Tuesday, December 20, 2005

FUBAR in the Granite City

"Today [Monday] the Supreme Court of Minnesota confirmed what the facts have already shown: [Republican endorsed candidate] Sue Ek doesn't live in St. Cloud, and wasn't telling the truth when she ran for elected office saying that she did." —DFL Party Chairman Brian Melendez, in a statement on the Minnesota Supreme Court decision to remove Ek from the December 27 special election ballot for House District 15B in Saint Cloud
It seems that the only things that will get Minnesota Republicans, from the party leadership at the state and BPOUs to the grassroots, serious about winning elections is a Democrat governor and a DFL-controlled House and Senate.

Read Ramsey County Judge George T. Stephenson's "Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law" from last Friday, posted on the mn-politics-discuss Yahoo! Group. Judge Stephenson's ruling is clear and correct. The entire endorsement process suffered a system-wide failure.

The Pioneer Press quoted House Speaker Steve Sviggum (R-Kenyon), "I feel real bad for the citizens of St. Cloud. They will not have a choice now. The write-in option now might be the only way to go." Who will be held accountable for this train wreck? The DFL had nothing to do with it; all they had to do was stand back and smile. Of course, this sort of thing happens in both parties, it's just the Republicans' turn.

"Americans love a winner and will not tolerate a loser. Americans play to win all the time. I wouldn't give a hoot in hell for a man who lost and laughed. That's why Americans have never lost and will never lose a war, because the very thought of losing is hateful to Americans." —Gen. George S. Patton, Jr.
The RPM has its work cut out for it in 2006. From down at ground level where I operate, I can already hear Republican voters staying home and their checkbooks slamming shut.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Morgan Freeman exposes identity politics

"I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." —Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The distinguished actor Morgan Freeman revealed himself on last night's episode of 60 Minutes as the pilot of his own airplane, the captain of his own yacht, and a straight-talking critic of identity politics.
Morgan Freeman criticizes black history month

December 15, 2005, 2:29 PM EST

Morgan Freeman says the concept of a month dedicated to black history is "ridiculous."

"You're going to relegate my history to a month?" the 68-year-old actor says in an interview on CBS' "60 Minutes" to air Sunday (7 p.m. EST). "I don't want a black history month. Black history is American history."

Black History Month has roots in historian Carter G. Woodson's Negro History Week, which he designated in 1926 as the second week in February to mark the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln.

Woodson said he hoped the week could one day be eliminated — when black history would become fundamental to American history.

Freeman notes there is no "white history month," and says the only way to get rid of racism is to "stop talking about it."

The actor says he believes the labels "black" and "white" are an obstacle to beating racism.

"I am going to stop calling you a white man and I'm going to ask you to stop calling me a black man," Freeman says.

The Wikipedia.org article on this topic says it well: "Resources and organizational opportunities for deeply positive change are squandered in the relentless search for specific group identity." By opportunistically and cynically pitting groups against each other (liberals vs. conservatives, labor vs. management, gay vs. straight, rich vs. poor, black vs. white, rural vs. urban, Christian vs. atheist, men vs. women, public schools vs. private schools, etc.), you create winners and losers at the expense of empathy and understanding. This can increase political power, but doesn't promote collaboration, enable problems to be solved, or enable society to advance.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Pub grub

Blogging in Minnesota is not about sitting in front of a computer screen, wearing pajamas, and typing deathless prose in the dark (well, not entirely). Credit for this goes to our mentors from the Northern Alliance of Blogs, especially the cherubic Brian "St. Paul" Ward (Fraters Libertas) and the inimitable Mitch Berg (Shot in the Dark). They created and are nurturing the Minnesota Organization of Bloggers (MOB) for the free exchange of ideas, teaching each other the fine points of blogging and RSS, and quaffing a pint of your favorite brewed beverage in the friendly crowded confines of Keegan's Irish Pub and Restaurant in Northeast Minneapolis.

When you show up to a MOB meeting, blogger or not, be prepared to introduce yourself to a lot of people, be introduced to a lot of people, put some names and URLs together, talk, listen, and laugh. It's a highly interactive, pop quiz, social overload kind of time, especially for introverts not in sales for a living.

Mitch reported an RSVP of "over 70" prior to Friday's MOB meeting, and I would estimate easily that many came and went during the proceedings. MOBsters in attendance ran the gamut from the unassuming Kelly (The Patriette), five-months pregnant military wife and my new favorite milblogger; to the very loud, tall, and gregarious Derek Brigham (Freedom Dogs). The latter was there hawking his remaining stock of MOB t-shirts, and keeping us humble ("Hey, look at that, five geeks around a computer!" he said in a booming voice that cuts through noisy pub chatter like a foghorn). King Banaian (SCSU Scholars) and Craig "Captain Fishsticks" Westover of (Craig Westover) held court over a "power corner" of upholstered chairs where the digital literati hobnobbed over a pint of Guiness Stout or Killian's Irish Red. Mitch, "St. Paul" Ward, James Lileks (The Bleat and various other projects), and the legendary yet low-key John Hinderaker (Power Line) rounded out the Northern Alliance crew.

I sought out Doug Bass, whom I first met at last year's winter MOB event. Doug is having entirely too much fun with RSS, OPML, and XML to create an aggregator website (MOBANGE!) of the entire MOB (at least every one with an RSS feed, which is most of them).

The most interesting blogger I met was Tom "Swiftee" Swift (Pair o' Dice). It turns out we share an interest in education reform (school choice, K-12 finance, etc.). Swiftee had some very interesting insights to share about the Saint Paul Public Schools. Articulate, opinionated, with a cowboy hat and a muscular tattooed forearm, he looks like someone you would want on your side in a bar fight!

I was pleased to see David Strom and Margaret Martin (Our House) in attendance, considering David's recent Trip to Hell (and back!).

And what MOB event would be complete without an appearance from political pundit Sarah Janecek of Politics In Minnesota? Janecek will soon host a new daily, afternoon drive time show with liberal Brian Lambert on the new 100.3 FM when it switches formats from "cool jazz" to talk.

More MOB event coverage can be found on various MOB blogs, notably Hammerswing75, with photos and links to even more coverage at other MOB blogs. Read them all, there is so little overlap in content (it was at Keegan's, and Mitch was there) that you might wonder whether all we went to the same party. As widely noted, as the MOB grows in numbers, it is increasingly difficult to meet and talk to everyone on your list, and it's disappointing to not have seen certain bloggers mentioned in the various reports.

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night. See you at the next MOB event, and keep on blogging.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Et tu, Randal?

In an unprecedented move in a season full of unprecedented moves (multiple multiple firings, a death in the family, a broken ankle), Donald Trump asked Randal, whom he just hired, if you were me, would you hire Rebecca, too? Rebecca must have been thinking, "Randal, who's your buddy, who's your pal?" A $200,000 salary and the chance to manage the construction of a flagship Trump property were at stake. Would Randal pull Rebecca up from the abyss — or let her drop like a rock?

No way, replied Randal. It's called "The Apprentice," not "The Apprenti."

A gasp was heard from the audience, and my first thought was, "Why you lying, backstabbing..." After all, the second hour of the two-hour finale was filled with scenes of the Final Two sharing a meal, decompressing from their respective challenging final tasks, and declarations of mutual respect. It was a reflection of their previous fifteen weeks of seemingly friendly competition. The pair was popular with fans: in the Yahoo! web site poll this morning, 48% would have hired both candidates. Everybody loves Randal. You would expect something like that more from Alla (who did not disappoint in that regard last night).

Yet, Randal, like every single candidate in four cycles of The Apprentice, came to New York to win. As Michael Corleone said, "It's not personal, Sonny. It's strictly business." Rebecca was just as willing to leave Randal behind if that's what it took to hear the words, "You're hired." Randal survived the meat grinder and raised $11,000 for charity in his final task. He won.

Like a political candidate who suffers a disappointing election night, Rebecca, sans crutches, will stride into her next challenge with a confident smile, look you in the eye, take command, and she will win.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Let freedom ring

Today is election day in Iraq!

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of the Middle East.

Let freedom ring from the Cradle of Civilization!

Let freedom ring from the splendid metropolis of Baghdad.

Let freedom ring from the mountains of the north, across the deserts of central Iraq, to the Persian Gulf in the south.

Let freedom ring up and down the banks of mighty the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every province and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, Sunni and Shiite, Arabs and Kurds, Muslims, Christians, and Jews, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

Free at last! Free at last!
Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Death and taxes

"What do you call this?" said Joe. "Bed-curtains?"

"Ah!" returned the woman, laughing and leaning forward on her crossed arms. "Bed-curtains."

"You don't mean to say you took them down, rings and all, with him lying there?" said Joe.

"Yes I do," replied the woman. "Why not?"

—from A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Publius 2001 at Feet to the Fire was rightfully hot under the collar recently about Minnesota Republicans taking credit for turning the state's $4.5 billion budget deficit into a projected $1 billion budget surplus.

What the Minnesota GOP and Governor Pawlenty neglect to mention while patting themselves on the back is that a significant portion of this surplus was made possible by estate tax collections. Grassroots Republicans should remember that the state party's standing platform, which we delegates in the rabble take seriously, calls for the abolition of "death and inheritance" taxes.

This sin of omission is especially egregious in light of likely the largest estate tax collection in state history: $112 million from the estate of James Binger, former chairman of Honeywell, who died in November 2004. To add insult to injury, according to Mr. Binger's granddaughter, "we paid out at least that much to the federal government, maybe a little more. It's been sort of a nightmare." The dollar amount of this collection from a single estate is only slightly less astounding than the apparent lack of tax-advantaged, wealth-protecting estate planning that one would expect from your average H&R Block tax preparer, let alone the well-paid team of Big 4 CPAs within the reach of someone like Mr. Binger.

As Stephen Moore, in his column "Repeal the Grave Robber Tax," points out, "this tax is imposed on dollars already taxed when the income was earned during the deceased's lifetime." The estate tax is a double-taxation windfall for the government that should be repealed.

If you think this is a partisan issue, consider the words of Hillary Rodham Clinton during her 2000 Senate campaign: "You ought to be able to leave your land and the bulk of your fortunes to your children and not the government." (Hat-tip to our favorite econ prof King Banaian, SCSU Scholars.)

Good luck, Rebecca

Yes I know there are many more important things to be blogging about, but it's my blog and I'll indulge if I want to. For the first time a native Minnesotan is in the "final two" on The Apprentice. Rebecca Jarvis, 24, is a St. Paul Academy alum and former KARE-11 TV on-air reporter for the Saturday morning "Whatever" show. During the second episode of the season, she broke her ankle during a hockey scrimmage. Since then she has been gamely hopping and hobbling around on crutches. She has been seen stepping up to the plate, but early on she inexplicably threw herself in front of a Boardroom bus (she survived) to save a weaker player (fired the following week), and has a worse win-loss performance than her formidable opponent, Randall.

The final Task is tonight. The Donald will choose his next Apprentice on next week's season finale. Good luck, Rebecca.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Ringing in help for those in need

I was a first-time bell-ringer with my family for the Salvation Army this past weekend. The majority of shoppers put in a dollar bill or some change, and we responded with a smile and a "thank you" and "Merry Christmas." Everyone cheerfully responded in kind. One woman even came back outside with some hot chocolate for us from Caribou Coffee. It was a fun and easy way to support a great faith-based service organization in the spirit of the season.

The Salvation Army serves nearly six million persons during the holiday season alone. From The Salvation Army web site:
Motivated by the love of God, as a leader in Christian faith-based human services, The Salvation Army is committed to serve the whole person, body, soul and spirit, with integrity and respect, using creative solutions to positively transform lives.

Its message is based on the Bible. Its ministry is motivated by the love of God. Its mission is to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ and to meet human needs in His name without discrimination.

By the way, the Salvation Army still needs volunteer bell-ringers. Visit the Salvation Army web site to sign up.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Well duh: winning in the west metro

"I don't want to get any messages saying, 'I am holding my position.' We are not holding [any]thing. Let the Germans do that. We are advancing constantly and we are not interested in holding onto anything, except the enemy's balls...Our basic plan of operation is to advance and to keep on advancing regardless of whether we have to go over, under, or through the enemy. We are going to go through him like crap through a goose..." —Gen. George S. Patton, Jr.

Quick, what do Eva Young and George S. Patton, Jr. have in common?

They both have an insight into what it might take for west metro Republicans to start winning elections again. Said Eva:
One way would be to invest more resources into getting decent candidates to run in the Minneapolis districts. The problem with allowing Minneapolis incumbents to go without serious challenges, is it allows these incumbents to send their volunteers out to help with other campaigns.

With the DFL targeting even more wins in 2006 Gold Coast legislative elections, Republicans shouldn't be interested in just "holding on" to this House seat or even winning back that Senate seat. Competitive campaigns in "safe" DFL districts, even when we don't win, could have short- and long-term benefits statewide.

David Strom for Senate!