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Thursday, March 27, 2003
Lies and Consequences

I've gotten some reader feedback regarding the Matt Entenza post from yesterday. Mostly people wanting to know where they can go to purchase the chic Matt Entenza "look," that is Foster Gant sunglasses and a Members Only windbreaker. Sorry folks, but as a man who picks his sunglasses out from Walgreens' revolving cylinder of cheap shades and his clothes out of the discount barrel at Mills Fleet Farm, I can't help you in matters of high fashion. I suggest you call his office directly for sartorial advice.

Other readers have attempted to defend Mr. Entenza on free speech grounds, saying, in essence, that he has every right to express his opinion that the war is wrong. Furthermore, they contend that it is not incongruous or hypocritical for him to state that he supports the troops, yet still participates in rallies that erode public support for the war effort, since protesting might ultimately lead to a quicker end to the conflict (via a US retreat and pull out).

Leaving aside the dire long term consequences of such a move by the United States, this position--that ridiculing, shrill, politically motivated protestation actually helps the troops, is absurd. The country has committed itself to this war effort. Both Congress (in bi-partisan fashion) and the President have approved it, and now we've ordered our fighting men and women to accomplish the task at hand. Standing on the sidelines, mocking the decision makers as incompetent or diabolically motivated, and gleefully parading out the nightmarish worst-case scenarios of this war can only serve to demoralize our troops and to embolden the enemy.

Yesterday's Pioneer Press contained a thoughtful essay by DJ Tice, who explored the knee jerk inclinations of both the "anti-war" and "support the troops" movements. His criticisms of the former were more persuasive, including the following:

Troops enduring the horrors of war, and their loved ones, who must share those horrors through fears and imaginings, are sustained in their ordeals by one idea. They are sustained by the belief that the cause for which they suffer is a worthy cause.

Even if one is convinced that America's leaders have unjust motives in this war -- "blood for oil," say -- no sane person can suppose that even a single soldier lays down his life for lower gasoline prices. Soldiers risk everything they have, or ever will have, because they believe they are serving their country in a mission that is necessary and right.

So inevitably the troops -- and, more especially, just now, their families -- are wounded by the peace movement's public insistence that the war they are fighting is foolhardy or wicked or both. It is cold comfort to say the troops are merely hapless pawns serving the venal purposes of others. Open dissent at home also doubtless encourages America's enemies and aids their propaganda efforts.

It's bad enough when the average citizen participates in these troop demoralizing, enemy encouraging efforts. It's worse when our political leaders do so. Of course Matt Entenza has the right to speak, protest, and support any causes he wishes. But this right does not mean he is above criticism, or immune to being confronted with the real life consequences of his actions.


Wednesday, March 26, 2003
All That Is Humanly Possible

MN House Minority Leader Matt Entenza "Doing All That Is Humanly Possible To Assist And Support The Troops"

According to the official DFL Caucus Web site, last Wednesday, House Minority Leader Matt Entenza somberly stood by the families of young Minnesotans currently serving in the military and said the following:

"During the next few weeks and months, it's also important that we remember the sacrifice being made by the families and loved ones of our troops," Entenza said. "The parents, wives and children of our troops are all carrying a heavy burden. We also have an obligation to do all that is humanly possible to assist and support them during these difficult times."

And by that, I presume he means this?

I suppose these images aren't 100% damning, in that Entenza's not pictured lighting up Old Glory with the business end of a spliff or something. However, it is entirely damning by association. As shown below, the anti-war rally at Macalester on Saturday was nothing but an attack on the Bush Administration, the armed forces and the good old US of A.

And who was there in attendance? Smiling, laughing it up, glad-handing like it was the happiest day of his life? None other than Matt Entenza. That is, he was smiling until the paparazzi arrived, at which point he was hustled away by his handlers, as if he had something to be ashamed of.

People holding signs proclaiming Bush is the butcher of Baghdad, Bush is the real terrorist, Bush is a Nazi lunatic. And Matt Entenza is fraternizing and celebrating with them?!

Slandering the Commander-in-Chief? Eroding popular support for the perilous mission assigned to our brave soldiers? Is this what you mean, Matt Entenza by doing "everything possible to support the troops"? Well, Matt, is it!?


Saturday, March 22, 2003
Glean for Gene

In today's Pioneer Press, Nick Coleman trots out the old warrior for peace, former US Senator from Minnesota Gene McCarthy, to get his opinion on the War with Iraq. And guess what? He's against it!

At least I think he is. Although the point of Coleman's article is another attempt to cast doubt on the prospects for long term US success in Iraq, this time by interviewing a wise old sage of the Left, he doesn't quote any specific comments from McCarthy regarding the war. Rather, he quotes some name calling directed toward the President and some vague historical allusions that are supposed to indicate the US is a declining power in the model of imperial Rome.

In Coleman's defense, McCarthy is not the easiest interview subject. I saw him a couple of years ago at Kieran's Bar in Minneapolis, promoting a documentary based on his life. Any question asked of him by the moderator was met with poetry excerpts (recited from memory), inside jokes, and clever word play and puns. It was strange but also amusing and rather charming coming from an 85-year-old man. But I can imagine Coleman's frustration, after repeatedly trying to get McCarthy to say "yes, Iraq is another Viet Nam," instead getting something like:

"When Rome was declining, a general could organize an army and get some financing and go over and invade Africa," McCarthy was saying. "If he won, he would get a new title and march through Rome and cut off a few heads and hang a few people."

The crowd at the Kieran's event received McCarthy with what I can best describe as adoration. Not only appreciation for what he accomplished in his life, but with the romantic sense that this was a man who was on the right side of history and who was tragically ignored by the mass of the American electorate. A woman from the audience spoke up at one point and speculated on what a wonderful world we would have if Gene McCarthy and Jimmy Carter would have each had 8 years in the presidency. At which point the crowd burst into applause and cheers. (And at which point I inhaled my double Jameson and promptly ordered another, in an attempt to chase these nightmarish visions from my mind).

The peace at any price crowd, and their historical obliviousness to the results of appeasing totalitarian regimes, dumbfounded me then and still does today. Maybe I can glean some insight on them at the Macalester protest march that's scheduled to wind its way perilously close to my house this afternoon. In yesterday's National Review Online, Jonah Goldberg does a good job of exposing the moral bankruptcy of this position, so I'll let him do the talking for me in this regard.

But as I mentioned, Gene McCarthy is an engaging personality. Despite his abysmally wrong-headed policy recommendations and philosophy, he is good humored, intelligent, and well-educated. And he has a talent for eloquently zinging those he disagrees with. The Coleman article includes a couple of shots worth quoting.

On US Senator Robert Byrd (who, by the way is only two years younger then McCarthy):

We used to have a saying in the Senate that if a guy quotes the Constitution, he's in trouble and if he quoted the Bible, he was in a lot of trouble. But if he was in real trouble, he quoted Senate rules. Bobby was always a man to quote the rules."

And on the Democratic party, toward whom McCarthy seems to have soured on since being denied the Presidential nomination in 1968:

When his 1968 presidential bid faltered in the aftermath of the assassination of Bobby Kennedy, the riots of the Chicago Democratic convention and the Machiavellian maneuvers of LBJ, he proposed a new emblem for the Democratic Party. Instead of a donkey, he suggested the party use five prehistoric pigs that had been found in a glacier, frozen in a circle, each pig's snout burrowed for warmth into the behind of the one ahead. "That's a better image for the Democrats," he says. "I've been using it ever since."


Wednesday, March 12, 2003
Good Signs Make Good Neighbors

The Star Tribune reports on the escalating "sign wars" going on in the Twin Cities. It seems Joe Repya's efforts to distribute his "Liberate Iraq" signs have been highly successful, all across the metro area. The market niche for this product has existed for some time. The "No War!" crowd has been actively organized since last October, blocking up the scenery in formerly peaceful neighborhoods with their scolding, bullying signs, much to the chagrin of many neighbors. For a long time there was no organized response available to those supporting the Bush administration. But Repka's efforts and method of distribution over the past few months (that is, giving the signs away at public events) seem to have corrected this market inequity.

I can report his success has reached even Macalester-Groveland in St. Paul. On the street in front of my residence, a two block area has been bookended by two large, burgundy, and unopposed "No War!" signs for months. Which made all of us in between appear to be naive, appeasement-minded, head in the clouds / head in the sand types. But over the past few weeks, not one, not two, but THREE Liberate Iraq signs have cropped up in this expanse, thus restoring at least some level of confidence in me for my neighbors. (This confidence should last until about the time of the next election, when my district will overwhelmingly vote for naive, appeasement-minded, head in the clouds / head in the sand types like Betty McCollum and Matt Entenza).

One area where the war seems to have not begun is on St. Clair Avenue, between Dale and Lexington. The wealthy residents of the large mansions along this strip retain an undisputed yard sign stance of "No War!". Five or six such signs dot the streetscape there. However, as you approach and cross over Lexington, and into a distinctly more blue collar district, it's nothing but American flags and Liberate Iraq signs. (Except of course for the chronically defaced Pro Life Across America billboard at St. Clair and Griggs. The graffiti this time states "Pro Life = Anti-Woman.").

My observations tell me that there may be a correlation between socio-economic status and variety of sign in one's yard, at least in St. Paul. My hypothesis being the more the house is worth, the more likely the residents are to be against a Bush administration lead intervention in Iraq. Perhaps I can do some research this week to confirm or disprove this (but perhaps not, so don't hold your breath). But if you're looking for a theoretical basis for this alleged phenomena, here's an article by Victor Davis Hanson, written back in October of 2001. An excerpt follows, but it merits reading in its entirety:

I think fashionable anti-Americanism and pacifism have now become completely aristocratic pursuits, the dividends of limited experience with the muscular classes and the indulgence such studied distance breeds. Our pampered critics may be as clever as Odysseus, but they have lost his nerve, strength, and sense of morality. And so they have neither the ability nor desire to ram a hot stake into the eye of the savage Cyclops to save their comrades.

In contrast, those who toil with their hands for a living, who become unemployed frequently and work two jobs, who take out loans for their kids to go to college at public universities, and who do real things like grow food, put out fires, and arrest felons, have a very practical view of human kind, not all that different from the pessimistic assessment of the old hard-as-nails veteran Thucydides himself. Because they see brutality daily, understand how hard it is to survive and raise a family in the arena of national competition, and know too well what man is capable of at his rawest, they do not in their own lives enjoy the luxury of seeing awful people as "ignorant" in the abstract, rather than evil in the concrete.

Not so with the elite media, the professorate, and many in education and the arts. They rarely work with their hands or meet those who do. Arguments, if settled at all, are settled by committee and consultation, not fisticuffs and two-by-fours, or maybe by corporate pink slips, with orders to clear out the desk in two hours. Insults among our elite critics invite sarcasm and irony, never a knuckle sandwich. For many, there is the lifetime employment of tenure, and summers out of the classroom. Quite simply, in America, in this its greatest age of freedom and affluence, we have created an entire leisured class who were not always born into great wealth, but who nevertheless have obtained an easy sinecure without worry and danger. They have completely lost sight of the fireworks when good and evil enter the realm of muscle and sinew.


Monday, December 30, 2002
The Foul Smell of Success

According to an article in the Star Tribune regarding their recent Minnesota Poll, 62% of Minnesotans approve of the way Bush is handling his job as President. Given recent voting behavior in the state that seems entirely plausible to me and simple to comprehend. However, since apparently the complexity of "62%" and "approval" may be too much for the average Star Tribune reader to understand and may lead to dangerous conclusions of broad based support for the President and his policies, the paper provides four quotes to help interpret exactly what this means.

The first quote is from a woman who provides nothing more than a shoulder shrug and a justification for non-blame rather than one of support or approval:

"I think he's doing what he can," said Elizabeth Butler, a Democrat from the Iron Range town of Buhl. "The economy's not that great, it's just the way things are going right now," said the 30-year-old mother of two who lost her job in the mining industry last year. "It's not anyone's fault, certainly not the president's."

Not exactly the kind of testimonial Bush can base a future campaign slogan on ("You can't blame me for 2001 - 2003!"), but at least it doesn't directly contradict the interpretation one would naturally take from the poll results. And yes, I'm sure among the 62% supporting Bush there is a small portion of those whose support is of this qualified, limp dishrag nature. However, here's where the unbiased and objective pretense express comes screeching to a halt. That quote is the only positive justification explaining the support for Bush in the entire article. The remainder of the piece consists of those explaining to us why 62% approval for Bush really isn't 62% approval for Bush.

First a political science professor explaining that the support expressed for Bush is in reality support only for the office of the presidency itself:

"We can never forget that we are still in the wake of the events of September 11, and those events were likely to unite the country behind whoever is president," said Gary Prevost, a political science professor at St. John's University and the College of St. Benedict.

So he?s saying that if Al Gore or Ralph Nader or Pat Buchanan were President, 62% support would be a given for any of them. In other words, the 62% may be a legitimate support figure, but Bush has nothing to do with it.

This assertion is followed by a second political science professor who cautions us that in reality, Bush doesn't have support of most Americans:

"Bush's personal approval numbers create a false impression that his administration has the full and unequivocal support of the American people," said political science professor Lawrence Jacobs of the University of Minnesota. "The nation is divided on the administration's policy of taking military action against Iraq."

I'm not exactly sure who would interpret a 62% approval among Minnesota adults as "full and unequivocal support of the American people" but Jacobs bluntly implies that President Bush is a controversial and divisive presence on the political landscape.

And then to really place these results in context, the Star Tribune concludes the article, which may I remind you was about the fact that 62% of Minnesotans express approval of President Bush, with this quote, from a retired sewer worker:

?I think he's hurting the economy," said Donald Edwin, a 72-year-old retired sewer worker who lives in rural Freeborn County, along the Iowa border. "I don't worry too much about Iraq. ... These are just hard times, and they're getting harder."

I?ve always felt there were numerous similarities between political science professors and sewer workers, but I didn?t necessarily think their analytical skills were among them. Now I know, and I think you can add Star Tribune reporters to this brotherhood of stench as well.


Thursday, December 05, 2002
Yes Saint Paul There Is a Grinch

And his name is Tim Pawlenty. At least I hope it will be.

As Saint Paul's post of yesterday alluded to, the talk of the town here in Minnesota is squarely focused on the looming state budget deficit ("Looming" is definitely the adjective of choice in the media when describing the deficit especially if you want to scare people. It always reminds me of the WWI propaganda poster Beat Back the Hun as if the deficit is about to come charging across and start bayoneting women and children.) now projected to be somewhere around $4.5 billion (give or take a couple hundred thou here or there depending on whether the new light rail cars are outfitted with bullet proof glass or not).

Since Republican Governor elect Tim Pawlenty vowed not to raise taxes during the campaign the DFL can now hardly contain their delight as they speculate about which programs he will have to cut and snarkliy comment on the impossibility of balancing the budget without tax increases. All the usual terrifying talk of grandmas being thrown into the streets, kids eating ketchup in the school cafeterias, legions of homeless freezing to death in the streets, (Perhaps a new promotion for Minneapolis? Instead of Peanuts statutes or painted cows we have a solidly frozen hobo on every corner. Get your picture taken next to 'em kids.) that was first trotted out during the Reagan Years is being regurgitated again. It's as if the Democrats have a glass case with instructions "Break Open In Event of Budget Deficit Under Republican Administration" which contains an audio tape filled with these scare mongering clichés.

Of course what's not often mentioned is that during the last five budget bienniums the smallest spending increase was 11.3% (the smallest!) and on average spending has increased 12.8% over the last eleven budget bienniums according to State of Minnesota Budgets Home Page. And the notion that "the budget will be balanced on the backs of the poor" is absurd since 43% of the general fund comes from personal income taxes which I don't believe the poor pay a whole heck of a lot of.

The modest tax cuts enacted in the last few years were hard fought and many years in coming. If Pawlenty were to go back on his pledge not to raise taxes it would a disastrous mistake for Republicans and the future of conservatism in Minnesota. Tax cuts aren't a luxury that we can enjoy when times are good but then have to surrender when we hit an economic bump in the road. They're a part of a long term approach that includes more personal freedom (and responsibility) and less government.

I've been a long time Pawlenty supporter and am optimistic that the long hours I spent at the state Republican convention this year were not in vain and that he will be the man of the hour. If he is able to stick to his guns and weather the inevitable storm of criticism this could be a chance for him to establish his place as one of the bright up and coming GOP stars as Governor Bill Owens has done by cutting taxes and restraining spending to balance the state budget in Colorado. This is a time of great risk for the new governor but also of great opportunity.

By the way if I was governor (and the citizens of the state are likely fortunate that I am not as they may not share my dreams of using the National Guard to secure lebensraum for Minnesota-I've had my eye on Wisconsin for some time-Our future lies in the east!) my solution to the budget dilemma would be a simple across the board cut for everything including what has become the third rail of Minnesota politics; education. Or is it the 900 lb gorilla?


Wednesday, December 04, 2002
The Truth Is Out There

Good news out of St. Paul today. The massive spending increases approved by the Minnesota state legislature and Governor Ventura over the past 4 have finally been revealed to be highly irresponsible and negligent, as many economic analysts have been predicting for some time.

According to a report released by State Economist Tom Stinson the government has already made plans to spend $4.56 billion dollars over the next 2 1/2 years in excess of the amount its tax structure will confiscate from its citizenry in revenues (a tax structure already considered to be among the highest and most honerous in the United States). Shockingly, this projected deficit represents over 13% of the total budget. In the private sector, mindless and careless spending of this nature typically draws criminal complaints from creditors and at the very least an appointment with Jack Prescott. However, I've seen no indication of any such measures being considered regarding the government's impropriety.

Representatives of the two interest groups primarily responsible for this gross fiduciary malfeasance, namely the employees of government and the clients of government, did have a few comments regarding this widening scandal. As reported by government funding beneficiary Minnesota Public Radio:

Advocates for low-income Minnesotans say they're worried that at a time when more people need state services, Republicans will want to slash government programs.

Members of the Welfare Rights Committee protested outside the budget forecast release. They worry that the budget will be balanced on the backs of poor people. Kim Hosmer says lawmakers squandered the budget surpluses of several years ago on tax cuts for the rich.

"While the rich were getting richer and getting big tax breaks, the number of kids becoming homeless in Minnesota skyrocketed. While the rich lined their pockets, more and more of our families stand in line at homeless shelters and soup kitchens. We say, make the rich pay," Hosmer said.

Groups such as the Children's Defense Fund and Minnesota Council of Nonprofits are already calling for a tax increase to balance the budget. They say a budget based on spending cuts will hurt children and vulnerable Minnesotans.

[Note - I've submitted the above comments to local experts on rhetoric and abnormal psychology and the consensus belief is that they were intended to be satirical and meant for comedic purposes. And if not, an immediate intervention is recommended before these individuals hurt themselves or others.]

However, a few of the beneficiaries of the state's profligate spending habits, those who appear to have a conscience and the ability to feel shame are now backpedaling and making long overdue, yet refreshingly lucid, comments relating to a redress of this financial mess. According to the Star Tribune:

The looming shortfall is so large that "we are not going to grow our way out of it," said state economist Tom Stinson. "It's just too big."

It is also so large that if the state budget is balanced without tax increases, as Gov.-elect Tim Pawlenty has promised, or other boosts in revenue, overall state spending would decline in real terms for the first time in modern history, said acting Finance Commissioner Anne Barry.

The Tim Pawlenty, mushy middle of the Republican party always makes me nervous in that I question its commitment to their own political rhetoric. I do believe he doesn't want to raise taxes. But he strikes me as the type who would raise them, "reluctantly" of course, for the sake of political expediency and in the face of a withering blitz of negative media coverage (which MPR has already begun). But I'd prefer not to have my suspicions confirmed on this matter. Tim Pawlenty - I want to believe.


Friday, November 29, 2002
A Fine Line Between Clever and Stupid

Quite a day to give thanks for yesterday. Copious amounts of football, ale, wine, scotch, and turkey which began with a hour and forty five minutes of hockey at 6:00am in the morning and was capped off by watching Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, which is easily the best Thanksgiving themed movie ever made.

Saint Paul's post on how he spent his Thanksgiving is best visualized by imagining the closing scene in the movie where Steve Martin finally arrives at his stately home to be welcomed by his adoring children, grateful in-laws, and beautiful, refined wife who is so happy to see him that her tears of joy flow freely. It pretty much captures Saint Paul's life in a nutshell.

Another highlight of the day was hearing my father in-law's theory on the Wellstone plane crash. It's his belief that the DFL brain trust had read the tea leaves and foresaw Wellstone's ultimate defeat at the hands of Norm Coleman in the election. Willing to do anything to retain his Senate seat they contrived an elaborate plan to sabotage his aircraft and use the resulting sympathy from the public to elect a replacement in his place. Their aims were undone of course by the over the top spectacle of the memorial service. This conspiracy theory was presented with my father in-laws tongue rather firmly in cheek but is it really any more fantastic than what we've heard from elements of the Looney Left?


Friday, November 08, 2002
At Least They're Not Bitter About It..

If you're looking for one of the causes behind Tuesday's GOP clock cleaning of the DFL in Minnesota's election today's letters to the editor in the Minneapolis Star Tribune provide a good starting point. There are no fewer than five acrimonious letters from disaffected readers attacking Norm Coleman, President Bush, or both. Their comments include the following claims:

-Coleman did not work hard for the Senate seat he won rather it was paid for by the "Republican Corporation".

-Bush visited Minnesota to campaign for Coleman in order to grab more power so he could act like a bully and terrorize innocent people in other countries.

-That Coleman "savagely" attacked Wellstone and ran one of the most negative campaigns in Minnesota history.

-That the election was all about oil.

-That while Coleman was mayor of St. Paul he "alienated and marginalizied" gays and lesbians.

They just don't get it do they? Rather than stepping back and constructively examining what went wrong on Tuesday and what they should do in the future to avoid a repeat of the debacle all these Democrats can do is whip out the same tired cliches and cannards that failed them so miserably in the election. The majority of Minnesota voters were able to see through this fantasy world view of the Left and were intelligent enough to recognize how baseless these charges really are. But because these DFL Lefties have no substantive alternatives to offer they have to fall back on this sort of intellectually weak clap trap. They got nuthin'.

It would be easy to refute each and every of the claims in these letters but it's hardly even worth the time. However, I must step up and challenge the notion that the Coleman's campaign against Wellstone was excessively negative. While Coleman did have some ads that criticized Wellstone's voting record in the Senate I didn't consider it an overly negative campaign at all. There were no personal attacks against Wellstone and if you can't bring a candidate's voting record into play then you're all you're left with is the sappy crappy feel good ads that always seem to feature a family member explaining why their dad, brother, etc. is such a swell guy. They only serve to make me nauseas and really provide little information on issues.

And although I haven't seen a statistical analysis on it I would guess that there were at least as many if not more negative ads against Coleman produced by the Wellstone campaign and the DFL as there were negative ads against Wellstone.

You lost guys. Get over it.


Wednesday, November 06, 2002
It's Morning in Minnesota Again

The sun is shining. The sky is blue. The birds are singing. It's a perfect day here in Minnesota. Well, perhaps not perfect but for a long time Republican who has fought and usually ended up on the losing end of political battles against an entrenched liberal Democrat mindset that has gripped the state for years it really doesn't get much better than this.

Norm Coleman has beaten the venerable Walter Mondale for the Senate.

John Kline has finally defeated the despicable Bill Luther after his third attempt to take the US House seat from him.

Tim Pawlenty has trounced both DFLer Roger Moe and Independent Tim Penny in the governor's race and has won 45% of the vote in what was thought to be a close three way race.

In the Minnesota state house the Republicans have solidified their majority by adding eleven seats to their side of the aisle and although the DFL still controls the state senate the GOP picked up six seats there and is close to challenging the Democratic majority.

Mary Kiffmeyer has won reelection as Secretary of State and Pat Anderson Awada is the new State Auditor.

Going forward Minnesota will now have a split Congressional delegation with one Republican senator, Coleman, and one Democratic senator, Mark Dayton. In the US House the eight seats are divided right down the middle with each party holding four.

On the state level the GOP has the governorship and the state house as well as two of the three other state wide offices(Democrat Mike Hatch won reelection as the Attorney General).

In a state widely know for it's liberal past this is a remarkable achievement. Remember we voted for McGovern in 72' and Mondale in 84' in both cases choosing the Democratic loser in historic Republican landslides. Minnesota used to be a state that the Dems could always count on. No more.

The big question today is how and why were the Republicans able to whoop up on the Democrats in a traditional Democratic stronghold like Minnesota. A couple of theories:

This Time Stupid Was Right

Despite the best efforts by the Democrats and the main stream media the economy was not a big factor. Sure people are worried about the declining value of their 401ks and their jobs might not be as secure as they were a couple of years ago. But I think that most folks are smart enough to realize the there will be ebbs and flows in the stock market and that in the long haul their investments will be okay. And the average person isn't really feeling a lot of personal pain because of the slow economy. Unemployment is 5.6% nationwide (less in Minnesota), inflation is low, and with low interest rates it's still relatively easy for most people to purchase homes, cars, etc.

And unless I missed it, I can't name a single Democratic proposal that would "get the economy moving again". If you're going to point out a problem you might want to have a solution to it. This is not to say that the Republicans have any answers on the economy either but at least they don't continually harp on how awful it is.

9/11 Did Change Things

For some reason the fact that this was the first national election since the terrorist attacks of September 11th was downplayed in the run up to yesterday's vote. In 1998 Minnesotans elected Jesse Ventura as governor and part of the reason for his victory was that people thought it would "fun" to have Ventura in office. After 9/11 it became clear that it times of danger government was not a joke and a serious approach was required to protect and defend the country and the state. Republicans are perceived as being much more effective in this regard and Tim Pawlenty's promise to pass a law designed to track the expiration date of visas through state drivers licenses scored big points from the voting public. As Sideshow Bob put it: "Your guilty conscience may force you to vote Democratic, but deep down inside you secretly long for a cold-hearted Republican to lower taxes, brutalize criminals, and rule you like a king." In this case it would be brutalize Al Qaeda and no one does it better than GW and the GOP.

Sharp Faces Going Places

Some Democrats here are blaming yesterday's debacle on the lack of a consistent Democratic message. I think the messengers might have been the bigger problem. Roger Moe and Walter Mondale represented the old guard in Minnesota politics both figuratively and literally and their opponents were both younger, good looking guys, who could articulate some kind of vision of the future however vague they might have been. A clarion moment in Monday's senate debate was when Mondale was asked about how he would bring high technology to rural Minnesota and he answered in a manner that indicated that his idea of high speed access meant a new roadway for those fancy motorized carriages that all the kids are talking about these days.

Get Your Base On

Norm Coleman and Tim Pawlenty were both viewed with a skeptical eye by the more conservative factions of the Minnesota GOP. While they were obviously much better than their Democratic alternatives neither did much to excite the passions of these conservatives. But the Wellstone memorial turned rally was just the thing to get this group fired up and Bush's visit on Sunday was like pouring gasoline on the fire. They became interested and they got involved. I did some campaign phone calls Monday night and spoke to some of these folks and they were pumped up. One fellow mentioned that he had been down to Coleman's headquarters that day and after waiting in line to volunteer was turned away because they had too many volunteers already. That is not a normal occurrence in campaigns. Another gentlemen told me that between the New Jersey Supreme Court decision on Lautenberg and the Wellstone rally he had seen enough would do all he could to ensure a Republican victory. The Wellstone debacle united the Minnesota Republicans like few things have in the past and the President's appearance on Sunday gave them added direction and purpose.

Can you smell the flowers? It's a great day to be a Republican in Minnesota. And believe me you don't hear that very often around here.


Monday, November 04, 2002
This Decided Nothing

Here's a quick recap on today's Mondale-Coleman debate.

Mondale actually did better than I expected. He spoke clearly and convincingly and usually had a good grasp of the facts. His most interesting remarks were his assertion that Colin Powell shares his views on unilateral US action against Iraq and his statement that "the Constitution is on my side" on abortion. He did struggle a bit when asked about how he would bring technology to rural Minnesota which might serve to magnify the age issue.

Coleman was Coleman. Love or hate him you have to admit he's a smooth politician. He had his talking points and hammered em' home at every opportunity. "Setting a new tone in Washington" in order to achieve results was his overriding message. He mentioned the President a number of times usually describing how he would work with him to get things done but also pointing out a couple of differences he had with him as well. When the topic of welfare reform came up he not so subtly played the age card when he referred to Mondale's support for the original welfare programs as "an old idea."

Neither candidate made a serious gaffe nor was there a "gotcha" moment for either side. If you had to pick a winner I guess it would be Mondale because expectations of him were low to begin with and he didn't come off as a befuddled, past his prime, old man as he did at last week's press conference. On the issues I would definitely give it to Coleman although I'm hardly an objective observer. He did a much better job of answering the question at hand and usually backed up his arguments with more substance than Mondale did.

It was a very civil debate and unlike the Gore-Bush 2000 matchups where Gore's boorish manners cost him votes I don't think either candidate will be hurt by their behavior. Coleman was very respectful throughout and Mondale's slightly condescending tone (calling Coleman "Norman" a few times) wasn't egregious enough for most people to notice.

The real question is does this debate have any impact on tomorrow's vote? I think not. Unless you are a political nut like me and have a Walkman at your work place, many Minnesota voters missed today's debate. It will be replayed on the radio tonight and broadcast at 10:00pm but I don't think it will have a wide audience. For those who do catch it those who were going to vote for Mondale still likely will and those who were going to vote for Coleman will vote for him as well. The winner will be determined by the yet undecided and God only knows which way they will go.


Let the Debate Begin

Early into the Mondale-Coleman debate a couple of trends emerging. Coleman is pushing hard on changing the "tone" in Washington and getting things done through bipartisan action. Mondale has been trying to define the differences between Coleman and himself and appears to be holding his own. He has even launched a couple of humorous barbs at Coleman which brought laughs from the audience. The most interesting comment so far was Mondale's claim that "the Constitution is on my side" when discussing abortion and judicial appointments. Hmmm...


Friday, November 01, 2002
Out on a Very Shaky Limb

With election only five days away I figured I'd take a shot and make some prognostications on the outcome. Given the events that have transpired in the last week here in Minnesota this seems like a rather foolhardy proposition as a lot can happen in the next five days. Anyway here's my unscientific, completely non-poll driven, wild ass guesses at what will happen on November 5th:

Secretary of State
Despite having one of the hokiest commercials of all time featuring her grandchildren Republican Mary Kiffmeyer should retain the office. DFLer "Buck" Humphrey hasn't really electrified the voters or given them any real reason to vote for him and I think that Kiffmeyer's handling of the balloting issues after Wellstone's death was professional and above board which solidifies her position.

Attorney General
Democrat Mike Hatch should easily win reelection which means we'll be forced to watch him take on every cause that allows him to be prominently featured in the media whether it's really within the scope of his office or not.

State Auditor
Who knows and who cares? I'll take Eagan mayor and Republican Pat Awada here just because her victory would really irritate the Minneapolis Star Tribune and Ted Mondale both of whom she has battled over affordable housing. I know nothing about her opponent other than that her last name is Johnson. Sadly enough that might be enough in Minnesota to win the seat.

To steal a bit from the Simpson's, "Mr. Pawlenty your campaign seems to have the momentum of a runaway freight train. Why are you so popular?". After getting off to a slow start and then having to overcome a bit of a campaign financing mess Republican Tim Pawlenty seems to be pulling away down the home stretch. He's been sharp and scored well during the last few debates and his stance on the marked drivers licenses for visa holders definitely bolstered his support. The Star Tribune's endorsement of Independence Party candidate Tim Penny probably helped Pawlenty and hurt Penny among center/right voters and the DFL's Roger Moe seems lost and disoriented since Wellstone's death. Barring an unforeseen event in the next few days Pawlenty should be the next governor.

Congress 1st District
Incumbent GOPer Gil Gutknecht should have an easy victory here.

Congress 2nd District
This will be a close race but I think the voters of the second district have had enough of incumbent Democrat Bill Luther. John Kline will eek out a win in this nasty battle. He cause probably has not been helped by some of the worst scare ads I've ever heard attacking Luther for his opposition to the Yucca mountain nuclear waste site. Kline's campaign didn't produce the ads but their attempts to frighten soccer moms is offensive. Luther can hardly claim the high ground either with his campaign's involvement in the phony candidacy of Sam Garst. This has been an ugly race.

Congress 3rd District
Moderate Republican incumbent Jim Ramstad should cake walk to another term.

Congress 4th District
Another easy call here as incumbent Democrat Betty McCollum wins.

Congress 5th District
Long time incumbent Democrat Martin Olav Sabo doesn't even has to campaign anymore as this district, made up mostly of the city of Minneapolis, is lopsidedly DFL. Another two years for Sabo.

Congress 6th District
There actually is a real race here between Republican incumbent Mark Kennedy and DFL challenger Janet Robert. Kennedy should hold on to his seat although he should also hide his head in shame for having produced the most embarrassing radio ads of all time featuring his nausea inducing brothers and sisters.

Congress 7th District
Another incumbent wins in a breeze as Democrat Collin Peterson goes back to Washington for a 7th term.

Congress 8th District
Call me crazy but I think ex-Yankee Bob Lemon has a real shot here... oh wait it's Bob Lemen running as a Republican. DFL incumbent James Obestar, first elected during the Nixon administration, keeps his seat.

And the now the Big Daddy race of the year in Minnesota the U.S. Senate seat
My heart says that Republican Norm Coleman deserves to and will win this race. But my head says that Democrat Walter Mondale will prevail. I just have no confidence in the ability of the Minnesota electorate to make the logical decision. I mean Jesse is our governor for Chris sakes. The one factor that could allow Coleman to win is turnout. Usually higher turnout benefits the Democrats but in this case if more people vote, particularly younger people Coleman could do it. Traditional Democrats will show up and vote for the Wellstone legacy and for Mondale's name. Older people almost always vote in high numbers and Mondale should so well among them. But if the same group of young, usually politically apathetic, often first time voters that turned out in 1998 and made Jesse Ventura governor get interested this time around and head to the polls it could be to Coleman's advantage. They don't know Mondale from his earlier career and may view him as old and out of touch. Coleman on the other hand appears as an energetic guy who gets things done (like bringing hockey to St. Paul) and they likely share Coleman's views on social security and Iraq. This race comes down to a generational battle of who shows up. Unfortunately I gotta give it to the gray hairs. Mondale wins.


Blitz on the Fritz?

Last night CNN was showing footage of Mondale campaigning under the title "Fritz Blitz." The word blitz comes from the German word blitzkrieg which means lightning war and conjures up images of the panzers of Rommel and Guderian racing through the French countryside in 1940 or across the Russian steppes in 1941.

After hearing Mondale's press conference yesterday I find it difficult to associate the word "blitz" with him in any way, shape or form. Rather his doddering, agonizingly slow paced style, at some points bordering on incoherence was more remindful of the terms "static warfare" or even "phony war" and his grasp of the strategic realities of the day seem to more closely parallel those of the French generals Weygand and Petain in 1940 than their German counterparts.


It Was Something When It Began

A few observations about the Wellstone Memorial service on Tuesday night:

First of all, the music played before the speeches started had a lot to do with setting the partisan tone of the crowd reactions throughout the rest of the evening. I cite in particular the 45 minute rendition of "Love Train" performed by Sounds of Blackness, which seemed to get people whipped into a celebratory and "we care more than you" defiant frenzy (This was tempered somewhat by the crowd's growing apprehension that Al Gore might start dancing at any moment. And by contrast, the 50 minute version of "Georgie Girl" by Sounds of Whiteness got a much milder reception). Since people were embracing the spirit of "Love Train," that is, one world united under a groove and the equivalency of all cultures and moral beliefs, it wasn't surprising that those who would stand for (or at least stand in for) individualism or exceptionalism, Trent Lott and Jesse Ventura, got the Bronx cheer.

According to my sources at Williams Arena, before Sounds of Blackness hit the stage, none other than Dan Wilson of Trip Shakespeare/Semisonic/Uptown Starbucks fame performed a rendition of "Made to Last". I saw Dan Wilson in concert at the Women's Club Theater last Saturday night, and he played that same song in honor of Wellstone then too. His prefatory comments were poignant, universal and were well taken by even the most independent-minded and freedom loving fans in attendance (me and John Bream). He spoke of how our lives have an echo after we're gone, whether just in our own families or through a larger set of friends and associates. We change the course of events and we change the people we know, whether we intend to or not, and this affect goes on, in subtle but undeniable ways, for generations, and maybe forever. That struck me as very true and if I were the sensitive sort I might have meaningfully sighed at that point. But instead, I relied on a more conventional form of appreciation-- that would be shouting out "Play Tool Master!!"

Second, I fully grant that the Wellstone memorial was overtly partisan and at times in extremely poor taste. But I don't think anyone who's paid attention to Democratic politics over the last 25 years should have been surprised. And from the perspective of an acknowledged political junkie, I thought it was a highly effective political spectacle and it seemed genuine in ways that more traditional and contrived events, like a party convention, would not. This was largely due to the fact that their rhetoric could address the highest ideals of the party members and not the specific and bottom feeding issues that generally drive elections.

Furthermore, even though I didn't respect most of the politicians in attendance, it was exciting to see that many nationally prominent and historical political figures congregating in one place. The way they marched in one by one, Gore, Daschle, Clinton, Rodham-Clinton, Bird, Mondale, it incrementally swelled the excitement of the crowd and led to heightened and soaring expectations of who would be next. This kind of presentation, combined with the crowd's rock star-like adoration for these individuals, was gripping, particularly to the television audience. It reasonably should spread a positive opinion of the Democratic party to any of the undecided or so-called independent minded voters who watched. This should be true not just in Minnesota, but across the country too. To these swing voters, the dismal records of individuals like Clinton or Mondale can fade away to irrelevance when confronted with the sight of a crowd enthusiastically roaring their approval of them. This impression is cemented by the supposedly nonpartisan nature of the event and of the attendees.

Most certainly, a Republican-leaning crowd would have responded in the same way if they were brought together under similar circumstances. It would have been exciting, maybe thrilling, to be in an auditorium as the stars of the Right were slowly brought out to take their well earned bows. To see the likes of say Newt Gingrich, Condoleeza Rice, George Bush Sr., Trent Lott, Bob Dole, Nancy Reagan, Tom DeLay, Alan Keyes, Dennis Hastert, Jack Kemp, Vin Weber, and Arne Carlson march down the stairs (or to see Gerald Ford fall down the stairs). The crowd would have gone wild and those who "vote the man not the party" would have seen these men and women cast in the light of heroes and winners instead of as ambitious politicians merely trying to get votes.

For this reason, I think this type of event has potential to become an annual pre-election night tradition, for one or both parties. If they could broadcast it nationwide, it's impact could be substantial. The problem is achieving the impression that the crowd is simply made up of citizens rather than of hard core party activists. Short of the untimely, yet regularly scheduled, death of a candidate every year, I'm not sure how that could be accomplished. Maybe the Democrats could have an annual anniversary gala in the spirit of Paul Wellstone? Or maybe they could just promise free cheese or cash benefits for all attendees. But then again, those are the primary reasons why people join the Democratic party in the first place, so maybe it woudn't fool anybody.

Finally, I truly thought the remarks made by the Wellstone sons were inspiring and poignant. For them to have suffered the the sudden and tragic loss of both parents and their sister and then to show no outward signs of grief during their extended presentations was astounding. No doubt many tears were shed by them over the weekend, but when it came time to celebrate the lives of their loved ones, they were able to do so with the joy and humor that this public occasion called for. It's evidence that these men were at peace with themselves and in their relationships with their departed family members. The Wellstones were clearly a strong family that possessed the personal attributes we all aspire to. Despite my jaundiced view of the man's political philosophy and tactics, I'm convinced that Paul Wellstone was a good Dad and husband and probably an asset to whatever community he lived in, in terms of being a neighbor and citizen.

But it also strikes me that these facts alone should inspire a political backlash. Most families don't come anywhere near these standards of interpersonal health and success (at least according to the reports I've read--my own family, of course, is very Wellstonian in its success and their mutual love and support of one another). Usually, one or both parents are tragically flawed in some significant way, which inevitably leads to major disfunction among the entire family unit. (And this leads to much sobbing, hair pulling and gnashing of teeth at funerals and memorial services--how's that for an echo, Dan Wilson?).

From my observations, no one really likes the one perfect family on the block. Instead they're resented for their happiness and for the fun house mirrors their chronic smiles hold up in front of the faces of their common place and quietly desperate neighbors. Therefore, it follows that nobody would really want to vote for people like this. Yes we (I mean they) come to accept the fact these individuals will make more money, will acquire greater influence, will love more deeply and be loved more often, but that's just how the cards were dealt. But when we have a choice in the matter, do we really want to self select these people as our political superiors too? It's like being in high school and voting for the guy who's the starting quarterback and class president for Homecoming King. Sure he's already dating the hottest cheerleaders in school and he's on his way to an Ivy League education and fame and fortune, but yes, by all means, let's choose to also put a crown on his head and metaphorically throw ourselves prostrate before his regal gaze.

Maybe that's the populist campaign strategy Norm Coleman needs to adopt--my family is as screwed up as yours! But since he appears to be married to a high school cheerleader, it may not resonate with the voters as honest. Maybe other candidates can use this appeal instead. Anybody seen what Ray Tricomo's wife looks like?


Thursday, October 31, 2002
Put Out Your Power Line

For some excellent analysis of the fallout from the Wellstone Rallygate check out the Power Line blog. They also have a debunking of the theory espoused by Robert Novak and repeated by Rush that the DFL rejected Alan Page to replace Wellstone because Minnesota is such a white state and he would not win. As a long time supporter of Norm Coleman I was quite fearful that if Page was the choice he would be unbeatable. A popular ex-Viking with his name recognition would be a tough opponent and I don't believe that fact the he is a minority would really hurt him that much. At least with Mondale there is a history to campaign against as well as the age factor. And if Norm can get Fritz to debate I think he'll tear him to shreds. There still is hope.


Mourning is Over

A constant theme throughout the Wellstone tributes of the past few days has been his unwavering integrity, the fact that he always fought for what he believed in, even when it was an unpopular stance. This claim has some validity--but only when analyzed in a relative sense. Yes Wellstone may have had integrity, be it to a dangerous and destructive belief in centralized government as a vehicle to improve the lives of people, but only when you compare him to his brethren in the ranks of elective government. My observations tell me most politicians, particularly from the Democratic party, will say anything to get elected and their votes are always subject to their evaluation of the prevailing popular opinion. And perhaps Wellstone was less willing to engage in this odious form of pandering. This is probably why his Senate colleagues have begun calling him "the conscience of the Senate," which to me seems like an inadvertent admission by his colleagues that they don't have any consciences or integrity themselves.

But the fact that Wellstone was slightly better than the abysmally low standard set by Daschle, Bird, Kennedy, Biden, et al., doesn't necessarily mean he had integrity in an objective sense. In the months leading up to the election several commentators on the Left had begun to raise these very questions about Welltstone's record and his specific abandonment of his principles in the face of potentially adverse popular reaction in an election year.

The specific examples include his voting for the USA Patriot Act earlier this year. According to an article in the January 16, 2002 issue of City Pages G.R. Anderson reports reactions from the Left included:

For me, the most disappointing surprise in the Senate tally was the Paul Wellstone vote," wrote Nat Hentoff, a columnist for the Village Voice and longtime Wellstone admirer. "He is one of the few authentic liberals left in Congress."

"He screwed up and pissed off his constituents. He has to backpedal and put this stuff out to show that he's still concerned about civil rights," offers Ken Pentel, a coordinator for the Green Party of Minnesota and former gubernatorial candidate. "You can't hold him accountable for the whole Senate. But at least from Senator Wellstone you might expect something to distinguish himself. Instead, there was nothing. Complete silence."

Regarding the debate about military intervention in Iraq, Steve Perry had the following comments, in the September 18, 2002 issue of City Pages:

This summer, Bush had to fight off members of his own party and a few rebellious Democrats when he began stumping to invade Iraq. Wellstone, meanwhile, got in lock step with the majority of his party, known to those who track campaign contributions as the Democratic Leadership Council. Like most incumbent legislators up for reelection this fall, Wellstone's safely neutral position is that Bush must prove that Hussein poses a "credible threat" before he would sanction unilateral military action. Whatever that means.

And later in that same article:

So where's Wellstone? After all, this is the guy who told the New York Times a year after he was elected that "life is sacred, and my standard is to do everything you can to avoid loss of life, regardless of who the people are and the country they live in."

According to Star Tribune columnist Lori Sturdevant, who chimed in last week with a piece entitled "Paul Wellstone is not an outsider anymore," it is simply a matter of maturity. Our senator, Sturdevant concludes approvingly, "appears to have concluded that playing the respectfully skeptical seeker of truth is more, well, senatorial."

No kidding. At any rate that's one way to put it, agrees a Democratic insider turned Green strategist I talked to last week. Especially if your definition of "senatorial" squares with the centrists who run the Democratic Party, fund campaigns, and convince candidates that public opinion polls are more important than principle: "The guy has a messianic complex. The party has convinced him that the future of the U.S. Senate rests on his shoulders. What does that mean? It means don't rock the boat. And yeah, that kind of makes you wonder: What's the point?"

Regarding Wellstone's support of the 1996 Defense of Marriage bill, Green Party member Jeff Taylor had this to say, in the August 13, 2002 issue of Alexander Cockburn's Leftist magazine, Counter Punch:

Gay and lesbian activists were stunned and angered in June 1996 when Wellstone announced at a gay-sponsored fundraiser he "personally opposes same-sex marriages" and was considering voting for the "Defense of Marriage" bill which would deny federal recognition of them (Star Tribune, 6-5-96). It seemed completely out of character for the "enlightened," progressive politician.

We might be able to piece together an explanation from the news story. The Star Tribune noted, "He faces reelection this fall in a race that is a top target nationally for Republicans." Two sentences later, the reporter says, "Wellstone shocked the crowd when he said he was raised to believe that marriage was reserved for the union of one man and one woman." This was the first his gay supporters had heard of this basic belief. Presumably, Wellstone was also raised to believe that romance and sex should be between one man and one woman, but that hadn't stopped him from unreservedly supporting gay rights throughout his years as a college teacher, political activist, and office holder.

From Taylor again, regarding Wellstone's reneging on his pledge to only serve two terms, due to the fact that Republicans controlled the White House and House of Representatives, so circumstances had changed since 1996 :

The changing circumstances rationale first used by Wellstone and echoed by apologists is probably specious anyway. Wellstone didn't groom anyone within the DFL to succeed him after making and remaking his no-third-term pledge. That strongly suggests that he had no intention of keeping his promise. Wellstone continued to raise campaign money and passed up the opportunity to publicly promote a successor in 1997, 1998, 1999, and 2000. Four years passed between his second election and the supposedly crucial changing of circumstances (Bush elected and the Senate evenly divided). This would lead an objective observer to suspect, if not conclude, that Wellstone never had any intention of retiring upon the conclusion of his second term.

Paul Wellstone is now a professional politician. There are certain groups which have a vested interest in keeping Wellstone in power, namely (A) the quasi-liberal interest group leaders who make a good living off talking about the problems of others and exploiting their fears and (B) the corporate-funded Democratic Party which finds it useful to have a tame "liberal" on board to point to whenever Ralph Nader begins his siren song.

And finally, Taylor's analysis of why the Democratic party embraced Wellstone, and in retrospect, it's an adequate explanation of why the entire Democratic party power structure was in attendance at Williams Arena on Tuesday night:

Breaking his promise to serve only two terms isn't the real problem. It's a symptom. Wellstone the populist fighter lives on only in memory, stump speeches, and slick TV ads (many paid for by DFL soft money). Wellstone can't claim to be a man of great integrity. He's not that different from all the other politicians who call themselves "public servants" while they mostly serve themselves, their friends, and their pet causes.

The Senator can't hardly run on the slogan "Paul Wellstone: Just Another Politician Trying to Hang Onto His Job," so the race is cast in portentous, almost apocalyptic terms. "Wellstone has to win to keep a Democratic majority in the Senate." "Wellstone is Bush's #1 target." "If Wellstone loses, it's the end of liberal civilization as we know it." Yeah, right. How is Wellstone's reliably Democratic vote any different from those of Tim Johnson or Bob Torricelli? When he does swim against the Democratic current, he's casting a symbolic vote which doesn't accomplish anything beyond bolstering his threadbare maverick image. If his one vote would make a real difference-against the interests of the Democratic establishment-he'd probably knuckle under with a self-deluded explanation.

Those same slogans will now be used to bolster the campaing of Walter Mondale and now they'll have the added enhancement of the legacy of the so-called last man of integrity in the Senate.


Wednesday, October 30, 2002
Loons of the Northwoods

Andrew Sullivan has a good piece at on the ludicrous notion being bandied about by the lunatic Left that perhaps Paul Wellstone's death was not an accident but rather an act of sabotage. As silly as it sounds there are those out there who take this quite seriously. Here in Minnesota I first personally heard mention of this far fetched conspiracy mere hours after the crash. You see Wellstone was a progressive, fighting against big business, against the looming war with Iraq, and so he had to be silenced. Or so the theory goes.

The fact is that for all the acclaim and glory that has been posthumously heaped upon Wellstone he actually didn't accomplish much of significance during his two terms in the senate. Certainly nothing that would cause him to be worthy of such crackpot conspiracies. Being on the losing end of 98-2 votes could be viewed as courageous by his supporters but what did it really achieve? Did he stop the Gulf War? Did he stop the Clinton welfare reform plan? Did he stop the Bush tax cuts? Of course not. In some ways having a real live Left leaning verging on socialist liberal like Wellstone around was good for Republicans including the Bush administration. They could point to Wellstone as an example of the what the Left was really all about and use him as a bogeyman to rally their supporters. What good could possibly come from "silencing" him?

I'm also curious as to what kind of person subscribes to a worldview that believes someone like Wellstone would be killed anyway. Can they not except the fact that life does not always make sense? Things don't always happen for a reason and every tragedy cannot be blamed on someone else. Part of the problem likely stems from ignorance as well. I heard a remark that "you never really know what caused these things" on Friday in reference to the crash. Actually you usually do know, in quite great detail if you choose to pay attention. When the National Transportation Safety Board investigates a plane crash they carefully go over every possibility and examine every piece of evidence before arriving at a conclusion. This meticulous work can't be completed in a few days and it often takes months before an official report is released. By that time your average Lefty loon has moved on to their next great injustice and doesn't have time for those pesky things called facts.


Monday, October 28, 2002
Thanks, But No Thanks?

Usually when a candidate for political office receives an endorsement from a leading newspaper it would be a cause for celebration for the campaign. But I have to wonder how excited the Independence Party's Tim Penny was about receiving the Minneapolis Star Tribune's endorsement for governor on Sunday. The news hardly caused a ripple in the Minnesota political scene since most of the attention has been focused on the senate race after Paul Wellstone's tragic death on Friday. And the endorsement of the paper doesn't exactly help Penny convince voters that he's a moderate alternative to the conservatism of Republican Pawlenty and the liberalism of Democrat Roger Moe. Sure the paper claims it supports Penny because he's a "centrist" but anyone who leans even slightly to the right of the political spectrum may view the endorsement from the notoriously liberal Star Tribune as the kiss of death for Penny. Since Penny needs to draw voters from both the Left and the Right to win the race this endorsement may actually hurt more than it helps. I expect the Pawlenty campaign to use it to show that Penny's claims to moderation are an illusion and to shore up his base among conservatives who may have been considering voting for Penny.

The endorsement also speaks volumes about the pathetic state of the Moe campaign. This was his endorsement to lose as the Star Tribune almost exclusively favors Democrats particularly those who have well established political careers and recognition as Moe does. Getting the Star Tribune to support him should have been a gimme and although receiving the endorsement would not likely have helped his campaign too much (since most would have assumed it all along) not receiving the endorsement could be a crushing blow to his campaign. There has been speculation that Moe might benefit from the sympathy vote arising from Wellstone's death but in a column by Doug Grow yesterday Moe was concerned that without Wellstone campaigning beside him he will be challenged to energize Democrats and bring out the vote. An understandable concern since Moe's bland personality makes Al Gore seem engaging and charismatic.


Saturday, October 26, 2002
Fare Thee Well, Paul Wellstone; Fare Thee Well Our Magic?

Does it make me a bad person if I'm not overly saddened by the death of Paul Wellstone? In a word, well yes, I think it might mean just that. I guess I'll just have to deal with the implications (for the rest of my life!). But, after doing a complete emotional inventory (or a Level 1 Diagnostic, for you TNG fans) I must admit that I have no substantial emotional response to this event. Upon hearing the news, I was shocked for several minutes and then I fast-forwarded through the other stages of the grieving process in about 45 seconds, upon which I immediately began to ruminate on the political impact and repercussions of this event.

Of course, I don't celebrate his death and as I'm involved with humanity, the death of any man diminishes me. And this whole business can rightly be described as a tragedy. The inclusion of his wife and daughter and staff members on the Grim Reaper's butcher's bill further compounds the scope of this untimely loss. But, honestly, the death of Paul Wellstone means nothing more to me on a personal and emotional level than, say, the death of Mel Carnahan in 2000. I think it has affected a similar response to me as the death of any other political figure would, for example a Zell Miller from Georgia or Phil Gramm from Texas. And I dare say if Norm Coleman or Tim Pawlenty would have been killed, my feelings would have been the same. That is, a recognition of the loss of a human being, empathy and prayers for their loved ones, and then back to my life as normal in short order. I think this is an entirely reasonable response to the death of a political figure. But, compared to the media in Minnesota, from Don Shelby's shaking voice and tear stained eyes on Friday night through the editorializing hagiography presented on the front pages and within special sections of the major newspapers, it seems I'm the a-hole here.

I will say that Wellstone was a uniquely potent lightning rod for the adverse political analysis of me and other members of the right wing cognitive elite. Out of respect for a period of mourning, at this time I won't go into the entirely legitimate reasons for his drawing of my ire. But I wonder how the absence of this person, who inspired so much passion in his critics, will effect my behavior? Will I cease to be inspired to think and read and argue over politics as much anymore, since I may not feel the need to respond to the particularly aggressive assault on my political sensibilities by this individual?

I suspect I won't change too much, but I'm reminded of a quote from the 1976 remake of the movie King Kong. Jeff Bridges, playing "Jack Prescott"--an idealistic anthropology professor and Cro-Magnon Man impersonator, is berating the snarky oil company executive "Fred" (played by the snarky Charles Grodin) for taking Kong out of his natural environment for the purposes of economic exploitation. Fred responds by saying something to the affect of "Well, why don't you ask those natives back there on the island how wrong it is!" (Since Kong had acquired a taste for native as a between meal snack). Whereby Jack Prescott responded indignantly, "You've taken away their God, you've taken away their magic, go back there in a year and you'll find nothing but an island full of alcoholics!"

Unfortunately, I couldn't find an Internet source containing those exact quotes from the movie. But trust me, the above paraphrases are generally accurate. The young Jessica Lange's leggy, curvy performance in this movie has captivated me since the first time I saw it as a wide-eyed 7-year-old and her appeal has resulted in (and endured through) many, many viewings since then. The good news is, I did find two other quotes from King Kong that I think also directly relate to the matters at hand:
"There is a girl out there who might be running for her life from some gigantic turned-on ape."
(Jack Prescott)

"Lights! Camera! Kong!" (Fred)


Friday, October 25, 2002
A Weekend of Mourning and Maneuvering in Minnesota

Today's tragic news that Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone, his wife, and daughter were killed in a plane crash near Eveleth, MN has opened what promises to be a fascinating weekend of remembrance of Wellstone and his life and a mad political reshuffling before the November 5th election. Obviously it is a very sad day in Minnesota and it goes without saying that the Wellstone family and their friends will be in the hearts and prayers of Minnesotans for the next few days, but it also does raise some interesting political possibilities to consider:

* Will the DFL put up another candidate to fill Wellstone's place on the ballot? If they choose this option who gets picked? Judi Dutcher? Skip Humphrey? A Walter Mondale comeback perhaps? Right now I don't see any viable candidates out there.

* If Wellstone's name stays on the ballot and he wins it appears as if Governor Jesse Ventura would be able to appoint an interim Senator before a special election would be held. Would Jesse appoint a Democrat to honor the will of the voters or throw a wild card at us as he likes to do? If Independent Party candidate Tim Penny loses the race for governor would Jesse pick him for the Senate? Do the Democrats trust Jesse enough to the chance?

* What the hell does Norm Coleman do now? Obviously he needs to lay low over the weekend. But what then? Does he sit back and lose the election as voters deliver a sympathy vote for Wellstone? Or does he make a play to try to unite voters in a "we're not Democrats or Republicans now we're just Minnesotans"? No matter which path he takes the next ten days will be very tough for his campaign and possibly his political future.

* How will the Green Party candidate Ray Tricomo react? Does he respectfully step aside or does he go after some of Wellstone's supporters who were on the fringe on the DFL and backed Wellstone because of his ultra liberal positions? This could be an opportunity for the Greens to hit that all important 5% vote threshold in this race.

The closeness and political implications of this race had already generated a great deal of interest both locally and nationally. Now it may become one of the most interesting and controversial contests in years. The cold gray weather may be bland in Minnesota this weekend but the political conversations will be anything but boring.


Wednesday, October 23, 2002
Put A Koster On The County Roster

After reading an editorial in yesterday's paper in which the Star Tribune endorsed Amy Klobuchar in her unopposed reelection for Hennepin County attorney something just didn't sit right with me.

I guess if I was of the liberal persuasion I might describe it as feeling "disenfranchised". We're living in America not Iraq and the thought of Amy Klobuchar tallying up Saddam-like election results made my stomach turn. Something had to be done. The people need a choice.

And we have a choice. His name is Nic Koster. He lives in Hennepin County. He's a lawyer. He likes beer and baseball. What more do you need to know?

So when you go to the polls on November 5th and see that blank space next to Amy Klobuchar's name for Hennepin County attorney remember Nic Koster and write him in. Let's send a message to all those inside the 494 beltway, out of touch, pointy headed, bureaucrats in their ivory towers, that the people are mad as hell and we're not going to take it anymore. That's Nic Koster. He's not Amy Klobuchar.

Please pass this on to as many voters in Hennepin County as you can. It would be great to at least get a couple of hundred votes. Remember the slogan: "Don't be a dick, vote for Nic."


Tuesday, October 22, 2002
Ken Pentel's Comedy Showcase

Green Party candidate Ken Pentel actually had me rolling last night during the Minnesota gubernatorial debates sponsored by KSTP TV and the Minneapolis Star Tribune. His arguments are a stand up comedy routine. I enjoyed his little gun tale as much as my friend P did which he described below:

My favorite Ken moment was when he got a question on concealed carry, which empirical studies show reduces violent crime. Pentel responded with a story about one of his relatives who had a hunting rifle and a small child. He thought the safety was on and he thought the gun wasn't loaded. Yet still--blam! It turns out that no one was injured from the incident. Ken's story is so ridiculous on so many levels. 1) Hunting rifles aren't covered by concealed carry 2) Anecdotal evidence is worthless in the face of contradictory empirical evidence (although this type of argument is a favorite tactic of obfuscation by the left) 3) The anecdote doesn't even prove his point that guns kill innocent people.

It was so silly it brought laughter. A high school debater wouldn't have used such an irrelevant and easily disputed example. I think Pawlenty scored big on the concealed and carry portion when he cited that fact the 34 other states have passed it with no appreciable increase in gun violence. My personal favorite Ken Pentel moment was on transportation when he said we need local buses, regional buses, light rail, heavy rail, monorail ( the Simpson's song immediately popped into my head ), and any other rail you could think of. As to how he would pay for his everything for everyone transportation philosophy he said, "We'll talk about how we'll pay for it later." Again I was laughing out loud. While this is a pretty good summation of Democratic politics "promises now, high taxes later" at least they manage to couch it in terms that hide the real meaning. Pantel just gets up there and lets it rip believing that somehow people will respect his honesty despite the absolute absurdity of most of his positions. He cracks me up.

Tim Penny on the other hand bugs me. At least you know what you're getting with Roger Mo' Money. I actually used to respect Penny when he appeared to be a Democrat who understood the real world. Now he reminds me of AlGore. He's not really sure what he believes any more and you almost get the impression he has to consult the Independence Party platform before answering a question to make sure it jives with them. His response on the 24 hour waiting period before having an abortion was slow in coming and then incredibly wishy washy. Rather than just coming out and saying he unconditionally supported a woman's right to have an abortion as both Moe and Pentel did he tried to make it a equal rights issue by saying that he opposed making woman wait for a medical procedure and not men. Come on Tim. Even the most ardent pro-choicer would admit that having an abortion is not comparable to a guy going under the knife for a vasectomy. Instead of standing up and taking a clear stand he tried to dodge the crux of the issue and ended up looking weak and indecisive.

Those Minnesotans who missed out on all the fun last night have a chance to watch it again tonight on Channel 45 at 8:00pm. Ken's show will be closing in a few weeks so catch this joker while you can.


Fear the Idiot, Not the Criminal

Although no evidence has been detected regarding actual cases of voter fraud in Minnesota, much ado has been raised by the local media of the potential for abuses, given the lax standards for registration that have been adopted in this state over the past 10 years. Given the shenanigans going on in this regard across the country perhaps the scrutiny is merited. However, I believe the likelihood of any significant level of voter fraud in this state is limited.

The potential for abuse lies with two specific procedures. First, voters are able to register on election day itself, at the polling place. Furthermore, only a very basic level of personal identification is needed. A driver's license with the correct address will suffice. Even if you don?t have any official ID with your correct address, you can still register, as long as you have or any Minnesota issued photo ID (no matter what the address) and a utility bill with your name and an address listed within that precinct.

What if even if these barriers are too steep? What if these criteria unjustifiably filter you out from your sacred right of the vote (and it should for about the same proportion of the population that finds an Al Sicherman column funny)? Well, there is another option. Simply find someone who is registered to vote in that precinct to vouch that indeed you do live within that precinct. In fact, the voucher doesn't even have to know exactly where you live (that is, they don't need to know the address or even the street name), they just have to personally verify that the potential registrant lives somewhere within the precincts specified boundaries. (I suppose the proponents of this statute were prepared to rely on Americans' well known skill in understanding geographical boundaries--what is it, about 33% who are able to find the Pacific Ocean on a globe? )

The system is set up to allow even the most casually interested citizen to vote. Anyone who happens to be roused from the fog of their own existence on the first Tuesday in November due to hearing that a professional wrestler is on the ballot, can stumble in to a polling place, register, and then cackle and snort at their own withering social criticism of metaphorically blowing their nose with their ballot (which of course turns to frustration and then rage as they search in vain for the listing of Rock and Roll Buck Zumhoff for Attorney General). But this in itself isn't fraudulent. Yes, it's one of the many possible negative results of a poorly designed law with potentially disastrous consequences But it's 100% legal.

However, the system is also vulnerable to fraudulent manipulation. That is, with very little technical expertise or guile an individual could indeed get to vote in a precinct where they are not legally permitted to do so. A willing confederate who is legally registered is all it would take. In fact, it's also possible for such a willing confederate to show up at a precinct location with a busload full of outside agitators and vouch that each and every one of them live in that precinct and they all would be allowed to vote under the law. (There is no limit to the number of people one individual can vouch for).

So why hasn't this variation of fraud happened yet and why is it unlikely to happen this year? In short, because even cynical, devious political operatives are afraid they will get caught. The only way to exploit the Minnesota registration system is for one legally registered person to step out into the sunshine and put their ass on the line. And that's too much risk for most people.

The voucher has to have an address on file with the county elections office (vouchers can't vouch for other vouchers) and they would have to read and sign an oath regarding their actions. This creates a paper trail that could be used in the event of an investigation.

In truth, any such investigations are extremely rare, but the possibility alone is enough to deter most people. And the random, rare coffee house revolutionary who is willing to break laws to illegally vouch for one or two other people will not be in a position to influence the outcome of an election. Only egregious violations have this potential and it's these types of events that would draw the increased scrutiny of election judges. Any episodes of "high strangeness," such as a busload of Mexican migrant workers in Wellstone t-shirts, showing up in Minnetonka and being vouched for by one person, would draw attention.

In Minnesota, the judge system is set up not to be neutral, rather it's equally partisan, so each precinct is staffed with at least one member of each major party. Therefore, a Republican should be present to witness any hijnix perpetrated by the Wellstone campaign. Furthermore, a judge can challenge any voter they suspect to be ineligible, that is by asking them where they live and how long they've lived in Minnesota. If these questions are not answered to the judge's satisfaction, the voter can be denied--with no option for appeal. Even if the questions are answered appropriately, the judge can report his suspicions to the county elections department. This won't prevent the votes from being cast, but it will put the spotlight on the voucher. And this is generally enough to prevent people from volunteering to throw themselves on the sword, no matter how much they want to see their richer neighbor's taxes raised.


Tuesday, October 15, 2002
What if Zogby Was One of Us?

Perhaps Wellstone's lead in the polls is an abberation after all. None other than the sponsor of the Zogby poll himself, John Zogby, says that if the election were held today Norm Coleman would beat Paul Wellstone. As quoted in the Washington Times:

"If the election were held today, the Republicans would pick up Missouri, South Dakota and Minnesota," Mr. Zogby said. [In Minnesota] Democratic Sen. Paul Wellstone ? who trailed by 6 percentage points in the Zogby poll last month ? shows a 9-point lead over Republican Norm Coleman, the former St. Paul mayor. Mr. Zogby stands by his latest poll but still thinks Mr. Coleman has the edge because "only 45 percent [of respondents] say Wellstone deserves re-election. That number and the fact that less than 50 percent say they will vote for him is bad news for any incumbent. Voters are saying they want someone new in the Senate, and the burden on Coleman now is to show he is the new someone they want," Mr. Zogby said.

Now that's getting behind the music on polling results. He's predicting the opposite result of the horserace question (one showing a statistically significant difference no less), based on an understanding of the context and the backgrounding data. As someone in the business of data interpretation myself, I can testify that's a steely-eyed analysis, taken to a level not usually seen in the biz. And it's a brave stance too, given the public nature of his reports and the high stakes risk of being proven wrong. His sophisticated analysis and subtle interpretation will likely be misinterpretated by many (like me?) and he'll be easy to dismiss as unreliable by those paying only superficial attention to these results and his comments. "Those" being the likes Don Shelby, Paul Magers, and whoever anchors at Channel 5 these days (Barry ZeVan? Russel Schimooka? Sunny Haus?). By the way, Zogby is a self professed Democrat, yet both parties have availed themselves of his services, he's that good.


Wednesday, October 09, 2002
Be Careful When Playing the Age Card

There is a series of commercials running on the radio in which an announcer gravely informs us "as recently as July, Norm Coleman said that he still favors a partial privatization of social security." It then goes on to say that this runs counter to more recent claims by Coleman that he is against privatization and that merely the mention of the word privatization would result in senior citizens being forced to burn their furniture for heat, sell their gold fillings, and learn the 101 different ways you can prepare Alpo for dinner. Well, not exactly.

But the ad sponsored by the DFL Party of Minnesota is clearly a scare tactic to stampede the vulnerable senior voters into the camp of Paul Wellstone. It really is not all that surprising considering that the Senior Scare has been a favorite of Democrats going way back to the early '80s when it was the cruel and heartless Ronald Reagan who was ready to throw Grandma out into the street. The problem that the Democrats run into today is that this blatant pandering to the senior constituency might backfire and cost them support among other age groups.

Sure we all know that seniors vote in far higher percentages than any other age based demographic groups. But most seniors are also already more politically involved than their junior citizen counterparts and with less than a month to go before the election I would guess that most of them are pretty much locked in on one candidate or another. The DFL ad may cause a couple of previously undecided seniors that Wellstone is their man but I suspect the impact will be minimal.

For those of us from the younger set however the ad may be interpreted positively for Coleman. Despite the recent mauling that the bear market has inflicted on our investments, I believe that most of my generational cohorts ( Personally I hate the Gen X and Gen Y labels. Let's just call ourselves the "not Boomers" and leave it at that) would much rather have the option of investing even a small portion of our social security contributions in the stock market rather than relying on the continuation of the Ponzi scheme that is the current SS system. When I hear that Coleman still supports some sort of privatization my reaction is the complete opposite of what the DFL ad intends. I actually wish that Norm would stick to his guns and push for privatization and I'm betting that a number of other of non-gray hairs agree with me.

According to a Star Tribune editorial Republican pollsters have advised candidates to duck the issue and avoid using the "P" word for fear of incurring the wrath of the senior voters. Obviously the DFL has picked up on the anti-privatization sentiment and is hoping that the ad will drive seniors away from Coleman. And they may have some limited success. But they also may unintentionally attract younger voters to Norm's side of the fence. Playing generational politics can be tricky and the DFL might not like the results they see come November.


Thursday, September 19, 2002
A Quizzical Stare from the Back Bench

I see in today's Star Tribune, Senator 100 (Mark Dayton) was selected (or more likely eagerly volunteered) to carry some water for the Democratic Party. He's on record as "questioning the timing" of the President's forwarding of a 'use of force resolution' against Iraq. The article astonishingly doesn't give details as to what Dayton means by this, but I'm quite sure he's referencing the upcoming elections and the fact that any military action typically rallies support for the party in control of the executive branch.

Dayton's vaguely critical yet still noncommittal comments are an example of the common political tactic of sending out a trial balloon to see if a speculative, contrary position receives any positive feedback from the press and general populace. If these comments effect a bounce in the political polling they're engaged in, or if Dan Rather chooses to lead the nightly news with "Senator Dayton's well thought out and reasonable questions regarding Bush's risky scheme" or if it gets an above the fold mention in the New York Times with a headline like "Senate Attempts to Restrain Bush's War of Aggression Against Small Arab Country" (and a sub headline of "Minorities and Women Would Suffer Most")--they will use this message more widely and it will be mouthed by more prominent Democrats. Given Dayton's depth-defyingly low profile and credibility, "more prominent" would presumably include Paul Tsongas, Bela Abzug, and Wendell Wilkie.

However, if instead the comments are scoffed at and ridiculed (which will be the reaction from any reasonable person who hasn't been living in a cave for the past year), the topic will be dropped and the Democrats will move on to other options for eroding support for the President and for eroding our national will. Since Dayton has five long years ahead of him before he has to face the voters, his asinine comments will not affect his prospects of getting re-elected. Voters will forget and the press will not remind them. (And, since we'll have McCain-Feingold-Wellstone campaign finance reform imposed by then--private parties won't be able to remind voters either. Further evidence as to why the Democrats and mainstream media were such passionate advocates of getting rid of soft money).

Therefore, the DNC chooses a stooge like Dayton to deliver this message over someone like Paul Wellstone. Were Wellstone to start questioning the war on Iraq, his chances of defeating Norm Coleman in the upcoming election for Senator would be seriously diminished. So he's quiet as a church mouse on this issue, while screeching and caterwauling like a stuck pig about so called "corporate accountability." An article in this week's City Pages further explores the rather odd restraint of Wellstone's more radical impulses. The article's title alone (and maybe exclusively) shoud qualfiy it for some sort of journalism award (they have those, right?)


Thursday, September 12, 2002
Making the Human Race My Personal Responsibility

As some of you may be aware, the primary elections were held on Tuesday in Minnesota and I was involved as an election judge in Ramsey County. This is my first experience of doing this type of duty and although it was much more difficult and even less rewarding than I anticipated, I am quite certain I'll continue my service through the general election. My tasks on Tuesday required a 16 hour shift (6 AM - 10 PM), with one half hour break around noon, and 120 miles put on my car. Aside from the hourly wage (which doesn't quite live up to "living wage" standards), the only benefit provided was the personal knowledge that the precincts I was involved with adhered to the law and that the process moved along as efficiently and orderly as possible. And also that every vote did indeed count (take that Katharine Harris!)--and counted only once (take that Al Gore!). This benefit is not exactly fame and glory, and heck it's not even faint, vague recognition and mildly pleasant satisfaction. But if your country is in the business of democracy, the job's successful completion is absolutely necessary and that's enough for me, and for the roughly 600 other judges who also served (time) in dank church basements and turkey gravy smelling elementary school gymnasiums all over the city of St. Paul.

The role I was assigned was a new one for the county, that of ward supervisor, meaning I needed to provide technical support, procedural interpretation, and logistical support for the judges at the 16 precincts in my ward. Specifically, this means things like helping out any judge crews who aren't able to get into the building at their polling location at 6:00 AM, helping those that can't figure out how to get their tabulation machines working, helping those with information on how to properly register new voters, delivering supplies for any location running short on anything critical, and also the distribution of completed absentee ballots. All these issues, multiplied by 16 locations, results in 120 driving miles, despite the fact my ward was maybe 10 square miles in area. I was zig zagging and haphazardly putting out fires all day long.

The main advantage to my position was getting to see so many precinct judging crews in action. And all of them, every single one, operated competently and efficiently and with generally good morale. Let me just restate, being an election judge assigned to an individual precinct generally sucks, by any conventional interpretation of the word ("suck - the state of being bogus or generally wack"--the New Merriam-Webster College Dictionary). You need to work all day and half way into the night without an official break or even time away to eat, the procedures you need to follow are detailed and numerous, the physical environment is typically claustrophobic, the pacing is at times frenzied but mostly tedious. And to top it off, you get absolutely no recognition or feedback from your overseers in the county elections office. In fact, the judges get treated with disdain by the paid government employees, who are officially in charge of how elections proceed. This is the reason my particular position exists at all, because the county doesn't want to be bothered by the desperate calls from the outposts in the hinterland, lest they be interrupted from their own official duties. From my observations, their official duties generally consist of snacking at the morning breakfast buffet, trying to choose which kind of pizza they want to try next from the 30 or so Domino's boxes lined up for lunch, and making sure they get chipotle salsa with their enchiladas when they're delivered for their dinner. (Yes, the county employees get all the food they need all day long, presumably paid for out one slush fund or another).

But I don't want to engage in the condemnation of the government types, I'm here to celebrate those poor bastards in the trenches, the election judges. Upon further review, I'm not quite sure how a society creates a class of people like this. To put up with what they do and for no appreciable benefit, other than the fulfillment of a personal sense of duty. All of them, worked liked dogs, treated like dogs, yet still managing to operate their locations with efficiency, fairness, attention to the law, and generally good spirits. Despite recent efforts by the county to recruit new, younger judges (a process of which I am a product) I'd say more than three-fourths are 55+ in age and I wonder how much of the high quality character of these people is dependent upon their generation alone. Some of these individuals were of the WWII generation, some just after that, but very few of the baby boom generation or later were present.

Perhaps this is just a reflection of life stage commitments. Most boomers and Generation X'ers are parents with young families, and taking an entire day off from their responsibilities to their families and jobs would be a significant burden. And the older folks probably do have extra time on their hands. But that's not to say service as an election judge isn't a burden to them as well, especially given their increased physical ailments and age-related limits on their physical energy, attention spans , and cognitive abilities (plus dealing with the blatantly "ageist" stereotyping of their ward supervisor).

But this older generation just seems more willing to bear burdens for the good of their society than the following generations. And for this reason elections have generally gone smoothly (at least in Minnesota). As this generation passes away and leaves the ranks of public service, I question the quality of their replacements. Because without a certain level of altruistic commitment among the general populace and the unquestioning will to do whatever needs to be done, there will be problems in running something as large and complex as an election. It appears the problems we witnessed in Florida, both in 2000 and even this year, on Tuesday, are a reflection of this trend. And if the modern generations prove to be incapable of living up to their responsibilities as citizens, we can expect these problems to become more and more common.


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