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“Some Democrats” Suck – Or Maybe Not

9 May

This week Hillary Clinton took a surprisingly bold stance on immigration, one that goes further than President Obama and that both reporters and partisans have acknowledged put Republicans in a box.

Sorry Marco, you can't backtrack your way back to supporting immigration reform.

“Sorry Marco, you can’t backtrack your way back to supporting immigration reform”

How do we know it put Republicans in a box?  Because the response from the other side has been, for the most part, crickets.

This morning The Hill covered the issue, also acknowledging the corner into which Clinton had painted Republicans, but with a caveat:

Hillary Clinton has thrilled immigration activists with her embrace of a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants.

It’s also thrilled Democrats, who think Clinton has taken a smart political step to solidifying support among Hispanics for their party in next year’s presidential election.
They argue the GOP’s restrained response to Clinton shows Republicans are worried about the issue, particularly given the nation’s rising Hispanic population.

“It’s definitely a very aggressive approach in attempting to court the Hispanic vote,” said Mercedes Viana Schlapp, who served as a Spanish-language spokesperson for President George W. Bush.

In part because they have backed immigration reform in the past, Republicans hope former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) could make inroads with Hispanics. But even some GOP critics of Clinton such as Schlapp acknowledge that Clinton may have made the party’s task more difficult.

So what’s The Hill‘s caveat? “Some Democrats privately fear Clinton may have promised too much,” they tell us.  Now we’re used to DC reporters allowing politicos to comment anonymously.  But, guess what? — they don’t even have anonymous sources for this one.

Go read the whole article.  They state as fact that “some democrats privately fear” but don’t even bother to tell us who these people might be or where this might have been heard.  Maybe some are saying it — they just don’t give us any actual evidence this is the case.

Earlier today, I committed a Twitter sin — I forwarded the above article before reading it, reacting to the headline, which used that “Democrats privately fearing” line that no one said.  My take: “Screw those Democrats.”

But it turns out The Hill may be making those Democrats up.

Now, if they looked hard enough I imagine the journal could dig up a weak-kneed Democrat to say something along those lines.  Or maybe, just maybe, this actually just was the correct political move for Clinton and for the Democratic Party.  Maybe that’s why the Republicans the story did quote pretty much said so.

The reality is that the politics of immigration have changed dramatically in the past few election cycles.  For many Latino voters–even those who do not list immigration reform as their top issue–nonetheless see the issue as a litmus test for the question “Does this politician like us?” Pollster Latino Decisions calls immigration a “gateway issue” for Latino voters.

And with Latinos in 2016 poised to be an even greater share of the electorate that in the past two cycles voted upwards of 70% for Obama — Republicans are right to be quaking in their boots.

Maybe The Hill couldn’t find a Democrat to actually say those words to them is a sign that the mainstream of the Democratic Party is finally getting that.

This Latino can dream. 

“Trying to Concentrate in a Digital Age”

30 Apr

That is how MPR has titled a conversation I was a part of with Kerri Miller and Matthew Crawford, author of The World Beyond Your Head: On Becoming an Individual in an Age of Distraction.

You can listen to the entire conversation hereCrawford The World Beyond Your Head.

Crawford is the author of Shop Class as Soul Craft, where he argues for a return to valuing work in trades where skills are developed.  Crawford is himself a motorcycle mechanic and a philosopher, and he sees those two worlds as bound together.  This first book “grows out of an attempt to understand the greater sense of agency and competence I have always felt doing manual work, compared to other jobs that were officially recognized ass ‘knowledge work.” Perhaps more surprisingly, I often find manual work more engaging intellectually.”

In the new book, Crawford takes this thinking a step further, arguing that to become fully realized individuals in today’s world we must (a) engage in the world with an understanding that we become complete individuals through our interactions with others.  In order to do this we must (b) rid ourselves of Enlightenment notions of the individual as a rational actor who independently decides what is best for herself in the world. And (c) one path toward achieving this true individuality is through learning skilled crafts, as one becomes skilled only in relationship to other practitioners and the community of knowledge they create with each other.

That is how I would distill this admittedly quite dense book.  I found the thread of political philosophy particularly engaging.  Crawford essentially argues that the rugged individual that has stood for the American “character,” was born of an Age of Enlightenment where the philosopher juxtaposed the rights of the individual to the rule of the despot.  In that context, the rational individual who can decide for himself what is right was a radical and necessary concept.  What the advance of capitalism has created, however, is the ironic situation where we define “freedom” as the absence of any regulation — which in turn has created a world where large corporations increasingly take up all of our attention.  He gives the example of an airport.  The bins TSA provides to place your belongings through the scanner now have ads at the bottom of them. There is sound all around you at all times.  Ads in every space that can take one — except if you happen to be in the Admirals Club.  There, the room is quiet.  Silence has become a commodity available to the privileged.

We see the way corporations have taken control of our attention in sometimes creepy ways.  I have had the experience of shopping on for a briefcase and then, for weeks after, visiting other websites an ad would pop up for that very same bag I had browsed (and, ironically, by this point had actually bought).  Crawford’s point is that what looks like freedom today — the multiplicity of options available to us at all times — is actually the opposite of that.  Corporate gather enormous amounts of data about our habits and likes and then take every opportunity they can — the ad you see between games of Words with Friends or Trivia Crack — to cater to those desires.

While the philosophical argument I found both intriguing and empowering, I found the argument about skill-building craftsmanship as the path to individuality less comfortable. I do agree that learning to make things with our own hands — cooking, mechanics, gardening, etc — is something we have lost and that there is an inherent value to regaining it.  And I love the idea that the individuality one creates while becoming an expert in something is an individuality that is built in conversation with others and by working together.

Crawford’s argument, however, depends on a definition of the present where the author finds virtually nothing redeeming, including and especially technology.  He is dismissive of the capacity we have today to build knowledge in cyberspaces through crowd sourcing:

Now we are fascinated with ‘the wisdom of the crowds’ and ‘the hive mind.’ We are told that there is a superior global intelligentsia rising in the Web itself.  This collective mind is more meta, more synoptic and synthetic than any one of us, and aren’t these the defining features of intelligence?  Of course all of this crowd-loving lines up pretty well with silicon Valley’s distaste for the concept of intellectual property, and with the fact that is a lot more money to be made a an aggregator of content than as a producer of it.

In being dismissive of the concept of crowd sourcing, Crawford confuses, or over-simplifies, issues.  Aggregation is not the only thing the web is used for–yes, there is that.  But think of the crowd sourcing project that is the “It Gets Better Project,” where thousands and thousands of people have told their stories about living past childhood rejection and onto fuller lives.  The project was born out of the crisis of LGBT youth suicide, and that bank of stories has literally saved lives, as testimonies bear.  Occupy Wall Street, in a few short weeks, changed the national and international conversation about income inequality.  For decades in the United States wealth has steadily moved from the middle class to the wealthy, but that fact was hidden in our culture by a myth of mobility (“The American Dream”) and a rejection of any description of greed as “class warfare.”  Occupy changed that conversation, it seems permanently.  The occupations in town squares have long gone by, but years later even conservative candidates –those who would defend the deregulated markets that have created obscene wealth for the very few–are taking on income inequality as an issue to talk to voters about.  I believe that the tools we have available to us today, particularly social media, allowed Occupy to fundamentally transform our cultural conversation, in a matter of weeks, not years.  Yes, that gadget in my hand feeds me all those ads – but it also helps me organize to a scale that was not possible before. (I wrote some about decentralized or “leaderless” organizing in “#Pointergate and the People of the Internet”).

In short, I do not think that Crawford’s call for a reevaluation of our concept of the individual — his push for understanding individuality as coming from our lives as social beings — depends on such a uniformly negative portrayal of the present. In fact, if we are able to harness both the power of the present and the tools we have now  and also learn from.


This obviously isn’t a complete review of the book, just some thoughts I had that we weren’t able to fully discuss on the show.  Give it a listen if you’re interested in more and definitely give the book a try if this write-up is at all compelling.

I read The World Beyond Your Head while sitting by myself in a small hermitage in the middle of the woods.  The setting went well with the author’s argument for where we can focus on something other than the constant messages corporations are throwing in our direction.  I’d recommend a similar setting if you’re going to take on this book.

I also just have to say what a great experience it was to be asked to discuss this book on MPR.  Kerri Miller has had me on her Friday Roundtable several times, and I have noticed and been grateful for the fact that the show’s invitations have never pigeon-holed me as a labor guy, a Latino, or anything really.  I left the world of academia — where I used to read books like this all the time — in order to work in organizing and feel more connected to the world as it is and work side by side those seeking to change it for the better.   It was a treat to bring to a conversation about political philosophy that experience I now have.


#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.


Your T.I.P.




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.

This Brown Guy Quits KSTP. You Can Do Something, Too.

8 Nov

In light of KSTP’s doubling down on their absurd report slandering a community group, a young organizer, and Mayor Hodges of Minneapolis– a report for which they have been ridiculed by local and national media and called “extremely racist” by the Southern Poverty Law Center–concerned Minnesotans have to kick up their game.  Until the station apologizes for their offensive news coverage and engages deeply with the community they have insulted, we should all do everything in our power to reject KSTP.

Here is the little I can do. For the past few years, I have had the opportunity to be an occasional political commentator on local TV and radio.  I love doing it.  I have been for the past several years part of the stable of commentators rotated on KSTP’s Sunday morning political talk show, “At Issue with Tom Hauser.” I have deep respect for Tom Hauser, he has always been very welcoming me to his show, and he is not a part of the news team that brought us #pointergate. That notwithstanding, after the station has chosen to blame the public for “missing the point” –get it? isn’t that cute?–I simply cannot in good conscience have anything more to do with KSTP.

Look, I’m not fooling myself. I’m not that big of a deal.  When I let “At Issue” know yesterday that I no longer felt comfortable or welcome on their station, the show’s producer was quick to respond: “We agree that it’s the best move for all of us.” (I may not be a big deal, but at least I know they read my tweets!)

I've been a regular guest of the "Face Off" segment "At Issue."

I’ve been a regular guest of the “Face Off” segment “At Issue.”

This is not a sacrifice for me. I don’t get paid to do any political punditry and I don’t do it that much.  (I was scheduled to be on At Issue twice this month.) Here is the only thing that truly bothers me about this.  If you watch At Issue regularly, you may have noticed one thing.  This light-skinned Puerto Rican is diversity on that show. And not just on that show.  Politics and political commentary, as well as news reporting, is simply not as diverse as Minnesota has become.

The thing I have wondered incessantly since Jay Kolls’ inflammatory piece first aired is, how many eyes looked at that story and saw no red flags?  Or, as one twitter use replied to me, “how many saw the red flags, but didn’t feel able to voice their concern?” I don’t know how many people of color are in the KSTP newsroom.  Anecdotally, after years of going into the studio fairly regularly, my guess is not a lot.

And so it is no small deal for me to make the KSTP news operation even less diverse, but there are times when we all have to do what little we can.  Some may be wondering, what can we all do together? Just as social media has brought national attention and derision to this travesty of journalism, we can use our collective power to let KSTP know that the public rejects their newsroom’s double-down.

What we can all do

First, let KSTP know of your outrage.  You can find their comment page here or you can call their newsroom phone at 612-588-6397. As always, please be civil but firm.

Also, continue tweeting at them your outrage, letting them know you refuse to watch their show and will  not patronize their advertisers.  Tell them to stop standing by the shoddy reporting of Jay Kolls.  He is damaging their brand, and maybe eventually they will realize the problem he is for them.

A twitter user calling her/himself @kstpadwatcher has begun tweeting the names of companies advertising on KSTP news.  The account was just created and doesn’t have many followers, but watch there to see if this develops into a full-fledged campaign.  With advertisers, let them know why you object to their sponsorship of a TV station that displays such an appalling disregard for journalistic ethics.

Let’s not let the Minneapolis Police Federation off the hook.  The Federation’s president, John Delmonico, chose to pursue a vendetta against Mayor Hodges because she dared assert that, while the overwhelming number of cops are good men and women doing their jobs, there are a few who damage the reputation of the whole force.  In response to Hodges’ “Open Letter” to the community of Minneapolis, Delmonico wrote his own open letter stating that the problem in the Minneapolis Police Department is too many officers are being disciplined. After his role in #pointergate, it is clear that John Delmonico himself is one of those cops damaging the reputation of the corps.  The Federation’s email address is and their phone number is 612.788.8444. Remember again, civil but firm. The twitter handle for the police department is @MPD_PIO. It is important to make a distinction between the action of Delmonico and the force as a whole.  It is the opinion of many that there is a cultural problem within the department; one role the public can play in improving that culture is highlighting the difference between cops who are building community and those who are damaging it.

(Let me point out that taking on the Police Federation and pushing for reform in the MPD is something that white allies can in particular play a big role in.  People of color, especially African-American men, have reason to be concerned that speaking out could lead to police harassment. One of the things that has been missed in a lot of the reporting on #pointergate –and that KSTP, of course, completely ignored–is that the young organizer in that photo with Mayor Hodges, Navell Gordon, had recently caused some bad press for the police department when he was featured in news stories alleging police harassment of Get-Out-The-Vote canvassers on the North Side. A question Jay Kolls didn’t think to ask the cops who spoon-fed him the pointergate story is, did this very recent bad press have anything to do with why cops were trolling his Facebook page photos to begin with?)

Finally, you can do something proactive.  Minnesota Neighborhoods Organizing for Change is the community organization that was slandered by KSTP and Jay Kolls.  They are a youth and people of color-led organization that is doing amazing work focused on the North Side of Minneapolis.  Support their work.  Throw a few bucks their way. You can also follow their work on Facebook.

About that KSTP “explanation” and Who is Missing the Point

I don’t at this point need to summarize for anyone the scandal of ethics and journalism that has become “Pointergate.” If you want to get caught up, some of the best things to read or listen to include the interview MPR News did with Anthony Newby, the Executive Director of Neighborhoods Organizing for Change; University of St. Thomas Law Professor Nekima Levy-Pounds’ brilliant, “Dear White People: Mayor Hodges is Not in a Gang”; and the first blogger to bring national attention to #pointergate, Shaun King, “Pointergate may be the most racist news story of 2014”.

Here I’d like to just speak a little to KSTP’s follow-up story, where they double down on their original reporting, re-interview the same retired cop and continue to ignore the outraged community (the only person of color featured in any of their news stories about pointergate is the blurred face of organizer Navell Gordon.

In their Friday afternoon statement about #pointergate and their subsequent news followup story, KSTP makes the point that their story was about the “Mayor’s judgment” and not Navell Gordon, telling us that this is why they “blurred the individual’s face and did not name the group he was working for.

That is not only not a good explanation, that is precisely the problem, KSTP. You ignored the context in order to sell a sensationalist story spoon-fed to you by the Police Federation.  If you had named the organization, explained what they were doing, and given the full context, viewers would have immediately seen how insane was the proposition that the Mayor and Gordon were flashing gang signs.

If you had explained the context, you wold have had to explain that NOC is an organization dedicated to improving the lives of young people of color, including and especially those who have made past mistakes.  If you had named Navell Gordon, you would have had to admit that sensationalizing his story by calling him a “convicted felon” isn’t news — his past, and a desire to rebuild it, is precisely why he’s doing the organizing work he’s doing.  How do we know?  He says it in this video,which also happens to capture the exact moment the pointergate photo was taken:

If you’d named the organization, you would have had to admit that, despite what reporter Kolls claimed in his first story, NOC did reach out to your newsroom to correct your interpretation before the first story aired.  I know this for a fact.  I have worked with NOC for years and have been in regular communication with Anthony Newby since Kolls first started digging around about this story.  I know, for example, that upon learning from KSTP what they planned to say about that photograph, NOC sent the newsroom many more photos of the event, including those showing Police Chief Janee Harteau right by Mayor Hodges when she canvassed with Gordon (and just out of frame of the camera of the #pointergate photo). Your newsroom didn’t blur Gordon’s face and fail to name NOC out of some concern for him or the community — you did that because, had you done basic journalism, your story would have fallen apart.

And the mendacity continues.  Friday night’s rehashed argument on KSTP still makes no mention of the above video, which debunks the story’s entire premise.  As of Friday afternoon Jay Kolls said on Joe Soucheray’s radio show “Garage Logic,” that he still had not seen the above video! (By the way, when Joe Soucheray and Twin Cities progressives are agreeing that your story was horse manure, you’ve got a problem).

Poor Jay Kolls must have been so busy sending angry tweets the night his story first aired (he has since stopped tweeting) he just didn’t have time to click on a video that has now been viewed over 160,000 times. He obviously still wasn’t able to get to it before the Friday night newscast.  Research is hard.

#Pointergate is about more than KSTP

Yes, we should focus a lot of organizing attention on a station as irresponsible as KSTP, but there are deeper issues that the community conversation must consider.  The next time talking heads on TV wonder why the relationship between police departments and the communities they serve, remember John Delmonico’s role in this and remember #pointergate. The next time journalists of color call out the lack of diversity in newsrooms and the effect that has on coverage, remember #pointergate. The next time a black kid gets shot because someone thought something he was doing with his hands — a gesture, reaching in his pocket, putting his hands up in the air — gets misinterpreted, remember #pointergate.

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).

Wrong About Everything, Episode 7

14 Jul

20140702-085531-32131345.jpgIn this week’s episode, we get serious about the border crisis and then very unserious about the Ghost of Sexting Presidents Past, Minnesota Republican Candidates Gone Wilde & much more.

Download the latest edition of Wrong About Everthing here.

Wrong About Everything is now on iTunes

8 Jul












We either made it, or their standards are really really low.  Who cares ?  We’re on iTunes!  You can download it there.

On Punditry and Outrage

19 Jan

I have fun doing political commentary, perhaps for the same reason I bargaining contracts: I love to argue, and I hate to lose.

Although I prefer to think of myself as a progressive political commentator, there is no denying that most often I appear on shows like TPT’s Almanac, KSTP’s At Issue, or debate segments on Fox9 as a Democratic Pugilist – which I enjoy, because I think the party doesn’t have enough public fighters. That’s the feedback I often get from Democrats, to keep giving the other side hell. (A woman once came up to me at the State Fair and whispered in a raspy voice, “You speak for me.” Scared the hell out of me until I realized she was referring to Almanac).

These shows are all very different, encouraging varying degrees of combativeness. Almanac is the most Minnesotan and polite (if you re-watch some of political panel conversations during the marriage amendment debate, lean into the TV and look closely as topics sometimes got a little personal or heated. I swear you can see butts clench on the couch). In one on one debate segments on the news, producers might remind you to be unafraid of interrupting your opponent. At Issue has two different commentary segments, “Analysis” and “Face Off”. Except for one time when another Democrat didn’t show up, I have only ever been cast in the “Face Off” segment. (Apparently no amount of pastel shirts or vests will convince Tom Hauser I am anything but a boxer – which I am completely fine with).


On Fox9 with Michael Brodkorb. Come back to the Five and and Dime, Heidi Collins, Heidi Collins.

The best thing about doing these shows, despite my penchant for combat, has been getting to know a lot of different Republicans when the cameras are on and when the lights go down. They’re just people – deeply flawed people who are wrong about everything – but they’re just people. Kidding, some are quite nice. Wrong, but nice.

I was in a bipartisan group of politicos early last week talking about manufactured outrage, how sometimes partisans get deeply engaged in a public fight not because it’s important but because in the hand to hand combat of politics, winning the day often reigns supreme. When an opponent is down, you strike. You might define selective or manufactured outrage as when one side gets riled up about something that is outrageous – outrageous! when the other team does it but totally acceptable when yours does. Of course, manufactured is in the eye of the beholder. In that discussion, one of the Republicans thought the Democratic outrage about Chris Christie’s bridgegate was as manufactured as Republican outrage over the media coverage of it. I find it actually outrageous that public entities be used to ham-handedly for political retribution, but I understood his point.

I was reminded of this conversation later in the week after taping the debate segment for At Issue, up against Brian McClung, former Pawlenty spokesman and bigtime GOP consultant. (The show taped Friday, airs Sunday morning). The topics: the DFL Senate’s plans for a new Senate office building and the controversy surrounding Governor Dayton’s use of the state plane (thanks, Tom!) If you have not followed the plane controversy, the Governor flew a campaign staffer on the official plane with him to an event. The legislative auditor found that this was a misuse of the state plane and the Governor’s campaign reimbursed the state for the cost of the flight. The auditor also found that the law governing use of the plane was murky and suggested it be clarified. In the segment, McClung claimed that Governor Pawlenty, never ever – not once – used the state plane for political purposes. Having remembered past controversies about this very issue, I cried BS. Even Hauser seemed a little surprised by the assertion — not that no campaign staffer had ever been flown on the plane but that T-Paw had never once done anything political while using the state plane. Huh.

On August 3, 2006 the Star Tribune reported on the tit for tat between the Pawlenty and Hatch campaigns over the use of state resources – in Pawlenty’s case, the use of the state plane:

The latest shots come close on the heels of DFL Party complaints that Pawlenty crossed the line when he made a fly-around on a state plane Monday to publicize a health-care savings initiative that some critics dismissed as trivial.

Two years ago, Pawlenty came under fire from DFLers for posting his childhood pictures and other favorable personal information on his official governor’s office website. He removed the pictures.

“Unlike Governor Pawlenty, we do not use state money inappropriately for travel,” said attorney general’s office spokesperson Leslie Sandberg. Hatch’s posting of the material on his campaign website was “totally appropriate,” Sandberg added. “He should be able to put any publication on his campaign website, including information produced by GovernorTim Pawlenty.”

And it wasn’t just partisans who found the use of the state plane inappropriate. The Albert Lea Tribune editorialized:

Yet on Wednesday, the governor jumped in a state plane and flew around state — stopping in Rochester, Mankato, Duluth and St. Paul for press conferences. Why? To announce that 60 state transportation projects will start this year, due to funding available from the federal stimulus package and Minnesota’s 2008 transportation package.

We asked the governor’s office Friday what the plane cost for Wednesday’s trip was. Though we asked three times, his office did not tell us what the cost was. However, a spokesperson did state, “The governor takes serious the responsibility to be available to the whole state, not just the people inside the Capitol building.” Sounds like a good PR answer, right?

We then asked the governor’s office specifically what value Minnesota citizens gained from his PR trip around the state announcing the transportation projects. His office did not answer this question either.
Now, the governor does fly in a state turbo prop, which is not as costly as a business jet. Yet it still costs significant money plus the salaries of the crew, etc.

However, did Pawlenty’s PR plane trip around around the state benefit Minnesota citizens?

In the age of video conferencing, we question the appropriateness of flying around the state to announce these transportation projects. This trip appears to be more of a PR trip to polish the governor’s image. This PR trip is even more ironic considering that the state’s 2008 transportation package, which helped fund the projects announced Wednesday, was passed over the governor’s veto.

Pawlenty appears to be not following his critique, calling on state government entities to control their spending, become more efficient and make sure it is really needed.

The governor’s PR trip this week reminds one of the big bank and auto company presidents flying private jets to Washington to lobby for bailout funding. They just do not get reality some days.

We agree that all government entities need to review their spending and operations in light of the state deficit. However, that applies to the governor as well.

Flying around the state for a PR trip to announce transportation projects does not pass the simple test — Is this necessary for the betterment of the state’s citizens? The answer is no.

It also strains credulity that Pawlenty – or any governor, for that matter – would not have ever combined an official trip with a campaign one. Whether we like it or not, it happens all the time. You fly out for an official event during the day, then a local supporter hosts a fundraiser for you in the evening. Whatever you think of it, it happens. Governor Pawlenty’s office was notoriously sparse in detailing his schedule to the public, but as the above incident shows, he was not shy about mixing official business with campaigning.

So why did McClung need to reach for the smelling salts while discussing his outrage over Governor Dayton’s use of the state airplane?

To be clear, I believe – and the Governor’s office agrees – that having the campaign staffer on the plane crossed a line. But the line is, as the auditor stated, murky, and the Republican outrage is, well, silly. Manufactured and selective, if you will.

What I Wish I’d Said

Ever have a very annoying conversation with someone and it’s only until later, while driving home maybe, that you think of the perfect thing you should have said to the asshat? Well, it’s even more frustrating when that annoying exchange is taped for public broadcast. The situation I think about most often was when I was on the Friday Roundtable on MPR’s “The Circuit” with fellow panelist Bill George, former CEO of Medtronic. At one point George said he agreed with my rant about CEO salaries. I let it slide, instead of saying, “You know, you could have done something about that.”

Anyway, what I wish I’d said on At Issue during the airplane debate: At one point Hauser said that the airplane issue and the state Senate building would make good 30 second ads. What I should have said:

Have at it. I’ll take those ads up against those Governor Dayton will be able to run touting a state that, unlike the Wisconsin of Republican Poster Child Scott Walker, is creating jobs and continuing a path to recovery:

Three years into Mr. Walker’s term, Wisconsin lags behind Minnesota in job creation and economic growth. As a candidate, Mr. Walker promised to produce 250,000 private-sector jobs in his first term, but a year before the next election that number is less than 90,000. Wisconsin ranks 34th for job growth….

Along with California, Minnesota is the fifth fastest growing state economy, with private-sector job growth exceeding pre-recession levels. Forbes rates Minnesota as the eighth best state for business….

And ads showing the stark difference between the lives of Minnesota working people versus Wisconsin’s? I’ll take those:

In Wisconsin — which, like Minnesota, has historically been known for broad health care benefits for the poor — the authorities this spring are ending coverage for tens of thousands of parents like Ms. Gradine who earn more than 100 percent of the poverty level and pay modest monthly premiums, a cost Ms. Gradine’s employer had covered. Meanwhile, the state is allowing tens of thousands of people without children who make even less to receive Medicaid coverage for the first time.

For Ms. Gradine — a 41-year-old mother of three children under 20 earning $32,557 a year and receiving some child support — the Wisconsin-Minnesota divide is stark. If she lived in Minnesota, officials there say, she would be eligible for that state’s newly expanded coverage for the working poor, which would require her to pay a $21 premium each month. As a resident of Wisconsin, however, Ms. Gradine will need to buy private insurance, though experts say she may qualify for federal subsidies that will reduce her monthly premiums.

Ms. Gradine, who describes herself as a Republican and whose refrigerator bears a snapshot of her wearing a “Scott Walker” sticker, so far has not signed up for insurance. She knows she needs it — she has tendinitis in her right arm and abdominal adhesions — but she also says the federal online insurance marketplace seems confusing and time-consuming.

“It might be simpler to just move over to the Minnesota side,” Ms. Gradine said. But her children are settled, she said, with friends and teachers and activities in Superior. “If we come to a place where we have to cross that bridge for good, I would look at that,” she said. “But I’m not there yet.”

That’s from “Twinned Cities Now Following Different Paths,” in the New York Times.

Many, many thanks to my Fairy Blogmother Sally Jo Sorensen of Bluestem Prairie, whose thorough research always helps me gear up for battle. I’ll add the “At Issue” link when it’s available online.


Here is the link to the video of At Issue.  Face Off begins about 8 minutes from the end of the show.