Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The perfect Twitter egg

Every once in a while, somebody comes along and lays the Perfect Twitter Egg. Sadly, these timeless beauties usually pass into history, nearly unnoticed. But here's one that perhaps won't suffer that fate.
The only redistribution of wealth going on here is from Sheila to SuperValu, or Target, or maybe to a company in Bentonville, AK.

But really, Sheila, $7.50 a bag is just the Good Lord's way of telling you not to feed you kids salty, extruded cheese food products.

Thanks to @aaronklemz for pointing this one out. And it wouldn't kill you to follow @blogspotdog, either.

The Wit and Wisdom of Michele Bachmann Part Three

The wit and wisdom of Michele Bachmann continues to flow, endlessly, it seems. Here's part three.

This part concentrates on Bachmann's light grip on economic matters.

Here's part one and part two and the new part four.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

ALEC's Lackeys: King and Keith

In an attempt to pivot away from the consequences of the budget cuts they insisted upon, Minnesota Republicans want to change the conversation. Last week, Republican legislative leaders held a press conference to announce "Reform 2.0." Currently lacking details, Reform 2.0 is supposed to gather ideas through citizen input, but it's more likely to be warmed over leftovers from the last session. It's a virtual certainty that the Reform 2.0 agenda will look almost exactly like the American Legislative Exchange Council's (ALEC) agenda for "state government reform." The 2010 Republican "reform agenda" was cribbed from ALEC, and 2011 will feature more of the same. And in today's episode of ALEC's Lackeys, we'll look at two of the most "reform-minded" Republican members of the House - Reps. Keith Downey and King Banaian.

The Minnesota GOP's "reform (1.0 and 2.0) agenda" seems to be drawn directly from ALEC's 2011 "State Budget Reform Toolkit" in both word and spirit. If you go line by line through the list of ALEC's "Index of Recommendations," the parallels are striking. The deep, original reform ideas of Rep. Keith Downey are nothing more than rewarmed ALEC boilerplate. The dazzling budgetary wizardry of Rep. King Banaian is cut and pasted from the ALEC playbook.
ALEC Recommendation: The legislature should require each agency to have a mission statement with goals and objectives linked to the state’s core functions of government.
ALEC Recommendation: States should adopt a Budgeting for Outcomes (BFO) approach to bring sanity and fiscal sustainability to the state budget process.
At the top of all Minnesota Republican talk about the budget is a buzzword - "priority-based budgeting." That was the basis for Rep. Banaian's HF2, one of the core priorities of the House GOP.
ALEC Recommendation: States should create a permanent sunset review commission to recommend ways the state can cut costs, reduce waste, and improve efficiency and service levels.
HF2 also included a "sunset commission" that would force all state agencies to appear in front of a panel to justify their existence or be eliminated. This was rolled into SF1047 (the omnibus state government bill) which was eventually vetoed by Governor Dayton.

When you get to "Section IV: Tools to Control Cost and Improve Government Efficiency" in ALEC's toolkit, the similarities with the legislative agenda of Keith Downey are downright eerie.
ALEC Recommendation: Adopt a state hiring freeze encompassing all departments.
ALEC Recommendation: Policymakers should delay automatic pay increases for state employees until the rising costs of government are brought under control.
ALEC Recommendation: Increase the use of privatization and competitive contracting to execute tasks to lower costs and improve the quality of service provided.
ALEC Recommendation: Develop a program (or programs) for state employees to allow them to be rewarded for savings generated by new innovations or re-engineering of existing business practices.
HF4: Mandates a 15% reduction in state workforce by 2015 by using a combination of hiring freezes, furloughs, and early retirement incentives.
HF192: The "Reinventing Government Employment Act" would freeze salaries, benchmark future salaries based on a review process, implement an employee "gainsharing program" where employees who save money get a share of the savings, force state employee units to bid for contracted services against private contractors, and propose a constitutional amendment to make Minnesota a "right to work (for less)" state.
ALEC Recommendation: States should adopt a constitutional revenue or spending limit. Such a limit would impose much needed discipline on profligate spending patterns.
ALEC Recommendation: Pass a balanced budget requirement, mandating that the expenditures included in the budget for the next fiscal year shall not exceed estimated revenues, and create a protected emergency reserve account.
HF1612: Proposes a constitutional amendment limiting spending to the revenue taken in the previous biennium.
HF67: Limits spending in the 2012-13 biennium to forecasted revenues.

Please do go and read the ALEC playbook, erm, "toolkit," if you haven't already. Reform 2.0 will be more of the same. Book it.

Follow me on Twitter @aaronklemz

"God is my Straight Man"

@newscut remarked yesterday that no one had started a Twitter naming contest for Michele Bachmann's forthcoming book. So I did. The post title is my entry. If you follow the link, you'll see there has been a painful lack of entries, even by the usual suspects.

Give it a shot, Stoolers, either here or on Twitter, hastag #bachmannbook.

@panopticon13, what have you got?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Well, one of 'em's a jerk!

Strib photograph
a) God did cause Hurricane Irene to get politicians' attention, as Michele Bachmann originally claimed, killing at least 27 people in eights states, including drowning twenty-year-old Celena Sylvestri in her car, OR

b) as Bachmann now claims, she was kidding; God didn't do it.
So who's the jerk here? You know where my money is.

Update September 4th. Now a third possibility emerges! On Face the Nation today, Michele Bachmann says she was speaking metaphorically about God visiting the hurricane on the United States.

Hahahahahahahaha. Sorry. If you believe anything this nut says, you have a limited grip on reality, too.

"An exile in his own land"

It is the 48th anniversary of the "I Have a Dream" speech by Martin Luther King.
King at the Lincoln Memorial 
Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends. 
And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. 
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."
The whole speech is at the link.

The Wit and Wisdom of Michele Bachmann Part Two

Here's installment two!

Here are more memorable quotes of Michele Bachmann performed by the Drinking Liberally Players of the Minneapolis-St. Paul chapter of DL on August 25th, at our regular haunt, the 331 Club in Minneapolis.

In the video, Rep. Bachmann questions the patriotism of members of Congress and discusses the Bible, science and evolution. There's a special appearance by Mr. Michele Bachmann - Marcus - at the end.

You can see the first installment here, and now parts three and four.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Mistress of Troubling Signs returns

The Mistress of Troubling Signs is out in fine form! There is nobody at the Strib who can send you looking for the Arby's insert with the coupons, or maybe Parade Magazine, as fast as Kersten can. She can write a column like this in her sleep, and she often has.

The Mistress is also peerless at drawing wild and hysterical conclusions from a single event, denying both logic and gravity in the process; she's a regular shrieking, mylar helium balloon of moral panic. In her column variation in the Sunday Strib, the problem is that some guys -- they were probably black and Muslim, too, you  know! -- stole televisions in the U.K. From this we must conclude that:
The anarchy in the streets of Britain's largest cities has been brewing for half a century, [British rabbi Jonathon -- yes, that's apparently how he spells it] Sacks wrote in the Wall Street Journal. He traced it to what he calls "one of the most radical transformations in the history of the West" -- the moral revolution of the 1960s, when the West abandoned "its entire traditional ethic of self-restraint." 
The West tossed the Judeo-Christian moral code out the window, says Sacks, and replaced it with materialism and radical individualism. The new watchword is "Whatever works for you." 
Britain's social fabric is unraveling in the resulting ethical vacuum.
It wouldn't be a real moral crisis unless the pope weighed in on the subject, too:
Like Sacks, Pope Benedict believes the West faces a moral vacuum. Europe has rejected the religious notion of universal ethical truths, he says. Yet it's clear we can't derive an alternative moral code from "the rules of evolution or from psychology and sociology." 
Today, young people are learning that morality is purely subjective, and that every person must decide questions of right and wrong for himself or herself, the pope told Croatian leaders in a speech in June. [The pontiff believes we should be deciding right and wrong his way, naturally.]
In Benedict's view, the idea of "conscience" -- a precondition of democratic civil order -- is becoming untethered from, and unformed by, a larger search for universal truth about what is good for man. 
This is perilous to the common good, said Benedict. For without men and women "moved by the power of truth and good," Europe will eventually wither and die. 
Sacks and Benedict agree on the diagnosis of the West's ills. They also agree on the cure: A remoralization of society, which means a return to religion as a shaper of morality and community.
Of course, Sacks and Bendict have some skin in this game. Well, one of them does, maybe, I guess. But neither one is exactly a disinterested observer of the utility of religion in moral behavior.

Deciding what is right and wrong is called "ethics;" you can't dodge making ethical decisions. If you try, it's called the Nuremberg Defense. Many ethical decisions are inherently subjective. Ethics requires judgment; in our heart of hearts, we all know that. It's just silly to claim that Western religion -- especially since you'll get different answers from different clerics -- knows it all. Ethics is not, as Kersten frets, "purely subjective," but it's not purely objective, either.

That is why, for example, that even people who are opposed to abortion because they believe it is "killing babies" would make exceptions in the case of rape, incest, and to save the life of the mother. And while they would cheerfully charge an abortion doctor with murder for performing an abortion, they wouldn't charge the mother. These, boys and girls, are judgment calls. But they're just a couple of several possible judgment calls on the issue of abortion.

It is, moreover, ludicrous to pin the rioting on a decline in church attendance. Personally, I agree with Professor Jerry A. Coyne of the University of Chicago, who wrote recently in USA Today:
We see the instinctive nature of moral acts and judgments in many ways: in the automatic repugnance we feel when someone such as Bernie Madoff bilks the gullible and trusting, in our disapproval of the person who steals food from the office refrigerator, in our admiration for someone who risks his life to save a drowning child. And although some morality comes from reason and persuasion — we must learn, for example, to share our toys — much of it seems intuitive and inborn. 
Many Americans, including Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health and an evangelical Christian, see instinctive morality as both a gift from God and strong evidence for His existence. 
As a biologist, I see belief in God-given morality as American's biggest impediment to accepting the fact of evolution. "Evolution," many argue, "could never have given us feelings of kindness, altruism and morality. For if we were merely evolved beasts, we would act like beasts. Surely our good behavior, and the moral sentiments that promote it, reflect impulses that God instilled in our soul." 
So while morality supposedly comes from God, immorality is laid at the door of Charles Darwin, who has been blamed for everything from Nazism to the shootings in Columbine.
 He forgot Communism.

Although this post is already overlong, I will mention a couple of other points that Professor Coyne made:
But though both moral and immoral behaviors can be promoted by religions, morality itself — either in individual behavior or social codes — simply cannot come from the will or commands of a God. This has been recognized by philosophers since the time of Plato.
Religious people can appreciate this by considering Plato's question: Do actions become moral simply because they're dictated by God, or are they dictated by God because they are moral? It doesn't take much thought to see that the right answer is the second one. Why? Because if God commanded us to do something obviously immoral, such as kill our children or steal, it wouldn't automatically become OK. Of course, you can argue that God would never sanction something like that because he's a completely moral being, but then you're still using some idea of morality that is independent of God. Either way, it's clear that even for the faithful, God cannot be the source of morality but at best a transmitter of some human-generated morality.
Which is why when God told Abraham to murder his son, the right answer would have been, "Are you crazy, God?"

The professor also observes:
So where does morality come from, if not from God? Two places: evolution and secular reasoning. Despite the notion that beasts behave bestially, scientists studying our primate relatives, such as chimpanzees, see evolutionary rudiments of morality: behaviors that look for all the world like altruism, sympathy, moral disapproval, sharing — even notions of fairness. This is exactly what we'd expect if human morality, like many other behaviors, is built partly on the genes of our ancestors.
You know, Katherine, you aren't even any fun anymore. Your gig as the Pope's Progangadist is wearing really thin.

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Wit and Wisdom of Michele Bachmann Part One

The Minneapolis - St. Paul chapter's Drinking Liberally Players got together Thursday, August 25th to do dramatic readings of some of Rep. Bachmann's best quotes. This is the first installment; there is plenty of quality material left. There's more to come!

This was a collaboration with Ken Avidor, a writer at and a frequent graphic contributor here. Eva Young (the founder of Dump Bachmann), Karl Bremer, and Ken have a book about Michele Bachmann scheduled to be released in December.

You'll want to hold off finishing your holiday shopping too early this year because you'll want to put a copy of the book, along with Bradlee Dean's Christmas album, under the tree for that someone special.

Parts two, three, and four at the links.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The U.S. housing market: A synecdoche

The Harmon Hotel tower in Las Vegas perfectly captures the absurdity of the U.S. real estate market.
The days of the Harmon Hotel tower in Las Vegas may be numbered -- even before the hotel welcomes a single guest.

Begun during the Las Vegas high-rise condo boom, the hotel tower -- first proposed as a 49-story mixed-use condo and hotel project -- is an empty, if flashy, shell that its owner, MGM Resorts International, seeks to demolish.

The building's downfall has been blamed on massive construction defects and the market downturn. MGM and the building's general contractor, Perini Building Co., are embroiled in litigation over the building's problems -- and the outcome may ultimately decide its fate.
Listen to an MPR story about the Harmon Tower here.

Follow me on Twitter @aaronklemz

(Image courtesy of Flickr user Vrysxy under a Creative Commons license)

Jon Tevlin snags the coveted Spotty (tm)

Jon Tevlin, a columnist for the Strib, is ordinarily a pretty affable guy. He harbors few illusions about people and seems to like them, nevertheless. Jon is one of those generous spirits who'd be fun to have around and wouldn't point out your all of your shortcomings at every turn.

Medallion by Tild
Which makes his column about Michele Bachmann (and Tim Pawlenty) all the more interesting. Bachmann, especially, has apparently been a festering sore for Tevlin for a while, and he let it out in his column on Wednesday. For that he wins a Spotty (tm). Hypocrisy is always grist for a good journalist's mill, and Tevlin finds plenty of it in Bachmann has a love-hate relationship with government.

Before launching into an extended juxtaposition of Bachmann's public anti-government rhetoric and her private succor from it, however, he makes an observation about Bachmann, that I will admit, annoys me, too:
"I'm a mom; I'm not a politician," Bachmann said shortly before winning the [Iowa straw] poll. 
That's like me saying, "I'm a husband; I'm not a newspaperman."
What Tevlin was kind enough not to say is what a ruthless character Bachmann has been since she started slitting throats in the Republican party to become a state senator; she is an avatar for a grasping politician.

The column recites some rich examples at odds with Bachmann's government-largess-hater public persona: a couple hundred thousand dollars paid to a farm partnership in which Bachmann and Marcus are partners, a federal grant to Marcus' counseling practice (which by the way, probably violated the terms of the grant by engaging in so-called "reparative therapy"), and, perhaps my favorite, liberal use (I really like that word in this context) of the federal government's maternity leave policies when she was an IRS lawyer.

But -- professionally speaking -- my absolute favorite part of the column is where Tevlin recounts that in her four years as an IRS attorney, she was such a lamentable, painful scrub [my words] that she got sent into action twice, against a low-paid White Earth Indian Reservation resident who thought his income was exempt on religious grounds, and against a warehouse worker, where the amount in controversy was $13,000. [hysterical laughter; sorry] It's just too bad that the Little Sisters of the Poor are a nonprofit.

Good ol' Michele, grinding the faces of the poor at every opportunity.

Remember, a Spotty (tm) is awarded for an op-ed piece, a letter to the editor, or a blog post that Spot wishes he had written himself.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

We've already established what you are. Now we're just haggling over the price.

Sally Jo brings our attention to the online auction where the Carver County Republicans finally admit outright something we sort of knew anyway: Access to their Republican delegation really does go to the highest bidder. Really -- the Carver County GOP is holding a fundraiser where those willing to spend the most get to spend time with their elected officials.

As funny as that is, it's nothing compared to the fact that as of right now, there is only one bid for one round with one legislator in the entire "catalog." And it's the blond one. Go figure.

Update: Wow, that was fast. The auction has been removed. The Common Cause and Bluestem Prairie links above have some of the screenshots, but that third link doesn't work anymore.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Return of Tip Credit

It's understandable that the introduction of HF 1755 ("the Restaurant Recovery and Jobs Creation Act") was lost in the shuffle of the end of the legislative session. After all, it was introduced on the same day the House voted to place the Bradlee Dean Marriage Discrimination Amendment on the 2012 ballot. But HF 1755 contains an item near and dear to the hearts of servers and penny-dumpers everywhere - a tip credit.

The tip credit issue nearly single-handedly sank Tom Emmer's campaign for Governor in 2010. At a minimum, Emmer's outlandish claims of $100,000 servers, the amateurish mishandling of the issue by his campaign, and the bizarre town hall meeting that ended in a shower of copper did serious damage to his hopes.

The tip credit provision of HF 1755 would allow restaurants to pay servers $6.55/hour as long as the server's wage plus tips totaled $12/hour. If servers earned less than $12/hour combined, restaurants would pay the current minimum wage of $7.25/hour. For many servers, this would result in a .70/hour pay cut.

While this is less than the several dollar/hour pay cut that Emmer initially proposed and then tried to walk back, it would still cut the wages of one of the lowest paid professions in Minnesota. It's yet another example of the tone-deaf Republican war on working people and their wages. I'm sure the chief author, Rep. Jenifer Loon (R - Eden Prairie) must be very proud to carry it, along with co-author Kurt Zellers.

The Minnesota Restaurant Association lists the bill among their 2011 Legislative Priorities. In yet another example of the boundless capacity for Orwellian double-speak the MRA issue brief cleverly relabels the tip credit a "Server Super Wage."

If only we could really get a "Super Wage" for workers. At this point, I think most would settle for any action by the Minnesota Legislature that doesn't explicitly try to cut worker's wages and benefits.

Bills introduced during the first year of the biennial legislative session don't die when the legislature adjourns. In 2012, the tip credit may ride again.

Follow me on Twitter @aaronklemz

(Image from Columbus Go Home)

Mayor Rybak and cuts to the Fire Department

See the update at the foot of the post.

From Andy Mannix at City Pages:
Thirteen firefighters found out yesterday morning that they are being cut from the department, effective next month. Three will be forced into retirement, the other ten laid off.
Naturally, the department isn't happy. But the mayor more-or-less predicted fire department layoffs when I interviewed him this spring about proposed cuts in Local Government Aid.

Update: I have some more information about the size of the LGA cuts to Minneapolis in 2011 that you can read about at the link. The final LGA cut to Minneapolis in the session just ended was $23 million; the City received $64 million out of the $87.5 million that had earlier been "certified."

What is "certified," you ask? The best synonym in this context is "promised." The certified numbers are supposed to be relied upon by city budget officials in making projections and establishing a budget.

If this sounds a little like K-12 finance, you'd be right. Promise one thing and deliver another.

Further update: If you watched the mayor's videos on LGA, you know that Minneapolis collects and delivers to the state many times more in sales taxes and commercial and industrial property taxes than it receives in LGA.

Don't be afraid of the red-hot cross-shaped branding iron!

US Daily News Photo
That's Michael Gerson, apologist for all things Republican, writing in the Strib this morning. The photo is of Rick Perry, saying the same thing. Here are a couple of grafs from the Gerson piece:
"If you want to understand Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry," argues Michelle Goldberg in Newsweek/Daily Beast, "understanding Dominionism isn't optional." 
A recent New Yorker profile by Ryan Lizza contends that Bachmann has been influenced by a variety of theocratic thinkers who have preached Christian holy war. 
As befits a shadowy religious sect, its followers go under a variety of names: Reconstructionists, Theonomists. The New Apostolic Reformation. Republicans. 
All apparently share a belief, in Goldberg's words, that "Christians have a God-given right to rule all earthly institutions."
Gerson shakes his head sadly and says, "Now the heroes of the Tea Party movement, it turns out, are also closet theocrats."

Gee, Mike, I wonder where we got that idea? Maybe from Jason Lewis, who wrote Sunday about two tea bag favorites, Bachmann and Paul. I commented on Lewis yesterday in 4800 tea-stained Iowans cannot be wrong. Here's a quote picked out of the Lewis op-ed:
Millions of Americans who have seen their social norms vanquished on the alter of an absurd political correctness. Their social conservatism is branded as bigoted, fringe and, of course, hateful, but they no longer care, they've had enough. 
That's what Bachmann represents -- a leader who will make, if nothing else, a last stand for traditionalism. Someone willing to unapologetically declare that, all things being equal [my emphasis], children need both a mom and a dad.
 The idea, of course, that Bachmann and Perry are "closeted" theocrats is laughable. They've both been standing on the ramparts of the culture war really since there was one. Bachmann hired on one Peter Waldron, an evangelical type, as her personal gay roaster in Iowa. He's apparently going to be involved in gay roasting evangelism in other states, too! But as you'll see if you read up on Waldron, he's associated with Christians (that's what they call themselves, anyway) behind the proposed law to execute gays in Uganda.

Gerson is dead wrong -- as usual -- on this one. There are plenty of good reasons to be leery of Bachmann, Perry and the Tea Party. And that's true whether you are a liberal Christian (they're coming after you, too), Jew, Muslim, or an adherent to some other religion, an agnostic, or an atheist.

Monday, August 22, 2011

4800 tea-stained Iowans cannot be wrong

At least according to Jason Lewis. Lewis says that Bachmann's win in the Iowa straw poll -- fueled by a more-or-less bribed fringe element of an increasingly fringe Republican Party -- signals that the "silent majority" has spoken. This "silent majority," Jason?
Washington Post photo
The tea baggers, who we were assured early on were just interested in the "tax stuff," have been revealed for what they really. I'm going to let Lewis describe it, and even admit it:
Millions of Americans who have seen their social norms vanquished on the alter of an absurd political correctness. Their social conservatism is branded as bigoted, fringe and, of course, hateful, but they no longer care, they've had enough. 
That's what Bachmann represents -- a leader who will make, if nothing else, a last stand for traditionalism. Someone willing to unapologetically declare that, all things being equal [my emphasis], children need both a mom and a dad.
Equality, now that's a concept, Jason. It's too bad you have so little actual regard for it. Bigotry and prejudice based on race, religion, ethnic origin, and gender were (or in some people, still are) social norms, too, but at some point the legal tide turned in each case. This is probably the American story: minorities making their case -- and ultimately winning it -- for equal treatment in society and their own place in the sun. It is truly one of the glories of America.

Every time there is the smallest advance in social justice, you can always depend on people like Lewis and Bachmann and some cleric somewhere to be pulling hard on the other end of the rope. One of the earliest examples I can think of is the Apostle Paul f/k/a Saul, who as we all know, is the New Testament's principal gay hater, not Jesus, not the Gospel writers. (Paul didn't like marriage especially either; he seems to have been just a cranky misanthrope.)

We'll lay the gay-hating Paul aside for today and consider his advice to Titus. Titus was Paul's pal, and a protégé, and Titus was running the show in Crete, where things had apparently gotten a little rocky. In about 63 CE, Paul sat down to write a letter to give Titus some advice.

After calling the Cretians uniformly liars, he went on to take one of the new religion's first anti-equality stands:
Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them. Titus 2:9 NIV
Paul was full of this sort of kindly advice.

And there's been a string of people using religion ever since, wielding the cross as a cudgel to keep people down. Michele Bachmann and Jason Lewis are on the end of that string; Bachmann because she flagrantly panders to people's bigotry using the Bible, and Lewis because he's a enabler.

But even Jason Lewis has figured out that the game is already up. Even he calls it Bachmann's last stand.

Oh sure, there will be pockets of resistance to be stamped out on the gays rights and marriage issue, but one day they will.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

A deal he couldn't refuse

By now, most have heard about the final resolution of the Republican Party of Minnesota's numerous violations of federal election law that took place when its current chair, Tony Sutton, was holding down the fort as treasurer. We've highlighted this ongoing investigation here, here, here, and here. In a Conciliation Agreement with the Federal Election Commission, available as a pdf from the MPR website, the Party admitted to the violations and agreed to pay a fine of $170,000.

Among the facts agreed to in the settlement are:

The party withheld retirement payments from employees' paychecks while not paying the money into those employees' accounts until months later and failing to report the money owed as a debt.

The party failed to disclose $994,319 in money owed to vendors in 2006.

The party neglected to report unreimbursed staff expenses as debt.

The party did not bother to properly allocate expenses of $574,342 between state accounts and federal accounts and excessive transfers to the federal account.

A simple mea culpa might be expected from a more thoughtful organization, but we're dealing with Tony Sutton here. So of course we get the unsurprising bellyaching we've grown to expect from Mr. Sutton. In a press release issued to address the issue (also available from MPR), no blame is accepted and all manner of excuses offered.

First, he claims that the complaint was filed by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a "liberal organization," implying that - heck, I don't know - that the financial mess didn't exist because some liberal organization pointed it out? Calling those who disagree with him names is nothing new to Mr.Sutton, so this is to be expected. Then, Chairman Sutton insists that the party has "proactively made changes to its FEC accounting and reporting processes." Not so fast, Mr. Sutton. In the agreement, the FEC specifically found (Par. 17) that the "proactive" steps taken "did not disclose all previously undisclosed debt." Nice try, but no dice.

Then of course, there's the excuse that "this is complicated stuff!" as if that excused one from following federal law. Withholding money from employees' paychecks and not depositing the funds where they belong isn't complicated, Mr. Sutton. Recording your debts - especially if they amount to over half a million bucks - isn't complicated either. Ask any bookkeeper - such things happen all the time in the mysterious world of accrual accounting.

Implicitly recognizing how ridiculous those excuses are, former treasurer Sutton falls back onto more familiar and pathetic grousing: "Some Democrats have problems too," and "this is nothing more than excessive government regulation."


While it's going to be a difficult task to repay the money when the party's so broke, the agreement does have an easy payment plan set up with payments over the next year or so. Good thing that Tom Emmer stepped in with the cash to pay the counties that the party still owed money to for last year's recount, or they would have to wait all that much longer.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Are you there, Rick Perry? It's me, God

Via Under the Mountain Bunker.

Follow me on Twitter @aaronklemz

Michele Bachmann's Personal Gay Roaster (tm)

Peter and Michele
His name is Peter Waldron. (And all this time you thought it was Bradlee Dean!) As it turns out, it's Waldron, a campaign staffer for Bachmann. Here's Minnesota Progressive Project's Big E, where I first read about it, to tell you a little more about him:
Yesterday, I noted that Michele Bachmann's Iowa staffer Peter Waldron was arrested for terrorism in Uganda in 2006. His other ties to Uganda revolve around Uganda's bill to execute homosexuals. American far right, christian extremists helped craft and push through the bill. 
Waldron has close ties to Bishop Martin Ssempa who was a prominent activist for the bill.
 Waldron is "instrumental" in Bachmann's faith outreach, according to an interview with Politico.

And surprise, surprise, surprise, he's a christian dominionist, just like Michele! I mean, really, what are the chances of that? Excellent, of course.

There are reports that Michele is trying to broaden her appeal, after winning over the fringe of the fringe in Iowa. Waldron seems like just the guy to do it.

The composite photo is on the MPP site; the original of Waldron is in the linked Think Progress post.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Courage to Slink Away

Sometimes, the irony just bites

Gutshot's book cover
Tim Pawlenty penned (or rather hired somebody to pen for him) a candidate autobio he called the Courage to Stand and  now available on remainder tables everywhere; it's one of the more vapid and self-aggrandizing examples of the genre. Even the cover picture is puffed up.

But I wrote a few words about Governor Gutshot a few days ago as an update to an earlier post; I want to repeat them here because Pawlenty's fumbling in the woods says a lot more about him and his fundamental character than his testament to himself. Here's what I wrote:
[  ] I have always thought that gut shooting the deer was one of the more revealing acts of Pawlenty's odious career. It was a bad and ill-considered shot. It undoubtedly caused great suffering by his quarry. But rather than taking personal responsibility for his action, he abandoned the deer and left the job to others. 
So he could go to a fundraiser in Iowa. If you believe in karma, I think it's at work here. 
Searching for wounded game is part of the ethic of hunting; it is penance for your failure to make a clean kill. This is why you cannot delegate responsibility for the search. We learned more about the scrub TeaPaw on that occasion than any other I can recall. 
Tim Pawlenty's behavior that November day is a blot on his escutcheon that he will have to wear to the end of his days.
Substitute the State of Minnesota for the deer, and you have a pretty good description of Gutshot as governor: exercising poor judgment, departing the scene of the suffering he created, and leaving the mess to others to clean up.

Update: I sat down with the Strib over lunch and read Jim Lenfestey's op-ed in the Strib today. (I have spilled food on the paper daily newspaper - usually cereal or jelly - for fifty years or more; I am not about to stop now.) He wrote a great piece - wielding a much sharper blade than mine - recounting what an "overweening" scrub Pawlenty is. But I especially liked the valediction, because he used the same word I did, "slink."
Tim Pawlenty, who once represented an honest embrace of climate science and the future, now slinks home to a state wounded and reeling from his presidential ambition, his reputation in tatters. 
That's a tragedy [repeating the words of Walter Shapiro about Gutshot's run] to be sure, but not one inflicted by Bachmann, but by Pawlenty himself.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Junkyard Prophet Band's holiday album

It's back on the shelves! Get yours today!

I did a parody video of Bradlee Dean's band last holiday season. Bradlee and Jake complained to YouTube, where the original was posted, because I used the briefest of clips of the band's "music" at the beginning and end of the video. It was clearly fair use, especially in a parody. Nevertheless, YouTube took it down. I have re-edited the video, substituting some equally insipid royalty-free metal music; actually, it's better. Although it isn't exactly the holiday season - that starts right after Labor Day - I thought I would post it now that it's done.

The episode with YouTube proved a couple of things: Bradlee's got really thin skin, and that there is peril in living in the Google monoculture.

I am waiting for the complaint that Avidor's sketch of Bradlee from the state fair last year is a theft of Bradlee's soul. That's Avidor's sketch of Jesus at Denny's, too, from a post here about the English-only controversy Lino Lakes.

It'll be a grand night for Drinking (Liberally)

That's tonight, August 18th, from six to nine at the 331 Club, 331 13th Avenue N.E. in Minneapolis; that's the corner of Broadway and 13th Avenues N.E.

See you there.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Shameless self promotion

Nah, it isn't a post about Bradlee Dean or even Michele Bachmann.

It's about voting for your friends here at the Cucking Stool. You see, we've been nominated as the 2011 Most Valuable Blogger in the local affairs category by CBS Minnesota (think WCCO).

You can vote for us or one of the other nominees here. You can vote once a day.

Vote early and vote often, as Mayor Daley Daly used to say!

It is an honor to be nominated, of course, but it would be a lot more fun to win.

If you like what you read here, please vote for us. Thanks.

Heretics in Grand Rapids

Here's the lede from an article in the online
Readers of The Banner, the publication of the Christian Reformed Church in North America, reacted instantly to the news in January that two religion professors at Calvin College had written scholarly papers suggesting that evidence of genetics and evolution raised questions about the traditional, literal reading of Genesis about creation, the story of Adam and Eve, and the fall of humanity out of an initial idyllic state.

The professors were not disavowing the role of God or of their church, but were arguing that modern science challenges traditional, literal readings of the Book of Genesis in ways that may require theological shifts
The results were entirely predictable:
[Comments calling for the professors' head and maintaining the inerrancy of the Bible] weren't just posted on The Banner website, but were also sent to college officials, where the two professors were investigated. One -- John Schneider -- has now left the tenured position he held for 25 years, as part of an agreement with the college. The other religion professor, Daniel Harlow, remains at the college, and is refusing to back down from his views.
You really can understand the problem.

If you tug on that loose thread in Genesis, pretty soon you're standing there with a pile of yarn and no sweater. This is the central problem of the fundamentalist church. It will spend endless time, money, bile, and even blood to bulldoze anybody who points it out.

The funny -- well, tragic -- thing it that all Christian sects are "pickers and choosers" of the parts of the Bible they want to believe or follow. Just one example that I mentioned recently is the law in Deuteronomy that requires non-virgin brides be stoned. Commenters to that post mentioned the rule that says God thinks it's an abomination for women to wear men's clothes, but that it is not an abomination -- in fact, it's required -- if a man rapes an unmarried woman, he has to pay fifty shekels and then marry her (she has no say in the matter).

(So just a word to the young bucks out there at Calvin College: pick out one you like, figure out the exchange rate, and go get yourself a wife!)

And let's not forget there are at least two accounts of creation in Genesis.

There is little or no chance of moving people like these on many issues of the day, including gay marriage. Science, schmience. There is utility in illuminating their illogical and anti-science views in trying to persuade the persuadables.

Meanwhile, the slogan at Calvin College is Minds in the Making.

Update: And in the credit where credit is due department, Roger Ebert tweeted the link to the story about Calvin College and The Banner earlier today.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Two Dominionists and a Mormon walk into a bar

[insert your own joke here]

But what if the question is: What are two Christian dominionists and Mormon? Then the answer is: The leading contenders for the Republican nomination for president in 2012.

Michelle Goldberg has been following the Christian dominionist angle for quite a while. A lot of the flat-out crazy stuff that Michele Bachmann says, hard as it is to believe, doesn't sound crazy to her:
Dominionism derives from a small fringe sect called Christian Reconstructionism, founded by a Calvinist theologian named R. J. Rushdoony in the 1960s. Christian Reconstructionism openly advocates replacing American law with the strictures of the Old Testament, replete with the death penalty for homosexuality, abortion, and even apostasy. The appeal of Christian Reconstructionism is, obviously, limited, and mainstream Christian right figures like Ralph Reed have denounced it.
If Ralph Reed in agin' it, you know it's gotta be crazy. As Goldberg relates:
But while Rushdoony was a totalitarian, he was a prolific and influential one—he elaborated his theories in a number of books, including the massive, three-volume Institutes of Biblical Law. And his ideas, along with those of his followers, have had an incalculable impact on the milieu that spawned both Bachmann and Perry.
Rushdoony was the original home schooler, attacking people like Horace Mann and John Dewey; public education was an anathema to Rushdoony. That ought to seem familiar to anyone with a passing familiarity with Michele Bachmann and how she got her start in politics.

Bachmann is also in the thrall of the poisonous (St. Olaf grad) John Eidsmoe (again, quoting Goldberg):
One could go on and on listing the Dominionist influences on Bachmann’s thinking. She often cites Francis Schaeffer, the godfather of the anti-abortion movement, who held seminars on Rushdoony’s work and helped disseminate his ideas to a larger evangelical audience. John Eidsmoe, an Oral Roberts University professor who, she’s said, “had a great influence on me,” is a Christian Reconstructionist. She often praises the Christian nationalist historian David Barton, who is intimately associated with the Christian Reconstructionist movement; an article about slavery on the website of his organization, Wallbuilders, defends the institution’s biblical basis, with extensive citations of Rushdoony. (“God's laws concerning slavery provided parameters for treatment of slaves, which were for the benefit of all involved,” it says.)
Some of you will remember the right wing nut job manifesto of Bob Vander Plaats that Bachmann was the first in line to sign. Here's a part of it:
Slavery had a disastrous impact on African-American families, yet sadly a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household than was an African-American baby born after the election of the USA’s first African-American President.
Bachmann was forced to walk that one back, saying that she didn't mean that part, but it's pretty clear she did, or she didn't think it was a big deal, anyway.

It should be remembered that another branch of the Calvinists, the Afrikaner Dutch Reformed, thought that apartheid was just hunky dory, too.

Where does the moderate Republican go to restore sanity to his party?

The Hobbit King bids Tim Pawlenty "Au Revoir"

A saddened Mitch Berg pens an affectionate goodbye note to the humiliated Tim Pawlenty, who recently faded in the face of 4,800 Tea Party Republicans in Iowa.

Tim's a good man, sighs Mitch, but just not what the current crop of Republicans wants. And how. About half-way through this video, watch Mitch describing Tea Party membership. Mitch often speaks at Tea Party rallies, as does Michele Bachmann, who phones it in. Pawlenty has never made an appearance, as far as I know.

John McCain recently called the Tea Party members in Congress "hobbits." If they are the hobbits, Mitch is the local Hobbit King. I didn't know that Hobbit Kings shed crocodile tears, but apparently they do.

Tim Pawlenty should have figured out after working for John McCain's campaign for a couple of years and then being dumped for Sarah Palin that he needed a heap 'o crazy to have a chance. Timmy just didn't have it in him.

The graphic is by Avidor, more or less of course.

Sunday, August 14, 2011


It stands for "first in first out." It's an accounting term referring to a method of inventory valuation. But it also describes the tortured presidential campaign of the hapless Tim "Dwarfed by Corn" Pawlenty.

Like the deer he gut shot in the Minnesota woods and then abandoned to flounder and die, he has been abandoned to the same fate by Republicans in Iowa. Good riddance.

Dan Burns has another warm recollection of the boy we all call TeaPaw.

The cartoon is by Avidor.

Update: Returning to the theme for a moment, I have always thought that gut shooting the deer was one of the more revealing acts of Pawlenty's odious career. It was a bad and ill-considered shot. It undoubtedly caused great suffering by his quarry. But rather than taking personal responsibility for his action, he abandoned the deer and left the job to others.

So he could go to a fundraiser in Iowa. If you believe in karma, I think it's at work here.

Searching for wounded game is part of the ethic of hunting; it is penance for your failure to make a clean kill. This is why you cannot delegate responsibility for the search. We learned more about the scrub TeaPaw on that occasion than any other I can recall.

Tim Pawlenty's behaviour that November day is a blot on his escutcheon that he will have to wear to the end of his days.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Zometimes, a corn dog

Siggy says, Zometimes, Liebschen, a corn dog iss just za fried, battered frankfurter.

Or as Spot might say, Just give it a rest.

Update: Or, let s/he who has never eaten a corn dog cast the first stone.

Although six bucks for a hot dog is unconscionable.

The photo is from the U.K. Telegraph.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Being dwarfed by corn

I don't know who took this photo; I got it at Minnesota Progressive Project.
We can speculate whether the picture was taken before or after Governor Gutshot dodged down a row to take a leak.

But this is a cool visual metaphor for last night's candidate "debate" of the Iowa straw pols.

Update: As commenter Dan says, the photo is, um, a composite shot. It's still a good metaphor.

TPaw's Sharia Law

Given the level of islamophobia in the conservative base being courted by Republican presidential candidates, anything relating to Sharia (Islamic) law is nuclear. Tim Pawlenty took fire earlier this year because of the existence of a Sharia-compliant lending program in the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency when he was Governor. When asked for comment about the lending program, Pawlenty's spokester was clear:
But a Pawlenty spokesman told me that the governor has no intention of defending the program -- and that in fact, he shut it down himself as soon as he learned of it.

"This program was independently set up by the Minnesota state housing agency and did not make any mention Sharia Law on its face, but was later described as accommodating it," the spokesman, Alex Conant, said. "As soon as Gov. Pawlenty became aware of the issue, he personally ordered it shut it down. Fortunately, only about three people actually used the program before it was terminated at the Governor's direction."
Pawlenty's objection: "The United States should be governed by the U.S. Constitution, not religious laws," Conant said.
But Pawlenty has a much more direct connection to Sharia law through his authorship of a 2001 bill to regulate the labeling and sale of halal meat. If you aren't familiar with halal, it is the designation given to meat that is slaughtered in accordance with Sharia law. The existence of a tiny lending program was threatening enough to lead to headlines like "Does Pawlenty Have a Sharia Problem?" It's pretty amazing that his sponsorship of the halal labeling law hasn't attracted the attention of Pam Geller and the islam-bashing fringe.

Minnesota's halal labeling law is good policy, was a bipartisan bill and passed unanimously (with one exception - bonus if you guess who before you click to find out.) If anything, Pawlenty's sponsorship of it speaks well of him as a legislator. But like most of Pawlenty's reasonable moments, it's probably something that will be a mark against him as he seeks the GOP nomination.

Follow me on Twitter @aaronklemz

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Remember, the stoning will begin at ten AM sharp!

There is a new photo caption contest here at the Stool. Here's the photograph:
Here's my entry, at least the first one:
Remember, if she isn't a virgin, the stoning will begin tomorrow at ten AM sharp. Michael, Mary Liz, and I will cast the ceremonial first stone, but there will be plenty of fun for everybody! Deuteronomy 22:13-21
If you are one of the "the Bible is the inerrant word of God" types, this is where you have to be: pitching stones with Michele, Mary Liz, and Michael. If you're not, you're just a picker and a chooser, like everyone else.

And if you are a picker and a chooser, you have no real basis for claiming that your choices are the "real" word of God; that you're the True Picker and Chooser. Because friends, that's like claiming that you're God; trust me, you're not.

The next time you tell me that God hates gays because it says so in Leviticus, or because Paul said so, I'm going to hand you a rock and tell you to have at it.

The photograph is of hazy provenance.

Update: Because many of you - and you know who you are - don't read the comments, I am going to put Ken Avidor's contest entry, currently in a comment, in the body of the post. It's really good, especially the old guy on the right who apparently forgot to take the necessary precautions.

The presidency of Michele Bachmann

It's a cartoon, but that goes without saying. You must go to City Pages to see the whole thing, but here's one panel, just for a taste.
While I have a moment and I have the attention of at least some of you, I have an observation about the Bachmann Newsweek cover kerfuffle. Jill Burcum at the Strib huffs and puffs about it in a op-ed that went online Monday afternoon.

Let's be direct: the cover not an especially flattering picture of Bachmann.

But neither is this one:
Go ahead and blow it up a little; you'll see the same glittering eyes as in the Newsweek cover.

Here's a more recent picture of Michele Bachmann from the campaign trail in New Hampshire, I think. Blow it up, too, and tell me what you think.
No one who is criticizing the Newsweek cover ever seems to explain - at least that I've read - how exactly the photo was manipulated to make Bachmann look bad. Maybe someone has; I'd appreciate a link to it.

Michele Bachmann has hired the best cosmetic illusionists that money can buy, but hey, people, they aren't miracle workers. It just seems that flaws in Bachmann's appearance are so grave because, well, she is not.

I am at this late date unable to identify the photographer of the last photograph.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

What this blog needs is some Wisconsin content

This is my mother. She will not be voting for Alberta Darling. Smart Mom.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Attention Wisconsinites!

If you cannot connect the dots between Eric Cantor, Scott Walker, the Koch "We've never missed a meal in our lives" brothers, Mother Harsdorf's Snuff (and the rest of the Republican snuff sellers facing recall tomorrow), and the giant sucking sound on Wall Street, well then, you are simply not paying attention.

Since, however, Wisconsin has been in a perennial three-way race with Iowa and Minnesota for the best-educated kids in the nation, I am sure you are paying attention, and that you will turn the snuff sellers out.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Sheila Harsdorf: Snuff Princess

Why would Wisconsin State Senator Sheila Harsdorf offer a bill to change the tax treatment (lower it, of course) of moist snuff? Was it because as a mother she had to make tough choices? That's a line from one of her campaign commercials.

It's doubtful that even Mother Harsdorf thinks that a bill to help moist snuff in its quest to breath free is good for kids. Well then, what could be her motivation for offering such a stinker?

It is pretty easy to figure out, really, when you know that Harsdorf is a legislative zombie: she's an ALECian. Altria (which used to be Philip Morris, until that name became moist, um, "snuff"), WalMart, the Koch brothers, ExxonMobil, and the Coors family, and the like, who "sponsor" ALEC, do Mother Harsdorf's thinking for her.

Her poor kids.

(Be sure to read Aaron's post at the link about moist snuff and Reps. Mary Liz Holberg, Jenifer Loon, and Speaker Kurt Zellers in Minnesota, too.)

MPR photo (at least that's where I got it)

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Alas and ALEC

The American Legislative Exchange Council has received a lot of ink in recent days. One of ALEC's hot button issues is "voter ID," or more accurately voter suppression. It is an initiative aimed directly at poor people, seniors, students, and minorities. There is plenty of Republican dog whistling about not wanting the wrong people to vote, but it's couched in terms of preventing "voter fraud," when only a handful cases have ever been unearthed, and even those are mostly mistake or inadvertance: a felon votes before being "off paper," for example. There was a guy who voted for Norm Coleman in that situation in 2008.

The voter suppression bill that Governor Dayton vetoed was SF 509; it's companion in the House was HF 210.

Mary "Jesus is in my conference room" Kiffmeyer was a chief author in the House; I think she actually carried the bill. Kiffmeyer is even as I write this at an ALEC conference in New Orleans.

Warren Limmer, chief author and carrier of the bill in the Senate, is also an inteesting ALEC case. I emailed his office a couple of times a few weeks ago to ask if he was an ALEC member. After not receiving a response, I called and left a voice message asking the same question.

Some time later, when I was out, Sen. Limmer's LA called an left a message saying that he "had been" a member of ALEC, but was "no longer." The LA didn't say how "had been" his membership was, meaning it could be a long time, maybe the LA licked the envelope shut and mailed the termination of the senator's membership just before placing the call to me. Perhaps someday we'll find out.

In any event, voter suppression efforts in Minnesota do owe a lot to ALEC.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Get in line, sluts

Tom Prichard, grand scold over at the Minnesota Family Council has penned an editorial over at Minnesota Public Radio's website entitled "Best poverty-fighting tool isn't a government program; it's marriage." It's an insidious little bit of stuff and nonsense parading as a reasoned argument.

His premise is this: The poor aren't really poor, but even if they - and by "they" we mean those slutty welfare queen unwed mothers - are, they ought to just get married.

But before he gets there, he can't help but bash the poor along the way, albeit with a little help from his friends at the Heritage Foundation. Whether the poor are "deserving" enough has long been a debate in this country, but suffice it to say that Prichard comes down on the side of Steven Colbert: "If you have the strength to brush the flies off their eyeballs, then you really aren’t poor." I'm sure his Jesus would agree.

But that's not Prichard's main premise (or so he says). Rather, it's that the problem with the poor is that they really just ought to be married.
it's important to realize the best poverty program isn't a government program, but a marriage. A family with children headed by a married couple dramatically reduces the incidence of poverty. A study of Minnesota data by the Heritage Foundation found that 33.2 percent of single-parent, female-headed families with children were living in poverty, compared with only 3.8 percent of married-couple families with children.

The commentary here almost writes itself. A noted anti-gay-marriage activist extolling the economic benefits of marriage without saying anything about how hard he works to deny that right to a large section of the population? A man who tut-tuts about the poverty of single mothers while ignoring the obvious role of the gender wage gap when comparing women-headed households to those headed by a couple with a man in it? A zealot scolding unmarried women who follow his anti-abortion and anti-birth control beliefs and face the obvious end result: motherhood? A man who believes that the poor aren't all that poor because they have refrigerators, but then claims that poverty rates haven't changed in 45 years? A man who pretends to speak for Minnesota families but opposes live saving vaccinations?

That cognitive dissonance must burn late at night in the Prichard body politic.

Monday, August 01, 2011

ALEC's Lackeys: Snuff Edition

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) pushes legislation that benefit the corporations that fund it, and there are no shortage of lackeys in Minnesota to help them carry out their goals.

If you're not familiar with ALEC yet, you should be (here's a very comprehensive primer.) ALEC is primarily funded by corporations that want to push their agenda. They draft legislation that benefit those interests, and "educate" state legislators who share their mission of advancing "Jeffersonian principles of free markets, limited government, federalism, and individual liberty."

The corporate interests that bankroll the operation read like a who's who of big Republican donors; the Koch Brothers, ExxonMobil, the Coors family, the Scaife-backed Alleghany Foundation. ALEC's corporate members join (overwhelmingly conservative Republican) legislators on task forces, craft and vote for legislation that they want to see enacted. Then ALEC's lackeys take them home to introduce them in their state legislatures. ALEC brags that over 1,000 bills are introduced by members every year. More than a couple came home to Minnesota this legislative session. Over the next couple of weeks, we'll introduce you to a few of these lackeys and what they are pushing.

The assortment of bills that ALEC has approved and is pushing is breathtaking; covering everything from taxes to torts to telecommunications. ProPublica and ALEC Exposed have put together a handy assortment of tools that you can use like I did to find bills that are being carried on behalf of the corporate interests that fund ALEC. Let's start with a little tiny bill that demonstrates how this operation works.
Bill: HF 1079
Subject: Taxation of Moist Snuff Tobacco
Lackeys: Reps. Mary Liz Holberg, Jenifer Loon, and Speaker Kurt Zellers (and a special BONUS lackey - see below)
Corporation: Altria / Philip Morris
HF 1079 didn't go anywhere this session, it didn't even attract a companion in the Senate. But it's part of a wave of moist snuff legislation sweeping the nation, including our neighbor Wisconsin. Why is that?

Well, it seems that Altria (parent company of Philip Morris and member of ALEC) sells higher priced snuff than its competitors. If the tax on moist snuff is based on price, lower priced snuff is "tax preferenced." If states shift to taxing snuff by weight, then more expensive snuff would be taxed at the same rate. ALEC approved a resolution supporting taxing moist snuff based on weight in 2006. In 2011, Minnesota Republicans were more than happy to help Big Tobacco. The sudden revival of interest in the esoteric issue of ad valorem taxation of snuff couldn't have anything to do with Altria's presence on ALEC's corporate board, could it?

The Center for Media and Democracy focused on the connection between Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and ALEC and noted the moist tobacco legislation as an example. Walker did veto this provision, despite an appeal from an ALEC staffer, Courtney O'Brien. (O'Brien herself is an instructive example of how ALEC works - according to a cached LinkedIn profile, O'Brien moved directly from the Koch Foundation to ALEC.) I promised you a bonus lackey, so here she is: the provision was co-sponsored by Sen. Sheila Harsdorf, facing a recall election on August 9th.

Holberg, Zellers, Loon, and Harsdorf are carrying water for Big Tobacco, through a bill drafted and shared by ALEC. This is how the corporate governance model works when Republicans are in charge.

That's not even close to the end of the story. Minnesota's Republicans have more ALEC bills introduced and ready to move when the Legislature comes back into session.

Follow me on Twitter @aaronklemz

"No New Taxes" loses its cachet

Scott Rasmussen's polling is notoriously unreliable and slanted. Rasmussen polls often feature leading wording, crosstabs require a subscription, and they call landlines only. But if you dig deep enough, some days the leading and the slanting is unintentionally revelatory. Today is one of these days. The revelation? "No New Taxes" has become a losing frame for Republicans.

Today's clumsy headline is "Voters Divided Between Candidate Who Promises Debt Reduction With Only Spending Cuts and One Who Calls for 'Balanced Approach.'" Here's their slant on the results of the poll:
Forty-six percent (46%) of Likely U.S. Voters are more likely to support a candidate for Congress who says the federal debt should be reduced with only spending cuts, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. Forty-eight percent (48%) are more inclined to favor a candidate who thinks a balanced approach including spending cuts and increased tax revenue is needed to reduce the debt.
But when you pull the veil back, the news is really bad for Republicans. The poll shamelessly primes respondents to dislike Congress. Here's the questionnaire up to the headline question:
1* How confident are you that your representatives in Congress are actually representing your best interests?
2* Suppose you could vote in the next election on whether to get rid of the entire Congress and start over again. Would you vote to keep the entire Congress or get rid of the entire Congress?
3* Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: No matter how bad things are, Congress can always find a way to make them worse?
4* Suppose in the race for Congress you had a choice between a candidate who said the federal debt should be reduced with spending cuts only and another candidate who said that a balanced approach including spending cuts and increased tax revenue is needed to reduce the federal debt. Other things being equal, which candidate would you be more likely to support?
A plurality of likely voters expressed support for tax increases on the heels of "no matter how bad things are, Congress will make it worse?" That's a testament to how strong the sentiment is in favor of increasing tax revenue among the electorate.

Even more interesting is that this is the second whack at a version of this question that Rasmussen has polled in the last week. Only the version on July 25 returned unwanted results:
Fifty-six percent (56%) of Likely U.S. Voters would be more likely to support a candidate for Congress who said that a balanced approach including spending cuts and increased tax revenue is needed to reduce the federal debt. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 34% would be more likely to favor a candidate who promised to vote against all tax hikes.
Here's the questionnaire for the 7/25 version:
1* Suppose in the race for Congress you had a choice between a candidate who promised to vote against all tax hikes and another candidate who said that a balanced approach including spending cuts and increased tax revenue is needed to reduce the federal debt. Other things being equal, which candidate would you be more likely to support?
2* Suppose at some point in the future that the federal budget is balanced and even produces a small surplus. There would still, however, be a huge federal debt accumulated from earlier years. If there is ever a federal budget surplus, should the money be used to pay down the federal debt, to cut taxes, or to increase government spending?
Notice something missing? Oh, yeah, the three priming questions that encourage respondents to hate on Congress.

So, let's review what we learned from Scott Rasmussen today. First, if you don't like the results in your polling, try again with more slanted questions. Second, the "no new taxes" frame is a loser for Republicans. This can't be good news for 2012, since the extension of the Bush tax cuts was supposed to be the centerpiece issue in the campaign against Obama. Even Scott Rasmussen admits this:
“These results suggest that focusing exclusively on opposition to tax hikes rather than solutions to the federal deficit crisis is a losing position for Republicans,” says Scott Rasmussen, president of Rasmussen Reports. “At a time when the nation has more than $14 trillion in public debt and $100 trillion in unfunded liabilities, voters want to hear how we can limit the burden we are passing on to future generations. Spending cuts are preferred over tax hikes, but the primary objective right now is to reduce the debt.”
In 2012, you may see Democratic candidates labeling their Republican opponents with "No New Taxes" and Republicans shying away from the label. Democrats should focus on the need for new revenue and tax reform; voters are with them on this issue. The "pledge of allegiance to the Grover" that seemed like such a good idea at the time may prove to be an albatross around the neck of some Republican incumbents.

Follow me on Twitter @aaronklemz