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Wednesday, August 19, 2009
The Award for Best Orchestration Goes to .....

Andy Driscoll of KFAI is a veteran broadcaster, public affairs specialist, award-
winning documentarian, and investigative journalist. (If you don't believe me,
just read his bio.) I think he's worthy of another award for this direct, first-hand
evidence of the orchestration and media manipulation associated with the
Obama health care plan protest rallies.

I got a call today from Representative McCollum's office in St. Paul.
Tomorrow the so-called tea party guys are supposed to show up at
11 AM tomorrow. And they're trying to get the media to come in and
put these guys on the hot seat.

That's a blockbuster. Government officials arranging for journalists to show up at rallies
to put citizens "on the hot seat" for exercising their First Amendment rights. Is
that legal for Congress people and their staffs to do?

Regardless, I can only imagine the convulsions of rage this would inspire among
local Demcrats (in and out of the media) if Michele Bachmann tried something like
this. She was mocked, scorned, and nearly run out office by these same people
for her far less inflammatory suggestion that perhaps the media should investigate
her fellow members of Congress.

Never fear, being an award-winning member of the media, I assume Mr. Driscoll
laughed at the notion that he would even consider obeying a government official's
request to participate in a coordinated effort to investigate her political opponents.

Well, there was some laughter involved. Unfortunately, it was laughing along with
these governnment officials instead of at their highly inappropriate suggestion.
Andy Driscoll, from the comment section of a MinnPost article by Doug Grow
about this rally:

I was present for this melee, and the growing hysteria that consumes
the worst of the teabaggers also set the mob in motion and led to an amazing
string of vitriolic anti-government claims of fascist takeover of our lives.

It was difficult not to laugh out loud at the outlandish claims-cum-
slogans that came rolling out of the angriest of them. Heath care was the front
issue for a much deeper set of complaints about "government takeover of our
lives." This betrayed a set of platitudes obviously spouted by conservative talk
radio and cable news. All attempts to extract reason from individual conversation
inevitably led to an insistence, among other thing, that not everyone in this
country deserves access to health care.

Doug Grow's outstanding coverage above barely touches the depth of disgust
and disingenuousness of this crowd's mental set.

Nice job, Doug. Enjoyed laughing together.

If an actual riot didn't break out at this rally, at least the media had their own
laugh riot, at the protestors' expense.

There is no mention of whether Doug Grow was called by Rep. McCollum's office
and tipped off to attend and put the protestors "on the hot seat." But his
reporting included this exchange (excerpts):

After the meeting, I approached an older woman who had made strong
statements in opposition to "government-run programs." (....)

"Could I have your name, please?" I asked.

"Who are you?" she said.

I re-introduced myself as a reporter from MinnPost.

"I'm not going to give you my name,'' she said. "It may end up on an
enemies list."

By design or not, hot seat applied Twin Cities media. Mission accomplished.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, December 19, 2004
Facts Are Stubborn Things

The long awaited justification from Nick Coleman on his Maxfield Elementary reporting appears in today's Star Tribune. It looks like we know his style so well that we can now anticipate his actions with a high degree of accuracy, or perhaps he's taking style tips and inspiration directly from us, because he did fulfill two of the predictions we listed last week.

On Dec 13, we predicted he would:

Attempt to distract from the real issue via ad hominem attacks on bloggers (a status to which he'll assign Pioneer Press writer Westover). In Nick's mind the word "blogger" alone is enough to discredit any criticism he received, so he'll bleed it for all it's worth.

Excerpts (noncontiguous) from today's Coleman, regarding Craig Westover:

Unless, of course, you happen to be an ideological enemy of public education, like the full-time blogger and semi-pro newspaper columnist from the mean avenues of Afton who took the Maxfield story and twisted it into a rant against public schools.

After distorting the Maxfield story, Captain Fishsticks [Westover] was reproved in print by Maxfield Principal Zelma Wiley. Since then, Fishsticks has gone back to his boat and confined his tirades to the first refuge of scoundrels, his personal Internet blog, where he is toasted by other rum-swigging hearties daily.

An uncanny manifestation of our prediction, wouldn't you say? By the way, the "other rum-swigging hearties" includes us, as well as the other local bloggers drawn to the Maxfield issue. A not all together disagreeable description, I must say. We do occasionally enjoy strong drink (though not usually rum, we stay away from anything prone to having an umbrella in it). And "hearty" means "jovial" and we are typically merry souls, especially when strong drink is involved.

Back to the predictions, last week we said Coleman would engage in:

Clintonian parsing of language. He'll try to make us believe there is a difference between "textbooks" and "books in classrooms." Any readers who made the mistake of confusing the two will be blamed for their own ineptitude. Then he'll question the secret, evil motivations behind anyone who could possibly make the mistake of misreading a Nick Coleman column.

Coleman, in his charming way, did just that:

Deliberate idiocy is a terrible thing. When I wrote about a book shortage at Maxfield Elementary School in St. Paul Nov. 14, I made it clear that the books that were in short supply were reading books -- books needed to boost the literacy levels of kids who attend the school.

Sadly, "literacy" turns out to be a hard word for public school bashers to understand. Literacy means an ability to read and comprehend. But the professional bashers of public school education seem to have poor reading comprehension. Either that, or they are mean as snakes. I'm leaning toward snakes.

Fans of strict verification can review Coleman's columns from
Nov. 14
and Dec. 5 to see if there is any distinction made in types of books or a specific mention of "reading books." (Trusting souls and the lazy/casually disinterested can take my word for it, there isn't). And even if there were such references (and there aint!), the distinction is meaningless. What other kinds of books are there in schools, besides "reading books"? Did Coleman think we were referring to "bunion massaging books" or "books used to serve lunch on"?

Coleman uses the word "books" throughout, without any qualification. For example:

How could this happen? A school with not enough books?

"I don't want to go on the record with what I really think," Wiley said. "But I've never seen anything like this before. We haven't been adequately furnished. We don't have enough books."

Often times he uses it in conjunction with "classrooms," like:

In order to teach kids to read, it helps if you have books. But when Zelma Wiley walked into Maxfield Magnet School in St. Paul and took over as principal a couple of years ago, there were hardly any books on the shelves of the school's 21 classrooms and not nearly enough books -- or the right mix of reading levels and subject matters -- in the school's library.


Former Education Czarina Yecke was canned by the Legislature but never seemed overly concerned about the special problems at a place like Maxfield. Then again, few have shown any interest. How else to explain that Maxfield doesn't have enough books?

"I was amazed," said Sarah Carlsson. "And a lot of the books we did have were the wrong level, like first-grade books in a fifth-grade class." Carlsson is a "literacy coach" at Maxfield, but was previously a classroom teacher who was unaware that the other classrooms were as sparsely furnished with books as her own.

Coleman's claim he made anything "clear" about textbooks versus "reading books." or anything else, is absurd.

In reality, the critical distinction of the types of books Maxfield was interested in acquiring never appeared in either Coleman column. The whole truth only appeared in the Zelma Wiley Pioneer Press commentary, where she explains:

Earlier this year, our school launched a drive to collect books for students to borrow, take home or keep. Our students love to read. Unfortunately, many don't have access to books at home (95 percent qualify for free or reduced-price lunch). Our goal was to satiate our students' hunger for books at home and supplement the great work being done by teachers and community partners in our classrooms.

It is an extracurricular book drive, to serve needs above and beyond classroom instruction. A far different situation than anything Coleman divulged in his reporting. Recall, he used the alleged book shortage at Maxfield as an example of why "YOUR SCHOOLS ARE BURNING." Based on the fact the principal of that school states that the book drive is for students who don't have books at home, Scott Johnson opined (on NARN yesterday) "it sounds to me like their homes are burning." (With quips like that, it's no wonder Power Line is Time Magazine's Blog of the Year.")

Amid all of the panic and bombast from Coleman, let's not lose sight of the real issue of this debate - finding the best way to provide public education. That is, the best way to utilize resources to educate the children of our community, not the best way to sustain the current system. Craig Westover has been dedicated to the premise that the best way to educate is by providing a choice to the parents. If the government schools aren't performing to parents' standards, they should be empowered to seek other options. And because of this, Nick Coleman labels Westover a "deliberate idiot," a "professional school basher" and a "snake" (not to mention "Captain Fishsticks" - which, to be truthful, is pretty funny).

For substantive, professional debate on this issue, keep an eye on Westover's blog. And on the Pioneer Press. Remember, that is where Principal Wiley chose to directly address her school's situation, not in the Star Tribune. And beyond Westover's once a week contribution to the Pioneer Press editorial page (which hopefully will increase in frequency), there are others, like today's excellent commentary on education reform by Steve Dornfeld of the Metropolitan Council.

Right now, school choice is but a dream in St. Paul. One worth fighting for, of course. But if you'd like to help conditions here and now, we encouage you to make a donation to Maxfield. Who knows, one of these kids may grow up some day to write a column in the Star Tribune. As Nick Coleman shows us, deliberate idiocy is a terrible thing. Let's nip this one in the bud right now.


Friday, December 17, 2004
Beyond Fatigued

Saint Paul has mentioned in the past that he has suffered from "Coleman Fatigue" at various times. The condition is a product of repetitive reading and writing about Nick Coleman's columns in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The latest outbreak of CF must be contagious as it appears that I am suffering from the same malady. In fact, I believe that CF is not merely a minor irritation, but rather a full blown medical disorder. From now on, I propose that it be referred to as "Coleman Affective Disorder" or CAD. Symptoms of CAD include:

-A heavy feeling in the arms or legs
-A drop in energy level
-A tendency to oversleep
-Difficulty concentrating
-Increased sensitivity to social rejection
-Avoidance of social situations

Hopefully, CAD will soon be cataloged in the DSM-IV so that it may be properly diagnosed and treated. The only method that has proven successful in treating CAD is for the patient to completely avoid all things Nick Coleman. Even a drop of Coleman's condescending attitude is enough to propel CAD sufferers into a relapse. Cold turkey is the only way. Withdrawal symptoms include a renewed sense of optimism, improved self-esteem, the ability to feel joy, and a general feeling of happiness.

For those who just can't seem to stay away from the Coleman sauce, here's the latest bitter brew, where Coleman sees fit to lecture his "fellow Christians" about their attitude toward the homeless. Most Christians who are serious about their religious beliefs won't play the speculative game of "what would Jesus do in today's world?" (for example, would Jesus support gay marriage?) , realizing that it's almost impossible to authoritatively determine how Jesus would act, and to presume to be able to is the height of arrogance. But apparently, Coleman's knowledge of "stuff" extends to understanding the mysteries of the Lord:

I guess the point these compassionate Christians are trying to make is that Jesus wouldn't give the homeless a second glance if he came back. And you know what? They might be right. Jesus might walk right past the homeless, the poor and the sick, and march straight into our churches.

Because he'd have a lot of tables to overturn.

I guess it's time to add Coleman's name to the list of important Catholic theologians like St. Ambrose, St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, and Karl Rahner. Heck, why don't we just cut to the chase and canonize him St. Nick?

The secular left loves to jump all over Christian conservatives who claim that they know how God would feel about a particular issue. I can't wait for them to go after Coleman for doing exactly that. I'm not holding my breathe.


Thursday, December 16, 2004
No Quarter

Yesterday I felt the amateur blogger's responsibility to recognize a not all together awful Nick Coleman column. But many readers felt I was a little to easy on Coleman and they make a persuasive case. Here's the feedback, all of it regarding Coleman's closing line about Jesus, Mary, and Joseph:

From David V:

You ARE being a little too charitable on Nick. You missed the use of a common liberal untruth that always pops up this time of year. Nick wrote:

"After all, once upon a time, a homeless couple came to Bethlehem, looking for shelter."

That's incorrect. Mary and Joseph were not "homeless". They were traveling FROM their home to Bethlehem to enroll for the census and couldn't find a hotel room. That's not exactly "homeless", is it?

Here's an excellent deconstruction of the "Mary & Joseph were homeless" myth. Enjoy and keep up the great work.

That link does present a fascinating history of the Homeless Jesus myth. From the mind of Jesse Jackson to Nick Coleman's column, in only five short years.

Peter B. also chimes in with some revisions of Coleman's revisionist history:

I can't believe you didn't take the opportunity to nail Nick Coleman to the wall for the ridiculous closing line of his article. Mary and Joseph were not a homeless couple who came to Bethlehem. They had a perfectly fine home (or two -- they were unmarried) in Nazareth and enough combined wealth to afford a pack/transport animal. They were VISITING Bethlehem (by command of the government, which was planning to raise their taxes).

I have no home in St. Paul so -- according to Nick's slant -- when I drive in from the suburbs to see a show, I guess I am just another of the teeming mass of St. Paul's homeless population.

According to Nick's rules, that may be true. Warning Peter - if you do come to St. Paul, stay out of the White Castle on Lexington, or you may find yourself the subject of a Nick Coleman column.

Finally, the Honorable James Phillips bringing these glad tidings:

Curse him! They were not homeless! They were reporting for a census and there was no room at the inn. Why do these a-hole democrats (Gore, Hillary!, and now this loser) insist on propagating this bald-faced lie. It was "big government" that forced Joseph and Mary to go there in the first place. If they were homeless (they were not), THE GOVERNMENT MADE THEM SO!

Excellent points James. For more on Hillary and homeless policy in New York City, check out this WSJ article from 1999.


Tuesday, December 14, 2004
Tomorrow's Commentary, Today

Jim Styczinski, arguably the finest Nick Coleman impressionist in town, submits the following column. It's a prediction of what you might see tomorrow, or whenever Nick decides to address the irregularities surrounding his Maxfield Elementary reporting. Take it away Jim:

The 0.7 mile walk from St. Paul's Maxfield School to the White Castle on the corner of Lexington and University was especially cold this December morning. But it wasn't the North wind that was chilling me to the bone, it was something much colder: the heart of Pioneer Press columnist and blogger Craig "I Hate Poor Kids and I Wear Funny Hats" Westover.

"That Westover just doesn't understand what it takes to educate kids today," said my lunch companion Frank, a homeless former Junior High School administrator. His partner Bob nodded in agreement. I first met Bob and Frank last March when I talked with them on the difficulties of being a gay homeless couple in a society that didn't allow gay marriage. Today, I sought out Frank to tap his educational expertise.

"When I read your column on the book shortage at Maxfield, I said to myself, 'finally someone gets it.' But then I saw how that Westover tried to twist it around and make it the school's fault. Those unaccountable conservatives love to blame the victim."

Frank is something of an expert on cold-hearted conservatives. He and Bob became homeless when Republican education cuts cost him his job as an Assistant Principal for Diversity Enforcement. After reading my column, Frank did something that Craig "Help I'm Chained to My Desk and Can't Go Visit Maxfield School" Westover didn't deem necessary: he went to Maxfield School to investigate the situation first hand.

"I went into the office and asked to see their Assistant Principal for Diversity Enforcement - they didn't have one," Frank cried. "Is it any wonder that they didn't have enough classroom [not text] books? How can books be purchased when there is no Assistant Principal for Diversity Enforcement to vet them for dangerously undiverse ideas?"

How indeed.

"I'm sure I don't need to remind you who cut the Diversity Enforcement budget."

Frank is referring to Republican Governor Tim "I Hate Poor Kids and Public Education" Pawlenty. The sad thing is that it wasn't always this way; there was once a time when Republican Governors supported public education. When I interviewed former Governor Elmer Andersen moments before his death last month, he expressed his disgust with the extremists who have taken over his once tolerant party. "They hate everything, especially schools and taxes," said the former Republican Governor. "I blame those bloggers, especially those Power Line guys. They're all bought and paid for by the Private School Industrial Complex."

Frank, Bob, and I stepped out the door of Maxfield School. At this time of day, we would normally be hearing the Church Bells from the St. Paul Cathedral, 1.7 miles away. But the bells are still being repaired. We decide to take this as a positive omen. The bell has not tolled for Public Education in Minnesota. Not yet.

Brilliant work by Jim. Fans of Styczinski will be glad to hear Jim has recently acquired kiosk space at the Mall of America, right next to the goofy caricature guy in front of Camp Snoopy. For a mere $35, Jim will write your own personal Nick Coleman column, customized with your favorite topics and fields of interest. Although, it will help immensely if your favorite topics are exploiting the homeless, gratuitously enflaming racial controversies, and factually misrepresenting the position of conservatives. Last minute Christmas shoppers remember, it's the perfect stocking stuffer for the Star Tribune reader in your home.

UPDATE: Bill at The Kool Aid Report has another Coleman scenario in mind. In summary, we can't handle his truth.


Monday, December 13, 2004
Nick at Night

Power Line received an email from a reader reporting on the latest antics going on at Radio Air America this morning. Here it is, with a portion of the PL response:

"I am listening to that commercial free, 100 watt blowtorch that carries Air America. Nick what's his name [Ed.: I have no idea who Nick is.] is babbling about Fascist Bullies, the unnamed anonymous cowards hiding behind cute names like Hindrocket, et al. When it comes to humor this is apparently the laugh track of the left. But never fear old Nick (a true son of the common man) is on to blog and is warning one and all (the new Paul Revere?) about the danger to the republic (and Minnesota) in the person of these PAID political operatives, such as Power Line. It is WAR! There are no standards, accountability, supervision or editing as is the case for poor humble Nick. Beware the PAID political commentators, says uncle Nick."

I think Air America exists mostly so it can be ridiculed by conservatives, so a lengthy response probably isn't necessary, but two quick points suggest themselves. First, we are about as far from being "anonymous" as you can get. Apparently Nick Whoever hasn't thought to click on the "about us" link, nor has he read the articles about us in Time and other publications, nor has he taken the trouble to Google us. Great research, Nick.

I've never heard of a 'Nick' on Air America either. But the fact that "Nick Whoever" can't be bothered to research his factual claims should have been a huge clue as to his identity.

On my commute home today, I was flipping around during a Hewitt commercial and landed on the local Air America outlet (KTNF 950 AM). They were replaying a broadcast of their morning show, normally hosted by Wendy Wilde. And who, you may ask was filling in for Wendy on her day off?

Yes - it's none other than Nick Coleman. The former host of the KSTP Sunday afternoon shift (before the marketplace decided an extra two hours of Car Talk was infinitely more listenable) and beleaguered Star Tribune lead columnist was on and talking fast and loose, and despondently, about politics. I didn't hear his specific shots at Hinderaker, but I did hear and jot down this verbatim comment (regarding conservatives in Minnesota): These people are working constantly to turn Minnesota into Alabama. I feel discouraged.

That last part should maybe be the new Wendy Wilde Show slogan. At least when Nick Coleman is substitute hosting.

Coleman also claimed to know a "high placed individual in Republican circles," someone "experienced" with a "good heart." Someone Nick said, if he could reveal the person's name, our jaws would be on the floor. And, according to Nick, this Republican says, thanks to the conservative movement in the state: "we're going down the tubes, in every category, in quality of life, health care, education, the environment. Just like the Titanic, we've seen the iceberg, the bell is ringing, and we don't have time to turn the ship around."

We can only guess who this highly placed Republican is (the only person I'm ruling out at this point is John Hinderaker). It would be interesting for Nick's professional journalist news instincts to compel him to get this person on the record. Because this is, you know, NEWS. At least it is if it's true. Which, given Coleman's record, there's no better than a 50-50 chance of.

It is valuable see Coleman's overall perspective on Minnesota revealed. One can now understand why he felt the need to take a story like Maxfield Elementary (which its Principal says has enough books for everyone and that it is working for everybody) and position it, twice, as an example of why YOUR SCHOOLS ARE BURNING.

Sometimes, in order to fit your conclusion, the facts need to be sacrificed. And apparently that's what we're seeing with Maxfield Elementary. Coleman's commentary on all issues of Minnesota politics, especially when it comes to matters of taxes and spending, need to be read in this context: Minnesota is just like the Titanic and we're going down fast. And he's going to do all he can to convince you of that too.


Sunday, December 12, 2004
Better to remain silent and be thought an a-hole...

...than to send an e-mail and remove all doubt. Based on reading his columns, I've always pictured Nick Coleman as being an arrogant, petulant, and ultimately petty little man. His e-mail response to Craig Westover on the on-going Maxfield school controversy, confirms that my long held views of Coleman are spot on. Even though he probably deserves nothing more than a lump of coal, I hope that Santa sees fit to leave some tact, wit, and class under the Coleman's Christmas tree this year. Lord knows he could use some.


Wednesday, November 24, 2004
The Nuts Stop Here

Criticism of Nick Coleman has become a bit of a growth industry of late. Which is great. Many of us veterans in the cause have been suffering from an acute case of Nick Coleman fatigue and have largely abandoned him to his own devices.

It's pointless reading the guy anymore. Three times a week, every week, this wealthy son of privilege writes the same self-righteous, holier-than-thou commentary, trying his hardest to find any angle which he can use to denigrate the average, middle class Twin Citizen. (I know professional journalists have been indoctrinated to the notion that afflicting the "comfortable" is their highest possible calling. But how long can a paper endure featuring as their star columnist a guy dedicated to insulting the majority of its readers? Since they're a virtual monopoly, maybe forever.)

But how many times can we say "he sucks" before the readers naturally rebel with "WE KNOW, what else ya got?" Unfortunately, we aren't a monopoly, so we have to actually care what the readers think.

I also wonder how much Nick Coleman criticism feeds the pathology of the editors at the Star Tribune, leads them to believe he's edgy and controversial and stirs things up, and therefore adds value to their product. It doesn't matter what reaction he gets, as long as he gets a reaction, that proves people are reading him. Throw in all those readers who write in gushing odes to the guy (liberal masochists who love his insults and the thousands in line to profit from Coleman's profligate social spending remedies), and I can see where management at the Star Tribune might think Nick is a hot property. Since they agree with Coleman's political views, all the better. He's granted the position of Columnist-for-Life, drawing a six-figure salary while merrily afflicting this community three times a week, in perpetuity.

In the spirit of the truth setting one free, I have to believe there is a greater good in the blogs voicing their objections to this man. I'm sure we'll all continue to do it to some degree. In the short run, if that means Nick's position is enhanced, so be it.

But, there is another outlet for Nick Coleman criticism that may not have such a positive consequence for his career. Because that outlet has the potential to threaten the monopolistic news cycle of abuse that sustains him. I speak of the Pioneer Press. The St. Paul paper, which hasn't been much of a rival for the Star Tribune. Traditionally, they've been more the junior partner of the liberal establishment press (their record includes being a past employer of Nick Coleman). They've been dominated by the same political perspectives and biases, only with less resources available. As a consequence, they've never been able to make inroads in the Twin Cities in terms of circulation size and ad revenues, and have complacently accepted their subservient role.

Over the past year or so, there have been signs of an ideological change coming. Most prominently, the hiring of Mark Yost on the editorial board and Craig Westover as an editorial contributor. I've been hesitant to declare the Pioneer Press as a legitimate alternative to the Star Tribune. They still have a dominant hard left influence on their editorial board and their news coverage, bolstered by reams of material from the AP and New York Times, is every bit as slanted as the Star Tribune's. But some of their editorials, the work of Westover and usually unattributed work of Yost, have been outstanding. Not just for the "right" political perspective, but also for their quality of prose, intellect, and logic.

A Westover editorial in today's Pioneer Press provides a great example of this. Better yet, it directly refutes a Nick Coleman column. Apparently, newspaper professional courtesy prevents him from naming names, but the references are undeniable. Nick Coleman's column of Nov. 14 started this way:

This is how nuts we have become. In order to teach kids to read, it helps if you have books. But when Zelma Wiley walked into Maxfield Magnet School in St. Paul and took over as principal a couple of years ago, there were hardly any books on the shelves of the school's 21 classrooms and not nearly enough books -- or the right mix of reading levels and subject matters -- in the school's library.

Today's Westover column begins this way:

Preparing for a speaking engagement in St. Paul, Sol Stern read about a situation in the St. Paul Public Schools that was described as "nuts."

And Westover proceeds to analyze and refute Coleman's arguements. A mainstream media editorial page doing to Nick Coleman what the blogs have been doing for years. And doing it a little better (there is something to be said for a professional tone).

Read the Nick Coleman column first. Then the Westover column. (Also posted on his blog.) Compare and contrast the use of logic, facts, and evidence, versus racially-charged, naive, emotional blustering and ill-conceived knee-jerk scapegoating. (What was I saying about a professional tone? There goes my chance to be a community columnist.)

Examples, first from Coleman:

How did we get to the point in Minnesota that we have a school in a minority neighborhood of our capital city where there aren't enough books? If you don't find that situation outrageous, you are part of the problem.

When you are trying to teach reading in a climate of spending cutbacks, hostility from political leaders who control the purse strings and public indifference toward the poor, you are between a rock and a hard place.

We know what happened, don't we? The poor are being punished for being poor and the politicians, instead of doing their damnedest to get things solved, are doing their damnedest to pass the buck. Highways are more important than kids.

Now Westover:

"Instead of accountability for the problem being placed where it belongs, on the school administrators," Stern told his audience, "I read that the problem is not enough money - the last refuge of failed policy. I checked. St. Paul educates a student for about $11,000 a year. This situation is not 'nuts' because we're not spending enough on public schools. The situation is 'nuts' because we're not holding the public schools accountable."

To avoid facing the accountability problem, racism, legislative insensitivity and a public refusal to accept that we don't pay enough for the education of our children have all been offered as excuses for government schools. Ignored is the obvious: that here is a St. Paul school spending more than $11,000 per student per year that let a book shortage problem fester for more than two years until it erupted into a crisis. And all the while, the school is spending that $11K per student somewhere. Makes one wonder: What priorities did the school system place above buying books for kids?

I can't imagine that situation," Molly Whinnery, principal of [private, Catholic school] St. Mark's, told me. "We receive $62 per student from the state to purchase non-religious books. And we have a line item in the annual budget for classroom books and a separate account for library books."

St. Mark's spends a little less than $4,200 a year per student

The ability of this column to expose Nick Coleman, not for being a blithering leftist apologist, but for being a lazy researcher and lousy writer, well, it's like a miracle. Bravo Westover and Pioneer Press management for publishing it.

Conservative subscribers to the Star Tribune, I encourage you consider the Pioneer Press as a better option (and if you cancel on them, make sure to tell them why). I also encourage any readers of this Westover piece to send a note to the editors ( expressing your feelings about it. They've taken a bold step by publishing it and they need to know it's appreciated.


Friday, November 19, 2004
Yes, They Have No Bias (Today)

The other day, while reviewing a Star Tribune article about the UN Oil for Food scandal, I came across a paragraph that sent my media bias sensors off. Not content to rage against the machine with a blog post, I wrote that paragraph's author, seeking answers and redress. Here is the unedited exchange, names hidden to protect the innocent:


Dear Mr. REPORTER - regarding your article on Senator Norm Coleman's investigation into the UN Oil for Food program (published on Nov. 16), I took note of this sentence:

"The Bush administration has seized on the reports to underscore its belief that the U.N. sanctions were not an effective constraint on Saddam's long-term military ambitions, thus providing further justification for the U.S. military intervention."

I find the use of the term "seized on" to be curious. The Merriam-Webster definitions of "seize" being:

1) to lay hold of or take possession by force
2) arrest
3) understand
4) to attack or overwhelm physically: afflict

synonyms: take, grasp, clutch, snatch, or grab

With the exception of definition 3 (which makes no sense in context with your sentence), each one of these terms has a negative connotation. This implies that the Bush administration's use of these reports to provide evidence to its claims (of the need to bypass the UN regarding Iraq), is illegitimate or questionable. Or perhaps that their use of this particular justification is a desperate gesture, as a man would seize a life raft if drowning.

The term "seized on" is clearly value-laden. It seems to me a more balanced, and accurate, term to use would have been "referenced" or "cited". What were your thoughts regarding the use of "seized on"? Or did you not give it any thought, and this was the term that naturally sprang from your own opinion of the situation?

Please let me know, thank you.



Thanks for the note, and your interest. I confess that you gave the phrase a lot more thought than I did.

Looking over your analysis, I would say that the meaning I intended is closest to the first definition you found, i.e., to take possession (forcefully, if not by force). That is, I think it's fair to say that the White House has taken hold of these new reports after the fact, since the allegations about the abuse of the oil-for-food program did not come to light until after the invasion of Iraq. That is not to place a value judgment on what happened. It's merely a fact that these new revelations have been used as further justification for a policy that was in place before they were uncovered. "Seized on..." is a common phrase used to describe a process where new facts are adduced, ex post facto, in support of a previously established argument.

Anyway, that's how I meant it. No negative slant was intended on my part, and I'm sorry if that's the impression you got. Thanks for writing.


I still contend "seized on" is a negatively value laden term, and that "referenced" or "cited" would be an improvement in objectivity. But the reporter presents a reasonable argument for its use. I commend him for taking the time to explain it to me and I withdraw this specific insinuation of bias. He will not receive today's Mr. Yuk salute.

That is reserved for Nick Coleman, who, in the course of exploiting a murder to bolster his self image as the imperious conscience of the Twin Cities, drops this sentence on the masses:

Outside in the parking lot, right over the spot where Tremaine Finley bled, a City of Lakes street truck pulled up, and the driver got out to go into the grocery and buy a snack. That left a guy named Bruce resting in the passenger's seat, listening to a right-wing blowhard on the radio.

Assuming Coleman didn't just make this whole thing up (a big assumption), this encounter must have occurred sometime yesterday. Meaning "that guy named Bruce" couldn't have been listening to the Northern Alliance Radio Network (12 - 3 PM Saturdays. Replay 9 PM - midnight, Sundays). Which is too bad. We'll take all the publicity we can get - even a vague, snide mention in a Nick Coleman column. (Who was he talking about? That frothing maniac Hugh Hewitt and his wild-eyed campaign to help the Salvation Army?)

Regarding NARN, I'm taking tomorrow's show off. But I have it on good authority that the Elder and the rest of the crew will be blowing harder than ever. And maybe, just maybe, the topic of Nick Coleman will be addressed. And if Nick isn't listening, well, we'll always have "a guy named Bruce" in our corner.


Thursday, November 11, 2004
The Institutional Voice of the Dominant Newspaper in the Market

Craig Westover has taken note of the professional tone present in the presidential endorsements and post election commentary of his own Pioneer Press versus the Star Tribune. And I must say I agree. Beyond the fact the Pioneer Press endorsed our man W, the endorsement itself was a joy to read. At least it was for those of us who appreciate the use of logic, the building of evidence to support a conclusion, and at least the attempt to honestly persuade.

I defy even the defenders of the Star Tribune to explain the following editorial excerpts as anything other than what they appear to be - wild, exaggerated, juvenile bluster, attempting nothing more than settling scores and assuaging wounded egos. As you're reading, remember, all of these unsigned editorials represent the institutional voice of the dominant newspaper in the market.

From the Star Tribune's endorsement of John Kerry:

Kerry recognizes that to prevail in the struggle against terrorism, America must return to the moral high ground rather than unilaterally pursue a perverted, narrow vision of its national interest.

He would reverse Bush's devious dismantling of environmental protections, and he would preserve the safety net that protects America's most vulnerable citizens.

[Bush] has proved to be the most divisive, insular and partisan president since Richard Nixon. He ran as a moderate, but has pursued radical goals that have plunged the nation into debt and injected the government into the most personal of family matters. He promised to conduct foreign policy humbly, yet he repeatedly spurned allies, culminating in his arrogant and misguided rush to war on Iraq.

From their post-election assessment of what the Bush victory means for the country:

Looking ahead, Bush faces an enormous, uphill struggle to keep Iraq from turning into a disaster. Should he fail, and should the right insist on trying to force-feed America its radical social agenda, the 2006 midterm elections could bring real congressional grief to the Republicans. This is still a centrist, tolerant society, and any effort to remake it into a conservative theocracy will bring swift, decisive repudiation.

From their day after election requiem, explaining what happened to create the conditions of Bush's victory:

Also on the Web for the first time in this campaign were the bloggers. Much of what they passed off as political analysis was little better than rumor-mongering and garbage-peddling.

But some of them performed heroic jobs fact-checking the candidates, challenging the traditional media and, in the latter days of the campaign, acting as an early alert system for voting problems.

Interesting for them to condemn certain bloggers as rumor mongers and garbage peddlers, while celebrating others as heroes. Who's who? Should I be insulted or gratified? We'll never know. In their typical style, the Star Tribune can lob personal insults from the editorial page and never have to explain anything - the confused readers be damned. In their defense, it is much easier engaging in vague innuendo, since they don't have to worry about getting heroically fact checked about anything later.

It is curious for them to compliment ... someone ... for fact checking candidates and challenging the traditional media. Here in the real world, the most prominent example of that is our friends from Powerline. They became nationally prominent for their exposure of John Kerry's fictitious Christmas in Cambodia stories and for their investigation into the use of fraudulent documents by CBS News to attack on the President. By any reasonable interpretation, that's fact checking candidates and challenging the traditional media. But, you may recall, during the campaign the Star Tribune didn't see fit to compliment Powerline. Instead, they called them "fraudulent," "immoral," and "smear artists."

(Note, I had to link to a Powerline post for documentation. The Star Tribune archives have been purged of any evidence of Jim Boyd's dual melt downs of a few months ago. Curiously, if you want to find a collection of Jim Boyd's other work, from as long as 5 years ago, it's not a problem.)

So, did the Star Tribune have a drastic change of heart on Powerline? Or are they referring to some other set of bloggers as the heroes? We'll never know. The institutional voice of the dominant newspaper in this market chooses to speak in riddles on this one.

They weren't so mysterious with regard to another group that had an affect on this past election.

There was quite a lot of bad and ugly, typified by the Swift Boat Vets for Truth and the Sinclair Broadcasting Group's effort to broadcast a smear as "news." To a lesser extent, Michael Moore was guilty of the same thing with his conspiracy theories in the film "Fahrenheit 9/11."

The worst aspect of this campaign was the Swift Boat Vets and POWs for Truth. They're worse and uglier than Michael Moore - a man who has done more to spread anti-Americanism and encourage our enemies than anyone in history. Take this example from Derbyshire:

I was talking to some young English people the other day. They didn't know much about U.S. politics, and half of what they knew came from watching Fahrenheit 911. They knew there was something fishy about that movie, and giggled in a slightly embarrassed way as they played back the opinions they had picked up from it; but those were in fact their opinions faute de mieux(*), and some of them will stick. In cultures yet further removed from our own - in China, in Latin America, in India, in the Muslim Middle East - Moore's poisonous brew is swallowed without a hiccup, and has become the stuff that "everybody knows..."

And, according to the Star Tribune, he's not as "bad" or "ugly" as the Swift Boat Veterans and POWs for Truth.

I can understand their resentment against those veterans for effectively working against their personal political interests. But this level of disrespect is astonishing - and revealing. Remember, the Swift Vets and POWS are men who risked their lives to serve our country in a war. They suffered grievous injuries. Many were prisoners of war. They include a Medal of Honor winner. Their ranks include Democrats, Republicans, and independents and they organized only for the purpose of preventing John Kerry from exploiting their records for his personal gain. They only wanted to tell the story of what they experienced in Vietnam and the effect of John Kerry's antiwar activities on their lives, during and after the war.

And for that sin they were first ignored, then ridiculed, then slandered by the press. Now the Star Tribune calls them with "bad" and "ugly," worse than Michael Moore." This is the equivalent of Lawrence O'Donnell repeatedly shouting "liar, creepy liar!" at John O'Neil on MSNBC. And this is the institutional voice of the dominant newspaper in this market.

I wonder if the Star Tribune editorial board laughed and congratulated each other after putting together this anonymous attack against the vets. And I wonder how many of these same editors were insulting and laughing at these same servicemen when they first came home from the war, all those years ago.

Today, November 11, is Veteran's Day. People of good conscience, across all political orientations, honor the service of those who have gone before. And we pray for those currently fighting and dying to protect us all.

After seeing the Star Tribune's treatment of our veterans, I'm not sure we can consider their editorial board as people of good conscience. And I can't imagine why a veteran would ever give a dime to the Star Tribune again.


Wednesday, November 10, 2004
Black and White and Red All Over

Rick from Eagan analyzes Nick Coleman's claims of a Democratic tomorrow in the suburbs:

In Nick Coleman's Sunday column he made the following statement:

It wasn't just Edina that turned blue, Red. So did Mendota Heights, Eagan (the governor's home) and many other areas where moderate Minnesotans -- of all political stripes -- who care deeply about education, health care, the environment and the social safety net decided they did not want to be in Alabama.

I don't know about Edina or Mendota Heights, but being that I live in Eagan I was rather shocked at this statement, so I rushed to the Secretary of State site to find out if it were so.

It was true! Eagan went for Kerry by a margin of 578 votes out of 37,077 cast.

It was also not true. John Kline (GOP) took Eagan with 2,061 more votes than DFL'er Teresa Daly and IP'er Doug Williams combined, and won 17 of 21 precincts: Kline-51.1%, Daly-42.5%, Williams-3%, No Preference-3.4%.

Furthermore, GOP Minnesota house candidates got 2,405 more votes than DFL candidates, and won 15 of 21 precincts: GOP-50.0%, DFL-43.6%, No Preference-6%.

So it seems that Mr. Coleman is way off when he says that Eagan is now a blue city.

How then did Kerry carry Eagan? At least 926 Kline supporters failed support Bush's re-election. If they had stuck to the ticket, Bush would have won Eagan by 378 votes.

Kerry also benefited from voters who only voted for him, and not for Congress or the state house candidates. My math here is rather complicated, but the estimate is between 1,129 and 2,010 ballots choosing Kerry and no other selections. 1,000 to 2,000 disembodied Kerry votes out of 37,000 cast!

Doesn't it strike you as odd, that between 1,000 and 2,000 Kerry voters (3-5%) in this prosperous suburb had no preference for congress or the Minnesota house? As Drudge would say, "Developing ..."

It does strike us as odd. But our eyes glazed over as soon as Rick mentioned his math was complicated, so we are unable to personally verify his cipherin' as correct.

I think it is plausible that at least a portion of the 3-5% Kerry voters were honest enough to admit they didn't know enough about a state congressional race, so they did the right thing and refused to vote on it. And part of that 3-5% are probably overvotes, those who mistakenly voted twice in that race and the tabulation machine rightfully disenfranchised them on account of mental deficiency.

But none of that disproves Rick's thesis - that Nick Coleman is wrong about the Blue hue of Eagan. It's mostly still Red, but with just enough ignorance (3-5%) to allow the Democrats to win an occasional election there.


Wednesday, October 27, 2004
As Heard on the Radio

The friendly NARN competition, Dave Thompson from KSTP, emails his thoughts on John Kerry ...

As all political observers know, campaigns are often won and lost on "little" issues that sometimes have nothing to do with substantive issues. Most pundits agree that the slight surge for President Bush following the third debate was, at least in part, the result of Senator Kerry's unseemly reference to Mary Cheney's sexual preference. The power of this comment came from its demonstration of Senator Kerry's lack of character and judgment.

Earlier this week we learned of the report that 380 tons of explosives disappeared from Iraq right under the nose of U.S. forces. Upon further review, as they say in the NFL, this allegation is dubious at best and an outright lie at worst. Even Kerry's number one foreign policy shill, Richard Holbrooke, stated, "I don't know the truth."

Nevertheless, Senator Kerry continues to hammer the President on "facts" that have been disproved. This is yet another demonstration of Senator Kerry's lack of character and judgment. But this goes well beyond the Mary Cheney debacle, because this story has policy implications.

It does not take a professor of logic to see the disingenuous nature of Kerry's criticism. First, if such stockpiles of weapons existed despite the most excellent efforts of Hans Blix and the boys, then I guess the inspections weren't working so well after all. Second, Kerry now alleges that Saddam likely put these weapons into the "wrong" hands. Well, if he believes Saddam was ready, willing and able to put these weapons in the wrong hands despite the efforts of the U.N., then Bush's war looks pretty reasonable.

On Wednesday morning, the President started his attack on this issue. He should continue his attack until the last voter leaves the last open polling place. John Kerry really stepped in it on this one.

Very true. For those wishing to hear more about it, Dave broadcasts his radio show on KSTP during a certain weekend afternoon day part that will go nameless.

Hey, if he wants more publicity, he can buy an ad on Northern Alliance Radio, Saturdays 12-3PM on AM1280, the Patriot.

One radio show accepting ads from another radio show on at the same time? Are we insane? Yes, insane for ratings! (And ad revenues!) We're breaking all thre rules! Hear it all for yourself this Saturday on the Patriot! Heee-aaaah!!!


Monday, October 18, 2004
Mission Accomplished

On Sunday the Star Tribune came out with their endorsement for President. No need to tell you who it is, you won't be surprised. What is surprising is the teeth grinding, seething rhetoric used to state their points. It is at the embarrassing level of a City Pages/Steve Perry editorial, where professional standards and the need to persuade are sublimated to wounded ego gratification and left wing one upsmanship. It also reminds me of, dare I say, a blog. At least the kind of blog where immaturity, a nurtured narrow perspective, and high emotions combined with immediate publishing access results in prose the author will be embarrassed about when he finally grows up, if not the morning after.

Check out these excerpts and remember, this is the institutional voice of the dominant newspaper in this market:

Kerry recognizes that to prevail in the struggle against terrorism, America must return to the moral high ground rather than unilaterally pursue a perverted, narrow vision of its national interest.

[Bush] has proved to be the most divisive, insular and partisan president since Richard Nixon. He ran as a moderate, but has pursued radical goals that have plunged the nation into debt and injected the government into the most personal of family matters. He promised to conduct foreign policy humbly, yet he repeatedly spurned allies, culminating in his arrogant and misguided rush to war on Iraq.

The Star Tribune, the product of the finest professional journalists in town, our hometown press advocate, goes on to endorse the notion that George W. Bush is responsible for the 9/11 attacks:

Indeed, his preoccupation with Iraq and missile defense in early 2001 seems to have prevented him from recognizing the growing dangers of Al-Qaida -- despite the urgent warnings of his own counterterrorism expert.

Bitter, partisan rhetoric, deliberately misleading the reader, saying anything they can to influence Minnesota voters to vote against the Republican candidate for president.

Last week, I mentioned that there is no more alienating experience for select segments of a newspaper's readership than the official institutional judgment on who we should be voting for. Given the disenchantment engendered, and the suspicion of bias permanently planted in these readers' minds (the firewall be damned), I have to wonder why the Star Tribune, or any newspaper editorial board bothers to endorse candidates in the first place.

Last Monday, Pioneer Press editor Art Coulson wrote a column called "Why the Pioneer Press Endorses" (not available online). He states:

The endorsement is not designed to tell you how to vote. It is merely our preference as an institution, a look at how the Pioneer Press might vote were it to enter the polling booth on Nov. 2.

An argument I find to be ridiculous. If they truly didn't want to influence voting behavior, they could skip the winners and losers aspect entirely and just print fact based articles based on their reporting and candidate interviews.

But doing that removes the privileged status the press grants themselves as the preeminent source of local political knowledge and wisdom. And since they believe they possess these qualities, it's only natural for them to want to use this power to serve their desires. It's not easy to influence anything sticking to factual reporting. And make no mistake about it, influence is what they're attempting with endorsements. I was able to find Coulson's defense of the endorsement process from 2003 (which is online), where he states:

I have no doubt that just as many voters carry our endorsements into the booth and vote the opposite way as follow our recommendations. That's great.

I think Coulson's statement also reveals the component ego plays in the tradition of newspaper endorsements. The editorial board members fancy themselves immersed in thinking important thoughts of matters political every day of their lives. They've convinced themselves they are THE experts and it is their obligation to lead the willing sheep to the truth. Coulson admits as much (from his 2004 explanation):

We also know that many readers don't have a lot of time to meet personally with candidates, to wade through the campaign literature, to attend forums and debates. We have a chance to ask candidates tough questions and to gauge their responses. We see ourselves as another set of eyes and ears for the time-pressed readers.

Their assumption being that the citizenry simply doesn't have time to adequately inform themselves about something so apparently inconsequential to their lives as an election. According to this logic, the people don't even have time to read a detailed article, running down the facts of a certain race. Therefore an official endorsement, listing the specific name of the superior candidate, is critical in the process. But remember, they're not telling anyone who to vote for.

More absurd yet is that that newspapers consider themselves a primary source of direction not just for the major races. They deign to tell us who to vote for in all races. The Pioneer Press announced they've invited 221 candidates to be interviewed. They're planning on running endorsements on he Op/Ed page every day until the end of the month, on more than 50 different races, from US Senate to State legislative races to judicial races to municipal elections and school board races - in both Minnesota and Wisconsin. And realize, the editorial board members have never lived in the overwhelming majority of these communities. They don't have any direct stake in the outcomes. Yet they find it entirely necessary and proper to tell the voters in those communities who they should vote for.

I suspect (hope) the truth is that the newspapers' power to affect voting behavior is more limited than Coulson realizes. I would imagine most modern newspaper consumers are politically conscious enough to have their minds made up in advance of the candidate coronation ceremony by the editorial boards. The liberals will largely agree with the paper's choices, the conservatives will disagree. Those looking for guidance by editorial writers number too few to make any difference in an election.

So, the only consequences of these endosements are a growing segement of alienated readers and the enhancement of editorial board members' egos. Unfortunately, something tells me that's enough reason for the Star Tribune to continue the practice indefinitely.


Wednesday, October 13, 2004
Shameless Self Endorsement

With the election fast approaching we are now entering the season of candidate endorsements by the local papers. In my humble opinion, one of the low points of the year for journalism.

Of all the quarrels and quibbles we have with the Star Tribune and Pioneer Press, there's no more alienating event for the readership (specifically the Conservative segment) than reading the official institutional judgment on who we should be voting for. From on high, these self-selected experts on politics decree the right man for the job.

And at that moment, every dime you ever spent on that paper's subscription or patronizing its advertisers, feels like icy, bitter self-betrayal. Your local paper, as an institution, wraps it's arms and legs around a candidate you may despise and tells you and the world to vote for him. It doesn't get any more lonely than that for the dissenting news consumer.

When the complaints roll in from the Right about bias in endorsements, inevitably someone produces anecdotal evidence on the balance present in these selections. Defenses of how the editorial board picks the right person for the job, regardless of party affiliation. Any perceived bias is, as always, dismissed as a figment of the right wing imagination.

But this year, it looks like we have a little science on our side. Peter Swanson from Swanblog got his hands on a data set chronicling the nature of the Star Tribune's endorsements from 1988 - 2000. His conclusion is, you right wingers from Minneapolis have reason to feel alienated by your hometown paper. Excerpt:

In addition to endorsing Democrats more frequently than Republicans, the Strib rarely endorses a Republican in a close race. Looking at U.S. House endorsements, almost all of the Republican endorsements are in safe Republican or safe Democrat districts. When considering endorsement in, say, the Third District, the Republican candidate is going to win anyway, so it is safe to endorse him. In districts safe for Democrats, an endorsement of a Republican here or there gives the appearance of being even-handed without risking an effect on the outcome.

In short, the Star Tribune attempts to create the illusion of balance, while pursuing their normal ideological goals. As a result, their process of endorsement is more of a game than their honest assessment of what would create an optimal government. If it was the latter, you'd see straight party line endorsements. But that would bring down their aggressively defended facade as fair, objective arbiters of political issues and candidates. So instead you get strategic calculations and artful dodging. Call it what you will, but don't call it news. Or a service to the readers.

This week the Pioneer Press began its three week long marathon of providing daily endorsements, for over 50 races, across both Minnesota and Wisconsin. Everything from President down to local school board races receives their final judgment.

Reviewing what they have so far, I must say the right wing slide we've seen signs of recently at the PiPress seems to be continuing. Lots of GOP endorsements, for at least these suburban races, a traditional stronghold for Republicans. (It would be interesting to see an analysis of endorsements by incumbent status - which may be driving these decisions more than party affiliation).

Even with the refreshing ideological diversity, some troubling themes emerge in their decision making criteria. Specifically, they seem to have a litmus test on a willingness by the candidates to raise taxes. Examples from this weeks' chosen few endorsees.

Republican Lloyd Cybart in 37A (Apple Valley/Burnsville):

Wisely, he did not sign the Taxpayer League's "no-taxes" pledge, indicating to us that he is willing to consider all options in addressing the state?s budget problems. But we also believe that he would stand firm against tax increases except as a last resort.

So it's a sign of "wisdom" to raise taxes. I guess it's encouraging to hear he'd only consider raising taxes only as a "last resort".

Republican Dennis Ozment in 37B (Rosemount)

Ozment, who also declined to sign the "no-taxes" pledge, is a fiscal conservative who would only back a tax increase as a last resort. He would support an increase in the gas tax if necessary to fund transportation improvements, but wants the distribution formula made fairer for metro-area counties.

Another 'last resort' guy. So only after social spending has been zeroed out and grandma has been thrown in the street and infants are left starving in their cribs, then we can consider raising taxes? Now THAT's fiscal conservatism. But for some reason I suspect the Pioneer Press's "last resort" looks a lot like the "first option" when its favored spending initiatives conflict with revenue projections.

Republican Mary Liz Holberg in 36A (Lakeville):

In the race to represent this fast-growing Lakeville district, incumbent Republican Mary Liz Holberg stands out for her experience, her intimate knowledge of the issues and her willingness to look at the range of options for dealing with the state's ongoing budget challenges.

As long as that range of options includes raising taxes, she's cool with the Pioneer Press. Not to mention wise.

Democrat Joe Atkins from 39B (Inver Grove Heights)

First, he would ensure that state government ran as lean as it could. Then, Atkins said he wouldn't just look at tax increases or spending cuts to plug any budget gaps in the next biennium he would also push the state to look for funding alternatives, including public-private partnerships.

No, he wouldn't "just" look at tax increases, he'd look at all sorts of things. Right after he raised some taxes.

Democrat Will Morgan from 39A (western Dakota County):

Morgan said he would also be open to rolling back state income tax cuts on the wealthiest Minnesotans and would also take a hard look at corporate taxes. We would urge caution here - Minnesota's tax burden is already among the nation's highest. Morgan said that tax increases should be considered only as a last resort. We'd agree.

Again with the last resort? Third mention of it. What exactly does that mean to these people? Didn't that particular question ever come up during the interviews conducted by these journalism professionals?

Never fear, some enlightenment bleeds out between the lines in this blurb about Duke Powell, the guy they didn't endorse in 40A:

While we salute his thriftiness, we fear that strict adherence to the no-taxes pledge could back the Legislature into a corner when it comes to investing in important projects, such as the Central Corridor and a new Twins stadium for St. Paul.

There it is - defined! Subsidizing professional sports with hundreds of millions of dollars of the public's money - that's the last resort. Maybe by "resort" they meant this other Merriam Webster definition of the word: "a place providing recreation, especially to vacationers."

But, trust them, it's the last one. Except for the new Gopher football stadium. And then the new Vikings stadium. And then, that's it! At least until the Timberwolves start getting squirrelly again about their revenue streams.

What's odd about this logic is that I doubt any single individual on the editorial board actually holds that position, tax increases, but only for stadiums. I'm sure the liberal majority is frothing at the mouth to raise taxes, but the last thing on their priority list is a new Twins Stadium. And the conservative(s) would probably agree with the strict adherence to the "no new taxes" pledge. But if some sleazy back room political deal with an obstinate DFL to raise taxes is deemed necessary to get a budget passed next term, the last thing a fiscal conservative could justify is spending an obscene amount of money to subsidize a private business, even if it is in St. Paul.

So this endorsement, this expression of the institutional voice, takes the form of an opinion that no one actually holds. Some median point of abstraction, written to satisfy no one, except for perhaps a corporate mission encouraging blind boosterism of St. Paul.

I suppose promoting this abstraction is less alienating than cold political calculation. But it still ain't news or a service to the reader.


Sunday, October 03, 2004
Coleman Fallout Continues

From Australia, reports of a retired Minneapolis journalist (credentialed, mind you), abandoning the Star Tribune for blogs. Excerpt:

We live in Minneapolis, and the Strib is our paper. [My father] doesn't bother with it. He has been retired for over a decade and almost all he reads now are blogs. He loves them. He is now addicted to Powerline, and Lileks, and Hewitt, among others. He is a great admirer or the Northern Alliance.

Northern Alliance addiction. The sure fire cure for Nick Coleman Fatigue.

Yesterday, during the third hour of the Northern Alliance Radio Network we held a debate with Nick Coleman on his allegations. And in the grand tradition of Star Tribune credentialed journalists, he refused to show up. Or even acknowledge our many invitations. Perhaps he was out chasing tornadoes. Or maybe locked in a fallout shelter, with a trembling Jim Boyd, hoping to ride out the storm.

We of course held the debate without him. Check out the Northern Alliance web stream at right for the replay of all the gory details (which will be continuously recycling all week long).


Thursday, September 30, 2004
Thunder from Down Under

The award for the most long distance savaging of Nick Coleman goes to .... Tim Blair.

He's Australia's finest blogger, and a real live newspaper journalist as well. Perhaps that's why he knows Coleman's type so well. Excerpts:

The Minneapolis Star Tribune's Nick Coleman puts us idiots in our place:

"Here's what really makes bloggers mad: I know stuff."

Too bad all-knowing Coleman wasn't able to help his Big Media colleagues identify a Microsoft Word document recently. Because -- and he'll tell you -- Colemen knows a whole bunch about everything:

"I covered Minneapolis City Hall, back when Republicans controlled the City Council. I have reported from almost every county in the state, I have covered murders, floods, tornadoes, World Series and six governors."

Wow! Almost every county in Minnesota! That totally kills us blogger types, who never go anywhere or do anything. None of us know of these "tornadoes" or "World Series" you speak of. What are they? And, seeing as you're such an expert, who will win this year's World Series? Who will win the World Series in 2011?

"Do bloggers have the credentials of real journalists? No. "

Well, apart from those of us who do have those credentials, on account of being "real journalists". Which is the saddest life description I can currently think of.

Don't miss Tim's comments section either, or as Nick Coleman would describe it, a sleazy and unreliable chat room. It includes these insightful, witty barbs:

I read this earlier and I constantly felt suprised that I wasn't seeing any tear stains on his submission. That editorial had all the look of a man who has had his dignity belittled by someone. Posted by: jungus at October 1, 2004 at 05:47 AM

Attention, Australians - the belittler in question, it was me! It was me! I made Nick Coleman cry!

I am a reporter at a daily paper in NYC. This is the stupidest fucking thing I have read in some time. I work very hard at my job and take a lot of pride in it, but I drink no Kool-Aid. all that self-referential shuck and jive--"i covered city hall"--is pablum. I've done that stuff too and feel confident that an orangutang could do it as well as some reporters ive seen.

Journalism is a craft, learned and improved upon with repetition. There are innate skills that can make one person a better reporter than another--effort, desire, personality, humility, thick skin, the ability to work with financial or legal documents and a sense of what sells to your constituency. But to imply that Mr. Coleman has something that 90% of the readers here dont have is asinine.
Posted by: rod at October 1, 2004 at 07:38 AM

"I covered Minneapolis City Hall, back when Republicans controlled the City Council. I have reported from almost every county in the state, I have covered murders, floods, tornadoes, World Series and six governors."

"Today I'm covering Dan Rather's ass." Posted by: Bob's Your Uncle at October 1, 2004 at 08:13 AM


'Round The Horn

The hounds of the blogosphere have been released and they've set upon Nick Coleman like Michael Moore on a side of beef. Captain Ed was the first member of the Northern Alliance to take a bite of Coleman's increasingly thin hide, and he soon followed on by Mitch Berg, SCSUScholars, and SPITBULL. Today Lileks joined the fray with a few subtle remarks of his own. It would be interesting to know what he thinks of Nick Coleman off the record. Heck, even the Commish has gotten his licks in.The only member of the Northern Alliance yet to be heard from on Coleman is Power Line, and they probably deem him unworthy of their time.

Other local bloggers have also weighed in including:


Bogus Gold

Helloooo, Chapter Two!

Plastic Hallway

Tom Swift


New Patriot

And Coleman bashing is not limited to Minnesota bloggers as evidenced by posts from:

Irreconcilable Musings

Jay Rosen


Austin Mayor


QandO Blog

The beauty is that Coleman is getting savaged from the both the right and left on this. And that the rest of the country now has a chance to experience his arrogant hackery, as those of here in the Twin Cities have for years.

At this point I don't know if they're much left of his carcass to pick over, but rest assured we will be discussing Nick's nattering nonsense this Saturday on the Northern Alliance Radio Network. In fact Mitch has invited Coleman to appear on the show to further enlighten us unworthies on the finer points of being a journalist. Don't hold your breathe on that one.

SP ADDS: Also, from Guerilla Monkey, a terrific fantasy/reality sequence featuring a weepy phone call from Nick Coleman and this destined for the masthead description:

The mean one is that Frat guy, that Saint Paul.


Brave New World

Yesterday, in Nick Coleman's outburst about bloggers, he listed some of the essential components of proper reporting, things the mainstream media (MSM) have and bloggers do not: editors, correction policies, and community standards.

Ignoring the accuracy of that assessment for a moment, I have to ask, what exactly do all those components conspire to offer the reader? How exactly do those checks and balances improve the end product?

For evidence, I turn to this very same Nick Coleman column, which I'm sure was subjected to the normal, rigorous standards of Star Tribune professionalism. Coleman's conclusion on the nature of the entire blogosphere merits particular scrutiny. The blogosphere, an entity with millions of constituent parts, of every possible political perspective, field of interest, style of prose, level of education, and level of quality. A medium which has been essential in publicizing such stories as Trent Lott's comments about race (which ended in his removal from Senate leadership), John Kerry's false and misleading claims about his service in Vietnam (which may change the course of a Presidential election), and CBS News's use of forged documents (which may change the nature of network broadcast journalism). And Nick Coleman describes that "thing" as follows:

Bloggers are hobby hacks, the Internet version of the sad loners who used to listen to police radios in their bachelor apartments and think they were involved in the world.

Bloggers don't know about anything that happened before they sat down to share their every thought with the moon. Like graffiti artists, they tag the public square -- without editors, correction policies or community standards. And so their tripe is often as vicious as it is vacuous.

Bold, provocative, extreme claims there. Requiring a reasonable amount of solid, well-considered evidence. So what does Nick offer in this regard as the evidence that bloggers are vicious and vacuous? He offers allegations that a single, unnamed local blogger has called him a child of wealth and privilege. And Nick says that's not the case at all.

That's it!? THAT'S the kind of superior journalism all those MSM benefits provide. All those editors meticulously reviewing Nick's work, the strict corrections policies hanging over his head like al-Zarqawi's knife, the community standards he passionately adheres to, and he can still get away with publishing that!?

Maybe it's just the wrong type of editors working for the Star Tribune. Sure, it appears all of Coleman's commas and apostrophes are in good order. No participles dangerously dangling about. But what about an editor who will tell him his conclusion is not supported by the evidence he presents. And that it's not even a close call, it's embarrassingly thin and shril. And because of this he comes off as a defensive, out of touch crank.

Do the sacred corrections policies ever address that issue? Something like:

In Nick Coleman's column of September 29, he asserted a premise that could not in any way be supported by the evidence he presented. It is the policy of the Star Tribune to only print gratuitous insults when the claims have at least have a thin veneer of plausibility, or when they are in the course of attempting humor. Neither were evident in Coleman's column. The Star Tribune regrets the error.

Do editors in the MSM ever level with their reporters and star columnists in this manner. Or is it forbidden to criticize Nick Coleman at this stage of his career?

Because, I must say, the editors in the blogosphere provide that kind of feedback all the time. The primary editor, being ourselves. If I wrote some weak, humorless, imperious crap like Coleman's column, I'd recognize it. And I'd feel like an idiot. It would never see the light of day and if it did get published, there are those among my cohorts on this site who would be glad to tell me that it sucked.

This brings up a distinct advantage of the blogosphere, no deadlines. If my wit and wisdom on a given day stinks out the joint, I'll kill it, for the good of all. On the other hand, Nick Coleman is obligated to publish two or three times per week. So even when he's suffering from a creative coma, something has got to be published, to the suffering of all subscribers. Nick and his second wife Laura Billings have made great sport of the "midnight posting" of bloggers, but again it illustrates an advantage of the medium - the immediacy. You can write and publish when it's most advantageous to you and your creative drive, not as it's dictated by the 9-to-5 parameters of the daily business cycle.

Getting back to Coleman and his one, teeny tiny bit of evidence against the blogosphere, that someone falsely alleged he was a wealthy man, born into privilege and power. That someone, by the way, is us, Fraters Libertas. In the award-winning, satirical docu-drama, the Newspaper Newlyweds.

Note, I said it was satirical. Broad hyperbole to make a point and to be humorous (at least they made us laugh - which is enough).

It was entertainment. A rather important factor to notice when you're basing an entire thesis on the nature of a new medium exclusively on that one piece. (I can see why Coleman might not have found those posts entertaining. But Nick, where were your editors on that one?)

Entertainment - not intended, or required to be, strictly factual. Although our assertions were certainly based in reality - otherwise it wouldn't be funny at all.

Regarding wealth, I'm sure Nick Coleman and Laura Billings are well into the six figures with their combined salaries from the newspapers (your subscription dollars at work, folks). Given his tenure, I imagine Nick's got to be getting close to $100K all on his own. Am I to understand, he doesn't consider that to be wealthy?

Maybe that is what he truly believes. It wouldn't surprise me that a man who defines journalism as "to scrutinize the actions of those in power" would create delusions about his own life circumstances. How else could he sleep at night?

Thankfully, in this new world of media and information access, Coleman doesn't get the final edit on reality. Not even of his own life story. Nick, welcome to the future.


Wednesday, September 29, 2004
Moby Nick

Yesterday, in a message to their readers, the boys at Power Line revealed:

When we started this site two and a half years ago, the Trunk said: "The idea that we could ever have any readers for this thing is a pathetic fantasy."

Which pretty much echoes the thoughts we had we when we launched Fraters Libertas around that same time. An even more delusional dream back then would be the notion that well-established columnists with the local major daily newspapers would not only be reading our site, but responding to us in print.

Well folks I'm here to tell you, sometimes dreams do come true. Look no further than today's offering from Nick Coleman in the Star Tribune called "Blogged down in Web fantasy".

Captain Ed has already taken a crack at the increasingly neurotic Nick Boy, but this is too big for us to pass on. In fact by the end of the day, we all may take our turns playing Whack-A-'Hole with Coleman's caterwauling. Make no mistake about it, even though Nick does not mention us directly, this little paranoid rant of his is largely directed at us humble bloggers at Fraters Libertas.

For no one has been banging on Nick Boy like we have. From simple Fiskings of his crappy columns to the full-blown, all-out exposes of his personal life in the Newspaper Newlyweds, we've been on Nick like a tick on a elephant. Wait, that's his line isn't it?

But one of the shams we're chasing is the supposed threat of the blogs, who are to journalism what ticks are to elephants. Ticks may make the elephants nuts, but that doesn't mean they will replace them. You can't ride a tick.

So we're making you "nuts" are we Nick? So sorry. How are you holding up anyway?

We are rattled, and in danger of losing our way.

A rattled nut walking around the offices of the Star Tribune? And you thought working at the Post Office was dangerous.

Our crusade against Nick Boy has been led by Saint Paul, who pushed the concept of Fisking to a whole new level by introducing the Newspaper Newlyweds (with some help from The Man From Silver Mountain). Instead of looking at Nick Coleman from the Star Tribune and Laura Billings from the St. Paul Pioneer Press as individual columnists, he deftly wove their marriage into the larger picture of the dysfunctional local media, as he looked between the lines of their writing for hints of what was going on behind the scenes.

This summer, when Laura's ego-gratifying Googling led her to discover our handiwork, she saw fit to take to the pages of the Pioneer Press and describe us as, "lonely guys who write withering and anonymous social commentary in their underpants." As Saint Paul said at the time, "Jackpot." We had broken through.

But for Saint Paul, Laura Billings was small fry. He continued to stalk his larger prey with a single-minded obsession, bordering on fanaticism. Apparently his barbed harpoons have found their target. For his white whale is now squealing like a stuck pig. Congratulations Saint Paul, this is your day. Rejoice in it and be glad.

And thanks to Nick Coleman. Because after two and half years of blogging, you start to get a bit worn down, a little less enthusiastic. You ask yourself why you even bother to blog and whether it's really worth it. After seeing Nick's column today the answer is an emphatic "Hell yeah!" Thanks to Nick's snarky, sneering sniping I'm now motivated to re-up for another two and a half year tour of duty in the 'sphere. Booyah baby!

The next time I'm sitting in my underwear, drinking (you forgot that one), and blogging stuff up at midnight I'll be thinking of you Nick. I didn't go to a fancy "J" school. I haven't spent the better part of my life attending zoning meetings and running down the list of vice collars at a local precinct. My ear has not had the benefit of extensive baloney detection training. I most certainly am not worthy of carrying your precious notebook. And God knows, I can't possibly know as much "stuff" as you since I'm not a "professional journalist." But I do know one thing. If, according to you, the job of journalists is

to scrutinize the actions of those in power

then the job of bloggers is to do the same to those in power in the media. The question is: can YOU handle the scrutiny Nick?


Monday, September 13, 2004
Kmart Sucks

Tim e-mails to opine about local "action" news, Rather's unraveling, and what not to wear while writing:

I saw your post about local news reporting about the internet and the need for the footage to show typing and the clicking of computer keyboard keys. I noticed the same thing, and our local reporters here cannot give a live report without walking from where they're standing to some more advantageous spot, even though we're only talking about 10 feet. It's like they're proving they can chew gum and walk at the same time.

Secondly, about the memos kerfluffle. I really couldn't care less except for the fact that the story has not allowed the Kerry camp to get their messages covered. My wildest hope and dream would be that the other MSM demands to know who verified these documents for CBS, and who gave them to CBS. Wouldn't it be great if it turned out that Michael Moore gave the documents to CBS, hoping it would deflect the heat from Kerry? I really wouldn't be surprised if it turned out that some Democratic stooge thought that the only way to get Kerry back on track would be to embellish a story that is four years old and has been thoroughly exhausted by now, and found a willing taker in CBS.

I don't get all of these attempts at discrediting bloggers by speculating what you may chose to wear or not wear while you are blogging. Am I to believe that Jennings, Brokaw and Rather really are wearing pants under that desk they sit behind? Puh-leeze!! Just for the record, I am writing this in a pair of tighty-whitey Fruit-of-the Looms, purchased form K-Mart.

File that memo under "Too Much Information". I was thinking about the latest snide speculation regarding the dress code of bloggers and realized that I fall under both broad categorizations. For in my world there is no dichotomy between underwear and pajamas. They are one and the same. Talk about TMI.

Tune in tomorrow for another riveting post on the personal habits of bloggers called, "Gold Bond: Your Secret Weapon In The Chafing Wars."


Saturday, September 11, 2004
Memo To The Star Tribune: Get A Poll!

GOP chairman urges Star Tribune to fire poll director:

The chairman of the state's Republican Party called on the Star Tribune on Friday to dismiss the long-time director of its Minnesota Poll, claiming that the poll results are consistently inaccurate in a way that favors the Democratic Party.

"When a newspaper conducts a poll on a political race and then prints an article on that poll, it is doing more than reporting news; it is creating news," said Ron Eibensteiner, in a letter to Star Tribune Publisher and President J. Keith Moyer.

Problems with the accuracy of the Star Tribune poll? Imagine that.


Friday, September 10, 2004
Trending Positive

It seems Mark Yost, the new member of the Pioneer Press editorial board (and formerly of the Wall Street Journal) may be starting to have a positive influence on the formerly sacred liberal ground of the Pioneer Press editorial page.

This from John, who's a long time subscriber and close scrutinizer of the Pioneer Press:

Just this past week, in the print edition, the words "free market" appear in headlines in a positive light twice on the page! If the Martians land today, they'll put the PiPress squarely in the conservative camp.

More interesting is the notion of "balance" at the PiPress that's driving the pretense of a more conservative view. For example, today's editorial touts free market principles in support of prescription drug reimportation, but previously the PiPress endorsed the Senate Bill on drug importation that calls for restrictions on drug companies that limit retaliation against countries that reimport drugs to the United States. Of course, that action would undercut all the economic principles touted in today's editorial. It will be interesting to see how the paper works that out. Ultimately, institutional balance (contrasted with op-ed balance) has to crumble on itself -- "flip-flop" comes to mind.

And check out the little Hillary dig:

We wonder what Hillary Clinton's opinion is of American health care following her husband's successful quadruple bypass surgery over the weekend.

Readers may recall that Sen. Clinton's 1993 Health Care Task Force vilified the health care industry and argued for nationalizing it. We suspect she doesn't see the irony in the fact that if she'd been successful, many companies - like Minnesota's own Medtronic and Guidant - would have been discouraged from developing the cutting-edge medical devices and drugs that have made surgeries like her husband's so routine.
Highly encouraging, I must say. Advocating for the free market and zinging Hillary Clinton for hypocrisy - all in an unsigned "institutional voice" editorial. In the Pioneer Press! I never thought I'd see the day. Since their editorial board only has four or five members, it's reasonable to conclude this is Yost's influence and we pass along our congratulations and encouragement to him.

On Wednesday, there was also a great piece from new Pioneer Press contributor Craig Westover on education. Excerpt:

Government's education monopoly limits diversity of curriculum, teaching methods and the invisible hand of innovation that ultimately evolves more effective ways of educating children - evaluated by their parents, not some arbitrarily defined measurement ritual.

Perhaps it's time for Minnesota to stop trying to improve the doll and take a good hard look at the ritual belief that only the high priests of government education can create a viable school system. Perhaps it's time to take a good hard look at providing parents the opportunity to send their children to schools of their choice without financial penalty.

Perhaps it's time to liberate the taboo topic of free-market education.

Yost and Westover, a nice one-two conservative punch, the likes of which this town has never seen before in a local paper. They keep this up and we may just have to start the campaign for conservatives to abandon their Star Tribune subscriptions for the Pioneer Press.


Wednesday, September 08, 2004
Is There No Escape?!

I don't know why I even bother to read the Minneapolis Star Tribune. I steadfastly refuse to subscribe, but the reality of life in the Twin Cities dictates that one is never too far from someone who does. As a result, I invariably end up with the dreadful stain of the Strib's ink on my fingers and the accompanying stain on my ever darkening soul.

In the past, I have always been able to justify my foray into wickedness by forcefully stating that my only interest in picking up a copy was to peruse last night's box scores or to see how many Vikings players were arrested the previous evening. I always took some comfort in the fact that the sports section of our local rag seemed to be somewhat immune to the cancer that has spread throughout its pages via the poisoned minds of Jim Boyd, Nick Coleman, et al.

Alas, my rose-colored reverie has been brutally shattered by the publication of a sports piece so vapid and juvenile that a sound fisking would be both embarrassing to me and to the author. Instead, I merely present the column here, in its entirety, for your reading pleasure:

Documentary Film Sews Up His Vote

(Bryant McKinnie has developed into a cornerstone of the Vikings franchise. His personal interests range well beyond football, and he will share them with Star Tribune readers every Wednesday through the NFL season.)

I'm back practicing now after spraining my right knee two weeks ago. The doctors have given me an elastic sleeve to wear around the knee. It feels better with it on, mentally. It's like I've got security with it.

I sat out the team drills Monday, but I'll be back Wednesday doing everything. And you know I'll be ready for the Dallas game Sunday. The main guy I'm going to be going up against is Greg Ellis, No. 98. I'm going to watch tapes of his pass rushing moves this week so I can learn how he plays.

Enough with that stuff. I saw the movie "Fahrenheit 9/11" not too long ago. I'm a Democrat, but after going to see that movie, I don't think it should even be close who you're voting for. I know I definitely won't be voting for President Bush.

I was in Florida, going to school at Miami, when all the foolishness down there helped Bush get elected. I voted for Al Gore, but I don't even know if my vote counted. People tried to make it out like people in Florida are slow and didn't know how to vote. That wasn't it at all.

Before I saw the movie, I didn't know too much about all the issues that have come up since then. I thought it gave you a better opportunity to see what's going on. Some people say that the director, Michael Moore, might have exaggerated some of the things in the movie or left stuff out, but I still don't see how you couldn't be convinced by what was in it.

I was really concerned about what the movie said about Bush and the Bin Laden family, how they were each making money for the other. It's nothing but a big scam. They were hustling each other. That's why Bush isn't trying to go after him now. He went after Saddam Hussein, and he's got nothing to do with 9/11.

Seems to me you should get the guy who sent those guys over here to do the bombing. That's Bin Laden.

I just couldn't believe how the movie showed Bush already knew the Bin Laden family, and that he allowed them to fly out of the country after 9/11. If somebody's suspected for murder in this country, and the cops can't find you, they're going to go to your parents and question them. So why did Bush let Bin Laden's family out of the country? I think that was stupid.

My conclusion, after assaulting my eyeballs with the utter nonsense above, is that either Bryant McKinnie is a babbling moron or that Jim Boyd has been relegated to ghostwriting inane Vikings diary pieces. If it is the former, may the Vikings go 0-16 this year as punishment for subjecting readers to such tripe. If it is the latter, let me be the first to congratulate Mr. Boyd on finally finding his niche.

In either case, I think I'll resist the urge to pick up tomorrow's sports section.

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