Friday, September 12, 2014

The Franken Forecast

By all rights, Al Franken should not be a United States Senator.  And I’m not just referring to the fact that after the votes were counted and certified on election night in 2008, Franken trailed his Republican opponent by 215 votes.  Based on qualifications and disposition, Al Franken makes no sense as a member of “the world’s greatest deliberative body”.
Technically, by the contemporary Constitutional requirements of age and citizenship, he is qualified.  But those we’re intended to be the means to an end.  An end the Founders of the United States envisioned to be a man exhibiting the highest levels of intelligence, judgment, patriotism and character, the meritocratic 1% of the American citizenry.  From James Madison in The Federalist No. 62:
…  the nature of the senatorial trust, which, requiring greater extent of information and stability of character, requires at the same time that the senator should have reached a period of life most likely to supply these advantages …
From John Jay in The Federalist No. 64:
… those men only who have become the most distinguished by their abilities and virtue, and in whom the people perceive just grounds for confidence.
… Senators so chosen will always be of the number of those who best understand our national interests, whether considered in relation to the several States or to foreign nations, who are best able to promote those interests, and whose reputation for integrity inspires and merits confidence.
These were really good plans.
Let’s add Madison and Jay to the litany of mice and men, and hope they are wearing seat belts in their crypts, as we introduce the junior Senator from the great state of Minnesota.

Unfair, you say, to exhibit the man’s stability of character, virtue, and confidence inspiring integrity via an acting performance as a monkey-minding, drug addled baggage handler?  Ah, that is but a sample of the behavior exhibited over his entire adult life.  You can Google any number of examples of Franken’s lack of possessing these very qualities.  For example, hereherehere, and here.  At some point, a collection of similarly oriented data points represents a pattern.
Al Franken’s entire preparation for the United States Senate was as a highly paid fool.  He was a comedian who trafficked in base, scatological, sexualized humor and politically driven ridicule and calumny under the guise of humor.  Or, if you like that sort of thing, he was a “social satirist”.  You can make millions doing this, even if you’re not funny, as long as you gain the support of enough like-minded fellow travelers, as Franken did.  But it doesn’t make you suitable material for the upper chamber of the legislative body of a great nation.  A mature, civilized democracy doesn’t advance people like this to these lofty positions. For most of our nation’s history, Franken wouldn’t have even been considered by the voters.  And yet, there he is.
A further assumedly imposing impediment overcome by Franken in his improbable rise is his lack of connection to the state that he represents.  He was born in New York City.  His entire adult life was spent in New York City and other places outside of Minnesota.  For a period, as a child and adolescent, he did live in the suburbs of Minneapolis.  But then he was gone for the better part of three decades.  Granted, compared to the carpet bagging standards of someone like former NY Sen. Hillary Clinton, this practically makes him as Minnesotan as lutefisk hot dish. But, the point of representative democracy was supposed to be having people in government who are representative of the people for whom they make decisions.  Being away from those people for 30+ years, by choice, tends to compromise the ability to be representative of them.
The “democracy’ part of representative democracy was supposed to be the failsafe of the equation.  What people in their right mind could possibly select as their Senator a professional fool from out of state?  Inconceivable!  Madison and Jay didn’t bother to even write a footnote to the Federalist Papers addressing the possibility of a monkey-minding, drug-addled baggage handler getting elected.  (That’s why we need a living Constitution! – Ruth Bader Ginsburg).  And yet, there he is.
Three primary dynamics led to this outcome.  First, Minnesota has a lot of Democrats in it.  And most of these Democrats are deeply loyal, highly partisan Democrats who would blindly vote for anyone carrying that party’s endorsement.  For example, the last Republican Presidential candidate to win the state was in 1972.  Minnesota’s were all in for a second term of Jimmy Carter.  We wanted to dump Ronald Reagan for a shot at the magic of Walter Mondale.  We were inspired to strap on the helmets and follow Michael Dukakis into battle.  Clinton, Gore, Kerry, Obama?  Keep it coming, we can’t get enough!  Anyone carrying the Democrat endorsement is likely to win.  It’s beyond yellow dog Democrat, its Al Franken Democrat.
Secondly, for whatever reason, we Minnesotans are insecure about our image in the world.  We think we’re special.  We like it here. We think that all our women are strong, all our men are good looking, and all our children are above average.  And we need EVERYONE else to agree with us.
This yearning manifests itself into a weird attachment to celebrity.  We cleave to anyone with a Minnesota connection who has been validated by the wider world.  If the world appreciates this person, the thinking goes, they must appreciate us as well; their validation is our validation.  Even if that person got the hell out of Minnesota as soon as they reached the age of majority (see Al Franken, Bob Dylan, etc.), these celebrities are icons cherished by Minnesotans as exemplars of our own specialness.
And if they run for office, we elect them.  In our recent past, we have had a former professional wrestler/action movie hero as our governor and a TV newsreader as our former senator.  Currently, we have an NFL Hall of Fame defensive tackle on our Supreme Court, the scion of a beloved department store owner as our governor, and — as our other senator – the daughter of a legendary local sportswriter.  None of these people were particularly qualified for their lofty positions.  But in Minnesota the endorsement of celebrity outweighs qualifications.  And Al Franken’s celebrity is the weightiest of the lot (at least pending a future candidacy by MacGyver).
You may be able to fool most of the people some of the time with the attributes above, but how does Al Franken get past the gatekeepers and elites of his own party?  These people have toiled in the mundane salt mines of local politics for decades and certainly had developed loyalties to legitimate Minnesota candidates before Al Franken parachuted in shortly before the election.
This brings up the third dynamic fueling Franken’s rise.  Contemporary campaign rules favor candidates who are independently wealthy or with an outsized national profile that is conducive to raising money.  It costs millions to run for a statewide office and that’s extremely hard to do via individual donations (which cap out at $4600 per election cycle) within your own state.  A prospective candidate who can bring substantial financial resources of his own to the party is immediately considered viable for nomination.
Franken doesn’t spend his own money to self-finance his campaigns; rather he taps into his network of celebrity friends and national fan base.  It wasn’t uncommon during the 2008 campaign for more than 75% of his donations for various filing periods to be fromout of state, including from such luminaries as Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon and Xena the Warrior Princess.  The national Left loves Franken and funds him accordingly, and that was enough to get him to the front of the line in a Minnesota Democrat primary election.
And that’s how Franken landed in the United States Senate, a combination of celebrity, big money, and blind partisanship.  That doesn’t work everywhere, for example at Franken’s most recent previous employer (Radio Air America), but it’s good enough for government work.  Is it good enough to get him re-elected?
Potentially, yes.  It’s a powerful combination in politics in Minnesota and often sufficient for victory.  But even with these advantages, Franken barely won in 2008.  In a Democrat wave year, where Obama won Minnesota by nearly 300,000 votes (a 54% majority) the funnyman Democrat down the very same ballot running for US Senate won by a scant 225 votes (a 42% plurality).  Minnesotans elected him to office, but they don’t love him.
Franken no doubt realizes this and has generally kept a low profile while in office, in six years not leading any significant legislative initiatives and being uncharacteristically low key on all the hot button issues of the day.  Even when campaigning for office, he’s very reserved.  His strategy seems to be abandoning the personality he’s exhibited his entire adult life in favor or not actively giving people a reason to vote against him.
However, he has quietly amassed a virtually perfect Democrat partisan voting record, which is more liberal than even Minnesota standards.  And as the last senator seated for the 111th Congress (thanks for the 2008 Senate recount, not taking office until July of 2009), he can credibly be accused of being the 60th and decisive vote in the passage of Obamacare (which has recently been polled as having a 33% approval rate in the Minnesota).  Despite his attempts to stay silent, his voting record speaks volumes about the representation he offers Minnesota and this can be effectively used against him.
The key to victory is offering a viable alternative to Al Franken.  For this mission the Minnesota Republican party endorsed Mike McFadden this past May.  Who is Mike McFadden?  Unfortunately, it’s a question many Minnesotans need an answer to before they will vote for him.  Prior to running for US Senate, virtually no one in the state had heard of him.  He’s a relative newcomer as a resident to Minnesota (just over 20 years) and quietly became a millionaire (net worth $15 – $57 million) in management for a financial services firm.  And that’s the most anyone really knows about him.  He may be a political genius and inspiring, visionary leader as well, but we don’t know.
What we do know — and what the Democrats are counting on — is that he’s  an anonymous, generic, conservative rich guy who wants to hold a powerful political office.  This is not a classic combination for victory in a place as class-conscious and parochial as Minnesota.  Rich guys can get elected to state office (see Mark Dayton).  Generic folks can get elected (see Amy Klobuchar).  Anonymous guys can get elected (see Paul Wellstone).  Even conservative guys can get elected (see Rod Grams).  But I’m unaware of that quadruple threat ever leading to victory.
Apparently it can work in neighboring Wisconsin (See Ron Johnson).  I think that example, combined with McFadden’s ability to self-fund a campaign, led Minnesota Republicans to this risky bet.  (It’s also true that there were no strong, prominent Republicans even running for endorsement, which may be the real tragedy of this race for those dreaming of a Frankenless future.)
So, Franken is a weak incumbent and he’s running against a potentially even weaker challenger.  The current polling reinforces this status, with Franken hovering around 50% and McFadden about 8 points back.
It’s certainly not over by any means.  Before November, national events can serve to highlight the problems with Franken’s voting record.  McFadden could distinguish himself in voters’ minds through effective advertising and debate performances.  Or Franken could let his guard drop and revert to his traditional ways of communication and comportment for all the voters to see.  Al Franken will never be a landslide election victor.  But is there enough time, and is the opponent agile enough, to overtake him this year?  Stay tuned.

For additional wise, civilized conversation on this topic, check out the comments section on the Ricochet post.  

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Defining Destitution Down

There was a time when a fair number of people in America did have to worry about how they were going to fill their gullet each day. Today, that is for the most part no longer the case. To paraphrase something I heard not long ago from an unknown source, ours is the first society where the rich are thin and the poor are fat. Obesity is a far more prevalent problem for our children then hunger.

But we still will hear the occasional alarm raised over the problem of millions of Americans going hungry. That is large part due to the way that we have redefined the problem as James Bovard explains in today’s Wall Street Journal. How the Feds Distort Their 'Food Insecurity' Numbers:

On Wednesday the Agriculture Department released the results of its annual Household Food Security in the United States survey for 2013. According to the USDA survey, 14.3% of U.S. households—some 49 million Americans—were "food insecure at least some time during the year in 2013." The decrease from 14.5% of households in 2012 was "not statistically significant." Yet if the past is any guide, the survey will be wrongfully invoked by politicians and pundits as proof of a national hunger crisis.

Is being "food insecure" the same as going hungry? Not necessarily. The USDA defines a "food insecure" household in the U.S. as one that is "uncertain of having, or unable to acquire, enough food to meet the needs of all their members because they had insufficient money or other resources for food" at times during the year. The USDA notes: "For most food-insecure households, the inadequacies were in the form of reduced quality and variety rather than insufficient quantity."

The National Academy of Sciences urged the USDA in 2006 to explicitly state that its food-security survey results are not an estimate of nationwide hunger. The USDA responded by dropping any mention of "hunger" in the survey's response categories. Nevertheless, the survey's results continue to be pervasive.

Sure, it would great if all Americans could always secure the quality and variety of food they wanted. But just because they cannot it does not mean that they are going hungry.

Though the food-security survey results are often touted as evidence of widespread hunger, another USDA survey debunked that conclusion. The agency's Agricultural Research Service conducts periodic surveys of "What We Eat in America." The most recent survey (2009-10) revealed that children ages 2 to 11 in households with less than $25,000 in annual income consume significantly more calories than children in households with incomes above $75,000.

Bovard notes that this does not mean that hunger isn’t a problem for some people in America. But by conflating “food-insecurity” with hunger we don’t present a clear picture of the extent of the problem and don’t get any closer to solving it for those truly in need.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

HWX: Tuesday Night Is All Right for Fighting

It was a special Tuesday night broadcast of the Hinderaker-Ward Experience, with John Hinderaker of Power Line and Brian Ward of Fraters Libertas reconvening to discuss the critical issues of our time. Topics include:

*  Fond recollections of the dwindling summer and tales of State Fair radio show appearances past

*  Race relations, politicization, and the tragic events playing out in Ferguson, Missouri

*  Illegal immigration and the potential for imminent executive orders

*  Politics and professional football, Redskins and Vikings in the news

*  Loon of the Week and This Week in Gate Keeping

There are many ways to hear the podcast, including over on the mother ship at Ricochet.   You can be sure to never miss an episode by subscribing via iTunes.  Or you can just use the player embedded in the upper right hand corner of this website.  If all of these fail, send me an email and I'll come to your house and read from a written transcript.  Hope you enjoy.

How Not Why

David Harsanyi-hisself a non-believer-skewers Richard Dawkins (an admittedly soft target if there ever was one) and exposes the limits of science to shape morality:

A few years back Newsweek reported that 90 percent of women whose fetuses test positive for Down syndrome choose an abortion. Only a small percentage of mothers even used the test back then. Soon many more will, and it’s not outlandish to believe that close to 90 percent of parents will continue to terminate those fetuses. Does this mean those in comas, critically injured or mentally unable to “feel” in the way Dawkins defines significant life, are also superfluous? If not, why not? And why only Down Syndrome? I assume he would be ok with deposing of any diseases we can find in the womb? We’d be doing them a favor, no? And what happens when we have advances in genetic testing that allow us to measure intelligence or appearance of a future adult? Surely not all of them are cut out for life. Maybe we’d be doing them a favor, as well. If they don’t feel anything, what the difference? Dawkins offers no scientific formula for when life is worth protecting that I can discern. And if he comes up with one it”ll have nothing to do with science.

If you want to know what it might look like when a society no longer feels a moral responsibility to protect life you could do worse than watching or reading the The Giver. I haven't yet caught the big screen version, but if it sticks anywhere close to the book, it will have a somewhat shocking and unmistakable pro-life message to deliver.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Beer of the Week (Vol. CXCIV)

Another edition of Beer of the Week, sponsored as always by the mellow folks at Glen Lake Wine & Spirits who can eagerly help you find the wine, whiskey, or beer you need to enjoy the hazy, lazy days of summer in style.

Back to school sales are already over, the State Fair starts next week, and fall beers are appearing in stores. (sigh) But there’s still plenty of summer to enjoy and plenty of beer well suited to the warm weather.

A good example of just such a beer is Deschutes River Ale:

Once called Riviere des Chutes by French Trappers the Deschutes River feeds our beers and souls alike. Merci.

Here’s one that’s clean and refreshing enough for the long haul, but fully graced with hop aroma, malt heft and clear craft passion. Sit back, relax, and let the subtle pleasures reveal.

Six-pack of twelve bottles goes for $8.99. Appealing label features serene river scene.

STYLE: Blonde Ale


COLOR (0-2): Golden brown and clear. 2

HEAD (0-2): Bright white color with good volume. 2

AROMA (0-2): Floral hops and slightly sweet. 2

TASTE (0-5): Pleasant hop flavors provide more than you expect given the low alcohol content. Light bodied with a smooth and clean finish. Very drinkable. 3

AFTERTASTE (0-2): Flavors follow through nicely but a little faint. 1

OVERALL (0-6): A well rounded summer beer that whets the whistle while still tickling the taste buds. 4

TOTAL SCORE (0-19): 14

Monday, August 11, 2014

For Jeff Johnson

Tomorrow voters in Minnesota will trample trickle to the polls to vote in the DFL and GOP primaries. There are four candidates on the Republican side vying for the right to take on incumbent DFL Governor Mark Dayton. I will be casting my ballot for Jeff Johnson.

I first met Jeff some years ago back in my days as a member of the Northern Alliance Radio Network. Along with my NARN co-hosts, I had the opportunity to interview Jeff on a couple of occasions and always found him to be engaging, intelligent, and at times amusing. He also had an all too rare quality among politicians: he was real.

In 2010, I hoped that he would make a run for governor as I thought he would make an excellent candidate. He opted instead to run for attorney general and lost. Four years later, my support for Jeff remains as enthusiastic as it did then. He is the best candidate on the governor’s slate.

It’s not that I have anything against the other GOP contenders. I think they all would make far better governors that Mark Dayton and will support whomever emerges victorious after the votes are counted tomorrow.

But I firmly believe that Jeff Johnson provides the GOP with the best chance to beat Mark Dayton in November. He’s a good man with a good message and a good name. And don’t downplay that last factor when it comes to Minnesota elections. Vote for Jeff Johnson tomorrow.
The Nihilist adds: Once Jeff wins on the 12th, the real fight begins. Click here to donate to Jeff's campaign. Defeating Mark Dayton is the single most important thing Minnesotans can do this November. Your donation will help make victory possible.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

American Movie

Last week I attended a showing of Dinesh D’Souza’s "America:  Imagine the World Without Her".  And I witnessed a movie resplendent with inspiring, patriotic imagery and a complete dramatic story arc full of tension and heartbreak and evolution and ultimately resolution and glorification of what it is to be an American.  Unfortunately, these were two different movies.

The latter experience was Oliver Stone’s “Born on the Fourth of July.”  It was released 25 years ago and I’m an admirer of Stone’s work, but I had not seen it before.  A reluctance to subject myself to a full color, wide screen exploration of the horrors of war, combined with Stone and Kovic’s overt political agenda kept me away.  Stone’s previous movie “Platoon” is one of my favorites of the 80’s and it is a variation of the same recipe.  But Platoon’s arguments were safely buried in the past, firmly fixed on an old war for which the political wisdom of fighting it did not affect the contemporary context.  (By the way, Platoon was released in 1986, a mere 11 years after the fall of Saigon, but at the time, to a teenager, it felt like near ancient history).  Of course, Born on the Fourth of July is about the same old war.  But its agenda was forward-looking, the lessons learned from Vietnam were intended to be visited upon political decisions made in the current day.  That was made clear by Kovic’s continuing political activism in the name of “peace” but in exclusive service of the Democrat party and whoever on the world scene happened to be opposing the United States.  So, I skipped it, until now.

It was worth the wait.  The first 30 minutes are a live action Normal Rockwell painting, with scenes of young, All American boy Ron Kovic being taught to believe in the American dream by earning it, and living it, and enjoying all the benefits.   All the iconic moments of American life are present, with tributes paid to the traditional nuclear family and gender roles, religion, sports, the military and civic pride.  Stone imbues it all with a stylistically sepia tone and surrounds it with a languid, melancholy orchestral score intermixed with pitch perfect romanticized pop standards.  There are no cheap shots about blind jingoism or naïve patriotism.  It’s a red blooded, red state American dream for those who want to believe in the dream.  It could have been directed by Frank Capra in another generation as the entrée to a linear narrative reinforcing nothing but those themes over two hours.  The first act crescendo is Kovic (played by Tom Cruise) on the eve of fulfilling his dream of serving his country by leaving for Marine boot camp, getting back the high school sweetheart he nearly lost forever at their last school dance to the strains of 50’s fantasia “Moon River”.   Fade out.  Fade back into … the horrors of war.

It’s a roller coaster ride from there.   The true American believer fighting the war America asked him to fight, gets caught up in an irresistible momentum that leads to civilian atrocities and fratricide, getting grievously and permanently wounded, getting mistreated and ignored by his country and his family, and his subsequent descent into isolation and darkness.  In the classic dramatic arc, we then get his painful journey to self-actualization, his re-engagement with his lost, beloved nation and the fight to bring truth to it for their mutual benefit.  It ends with his victory, to the applause of his countrymen, and his humble acknowledgement that he finally feels like he’s home.  Wow.

Was any of this true?  Was it a fair retelling of history?  I don’t know.  Stone admits to deliberately using his films to create a “counter myth” to official history.  But, for the purposes of a movie and its effect, it doesn’t matter.  What a story! And due the skill of Stone, Cruise, John Williams, et al., what a cinematic experience.

There is nothing like this in Dinesh D’Souza’s America.   Which, to be clear, is also a movie.  It is other things as well, like a hopeful political venture into virgin cultural territory.  But that’s context and motivation and abstraction, and not the end product itself.  The play’s the thing.  And that thing D’Souza does is not very good, relative to the cinematic experience described above.

The moral universe masterfully depicted in Born on the Fourth of July was persuasive that America’s war in Vietnam, and by extension, almost any war, wasn’t worth the terrible personal sacrifices and suffering, as encapsulated by Ron Kovic and his severed spine.  It takes extremely hardened ideological blinders for a viewer not to clearly perceive that after viewing it.  Even I was ready to add my voice to a chorus of “Give Peace a Chance” during the closing credits.

There are other lefty movies that have this same effect.  After watching John Ford’s “The Grapes of Wrath,” it’s nearly impossible for a sentient being to avoid the desire to pick up an axe handle and stand next to Tom Joad in the fight so hungry people can eat.  Or John Sayles’ “Matewan,” where the dichotomy between good and evil is so cleanly and effectively depicted between the coal miners and the union vs. the corporations and the corrupt authorities.  Immediately after seeing this, I wanted to start a coal miner’s union in my neighborhood.  But for the lack of a vein of anthracite within a thousand miles of Minnesota, I just might have.  (Interesting to note, these inspiring leftist tales always concentrate on the beginning of a socialist movement, or the temporary failure of a beautiful socialist dream that lies just over the horizon.  I think that’s because history shows us that these experiments never have an inspiring, happy ending).

Of course, I know better than to take what these movies are presenting at face value.  A lifetime of pursuing intellectual truth in the realms of politics and history has a way of inuring one to artistic flights of fancy.  When the lights come up in the theater, I can let it go.  The concern is, that may not be the case with the masses consuming these powerful, provocative products.

This is not a new concern.   It is the very reason that two and a half millennia ago Plato would have banned artists from his rational, ideal world:

Then the imitator, I said, is a long way off the truth, and can do all things because he lightly touches on a small part of them, and that part an image. For example: A painter will paint a cobbler, carpenter, or any other artist, though he knows nothing of their arts; and, if he is a good artist, he may deceive children or simple persons, when he shows them his picture of a carpenter from a distance, and they will fancy that they are looking at a real carpenter.

Flash forward to the 21st century and the average American (simpleton or not) confronted with an incredibly powerful artistic medium and story reasonably concludes they are looking at the real nature of capitalism or socialism or of America, instead of a lightly touched upon imitation of a small part of these entities.

Based on America, Imagine the World Without Her, Plato would have allowed Dinesh D’Souza into his ideal state.  That’s good for Dinesh, bad for the success of this political venture into virgin cultural territory.
His movie is competent, well-reasoned, intellectually substantial, and mildly entertaining.  As artistry and spectacle, it barely rises above the level of a CSPAN broadcast of a college history course lecture.   Fine for what it is (and I do dig that), but that’s it.  It is a small dream, it has not the power to stir men’s hearts.  It will not generate word of mouth buzz necessary for mass appeal, and no one will see it other than those who already want to believe.

Some, including D'Souza, have been touting the movie’s A+ rating on CinemaScore.

… an A+? That’s the brass ring.  In the last 29 years, only 52 films have received an A+ from CinemaScore, including seven Oscar Best Picture winners: “Gandhi,” “Driving Miss Daisy,” “Dances With Wolves,” “Schindler’s List,” “Forrest Gump,” “Titanic,” and “The King’s Speech.”
[The Hollywood Reporter] added that an A+ typically “signals a long, prosperous theatrical run.”

But this just goes to show that CinemaScore is, more than anything, a measure of a movie’s success in eliciting confirmation bias among a self-selected sample.  Succeeding in that does means something.  But for box office success like Titanic, you need a Titanic-sized potential audience in which to motivate to self-selection.  There are vastly more people (women) seeking doomed romantic fantasies with big special effects than people seeking an intellectual defense of American exceptionalism.  Perfectly hitting the target with each audience yields vastly different results.   D’Souza’s success with America will result in a tiny ripple in the cultural waters, not a tidal wave.

D’Souza’s America certainly does not merit the laughable “F” rating given by such mainstream reviewing sites as AV Club either.   But that demonstrates the other impediment his film faces in its quest to make a difference in the culture.  The keepers of the narrow ideological gates of the mainstream media will not give it a fair hearing.  So the only hope is to go around them and win the hearts and minds of the general public. And this film is not equipped to do so.

Two other criticisms of the movie itself.  First, the premise as communicated in the title “Imagine the World without Her”.  Yes, what would have happened in history, and what would the human condition be, if this nation state did not exist?  It’s an intriguing counterfactual that has huge cinematic and dramatic potential.  It’s  the kind of skewed, alternate history broached in The Watchmen, which could have been titled America, Imagine the World if Cold, Megalomaniacal Costumed Freaks were Calling the Shots.  (Which, come to think of it, may not be so counterfactual after all).  D’Souza starts down this path, showing George Washington shot off his horse and killed before the American Revolution was won.   Then we get a few scenes of American landmarks melting into air. But then it’s dropped entirely for the rest of the movie.  What happened to imagining the world without her?  I guess we’ll have to imagine imagining that.  I’m reminded of the immortal words of super lawyer from the Simpson’s Lionel Hutz:  “this is the most blatant case of fraudulent advertising since my suit against the film, "The Never-Ending Story".

Instead, most of the rest of the movie is an exhibition of fallacious leftist criticisms and D’Souza’s pedantic responses.   And he really lets the lefties fly, filming interviews with the likes of Noam Chomsky and Ward Churchill, and letting them express their tired, but angry and withering criticisms of America and its unforgivable historical crimes in their own words.  These are prolonged, anxiety producing scenes, with D’Souza just sitting back and listening in.  I assumed it was being played like a classic underdog fighting picture, the Karate Kid or any Rocky movie.  Our hero has to take a beating (or series of beatings), in order to increase the dramatic payoff of him rising from the canvas and exacting his brutal but justifiable and satisfying retribution.  The problem is that D’Souza never really does that.  His response to their inflammatory rhetoric is a separate PowerPoint presentation enumerating their themes with bullet points and providing clean, regimented, equally bullet-pointed responses.  Chomsky and Churchill are long gone by then, D’Souza never confronts their arguments to their faces.  They get away with saying what they did and are never get a chance to respond to D’Souza’s counter arguments.  D’Souza’s arguments may very well have been superior, but it doesn’t feel like victory.  Maybe that’s because in a movie, a victory requires a winner and a loser.   The America bashers deserved to get personally beat, and D’Souza lets them off the hook.  It’s like if the end of The Karate Kid was Daniel LaRusso getting his ass kicked, but still getting handed the coveted All Valley Karate Championship belt because the officials noticed the Cobra Kai punk was indeed using an illegal kick.  We won, but we didn’t WIN!  And the Cobra Kai is still sneering and laughing at us.

The left has magnificent instruments of ideological propaganda in the likes of Oliver Stone.  Dinesh D’Souza is no Oliver Stone.  If there is ever going to be a successful conservative political venture into this cultural space, we need one.

Until then, I guess we’ve always got Red Dawn.

Friday, August 08, 2014

Everybody Has Something

I heard Dennis Prager explain “The Missing Tile Syndrome" on his radio show during one (or perhaps more than one) of his weekly happiness hours. He now has a Prager University video which lays it out in vivid detail:

Have you ever thought to yourself, "I wish I were ____"? Adjectives may have included: thinner, taller, smarter, etc. If so, you're like virtually everyone else, and afflicted by "The Missing Tile Syndrome." As Dennis Prager explains, we often focus on the missing tile(s) in our lives, which robs us of happiness. In five minutes, learn how to fix your focus.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Hoppy History

Today is National IPA Day and the appropriate and obvious way to celebrate is to quaff a few pints of the delicious beer style. But while you’re at it you also may want to take a moment and familiarize yourself with the real origins of IPA:

Because of its popularity, most craft drinkers know – or think they know – how IPA began. To quote one version of the popular history of the style: "Back in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s, England held a large colonial presence in India. The soldiers, sailors and civilians had a huge appetite for beer. Trouble was, the voyage to India was long, and by the time the ship made it there the traditional beers had spoiled. Even when they didn't, the dark porters that were popular at the time weren't quite the ticket in the hot climate of India. George Hodgson of the Bow Brewery in London was the first person to come up with an answer to this problem. He began brewing a lighter style of beer, known as pale ale. Hodgson realized that high alcohol and hop levels would retard spoilage. His process succeeded, and for about 50 years he held a virtual monopoly on the market."

Trouble is, almost none of the above is true. Ale and beer were being successfully exported to India – and farther – from at least the beginning of the 18th century, and while there was some spoilage, the beers that were being sent out could easily last a year or more in cask. So nobody needed to invent a new style of beer to survive the journey better. Porter continued to be popular in India through the 19th century, and strong dark beers are still drunk in hot climates, from Sri Lanka to the West Indies. Pale ales were around for at least a century before George Hodgson began brewing.

Like many others, I too had long subscribed to the theory that IPAs were created to survive the long sea journey to India and were named thusly. It sounded good and it made sense. In fact it was only a few years ago when I read the article above that I was made wise to the fallacy that had been so oft peddled.

What’s surprising is how often I still see it repeated today especially by those who should know better. Just last week in Milwaukee, I came across the erroneous IPA back story at a craft brewery.

So when you’re knocking back a couple of gloriously hoppy ales tonight please keep in mind that the story you’ve probably heard about its origin is not exactly the whole truth and nothing but the truth. And if you get a chance pass the word so that other hop heads also understand that they've been mislead.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Hard to Hit a Moving Target

I got into blogging to change the world.  Thus far the evidence is inconclusive as to my success.  Although today’s news makes me think I don’t need to get my aircraft carrier sized “Mission Accomplished” banner out of storage any time soon.

Breaking news from the front page of the Star Tribune:

Target Corp. has for the first time come out publicly in support of gay marriage, as a growing number of high-profile businesses take positions on the divisive issue.
Gay marriage has been a source of controversy for some of the state’s major corporate players since Target, Best Buy and 3M donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to an organization that supported Republican Tom Emmer in the 2010 Minnesota governor’s race. Emmer is a vocal opponent of gay marriage.

Target finally threw its corporate weight behind marriage equality Tuesday, with the Minneapolis-based retailer joining an amicus brief in a court case.
… [Target executive vice president Jodee Kozlak] also hinted at a degree of corporate soul-searching as gay marriage spreads. She did not mention another change: the firing of Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel, who in 2010 was criticized after Target made a $150,000 campaign contribution on behalf of an anti-gay-rights Republican, Tom Emmer.

From MinnPost:

… four years after Target Corporation backed fiercely anti-gay rights candidate Tom Emmer for Minnesota Governor, and three years after it refused to oppose Republicans’ mean-spirited ballot measure to enshrine a gay marriage ban in the Minnesota Constitution, corporate executives have apparently read rapidly changing public opinion surveys and are consequently endorsing a legal brief backing  marriage equality.

Twin Cities professional journalists, I’m not mad. I’m disappointed.
Not only did you get the facts of the story wrong, but over three years ago I gave you a detailed account of the back story of this issue and if you would have used it like you were supposed to, none of this would have happened.

Let’s go over this one more time.  First, the issue of “anti gay rights’ Tom Emmer.  In 2010, he wasn’t any more “anti-gay rights” than Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were, or Paul Wellstone was when he died, or that 44% of Minnesotans currently are.  All of the above opposed the state recognition of same sex marriage.  That’s it.  Whether you agree with it or not, it was a mainstream position then, and it is now. 
The “anti-gay” sobriquet Emmer has been given has now evolved to “fiercely anti-gay” in the press.  This is laughable.  Interviewing him on the old NARN show shortly before the 2010 election, he tried to shame me for bringing up social issues.  He begrudgingly acknowledged his support of traditional marriage, which was the position of the overwhelming majority of people in his party, but he rebuked me, saying 2010 wasn’t about social issues, it was about the economy and jobs.  That was his strategy in 2010, being a jerk to volunteer weekend radio show hosts and not prioritizing social issues like gay marriage.  (I suspect the former was the real reason he lost the election by a mere 9,000 votes).  Fierce, perhaps, but not “fiercely anti-gay”.
My words from 2011 ring all the more true now, seeing how this press formulation lives on into 2014:

You've got to love how Tom Emmer's support of traditional marriage now earns him the sobriquet "anti-gay candidate Tom Emmer". Now that he's no longer a candidate, does he get to keep the title? On Friday mornings, listen to anti-gay talk show host Tom Emmer on KTLK. On Saturday, anti-gay broomball coach Tom Emmer will attempt to lead his son's pee wee team to victory. Then Sunday anti-gay grocery shopper Tom Emmer will pick up on his family's weekly supplies.

Secondly, the controversy about Target supporting an “anti gay” candidate, another stale, half-truth fantasy that endures in the press.  The full story, as detailed on this website in 2011:

Target Corporation donated $150,000 to a group called Minnesota Forward, whose goal was to improve the environment for business in the state. Their focus was entirely economic and directed toward job creation in the private sector, which was perhaps the primary concern of voters in the recession year of 2010. The goals of Minnesota Forward were admirable, entirely reasonable, and beneficial to any business trying to operate in Minnesota. A company that employs the number of people in the state, and pays as much in taxes, as Target would be particularly disposed to supporting this organization. It would have been foolish for them not to donate to such a group. And so they did. As their spokesman articulated: 

"... the company gave $150,000 in cash and in-kind contributions to Minnesota Forward because the group's mission is to elect candidates from both parties who are focused on making "economic growth a priority."
"Target is very proud to call Minnesota home," said Michaud. "We want a business environment that allows us to be competitive, provide jobs, support our communities and deliver on our commitment to shareholders."
Ultimately, Minnesota Forward determined that Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer was most in agreement with their goals. This was not a close call. His Democrat opponent was an extreme liberal, one of the few candidates in the entire country who was calling for more income taxes and more corporate taxes, to fund even greater expansion of government during a recession and debt crisis. Emmer, on the other hand, called for cutting government expenses and not further burdening the private sector in this difficult economic environment.

To support Emmer, Minnesota Forward independently paid for a television ad.  Excerpt from the narration:

"As a legislator, Emmer voted against job-killing taxes and for reduced government spending. Now he's running for governor, working to grow jobs, getting government out of the way." 

Nothing controversial about that. Nothing controversial about Target supporting that position, especially compared to what the other side was offering.
And then the Alinsky explosion hit. The tactics utilized, and media portrayal of the "controversy", are exemplified in this headline from CBS News:
Target Boycott Movement Grows Following Donation to Support "Antigay" Candidate
The cries of outrage were sent forth, the story went national (carried by the dutiful press), and suddenly it was wrong for a business to support its own economic interest because of something to do with gayness.
It was an interesting bit of sleight of hand. In order to demonize the support of a Republican candidate for pro-business reasons, the liberal pressure groups focused on an unrelated issue, gay marriage. An issue which Tom Emmer was adamant, to a fault, about not emphasizing during his campaign. Plus, it was an issue in which Tom Emmer's position (support of the one man-one woman definition of marriage), agreed with the overwhelming majority of voters, including, for one, Barrack Obama. Yet it was characterized as somehow "hateful" and "anti-gay" and a boycott movement was launched because Target supported him (for entirely other reasons).

Do we have this straight now, Twin Cities media?  I hope so.   But I suspect that since Target is now overtly supporting a liberal agenda, and won't be donating money to anything remotely associated with Republican candidates, we won’t be hearing much about any controversy over their political activities any more.   Maybe someone can get some use out of my "mission accomplished" banner after all.