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Monday, October 30, 2006


The Star Tribune editors ask, should we do our jobs and fact check candidates? Well, what do you think you are killing so many trees for? CJ's columns?

The fact that they even have to ask this is sad, but considering how little fact-checking goes on, it's not surprising. Not only is fact-checking not done, but more often than not it is done in a pretend "balanced" way. The media is unable to admit when one side is wrong or worse than the other. No, it has to be "balanced". That's how reporters lump Michael J. Fox's issue ad along with real attack ads like the Playboy ad in Tennessee. Republicans smear character, Democrats...get an endorsement from a person with a vested interest in an issue that Democrats support and Republicans oppose. If Carl Pohlad cut an ad for Pawlenty saying that he supports Tim for bringing a new stadium, would that be an "attack ad"? Give me a break.

The issue of immigration ads is a perfect example of this. True, the Star Tribune reported the fact that all of a sudden tons of Republicans put out immigration ads, but that's it. Immigration remains one of the least understood issues in this country. There's plenty of soundbites and goofy characters, but reality is something much of the public is unfamiliar with. Why didn't the Star Tribune take a closer look at these ads and immigration in general? Why didn't they take a look at the internal fight within the Republican party between the business conservatives who want cheaper labor and the social conservatives who hate furriners? Where's the context? Where's the explanation? Where's the work?

So ink-stained wretches, why else do you think you exist?

Katherine Kersten's Korner

Kersten's latest kolumn is about the series on debt I posted about yesterday. She blames the lack of "virtue" for the problem and suggests sitting down with grandparents to figure it out.

Wingnuttia Level: 2 (Beware of hidden agendas)

True, the fact that people of all ages today have the mentality that they "deserve" the latest and greatest is a big issue. But where is the talk about the "virtue" of not having seven kids and sending them to private schools? Is that responsible? Is that "virtuous"? There is more here than just more "government programs", but as usual Kersten just picks the facts that she can use to bolster her ideology.

As an aside, it looks like Kersten has a blog now and people can comment on her stories. Interesting.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Credit Card Nation

The Star Tribune had a few articles today about how indebted Americans are, along with portraits of three families that are mired in debt. The only person who gets my sympathy is the single mom; after all, being a single mom is an extremely hard thing. The single girl just needs to stop buying clothes and liquor; some meditation on not being so materialistic may help too. As for the family with seven kids...STOP HAVING KIDS! Jesus, I just can't fathom how people can have tons of kids without caring one bit how to pay for them. When does that kind of cluelessness cross the line to becoming child abuse? I'm betting, based on the story, that they are the type of people whom God told to breed a baseball team, which doesn't help matters much.

Some people in this country get into debt because they don't have health insurance and get sick, for example, or they get laid off from their job, or they get divorced and have to raise their kids on their own. In other words, for some people, they get behind because life just happens to them. For two of these families, however, they are in their situation because of the choices they are making; are we supposed to feel sympathy for them? Or did the paper choose unsympathetic people on purpose?

George Will's Corner

I hardly agree with anything George Will writes aside from what he writes on baseball, but this is something I agree with. Paper ballots, people. It's not that hard! And if you are worried about people voting more than once, there's this handy thing called indelible ink that even third-world countries know how to use.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Young politicos

Hey, I know some of these people.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Is that you, Bob Dole?

A couple points I'd like to make about movies:

1) If you think you wouldn't like a movie, then don't see it.

2) You don't get to make critical judgments about a movie until you see it, though.

That is all.

More ads

I saw Hatch's immigration ad today for the first time. I don't know when it started running, but probably within the past couple of days. It's pretty much as commenter Mark described it on another post: Hatch starts out in front of some trailers that house transient workers, saying they sleep twenty to a trailer without windows. Then he says that Pawlenty hasn't done enough to go after employers who hire illegal aliens.

So yes, this is an immigration ad, but unlike other Republican ads it really doesn't bash immigrants. It does go after the employers who hire illegal immigrants, which is in my opinion the right tack to take. As long as there are drug users, there will be drug dealers, and as long as employers are happy to look the other way and hire illegal immigrants, there will be people coming here looking for jobs. If it costs less to hire illegal immigrants, even with the occasional fine, then businesses will do it. That's the free market, folks.

Personally, I like Peter Hutchinson's take on the issue as described here, where he says he is proud to support in-state tuition for resident immigrants. So do I. But at least Hatch's ad isn't as anti-immigrant as some others.

For the record, I am pretty pro-immigration. I believe that we need to go after employers who are hiring illegal immigrants so that it becomes more expensive for them to hire illegal immigrants. But I also think we need to normalize the status of those immigrants who are already here. We also need to drastically overhaul our immigration system and generally let more people in here. I am opposed to guest-worker programs of any sort; let them stay and become citizens and members of the community if you need workers. While some people see immigrants and see only a drain, I think, "There's another person paying for housing, paying for food, paying for clothing, and generating economic activity." That's just me.

Another ad I saw tonight is an independent one from the DFL tying Pawlenty to Bush. A pretty common tactic among Democrats this year.

So when it comes to negative ads, Republicans have immigration. Democrats have Bush, the war in Iraq, veterans issues, corruption and ethics...a pretty long list. Not looking good for Republicans.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Katherine Kersten's Korner

Once again, in a way, I am in agreement with Kersten in several ways in her latest kolumn, but for vastly different reasons than hers I suspect. It is about the ridiculousness of certain Muslim taxicab drivers refusing to take passengers with alcohol at the airport. This story, like the story about the bus driver who refused to drive buses with "pro-gay" advertisements, is something so repulsive to me it hurts my head. But since Kersten has commented on it, it's my job to do so as well.

Wingnuttia Level: 2 (Beware of hidden agendas)

Assuming that Kersten's facts can be trusted (sometimes a dubious assumption), apparently this started when the Muslim American Society put out a "fatwa" earlier this year saying that Muslim taxi drivers are prohibited from taking passengers with alcohol, because "it involves cooperating in sin according to the Islam." I am certainly no fan of religious stupidity of any kind. It makes no difference what religion it is. And this certainly qualifies as religious stupidity. If people have a problem with providing a public, regulated good to a customer carrying alcohol, then they should not be in business at all.

Kersten goes off into the background of the Muslim American Society, eventually making a connection to bin Laden, natch. Of course, taking issue with Muslims is nothing new for Kersten (see Keith Ellison). At the end, she tries to ask a serious-sounding question to let people know that her kolumn is quite serious: What should we do about religions that don't share our values?

What, indeed? What's missing here? Oh, that's right: every other stupid religion. Kersten stops with this particular fatwa; she doesn't talk about the bus driver who refused to drive the bus, a Christian following her own fatwa. Nor does she talk about Christian pharmacists who refuse to prescribe birth control, following yet another crazy fatwa. Something tells me that Kersten's troubles with arbitrary fundamentalist religious proclamations does not extend to Christianity or any other religions other than Islam.

Which is ultimately what makes this kolumn so disingenuous. As you read it, you know that she would be saying the exact opposite if she were talking about the bus driver or the pharmacist or the person against stem cell research or the person against gay marriage. Instead of seeing how these kinds of actions illuminate how dangerous mindless adherence to any religion can be, she tut-tuts the easy target. Not that I expect anything better.

So is Kersten really concerned about how religion and tolerance can be at odds with each other, or is she just using this incident as an excuse to trot out her views on Islam and these dark-skinned furriners? Once she starts taking rabid Christians to task, then perhaps I will start believing the former.

Immigrants: the new gay

With two weeks to go until the election, it is obvious what the Republican strategy is in the closing weeks of the campaign: bashing immigrants. I don't know if these ads came out before, but today I saw immigrant-bashing attack ads from Pawlenty, John Kline, and Michele Bachman. Losing on the Iraq war, terrorism, the direction of the country, ethics, and competence, Republicans have apparently decided that the only thing they can do is bash furriners. Maybe this will play well enough with the mouth-breathing crowd to win a few racist Republican votes. Who knows?

Unfortunately, even Democrats are hopping on the bandwagon; I saw an immigrant-bashing attack ad from Tim Walz too, meaning that bashing immigrants probably plays well in the First District. Sad.

The Pawlenty ad is particularly disgusting in my opinion, where he pledges that illegal immigrant kids won't get in-state tuition at Minnesota colleges under his watch ever. Yes, it would be horrible for Minnesota and our economy if kids who have been going to high school and even elementary school in this state went to the U of MN and ended up being engineers or something. Terrible, I tell you. Kids should definitely have to pay for the crimes of their parents and be doomed to a life with no education, don't you think?

I wait for the day when people will grow up and realize that those who are having the truly devastating impact on our economy and the middle class are Republicans and the overpaid corporate wankers who give them campaign contributions. I think I will be waiting a pretty long time, though.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

MPR election results widget

This looks pretty cool. I don't envision live-blogging the election, so this may be useful.

T-Paw's legacy

Higher tuition. Shocking, isn't it?

Hatch has already done an ad on tuition, so this probably won't provide much fodder for anything new. Too bad. I'd like to see Tim get smacked around a bit more.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Democrats in power

Election day is still two weeks away, and nothing is certain. There is still lots of work to do, and lots of surprises from both sides. But it is looking increasingly likely that the Democrats will take over the House, and an outside chance they will take the Senate as well. So perhaps now is a good time to express to Democrats what they should do if they take charge.

Some Democrats will feel that they need to roll over and play nice to usher in a new era of "bipartisanship" because that's what the voters want. Doing so would be a mistake of such a magnitude that it would dwarf almost all others in political history. If Democrats win, it is because voters want them to put the Republicans up against the wall, not in spite of it.

I always thought that if there was the barest plurality of voters in favor of things like investigations into the intelligence that led to the Iraq war, or investigations into war profiteering by Halliburton et al (say 41% in favor, 40% against, with the rest undecided) that Democrats should go all out. But that's not the case; polls show that solid majorities want the Democrats to thoroughly investigate the misdeeds of the Bush administration. This is why Democrats are poised to make such a huge sweep. They need to follow through. They need to go to the mat. They need to stake their careers on this, for if they get soft, 2008 will be very unpleasant indeed.

When Republicans run on tax cuts and win, do they go soft after the election and start talking about not cutting taxes and maybe funding programs instead? Of course not. They cut taxes twice as much as they said they would. Democrats cannot afford to become weak should they win. If they do, they will enrage both the Democratic base and the independents that voted for them to clean up Washington.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Katherine Kersten's Korner

It's been a while, but I've found a way to help me deal with Katherine Kersten's kolumns. It's a secret potion that helps insulate me against teh stupid; reading her stuff doesn't hurt as much anymore. Unfortunately, it won't work for anybody, but never fear! Read me, and you won't have to try to wrap your head around Kersten's stuff. Including her latest kolumn, which is nothing more than a candidate commercial for a Republican running for the state senate from Rochester.

Wingnuttia level: ?? (Shouldn't this be an in-kind campaign contribution?)

Like I said, it's nothing more than a commercial for Scott Wright, who is running for the senate from Rochester. Surprisingly, Kersten is pushing a Republican. If you are living in Rochester and want to read an unbiased report on the candidate, go nuts. If not, well, skip it. I am not terribly interested in hearing another Republican's plan to provide health care coverage to everybody by letting the magic of the market work, seeing as how it has worked so well so far. That's Kersten's idea of good policy; not terribly shocking given her statements of the past.

The only silver lining in all of this is that in less than three weeks all of this stuff will hopefully stop.

Fighting them where?

Some people still support the war because they say we need to fight them "there" (in Iraq), so we don't have to fight them here. I just saw a Mark Kennedy TV ad pretty much saying the same thing. I don't get it, I really don't.

A poor 20-year old kid with an AK-47 and nothing else attacking soldiers in Iraq was never a threat to the U.S. mainland. He has no support structure. He has little, if any training. The U.S. brought the targets to him, and as a result he is taking advantage of it. If there were no U.S. soldiers in easy reach to attack, he would just sit there fuming, or more likely wouldn't do much at all.

Similarly, people like the 9/11 terrorists with training and money aren't those 20-year old kids. They probably aren't taking potshots at our troops. They may be taking advantage of the Iraq war by using it for training, learning how to use shaped charges and plant IEDs, for example, but for the most part I bet they are not getting heavily involved with the war in Iraq. They are doing the same things they would be doing even if we weren't in Iraq.

There is no fixed pool of terrorists. By going into Iraq, we have created many more fighters were there wouldn't have been before. At the same time, we are in no way helping to fight those sleeper cells that are plotting the next terrorist attack from somewhere other than Iraq.

When Mark Kennedy says that we need to fight them there so we don't fight them here, he is either completely ignorant about the world, or lying. Take your pick.

Thursday, October 19, 2006


This really doesn't have much to do with politics, but it did get me thinking. Earlier today I was perusing the City Pages' Letters to the Editor section, and found a response to the article they did on Michelle Bachman a couple of weeks ago. It's the letter that says "Interesting, the Christian bashing. I don't ever seem to read an article by you liberals discussing the extreme pagan lifestyle of someone. Oh, that's right, those extreme pagan views are yours, too."

Now, I'm probably one of those "extreme pagans" the letter writer is referring to, since I am one of those agnostic non-believers. Hearing this kind of sentiment is pretty common, and it always puzzles me.

I can understand where it comes from: a lot of self-described religious people have huge issues with our modern culture. The materialism, the sexualization, the violence, the appeals to the lowest common denominator...they don't like it and they feel that they are fighting a battle to keep it out of their lives, especially the lives of their children. The problem, however, stems from their belief that people with opposite views from them ("pagans", us atheists, etc.) must logically have the opposite view of culture too: the heathens must love this culture.

For the most part, that just isn't true. I also detest the materialism, sexualization, violence, and shallowness of culture. I tend to ignore it and live what I consider to be a pretty stand-up life, even for an atheist: I don't lie, I don't cheat, I don't diddle interns or pages, I don't abuse anybody, I don't drink and drive and hurt or kill people, I don't swindle, and I try to be humble. If I get too much change back at a store I give it back. I help out people whenever I can. True, I have some "crazy" ideas like thinking that homosexuals are perfectly okay people and should be allowed some legal benefits with their long-term partners, for example. But that stuff really doesn't matter; my thoughts on gay marriage have almost zero impact on my daily life and how I interact with others. If your car gets stuck in the snow in front of my house, do you care what I think about legalizing drugs or do you care that I will get out and push your car?

The flip side of this is that even if heathens were full-blow supporters of our American culture, there are too few of us to be able to support it. Atheists make up what? Three, four percent of the population? Do you think that TV shows and movies and clothing designers and stores cater to the wallets of less than one twentieth of the population? Of course not. Our culture is one of capitalism, and that means that we will get the culture we pay for. Since the majority of this country is Christian, it is only logical that this means a large chunk of Christians, perhaps even a majority, in some way support our culture through the purchasing decisions they make.

So perhaps people like Gail should take a closer look. Maybe the people who hate things like "Wife Swap" are liberal pagans like myself, while the religious watchers of those shows are just that: religious Christians. There are lots of atheists and heathens out there who lead saintly lives, and lots of self-described "Christians" who have no problems lying and cheating to get what they want. Nobody has a monopoly on morality, and even people who don't believe in the New Testament Christian God can tell right from wrong.

A break

If you haven't noticed, I've taken a little bit of a break from politics. You know what? It's been pretty nice. Not reading MDE and Katherine Kersten lately has been pretty fulfilling. Politics is important, and it is interesting, but it is not the sum total of life. If you talk to candidates or their overworked staffers (and not an insignificant number of bloggers), they probably can't see beyond the walls of the campaign, but remember that the minority of people pay close attention to politics, and an even tinier minority obsessively check blogs ten times a day.

I can appreciate that most people find this stuff boring; in fact, I'm pretty lucky to be able to spend time paying attention to politics. I have no major crises to deal with (knock on wood), nothing that really prevents me from following politics in my copious free time if I so choose. For many people, devoting time to following the news is a luxury they don't have.

But as we get close to November 7th, I'm sure my break will end. Too much going on, too weird an election. This is shaping up to be one of the most groundbreaking elections in a generation, so it's hard to ignore. I just hope campaigns will keep on ignoring me; I like not getting phone calls and campaign literature.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Go Twins!

Earlier today, they flashed the Detroit-KC score during the Vikings game, at which point it was something like 7-0 Detroit. "So much for winning the AL Central", I thought, and I proceeded to go outside and enjoy the 80 degree October day.

When I returned, I learned that the Twins beat Chicago finally, and somehow, Kansas City tied it at 8-8. The Tigers had the bases loaded in the bottom of the 11th, but nothing happened. Then, in the top of the 12th, the Royals put up two, and that's how the game ended.

Detroit got swept by the Royals to end the season, and while the Twins did their best to refuse the pennant a couple times when Detroit offered it on a platter, they finally grabbed it today.

What a crazy season.

Mark Kennedy

The Star Tribune has an article on the man today. Read it to see what he's like.

I learned that he listens to Amy Grant. As if I needed another reason to vote against him.