Wednesday, October 31, 2007

(Legal) drug buyers beware!

While Norm Coleman was worrying about the so-called "reimportation" of drugs from Canada, China snuck in the side door, shipping pharmaceutical ingredients that are "neither certified nor inspected." Which do you think poses more of a threat?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Republican Star Tribune

Check out this story in today's Trib, with the headline "Election official allegedly used list improperly" and tell me the paper hasn't taken a Republican turn. First, we don't find out until mid-story that the allegations are from Republican cranks and the website Minnesota Democrats Exposed.

There is no impropriety here - the names were taken from a public list. If the paper wanted to run the story, how about a headline such as "Republicans allege election impropriety by state official" or something like that. The headline makes it sound like there's something to this, when the specious complaint comes from Republican operatives. Unfortunately, this kind of headline is typical now on Portland Avenue.

Must watch video

Max Blumenthal, a friend of mine who has written for Media Transparency, has a fantastic new video report he taped at the so-called "Value Voters Summit."

Obama's bad week

First Barack Obama invited a gay bashing preacher to his campaign, then he lit out on Social Security. Atrios points out that this is a strange way to try to attract Democratic voters. In defending the Black anti-gay preacher, Obama said he was trying to reach out to the Black and Evangelical constituencies. Pardon me, but wouldn't the way to do this be to encourage Blacks to be less homo-phobic, instead of pandering to their bigotry?

The only reasonable explanation I can think of is that Obama has thrown in the towel, and is now angling for a veep nod by out-Clintoning Clinton. That leaves Edwards as the only progressive candidate in the top three.

Monday, October 29, 2007

George Bush's military ventriloquism trick

Glen Greenwald got an email the other day purporting to be from Gen. Petraeus' spokesman Col. Steven A. Boylan that was nothing short of bizarre, that proved beyond a doubt the politicization of the US military. Commenters on Greenwald's post at questioned whether Boylan could be so stupid as to write such an email, so Greenwald sent another email to Boylan asking if he indeed had sent the email. Boylan responded cryptically without saying whether or not he actually sent the email, so Greenwald put out a call to Internet experts to determine whether Boylan sent the email or whether it was from an imposter. To make a long story shorter, one expert weighed in after examining the email's headers that that either Boylan sent the email or someone sent it from his computer.

Which gets to the point of MoveOn's ad questioning whether Petraeus should be called General Betray Us, namely, that the US military has become unacceptably politicized. All of the right wing's complaining that journalists shouldn't take off after US military personnel misses the point that these generals and colonels are no longer apolitical; that George W. Bush has off-loaded his political dirty work to the military. It was a neat trick by Bush to use military personnel as proxies to try and fend off criticism. It worked for a while. Will it still work? Stay tuned.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Newspaper of the affluent suburbs of the Twin Cities

This is a photo of the front page of the Mpls Star Trib this morning. The people who makeup this paper have the design sense of a 10 year old. My wife joked that it looked like someone had puked on the paper.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Friday cat blogging

That's Simon in the garden this morning, above. It was about 40 degrees here. Below is Molly sitting on the pergola.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

CAE losing its mojo?

If the Center of the American Experiment holds a "Fall Briefing" and no one writes about it, did it actually happen? The CAE must be losing some of its mojo as its event the other night went unreported by the Trib, the PiPress, Powerlineblog, Katherine Kersten, and even Doug Tice in his blog. But they probably don't have anything to worry about - I'm sure MPR will soon broadcast the whole ugly affair unedited like they usually do over some noontime.

Over at St Thomas, Dennis Dease says through his dummy that Cris Toffolo can file a grievance over her firing as the university’s peace and justice studies program head. Way to step up to the plate Dease.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Tutu turns up the heat on St Thomas, William the Bloody in town, and the WaPo's coverage of Richard Mellon Scaife's divorce trial

Today the Mpls Star Tribune reports that Desmond Tutu has turned up the heat on the University of St Thomas, stating he wouldn't appear at the school unless it reinstated professor Cris Toffolo as director of the university’s peace and justice studies program. Tutu shouldn't hold his breath waiting for the right wing school to do the right thing.

"William the Bloody," aka Bill Kristol, speaks tonight at the "non-partisan" Center of the American Experiment's Fall Briefing.

The Washington Post yesterday published a fascinating and hilarious tale of Richard Mellon Scaife's divorce trial (his second one). What makes it interesting, in the words of writer David Segal, are three little words "No. Pre. Nup." A sidebar, relying on data from Media Transparency, shows which right wing organizations are the major recipients of Scaife's philanthropy. View the video tour of the "Funding Father of the Right"'s divorce.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Friday cat blogging

Here's another picture of Molly (just to piss off Mark Gisleson).

Looking for a leader

Over at Open Left Matt Stoller has an interesting post up looking at the Netroots' growing frustration with Barack Obama:
It goes back to Obama's unreliable behavior during the Lamont campaign, his shrinking violet act during Military Commissions Act, and his constant chiding of the secular left.
Stoller says Dems are increasingly demanding leadership:
I think this is a positive development, as it suggests the environment has become more difficult for those who will not lead...To put it in evolutionary terms, the 'fitness function' that selects for politicians is now prizing leadership more aggressively than rhetoric and money.
Let's hope so.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

George W. Bush, Mafia Don

Yesterday President Bush commented, when asked about the possibility of Turkey invading Iraq, that he was trying to convince the Turks it "was not in their best interests" to invade. If Bush was an adult with a conscience he would speak honestly, attributing the desire for the Turks not to invade to himself. A simple declarative sentence would do, something like, "I think it would be wrong for the Turks to invade Iraq." But no - he couches his admonition in the parlance of a mafioso threat, i.e. it is not in their best interest to attack Iraq. What's he gonna do, kneecap Turkey if they don't comply?

UPDATE: For a good explanation of Bush's creepy religious language, check out this story by Juan Stam from the Nation a few years ago, and this report by David Domke on Bush, God and the Media over at

Monday, October 15, 2007

A tale of two routs

Look closely at the two Star Tribune covers above; one is from the day after the so-called "Republican Revolution" election of November 1994, and the second is from the day after the 2006 rout of the Republicans, both in the State of Minnesota and around the nation.

The 1994 cover defines a narrative of the overall election with the top headline on the page: "REPUBLICANS WIN ACROSS U.S." The 2006 front page didn't define any narrative; instead, it is a collection of shorter headlines reporting the results of each race, without any summing-up of the drubbing suffered by Republicans across the nation. The top headline is a double-decker blaring "IT'S PAWLENTY AGAIN; KLOBUCHAR WINS BIG." Underneath in much smaller type and not in bold it says "Democrats take control of U.S. House; Senate hangs in balance."

While technically true, the headlines nonetheless avoid characterizing the election as a Democratic sweep as the 1994 headline had done. And it was a comparable sweep for the Dems. In Minnesota they won many more House and Senate seats than the Republicans had won in 1994. Nationally the Republican wins in the U.S. House and Senate in 1994 were bigger than the Democrats' wins in 2006, but in both cases the U.S. House changed hands.

One interesting fact is that in 2006, for the first time in the history of the United States, no Republican captured any House, Senate, or Gubernatorial seat previously held by a Democrat. The Democrats even won a majority of state governorships. The election was an historic repudiation of Republican governance, both at home and across the country. Why didn't the Trib lead with a headline such as "DEMOCRATS WIN ACROSS U.S."?

Now look at the lead pictures on the two front pages. The 1994 front page had two large photos of winners from the victorious Republicans - one of Rod Grams who won a U.S. Senate seat and one of Arne Carlson who won reelection as governor. On the 2006 front page there was only one lede photo - and it was of the Republican Governor Pawlenty, who won reelection by one percentage point in a three way race. He was virtually the only top Republican to win reelection. Republicans lost every other constitutional elective state wide office. The photo shows Republican Pawlenty, messiah-like, receiving adoration from his supporters. So in 1994 you have two photos of winners from the winning party, but in 2006 you have one photo of basically the only winner from the losing party.

Why was the photo of Pawlenty chosen to lead the front page when there was a truly historic victory in the fifth congressional district where Keith Ellison won election to congress as the first Black and first Muslim from Minnesota ever elected, and the first Muslim elected to Congress in the nation's history! Ellison won despite a dishonest and unethical campaign against him by the Trib's own news columnist, conservative movement ideologue and Center of the American Experiment product Katherine Kersten. Now Ellison is a national and international political and media figure.

David Brock famously wrote in his book The Republican Noise Machine that the right, above almost all else, wants to prevent its ideological enemies outright victories. Even on issues where Republicans are the big losers partisans of the right spin them one way or another to achieve at least a tie. The goal is always to define the narrative, and when losing, at least muddy the waters so as to fool some of the people. As the saying goes, nothing succeeds like success, and nothing fails like failure. Or, at least the electorate's perception of success or failure.

Here in Minnesota, where, despite the Blog Chihuahua's protestations, the Minneapolis Star Tribune has made an intentional rightward turn. The placing of Doug Tice, a movement conservative ideologue, as political editor and Katherine Kersten, another movement conservative, as a news columnist have given the paper a rightward list, and sometimes an out-and-out racist tilt.

The 1994 front page, from a time prior to the Tice/Kersten era defined a narrative: Republicans kicked butt, all over. The 2006 Democratic victories, similar in scale to the Republicans' wins of 1994, with Tice as political editor, were reported on the front page as isolated wins, with no overall narrative. Yes, there were "teaser" pictures from Ellison, Walz and Bachmann's wins, and about an eight point teaser that the Democrats had taken the state house, that a Democrat had won the state Attorney General position, and five or six other news bits.

I'm not alleging that Doug Tice alone, or Doug Tice with others, somehow conspired to take some of the sting out of coverage of Democratic victories in 2006, although that is the end effect. I don't even know for sure whether he participated in the makeup of the front page on the night of Tuesday, November 7, 2006, although it would be highly unusual to not have the political editor lead or help makeup the front page for the day after a major election.

But whoever designed the front page for the day after the Democratic victories in 2006 made radically different decisions than the people who made it up the day after Republican wins in 1994. The main decision they made was to minimize the systemic losses suffered by the Republicans (which, by the way, extended other recent losses) and deny that the Democrats had dealt them a severe blow.

Readers may reasonably think I'm making a mountain out of a mole hill; however there is a history over the past few years of the Trib going easy on Republicans, spinning their losses as ties or questions still open to interpretation.

Given recent polling and Republican retirements and indictments, the 2008 elections may be as bad for them as 2006. How will the Trib cover it this time? Don't hold your breath for narratives showing voters sick and tired of the GOP.

Mark Rotenberg's fog machine

Kudos to Spotty over at The Cucking Stool for his take-down of Mark Rotenberg, the chief counsel for the University of Minnesota and his dishonest "defense" of letting Desmond Tutu speak at the University of St Thomas, which appeared on the op-ed page in Sunday's Trib.

First Rotenberg claims Dease was "under no pressure" from local Jews to dis-invite Tutu. But that's not what Dease said through Doug Hennes. Secondly, Rotenberg goes on to say that American universities "are awash with anti-Israel sentiment," which is complete bull. American universities may have a smattering of critics of the Israeli government policy regarding the Palestinians, but that does not make them anti-Semitic, a jump in logic that Rotenberg would like readers to make to essentially cut-off all legitimate criticism of Israel.

As Spotty correctly points out:
It takes a lotta damn gall, make that chutzpa, Rotenberg, to claim, as you do, that criticism of Israel is "dabbling in a dangerous cesspool of prejudice."
Juan Cole writes that it was Tutu who was smeared by the Zionist Organization of America, a slight that Dease, Doug Tice and Rotenberg all bought.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Rootless at the University of St Thomas

So the Catholic University of St Thomas has now reversed its decision to not allow Desmond Tutu to speak at the school. The decision shows what a complete rootless moral idiot the Rev. Dennis Dease, the guy who runs the school is, along with his puppet spokesman Doug Hennes. It seems Dease never says anything outright, only through Hennes, like some kind of ventriloquist.

I say "rootless" because Dease doesn't have a clue about real morality and is a terrible decision maker. You might remember that St Thomas in the past has allowed right wing bigots to speak with almost no problem - Ann Coulter and Michelle Malkin (who defends the Internment of Japanese Americans during World War II) are two of the biggest offenders. When they were warned before Coulter spoke they shrugged it off, only to have have to eat crow afterwards. Then when Tutu was invited to speak, they apparently - in contrast to when right wing bigots speak there - were inclined to ask people in the community about him, never mind that Tutu is a Nobel Peace Prize winner and an internationally adored figure. How could anyone even think of dis-inviting Tutu?

So who did Dease speak to? He's not saying, but a good guess is that he knows some right wing Jews whose views mirror his own authoritarian view of life, who apparently told him the Nobel Peace Prize winner was some kind of anti-Semite. Of course Dease believed these as-yet unnamed Jews, so he dis-invited Tutu.

Many people (not me) expect high religious officials to have good judgment and exercise it wisely. It's clear, however, that the right wingers who run St Thomas are not only moral idiots, but have tin ears as well. They didn't, wouldn't, or couldn't recognize clear bigotry in Coulter and Malkin, even when warned. However, when a true giant of international morality presented himself they by then knew they couldn't trust their own judgment, so went to a natural constituency - right wing religionists of another sect- for advice. Of course those right wing Jews to whom Dease outsourced the Tutu decision - whoever they were (I wish they would come forward) - hate Tutu because he has the temerity to criticize the war criminals in Israel.

And the moral cowards at St Thomas, afraid of angering their right wing base, naturally caved. Now with pressure from every corner (excepting, of course, Doug Tice, the movement conservative acolyte in charge of political coverage at the Trib), and no true moral compass of their own except their drive for worldly power, Dease and his cohorts have caved yet again.

Now Dease, in a statement, says he hopes to foster an atmosphere of reasoned debate around contentious issues. That would be nice, but St Thomas has clearly demonstrated they are in no position to moderate such a discussion.

UPDATE: See Trashtalking Ché and necklacing Bishop Tutu (all in a day's work for the local right) from Mark Gisleson. And Spot tells us about Doug Tice and the Hitler brand. Abdi Aynte of Minnesota Monitor reports that it was "Jewish Community Relations Council" that originally "voiced concerns" about Tutu. Behind the Lines has the Dease letter.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Powerlineblog and conservative philanthropy

Every now and then you get a glimpse of where the true power is over at Powerlineblog. Today Scott Johnson has a post up titled "Coming attractions," that publicizes two upcoming conservative movement events.

The first is the "Winston Churchill Dinner" being held by the Claremont Institute in California next month. Johnson and his partner in publishing John Hinderaker, are both "fellows" there. The Institute itself is partially funded by conservative philanthropy, receiving at least $9 million since 1985. The keynote speaker, and recipient of the Institute's "2007 Statesmanship Award," will be Donald Rumsfeld, who has numerous ties to conservative philanthropy, including a new appointment as a visiting scholar at the Hoover Institution, one of the top policy shops receiving conservative philanthropy. Doing the presenting will be none other than the Bookie of Virtue Bill Bennett, who is also a Claremont Institute Fellow, and is as central to conservative philanthropy as you can get. Johnson calls Bennett a "Powerline friend" in his post.

The second event is the "fall briefing" for a local Twin Cities "think tank" the Center of the American Experiment (CAE). When last we heard from CAE its future seemed to be in doubt due to internal divisions that resulted in the departure of senior staff and the return of the institution's founder Mitch Pearlstein. The Center has gotten a fair amount from conservative philanthropy, and if you look at its roster and events you can tell it is deeply intertwined in both the national conservative movement and Republican politics. Unsurprisingly Johnson is also a board member there, and Hinderaker was in the past.

The speaker at the CAE event will be none other than Bill Kristol, who's going to talk about "The New World," which I guess is code for the predicament Republicans now find themselves in. Kristol, son of one of the movement's founders, sits at the nexus of conservative philanthropy, media and politics. His organization, the Project for The New American Century, laid the groundwork for the invasion of Iraq, the most foolish war in 2,000 years (according to Martin Van Creveld).

A look at the CAE's quarterly publication reveals authors from across the conservative movement, including Johnson and Hinderaker, Chester Finn, Vin Weber, Sally Pipes, Abigail Thernstrom, Jean Bethke Elshtain, David Frum, David Blankenhorn, Wade Horn, Maggie Gallagher, and many more. Two writers for the CAE quarterly are now in positions of power at the Minneapolis Star Tribune. One is Doug Tice, who was a conservative editorial writer at the St. Paul Pioneer Press who is now the political editor at the Star Tribune (not kidding). The second is Katherine Kersten, who was in on the founding of the CAE, has held numerous positions there (including paid ones), and was an op-ed writer at the Trib. After Kersten was removed from the op-ed page at the paper she got a job there as a news columnist, a job she holds to this very day. Kersten is so political, in fact, that she was on a small, select committee that picked people for top jobs in Republican Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty's administration.

As I have argued in numerous venues, the CAE is a "think tank" in name only; it is really an extension of the Republican party, and a cog in the larger conservative movement. The fact that a good friend of theirs is the political editor at the Trib, and one of its founders is a news columnist are indicators of a strong influence on the definition of news in the Twin Cities. Kersten herself often works in tandem with Powerlineblog; frequently you'll see a particular topic covered by Johnson or Hinderaker, only to have the story appear in Kersten's column shortly thereafter. It works the other way, too. In another post just above the one referenced in this post Johnson links to three recent Kersten columns warning of the anarchy awaiting the country for tolerating Critical Mass bike rides.

When Kersten was appointed as a news columnist I complained to the paper's Reader's Rep (who has since been reassigned) that I knew of no news columnists who hadn't come up through the ranks of reporting. She tried to convince me, unsuccessfully, that Kersten had previous journalistic experience, but the truth is that she hadn't any. In actuality Kersten was and is a career movement conservative, working not just at CAE but also as a board member at the odious Institute on Religion and Democracy.

In their own way the conservatives have setup an institutional supply-side structure for getting their message out. First they create and subsidize hundreds of institutions like Claremont and CAE; next they find reliable Republicans to staff them. These institutions then create content for media dissemination, which is taken care of by blogs like Powerline and columnists like Kersten. Paul Krugman recently wrote that Americans don't like conservative and Republican policies on most major issues, and haven't for some time. Yet, Republicans keeps racking up political success stories. Krugman argues the reason for this dichotomy resides in the power of the conservative movement. He's on to something.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Friday cat blogging

Here are Abbey and Simon - such good little posers.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

University of St Thomas and the outlines of Catholic Immorality

Today the Star Trib reports that Bishop Desmond Tutu won't be allowed to speak at the University of St. Thomas because his words about Israel are too "hurtful." This is the same place that welcomed Ann Coulter to campus a few years ago, only to have to repudiate her words after the visit, and who now says that she likes Rudy Giuliani because she believes he's crazy enough to nuke Iran. Welcome to modern Catholic values: Bishop Desmond Tutu, who helped stop apartheid in South Africa and who has compared the treatment of Palestinians in Israel to that treatment, is not welcome because of his views, but Ann Coulter, who says we should invade Muslim countries and convert them to Christianity is welcome. Let's just admit it: It's the Catholics who have become immoral.

BTW - when I first heard Coulter was to speak at St Thomas I contacted Doug Hennes, the university's spokesman to warn him about her views. He waved off my concerns by citing a time when St Thomas welcomed *gasp* a gay person to speak!

UPDATE: Looks like City Pages was the first with this story.