, I would like the Redskins to give the Bears all they can handle. Hogettes 21, Dit-ka 0.

Jay Cutler is getting his butt kicked and there's no way he can survive the season unless the Bears start playing better on the offensive line. Mike Martz's system really only works if you have a great line, because it requires the quarterback to hang in there a long time. I think the Bears can win this game, but if they aren't careful they'll be looking at a year of Todd Collins and Caleb Hanie. And that would turn 4-2 into 5-11. Bears 17, Redskins 13.

New York Football Giants (+3) vs. Dallas How 'Bout Them Cowboahs. So help me understand this -- the Cowboys are about 1-136 right now, but they're favored to win? How does that work, old fella? Dallas lost the Panic Bowl last week, so now they're playing in the Outright Despair Bowl against the New York Giants. There are rumors going around that Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning might not be around next year and, hopefully, Tony Romo will be watching his friend Ricky Stanzi become a bust like Romo is, especially in big games. I think the Giants are trying to get Jessica Simpson to show up this week, although I'm not sure Romo could get a date with Homer Simpson the way he's playing these days. The New York Giants 21, Cowboahs 0.

You seem to like that 21-0 score this week, young fella. That's the third time you've used it. Are you running out of material or something? Anyway, the Cowboys have to win this game or they will be pretty much out of it. So on the "desperate teams at home" theory, with no team anywhere more desperate, will go with the Pokes this time. Dallas 27, Giants 17.

I wonder what the Vikings-endorsed talk show host known as Dan Barreiro will be saying after Favre chokes again. He probably will demand a recount. Mark Ritchie, that's your cue! Ben out!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

San Juan Williams Bueno, Mártir

Everyone is taking a whack at the Juan Williams situation, so I might as well, too.

The story, in case you hadn't heard, is this: Juan Williams is a fairly well-known commentator who primarily worked for National Public Radio. Williams has also been a commentator on Fox News for a number of years. Williams would often find himself on Fox participating on roundtable panels, where he had the job of presenting the liberal view. That can be a thankless task on Fox, but Williams always did so with grace. He's a very thoughtful man.

He appeared on Bill O'Reilly last night and committed the dreaded Kinsleyan Gaffe, which means he said what he actually thought:

On the show, the host, Bill O’Reilly, asked him to respond to the notion that the United States was facing a “Muslim dilemma.” Mr. O’Reilly said, “The cold truth is that in the world today jihad, aided and abetted by some Muslim nations, is the biggest threat on the planet.”Mr. Williams said he concurred with Mr.

He continued: “I mean, look, Bill, I’m not a bigot. You know the kind of books I’ve written about the civil rights movement in this country. But when I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.”

Mr. Williams also made reference to the Pakistani immigrant who pleaded guilty this month to trying to plant a car bomb in Times Square. “He said the war with Muslims, America’s war is just beginning, first drop of blood. I don’t think there’s any way to get away from these facts,” Mr. Williams said.

Well, that's not entirely true. One way to get away from these facts is to fire the guy who says they are facts. Which is what National Public Radio did.

Of course, that's not all Williams had to say. Matt Welch at Reason has this exchange with O'Reilly, from the same appearance:

WILLIAMS: But, Bill, here's a caution point. The other day in New York, some guy cuts a Muslim cabby's neck and says he's attacking him or you think about the protest at the mosque near Ground Zero --
WILLIAMS: I don't know what is in that guy's head. But I'm saying, we don't want in America, people to have their rights violated to be attacked on the street because they heard a rhetoric from Bill O'Reilly and they act crazy. We've got to say to people as Bill was saying tonight, that guy is a nut.
O'REILLY: He is a nut. And I said that about the guy in Florida -- who wanted to burn the Koran. I came down on him like crazy.
WILLIAMS: Correct. There you go.

Would those sentiments, urging tolerance and caution, be enough to save Williams? Apparently not. Meanwhile, in lieu of an exit interview, NPR majordomo (or is that majordoma?) Vivian Schiller offered this career advice:

Fired NPR news analyst Juan Williams should have kept his feeling about Muslims between himself and "his psychiatrist or his publicist,"the network's CEO told an audience at the Atlanta Press Club earlier today.

That little bon mot got walked back pretty quick:

NPR CEO Vivian Schiller just released this statement:

"I spoke hastily and I apologize to Juan and others for my thoughtless remark."

The good news for Schiller is that she didn't say it on Bill O'Reilly's show.

Meanwhile, Juan Williams came out looking pretty good, as Fox News gave him a $2 million contract. We should all have such problems.

So what do we make of all this?

First, let's say the obvious: this isn't a First Amendment issue. I would assume that Williams was an at-will employee of NPR and they were within their right to fire him for whatever reason they saw fit. That's how it goes. We can criticize NPR's reasoning -- oh my yes, we should -- but they were entitled to ash-can the guy.

Having said that, it was a stupid, knee-jerk reaction on NPR's part. It's possible, even likely, that what Williams said was offensive to someone, somewhere. The thing was, he was making the observation in a larger context, which completely changed the meaning of what he said. Williams was talking about a very human thing -- fear, especially of the Other. And he gave the context for why that fear arises. You might recall a few years ago when Jesse Jackson said this:

“"There is nothing more painful to me at this stage in my life than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start thinking about robbery. Then look around and see somebody white and feel relieved."

Jesse Jackson”

No one thinks that Jesse Jackson is prejudiced against African-Americans. We fear because we are human. The Anchoress makes the point in a very astringent way:

Kind of like when someone is listening to NPR while driving their BMW, and discreetly making sure their doors are locked when they spy a homeless man moving too close to their car. That’s revealing doubt. And it’s human. It may not be the best part of being human, but it is a common thing. Or it is common to people who are honest. There are a lot of people who would prefer to pretend they’re ‘way too evolved to think as Williams admits he does.

It comes down to prudence, which is–or was, last I checked–a Virtue. It is inarguably bigoted to see every Muslim as a terrorist, but I frankly don’t think there are many people like that in America.

But it is prudent to at least be aware of one’s surroundings, and to make note of one’s fellow-travelers, in all circumstances, whether one is on a plane, or going to the movies, or playing in the park with one’s children. We are not meant to traipse through life like naive bumpkins, with our eyes paradoxically shut as we wander about wide-eyed saying “golly, I and my children are perfectly safe because the authorities are regulating and overseeing my air travel, my movie-going and our park safety and therefore I don’t have to think about it!”

Is that an unreasonable way of viewing the world? I don't think so. We may not want to admit to our fears, but we all have them. We all imagine ourselves to be rational, but chances are we are irrational at least once or twice a day. I'm always amazed at how easy it is to lose rational thinking on 35W during a typical commute.

The thing is, those moments pass. What is more problematic is when irrational behavior becomes a matter of policy. What Vivian Schiller said about Juan Williams was nasty and in my view pretty irrational. It is to Schiller's credit that she recognized that and apologized. It didn't give Williams his job back, though.

In the end, my guess is that Williams doesn't want the job back. Here's what he said later today:

Well, now that I no longer work for NPR let me give you my opinion. This is an outrageous violation of journalistic standards and ethics by management that has no use for a diversity of opinion, ideas or a diversity of staff (I was the only black male on the air). This is evidence of one-party rule and one sided thinking at NPR that leads to enforced ideology, speech and writing. It leads to people, especially journalists, being sent to the gulag for raising the wrong questions and displaying independence of thought.

That's going to leave a mark. Is there anger there? Hell yes. Is comparing NPR to a gulag over the top? Yeah, I think so. But no more than Schiller suggesting that Williams needs to talk to a psychiatrist when he expresses a fear that is normal. We owe it to ourselves, and to each other, to be honest about such things. When honesty is punished, we're in a dangerous place.

Don't Go Quietly

News from France:

A woman pronounced "very certainly clinically dead" at a French hospital woke up hours later after her sons refused to turn off her life-support system, medics and the woman said.

Doctors were preparing cancer patient Lydie Paillard, 60, for a chemotherapy session when she passed out, the director of the Bordeaux Rive Droite private hospital Yves Noel told AFP on Wednesday.

A doctor managed to resuscitate her and put her on a ventilator but then, having consulted other doctors, called Paillard's sons to break the news that their mother was "very certainly clinically dead."

We never know what's going to happen in such a case. We think we know, but we are wrong. So when someone like our ghoulish Senate candidate, Barb Goodwin, tells us:

So it’s not like – a lot of people are mistaken in thinking that “I don’t want to starve, I don’t want to be thirsty.” But that’s not the situation when you’re in critical condition, your body is shutting down. When you give or force feed a body that is shutting down, that can be extremely painful.


Because the body, it’s uh, it’s a quieter way of the body dying.

Remember -- don't go quietly. As Lydie Palliard explains:

"My sons, whom I saw yesterday, explained to me that the hospital wanted to turn off the life support system because it was over and as they refused, I was taken to the university hospital," Paillard explained. "I haven't really realized what's happened but I think my three sons are the most shocked."

The hospital's management said it would suggest the family meet the medical team responsible for Paillard to discuss the "communication problem."

Don't go quietly.

An exceptionally important point, snarkily rendered

Frank J. Fleming lays it out for you:

Now let’s look at what led us to the political situation we’re in. During the second term of the Bush presidency people just got fed up with Republicans. They were idiots, they were no good at the whole fiscal conservatism thing (which is sort of the whole point of them), we had these wars that seemed to be going nowhere, and the economy was beginning to fail. They sucked, and people were sick and tired of them.

Thus people turned to the Democrats. And Obama.

Let’s just say they also sucked.

AMERICANS: “So, the economy is pretty bad and there’s high employment. You think you can do something about that?”

DEMOCRATS AND OBAMA: “We can spend a trillion dollars we don’t have on pork and stuff.”

AMERICANS: “No … that’s not what we want. We’d really like you not to do that.”

DEMOCRATS: “You’re stupid. We’re doing it anyway.”

AMERICANS: “That’s not going to help us get jobs!”

DEMOCRATS: “Sure it will; millions of them … though they may be invisible. You’ll have to trust us they exist. And guess what else we’ll do: We’ll create a giant new government program to take over health care.”

AMERICANS: “That has nothing to do with jobs!”

DEMOCRATS: “We don’t care about that anymore. We really want a giant new health care program. We’re sure you’ll love it.”

AMERICANS: “Don’t pass that bill. You hear me? Absolutely do not pass that bill.”

DEMOCRATS: “Believe me; you’ll love it. It has … well, I don’t know what exactly is in the bill, but we’re sure it’s great.”


DEMOCRATS: “You’re not the boss of me! We’re doing it anyway!”

AMERICANS: “Look what you did! Now the economy is way worse, we’re even deeper in debt, and we have a bunch of new laws we don’t want!”

DEMOCRATS: “You’re racist.”

AMERICANS: “Wha … How is that racist?”

DEMOCRATS: “Now you’re getting violent! Stop being violent and racist, you ignorant hillbillies! And remember to vote Democrat in November.”

So the Democrats sucked. But not just plain old, usual politician sucked, but epic levels of suck where it’s hard to find an analogue in human history that conveys the same level of suckitude. It was sheer incompetence plus arrogance — and those things do not complement each other well. We’re talking sucking that distorts time and space like a black hole.

Yep. Read the whole thing.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Ballad of an 18-Term Congressman

But something is happening, and you don't know what it is,
Do you, Oberstar?

Watch this video from KSTP from yesterday's 8th CD debate and tell me -- do you think Jim Oberstar is confident?

If there was ever a walking advertisement for term limits, it's Oberstar. If he loses, it will have implications in a lot of other ways in this election.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Lightning Round - 101910

A non-political version, too!
  • Although I do root for the Wisconsin Badgers, it's better for the Big Ten if the local Gophers are a competitive team. Right now they aren't and that's why Tim Brewster had to go. The question around town has been this: why can't the Gophers compete with their two traditional rivals, the Badgers and the Iowa Hawkeyes? I've wondered about that myself. I think the primary issue is location, but it cuts both ways. Having the University in a major metropolitan area should be a huge advantage, since there are ample post-career football opportunities for players. The new stadium is beautiful, too. I think the one major difference for a student is this: the experience is different here. Much more than Wisconsin or Iowa, the "U" is a commuter school and the campus experience is more fragmented as a result. That doesn't matter in the long run, but as you live the experience it plays a role.
  • It wouldn't bother me that much if the Texas Rangers beat the Yankees in the ALCS. Yesterday's performance also drives home the point about what the Twins are missing: a legitimate #1 stud pitcher. Do you think Cliff Lee would have made a difference for the Twins?
  • The Packers are struggling because of the unbelievable string of injuries they've suffered. They'll get no sympathy of course, but to put this in perspective -- how would the Vikings do if they lost Adrian Peterson, Visanthe Shiancoe, Jeff Dugan, E. J. Henderson, Jared Allen and Antoine Winfield? If you give the Packers back Ryan Grant, Jermichael Finley, Donald Lee, Clay Matthews, Nick Barnett and Al Harris, do you suspect they'd have fared a little better the last few weeks? I suspect they might.
  • In my 4 years of high school, my beloved Xavier Hawks won a total of 8 games. If the Hawks beat hated Fox Valley Lutheran this week, they will have won 8 games this season. It's amazing what a good coach can do for a program.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Barb Goodwin in Her Own Words -- Part 2

Part 1 of this post appears here.

Back in 2006, then-Rep. Barb Goodwin did an interview with Marie Castle, Communications Director for Atheists for Human Rights, that appears on the Atheists For Human Rights website. The link will open the 23-minute interview in your media player. If you'd prefer to read a transcript, you can read it here.

In the previous post, then Rep. Barb Goodwin, now a candidate for the State Senate in District 50, and Marie Castle discussed why, in their view, it is actually more humane to remove a feeding tube and dehydration from certain patients in critical condition, along with the ethics of pharmacists and the Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL). As we pick up the conversation (at about the 17:30 mark on the video), Castle and Goodwin share their views concerning what goes on in a Catholic hospital:

Castle: We could go in for, uh Catholic hospitals too, where they deny uh, certain services to people because it has to conform to uh, Catholic doctrine, and that includes the end of life care, and uh, there’s a lot of that where they just think uh, they have this theological position where they just think that suffering is good for your soul. Well, if you don’t believe you’ve got a soul, or if you don’t believe it’s supposed to suffer, why should you suffer because of somebody else’s religious beliefs?

But they have this thing about, uh the meritorious nature of suffering, and that only God can decide when you’re going to die. And uh, well, then, medical care just keeps you alive – you shouldn’t have medical care? So uh, there’s all that and uh, it really conflicts with reality, that the reality is that people suffer and we have to stop people from suffering and that we have to relieve it and we don’t make it worse.

Goodwin: Right, exactly —

Castle: And they’re making it worse.

Goodwin: They’re making it worse.

A few comments are in order. First, I'm unaware of Catholic hospitals deciding to not provide medication that would relieve suffering. Catholic hospitals are foursquare against abortion, but that would be the only "service" a Catholic hospital would typically avoid.

Second, Castle seems to think that the Catholic view on the meritorious nature of suffering somehow means that the Church, through its hospitals, would want its patients to suffer. This is absurd on its face. Any hospital that acted in such a manner would be out of business. You sense that Goodwin knows this set of assertions is a problem, but is too polite to mention it, so she changes the subject back to a more conventional problem, what "they" (presumably nasty Republicans) are doing:

Goodwin: They’re making it worse. Because on the same token, last year they tried to cut 40,000 people off health care – Minnesotans – this uh, uh, isn’t an immigrant population, this is uh, working Minnesotans who have Minnesota Care and pay a premium to have that – they’re not getting it for free. It’s not government sponsored, it’s sponsored by a provider tax and it’s sponsored by their own premiums, their own premiums. They tried to cut 30, uh, they tried to cut 40,000 off last year – they managed to cut 38,000 off the year before, so that’s almost 80,000 people that would lose health care entirely. And we managed to fight off – Democrats managed to fight off the cuts last year and now we have work through to try and reinstate some of the cuts because we’re finding out that it costs a lot more to eliminate that, uh that, because then you end up with a lot more people in the emergency room, you end up with more uncompensated care in the hospital, Hennepin County, I don’t want to, but I think Hennepin County Hospital had something in the neighborhood of $20 million in uncompensated care. That just gets passed down to the people that do have insurance – nobody’s eating those costs except the public. The public is eating those costs. And so you’ve got people without health care, and you’ve got the rest of us, who, our health care has become so expensive that a lot of people can’t afford to pay the premiums.

Now, remember that this discussion was taking in place in 2006, and since that time the DFL has used its control of the legislature to solve all of these problems, or perhaps not. But since the matter of saving costs is now the topic of conversation, Castle offers a solution. This discussion begins at about the 19:40 mark:

Castle: And then they were, then they were trying to, I think there’s a bill somewhere in the Legislature to stop, to rescind the state law that the state has to pay for abortions as well as child care, uh child birth, that if they have to pay for child birth they have to pay for abortion care, so they’re trying to change that.

Goodwin: Well uh, that—

Castle: So what that does is that it increases the number of births and then that increases the number of welfare cases – they don’t want anybody on welfare, but they’re guaranteed to have that.

Goodwin: But they don’t want to provide anything for those in the most need if they do carry their child—

Castle: Oh, they’ll give them some diapers.

Goodwin: (Laughter)

Castle: They’ll give them some formula, too—

Goodwin: If they do, I don’t even know where they do that.

Castle: I mean, you talk about, for 18 years you’re raising a child.

Goodwin: Right.

Castle: At least 18.

Well, if it were a certainty that a child born to a mother on welfare was going to remain on welfare for the next 18 years, it certainly would be more "cost-effective" to abort the child. It would save money, no doubt. The underlying assumption is this: the child, and its mother, will remain infants, or rather infantilized, for 18 years or more. There's no chance that the mother would ever find a way to raise the child on her own, or that a father might take responsibility for the child. There would be no possibility that these individuals could ever be anything other than wards of the state.

That's not a fait accompli, though. Many children born in poverty or other problematic circumstances find their way in the world and accomplish great things. A certain baby born in Hawaii in 1961 springs to mind. But we'll leave that aside for now.

Goodwin and Castle, ever cost-conscious, continue to discuss the matter:

Goodwin: Well, and uh, the problem with that bill is uh, that already was tried in Minnesota and was uh, the courts ruled it unconstitutional. So they couldn’t do that and yet uh, they’re trying it again and they know they’re facing another court challenge. And so they’re putting this like uh, South Dakota, did with their uh, basically no choice bill that they had and, uh, now they’re putting it up and uh, the people of South Dakota are going to have to pay for it all the way up to the Supreme Court, and the people of Minnesota are going to have to pay for these bad decisions when they know that once again, it’s going to be ruled unconstitutional. The constitution hasn’t changed.

Castle: And, uh, the people when they go and vote think that, well, uh, I’m never going to have an abortion or I don’t have this problem and this or that, and so it doesn’t affect them directly or personally. And uh, I’ve got a living will and all that, so they don’t consider that when they vote. They don’t realize that they have to pick up the costs of all that.

Goodwin: Absolutely. And the same is true of the starvation and dehydration bill. If you’re going to make people have feeding tubes and hydration way past the point where their body will, uh, easily accept it, you’re going to again cause huge costs to the system and again, you’re trying to take away basic health care. Some of those same people that you want to keep on a feeding tube, and hydration, long past the time when their body is uh, willing to accept it. So, uh, so it’s so convoluted that it doesn’t, that there’s no, there’s no ideology there that’s constant, that’s connected.

Emphasis mine. Goodwin's assertion about the constitutionality of abortion is true, for the moment at least. As for the rest of this discussion -- it's worth considering what's being proposed in light of the federal legislation that was passed earlier this year. There's a pretty big breach between the notion of family control in the Schiavo case and the idea that Goodwin proffers, that keeping someone alive via a feeding tube is not cost-effective. Can you place a monetary value on human life? And is Goodwin's idea of when the body is willing to accept a feeding tube the right one?

If you want to understand why so many conservatives, social and fiscal, opposed Obamacare, this portion of the discussion explains it. Earlier in the video, Goodwin asserts that she doesn't want people making decisions about her life, but she seems utterly blithe about the notion that she and her colleagues might make decisions about other people's lives. And then she decries the convoluted ideology of those who would oppose her.

Castle has an explanation for this convoluted behavior of critics, which she discusses with Goodwin as the video concludes:

Castle: However, there is a theology. It all goes back to their basic religious beliefs that they don’t talk about publicly because, frankly, I think they’d be laughed at, about the ensoulment, and about the merits of suffering and a few things like that, and their views about sex and who can have it and when and under what conditions and all that, so there’s a whole theological justification for that.

Goodwin: That’s true.

Yep -- ensoulment is ludicrious if you don't accept the idea of a soul, as an atheist like Castle might not. But a politician rejects that notion at his or her peril, especially a politician who lives in a senate district with a lot of Christians. But there you go. Castle and Goodwin conclude their discussion as follows:

Castle: And so that’s why they need their so-called secular justifications to get it past the public.

Goodwin: You’re right.

Castle: And so it doesn’t work. But so, and, well,thanks for being with us and talking about this, a really important subject.

Goodwin: It is—

Castle: And I hope that the general public pays a little more attention to what their legislators are doing, because whether it affects you personally, it’s going to affect you financially for sure.

On this last point, I agree wholeheartedly. The public should be paying attention to what their legislators, or would-be legislators, are doing. That is why I've posted the information here.

Barb Goodwin in Her Own Words -- Part 1

The candidate's name is Barb Goodwin. She holds the DFL endorsement and would like to represent District 50 in the Minnesota State Senate. She has previous experience in the Minnesota House, representing the western portion (50A) of the district. She has a website in which she says most of the things a candidate would typically say.

There are things she doesn't put on her website, of course. Things you should know about.

Back in 2006, then-Rep. Goodwin did an interview with Marie Castle, Communications Director for Atheists for Human Rights, that appears on the Atheists For Human Rights website. The link will open the 23-minute interview in your computer's media player. If you'd prefer to read a transcript, you can read it here.

The discussion between Goodwin and Castle is on the topic of "anti-human health care." What exercises the two women is the Terry Schiavo case, in which a comatose woman had her feeding tube removed and was no longer provided hydration, at the behest of her husband and against the wishes of her parents. Goodwin felt that keeping Schiavo alive was cruel. The discussion begins about 4 minutes into the interview:

Goodwin: Well, just recently in the House we heard a bill in the Health Care Committee, which I’m on, that would require that a person get feeding tubes and hydration, whether or not they wanted it, if they didn’t have it specifically written in a health care directive that they didn’t want it. So that is a result of the Terry Schiavo case. It was brought to the House, the bill was, it was introduced by Representative Tim Wilkin, and he was, he is part of the right-wing extremists that are part of the Minnesota legislature and unfortunately the leading part of the Minnesota House of Representatives. They are in control right now and their health care legislation over the past few years have qualified for what you’ve termed, anti-human health care.

Castle: Yeah, it hurts people. Everything they suggest doesn’t help people, it hurts people, it causes pain and suffering, like it’s like the Schiavo bill, the families have no say in anything.

Goodwin: Yeah, yeah.

That the crux of the Schiavo case was the conflict among Schiavo's family members about her care doesn't seem to matter. What does matter is that people understand something that Goodwin believes to be true: that removing a feeding tube and hydration is humane. A minute or so later, Goodwin explains why, using the example of her incapacitated brother-in-law.

Goodwin: So it’s not like – a lot of people are mistaken in thinking that “I don’t want to starve, I don’t want to be thirsty.” But that’s not the situation when you’re in critical condition, your body is shutting down. When you give or force feed a body that is shutting down, that can be extremely painful.

After more discussion of the particulars of her brother-in-law's case, she sums up the reason death by dehydration is better:

Goodwin: Because the body, it’s uh, it’s a quieter way of the body dying.

Interviewer Castle, for her part, agrees with Goodwin's assessment:

Castle: This is their loved one and it doesn’t allow them to uh. . . . You know, they lie a lot, because you know I heard some of this testimony they had at the state legislature and they talk about this starvation and they say, “you know, they’re dying of thirst and they’re starving to death.” These people, they’re pretty much in a coma and they can’t feel anything and they don’t starve to death, they actually die of dehydration and it’s a slow wasting away and they don’t feel pain.

How Castle and Goodwin know these things is not disclosed. What is clear is that the concerns that Rep. Wilkin and his colleagues had regarding the matter are easily dismissed:

Castle: Well, they know better than the family.

Goodwin: Absolutely.

Castle: What the person wants.

Goodwin: Yes.

Castle: Oh, they’re much more caring than the family.

Goodwin: Exactly.

Castle: Yeah, sure they are.

Goodwin: And they know better than the doctors. They know better than anybody what we all need at the end or what we all need at the beginning of our lives. I just um, I’ve really been uncomfortable with what’s been happening at the House of Representatives because it seems to me that this party, that sold themselves as the party of individual rights and freedoms –

Castle: Oh, yeah!

Goodwin: Are getting into the most private and personal parts of our life. And I said uh, I don’t want government in my marriage.

Castle: Yeah.

Goodwin: I don’t want government in my uh, reproductive choices and I certainly don’t want Republicans in my death bed with me.

Castle: Yeah.

Never mind that the Schiavo family was split on the matter in her case, and never mind that, by advocating the cessation of feeding and hydration, they are getting into a very personal matter as well. The important part is that Republican lawmakers have no say in the matter.

The discussion then turns to other matters, including abortion, always a hot button issue at the legislature. After talking about the merits of providing prenatal care to women who are in the country illegally, their focus turns to the efforts of Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, who are tireless advocates on behalf of the unborn. Let's just say that Goodwin and Castle aren't impressed. This discussion takes place at about the 12 minute mark:

Goodwin: Yes. Absolutely, absolutely. So it doesn’t make sense and, in fact the Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life – I’m sure you’re familiar with that group —

Castle: Oh, yes, in fact those initials spell out a year in the Middle Ages.

Goodwin (laughing): Yes, they do! That’s delightful.

Castle: In fact my friend the late Sue Rockne used to say that it spells out a year in the Middle Ages.

Goodwin: Well you know, what’s interesting is that the people who contribute to that group need to be careful about what they’re contributing to because I don’t think they know for sure, uh the MCCL took a neutral stand on that bill.

Castle: Ohh.

Goodwin: And I said uh, I said that I always was concerned about MCCL anyway, because my motto for them was, “life until birth.”

Castle: Yeah—

Goodwin: But, uh- [CROSSTALK]

Castle: Yeah I know because they don’t want to uh, fund welfare programs.

Goodwin: Yeah, but it’s – right. But it’s not only “life until birth,” it’s not even “life until birth” in this case because they didn’t even support allowing people to get prenatal care so they have healthy babies, which then society doesn’t end up having to take care of. So, it’s like what I’m saying, it’s a real conflict in thought, it’s not a clear and concise position that they have.

Castle: Yeah.

Goodwin: It’s situational ethics.

Again, never mind that the idea of providing prenatal care to women who aren't supposed to be in the state might encourage such women to come to, and remain in, Minnesota. There's no thought that the women, being rational human beings, might respond to incentives, or disincentives.

Castle offers a theory as to why the MCCL might hold the views it does, which leads to the following discussion:

Castle: It is clear when you consider that it comes from their religious beliefs, their doctrine.

Goodwin: Right.

Castle: Which says, you don’t have sex unless you intend to have babies and, it’s like the whole thing with same-sex marriage, you know, they’re working that one over, and so it’s only sex between one man and one woman and only when they’re married and if you can’t or don’t or – MCCL is against any program for Planned Parenthood—
Goodwin: Yes they are.

Castle: To prevent unplanned pregnancy. If you try to, say, let’s try to prevent this, they will not support a program that actually, uh, prevents pregnancies.

Goodwin: Absolutely.

That is hard to figure out -- why would a group that opposes abortion not want to work directly with the largest abortion provider in the country? Hard to imagine. Goodwin has an issue with it, though:

Goodwin: That’s a conflict. I would have actually more respect for them, in the 20 years I’ve been around the legislative process, because I worked at the House for several years and I’ve been in office for six. When uh, I never once, once not once, seen them come to the Legislature in support [of] child care, support anti-abuse, domestic abuse issues, support um, education, support health care for children. Not one time in 20 years. It’s all about abortion. And I would have respect for them if I could see some consistency in their thought, but I don’t see any consistency in their thought. In fact, they have fought against things that will uh, help people.

That there might be conflict among the MCCL membership about the proper course of action on any number of these issues seems not to occur to Goodwin. Of course, even if the MCCL signed on to the entire litany of issues that Goodwin wants them to, the MCCL wouldn't gain her support on abortion anyway. They would have her respect, though. That counts for something.

The discussion then turns to laws concerning the conduct of pharmacists, where a certain legislator who has been in the news lately makes an appearance:

Castle: Well, even the “morning after” pill, you know, I don’t even know if they’re doing much at the state level but even at the federal level they’re trying to prevent that from being an over-the-counter, uh, prescription.

Goodwin: Well absolutely, and that’s another health care issue that you’ve brought up – that’s a good one that’s also in the Minnesota Legislature this year and that is uh, whether or not pharmacists should be required to dispense medications that

Castle: They got that one in the legislature, too?

Goodwin: Yes. What happened is that Representative Tom Emmer introduced a bill that would say that pharmacists can deny, they can, not sell prescriptions for any moral, ethical—

Castle: Ohhh!

Goodwin: And a whole slew of reasons. I had the opposite bill. I had a bill that said pharmacists, uh, pharmacies, I didn’t put it on the pharmacists, I said pharmacies, so if there was one pharmacist in there that had an objection, they could get some other pharmacist to fill the prescription, that they would have to fill the prescription.

Castle: Well, who’s gonna ring up these things? What if you come up to the cash register and you’ve got a package of condoms or something and then that person uh, doesn’t believe in that? “I refuse to ring that up”—

Goodwin: Exactly – where does it stop.

Castle: Oh, let’s bring another cashier up and – this is ridiculous. You’re hired to do a job and you go and do the job or else you go and—

Goodwin: Well right.

Castle: You go and find a job where it doesn’t conflict with your beliefs.

And where would that be? Castle has a suggestion:

Castle: No, Yeah, you know that people, they have their religious beliefs and when I say you have a right to your beliefs, but you have no right to force them on other people.

Goodwin: Absolutely not.

Castle: And if you’re at a job that requires you to serve the public and you have to do things that you don’t believe in, then find a different job.

Goodwin: Yes.

Castle: Or uh, just work in a Catholic hospital or something like that.

Goodwin: Exactly.

So what is life like in a Catholic hospital? Goodwin and Castle explain all that, and more, in Part II.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- Bye Bye Brewster Edition

Sorry we're a little late -- I was out last night watching an Irondale football game.

So how did that go, grasshopper?

We lost to North Branch. What is up with that? But that's in the past now, and I look to the future. Even though certain coaches may not have much of a future, if what we're seeing in the papers this morning is true. So let's pick the games before anyone gets fired.

Minnesota Golden Job Openings (+5 1/2) vs. Purdon't Boilermakers. Rumor has it that Tim Brewster is going to get fired if he doesn't pull out a win today. Purdue is about a middle of the pack Big Ten team, but the Gophers haven't proven they can win at home, much less on the road. Be on the lookout for a guy looking through the classifieds. Purdon't 35, Fire Brewster 10.

Here's an idea -- Brewster and Glen Mason should change seats. Mason can go back to the Gophers and Brewster can be an analyst on the Big Ten Network and take veiled shots at Bret Bielema the rest of the season. I had a bad feeling about this hire when it was made and it's turned out even worse than I thought it would. You should be able to win at Minnesota, especially with the beautiful new stadium. Someone will, but it won't be Tim Brewster. Purdue 34, Gophers 28.

The Ohio State University Buckeyes (-4) vs. Beloved Wisconsin Badgers. Meanwhile, in Madison Bret Bielema doesn't have to worry about joining Brewster on the unemployment line. The Badgers are facing their toughest game of the season. I'm going to play devil's advocate about Ohio State. I don't think they're the best dang team in the land because they don't have that good of a non-conference schedule and it's about time the team that plays on Smurf Turf is ranked #1. Terrelle Prior is like Art Schlichter, who had talent but was overrated and can easily be stopped. It's going to be close, but Wisconsin is going to pull it off. Badgers 24, Craig Krenzel Nation 20.

We'll leave the discussion of Boise State aside for now. As for the game, the Badgers will have trouble with Prior, especially if the Buckeyes can keep J. J. Watt blocked. The key of this game will be keeping Prior off the field. If the Badgers can run the ball well, they'll pull the upset. I'm not convinced they will, though. Ohio State 28, Wisconsin 23.

The Eyes of Texas Are Upon YOU (+9 1/2) vs. Nebraska Cornhuskers. During the Mack Brown era, Texas has been one of the best teams in the nation. They've won national championships and are always high in the polls. However, Texas would want Colt McCoy back. Uh, no. You can't have him back, Mack Brown. Muahahaha! Nebraska comes into the game led by Taylor Martinez, who is doing his best impersonation of Michael Vick in his prime, minus the dogfighting. Nebraska absolutely manhandled Kansas State last week and Texas has never lost 3 straight since 1999. Cornhuskers 73, Texas 0.

Whatever you say, young fella. The interest here is that these schools were the antagonists who essentially punched holes in the Big XII. Nebraska felt that Texas was too dominant in how the league was run and resented it, which made it easy for them to leave for the Big Ten next year. The two schools really dislike each other, so this will be a nasty game. I do think Nebraska will win. Maybe not by 73 points, though. Nebraska 31, Texas 20.

Dallas How 'Bout Them Cowboahs (+ 1 1/2) vs. Minnesota Vikings. This is basically an elimination game for both teams. Whoever loses probably won't make the playoffs and won't be playing in the House That Jerry Built in a few months. If you're a regular reader, you know how much I dislike Tony Romo. However, the Cowboys have the most to lose and will play incredibly desperate against a Viking team that's dealing with Textgate. I need not explain what's going on. Look for Romo to have a career day against a depleted Vikings secondary. Cowboahs 42, Vi-Queens 10.

Is it just me, or does Favre look like Willie Mays did in a Mets uniform right now? He made some great throws against the Jets, but every time he did he held his arm like it was going to fall off. I think the Vikings are the better team, but I really wonder about the psyche of the team right now. I've said it before: live by the Favre, die by the Favre. Cowboys 31, Vikings 27.

Miami Tuna Net Victims (+3) vs. Glorious but Depleted Green Bay Packers. Things aren't much better on the other side of the St. Croix. It seems that half the Packers are currently splitting time between the practice field and St. Vincent Hospital in Green Bay. And of course, the hospital in Green Bay had to be named St. Vincent. Thank goodness that Aaron Rodgers can suit up and can those Dolphins, who are starting to look like a magician that uses his best trick way too often. The Wildcat isn't really fooling anyone these days. St. Vincent 24, Sorry Charlie 10.

I really wonder about this game. Rodgers looks to be fine, but the problem seems to be on the other end of his passes. The Packers dropped a lot of passes last week and that has to stop. Losing Jermichael Finley is a huge blow, too. It sounds like Clay Matthews may not play either. I still think the Packers have enough to win this week, but they'd better get healthy soon or this season will disintegrate. Packers 24, Dolphins 20.

Seattle Seabags (+6 1/2) vs. Bear Down Chicago da Bearz. It looks like Cold Cut Cutler is going to take over for the ever-present Todd Collins, who compensates for his lack of talent by being indecisive and very, very old. It's amazing that he's still in the league. What's even more amazing is that the Seabags are starting to be respectable under Pete "Fun and Gun" Carroll. I will agree with Gino and say the Bears will win. Da Bearz 20, Seabags 0.

The Bears are resourceful. There's no way in hell that they should be leading the division, but there they are and my guess is that they will be the team to beat the rest of the way. Cutler's health will be a key factor, but right now the Bears are going through a stretch where they play a lot of weak teams. If they can hold serve, the Packers and Vikings may not be able to catch up down the line. Bears 24, Seattle 17.

Next week it's the return of Grandpa Text Message to Green Bay. Hopefully he doesn't send any more text messages, or else he's going to get a lot of angry signs. And that endorsement deal with AT & T? Forget about it! Ben out!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Are You Happy to Pay for Mark Dayton's Better Minnesota?

Mark Dayton claims that he wants a Better Minnesota. His campaign echoes the message posted on signs that many liberals have displayed in their yards for years, next to the dog-eared Wellstone signs. These folks claim that they are Happy to Pay for a Better Minnesota.

Perhaps you are Happy to Pay, too, or at least believe that you are. There are a few problems with the scenario and you won't be paying for this Better Minnesota in a vacuum.

You must remember this: unless Congress acts in the lame duck session, the Bush tax cuts will expire at the end of the year. If you make enough money to pay federal income taxes, your taxes will go up. There's an excellent tool here that can help you understand the impact. Go ahead and test it out. Meanwhile, here are a few examples of what will happen if the Bush tax cuts are allowed to expire:

Scenario 1: Amber and Jason Smith, a young family of four, makes a combined income of around $60,000 a year. Jason is a mid-level office worker and Amber works on the weekends. With typical deductions, their taxable income would be about $38,000 a year. If the Bush tax cuts are extended (or better yet, made permanent), their federal tax burden would be $4,716.00. If the tax cuts expire, their tax burden would be $5,435.00. That's an increase of $719, or 14%. Would losing $719 hurt this family? I think so.

Scenario 2: Steve and Lisa Jones are a middle-class family with two teenage kids. Steve is an actuary and Lisa is the part-time office manager of a small company. They make a combined income of $110,000 a year. They might have a few things that help shelter their taxable income, so their deductions would bring their taxable income down to about $75,000.00. If the Bush tax cuts are extended, their federal tax burden would be $17,266.00. If the tax cuts expire, their tax burden would be $19,202.00. That's an increase of $1,936.00, or 11%.

Scenario 3: Lance and Maria Miller are a financially successful family with two kids in college. Lance owns and operates a small internet-based media company that essentially markets Lance's web design services. Maria spends her time either helping Lance with the business or doing volunteer work. They operate their business out of their home in Plymouth. Their income is $275,000 a year. With deductions and the services of a savvy accountant, they might have a taxable income of, say, $210,000 a year. If the Bush tax cuts are extended, their federal tax burden would be $75,333.00. If the tax cuts expire, their tax burden would be $82,817.00. That's an increase of $7,484.00, or 10%.

I don't think we need to play any violins for a family making $275,000 a year generally, but think about that -- do you think taking an extra $623 a month would affect the Miller Family's cash flow?

That's not the end of the story, though, since Mark Dayton wants a crack at the Millers, too. Currently at the top state income tax rate of 7.85% they'd be paying about $16,485 in state income taxes. Under Dayton's new plan, with a rate of 11.95%, they would be on the hook for $22,995, or $6,510 in new taxes. That works out to an additional $542.50 a month.

Now let's think about this in total. The Millers, evil rich people that they are, would be on the hook for $105,812 in taxes. I would wager that a large number of people who read this feature don't make a combined gross income of $105,812, to say nothing of having a tax bill of that size.

Perhaps Mark Dayton and his friends could spend this $22,995 of the Millers's income -- don't pretend that Dayton et al. would "invest" the money, because they will spend it -- in a more productive way than the Millers would. After all, Dayton aims to hire a lot of government workers to provide services and that $22,995 he gets from the Millers would help to pay at least part of the salary of a deputy undersecretary of something or other.

The thing is, families like the Millers are rare. The median household income in 2008 in Minnesota was $57,318, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service. Given that salaries have been essentially flat for the past few years and the unemployment rate has increased, I would wager that the median household income for 2010 will be about the same as it was in 2008, and that's the best case scenario. This is why Dayton is having such trouble balancing his proposed budget -- there simply isn't the money to pay for what he wants to do.

Here's the other thing -- it would be a tough thing financially for the Smiths or the Joneses to pull up stakes and move, because they work for other people. The Millers, because they run a business that can operate anywhere, can leave any time they'd like. And if the Millers decide that they don't want to Pay for a Better Minnesota and move elsewhere, Dayton is out of luck. And since Lance Miller's company is basically himself, he and Maria can easily pull up stakes and move to South Dakota, or Florida, or someplace else, and save a lot of money. In the case of South Dakota or Florida, which do not have a state income tax, they would save somewhere in the neighborhood of $22,295 off the bat, if I'm not mistaken. They might pay more in sales and property taxes and other fees in those other states, but they are currently paying sales and property taxes in Minnesota. And the sales tax rate in Minnesota is higher at 6.875% (and more than that in Plymouth because of the additional taxes Hennepin County adds) than it is in either Florida (6%) or South Dakota (4%).

You can support Dayton and hope that he figures all this out. But he's not going be able to balance the budget or supply half the things he's promised if he drives out people like Lance and Maria Miller. Would the Smiths and the Joneses be able to make up the difference? I'm skeptical. Maybe a Minnesota with a Governor Mark Dayton and without Lance and Maria Miller would be a Better Minnesota. That's not the way to bet, though.