Hope for Adrian Peterson

Adrian_Peterson_wavingAs I wrote the day I first saw photos of Adrian Peterson’s abused son’s bloody welts, and read of Adrian’s admissions, I don’t ever want to cheer for Adrian Peterson any time soon, for fear that the child abusers of the world will confuse the cheering as indifference about Adrian’s child abuse.

I don’t mean to be judgmental.  I’m certainly flawed, and am not qualified to judge.  I just believe that the community’s priority right now needs to be protecting abused kids, not protecting Adrian’s career or my favorite team’s season.  And fans wildly cheering an admitted child abuser this weekend in New Orleans wouldn’t have helped the cause of abused kids.  So I’m glad Adrian has been sidelined.

But none of this means that I’ve written off Adrian Lewis Peterson.  I haven’t.  I still have hopes for my former favorite player.  High hopes.  Here is what I hope:

I hope that Adrian gets really awesome help from really great parenting coaches, so that he can learn that abusing his children is abusing his children.  Not tough love.  Not discipline.  Not good parenting.  Abuse.  It’s an overused cliche, but the first and most important step in fixing a problem really is admitting a problem.

After Adrian learns that truth, and comes to sincerely believe it, I hope he speaks out about what he has learned, so that his revelations might help other abusers look at their own abusive behavior in a new light, and maybe cause them to get help too.

I hope Adrian makes it clear to the abusers of the world that a parents’ responsibility is to get parenting help and learn what’s best for their child, instead of blindly repeating their parents’ mistakes.

Adrian has one of the world’s most powerful messaging platforms at his disposal, and so I hope some day he uses it to speak out constructively.

Through all of these actions, I hope that Adrian earns back the right to be with his children again, so that they can have a positive male parent in their lives.  His kids deserve it, and Adrian does too, if he first earns their trust.

We all hope that Adrian never again physically harms a child, employing the world famous discipline he has exhibited in the weight room, practice field and stadium in his kids’ lives.

In due course, maybe profession football will be mixed into Adrian’s evolution into a better parent.  Maybe it won’t.

But if Adrian does those things, the net good he will have done for his kids and other abused kids could some day outweigh the harm he has done.

And if he does that, I will cheer him once again, more loudly than ever.  And I bet I won’t be alone.

But it’s all up to Adrian now.  Not Zygi Wilf.  Not Roger Godell.  Not the Vikings’ corporate sponsors. Not Adrian’s lawyer.  Not Adrian’s PR advisors.  Not the Texas judge.  Not the fans.

I still have hope for Adrian Peterson, and I bet even his most ardent critics feel the same way.  But at this stage, it’s up to Adrian.

- Loveland

The Three S’s Of How Democrat Weiland Could Win The SD Senate Seat This Fall

Could a progressive Democrat really win the U.S. Senate seat in a bright red state that gave Mitt Romney 58% of the vote?

Maybe, because of an unprecedented aligning of the political stars.  Democratic South Dakota Senate candidate Rick Weiland is within 6 points of defeating  former Republican Governor Mike Rounds.  Remarkably, the extremely well-known former Governor Rounds has remained permanently stuck at just 40 percent support for months.

If Weiland can remind moderates and progressives that Pressler, who is currently trying to sweet talk non-conservatives, has an extremely conservative voting record, Weiland could win the seat with under 45 percent of the vote.  Because independent candidates’ support historically shrinks in the closing days of a campaign, peeling away Pressler’s non-conservative support is certainly within Weiland’s grasp.

In South Dakota?  How could that be?  There are three primary reasons:

  • Pressler_Reagan_BushSEGMENTATION.  First, there’s simple electoral math.  There are three prominent conservative GOP officeholders  on the November ballot — a former GOP state legislator (Gordon Howie), former GOP Governor (Mike Rounds) and former GOP U.S. Senator (Larry Pressler).  That divides South Dakota conservatives in three, which is thrice as nice for the lone Democrat on the ballot.
  • Rick_Weiland_311_townsSHOE-LEATHER.  Second, by all accounts Weiland is running circles around his opponents.  In recent months, Rick “Everywhere Man” Weiland became the first candidate in South Dakota history to campaign in all 311 South Dakota towns, many of them multiple times.  In a state with only a few hundred thousand voters, those personal connections, and the work ethic they represent, matter.  Meanwhile the embattled Rounds has been jetting around the nation raising money from wealthy non-South Dakotans, and staying away from debates, while the long-retired Pressler has kept his nostalgia tour on a relatively leisurely schedule.
  • Rick_Weiland_EB-5_adSCANDAL.  Finally, and perhaps most importantly, is something called EB-5. EB-5 is a federal program that allows wealthy foreign businesspeople cut to the front of the green card line if they fork over a half million dollars to a local business venture.    The “auctioning citizenship” aspect of EB-5 is extremely unpopular in itself, and Rounds administered South Dakota’s version of EB-5 in a way that allowed a Rounds supporter to run the program, hire himself to profit from the program that he was running, and screw up the program in ways that are incompetent at best and criminal at worst.  The result:  A federal investigation, a steady stream of news media probing and red hot criticism from members of all political parties, all aimed at the besieged Rounds.

For Democrats desperate for U.S. Senate electoral wins in a tough political environment, it’s quite possible that this equation could work:  Segmentation + Shoe-leather + Scandal = Senate Seat.  It could happen, if Weiland is able to raise enough money to get his message out and defend himself down the home stretch.

- Loveland

Vikings To Return To Full Strength Next Sunday With Return Of Gay Nuker and Child Abuser, Says Rackateerer

vikings_stadium_adrian_petersonNext Sunday’s game looks to be a proud moment for the storied Minnesota Vikings franchise, and, by association, all Minnesotans.

  •  Special Team’s Coach Mike Priefer, who got caught lying for months about saying that he wanted to nuke a whole class of humans because of who they love, is expected to be back after a three game suspension shortened, due to good behavior, to two games.
  • Star running back Adrian Peterson, who has admitted that he repeatedly beat a four-year child bloody with a stick, will be back from a one-game deactivation.

But don’t be concerned.  Zygi Wilf, the Vikings owner who has been found guilty of racketeering and fraud after a New Jersey judge found that “I do not believe I have seen one single (Wilf-generated) financial statement that is true and accurate,” has investigated and cleared Peterson and Priefer.

I love the Vikings, but these are just the facts.  This lifelong Vikings fan has to go take a shower now. – Loveland

The Vikings Must Release The Greatest Running  Back In Vikings History

Upon hearing the news that Vikings superstar running back Adrian Peterson was indicted for child abuse, Vikings zealots quickly flocked to sports talk radio to express themselves:

The Vikings have the worst luck.

I sure hope back-up running back Asiata is ready to step up.

Will Norv change his game plan, and will Bill have a counter move prepared?

Will the NFL be extra harsh on Adrian, because they are taking heat about their handling of Ray Rice?

How many games will we be missing him?

Now who should I start on my fantasy football team?

What makes me sick to my stomach is that I can’t keep the same trifling questions out of my head.

But the more I think about it, the more I’m in a very different place.  Now that Peterson has admitted that he inflicted those wounds on a four-year old child, this diehard Vikings fan hopes the Vikings immediately release or trade the best running back in Vikings history, so I never am tempted to cheer for him again.

Understand, I’m no sports hater.  I spend embarrassing amounts of time obsessing over sports, and save my most obsessive behavior for the Vikings.   I’ve had a particular man crush on Adrian Peterson.  His game changing talent, inspiring work ethic, and sheer entertainment value have been easy to love.

But here’s the thing:  My favorite player beat a four-year old child with a wooden stick. Until he bled. In multiple places.   A four-year old child.

“Yeah, but everyone makes mistakes, and everyone deserves a second chance,” say my fellow Vikings rubes.  “My dad spanked me to teach me right from wrong, and that made me the man I am.  I guess AP is so strong he just got a little carried away.”

No. No. No.  One of the more powerful men on the planet beat a tiny 4-year old child with a stick until he bled in dozens of places.  If reading that sentence isn’t motivating enough for you, close your eyes and imagine how that would look and sound if it had been captured on videotape, Ray Rice style.


I’ve never understood the logic of “my kid was physically aggressive so I’m going to be much more physically aggressive with him to teach him a lesson.”  That teaches a lesson alright.  Just ask Adrian, who reportedly was beaten by his father.

adrian_peterson_child_woundsBut for those who believe in corporal punishment, you still have to admit that there is a line that cannot be crossed, where corporal punishment becomes child abuse.

Where is the line?  If this child had one welt where one open-handed blow accidentally got out of control, maybe you could have a debate.  If this child was three times older, maybe you could have a debate.  But with multiple blood drawing wounds on a 4-year old, there can be no reasonable debate.  This is child abuse.

The law enforcement system and NFL will decide what Peterson’s legal and professional punishments should be.  I hope to God that the law enforcement system makes sure Peterson’s many children are safe from him, and that Peterson can get counseling to help him understand how messed up this inherited parenting approach is.

vikings_stadium_adrian_petersonBut whatever the authorities decide, and whatever corrective actions Peterson commits to, I don’t want a child abuser held up as the face of my favorite team.  I don’t want a child abuser representing my state.  I don’t want my tax dollars subsidizing a sports palace to showcase the child abuser.

Most importantly, I don’t want other rationalizing child abusers to see thousands of Vikings fans shrugging off that child’s bloody welts and cheering wildly the next time the admitted child abuser busts off a long run.  Because if Peterson remains a Viking, you can bet that will happen, and it will be truly nauseating.

As much as I love the Vikings and football, lots of things in this life are bigger than the game.  Standing up for abused children is much bigger than the game.   The nation’s child abusers need to see that the world will stick up for abused kids and hold abusers accountable, even the powerful and famous.

The Vikings need to immediately release or trade the best running back in Vikings history.  As much as that bites on a football level, it has to happen.

- Loveland

Congress Needs To Vote On Obama’s Proposed War on ISIL

I’m an Obama backer.  Though no President can ever be perfect, I admire what this President has done on the economy, health care reform, bringing home the troops from the Bush Middle East wars, and many other things.

Congress_war_declaration_authorityBut I disagreed with him last night when he said it would be “welcome” if Congress supported U.S. attacks on ISIL.  It would be more than welcome.  It would be necessary.

I’ll let others decide whether congressional authorization is constitutionally or statutorily required for a bombs and “advisers” action like this.   But strict legality aside, democratic principles dictate that a democracy’s representative body probe the executive branch’s plans and vote on authorization before we commit as a nation to the human and economic costs associated with a potentially protracted military engagement.

In 2008, I agreed with Obama when he said:

The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.

As Commander-in-Chief, the President does have a duty to protect and defend the United States. In instances of self-defense, the President would be within his constitutional authority to act before advising Congress or seeking its consent. History has shown us time and again, however, that military action is most successful when it is authorized and supported by the Legislative branch. It is always preferable to have the informed consent of Congress prior to any military action.

With only a 15-minute presidential speech presenting one side of the argument available, none of us yet has sufficient evidence to make an informed decision about whether or not we should support these proposed attacks on ISIL.  Congress needs to do it’s job and give the nation a free and open debate, and a democratic decision.  If Members of Congress really want to “support the troops,” an informed, transparent pre-strike debate about the pros and cons of this military action would support the troops in a much more meaningful way than yellow ribbons ever could.

- Loveland

News Flash: GOP Activist Reveals That Veteran GOP Consultant Is Supporting A GOPer for Governor

Tom_HornerMinnPost reporter Cyndy Brucato is breaking the blockbuster news that 2010 Independence Party gubernatorial candidate Tom Horner is, gasp, crossing party boundaries to support Republican gubernatorial candidate Jeff Johnson!  The reporter breathlessly reports:

Another leader in the Minnesota Independence Party is gravitating toward support of a Republican statewide candidate.   Tom Horner, the Independence Party candidate for governor in 2010, is meeting this week with GOP candidate for governor Jeff Johnson to discuss joining his campaign.

Wow, if that happens, that does sound like huge news!

Unless you pay close attention to politics.

If you do pay close attention to politics, you know that Tom Horner is a long-time Republican staffer, supporter, consultant and pundit.  Before Horner spent one year as a right-leaning Independence Party candidate for Governor, he was the head staffer for Republican U.S. Senator Dave Durenberger, has advocated for Republican candidates like Norm Coleman his entire adult life, has long counseled Republicans, and served for many years as the Republican voice on Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) and other news outlets.

In short, for decades Horner has been one of the most visible Republicans in Minnesota. Reporter Brucato is aware of this because she was a lead staffer for Republican Governor Arne Carlson and Norm Coleman.  But she mentions none of Horner’s GOP bona fides in the article.

In other words, the real headline here is actually a wee bit less newsworthy.  It’s more like:

GOP Activist Reveals That Veteran GOP Consultant Is Supporting A GOPer for Governor


I like and respect Tom Horner a great deal.  Though we disagree on many policy issues, Tom is intelligent, has integrity, and Mr. Johnson is lucky to have his policy and PR counsel.    But let’s get real.  This hardly qualifies as the blockbuster news the reporter makes it out to be.

I support MinnPost relying on a ex-staffers of politicians for opinion pieces. That’s an appropriate role for an ex-staffer.  But they shouldn’t rely on ex-staffers from either party for news reporting like this, because their advocacy background naturally calls their objectivity into question.

While  the lede was blown way out of proportion, I did find a few things intriguing about the article that left me hungry for deeper reporting.  On taxes, Horner says:

 “I wasn’t opposed to raising more revenue, but the way the governor went about it is not in the best long-term interest of Minnesota. Just adding fourth tier only reinforces a tax system that isn’t suited to a global market. Maybe we need more revenue but tilt the policy much more to tax consumption and more to reward investment.”

And on health care, Horner says:

“MnSure is where Republicans could play an effective role. It’s good that we’re expanding access and covering children and have a more robust marketplace.  Now how do we control the underlying drivers of health care?”

The fact that Tea Party-backed Republican gubernatorial candidate Jeff Johnson may be bringing in a pro-tax, pro-Obamacare consultant for policy advice raises additional questions that were not posed by the reporter:

  • Does Horner think tax increases were only needed in the past, or does he think that more may be needed in the future?  If so, which taxes would he favor increasing?
  • Which parts of health reform would Horner favor retaining?  Medicaid expansion?  Tax credits?  The insurance exchange system?  Pre-existing condition reform paired with the insurance mandates?  Other?  How would Horner propose Mr. Johnson could better control health care costs?
  • Does candidate Johnson share Horner’s opinions on taxes and health reform?
  • What do key Tea Party-friendly supporters of Johnson think of bringing in Horner to advocate for these positions?

The answers to those questions would have been informative, and would have qualified as actual news.

- Loveland

Conservative Pressler Attempts Facelift For SD Senate Race

Pressler_Reagan_BushOne of the more brazen political facelifts in recent memory is being attempted in South Dakota, where a ballot crowded with conservatives is causing conservative Senator Larry Pressler (R-SD, 1979-1997) to attempt to convince voters that he is now a moderate.

The former Republican U.S. Senator’s most recent television ad features this claim:

“I believe in taking the best ideas from both parties…”

That spin sells well with moderates.  But Pressler’s claim will come as a huge surprise to non-conservative policy advocates, given that Pressler’s most recent voting record ratings show him rejecting almost all non-conservative ideas:

  • National Education Association:  Pressler voted against their positions 100% of the time.
  • National Council of Senior Citizens:  Pressler voted against their positions 90% of the time.
  • NARAL Pro Choice America:  Pressler voted against their positions 100% of the time.
  • Human Rights Campaign:  Pressler voted against their positions 100% of the time.
  • United Food and Commercial Workers:  Pressler voted against their positions 100% of the time.
  • Coalition to Stop Gun Violence:  Pressler voted against their positions 100% of the time.
  • National Public Health Association:  Pressler voted against their positions 100% of the time.
  • United States Students Association:  Pressler voted against their positions 100% of the time.
  • Children’s Defense Fund:  Pressler voted against their positions 89% of the time.
  • Human Rights Campaign:  Pressler voted against their positions 100% of the time.
  • National Gay and Lesbian Task Force:  Pressler voted against their positions 100% of the time.
  • American Association of University Women:  Pressler voted 100% against their positions.

Source:  Project Vote Smart

Voting records speak louder than ad claims, and this not the voting record of a moderate.  This is not the voting record of someone who “takes the best ideas from both parties,” unless you believe conservatives have 99% of the best ideas, which of course makes you an ultra-conservative.

So why is long-time conservative Pressler trying to masquerade as a moderate in 2014?

Necessity.  There are two other conservatives – Republican Mike Rounds and Tea Party-backed former Republican state legislator Gordon Howie — joining the historically conservative Pressler on the ballot. Pressler is running a pretty distant third place behind increasingly strong Democrat Rick Weiland and Rounds, and he apparently doesn’t like the mathematics associated with splitting the conservative vote three ways.  So instead of running again as a conservative, Pressler is giving himself a moderate facelift, and hoping South Dakota moderates will somehow forget his conservative voting record in the U.S. Senate.

It’s understandable how South Dakota voters might forget the voting record of someone who has been out of office for almost two decades.  It’s a little more difficult to understand how the South Dakota news media, many of whom covered Pressler and know all about his conservative voting record, could neglect to expose a facelift that would put Michael Jackson to shame.

- Loveland

Reporters Let McFadden Have It Both Ways On Health Reform

You can’t simultaneously support deism and atheism, or capitalism and communism.  Embracing one makes it logically impossible to simultaneously embrace the other.  They are mutually exclusive.  If a candidate came out and claimed to be for both of those ideological constructs at the same time, in an attempt to win support from supporters of each idea, they would be the laughing stock of American politics.

If you doubt that, imagine if you saw these headlines in today’s news:

Dayton Tells Congregation “I Support Atheistic Christianity”

McFadden Tells Business Group He Embraces “Capitalistic Communism”

The candidates would be laughed out of the race for taking such absurd positions.

I submit that the same should be true of simultaneously advocating to 1) outlaw denial of health coverage due to a pre-existing health condition and 2) make health insurance coverage optional.  It’s defensible to embrace either of those two positions.  But it’s not defensible to embrace those two approaches simultaneously.

Here’s why:  If you outlaw the insurance companies’ enormously unpopular ability to deny coverage due to pre-existing conditions, but simultaneously make purchasing health insurance optional, millions of people would stay out of the insurance market until the moment they got sick or hurt.  After all, why would anyone choose to pay high premiums for years to protect themselves against the expenses associated with treating an illness or injury when they know that the insurance company will be forced to pay the treatment expenses after they suffer from the ailment? And if millions of people refused to pay premiums until the moment they need insurance benefits, the insurance industry would very quickly need to dramatically jack up premiums, or go bankrupt.

There is broad consensus about this.  The Georgetown University Center on Health Insurance, the Manhattan Institute, America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the Pacific Research Institute, the Manhattan Institute, The Concord Coalition, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Families USA and many others have all said that a coverage mandate and preexisting condition reform have to be paired in order for the finances of health reform to work.

Mike_McFadden_scissors_obamacareYet when GOP politicians endorse those two mutually exclusive positions, almost no political reporters note the absurdity of it.  When reporters allow politicians to get away with simultaneously endorsing the part of Obamacare that outlaws pre-existing condition denials and opposing the part of Obamacare that mandates insurance coverage, they effectively allow those politicians to say something every bit as absurd as “I’m for capitalism, but I also support communism.”

For example Minnesota U.S. Senate candidate, and millionaire investment banker, Mike McFadden (R-Sunfish Lake) says:

Before we can make the kind of changes Americans deserve, we need to repeal the “Unaffordable Care Act” (which would repeal the coverage mandates)

…when we repeal and replace Obamacare, we need to make sure that those with pre-existing conditions actually have access to affordable insurance plans that cover their illnesses.

Any actuary will tell you that if McFadden and other GOP pols simultaneously enacted those two policies it would lead to a complete and utter meltdown of the nation’s health care finance system.  But almost no political reporters will.

- Loveland

Note:  This post was also featured on MinnPost’s Blog Cabin.

And the Stiffs Just Keep on Comin’

Lambert_to_the_SlaughterLacking anything resembling a passionate issue, this year’s political campaigns, certainly here in Minnesota, have acquired a common theme by default. Put one way it is: “How did we end up with this pack of stiffs and maroons?”

Colleague Joe has been lucid about one aspect of this. But then us fringy blogger types aren’t required to stick a sock in what we really think in the interests of, you know, “promoting a civil discourse”.

Translation: If you’re getting paid for what you write, never publish anything that might upset your mega-church going maiden aunt.

Today though, Strib columnist Jon Tevlin ventures about as far out on the institutional branch as he can get when he surveys the recent Tom Hagedorn/Michelle MacDonald/Keith Downey/Al Franken news cycle, and, after five paragraphs of promising never to sully himself with such gutter talk ever again, declares the lot of ‘em … “a bunch of idiots”.

Jon is a quality guy and a talented writer. (I.e. I’d really rip him if he were a putz.) But his first obligation is to play within the parameters of a mainstream commercial news organization, a business enterprise determined to maintain credibility across the entire spectrum of modern American, uh, “discourse”. Within that business plan, calling aspiring/elected officials “idiots” is a journalistic “no fly zone”.

No matter how ill-informed, craven, hypocritical and reckless, respectable/moderated journalism does not go to … “idiot”. Not even if there’s a clinical diagnosis involved. Juvenile name-calling is left to spittle-flecked bloggers with no advertising base to endanger.

These moments always reminds me of a lunch interview I had with the author Paul Theroux years ago. Theroux occasionally wrote for The New York Times, and struggled with the grand institution’s rules of order. Like the time he was assigned a piece on the physical experience of The Big Apple’s 1980s subway system. This naturally involved describing smelly piles of what the Times copy desk insisted he refer to as  “fecal material” polluting stations and platforms.

Said Theroux in essence, “It was classic Times. Struggling not to describe in language everyone understands what everyone sees under foot every day of their lives.”

The essential point here is to ask (again) how much better our political “discourse” might be if the “real media” described characters and events in terms all of us understand instantly and use every day? How much less of Michele Bachmann’s ludicrous circus act would we have had to endure if words like “lying”, “reckless” and “self-serving” had been deployed with near-daily regularity by the Strib, the PiPress, MPR, and the local TV outlets … instead of just the bed-head rabble of dyspeptic bloggers?

Given the appetite of today’s “movement conservatives” for “idiot discourse” and self-serving demagoguery, the media alone won’t be able to nudge that ship/garbage scowl into a channel of sanity. But let me argue that a professional reporting class permitted a vernacular beyond that which doesn’t induce indigestion in devout Mormons might loosen up some of the “stiffs” smelling up our public offices.

Mar(k) Dayton is probably beyond “loosening”. But how much more effective might Al Franken be if he felt comfortable melding both his innate satirical wit with his policy smarts? How much larger a public platform would he have, with benefits both to Minnesotans and national progressives, if he routinely spoke in a language everyone (other than Mormons and churchy aunts) immediately understands and uses every day? Would he, after applying a little comic lubricant, be more or less influential than the glaze-inducing grey cardboard character he’s playing today? A caricature acceptable enough for Times copy editors.

The commercial media’s role in a renaissance of public “discourse” would be, as it is now, to fairly assess the claims of partisan critics who will inevitably shriek and froth for their base any time Franken or any other politician talks and acts like a human being, as opposed to some committee-neutered corporate spokesman in permanent crisis management mode.

I don’t know if any of this would make me walk a block to listen to a stump speech. But it might at least convince me there’s some blood in their veins.


New Poll Shows Secret of GOP Candidate Jeff Johnson’s Early Political Strength

A new survey released today finds that Minnesota Republican gubernatorial nominee Jeff Johnson now trails incumbent DFL Governor Mark Dayton by just nine points, 39% to 48%.  Johnson, a Hennepin County Commissioner, has never won a statewide race before.

Map_of_popular_surnamesWhile the findings are a surprise to some veteran political observers, a closer look provides a clue why the relative political newcomer may be showing so strongly.  About 78 percent of likely Minnesota voters who say they are supporting Johnson believe that he is either their co-worker (26 percent), neighbor (21 percent), business associate (17 percent), or relative (14 percent).

According to U.S. Census data, Johnson is the most common surname in Minnesota, surpassing the ubiquitous Andersons, Olsons, Petersons, and Nelsons in Minnesota’s top five.

Asked of 800 likely Minnesota voters, the survey’s margin of error is minus or plus 3.9 percent.

Note:  This post is satirical, false, and not-to-believed, but somehow also feels plausible.

5 Great Reasons To Choose A Health-Related Charity…And 1 Lousy Reason

The world is awash in good causes.  We are constantly being bombarded with messaging about efforts to eliminate and mitigate cancer, Alzheimers Disease, birth defects, strokes, mental illnesses, combat injuries, Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome, heart diseases, Diabetes, lung diseases, ALS, Cerebral Palsy, Multiple Sclerosis, AIDS, drunk driving deaths, Influenza, Nephritis, suicide, and a long list of deadly but much less prevalent “orphan diseases.”    The list goes on and on, and they’re all worthy.

So how do we decide where to invest our limited charitable dollars?  In no particular order, I can think of a lot of good standards to guide such decisions.

1. Kills and harms lots of people.
2.  Isn’t currently attracting sufficient donations.
3.  Affected someone you love.
4.  Is particularly lean and efficient, with limited administrative overhead.
5.  Is a place where you volunteer or have otherwise observed firsthand.

If those reasons are driving your donation decisions, that makes a lot of sense to me. But I can also think of one poor reason for choosing a health-related charity:

1.  Has the most fun, cute or popular promotion.

ice_bucket_challengeI have a lot of respect and admiration for the charities behind the ice buckets, pink ribbons, teal shoe laces, red clothing and topless races.  I’m sure they are all doing great work for very worthy causes.  As a public relations professional, I also support and respect the public relations work they are doing to fund their lifesaving work.  If I were in their shoes, I would do the same thing.

But removing my public relations hat, I worry that America is increasingly donating on the basis of who has the most entertaining or in vogue promotion at any given moment, to the exclusion of the thoughtful reasons cited above, or other thoughtful reasons.

Here’s the problem with that:  People who are afflicted by an ailment that lacks a cutesy promotion to attract donors are every bit as deserving of help as the people benefiting from the PR gimmick of the month.  The harsh reality is that when all the money flows in a trendy tidal wave to the cause du jour, people dependent on the non-trendy, cash-starved cause can suffer.

So, there, I said it.  I’m not accepting my well-intentioned friends’ charitable challenges, because I choose my own charities on my own terms with my own priorities and values in mind.

I’m bracing for the indignation that will follow.  Dump ice water on me, strangle me with a pink ribbon or call me a killjoy.  But to be clear, I’m not against those ubiquitous promotions, and I’m not necessarily against giving to the organizations with the trendy promotions. But I am against over-reliance on such promotions for donation decisions.

- Loveland

Franken-McFadden Ad Wars: Credibility v. Likeability

Al_Franken__Rigged_Ad_The tone of the TV ads of Senator Al Franken and challenger Mike McFadden could hardly be more different.

CEO McFadden has crafted his ads to remake his public image from Millionaire Mike into a jocular, lovable common man, a sort of Clark Griswold Goes To Washington.

Meanwhile, recovering comedian Franken has crafted his ads to remake his public image from shock jock Al into a earnest, wonky, propeller-headed legislator, a sort of congressional Mr. Fixit.

All of this raises an old political messaging argument:  How important is likeability in politics?  Is it more important for a candidate to be liked or respected?

Mike_McFadden_football_adIn his quest for likeability, McFadden’s ads stray into the absurd.  The millionaire explains the difficulty of living on a budget, with his polished McMansion on display over his shoulder.  He scripts grade school football players to ape his critique of the complex federal health care policy.  He goes for groin-shot guffaws and shallow symbolism in lieu of serious policy debate.

After all, who wouldn’t want to “have a beer with” the good time Charlie who goes soprano after pretending to get hit in the privates?

There is obviously a method to McFadden’s sophomoric madness.  He is trying to make his public self likeable in order to win over swing voters — moderate Republicans, conservative Democrats and independents — who McFadden apparently believes are not interested in the more detailed policy discussions Franken is featuring in his ads.

Who knows, McFadden might be onto something.  According to conventional political wisdom, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton particularly drew a lot of swing voter support due to their supposed want-to-have-a-beer-withism, while Mike Dukakis and Al Gore particularly suffered from appearing distant, dour and dorky.  Just because Millionaire Mitt made a mess of his 2012 likeability tour doesn’t mean that Millionaire Mike shouldn’t try to connect with voters on a non-millionaire level.

Meanwhile, Franken seems content to sit out the likeability contest.  In Franken’s rush to prove to Minnesotans that he is no longer a cartoonish comedian or pugnacious pundit, he is going all Mike Dukakis on us.

Mo Fiorina, a professor of political science at Stanford University, has researched the connection between likeability and winning at the presidential level, going back to 1952.   Professor Fiorina has good news for Franken.  He told National Public Radio (NPR) in 2010 that likeability is only a “minor factor” in voting:

“There’s very little historical evidence for it.  The fact is we decide who is likeable after they win, not before they win. If I had been advising Mitt Romney, I would have said in the end the American people are not going to decide who they are going to have a beer with, because the American people know that they are not going to have a beer with any of these people.  They are going to decide on the base of who they know is going to do the job.”

Still as a Franken supporter, I would be more comfortable if Franken wouldn’t completely cede the likeability ground to McFadden.  Right now Franken’s TV ad persona is grim and flat, and even a “minor factor” ought to matter to a guy who only won by 312 votes in 2008, a much better year for Democrats than 2014 is likely to be.

If only Franken knew a good comedic writer with political instincts who could write a TV ad to lighten him up.  Know anyone like that, Al?

- Loveland

Note:  This post was also featured in the MinnPost Blog Cabin Roundup.

Toxins and Taboo in Ferguson

Lambert_to_the_SlaughterIt is very hard to see how the situation in Ferguson, Missouri gets better before it gets worse. Several of the most virulent toxins of modern American culture have induced a powerful infection.

Our racial/class divide has again been ignited by gun violence. An entertainment-based news media umbilically linked to images of violence, the more violent the better, has descended in numbers equivalent to a Super Bowl, and political leaders better suited for managing profit and loss ledgers are at a baffled for what to say and what to do next.

As the spectacle nears the two-week mark, the situation is as over-heated and overwrought as the last days of the Rodney King trial in LA in ’92. And that was before CNN had 24/7 competition. The toxic brew is so bad its hard to imagine even an indictment against the white cop, Darren Wilson, will do a lot to tamp down the protests, the posturing and the overreactions. (Only an event more irresistible to the cable outlets will make them reconsider their all-hands-on-deck Ferguson deployment. Think: Beyonce trapped on a cruise ship without adequate plumbing.)

No one knows what exactly happened when Wilson shot Michael Brown, and the expectation is that no one ever will. That is often what happens when these things get as politicized and celebritized (made that one up) as this. The truth becomes what it needs to be to “restore order”, which of course to the legitimate protestors in Ferguson means “business as usual’, where an overwhelmingly white police force will continue to routinely shake down every black kid dressed like a rap star.

One area of discussion that has remained largely taboo amid all the talk of the “militarization” of American police forces, with their surplus tanks and Hollywood-looking SWAT gear (the latter used most for over-the-top drug raids, like the one in St. Paul last month) is the character quality of those paid to “protect and serve”.

Recognizing that police work is A: Dangerous, as we saw again in the killing of Officer Scott Patrick recently; B: Thankless, unless you count the occasional “atta boy” award from the chief; and C: Poorly compensated, because the menace of public employee benefits, including pensions, is at least as serious to pandering politicians as street crime, the “bulldog” media is extraordinarily reluctant to question whether certain individual cops should ever have been in uniform to begin with. (That and the reality that ripping the notoriously tight brotherhood of cops means a kind of sourcing death for offending reporters and their newsrooms.)

The suspicion at this point is that Darren Wilson was/is an unremarkable ordinary suburban cop … and that he panicked when Brown pushed back at being collared for walking across a street. (Even the cops have said Wilson didn’t know about Brown boosting the cigarellos.)

My point is that I doubt guys like Wilson go into police work for the money. Most likely they need a secure job, they like the idea of doing something useful, something that commands a level of respect, and … work that comes with a community, a like-minded brethren that they relate to day in and day out. It’s within that brethren where things get funky, especially when the predominantly white “us” is given loaded-gun authority over a nearly all black “them”. With such a brethren you earn respect is a number of ways, not all of them attractive to or publicly condoned by polite society. Occasionally you overreach with someone (a big guy like Brown in this case) who is in no mood to take it and has his own bull moose machismo to display for his peers.

A truly honest discussion of all the factors culminating in Wilson killing Brown should include what it would take to cull out the weakest, least stable, most thuggish of cops and replace them with people in better command of their ego and emotions.

Let Robin Williams Rest

Lambert_to_the_SlaughterFurther proof of how out of step I am with mass culture is my reaction, or lack thereof, to the death of Robin Williams.

Like most, I was surprised to learn of his death, a bit more surprised to learn it was a suicide and not at all surprised that our commercial media seized on it for one of their periodic paroxysms of national eulogizing. Television news being equal parts celebrity marketing and reporting, (OK … 70/30 marketing), couldn’t find enough time to milk the tragedy of the “untimely death” of “a comic genius”. Hyperbole being an essence of marketing, Williams was suddenly and fully elevated into the pantheon of American culture.

I recognize that it is August and there isn’t a lot going on, if what you care about most is pop culture. And I have no animus toward Williams. He was one of thousands of actors crowding the media landscape, and at times (much) funnier than most. But I can’t escape the feeling that these exaltations are primarily a function of a media culture with an over-weighted investment in pop celebritydom and in playing minister to parish in times of common bereavement, especially as they control the magnitude of the mourning.

I only met Williams once, and he did induce a level of hysteria.

It was one of those movie press junkets. A hotel room in San Francisco where he was dutifully hyping his latest film, “Good Morning, Vietnam”. Every writer has a technique for these stagey encounters. Mine was often to begin with something completely unrelated to the obvious/pack line of questioning.

(I once asked William Shatner how he could spend an entire weekend in a hotel, 82 separate interviews at that moment, answering the same question … “How do you explain the enduring popularity of ‘Star Trek’.” His answer? “Drugs. LOTS of drugs.”)

That morning the whack job Governor of Arizona, a right-wing, arguably racist ex-car dealer by the name of Ev Meacham was making news again. The guy was an easy punch line, and assuming Williams followed such stuff I tapped the headline on the morning paper and said something to the effect, “Can you believe this shit?”

That was the last thing I said for 20 minutes. Williams launched into a completely spontaneous monologue, full of sleazy car dealer political pitches, racist rednecks, dessicated cowboy barroom bluster and … something about a coke-snorting pope.

I was in tears. It was (very) funny. But it was also … overwhelming. The compulsion factor was close to frightening. Clearly, he could not stop himself. I remember thinking, “This guy is going to collapse.”

I have a tape of this … somewhere.

Amid all the eulogizing has been talk of the pain underlying every gifted comic. Its a cliche. But there’s something to it. I felt it later in Williams’ career with his series of indigestible, maudlin film characters, chosen I kept thinking, to apply a balm to some wound he felt maybe worse than the audience. Likewise, there has been valuable conversation these past few days about the country’s appalling depression-driven suicide rate. 108 a day, if I heard right. More, if you can believe it, than we gun down exercising our precious Second Amendment rights.

Williams was a unique talent. Who could argue with that? In most ways he seemed a decent, if compulsive, human being. He brought far more to the pop scene than the latest hillbilly reality star du jour, or any preening Kardashian wannabe. More too than a sizable chunk of elected officials, many of whom in this Tea Party age are in it for the same personal aggrandizement as cheap celebrities and are shamelessly marketing themselves to much the same audience in much the same way.

So Williams will be missed. RIP, dude.

I just can’t get passed the feeling that these monumental outpourings are more about the marketing strategies of the media machinery than the “beloved geniuses” they proclaim to mourn.

But that’s just me.



McFadden’s New Ad Proposes Scissoring Health Care System’s Unhealed Wounds

McFadden_Stiches_AdFollowing his sophmoric campaign ad about getting hit by a child in his, tee hee, senatorial privates, Minnesota U.S. Senate candidate Mike McFadden has a new metaphoric television ad about the harm he wants to inflict on Obamacare.

The ad opens with Mr. McFadden establishing his bona fides as a Common Man, just like us.  Sitting in a plush leather chair in a well polished den, the son of the CEO candidate — who is worth between $15 million and $57 million dollars – tells viewers about the McFaddens’ hardscrabble existence:

Conor McFadden (son of the candidate): “My dad, Mike McFadden? He’s cheap.”

Mike McFadden (candidate): “With six kids, it’s called a budget.”

In Romneyesque fashion, the “with six kids” and “budget” references are intended to imply that Millionaire Mike is struggling from paycheck-to-paycheck, just like a dang minimum wage worker.  This is as close to an obligatory “Honest Abe was raised in a primitive log cabin out on the wild frontier” yarn as Team McFadden can muster.   (Of course, the $2,000 hockey table on display next to junior doesn’t exactly support the Frugal Mike image.  But, hey, he didn’t get the kids the $3,000 table, now did he?)

Then comes the metaphoric meat of the ad:

Conor: “When I was 10 and had to get stitches out after a hockey injury, the nurse said it would cost one-hundred bucks. Dad was so horrified he grabbed the scissors and took them out himself.”

Mike: “You lived.”

Conor: “Trust me, nothing will stop Dad from trying to take out Obamacare.”

Mike: “Send me to Washington and give me some scissors. I’ll put ‘em to work.”

Mike_McFadden_stern_daddyNote the tough, no-nonsense daddy image that McFadden’s political consultants are constructing.  Linguist George Lakoff has documented how GOP candidates very consciously frame themselves as “strict fathers” of the  family — “you lived” — while portraying Democrats as the overly permissive mommies.

Wait until daddy comes home!  Daddy will stop mommy and and the children from spending irresponsibly. There is a lot of that patriarchal “father knows best” vibe here.

So, to recap the ad narrative,  strict daddy on a budget is so darn frugal he will remove son’s stitches with his own scissors to save money, and he will do that with Obamacare too!

There are at least a couple of major substantive problems with the mac daddy’s metaphor:

Problem #1:  America’s health care system is far from a healed wound.  In fact, America’s health care system is an open, festering wound.  According to the non-partisan Commonwealth Fund, the United States has the worst health care system in the developed world.  After Mr. McFadden “takes out” the ACA stitches in this gaping wound, what is he going to do about the bleeding:

  • The 99,643 Minnesotans newly enrolled in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) who would be uninsured again.
  • The 2,318,738  Minnesotans with some type of pre-existing health condition who would once again be denied insurance without ACA protection.
  • The 35,000 Minnesota young adults who, thanks to the ACA, are currently insured under their parents plans until age 26 but would be uninsured again without ACA.
  • The 2,043,000 Minnesotans who, thanks to the ACA, are free from worrying about lifetime limits on coverage, but would face such dangerous limits again.

Are we really prepared to let McFadden re-open that wound?

Problem #2:  “Taking out” Obamacare stitches with McFadden’s scissors doesn’t save money. In fact, it would cost a lot of money.  According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and Joint Committee on Taxation (JTC), eliminating Obamacare would:

“…cause a net increase in federal budget deficits of $109 billion over the 2013–2022 period.”

In other words, McFadden may be cutting, but he is certainly not saving.  That’s an important little $109 billion detail to keep in mind.

Also, McFadden has made it clear that he wouldn’t use his scissors on fellow CEOs at private insurance companies.  McFadden opponent Senator Al Franken successfully authored an ACA measure that, for the first time, requires private health plan CEOs to spend at least 80 to 85 percent of the premiums they collect to pay for actual health care, instead of corporate overhead, salaries, bonuses, marketing and profits.  In 2012, Franken’s “medical loss ratio” provision led to the average Minnesota family with private insurance receiving a rebate of $303.

But Mr. McFadden has made it clear that he opposes Franken’s scissoring of private insurance companies’ overhead, salaries, bonuses, marketing and profits.   Instead, McFadden prefers to take his scissors to millions of Minnesotans benefiting from Obamacare.

So, McFadden wants to scissors an unhealed wound even though it will cost billions and cause massive bleeding.  Why?  Because the Minnesota GOP’s rabidly Tea Party base demands red-faced Obama-hating, and McFadden will say anything to curry their favor.  As McFadden’s son promises them, “Trust me, nothing will stop Dad from trying to take out Obamacare.”

- Loveland

Dear Target: Better Never Than Late

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

“It is our belief that everyone should be treated equally under the law, and that includes rights we believe individuals should have related to marriage,” ­Target’s human resource chief, Jodee Kozlak, said in a posting on the company’s blog.

What next? Perhaps Target Corporation will come out against Jim Crow laws half a century after they were struck down. Maybe they will reveal their newfound love of the Magna Carta.

I know, I know, that’s not very gracious.   Marriage equality supporters are supposed to celebrate Target now. As a marriage equality supporter, I’m tempted to say “better late than never.”

But the more I think about it, I’m going with “never.”

In other words, I wish Target and its corporate brethren would just get out of politics, even when they agree with me. Target, stop judging our bedroom choices. Hobby Lobby, stop judging our birth control choices. All of you, stop funnelling dark money to bankroll any brainless politician who promises to free you from all corporate responsibility.

Just stop it.

Target’s latest public policy pronouncement is not better late than never. It would be better if Target never again put its valuable retail brand in the middle of divisive politics. I don’t need Target to be a policymaker or kingmaker. Leave that to the voters. I need Target to supply me with a steady stream of cheap, stylish crap that I don’t need. They’re better at that than they will ever will be at politics, so they should stick to their “core competency,” as the C-Suiters  say.

That would be infinitely better for their brand, and our country.

- Loveland

Note:  This post was also featured on MinnPost.

Jesse Gets Lucky, Again

Lambert_to_the_SlaughterJesse Ventura is one lucky bastard. He got elected Governor in 1998, at the peak of the ‘90s boom economy, when thirty-some percent of voters decided, kind of like electing Floyd the Pig Homecoming King, they could afford a laugh. (The competition from two stiffs like Skip Humphrey and Norm Coleman didn’t hurt.)

Now a jury … of his peers … has decided, in a split but conclusive vote, that he was in fact “defamed”, or as I like to think of it “de-famed”, since Jesse believes the dead sniper’s memoir yanked the rudder of his good ship celebrity and crashed it on the hard rocks of horrible, desolate semi-anonymity. Frankly, I’m as shocked by the decision as the legal experts, scholars and pundits. In today’s free-fire publishing world no one is supposed to mount much less win a defamation case against anyone who has previously appeared on TV.

In a previous post I both said I doubted Jesse could prevail, but that I sincerely hoped he would, if only to throw a momentary chill into the fetid sub-culture of charlatans, hustlers and publicists pumping this — recklessly indifferent — memoir/tell-all offal with wearying monotony. That chill, if it is experienced at all, probably won’t last as long as their next tax deductible business lunch. But at least it’s out there.

Not being a licensed legal expert — although I am three for four in conciliation court (don’t bleep with me) — I am most confused over whether or how the issue of “harm” was considered. The “American Sniper” book, as we learned from depositions of the dead sniper, essentially took a “close enough” approach to the veracity of its claims about the Ventura incident. But as to the book being what cratered Jesse’s big money days? Mmmmmm … I’m not so convinced. And I fail to see how anyone could.

Immediate speculation is that the eight jurors voting for Ventura decided they were cool with their decision on the grounds that, yes he was defamed — the sniper’s tale, as written by a ghost writer, had a lot of funky holes that no one cared enough to correct and they all went ahead and publicized the victim of the incident as our guy The Body. All that equals defamation. But, the guessing is … the fact that damages will be paid by the giant publisher’s giant insurance company nailed the choice shut. (In modern America few entities are fairer game for a punitive scalding than insurance companies.)

The second, larger tier of damages, the $1.3 million and change part, may or may not also be covered by insurance. There seems to be some debate on that matter. But were I a juror in doubt about who was going to pay … not the poor, suffering widow! … I would still go ahead with a fat reward for Jesse’s loss of income, fully expecting that the judge and appeals will shave that number down … a lot.

That way the reckless publisher (and their ilk) would get a loud message, but the inncocent family of a “bonafide American hero” will never miss a meal. (Hell, Clint Eastwood, who’s directing a move of “American Sniper”, could write a personal check for the widow’s losses.)

Until a juror speaks up, we won’t know their thinking for certain. But I want to believe that Team Ventura struck a righteous, populist nerve. A nerve that says writers and publishers, especially big corporate publishing houses have to make at least a good faith attempt at accuracy, and … if you’re big enough to have insurance to cover screw ups, the bastards at Pan Global Monolith Insurance, Inc. can afford to cover the tab.

My Experience with Our “Best in the World” Health Care System

Lambert_to_the_SlaughterA personal experience with our best-in-the-world health care system … .

So my lovely wife and a group of friends are enjoying a long weekend in the Santa Cruz area this past April. Wine, cook outs, bawdy tales … the usual. All very relaxing. But after a stroll through some nearby redwoods we drop in at a pleasant little bistro .. where I’m attacked. By a pulled pork sandwich. One minute I’m happily hoovering the thing off the plate, sauce slobber splattering the one clean shirt I have left. The next moment a glob of ex-pig is lodged in my gullet, unwilling to move down … or up.

I’ll spare you the regurgitative details (with sound effects) of the next 90 minutes as I tried a range of contortions to get the fiend to shift and slide, except to say I was eventually convinced by the Mrs. and a couple pals to go to … a hospital, where an expert could do the Roto-Rooter work.

Three hospitals later we found an Emergency Room set up to do the job. Were I surfer with a shark bite I might have been allowed in at the first stop.

Once in the building we began treatment, by which I mean repeated visits from clerical workers checking insurance and painstakingly re-identifying me, my residence, my medical history and my family’s medical history. There were at least five variations of this, as though I might get mistaken for the only other patient on the floor at that moment, a very elderly woman suffering from a babbling dementia.

The decision was made to first — see if I could pass the demon on my own. When it became obvious the thing had its claws deep into my esophagus and wasn’t going anywhere without a fight, decision #2 was to summon the on-call doctor, who, this being a beautiful Saturday in California I assumed was either tending his vineyard, test driving a Tesla or trying to talk his trophy wife out of more liposuction.

Two hours later the doctor arrived. A very nice gentlemen — everyone was nice, even the series of accounting internists re-checking that I wasn’t 85, female and demented.

Cutting the medical part of the story short, somewhere into the fourth hour, I was told to change into the inevitable butt-out-the-back hospital gown, helped into a wheel chair, rolled down a series of halls to an Operating Room, assisted up on the table, given a general anesthetic … (“100, ninety … zzzz.”), and woken back up 12 minutes later, free of the demon glob.

The “operating” doctor explained he simply rammed the auger in and pushed the monster down into my vast beckoning gut. No biggie. Very routine. He apologized for the inconvenience on my holiday, hoped I’d be back in Santa Cruz soon and told my wife the hospital would cover the cost of the half hour taxi ride back to where we were staying.

So … flash forward to three days ago when I received a bill from the hospital system controlling the facility where all these friendly, capable, fact re-checking people work.

Now, we all know that what hospitals charge for their services in not based on anything rooted in the natural world or competitive marketplace. It’s why our system is “the best in the world”. If you have insurance, which we do, no one gives a damn. All the hospital wanted from us was $75 … or roughly the cost of the complimentary cab ride.

As Steven Brill explained in his classic piece “A Bitter Pill”, hospitals pretty much make the numbers up. Like George R.R. Martin dreaming up character names and places in “Game of Thrones.” “Thousand” always sounds better than “hundred”. And who says an aspirin can’t cost $75? Or the plastic cup you’re spitting up in wouldn’t be more “fun” priced at say, oh , $400?

Anyway, given the (competent) service I was given in Santa Cruz and asked what I thought my insurance would be charged, and understanding the fantasy-based pricing that makes the cost of our health care far and away the most expensive in the world, I would have said the total coast, with ludicrous premiums and surcharges, might have spiked as high as … um … $5000. Wild guess. Crazy shit. The 12-minute Operating Room procedure being the only high-skill event of the day, unless you premium-price the medical history re-checkers.

Have you made a guess at the actual charge?

How does $16,000 sound?

Sixteen freaking thousand. I flipped the bill over to see if they were confusing me with the demented grandmother’s 40-day stay ICU stay and associated experimental drug regimen. Nope. Just me and my tangy pork bolus.

Naturally nothing was itemized. So I called HealthPartners here in Minnesota. Their policy does not allow them to give patients a hard copy of the itemized invoice, but the (very pleasant) woman was happy to read me the charges, which include $2000 for the “Recovery Room”. This would be the tiny curtained off space where I woke up and was allowed to struggle back into my underwear and pants.

After ranting a bit about the utter science fiction of this pricing, i apologized and told her I just needed to vent.

“It’s OK. I understand. It happens a lot. I think its crazy, too. But these costs fit with the contracts we have.”

“Do you ever challenge these costs?”

“Only somewhat. As long as they’re within with the contract range, we’ll pay.”

(Yesterday I had a follow-up visit with a local gastroenterologist. The allergy that sets off these glob attacks is under control. But I run the Santa Cruz action by him and ask him to guess at the bill. He thinks for a couple seconds, “Four, five thousand.” When I tell him $16,000, he shakes his head. “It makes no sense. It’s the worst system on the planet.”)

A second call, to the actual hospital’s accounting department, in California, was your typical phone tree hell. Four minutes of pressing “1″, pressing “3″ and then “5″  and entering codes and invoice numbers before being connected to a woman who after taking the same information all over again put me on hold and then came back to say that my records had been sent another department, which she transfered me to … until I was disconnected.

Bottom line: The Health Partners of our “best in the world” system can afford to be completely sanguine about absurd hospital system charges because they have an epic cash flow, from you and me, sustaining their costs.

By contrast, can you imagine State Farm shrugging off a $10000 charge from some body shop for a new hood for your hail-dented Yugo?



Viking Coach Priefer Still Doesn’t Get It

Mike_Priefer_nuke_gaysEveryone makes mistakes, but the key is to learn the right lesson from the mistake and move on.  That’s the message being stressed by the Minnesota Vikings leadership in the wake of discovering that their Special Teams Coach Mike Priefer had been lying to them about making breathtakingly ugly anti-gay remarks in an attempt to stop punter Chris Kluwe from championing gay rights off-the-field.

That’s a good message.  Yesterday we learned that Coach Priefer is all about the “move on” part of that message.  But the “learn the right lesson” part?  Not so much.

Priefer did appear to learn some lessons:  If you lie, you might get caught.  And if you lie and get caught, that can embarrass you, your family and your team.

Those are lessons all right.  But are they truly the most important lessons?

Coach Priefer was given the golden opportunity at the news conference to prove that he had learned the most important lessons.  As the Star Tribune reported:

Priefer got emotional when asked what he regretted most about what transpired between him and Kluwe.

The biggest thing I regret is I brought a lot of bad publicity to the Minnesota Vikings and I felt like I let my family down,” Priefer said, choking up as he finished his sentence.

Wrong answer, Coach.

When you say that we should round up a group of human beings, put them on an island to be murdered, your biggest regret should not be that the remark created embarrassing publicity.  Your biggest regret should be that you said something unbelievably hateful and hurtful about your fellow man.  You should regret that you infected the world with verbal violence that, intended or not, really does feed and rationalize actual violence against gays and lesbians.   You should regret that you stood in the way of the cause of equality and freedom of speech when you bullied an employee who championed those uniquely American values.

Those are the right lessons, the more meaningful lessons.

Coach Priefer clearly still thinks everything is all about football.  Human rights?  Sure, whatever.  Hate speech feeding hate crimes?  Shrug.  Freedom of speech?  Whatever.  No, Mike regrets that he got caught slamming Kluwe and the gays because it created a distraction from football and an embarrassment to his football organization.  Football, football, football.

I hope someone is dreaming up an industrial strength sensitivity class for this guy, because it is going to take one kick ass class for him to get it.  In that class, they need to show Priefer how many morons with heads full of Priefer-esque “jokes” humiliate, maim and kill people, solely because of who they love.  They need to show examples of how power-drunk employers throughout history have punished African Americans, women, workers’ rights champions and others courageous enough to stand up for American values.

I also hope they line up a management class for Priefer’s boss, Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer who told the Pioneer Press:

“I’ve had a chance to visit with Mike Priefer on numerous occasions, almost every single day, to find out what kind of person he is,” Zimmer said. “I knew his father. I know what kind of family guy he is. He made a mistake. So I just go by what I see; I don’t go by what I hear.”

“I just go by what I see, not by what I hear.”  Are you serious?  This guy just repeatedly lied to you, and you’re still saying that you  just go by what you see when you look at the guy and his background?

With that kind of attitude, Coach Zimmer is poised to sweep all kinds of future personnel problems under the rug.  Allegations of sexual violence, domestic abuse, or criminal activity?  “I just go by what I see, not by what I hear about those allegations, and I don’t see a rapist when I look him in the eye.”

The Vikings organization’s words and actions show that it looks upon Priefer’s “nuke the gays” remark as a PR embarrassment, and little more.  Make it go away with some obligatory spin. But they need to take off their football goggles for a brief second to learn the truly important lessons stemming from this ugly episode.

- Loveland