Tuesday, January 31, 2012

When Mitt Romney came to Minnesota

No, I'm not talking about the Mitt Romney event in Eagan tomorrow afternoon. I'm talking about when Mitt Romney's Bain Capital came to Minnesota.

By now you are probably familiar with the job destruction record of vulture capitalist firm Bain Capital. If you haven't seen the devastating video that inspired the title of this post, you need watch this.

A Los Angeles Times article from December published a Deutsche Bank prospectus for investments in Bain Capital that listed the companies that Bain purchased from 1984 - 1999, roughly matching Romney's tenure at Bain. One of the companies listed as an acquisition is Midwest of Cannon Falls, a seasonal decoration company founded in the 1950's.

In 1997, Bain purchased an equity stake in Midwest of Cannon Falls from its private owners. At the time, Midwest employed 500 people worldwide and had a distribution center in Cannon Falls. Despite statements like "employment levels are not expected to change," in July 1998, Midwest laid off 40 Minnesota employees in a reorganization.

From a July 2, 1998 Star Tribune article:
Giftware distributor Midwest of Cannon Falls has eliminated 40 jobs, mostly in Minnesota. The company, which employs about 500 people worldwide, said it needed to streamline its "internal processes" to better compete in the giftware business. The positions were eliminated as job descriptions were revised and duplication of processes minimized, said company spokeswoman Keri Smith. In September, Bain Capital Inc., a Boston-based private equity investment firm, bought an undisclosed stake in Midwest of Cannon Falls. Bain officials have said the investment is "financial in nature" and that day-to-day operations are left to Midwest's management team.
Bain held its investment until 2001, when Midwest was acquired by Blythe Inc. Eventually, after being sold to Blythe, Midwest closed its distribution center in Cannon Falls in 2009. Now Midwest employs approximately 60 people in Minnesota, far less than before.

While the Midwest acquisition and subsequent layoff was a minor deal in the pantheon of Romney's Bain dealings, it mattered to the folks who lost their jobs. It's a safe bet that Mitt Romney wouldn't be welcomed as warmly in Cannon Falls as President Obama was in August. Eagan was probably a better choice.

Follow me on Twitter @aaronklemz

Mikey's not going gladly into that good night

Their love became a funeral pyre

Ken Avidor cartoon
The Star Tribune reports today that Michael Brodkorb is rattling sabers named Philip Villaume and Gregory Walsh about the suit he intends to bring against the Minnesota Senate for wrongful termination.

This is the exact point in time when Tom Bakk and the Senate DFL caucus turn to Dave Senjem and Cal Ludeman and say, "Don't look to us for help on this guys.

"In fact, we're going to call for hearings on every moment in this trainwreck, how you intend to defend it, and the party apparatchik you hired to do it (Cal says the Senate has retained counsel), and perhaps most of all, how you're going to pay for it. And if your committee chairs won't call 'em, we'll hold hearings in the Rotunda every day until you do.

"And don't even think about taking money that should be allocated to DFL staff to pay for defense or settlement; you're already trying to screw us on staff numbers. We had nothing to do with this. Pass the hat; make the prior leadership pay for it -- they'll probably be defendants anyway -- talk to Tony Sutton; we don't care, but the only thing you can expect from us is scorn and mocking, and the vilification you so richly deserve."

Maybe Cal or Steve Sviggum are going to have to fall on their swords -- or at least lose a limb or two -- to pay for this. In Cal's case, it would be a delicious karmic payback.

[The graphic really doesn't have much to do with the post, but Avidor drew it for this one, and it's just too good not to use again.]

Monday, January 30, 2012

Jim Crow gets a Facebook page

If you're on Facebook (and who isn't), you can find it here: We Want Voter ID. If you scroll through the "sky is falling" posts about voter fraud, you will see that the League of Women Voters of Minnesota is the object of the invective of several of the posters.

The League has produced a video about photo voter ID and the wholesale disenfranchisement that will result if it is implemented. It's been showing the video at League meetings around the state. And it has people like the posters at We Want Voter ID pretty exercised.

In advance of a meeting in Rush City last Saturday, the organizers received a harassing and expletive-filled phone call. It was disturbing enough that a representative of the ACLU attended the meeting as a monitor. Luckily -- or maybe as should be expected -- no harassers showed up.

The League's office also received an attempt to intimidate it about an upcoming event, where the video will be shown, by a swearing and belligerent caller, in a voice mail left at the League on Saturday night.

This all according to people at the League office.

Here's the video that has some people swearing. It's very good.

And callers, whoever you are; you ought to be ashamed. The League of Women Voters? You'd have to look a long time for a group more mainstream American than the League of Women Voters. In fact, you'd look in vain.

Not Almanac: Episode 2

Episode 2 of our new podcast "Not Almanac" features discussion of cookie jars, the possible disconfirmation of Ellen Anderson, the Minnesota Senate GOP getting their hyperpartisan groove back, and a Republican dog tease. Steve Timmer and Aaron Klemz from the Cucking Stool and Tony Petrangelo of Minn-Donkey and Minnesota Progressive Project are the participants this week. Tony's the engineer and editor as well a commentator, and he did a great job with this one.

You can stream it here:

You can also subscribe to the podcast via iTunes, or you can download an .mp3 here.

Thanks to all the folks who listened last week and offered suggestions for improvement. Let us know how we're doing.

Follow us on Twitter @aaronklemz, @blogspotdog, and @TonyAngelo

Saturday, January 28, 2012

GOP seeks to sack Anderson for protecting ratepayers

The first week of the Legislative session made one thing very clear; the Senate Republican caucus has chosen to double down on partisanship and division. The hope that the downfall of Amy Koch and the mysterious firing of Michael Brodkorb would bring a new tone to the Senate was squelched immediately. Republicans balanced the Senate's budget on the backs of pages, interns, and DFL staff while giving a raise to the new Senate Republican Caucus communications chief, Steve Sviggum. Republicans introduced a cavalcade of constitutional amendments that are solely for the purpose of bypassing the Governor's veto. Then on Friday, Republican leaders announced that they plan to deny former Senator Ellen Anderson confirmation as head of the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) on Monday, further signaling their intent to go to war with the Dayton administration on every front possible.

Ellen Anderson (Photo: PUC website)
New Senate Deputy Majority Leader Julianne Ortman's justification for failing to confirm Anderson is that she is "controversial."
"She's got a tough record for job providers, job creators, the ratepayers," Ortman said. "Her work has created some controversy. It makes it very difficult to confirm a commissioner who is as controversial as she has been."
But Anderson's record as PUC Chair has been remarkably free of controversy. Dayton spokesperson Katie Tinucci noted that of the 221 recorded votes taken while Anderson has chaired the PUC, 204 were unanimous. Six times, Anderson voted in the minority. This is notable because Republicans hold a 3-2 majority on the PUC, including former Senator Betsy Wergin.

Two of these six minority votes demonstrate how Anderson stands up for Minnesota energy consumers.

First, Xcel Energy received a $100 million settlement from a lawsuit that they filed against the U.S. Department of Energy for the cost of nuclear waste storage. The settlement is required to be refunded to ratepayers, and the PUC had to approve the amount of the refund and the means of distribution. As part of the PUC order, Xcel sought to deduct $1.9 million in litigation costs from the refunded money, while the Department of Commerce's position was that only $565,000 in litigation costs was warranted. On a 2-3 vote, Anderson and Republican Commissioner O'Brien voted to save ratepayers over $1.3 million. They were outvoted, and Xcel was allowed to deduct the full $1.9 million from their rebate to Minnesota ratepayers.

Second, Anderson was the lone vote against a PUC order involving an increase in electric rates by Minnesota Power. In 2008, Minnesota Power sought a rate increase of 24% for its residential customers and a 3.5% increase for its large industrial users. Minnesota Power and the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce defended the targeting of residential customers, claiming their rates had been subsidized by large energy users. The Minnesota Attorney General's office and citizen groups fought to reduce the impact of the rate increase on residential customers, and eventually won a more equitable distribution for the rate increase. However, while the case was being decided, the PUC allowed Minnesota Power to implement an interim increase that was modified by the final order. The interim rate increase hit residential ratepayers harder than the final rate increase, but when the time came to adjust their bills, mines and the Chamber of Commerce sought to avoid paying their full share. The final vote on this matter was a 1-3 vote, with Anderson upholding the side of the Attorney General's position that residential ratepayers should be refunded their overpayments, while the rest of the PUC voted to protect mines and large power users.

Between these two cases, Anderson voted to save residential energy ratepayers $6.4 million. She was outvoted, and that money went to the energy companies and large industrial energy consumers. In the second vote, Anderson chose the side that would have resulted in a $45 to 50 rebate per household, and her GOP colleagues voted to charge them another $5, even though it was the residential customers who overpaid in the first place.

These matters are complex and difficult to understand at times, but the reason we need Ellen Anderson as the PUC Chair is because she'll stand up for residential energy consumers against big corporations. And that's exactly why Ortman thinks she's "controversial."

Follow me on Twitter @aaronklemz

Friday, January 27, 2012

Minnesota is three things...

"I like to say Minnesota is three things: timber, taconite, and tourism." - Rep. Chip Cravaack

In his Thursday op-ed in the Duluth News Tribune, Rep. Chip Cravaack demonstrated exactly why his economic vision for Minnesota and the 8th District is so stunted and impoverished. By any measure, timber, taconite and tourism are relatively small components of Minnesota's economy.

Consider the number of people employed in each sector. Tourism can claim the largest share of employment in these three sectors - 235,000 jobs, 11% of total private sector employment in Minnesota. In comparison, the number of logging and mining jobs are very small. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2011 6,100 people were employed in Minnesota logging and mining jobs, out of a total of 2.7 million Minnesotans in the workforce. That's .23% of all jobs in Minnesota. You could triple the number of logging and mining jobs and they would still be less than 1% of the jobs in Minnesota. If Cravaack's vision of the economy were in line with reality, he would know that the real engines of economic growth in Minnesota are education, health care, financial services, manufacturing, etc.

Perhaps I should give Cravaack some leeway, some creative license, but when the first line of your piece is so wrong it's impossible to ignore.

Minnesotans (and Americans generally) are uncomfortable with the notion that we live in an information and service based economy. It's not very tangible, and certainly feels less solid than felling trees or digging ore. But the economy that Cravaack envisions is a 1950's economy that doesn't exist anymore. We do ourselves a disservice if we can't recognize that reality.

Follow me on Twitter @aaronklemz

Thursday, January 26, 2012

A cookie jar named "Tony"

Former MNGOP chair Tony Sutton, that is

Ken Avidor cartoon
It is becoming more evident with every passing day that the combination bingo parlor, gaming house, and massage salon run by Tony Sutton (and let's not forget Michael Brodkorb, too!) slipped from mere bumbling financial ineptitude into political favoritism and corruption long ago.

More evidence of that comes today in Two Putt Tommy's latest post in his Cooking The Books series. Tommy reports that at around the time he was arrested for DWI -- and had been canned by the Emmer campaign -- Mark Buesgens ("Biscuits" to his friends) received $11,200 from the MNGOP for "consulting." This was in 2010, when Biscuits was a sitting legislator, running for re-election himself.

Laying aside whether the MNGOP should have -- or legally could have -- hired Biscuits as a consultant, and as Tommy points out, think about the timing. If the payment was for work done while he was the campaign manager for Emmer, was it an in-kind contribution to the Emmer campaign? If it was after Biscuits left the Emmer campaign, what did he do that was so valuable to earn $11,200 in such a short time?

You will remember it was revealed by Minnesota Public Radio just last week that candidate for Minnesota senate Dave Thompson received $70,000 in "consulting" fees from Tony's cookie jar in 2010. One of the things mentioned by Pat "Twenty Points" Shortridge (the new MNGOP chair) in defense of that arrangement was, well, Thompson was only a candidate, not an office holder.

Pretty flimsy if you ask me, but even that doesn't fly when you are talking about Biscuits. Add in the fact that Biscuits really needed money at the time the payments were made; he admitted that when he took the job with Emmer; his house was in foreclosure, and he had just lost the Emmer gig. And, of course, he was wrapping up the financial consequences of his DWI.

What do you get? Transparent corruption.

Avidor's cartoon is a perfect metaphor for what was going on at the MNGOP. That would be bad enough, but remember that the cookies were owed to legitimate suppliers to the MNGOP, and as we know, many of them are presently holding the bag, a bag without the cookies.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Michele Bachmann runs again: is she vulnerable this time?

This morning, Rep. Michele Bachmann announced that she will seek a fourth term in Congress. A sentiment heard among left-leaning politicos after the 2010 election was that the millions of dollars poured into the Tarryl Clark campaign were wasted on a race that wasn't winnable. Two years later, Clark is running in a different district, Bachmann's run for President has crashed and burned, and redistricting will reshape the 6th District. Is Bachmann vulnerable in her quest for reelection?

There are a number of factors that seem to say that she is:

1) Campaign debt: One of Bachmann's biggest strengths has been her ability to raise cash for her campaigns. This time campaign funds may be a weakness, not a strength. Donors who maxed out for her Presidential bid can't do it again for her House campaign, and she has millions in debt from her Presidential campaign. Of course, given the state of campaign finance law and her GOP star power, she'll be able to run a campaign, but money may not be huge advantage it was for her in 2010.
2) She's from Iowa: Bachmann's single-minded focus on the Iowa caucus caused her to play up the "native daughter from Waterloo" angle. It's hard to say how much this might affect her in this race, but she's neglected the district and the state of Minnesota for a year now, and that might hurt her.
3) Gaffes from the Presidential campaign: Take your pick, but episodes like confusing Concord, NH with the site of the battle that began the American Revolution, or claiming that the HPV vaccine causes mental retardation are examples of gaffes that have tarnished the Bachmann brand.
4) Low statewide approval: According to Public Policy Polling, Bachmann is saddled with a 57% disapproval rating. Of course she isn't running statewide, but it's undeniable that she limps back into Minnesota having been bruised by the Presidential campaign.

But there are also a number of other reasons she'll be formidable:

1) Who's the opponent? Nobody has declared their candidacy against Bachmann. Her previous opponent, Clark, has declared her candidacy in CD8, and I can't imagine her being able to return. Like Amy Klobuchar, the uphill battle to unseat Bachmann has made recruiting a candidate difficult. Every other Republican incumbent has attracted challengers.
2) Star power: As a House candidate, Bachmann's fundraising prowess was unmatched. Even with her campaign debt, she'll be able to parlay media attention into campaign cash.
3) A loyal base: No matter her gaffes, Bachmann's true believers in her base haven't abandoned her. She'll be able to count on them again.

Obviously, redistricting is the wildcard in this equation. The Martin map submitted to the Special Redistricting Panel would place Bachmann into a blue CD4 along with DFL Rep. Betty McCollum. Of course, Bachmann could run in CD6 anyway and she wouldn't even have to move. And there will be a red-leaning CD6 regardless of which map the panel draws in which Bachmann can run as an incumbent.

Unless a powerful candidate enters the race again Bachmann soon or she ends up running against McCollum, she appears set to earn re-election.

I hope I'm wrong, and I could be if her image is more tarnished from the Presidential campaign than I think it is. But I won't jump on the bandwagon until I see who's driving it.

Follow me on Twitter @aaronklemz

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Not Almanac: episode one

Tony Petrangelo (who blogs at Minnesota Progressive Project as Tony "Angelo"), and Aaron Klemz and I (Steve Timmer), who both blog here, have embarked on a new project, a weekly (we hope) political podcast about state politics. We recorded the first episode Sunday night in anticipation of the opening of the legislative session.

Since we're new at this, it required some editing by Tony, but here it is, the inaugural "Not Almanac" podcast. That's the working title, but we may keep it.

Here is a download link for our podcasts.

Well, Morrie, just exactly who the BLANK do you think you are?

Morrie misunderstands his role in the universe, entirely!

Morrie Lanning, a Republican representative from just about as far as you can get from the Twin Cities and still be in Minnesota, had the vapors over Mark Dayton's assessment that the Dome site is the only really viable one:
“For those who think that everything has shifted now – Metrodome is it, that’s finished, it’s a done deal. That’s not where I’m at,” said Lanning, who said the Metrodome location continued to have multiple drawbacks. “There are those who have already walked away from Arden Hills -- I have not done so.”
Apparently, Morrie hasn't figured out that he is, in fact, a minor player in the drama. You see, Morrie has virtually no skin in the game, which made him the perfect hod carrier for the bill in the first place. But now, frankly, he forgets himself.

Morrie can do all the wishin' and hopin' he wants, but a stadium in Arden Hills -- or Shakopee, for that matter -- just isn't going to happen. (Anybody who disagrees with me is free to write in a tell me how it might.) That leaves two sites in Minneapolis, and you can bet that the mayor and the city council are going to decide which one it is, if there is one at all.

Minneapolis, can on the one hand, turn the Basilica into the foyer for a new stadium. Since the city is key to assembling the land necessary for the Linden Avenue site, and since the council isn't exactly on board with the whole idea of a new stadium in the first place, a plan that requires that even more property be taken off the property tax rolls and more major infrastructure improvements, seems unlikely to fly.

Or, it can take the existing site, the Dome, and make use of all the existing infrastructure: the roads, the rail line, the utilities in the ground, all of it.

Morrie's "multiple drawbacks" all stem from the fact that the Vikings would have to play in another brand new publically-financed stadium across the river for a couple of years.

Well, boo hoo. As blogger sidekick Aaron reminded me, the Bears played in Champaign while Soldier Field was renovated; the two places are separated by about 140 miles.

Moorhead and Minneapolis are separated by quite a bit more than that.

Circular Face Punching Squad

Image Credit: Ken Avidor
The Amy Koch "I'm looking forward!" media tour continued Monday, with a series of short interviews in which she "takes responsibility" for somethingsomething that really doesn't matter now, anyway. But whatever that thing was, it was like a "punch in the face." But she wants to "close the book" on it.

David Hann says that "if anyone got punched in the face, it was the [Republican] caucus."  

Dave Senjem says the Koch affair is in the past, and that if the DFL wants to see the ethics of the matter examined, they can file their own complaint. Oh, and no comment about what Hann said.

The former Deputy, Geoff Michel, isn't saying anything.

DFL Chair Ken Martin says that Koch "has suffered enough" and she shouldn't face an ethics hearing. 


I don't know what's going on in Martin's head, but the central figures have not been honest and forthcoming, and there should be ethics hearings. If this episode didn't bring the Senate into disrepute, what does?

Here are Amy Koch's own words. You tell me, are these open, honest, and contrite words?
Koch - whose new Capitol office, on a separate floor from her former leadership suite, features a framed picture of her with Gingrich - said politicians have to accept that voters will judge them on their private lives. "You're in the public eye and that will happen," Koch said. "I don't know whether it's fair." 
"I don't play gender politics. I don't think it serves to kind of rehash or try to come up with a 'why.'...People have brought that to my attention. People will decide on that themselves.
She says she wrestled with the decision to leave her post. "There have been a lot of people who told me that I shouldn't have even stepped down from majority leader," Koch said. 
Koch says she's done enough. "I have given a very public apology," she said.
And that's that! 

Look, if you believe that Amy Koch has been through enough, okay. I disagree, but you can make a somewhat reasonable case that her previous apology and stepping down from leadership is sufficient.

But what of Geoff Michel, who admitted to sitting on this information for two months before he did anything about it, and misled the public about it once it was revealed? Or, if you believe Cal Ludeman when he says there's nothing about having relationships with subordinates in the ethics rules, and this is therefore an "HR issue," doesn't that seem wrong to you? If a misleading tweet from the floor is a legitimate subject for an ethics reprimand, or a staffer's dismissive email to a constituent is grounds for an ethics complaint, how can this be a lesser issue?

There are ways to pursue this that don't involve filing an ethics complaint against Senator Koch. Two spring to mind. One, file an ethics complaint about the conduct of former Deputy Geoff Michel for his two months of inaction after being informed of a clearly inappropriate relationship between supervisor and subordinate, and misleading the public about when he knew. Two, seek to amend the Senate Rules to specify that relationships between supervisors and subordinates in the Legislature are, in fact, unethical.

The circular face punching squad that is the GOP Senate Caucus clearly haven't even yet resolved these issues internally. Their desire to move on is understandable, but this story hasn't even been fully told yet and changes are needed to ensure it doesn't happen again.

Follow me on Twitter @aaronklemz

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Minnesota Senate has still not found the perp

We're on the eve of the session, too!

Ken Avidor cartoon

Concentrate now, Amy, and tell me which one it was.

I . . . I'm not sure. I do remember that he had these weird chicken feet.

Since the fellow is probably still working in the Senate, we have to track him down.

No, I'm sorry; I just don't see him.

Amendment politics: how many and which ones?

The over/under on the number of constitutional amendments on Minnesota's 2012 ballot is 3.5. Do you want the over or the under?

We know that there will be one (assuming that the DFL effort to remove the marriage discrimination amendment from the ballot fails), but how many more are on the way? According to Rep. Steve Drazkowski, many more:
How many pages will be added in 2012?
"We have these conservative majorities in the House and Senate at the same time, and that has not existed for 39 years," said Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, who's pushing both the supermajority and "right to work" amendments. "So these are proposals where there hasn't been an opportunity to place them in front of Minnesotans for a very long time."
Republican members of the Legislature are governing as if they know they won't be in power for another 39 years. They have good reason to fear losing their grip on the Legislature, given the news from the last couple of months. So rather than trying to win their own elections, they've resolved to re-un-level the playing field to ensure their return to minority party status will be accompanied by more tools to block what they don't like. Or, in the case of the "right to work for less!" and Voter ID amendments, to change the electoral landscape in ways that favor the GOP.

One issue that is often lost when discussing the "amendment version" of legislation like Voter ID or the union-busting "right to work" laws is that the nature of constitutional amendments do not permit detail and nuance. The constitutional amendments will be short, declarative statements, and it will be up to the courts to interpret them. For example, the Voter ID bill that was vetoed by Governor Dayton wasn't simply a Voter ID bill. It would have radically reshaped Minnesota's electoral system, forced the use of provisional ballots, and contained dozens of provisions that cannot be contained in a constitutional ballot question. In several ways, the Voter ID amendment is preferable to the Voter ID legislation that Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer was carrying last session.

But back to our bet. How many amendments? I'm taking the over:
The "Bradlee Dean/Amy Koch Sanctity of Marriage Amendment" is already on the ballot, and it isn't going anywhere. 
The Voter ID crusade of the Minnesota GOP and their fellow traveler James O'Keefe III is very likely to be on the ballot. 
The scuttlebutt around the Capitol was that a "supermajority to raise taxes" amendment was the price of the budget deal for number of conservative first-term legislators. It will be there too. That's three.
I said I was taking the over, but I don't think that #4 will be a "right to work for less" amendment. The GOP is already leery of the amount of resources and energy that will be generated by the opposition to the anti-marriage amendment. Adding a union-busting provision would ensure that Minnesota's 2012 election would look like Wisconsin 2011.

I'm going with the Judicial Elections amendment (The "Impartial Justice Act") that has been pushed since 2005, after a Supreme Court decision changed the rules for judicial elections. This is a good idea that has bipartisan support. But in this case, the appeal of this amendment to someone focused on passing the GOP amendment agenda is that it prevents a campaign of "VOTE NO ON EVERYTHING!" Adding a reasonable amendment in the midst of the ideological ones complicates the ability to campaign against them. That's why I think it will finally make it onto the ballot in 2012 - for the wrong reasons, and in service of somebody's unrelated agenda.

Follow me on Twitter @aaronklemz

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Lars Leafblad exploring run for Greiling's seat? (UPDATED)

UPDATE: Mr. Leafblad has decided against running this year. I hope he'll consider it again in the future.

Original Post: 
"The most networked man in the Twin Cities," Lars Leafblad, appears to be exploring a run for the seat being vacated by retiring Rep. Mindy Greiling (DFL - 54B). Leafblad's been talking to other representatives about the possibility. He also lives in Roseville, in Greiling's district.

Leafblad would be a formidable candidate. He's an executive search consultant who publishes Pollen, an online newsletter that is widely read by Minnesota politicos. He's been a Humphrey Policy Fellow, and was formerly the Director of Development at the Humphrey School. 

I hope that Leafblad makes a run for the Legislature. The DFL needs more young, social media savvy folks in public office. 

Follow me on Twitter @aaronklemz

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Geoff Michel punches woman in face!

It was Amy Koch

Amy doesn't identify the perpetrator by name, but it's not hard to put two and two together. Here's part of what she said in an interview in the Strib:
"I have taken a punch to the face and can say, 'OK, that one hurt,' and move forward," she said. 
* * * 
Koch said she wants to set the record straight on one point: She said her former chief of staff confronted her about the relationship in late September. But, she said, she never heard about it from fellow senators, including her leadership team. So when they confronted her at the Minneapolis Club in mid-December, Koch said, it came as a complete surprise.

Somebody ought to check Michel's photos from that time to see if he has bruised knuckles.

The sunnel comeup tamarra!

Dave Senjem, forward-looking guy!

This is a neat piece of video, focusing as it does on Sen. Bakk's comments about what a bunch of scrubs the Senate Republican leadership is if it doesn't conduct an ethics investigation on L'Affaire Koch, Brodkorb, Michel, et al., and then pulling back to show Dave Senjem sitting right next to Bakk.

Senjem soft shoes off the stage saying, "We've put it all behind us!" All he needed was a straw boater and a walking stick.

If Sens. Senjem and Ingebritson (the chair of the Senate Ethics Committee) cannot summon the courage to look at their caucus' behavior in this, the DFL ought, by God, to help them.

Friday, January 20, 2012

You're right, Dave, it's not a conflict

It's simple corruption

Minnesota Public Radio's Tom Sheck and Catherine Richert had an extended piece on the MPR website today about some of the characters who had a hand in Tony Sutton's cookie jar. If you were one of Tony's vassals, life could indeed be very good.

One of  Boss Tony's machine members was Dave Thompson, now a state senator from Lakeville, elected in 2010. Apparently Dave was having trouble making ends meet in the run up to the election, because Boss Tony hired Dave to the tune of $70,000 to, according to MPR:
Thompson said his work included training candidates to deal with the media and writing opinion pieces. After his original contract ended, the party renewed it.
Among the promising candidates who Thompson was hired to help (the only one identified, by the way) was Lee Byberg, now a member of Congress representing the 7th District.

[hysterical laughter] Sorry.

There is pissing into the wind, boys and girls, and then there is putting money into a Byberg candidacy.

According to the biographical information on Thompson's state senate webpage, he's an attorney and "consultant." In this case, "consultant" means one of Tony's pals.

Clearly, putting Dave on retainer was just a stipend to help keep Dave in the game. And it worked, although Lee went down in flames. Can't have everything, I guess.

For his part, Thompson has absolutely no problem with the arrangement:
"I guess I never saw that as being any kind of conflict, and still don't to this day," Thompson said. "The one thing I would say is that my initial contract ended, and they asked that I stay on and continue to do work for them."
Perhaps, Dave, that's because you're a moral cretin. Tony didn't have a problem with it; that should have told you something right there, Dave.

In the upcoming session, boys and girls, ladies and gentlemen, and those of you Minnesota citizens who don't fit into one of the aforesaid categories, when Dave solemnly swears that we need voter ID -- or whatever -- I suggest you take it with a big grain of salt.

The MNGOP can't keep track of money

A Mike Dean double feature

Yesterday's post featured a video clip of Common Cause Executive Director Mike Dean talking about ALEC's fingerprints all over the Minnesota Capitol. Today, we have another clip from the same interview with Mike discussing the complaint that Common Cause filed with the Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board against the Republican Party of Minnesota for multiple campaign and disclosure violations.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

ALEC's fingerprints all over the Minnesota Capitol

Common Cause of Minnesota has been dusting for prints, and it has found ALEC's on more than fifty (I think around sixty, actually, at last count) bills offered in the Minnesota Legislature. ALEC is the American Legislative Exchange Council. The ALEC website calls ALEC an "individual membership" organization, but as you will hear in this video from Mike Dean, that is hardly the case.

You can read the Common Cause report here.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Protest SOPA and PIPA

The Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect Intellectual Property Act, (collectively know as the "Turn the First Amendment over to Private Parties Acts") have the support of Minnesota's two senators. The DMCA has already chilled free speech and taken a big bite out of fair use for political comment and parody.

The next time that Al Franken talks about his support of "net neutrality," I submit that the proper response from you is a hollow, derisive laugh.

If you follow the first link above, you'll see the President Obama has signaled some opposition to SOPA and PIPA. Help make him mean it, and do what you can to turn Franken - and even the glacial Klobuchar around.

I've also read some Twitter activity in the last day or so that suggests that the legislation is, for the moment, shelved.

This is the only post at the Stool today.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Number of the day

One million.
Opponents of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker have about 1 million signatures on a petition to force a recall election, according to a state Democratic Party news release.

If the state’s Government Accountability Board rules that at least 540,208 signatures are valid and any legal challenges fail, Wisconsin will hold the third gubernatorial ouster vote in U.S. history.

Update: To put this in perspective, the number of signatures needed to force a recall is 540,208, one-quarter of the 2,160,832 votes cast for Governor in the November 2010 General Election. If indeed there were one million signers, that represents 46% of those who voted in the 2010 election that gave Mr. Walker that nice house in Maple Bluff. As for who the Governor will face in the almost certain recall election, a very good analysis can be found here.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Six softballs from Dan

Dan Nye, who is from my native land -- Edina -- throws down the gauntlet in the Strib, asking six questions of supporters of gay marriage. "Why should I?" Those are word put in Nye's mouth by the writer of the headline, but they reflect pretty accurately the tenor of Nye's questions.

Although he doesn't use the "B" word, it is clear that Nye feels the sting of the label "bigot," and it is just so gosh darn unfair! After all, says Nye, history and culture are on my side! And religion, too! Don't forget religion!

So, like talking to a slow and truculent child, we'll take Nye's questions, one by one, and attempt to satisfy Nye. Not that it will; his mind is as closed as a factory after Mitt Romney came to town. He's just another bug-eyed culture warrior, like Katherine Kersten, who you will shortly come to appreciate he sounds a lot like.
1) Were our ancestors all dumb and bigoted because they thought homosexuality was wrong?
Well, Dan, sorry, but in a word: yes. Really, some of them were just ignorant, for which I don't blame them, because they all lived in a pre-scientific world. I appreciate that Nye doesn't want to live in a scientific world, but it has another name, too: reality.

There have been gays and lesbians from the beginning of time, usually scorned, beaten, and killed, to be sure, as Nye more or less points out, but that doesn't seem like a good reason to a lot of us to continue doing it.

Especially in light of what science tells us about the innateness of sexual orientation. Some people -- it isn't exactly clear what percentage, but it is clearly statistically significant -- are born gay; they don't choose it, and in spite of what, well, bug-eyed culture warriors like Nye, Nienstedt, Adkins, Pritchard, Michele and Marcus Bachmann, Kersten and the rest may think, you simply cannot pray it away.

Not that anybody ought to have to try.

(This is also Katherine Kersten's premiere argument: the wisdom of the ages relieves us of the responsibility to think.)
2) Don't our sexual organs exist for reproduction? How does homosexuality square with that?
Humankind seems to be doing pretty well in the reproduction department, even when you put gays and lesbians on the sidelines. And where do all these homosexuals keep coming from, Dan? Is this really a mystery to you?

Lots of heterosexual couples -- not to mention randy college students -- want to avoid reproduction like the plague. A lot of people we already call "married" have no desire, intention, or ability to have children. So seriously, Dan, what's the big deal?

Marriage is in large measure -- under any circumstance -- a mutual defense pact against the world. Is it so hard to imagine that a person would want someone else to share the world's travails with, even if he or she was gay or lesbian?

It is heartless and self-absorbed to think not.
3) It is no secret that the human sex drive is a lot stronger than is needed for reproduction. Do we just give into those desires, or do we try to control them? The ancients told us that controlling our physical desires is one of the things that distinguish us from the beasts. Sexual desires, if not controlled, easily lead us into trouble.
The ancients also told us that the sun revolved around the earth. And that women were merely empty vessels for a man's seed. (How people squared this with the fact that children sometimes looked like their mother is a mystery that died with the ancients.)

This is also the point where Nye admits his question #2 above, is silly.

According to Dan, a couple should have sex only when they're trying to have a child, otherwise they're mere oxen.
4) Most everyone still agrees that humans can take their sexuality to where it is morally wrong. Almost all will agree that, among other things, adultery, pedophilia and bestiality are wrong. Why should homosexuality, which was once included in this group, be moved to normal sexuality?
This is the question where Nye, who feels so sorry for himself for being called a bigot, becomes himself an odious defamer, unworthy of sympathy, much less respect. Personally, I don't even bother to pity him. Let's look at each of the things that Dan compares a gay or lesbian relationship to.

Adultery is the breach of a promise to be faithful to the person to whom you are married. It is an act of infidelity. Gay and lesbian partners would like to be able to promise fidelity to a partner in a socially-recognized way. Precisely the opposite of adultery.

Pedophilia is a sexual act of a person with someone over whom that person has control. A priest and an altar boy, for example; the latter being incapable of knowing, informed, legal, and free consent to the act. Control is the centerpiece here; it is entirely absent from a loving and consensual gay or lesbian relationship.

Bestiality? Come on, Dan. Comparing a relationship -- a sexual one, among other things -- between two loving human beings with a farm kid's sex with a sheep is beneath, well, even you. I guess, though, I shouldn't be surprised. It is also interesting to me that bestiality laws are the most prevalent in the Bible Belt.

And don't forget Dan, like the altar boy, the goat cannot consent!
5) Prevalent homosexuality has made its appearance in human history before and has never lasted. Why is it going to work this time when all the other appearances failed?
 Homosexuality has waxed and waned before. Why should we bother? Indeed, Dan, why should we bother to do anything? We should accept homosexuality because it is the thing to do to right a wrong that has existed for millenia.
6) Here's one religious question, directed not toward those practicing homosexuality but toward those who support others who do. Should we be trying to encourage others to repent of a wrong, or pat them on the back as they go down a road that could lead to perdition?
My favorite of them all; no doubt. Nye's question assumes a uniformity in religious belief that homosexuality is a sin. Well, Dan, you really need to get out more.

There are a lot of Christians, including moi, who do not believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, and who think that the writers of the Books of Moses (not Moses, incidentally) and the Apostle Paul, living in the pre-science world that they did, didn't get all their Godly dictation exactly straight. Well, so to speak.

Picking and choosing Scripture to enforce is the hallmark of a culture warrior like Nye. But it has nothing to do with authentic faith; it is perhaps its antithesis.

Threaten me and my gay friends with perdition all you like, Dan; you're just a windbag.

Common Cause's Mike Dean on redistricting

In an interview on January 13, 2012, Executive Director of Common Cause Mike Dean offered some remarks on the redistricting process and its current status in Minnesota.

Because of the timing of the Supreme Court's decision, Minnesota citizens will attend their caucuses early in February, picking delegates, but not knowing which Senate District convention the delegates will attend; that's certainly true in some of the more populous parts of the state.

As Mike relates in the video, Common Cause tried to file an amicus brief (that would include a proposed map based on the announced creteria) with the Court, but the request was denied after objection by the Republican Party of Minnesota. The rationale was that the public was invited to provide input earlier on what the decision-making criteria should be.

The only maps extant at that time were the ones that the Republican-controlled Legislature had prepared and which had been vetoed by the Governor. The result of the Court's ruling on the Common Cause request is that only activists and party insiders have the Court's ear on actual maps, as opposed to vague and aspirational considerations.

Mike charitably call the process "broken."

The video is eleven minutes long, but it's your chance to go to school on redistricting.

Look for more video from Mike's interview in coming days, focusing on campaign finance disclosure, political party financing and disclosure hijinks,  and the corrupting role of corporate lobbyists.

Update: Here's a video from Real Progress TV that also might be of interest to you

It features host Audrey Britton interviewing redistricting expert Peter Wattson and MN State Representative Melissa Hortman.

Friday, January 13, 2012

We can build this sucker for $300,000!

And we can buy the whole shebang from Menards!

Lost in the shuffle because of competing bid from Arden Hills, Minneapolis, and Shakopee, Bob Roscoe's masterpiece can be built for $301,000, according to a Menards supervisor.

Rocket Science

Frankly, I don't know why we're not moving on this.

Follow me on Twitter @aaronklemz

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Mittens is Gordon Gekko, only meaner

Welcome to the post-Citizens United world

A Super Pac supporting supporting Newt Gingrich has posted, well, let's let Dangerous Minds describe it:
This has to be the single meanest, most vicious political hit piece ever made. It’s a cold, cruel masterpiece of character assassination.
It's about Mitt Romney. Yes, "corporations are people" Mitt.

Here it is; it's long, but you won't be able to take your eyes off of it.

By the way, it also winds up being a tremendous indictment of capitalism as practiced in the United States. As the author at Dangerous Minds concludes:
Ultimately, though, I don’t think this film benefits Newt Gingrich in any way. It utterly destroys Mitt Romney, true, it absolutely skul****ks him and leaves him bleeding from his anus and shivering on the ground in a fetal position, but you’d have to be an absolute idiot if the only question you had when When Mitt Romney Came to Town is over was which one of the other Republicans you were going to vote for!

What this blog needs is some Saint Paul content

Saint Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, taking a run down the Red Bull Crashed Ice track earlier today. I understand he wiped out on the first mogul.

Update: Some of the first footage of the time trials can be viewed here.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Quote of the day

"It is ironic that many of the same people who zealously defend the state’s righteous duty to become intimately involved in a woman’s decision to get an abortion are also positively scandalized at the government’s gross overreaching in the area of health care."

District Court Judge Sam Sparks, TEXAS MEDICAL PROVIDERS PERFORMING ABORTION SERVICES, et al. v. DAVID LAKEY, M.D., Court File No. A-11-CA-486-SS, United States District Court, W.D. Texas, Austin Division, August 30, 2011, granting the preliminary injunction against the enforcement of the Texas statute requiring women seeking a legal medical procedure to undergo unnecessary and invasive procedures. In granting the preliminary injunction, Judge Sparks pointed specifically to the forced speech requirements of the law. The law requires doctors - under pain of losing their licenses to practice medicine - to give a description of the sonogram that follows a script designed to convince a woman to not proceed to terminate a pregnancy.

Judge Sparks' decision in that matter was overturned yesterday by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, in an opinions that characterized the concerns of the abortion providers as "trivial" and referred to the zygote inside a woman's body as "her child."

Pictured above is an illustration of precisely how much the Texas legislature and Governor Rick "time to end the nanny state" Perry want to keep governmental intrusions out of your life.

Update: MNO's post reminded me of this Bachmann quote, one of the favorites at Drinking Liberally in Minneapolis. S

Another marvel from the Stillwater bridge designers

James Kunstler collects architectural atrocities. Here's November 2011's pinup:

Notice how the crosswalk strides off with great purpose, on a seemingly important mission. When we arrive at the other side, however, the cruel trick is revealed.

A good metaphor for the proposed giant honking river crosser, don't you think?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Current Not Romney not a Tenther

From an E.J. Dionne commentary in the Strib:
It isn’t every day that political candidates are asked whether the 10th Amendment allows states to nullify federal laws, but that was precisely the question Rick Santorum faced at a forum here a few days ago organized by a libertarian-leaning group. 
To his credit, Santorum did not pander to the nullifier. “We had a Civil War about nullification,” Santorum said with a smile. “I’m not sure I want to go there.”
What are Tim Pawlenty, Michele Bachmann, Ron Paul (and probably other Republican presidential candidates), Tom Emmer, Dan Severson, Sue Jeffers, Craig Westover and Mitch Berg and the rest of the Tenthers going to think now?

Austerity Today: Food Inspections

Tuesday morning, the US Department of Agriculture announced the closure of hundreds of offices nationwide, including the Food Safety and Inspection Service office in Minneapolis. From Fox News:
Other parts of the announcement were a surprise. Andrew Lorenz, deputy district manager for the Food Safety and Inspection Service in Minneapolis, learned his office would be closed, along with those in Madison, Wis., and Lawrence, Kan. "They wiped out the entire Midwest," said Lorenz, whose office handles all federal inspections of meat, poultry and egg products in Minnesota, Montana, the Dakotas and Wyoming.
Despite assurances from the USDA that this was only a cut of office and management staff, crazy left-wing groups like the National Cattlemen's Beef Association are concerned:
Colin Woodall, a spokesman for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, which represents more than 147,000 ranchers nationwide, applauded the USDA for trying to save taxpayers' money in tight economic times but also expressed concern about food safety. "We can't say this is all great news because some offices will be closed," he said. "We have to make sure we have the process in place to keep food safe."
How much do you want to bet that the next time there's big E. coli outbreak that the industry blames the cut in the inspection service? I'll bet you $10,000.

Follow me on Twitter @aaronklemz

Monday, January 09, 2012

Panetta: Iran not developing a nuclear weapon

Well then, by all means, try to cripple Iran's economy and start a shooting war

Posted on the Democracy Now website:

Mitt: "I like being able to fire people..."

 We know, Mitt. We know.

By the way, I know this is out of context; you needn't explain that to me. But coming from the mouth of a guy whose advisors adamantly justified quoting President Obama out of context, it's sauce for the goose.

Follow me on Twitter @aaronklemz

Sunday, January 08, 2012

The Good Lord's stenographer

Come on, Pat, spill

God told Pat Robertson who will be elected president this fall. But Pat isn't saying who he was told that the winner would be, coy fellow that he is.

Pat did let it slip God told him that President Obama is a radical who will bring on America's economic collapse.

Pat's God has a mean streak all right. Pat believes that Hurricane Andrew was visited on Florida because it was too gay friendly, that September 11th was caused by, inter alia, the ACLU , feminists, abortionists, and the the gays and lesbians, that Hurricane Katrina was caused by abortionists, and that Katrina and September 11th could be related in some way. He also says that the earthquake in Haiti was God's punishment for Haiti making a pact with the devil.

How would you like to be this crackpot's co-host? We'll be back after these messages with a question: is it schizophrenia or just dementia that Pat suffers from? You'll want to stay tuned for that!

Thanks to Robert Ebert for the link.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Dear Jason Lewis,

Ron Paul, the candidate you champion, is a misogynist, a racist, a homophobe, and an anti-Semite. He has a coin dealer's understanding of monetary policy.

He named a child "Rand" after the author whose two turgid polemics that have accounted for more anti-social moral ciphers in the 20th century than another other books, perhaps save Mein Kampf.

He's as old as dirt.

And other than that, there isn't much to say for him.

Gun rights for dogs!

That's the advice for Michele Bachmann on coming out as top crazy. It's too late, I know, but imagine what a campaign appearance by Boomer carrying heat could have done.

Did The Media Treat Bachmann Unfairly Because She's An Insane Woman?

Thanks to Kevin Hoffman for the link.

I prefer it in the original German

The words of Archbishop John Nienstedt:
Ich appelliere an dieses Versprechen in diesem Bemühen um die Ehe zu verteidigen. Es sollte nicht geöffnet werden Zwietrachtwerden zu diesem Thema. Wenn keine persönlichen Vorbehaltehaben, will ich nicht, dass sie öffentlich genutzt werden. Wenn jemand im Gewissen glaubt, dass er nicht kooperieren, I will, dass er direkt an mich wenden und ich planen, sich persönlich zu reagieren.
I don't want any dissent on this marriage business, says the archbishop to the clergy and deacons in the archdiocese. If you have any misgivings, come to me and we'll have a little talk.

Ja, und zen ve vill zee vut happens!

If you want to read more about the archbishop's little homily warning about backsliding, go to the link above and read the English translation in a post by Dave Mindeman.

["I prefer it in the original German" was the phrase that the incomparable Molly Ivins used to signal her contempt for a speech by Pat Buchanan.]

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Sex, lies, and (a missing) video tape

Who needs Rosemary Woods with this bunch in charge?

THE SEX: at a press conference on Friday, December 16, 2011, then Deputy Majority Leader Geoff Michel, flanked by Sens. Chris Gerlach, David Hann, and (what should we make of this?) new Majority Leader David Senjem (elected in a caucus meeting on December 27th), called for the public stoning of recently deposed resigned Majority Leader Amy Koch over her "inappropriate relationship" with a male staffer. [And that, boys and girls, is a single complete sentence with only one independent clause.]

The four, shown here, led us to believe that this "inappropriate relationship" was fresh news to them, and they wanted to be completely open and transparent with the public about it. Right.

MPR photo
THE LIES: It wasn't a week before that whopper was unraveled. It turns out that the "inappropriate relationship" was known about for months, and the then Deputy admitted it.

And to complete the week of cheek, Sargent (Cal) Ludeman says that Michael Brodkorb -- Koch's paramour -- who was being fired by Sargent Ludeman at just about the same time the presser was occurring, was not fired for having an "inappropriate relationship" with Sen. Koch. Senate leadership just lacked the "will" to keep Brodkorb on, necessitating his immediate firing and cleaning out his desk at midnight.

THE MISSING VIDEOTAPE: It would be fun to go back and watch the presser on December 16th, wouldn't it? You know, at the Senate Media Services website. The one where they have videos of the press conference announcing that Minnesota cattle are tuberculosis free, or the presser where Lester Bagley moans about the changes in stadium financing plans.

Yes, boys and girls, that would be fun. But you can't do it.

Do you know why?

Because no video was taken. Apparently, nobody in the GOP caucus thought it would be newsworthy. (And you can be sure that the DFL caucus wasn't consulted.) Certainly not as newsworthy as tuberculosis-free cattle or the moaning Lester Bagley!

Really, though, Cal and Geoff knew it would be very newsworthy, and for a very long time. So they made sure there would be no tape. How did they do that? By letting the media services office of the Senate know about the presser ten minutes ahead of time, when, according to a spokesman there, the media crew was "out." (I've searched for video taken about the same time as the presser elsewhere on the Senate media website, but I can't find any.)

The same person said he didn't think, alas, that  there was any video anywhere extant on the presser. What a surprise.

Remember, this is an "inappropriate relationship" that the Senate caucus leadership knew about for months. But suddenly, there was the need for a hurry-up press conference on a moment's notice on a Friday afternoon.

Hmmmm. Curious, no?

There is one other curious thing I didn't know until I started looking into this. Do you know who the Senate media services people report to? Sergeant (At Arms of the Senate) Cal Ludeman.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Michele Bachmann quatrains

Bachmann's hysterial screed against President Obama in her goodbye speech this morning reminded me of the quatrains of hers we discovered a couple of years ago.
In the sulfurous year of 2010
If men do still exist by then,
The King of Kenya will, I warn ya, leave
A mark from Maine to California.

In his fetid wake I see
A country that looks less like me.
Where hate and prejudice once flourished,
The human spirit is sadly nourished.

So patriots keep thy powder dry,
The reasons I can’t tell you why, exactly,
But know that when at last I call,
You’ll have to come and shoot them all.

She hasn't changed a bit.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Nate Silver, you're good, but you're no Tony Angelo

I know Tony Angelo, Tony's a friend of mine. Tony is wizard with numbers.

Here's the rhetorical Tony yesterday:
Rick Santorum will win the Iowa Caucuses on Tuesday. 
But Tony, no poll has yet shown Santorum in the lead in Iowa and guru of election predictions Nate Silver, currently has him pegged at just a 21% chance to win, behind both Mitt Romney and Ron Paul, why would you be predicting a Santorum win?
Tony goes on his is post to explain his prediction.

CBS caucus results tonight after 11:00 PM show Romney and Santorum in a dead heat for first place at 25% each, with Ron Paul trailing at 21. Not a clear win for Santorum, at least so far, but close enough for government work Congratulations, Tony.

Michele was ours; we decided to share

And now, an ungrateful (and perhaps vengeful) nation sends her back, marked "Refused"

Thanks. Really.

God decided to step out for a sack of groceries or maybe was playing cribbage with Lucifer, but whatever it was, he (or she, of course!) didn't deliver the miracle that Michele Bachmann predicted in the Iowa caucuses.

This is why it is so much better to explain that what happened is an act of God, not what will happen. The Good Lord apparently has a sense of humor and will screw you up every time, just for fun.

It is only around 8:30 PM on caucus night, but Fox News projects Bachmann to finish last among the candidates who campaigned in Iowa. But she'll clobber John Huntsman.


This is what a jury looks like when it isn't buying the defendant's final argument

NYT photo (in the Strib)
The photo accompanies a story that reports that one of the reasons that the caucuses in Iowa are considered important is that voting for a candidate requires a "commitment of several hours." I think that's overblown, both in terms of the time and its meaning.

It appears that four in ten people intending to attend the caucuses have not finally made up their minds:
"It'll depend on my prayer and my gut," says Troll, 50, a stay-at-home mother of five from Grimes, Iowa.

Delaying a firm decision is not an uncommon action in Iowa. A Des Moines Register statewide survey released over the weekend found four in 10 likely caucusgoers who had a first choice for the Republican presidential nomination were open to changing their minds.
For at least some voters in Iowa, it seems that going to the caucus is a little like the cows coming home every evening to be milked -- it's a habit, and a civic one at that -- but it's not because they're willing to march over hill and dale and all along the dusty trail for the one true candidate who speaks to them.

Incidentally, the candidate who is making the young man in the photo throw up in his mouth -- just a little -- is Newt Gingrich.

Monday, January 02, 2012

God's short coattails

Just a couple of grafs from Andy Mannnix's story (at City Pages) on Meteor Michele and the Smoking Crater:
"I don't know how much God has to do to get the attention of the politicians," Bachmann told a crowd in Sarasota, Florida, perhaps the worst place in America to make light of a hurricane. "We've had an earthquake, we've had a hurricane. He said, 'Are you going to start listening to me here?' Listen to the American people, because the American people are roaring right now."

The implication was that the Lord was destroying Americans' homes up and down the East Coast because he was pissed about healthcare reform and the stimulus package. Bachmann's campaign later brushed off the quip as a joke, but it was at best ill-timed, coming just six months after the Japanese earthquakes that had left more than 15,000 dead.

"It shows sort of the twisted thinking that goes on in her mind," says Karl Bremer, co-author of the book The Madness of Michele Bachmann. "To me, it's like Pat Robertson blaming Katrina on the gay pride parade that weekend."
Andy is being charitable when he calls it "ill-timed." In bad taste, or poisonous are just a couple of the other terms that come to mind.

In addition to being a good telling of the arc of Bachmann's candidacy, it has a great Avidor graphic, too.

Update: In Bachmann's Bible, there is apparently a passage where God says, "When I give you lemons, make lemonade!" She's repeating line about God creating visiting Hurricane Irene on the U.S. as an example of her great sense of humor, rendering her the clear choice in the caucuses.

A Caucus Eve blessing

From Michele Bachmann!

Here are parts three and four of The Wit and Wisdom of Michele Bachmann. Part one is here, and two part two is here. This is a reprise of the videos originally posted this fall: quotes of Michele Bachmann "performed" by the Drinking Liberally Players of the Minneapolis - St. Paul Chapter.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

One more thing

As we bid goodbye to the mess that was the Minnesota Republican Party's 2011, we here at the Stool want to point out one more silver lining in the cloud that will follow the party into 2012.

Remember that Federal Election Commission fine (actually it was part of a conciliation agreement, but let's not quibble) of $170,000 that is still hanging over the party? Remember the Matter Under Review 5926 that prompted it? The accounting mess that we've spoken about frequently here at the Stool? Remember that it dealt with the problems in the Party's record keeping back in 2006-2008?

It only dealt with the problems in 2006-2008.

Now, it would be irresponsible to speculate what treasures are buried in the stinking pile that is the Minnesota GOP's past three years of record keeping, so we won't. But Happy New Year, Chairman Shortridge and Treasurer Sturrock.*

*Treasuer Sturrock, of course, has already submitted his resignation. No word yet as to possible successors.

Michele Bachmann is not Christian enough!

The Cross and the Cuckoo

This man will tell you why:

Go to Dump Michele Bachmann to see the video of him telling you how she's deficient in the Christian department.

The woman who killed "Happy New Year!"

The audacity of hope

Hahahahahah. Didn't somebody write a book with that title?

She didn't write the book, but here are a couple of opening grafs of her column on New Year's Day about how goldarn lucky we are to have the thing called hope:
We Americans are fortunate that hope is built into the architecture of the cultural world we inhabit. It's an element of the precious patrimony we received from Western Europe -- the happy marriage of Athens and Jerusalem.

As inheritors of the Western cultural tradition, we Americans do not believe that the future is foreordained, or that human beings are the helpless playthings of the gods. We do not conceive of history as a giant wheel, condemning us to endlessly repeat the past. We have a different idea: that hope -- and human resolve, ingenuity, self-discipline and self-sacrifice -- can broaden and enrich our world, improving our lives and those of our children.
We believe that Oriental cultures do not value human life that way we do, and we believe that human kind is on a sure path to history's conclusion! Why, Francis Fukuyama said we've already done it! Western civilization -- and Christianity, of course -- are already the winners! I guess he had to take it back, but he definitely is on to something! We're on the path to the world's conclusion, too, I guess. It just depends on how much stock you put in the Book of Revelation!

As the spawn of a European man (probably God) and a middle eastern woman (Mary), we really are lucky (and to repeat, just a little):
As inheritors of the Western cultural tradition, we Americans do not believe that the future is foreordained, or that human beings are the helpless playthings of the gods. We do not conceive of history as a giant wheel, condemning us to endlessly repeat the past.
Yes, we have only One True God to tell us the score; just ask a Calvinist, or even your garden-variety fundie. And we're not condemned to repeat our history; we're just condemned to live the lives that ancient busybodys wrote for us, so it just seems that way.

I've picked out the best stuff in the column for you to read, boys and girls. The rest descends into even greater incoherence and cultural viciousness. I can hardly wait for Easter.