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Thursday, August 31, 2006

Creeping despotism

I hate neighborhood associations, and articles like this don't make me feel any better about them. What, exactly, would be wrong with having "a geo-dome or a pickle-green house next to you"? Those might be interesting neighbors, people you would like to hang out with, instead of neighbors that leave their garages in the morning and re-enter their garages at night and have nothing to do with the world around them.

People apparently like them because "the neighborhood looks new all the time." When, exactly, did your home become a museum and not, you know, the place where you live? Where things happen, where you meet interesting people who have domes or work on cars outside. You see a neighbor working on a car and you get the urge to talk to him, maybe learn a thing or two about car repair, or just pitch in. But not in places with neighborhood associations. No, living might reduce property values.

"Sometimes people are better off not entering if they are anti-establishment or anti-government." Yeah, I guess that would be me.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Katherine Kersten's Korner

Another easy one this week, this one about the St. Paul Cathedral. She may as well be talking about raspberry cultivation during the Mongolian Khanate for all I care about the subject matter.

I get the feeling she is saving up her kraziness for closer to the election.

Keith Ellison

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the City Pages' cover story on DFL-endorsed candidate for the Fifth CD Keith Ellison. It talks a lot about the attacks that have been leveled at him and gives him a bit of a chance to respond and get his own message out. It's not a bad article, and it gives another point of view in contrast to all of the negativity.


Please, let them go somewhere else.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

John Kline is losing it

For the life of me I can't understand what John Kline is trying to accomplish. The only reasonable explanation, the only possibility that makes any sense at all, is that his polling shows that he is in serious trouble. How else can you explain yet another attack on one of Colleen Rowley's staff people? Kline keeps on hitting this guy with all sorts of ridiculous smears? "Hollywood liberal"? This is the guy who was given the responsibility to carry the nuclear football?

John Kline is the Republican incumbent in a Republican-leaning district, facing an opponent who quite frankly has had her miscues as a candidate. All he has to do is look good and take the high road. The fact that he is going so relentlessly negative, and against such stupid targets, means that something is very, very wrong in his campaign. He shouldn't be this desperate in August, but for some reason he is.

The Interweb for Politicians 101

If you are going to post flattering comments about yourself on the web, don't use a fake name.

I heartily encourage politicians to use web forums and message boards to talk with their constituents. I've been on several boards where local elected officials do make appearances and it is great; it's one of the truly beneficial things about the internet. But they do it under their own names so everybody knows it. A fake name? Not terribly smart.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Fun with searches!

Welcome back to another edition of "Fun with searches", where I examine my logs to see how people are getting here.

Today I noticed what has to be one of my all-time favorite search terms leading to this blog: "If you accuse someone you care about of lying and you were wrong". Yes, I'm proud #2 on that list.

I would really like to know the story behind that search!

Latest poll results

Apparently there's a new Wall Street Journal/Zogby poll out for Minnesota, and they show both Hatch and Klobuchar up. Klobuchar is up by something like seven points, which sounds right to me; unless something drastic happens, she's winning this thing. The governor's race results show that this one really will come down to the wire. I can't make any predictions on this one.

Katherine Kersten's Korner

Finally, we catch a break. No krazy politics in this week's kolumn. Just talk about how important it is for families to spend time together. Well, duh.

Wingnuttia Level: 0 (safe for the reality-based community)

I'll be nice and keep my comments about how Kersten and those who think like her are doing all they can to prevent families from spending time together.

Saturday, August 26, 2006


One sentence in this story about college students buying houses instead of renting made me laugh:

"They see their neighborhoods changing and they don't like it."

The neighborhoods around St. Thomas: full of the finest curmudgeons in the state!

Friday, August 25, 2006

Winners and losers

A big win for Northstar.

Another big win for Northwest. The flight attendants can't be too happy about this one, though.

I haven't been listening to the debates at the State Fair because, well, I can't listen to debates during the day. From what I have heard and read, though, it's not like there was anything Earth-shattering. I think I know who I am voting for.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Katherine Kersten's Korner

Dammit. I thought she had finally disappeared, but no. She has to come back and ruin my nice night. After weeks of absence, she has a new kolumn up, and this time she's bashing Tim Pawlenty. Why? Well, you know why: he is sounding a bit too liberal for her tastes!

Wingnuttia Level: 5 (Picking and choosing of facts ahead)

Kersten and I agree on one thing: what Pawlenty is saying these days sounds a lot like election-year politicking. He may have said "The era of small government is over," but I don't think he's going to start governing like a rational person. He is still Timmeh, after all. He has a silver tongue (figuratively, not literally like Jebediah Springfield). But that doesn't mean we should trust him.

So Pawlenty's doubtful conversion aside, what's wrong with what he is saying? Well, according to Kersten, he was elected "because of his innovative vision of limited, accountable government." As if taking health care coverage away from thousands of people is "innovative," but whatever. Now, though, he sounds like Mike Hatch, that liberal ne'er-do-well. Heaven forfend!

See, for unthinking conservatives like Kersten, to doubt the free market one bit is heresy. So is doubting the never-questioned premise that government is always "the greatest concentration of power we face." No, government is always the problem, and the free market can do no wrong. And what happens when the government gives special tax cuts to oil companies and they have record profits? Err, umm....

Kersten picks a fight with ethanol, and to tell the truth, it's not the best thing to be defending. However, her argument that "ethanol is simply not cost-effective unless government props it up in a host of ways" shows the typical thinking of people like her: that the marketplace is always, automatically, guaranteed to be the best arbiter of value.

The problem with this, though, is that the marketplace ignores a lot of externalities (like the environment), and it also has a tendency to be incredibly short-sighted. Perhaps alternative fuels aren't cost-effective right now. But our oil supply is running out, and supply is so tight that wild price swings are becoming commonplace. At some point in the future oil won't be a cost-effective energy source, but waiting until the very day that alternative fuels become better from a pure market standpoint will be too late. We need the infrastructure in place beforehand, because a) we can't predict when it will be, and b) the transition may come so suddenly that to be caught flat-footed may lead to incredible economic problems. However, the short-term market can't deal with these issues. That's why the government sometimes needs to step in.

Or take that market that will never operate according to the wishes of the ivory-tower laissez-faire economists: health care. We have ample evidence that the health care market will not work. When it comes to cars, if you can't afford a BMW you buy a Kia and life goes on. When it comes to restaurants, if you can't afford La Belle Vie you go to McDonald's and life goes on. But few people are willing to, well, die because they can't afford the treatment they need. No matter how many times you patiently explain this to conservatives, though, they refuse to see it. Even if you draw pictures and use one-syllable words, they still think that all of our health care woes will be solved by the market! Brilliant!

I really have to wonder about people who literally worship at the altar of the Free Market, believing that it can never be wrong. The free market works for just about everything, but there are times when it doesn't. Pretending that these situations don't exist is not the mark of maturity, but to tell you the truth, conservatives aren't much for intelligence and maturity. These people also believe that sex doesn't exist, for example, and that WMDs in Iraq do. But I digress.

So no, I don't believe that Pawlenty has truly seen the light. But Kersten's attacks on him just show the ridiculousness of her own beliefs.

Air America Minnesota

I don't listen to Air America. I am not interested. Hearing that Jane Robert wants Air America Minnesota to be an arm of the DFL party certainly isn't going to make me want to listen.


I've talked a lot about how evil people are who opposed the HPV vaccine for girls. Since the City Pages has an article on the subject today, that gives me the chance to talk some more.

Seriously, people who oppose this are scum. News flash: 11- and 12-year old girls are going to know about sex. Responsible parents are going to ensure that their kids get information about sex from them, and that their relationship is open and trusting enough so that their kids feel comfortable talking to parents about sex. Crappy parents pretend that sex doesn't exist and let their kids get information from friends, the media, and other unassailable fonts of factual information.

You would also have to be a pretty crappy parent to raise a kid that though this vaccine was a green light for sex. Responsible parents, once again, teach their kids about the risks of sex, about pregnancy, about STDs, about potential psychological and relationship damage. Not getting cancer 40 years from now should not carry enough weight to tip the scales.

But good parenting is a lot harder and takes a lot more work that crappy parenting, so I guess that's why there are crappy parents in the world. It's a lot easier to be against the HPV vaccine and pretend that sex won't happen to their kids. That's great, really.

This is what it boils down to: certain parents wish to make a fleeting point to their 12-year old daughter in a way that makes it more likely that she will die from cancer when she is older.

Did I mention that this is evil?

It's the person

Longtime contributor Anonymous has this to say about my reticence to see politicians like Paul Wellstone or Becky Lourey in executive positions:

If you support her politics, or Wellstone's for that matter, why shouldn't people like that be running the Government. We both know the Republicans run their ultra-right wingers for Executive positions. If you think a candidate can lead and has good politics, that's what we need in Executives.
Because, to put it simply, I'm voting for a person, not a set of politics. Given the choice between a great character with so-so politics, and a questionable character with perfect politics, I will choose the former every time. So will most voters. That's something that a lot of Democrats don't seem to get.

That's certainly not to say that Lourey or Wellstone have bad characters; far from it. But I think they would be far less effective in an executive position, where compromise and management and building coalitions is what you have to do. There is nothing wrong with being ill-suited for the executive. Wellstone was perfectly suited for his role as a senator, and I would vote for him forever. If I lived in Lourey's district I would vote for her for senator no problem. Being governor requires a different set of skills, though, and they have nothing to do with a candidate's politics.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


Why does the state still charge a "convenience fee" for getting your license tabs online? Surely it costs the state less to process an online transaction than it does to process my mailed-in check?

Gil Gutknecht will stay on ballot

The longshot lawsuit to get Gil Gutknecht off of the ballot has failed. This is a good thing. It will be much more fun to see him lose to Tim Walz in a real election than it would be to see him disqualified on a technicality.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Becky Lourey

Of course Becky Lourey has something very important to say about the war, and of course she has every right to express her opinion on it. I agree with her opinion. To me, that's not the issue. The issue is making the Iraq War the centerpiece of a campaign for governor. It's like somebody running for mayor and making abortion their number one issue, or a person running for governor and basing their campaign around the belief that they need a stop sign at the corner in their neighborhood. It's just the wrong office to be highlighting that issue.

But then again, I don't understand Becky Lourey much anyway. She has run for governor twice. She is running in the primary, where she is guaranteed to lose. I have few problems with her policies, but somebody like her is going to have a hard time getting elected governor. I always thought that the best place for people who are very liberal, the Loureys and the Paul Wellstones of the world, is in the legislature. That's where their policy expertise has the most impact. I probably wouldn't have supported Paul had he run for governor. Congress or our state legislature needs a couple Wellstones, but I don't think the government should be run by them.

Follow the money: Ember Reichgott Junge

The big story today is that lots of people who are donating to Ember Reichgott Junge's campaign are Republicans. Are they doing so with tacit approval of Republican higher-ups? Is Ember the Joe Lieberman of Minnesota?

Who knows? But this just adds to the long list of reasons why I don't like her. There was the "DFL" on her billboard issue, when she knows better. There was the faux "police endorsement" ,when she knows better. Ember strikes me as somebody who wants office in the worst way, and will do anything to get it...just like Joe Lieberman!

Anyway, this isn't impressing me any.

Friday, August 18, 2006


Earth to Becky Lourey: the governor did not invade Iraq. If you are interested in talking about the war, run for Congress.

I'm not interested in her views on Iraq. It's not relevant.

Thursday, August 17, 2006


Is anybody else as apathetic about Minnesota campaigns as I am right now? For some reason, it's just not interesting at all, any of it.

Gil Gutknecht's Wikipedia faux pas

Everybody knows you don't edit your own entry. For shame, Gil!

Erasing the past: it seems to be the Republican campaign strategy this year. I wonder why? Too bad that tactic doesn't work so well in an age of bloggers, Lexis Nexis, and web archives that stick around forever.

Irrelevant slime: it's the Republican way!

John Kline is so scared of Coleen Rowley these days, he is sliming her unpaid volunteers. Not her issues. Not her personality. Not even her staff people. Volunteers.

Either John Kline's staff has a collective I.Q. of 50 (to say nothing of their morals), or else this race is much, much closer than people think. There is no other explanations for going negative on a volunteer.

Katherine Kersten's Korner

And still no kolumn. I appreciate the mental reprieve.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Transportation amendment

Yes, the language does suck. Hopefully, the voters of the state will understand it. Is that too much to ask? We'll see.

Katherine Kersten's Korner

Once again, no kolumn. Did she quit? Or is she spending a bit too much time with Jason Lewis?

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Mr. T. Endorsed

It's time for political lawn signs again, and as I was walking around this afternoon I saw one of Mike Erlandson's signs. Since he doesn't have the DFL endorsement, he can't put "DFL Endorsed" on the sign. He doesn't even use the old standby "Labor Endorsed", used so often by candidates without the party nod because it's easy to find at least one union to endorse you. No, he puts "Rep. Sabo Endorsed" on the bottom.

It makes me laugh. I mean, it's pretty obvious that Sabo wants Erlandson to win: that was obvious from the beginning when Sabo delayed his retirement announcement to prevent other candidates from campaigning. Putting "Rep. Sabo Endorsed" on your sign doesn't make you look any more of a man independent of the big dog, Mike. In fact, it's kind of pathetic.

But then it got me thinking. Endorsements from random people are used far too seldom in political campaigns, and they are almost never used on signs. This is a tragedy. So I am saying that I will vote for whoever a) gets Mr. T.'s endorsement, and b) puts it on their sign. Because Mr. T. is one person you don't want to be messing with. When he endorses somebody, you know it's gold, as gold as the many chains around his neck.

So let's see it, candidates!

Steve Kelley endorsed for AG

So Steve Kelley has been endorsed for Attorney General. Some people are not happy.

It was the central committee's choice to endorse or not. It's pretty ridiculous to say this was decided by "insiders"; first, the DFL Central Committee is pathetically huge, more than just a dozen insiders. Second, it is open to anybody who cares enough to attend precinct caucuses and then run for something. The DFL party apparatus is not made up of wealthy contributors who buy candidates. It is made up of people with enough free time to get seriously involved.

I don't fault Steve Kelley for seeking the endorsement. I don't think he was obligated to stop just because Bill Luther and Lori Swanson didn't show up. And since there is a primary, people are free to vote for whomever they want. Personally, I think Bill Luther is a much poorer choice, and I know very little about Lori Swanson at this point. So we will see what happens.

Goofy lawsuit

I don't know what to make of this. Sounds like a longshot to me.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Kennedy and Republicans left flailing...

Republicans around the country are petrified today, and for good reason. However, since they find themselves in a position that they haven't been in some time, they aren't doing a good job handling things. In fact, they just seem to be running around like chickens with their heads cut off, completely paralyzed by their own fear. There is a meltdown occurring before our very eyes.

I am talking about the Ned Lamont victory over Joe Lieberman in Connecticut, and specifically, about Mark Kennedy's sudden embracement of Lieberman(!) Yes, Republican Mark Kennedy suddenly has the urge to comment on another party's primary in another state, to support the loser. Does that mean he supports Cynthia McKinney? Or defeated Joe Schwarz in Michigan, who is an actual Republican? Will Kennedy weigh in on the primary battle that fellow Republican Lincoln Chafee is involved with in Rhode Island? Maybe some enterprising Minnesota media figures can ask Kennedy about his sudden interest in the Connecticut primary to the exclusion of all others.

Not wanting to be left out, state Republican Chair Ron Carey talks about "far-left" Ned Lamont and "defeatocrats". Joe Lieberman, suddenly embraced by Republicans all over the country like Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, and Mark Kennedy, has become the "moderate Democrat" that Republicans have always fought hard to support. Right? Right?

It's laughable. Why? Because the Republicans desperately need to paint the Lamont victory as something bizarre, something extraordinary, something unbelievable. That's why they are now furiously trying to paint Lamont as "far-left" and Lieberman as "moderate". Because the alternative, that Lamont won because voters are fed up with Bush and the politicians that enable him, means that Republicans are in dire straits this November. Any realization on the part of voters that they actually can punish Bush and his extremist pals in Congress by voting them out means that they will do just that, and put many Republicans on the unemployment line.

In the past, trying to paint Democrats as "far-left" has worked, more so because Democrats refused to fight back. But this time it is doomed to failure. Ned Lamont isn't "far-left", and I doubt there is a single Republican out there that can tell you one issue that puts Lamont far to the left of people like Paul Wellstone. Lamont, a wealthy millionaire making his first run for statewide office, was supported by many people for two things: he is against the war in Iraq, like 60 percent of Americans, and he opposes President Bush, like more than 60 percent of Americans. Painting somebody as "far-left" because they hold positions that the majority of voters agree with is not going to work. I think Republicans know this; that's why they are becoming even more ridiculous by pulling out things like "defeatocrats" and other childish nonsense.

Lieberman is not a moderate Democrat. Lately, he has been a member of the ruling party in Congress, the Bush Party. Kennedy is also a proud member of the Bush Party. The Bush Party controls Congress, controls the Presidency, and is trying hard to take over the judiciary as well. Funny thing is, though, that Americans are getting fed up with this one-party control and the lies, corruption, sleaze, and death that has come with. For the first time in a while, they are seeing that they can make a difference, and that's very bad news for the Bush Party.

Since both Kennedy and Lieberman are members of the Bush Party, I guess it is only natural for Kennedy to try and support Lieberman. But it is only a reflex, because it makes no political sense at all. Lieberman lost because he became a member of the Bush Party. Kennedy is currently behind Amy Klobuchar by double digits because he too is a member of the Bush Party. So embracing Lieberman isn't going to get him anything; in fact, it will just serve to remind voters even more that they are all party of the same group that has gotten us stuck in a pointless war in Iraq that is killing several Americans a day, along with dozens of Iraqis. And while we are there, our troops sitting ducks in a blossoming civil war, we are paying less attention to the real terrorists. I'm pretty sure none of the people arrested today in the U.K. are Iraqi.

Lieberman is a drowning man, the deeds of the Bush Party tied firmly around his neck. He is going down, and Kennedy's first instinct is not to let go, but to grab on to this person, and get sucked down to. This makes sense?

No, it does not. It doesn't make sense because Republicans can no longer think clearly. They are screwed, and they know it. Their only hope is to convince 60 percent of Americans that they themselves are extremists who hate freedom. That's the Republican campaign strategy in a nutshell. People are sick of the Bush Party, but republicans are going to tell everybody that doesn't like the Bush Party that they are terrorist-lovers.

Good luck with that.

No Kersten?

No kolumn today? What gives?

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

DFL AG endorsement

So Bill Luther and Lori Swanson aren't going up to Sauk Rapids to the DFL Central Committee meeting where they will try to make an endorsement for Attorney General. Steve Kelley will be there. Some people don't want an endorsement.

I honestly don't care what happens. There will be a primary, so it's not like an endorsement will end that. I can certainly see why some people think an endorsement at this stage is a bit pointless.


Katherine Kersten will write a kolumn about how Joe Lieberman's defeat in Connecticut at the hands of Ned Lamont shows that the Democrats have been taken over by left-wing crazies. She will fail to cite one single piece of evidence demonstrating that Lamont is indeed at the far left of the party, except for his belief that the U.S. needs to get out of Iraq, a belief shared by the majority of people in this country.

She will try to make this local by interviewing some local right-wing blowhard about the race.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Hatch's press release

The Legislative Auditor said that Hatch was wrong to put his running mate's name on a press release on Attorney General letterhead. Hatch says it was okay, but I am going to have to agree with Jim Nobles here. Putting a political press release on AG letterhead was over the line. All Hatch had to do was put it on his campaign letterhead and it would have been just fine. It's not hard to do.

I won't dignify State Republican Chair Ron Carey's other baseless accusations with a response. If he has proof that something illegal is happening, let's see it.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Katherine Kersten's Korner

Today's kolumn is about the battle in Lebanon. Kersten talks with Stephen Silberfarb, director of the Jewish Community Relations Council. And that pretty much tells you all you need to know about the point of view in this kolumn. Not that there is anything wrong with that; it's her kolumn, she decides whom to interview.

Wingnuttia Level: N/A (Not going to touch this)

This is a blog about Minnesota politics, not about what is going on in the Middle East. Not only that, but just about everybody has an opinion on this conflict, and it is adding up to much more heat than light. I'm not an expert on this, and discussions quickly degrade to accusations of anti-Semitism or being a tool for Israel, depending on what you say.

I will say this. Hezbollah is a terrorist organization in that it targets civilians in Israel indiscriminately, and terrorist organizations need to be dismantled. I also fail to see how destroying all of the infrastructure in a democratic Lebanon is going to create a Middle East with more stability.

If I had any answers to this conflict, I would have shared them with the right people by now.

Remedial classes

This is pathetic. There is so much wrong in this story about how unprepared high school graduates are for college it's depressing. One student "took hard classes as a high school junior but spent much of her senior year in an 'on-job training' class that included working as a department store clerk." What?? This crap exists? That's not school, that's called "being an effective dropout." How can schools rationalize letting a student simply work as a senior instead of requiring real classes?

Almost half of high school graduates tested at the "adult basic" level in math, which means dealing with whole numbers and fractions -- in other words, junior high stuff. Gee, I wonder if that has anything to do with the apparent fact that math isn't required when you are a senior?

When shown student essays and asked whether they were college material, five out of six high school teachers said yes. No college instructors said yes. Why? Because the standards for high school teachers were based on the state's basic skills writing test, which only requires a few paragraphs that have a beginning, middle, and end. Don't set the bar too high there!

All schools should require math every year. Science every year. English every year. Social studies every year. At least two years of a foreign language, preferably more. Nobody should be able to go through their senior year or any other year of high school without taking a math class, a science class, an English class, and some kind of social studies class. The thought that we are giving diplomas to people who haven't done these things is disgusting. We aren't preparing students for the real world when we allow schools to have disturbingly low expectations.


Talk about a stupid law. I understand the danger in these situations, but how about making it illegal to use your position of power to coerce sex, instead of just banning all sex because it must be all bad?

The Hatch campaign

The Star Tribune has an article on the Hatch campaign and how he is saving his money for the stretch run. This isn't a terribly bad idea. He also seems to have contempt for the typical DFL "expert" consultants who tell candidates how to waste their money. I agree with this wholeheartedly. These people care only about getting paid, not winning elections or changing the terms of the debate. What is more effective, "earth tones" Al Gore or "An Inconvenient Truth" passionate Al Gore?

If I could do one thing, it would be to put people like Bob Shrum out on the street, and get people like Bill Hillsman involved instead.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

The endorsement process

I am not against changing the endorsement process. I have been around DFL activists for a long time, and to be quite honest, a good number of them really put me off. They certainly are not representative of the DFL party as a whole, to say nothing about the electorate itself. Allowing the most extreme elements of the party (and not just extreme in terms of political ideology, but in terms of everything) probably isn't the best way to choose the best, most representative, most electable candidates. Sometimes the party does all right, like I think they did with Klobuchar. Sometimes they don't, like they did with Roger Moe, John Marty, Ember Reichgott-Junge, Buck Humphrey, and countless other endorsed candidates that have lost in the past, sometimes not even getting past the primary.

One possible solution would be to allow multiple endorsements. However, if this were to be the case, I don't think lowering the threshold from 60% would be a good idea. Democrats tend to believe "everybody's a winner!" and "every idea is a good one!" which is why conventions typically have over a hundred platform resolutions to vote on, most of which are utterly pointless and serve no other purpose than mental masturbation. Since there seem to be very few people like myself who actually enjoy voting "no" on resolutions and candidates, I think that if you could vote to endorse any number of candidates for an office and the threshold were low, like 25%, then everybody who showed up would get endorsed, making it completely worthless. On the other hand, if convention attendees could vote for any number of candidates, and the threshold were 70 or 75%, then whoever was endorsed would show that they were acceptable to a large majority of attendees, and that would mean something.

This has been talked about in the past, and nothing serious has come about. It is true that the "old guard" of the party would lose a lot from a proposal like this, and they don't want to give up the power. It's too bad, really.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Talk amongst yourselves

Is there something wrong with the party endorsement system? Is there a better alternative? Discuss.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Cut-and-run Kennedy

Mark Kennedy's campaign strategy is to flee from President Bush and the Republican Party. Too bad that nobody is going to let him get away with it. The Star Tribune dissects Kennedy's laughable claims at being "independent."

Co-authoring bills with Democrats, which is what Kennedy seems to think proves his bipartisan bona fides, is ridiculous. That stuff does not matter. If Kennedy introduced a bill making pistachio the official U.S. National Ice Cream Flavor, and got some Democrat to sign on as a co-author, does that make him bipartisan? No, the things that count are little issues like how Kennedy voted for Bush's horrible budget.

Kennedy's responses are bizarre. He says that Klobuchar shouldn't be considered to be a prosecutor, because she only runs the Hennepin County Attorney's office, as if that isn't a big deal. That's like arguing that a doctor who isn't cutting people open isn't a doctor. He says that Klobuchar should "specify how she differs from Howard Dean, Hillary Clinton and other top Democrats." Hey Mark, they are called issues; learn to listen to them when they come out of her mouth. He disparages the CQ's partisanship index, the index that all experts say is the best measure of partisanship out there. Finally, he accused the Star Tribune of "cherry-picking" facts to make him look partisan, like the fact that he votes with Republicans more than 90 percent of the time. Yes, those pesky out-of-context facts.

I guess if Kennedy keeps telling us how many pistachio ice cream bills he has co-authored with Democrats, it will be all right.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Katherine Kersten's Korner

Oh dear. The recent news that a federal judge tossed out a law that would fine kids for attempting to purchase or rent video games rated "M" or "AO" has put Kersten into a tizzy. A fact-free, ranting, raving, sky-is-green conservative tizzy, as usual.

Wingnuttia Level: 10 (She's gonna blow!)

She starts out by describing a game called "Manhunt". This certainly sounds like a game that kids should not be playing, and it is rated "M" according to her. I wonder what kind of adult would find this entertaining, but that's really none of my business. I also wonder what kind of adult finds Kersten's kolumns to be entertaining as well, and she still has a job, so what can I say? Different strokes and all that. Personally, I'm not surprised that there are some pretty odd video games out there. I'm more surprised that Tom Cruise and Mel Gibson still find work, but that's a totally different subject.

What do these games teach? "That degrading and hurting other human beings can be a thrill," according to Kersten. Or, in other words, they teach the same lessons that you learn from listening to Rush Limbaugh tell African-American callers to his show to "take the bone out of their nose" and other such pleasantries. Or listening to Michael Savage, Hugh Hewitt, Ann Coulter, etc.

Kersten is apoplectic that Judge James Rosenbaum tossed this law out, a law that is just a tool for helping parents according to her. She doesn't get that he found no proof that violent video games harm children. Since she is a conservative, I assume she is unfamiliar with the ideas of "science", "empiricism", or "peer review". The problem is that there aren't any rigorous scientific studies on the effects of games on children. Without these studies, one can't draw conclusions about whether this prior restraint on free speech is justified. It doesn't matter that the state's attorneys said the games were "utterly repulsive and demented." They aren't scientists, they aren't psychologists. Saying something and proving it are two different things. Kersten doesn't seem to get that: perhaps I can sell her my tiger-repelling rock. It obviously works since you haven't seen any tigers roaming loose around the Twin Cities lately, have you? I say it works!

Proving she has been spending too much time around Joe Soucheray, she appeals to "common sense". Common sense is not a basis for restricting rights afforded to us in the First Amendment to the Constitution. Common sense is anything but common. If it became "common sense" that Kersten's kolumns were sorely lacking in factual evidence and were damaging to the community, would she accept a restriction on publishing them?

Kersten then decries the fact that Judge Rosenbaum rejected the argument that the law helps foster children's "moral and ethical development". Really? I'm quite shocked that a conservative, those self-reliant people, would argue that the government can, nay, should, pass laws that foster somebody's idea of what "moral and ethical development" should be. Sounds like Kersten is looking for an excuse not to be a good parent, and for the government to take over the job. How does this square with the conservative ideology?

Yes, it's those evil judges who insist on having good, empirical reasons for doing things that are the root of all the problems in the world. It has nothing to do with anything else. Parents are perfect; they are just stymied by these judges. That has to be it!

I'm not a parent, so maybe these ideas are just plain crazy. But lacking a law that bans children from buying these games, I have several ideas that could help foster ethical and moral development in kids. I don't know if Kersten has any children of an impressionable age; if so, perhaps she should read this:

1. Don't let your children buy these games. You don't need a state law to prevent your child from doing something.
2. Don't let your children have a video game systems in their rooms; keep video game systems out in the open where you can see what they are playing (this goes double for computers; hell, kids don't need TVs in their rooms).
3. If you children go to a friend's house to play games, talk with the friend's parents to see what they are playing, if they have similar rules, if they are supervised, etc. If they are not as stringent as you like, don't let your children go over there.
4. Do spend lots of time with your children in non-video game activities, teaching that there are lots of fun things to do besides sit in front of a TV.
5. Do talk with your children about why you have these rules. You don't need explanations with very young children, but teenagers are certainly old enough to understand these reasons. They are much more likely to follow rules with a reason behind them than a rule "that is just because!"
6. If you really want to make your anger known, march right down to Target, Wal-Mart, Best Buy, or your retailer of choice, talk to the manager, and tell them that you will not spend another dollar there until they institute store policies that require mandatory ID checks for all video game purchases. And if they don't do it, then follow through with your threat and don't spend money there!

Again, these may be way off base, but I know lots of people who were raised just fine with rules like these, long before the state tried regulating video games.

In the end, Kersten is arguing that she can't raise her kids without the government's help. That's a mighty strange position for a thinking conservative to take. For Kersten, though....

Hatch campaign

The Republicans are all aghast as usual (every time I read something like this, I think of Helen Lovejoy saying "Won't anybody please think of the children?"; and people wonder why Republicans are seen as uptight..)

Linking to public studies: no big deal to me. They are public! Anybody can link to them.

Talking about Judi Dutcher on Attorney General letterhead: I can't imagine a scenario where this is appropriate. Hatch should know better.

Really, all candidates should know better. To me, it's not that hard to draw a clear line between your official duties and your campaign. Never the twain shall meet, as they say. But for some odd reason, candidates like to get as close as possible to that line. Why? What does it get them? There are few benefits, and a lot of detriments should somebody find out. Would it make that big of a deal if Hatch talked about Dutcher on paper that didn't come from the AG's office?

I can't say that I am feeling too good about how Hatch has been acting lately. First, attacking the Star Tribune for a story that doesn't exist, and now this...as somebody who used to be party chair and has run several successful campaigns for statewide office, Hatch should not be making these mistakes.

Farm Fest

The gubernatorial candidates squared off at Farm Fest today. Pawlenty went on the offensive first, talking about how Hatch cited some agricultural issue in the New York Times and acted like an "aw shucks" kind of guy: New York? It was like that old commercial for Pace picante sauce. Too bad that Pawlenty can't run away from his record, though.

I think that the Kennedy-Klobuchar matchup was far better, and Klobuchar did just about everything right. Kennedy keeps trying to run away from the Republican Party and Bush in particular, but Klobuchar reminded the audience that he can't run from his record (seems that most Republicans are doing this these days; I wonder why?) She attacked Kennedy's stance on the estate tax by talking about Paris Hilton, as well as pointing out that no family farms are actually affected by the estate tax. Meanwhile, Kennedy's lame attack that "some group that endorsed Klobuchar thinks that manure is hazardous waste" was not only weak, but untrue. Besides, if not handled properly, of course manure can be hazardous. Does Kennedy feel like proving it's not by swimming in a manure lagoon?

All in all, I think it was a poor showing for the Republicans and a good one for the Democrats, especially Klobuchar. The race is on.