Archive | Podcast RSS feed for this section

#Pointergate and the People of the Internet

21 Nov

Dear People of the Internet:

I know, even you must be tiring of this whole #pointergate thing. I’ll try not to repeat myself or what a million others have opined about the KSTP news “story” that is now in its third week of slapsticky goodness. Dearest People of the Internet, I write today to draw your attention to The Columbia Journalism Review’s amazing new article about the scandal with an even more amazing title, “There’s doubling down, there’s tripling down, and then there’s what KSTP is doing.” I promise to try to make it worth your time to read one more piece about how index fingers are tearing away at the very fabric of our society.

That CJR story has some important new tidbits for all of us to enjoy. First, KSTP owner Stanley Hubbard once again speaks about the scandal, which in itself is full of awesome. (Incidentally, the next time someone tries to say that there is a wall – a wall!—between the KSTP newsroom and its ideologically conservative ownership, we now have an entire bibliography of Hubbard commentary and clear involvement in the creation of the news product there).

In the CJR interview, once again, Mr. Burns, er, Mr. Hubbard, does not disappoint.

KSTP owner Stan Hubbard was interviewed by MPR late last week. Go listen listen.

Mr. Hubbard has a theory about the origins of P

Mr. Hubbard confirms that the creepy robo-poll that Minneapolis residents have been reporting receiving is indeed KSTP “studying” the public’s reaction to the #pointergate scandal. He feels reassured that their numbers show that the public overwhelmingly “don’t care one way or the other” about the issue, which totally confirms his station’s point that this is a very important issue and worth multiple news stories. Also, some black people have called him and told him “Good job!,” and the granddaughter of an employee, also black, wrote him a note saying she knew the Mayor was flashing a gang sign and she learned that “on the street.” This is all evidence on top of the truth bomb that Mr. Hubbard dropped last week, when he informed us that he hired the first black anchorman in Minnesota —which was not at all an answer to the question, why have you done three #pointergate stories without a single African American on camera to speak to community reactions to the piece?—but does totally prove the story was not racially tinged, let alone racist. I hire black people, get phone calls from black people, and their grandkids send me notes, people!

People of the Internet, Mr. Hubbard also assures us he did his own research: “Hubbard added that he also personally looked up gang signs on Google, and he found one that looked just like what the mayor was doing.” The Google! That’s the same tool so many of you used to find other notorious gangsters, like Martha Stewart, Vice President Biden, the Pope, and, uh-oh, Mr. Hubbard himself.

There’s a lot more in there, including confirmation that the head of the Minneapolis Police Federation was their original source, contradicting previous iterations of the story.  But, People of the Internet, here is the real reason I’m writing. This CJR article once again points to (See what I did there? I’m sorry, I never realized how until now how often we all use the word “point”) a theory that KSTP, Hubbard and Kolls seem to be pushing about this whole #pointergate thing. On MPR, last week Mr. Hubbard suggests this whole controversy was something stirred up by Mayor Hodges and her allies. The CJR story quotes Mr. Hubbard speaking at the Augsburg forum offering “some media criticism of his own”:

“I’ll tell you what reporters should do. If the reporters at MinnPost and the Star-Tribune are really good reporters they will find out who started this so-called Pointergate and started a Twitter site and who that person is associated with. There’s a story. Because you people have been sucked in. You’ve been sucked in, folks.”

Hubbard gang signUh-oh. People of the Internet, I have a confession to make. Gather closer. I think he might be talking about me.

As some of my friends will tell you, I always think it’s about me, but bear with me. I think this is different. An email from Jay Kolls to the mayor’s office that MPR obtained shows that Mr. Kolls has become interested in my personal life. I’ve heard that Hubbard himself has also made a few claims about it around town. Since KSTP may be about to quintuple down on their “story,” they may be about to drop a bombshell on us all: it turns out that I am in a long-term, homosexual relationship with Mayor Hodges’ Chief of Staff! Well, sure, I talk about John Stiles all the time on my podcast,  on this blog, in social media, even on conservative radio, but you see it is very important, relevant, that the public know that Brown Guy Who Quit KSTP also “is associated with” the Mayor’s Chief of Staff.

The dots that KSTP may be trying to connect are that because I’m in a relationship with the Mayor’s Chief of Staff, and because I’ve had a few things to say about #pointergate, I created this backlash.

They got me. Look, what can I say? I hate cleaning the cat boxes and the dishes hadn’t been done in weeks. I owed John Stiles a favor. So I created #pointergate. (Merry Christmas, sweetie! I got your gift early!)

This only makes sense if, People of the Internet from across the country—the overwhelming number of whom I have never met, who have tweeted and Facebooked about this by the tens of thousands—I CONTROL YOU. I’m sorry, really. I promised I would keep our relationship on the DL, People of the Internet. Mr. Hubbard, however, has uncovered our dirty little secret, and now the whole world knows.

You’ve been sucked in, folks.

Now that the secret of my extraordinary power over The Interwebs, is out there, I really should make you, People of the Internet, do stuff more often. I’m coming up with a list: stay tuned.

***

Can I be serious for a minute? Allow me to recommend some reading for organizers, business people, and anyone interested in how the “wisdom of the crowd” works in the Age of the Internet: Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstom’s “The Starfish and The Spider.” (I thank Marianne Manilov for this insight and introducing me to Brafman and Becks’ book. See her “From the Tea Party to Occupy Wall Street and Beyond”).

Brafman and Beckstrom’s premise is simple. There are two models of organizations we can see functioning in business (and other realms): spider organizations and starfish organizations. A spider organization is hierarchical, with a leader at the top. And what happens when you cut a spider’s head off? It dies. A Starfish organization, on the other hand is “leaderless” (though I would prefer to think of it as decentralized leadership). What happens when you cut off one of a starfish’s arms? It grows another one. In some species of starfish, the cut off arm itself becomes its own starfish.

Remember in the early day of the Tea Party movement, when groups were popping up all over the place calling themselves Tea Partiers (before big money got involved and channeled the movement into being an arm of the Republican Party, that is)? Remember the early weeks of Occupy Wall Street, when something that was hatched as a concept by a graphic artist became an encampment in New York and then in more and more places around the globe? What do those two moments have in common? Neither has a “president” or head, one whose head could be chopped off and the whole thing would die down. They were impossible to define, pin down, and that was their very power.

Go back to Arab Spring. In the face of thousands of Egyptians crowding Tahir Square, the Egyptian government went in search of a culprit, and they found one: Wael Ghonim, a Google employee who they accused of orchestrating the whole “fake” uprising. Mr. Ghonim was imprisoned and, upon his release, said in an interview:

“The heroes are the ones in the streets … people who put themselves in danger for real. And I’m sitting writing on the keyboard…. This is the revolution of the youth of the Internet that became the revolution of the youth of Egypt.”

The Egyptian government thought that what they had on their hands was a spider uprising and that, once they chopped off that spider’s head, the fervor would die. They failed to see that twitter, the internet, all kinds of technology, had created a Starfish Revolution, one that (I’m not Middle East Expert, so forgive me for opining) is probably still years in the making. And when they tried to cut off that spider’s head, the movement only grew.

What does all this have to do with #pointergate? I hate to break it to Mr. Hubbard, but I didn’t do it. The city and the country reacted as it did because your story was just that stupid and just that offensive.

Yes, of course, people worked to push back on the station’s insane story. There are multiple authors and leaders, but this one was the most important: community organizing.

For the first week of #pointergate, back when KSTP was still saying that the story was not about Navell Gordon but about the mayor’s “judgment,” Neighborhoods Organizing for Change, the youth and African-American led North Side organization that employed Navell Gordon, led the charge. The People of the Internet rallied around NOC because they saw KSTP’s story as an affront to their good work and the work of all trying to actually do something good in the world under difficult circumstances.

So, yes, David Brauer, a former media critic who heard the story was going to air, was the person who coined the term “pointergate,” which encapsulated the silliness of the whole thing. And, yes, I was the first to tweet to the hashtag. It was young, pretty badass organizers, however –many of whom earned their stripes in the Occupy movement and who know a little thing or two about social media–who lit the fire as they fought to defend their work (not a mayor). But, ultimately, a person and one community organization cannot alone create the phenomenon like #pointergate. That is, simply put, the wisdom of the crowd. The People of the Internet Spoke, and that is why KSTP has backed itself into a quadruple down contortion.

So, what’s next for KSTP and #pointergate?

The CJR story makes one thing clear for us: KSTP will make sure we stop talking about #pointergate when they damn well please. Where do I think the story is likely to go? Here are my guesses:

  • Sunday night is one of the best nights for local news stations. Maybe that’s when their next story will be.
  • Expect they’ll highlight their “poll” to make the case that they’ve been right all along and only the internet (run by ME!) thinks they’re wrong.
  • Expect them to finally find an African-American or two to put on camera and confirm the mayor flashed gang signs.
  • Expect them to continue to sensationalize Navell Gordon’s life. After first saying their story was not about Gordon, last week they ripped off all pretense and made him the focus of their story. Working with police sources who are embarrassed by this whole fiasco, expect them to continue to go after him.
  • Expect them to argue that the whole controversy was concocted by the Hodges team to distract from crime in the city and maybe, gulp, perhaps point to yours truly as one of the evil masterminds.

I honestly hope I’m wrong about all of these. There is important work to do in Minneapolis and the state. There are actual news stories to cover. Give it a rest, guys.

Yes, Jay Kolls and Stan Hubbard trolling around about my private life is creepy, and not just because we all know what kind of havoc a billionaire with a chip on his shoulder can wreak.

I suppose I could start looking over my shoulder more, but that sounds exhausting and I have enough to do already. Which reminds me…

People of the Internet, Get Ready. I have some shit for you to do.

#TrendingNationally,

Your T.I.P.

 

 

 

Race and Education. Some Thoughts, Post #pointergate

18 Nov

This is the first of two, maybe more, posts about education and the polarized debate surrounding it in Minneapolis. This post provides mostly background thoughts. Subsequent posts will deal more specifically with the recent Minneapolis School Board election.

A while back, right before the election, I said I would write up a fuller synopsis of the depressing Minneapolis School Board race and the broader issue of the polarization of the debate around education in Minneapolis. Then #pointergate happened. It wasn’t just that I was personally pretty preoccupied with that story and its impact on an organizational ally, Minnesota Neighborhoods Organizing for Change (NOC), that kept me from writing this post. I saw in the first few days of that big story how united Minneapolis—and in fact Minnesota and the country—became around an issue having so deeply to do with racial divisions in society, and it was inspiring. And, as several friends mentioned on Facebook, it was nice to see Minneapolis coming together after the bitter divisions that the school board race surfaced (some might say caused, but I chose that word purposefully).

And so writing about difficult issues at a time of unity feels a little like knowingly taking on the role of Debbie Downer. Pointergate has made me think more deeply about the issue of education and the racial divisions of both our education system and the divisions caused by the proposed solutions to fix those problems. These posts are my sometimes sprawling thoughts on the issue of education in Minneapolis, why I think it has become so divisive, and how getting over our societal inability to deal openly with the issue of race is key to us moving forward collectively.

Naming race. This is my point of departure for connecting the two topics of pointergate and Minneapolis schools. What was so gratifying to many who fight for racial justice was the way in which a broad swath of the public immediately saw the story for what it was, the worst kind of race baiting. By blurring Navell Gordon’s face and merely identifying him as a convicted felon, erasing all context of what he and the Mayor were actually doing that day (getting out the vote in low income neighborhoods), KSTP made Gordon into the anonymous Scary Black Man, and people got that. In a state where it often feels exhaustingly difficult to discuss race, this remains amazing to me and it gives me hope. So often we are caught in the US in “OJ moments,” where the media story is about how differently different groups see the same situation. The universal condemnation of pointergate has been truly edifying on that point.

If you followed KSTP reporter Jay Kolls’ twitter meltdown on the first night of the broadcast saw that his defense was simple: I didn’t mention race! You guys are the ones bringing race up! It’s a particularly facile suggestion, that unless one actually mentions race then surely something isn’t about that. Kolls’ impulse, however, is a caricature of a real problem, an impulse to not mention race, to allow it to be subtext and not dealt and talked about openly. This seems especially true in Minnesota, where the mere mention of race seems, well, impolite.

Race and Education, Minneapolis and Everywhere

Very recent coverage of an issue facing Minneapolis Public Schools highlights, to my mind, the challenges and necessity of engaging deeply with race when it comes to education. On this week’s edition of the Wrong About Everything podcast, conservative Mike Franklin and I tussled over the recently announced suspensions policy of the Minneapolis Public Schools. The policy, which was immediately misrepresented and ridiculed as schools now need “permission” to suspend black and Latino students, actually states that the district will review, after the fact, the suspensions of students of color as a way of responding to an issue that is not unique to Minneapolis: the insanely disproportionate rates at which students of color, especially young black men, are suspended in public schools vis a vis their white counterparts. There are horror stories of children as young as pre-k receiving suspensions as discipline, even as studies show what seems so obvious: keeping kids from school does not help them learn. The less bombastic criticisms of the policy suggest there is a constitutional issue with only reviewing the suspensions of kids of color, made by Franklin on WAE and attorney Tom Corbett in the Star Tribune, suggest the policy won’t pass constitutional muster once the first white or Asian kid who gets suspended sues the district alleging her/his suspension is discriminatory because it wasn’t reviewed.

On the podcast Franklin suggests reviewing all suspensions, something I don’t disagree with but that I also think doesn’t get to the heart of the problem. His and others’ reaction seems to fundamentally rest on a discomfort with using race in the analysis at all. I’m left wondering, how are we to deal with issues of inequity and discrimination, if we do not look at race? And to Franklin’s credit, he does acknowledge that there actually does seem to be a problem with the suspensions of kids of color in MPS. I’m just not clear he or any other conservative would be satisfied with any proposed solution because it would necessarily require at some point looking at the race of students. (If you want to hear an in-depth, at times heart-wrenching account of the issue and its ramifications, listen to this episode of This American Life. It’s stunning.)

While I don’t pretend to have the perfect solution for this particular issue, the point I want to underscore is a simple one: discipline is just one of the many issues we cannot deal with if we try to do so without talking about race. We must deal openly with the fact that white kids and kids of color have fundamentally different experiences and outcomes in Minneapolis Public Schools and in Minnesota generally. That is the problem before us.

Why Do I Care?

People have asked me why education is an issue I have an opinion about. Some folks in the teachers’ union in Minneapolis have asked in a rather pointed way – this is our issue, why do you care? It’s a fair question I’m happy to answer because by some of the measures we traditionally define the issue, I don’t fit the bill of someone who should care about our schools. First, I have no kids (that’s best for everyone involved). Second, I’m the president of a union of janitors and security officers in the private sector. With the exception of security officers who work in Saint Paul Public Schools, SEIU Local 26 does not represent educators or support workers in schools.

So why do I care? The first reason is personal. Education opened doors for me that were not available to my parents, which is why they insisted that all of their children study and study hard. My siblings and I are the first generation of college graduates in our family, and my parents are very proud of that fact. And how did I, a kid from a family of very modest means, get a fancy Ivy League college education? First, a lot of debt that I will probably still be paying into retirement. But debt and scholarships is how I paid for it once I got in, and I got into a school like Yale because I was lucky enough to be educated in US public school system that succeeds where others do not, a school system where kids of color excel and where achievement and opportunity gaps are not the mammoth problem they are for here in Minnesota. My father was an enlisted soldier in the US Army, and so my entire schooling happened in Department of Defense Schools, first in Germany and then on a military base in Puerto Rico. Like so many who enter the volunteer army, my parents did so escaping poverty in the early 1960s. He did two tours of duty in Vietnam in combat. We were always very aware that the sacrifices our parents made they made so that we would have opportunities they did not.

The second reason I care is indeed professional. SEIU Local 26 is a union of janitors, security officers and window cleaners. The largest group, the janitorial division, is made up of members who come from all over the world. We have a fairly young membership. If you come to one of our member meetings, you will see small children running around; there is a lot of joy in the room. And when, over the years, I have asked members why they decided to make the difficult decision to come to a country whose language and culture is different from theirs, I most often hear my parents’ voices in theirs: I came to make a better life for my kids. For the members of Local 26, the “achievement gap” is not an abstract concept. Those are our kids.

In the next post, I will go more deeply into the polarized debate around education in Minneapolis and how an analysis of race, where we all challenge ourselves, is essential to solving the issues before us.

Wrong About Everything This Week – #pointergate and more!

17 Nov

logo smallFor those of you new to this blog through #pointergate, as you can see I don’t write very consistently.  I wish I had the time.

I do co-host a weekly podcast, “Wrong About Everything,” that is an irreverent, fun and bipartisan look at Minnesota and national politics.  t’s two Democrats and two Republicans, and the funnest part of my week is getting together with this group every Sunday to talk serious policy but also laugh and be silly with each other. You can find the show in iTunes, stitcher, or wherever you prefer to download podcasts.

On this week’s episode, we discuss Stanley Hubbard’s Mr. Burns impersonation in his MPR interview meltdown at

KSTP owner Stan Hubbard was interviewed by MPR late last week. Go listen listen.

KSTP owner Stan Hubbard was interviewed by MPR late last week. Go listen listen.

the end of last week, giving me a “Dear White People” moment where I give advice on what not to say when asked a question about race. We also have some fun talking about the (Mac)Gruber Obamacare Follies and ask, will the Republicans be able to stop themselves from saying crazy racist stuff when President Obama signs his upcoming Executive Order on Immigration.  Also, the silver lining to this year’s election fiasco for Democrats? The Return of our Republicans Gone Wild segment!

We didn’t discuss this on the show, but if you’re following #pointergate, don’t miss this takedown of KSTP from the St. Cloud Times.

Aren’t Dinosaurs Just Jesus Ponies?

21 Jul

logo smallThat was the question of the week on the Wrong About Everything podcast, asked by Denise Cardinal when talking about crazy Minnesota House candidate Bob Frey‘s even crazier theories about evolution and the coexistence of humans (to the present!). If you haven’t followed the story, get your patoot over to Bluestem Prairie.  The blogger who runs that site insists she’s a crabby old hag, but we think she should at least add “researcher extraordinaire” to that title somewhere. She has all kinds of good stuff up about not just Frey’s crazy theories about evolution and the origin of AIDS but also how he screwed over homeowners for a living. What a guy!

MNGOP House Candidate with his Jesus Pony femur

MNGOP House Candidate with his Jesus Pony femur

Also on the podcast, we talk about Hillary’s book tour, Elizabeth Warren at Netroots, the Republican boys blather on about coal (ie., they explain why they hate the Earth), and we do a Know Your Government segment that uncovers the deep dark secrets of the Met Council (GOP panelist Brian McDaniel is a former black-booted thug appointee to the unelected SuperGovernment Council under Governor Pawlenty).