One Headline GOP Gubers Won’t Chase

RantThe St. Paul Pioneer Press reported today that Republican gubernatorial candidates have been having daily one up-manship contests over who can have the earliest and nastiest news conference railing about a Dayton-related headline of the day.

Minimum wage adjustment! Pant, pant.  Sex offenders!!  Lather, lather.  Medtronic acquisition!!!  Podium pound, podium pound.

That’s their savvy strategy — cry “wolf” daily.  They read the morning news, race to the podium and rant.  In their (bulging) eyes, every Dayton-related development is an outrage, the next “-gate.”

That’s what passes for their policy agenda.  That’s the even keel leadership style they are showing voters.

But here is one headline the gunslingin’ gubers won’t be chasing today:

Minnesota adds 10,300 jobs in May; jobless rate lowest in 7 years

Kurt?  Jeff?  Scott? Marty?  Anyone?

– Loveland

True Confession: I Miss The GOP-Controlled Legislature

When it comes to the 2014 legislative elections, I have divided loyalties.

One the one hand, the current DFL-controlled Legislature has delivered a lot of very good things for ordinary Minnesotans.  Compared to the previous GOP-controlled Legislature, the DFL-controlled Legislature has delivered a healthier economy, budget surpluses, more tax fairness, marriage equality, job-creating infrastructure improvement projects, paid back schools, all-day kindergarten, early education scholarships and a long overdue increase in the minimum wage, among other things.

In the most recently concluded session, they even had the earliest adjournment in thirty years, a mark of impressive democratic efficiency. I look at that record and conclude that the DFL Legislature and Governor deserve to be rehired in the upcoming elections.

clown_carOn the other hand, as a blogger interested in the absurd side of politics, I’m pulled mightily in the opposite direction.  Because when it comes to generating a steady stream of blog-worthy absurdity, nothing beats the modern Tea Party-backed Republican Party.  After all, the last time the Republicans controlled the Minnesota Legislature they:

  • No Separation Between Church and Hate.  Found a way to make even the daily ecumenical prayer controversial and divisive;
  • Dehumanizing KidsWarned that supplying food stamps to Minnesota’s most vulnerable children is just as inadvisable as feeding wild animals; and

I get tears of joy just thinking about it. I was never in need of blog topics in those days.  Minnesota’s last GOP-controlled Legislature gave us the golden age of political comedy, and I will forever be grateful to them for that.   Memories, misty water-colored memories.

While a historically low 17% of Minnesotans approved of the GOP-controlled Legislature that was drummed out of office in 2012, Wry Wing Politics has sorely missed having the likes Mary Fransen, Steve Drazkowski,  Mark Buesgens, Tom Emmer, Curt Bills, Kurt Zellers, Dave Thompson, Amy Koch and others in positions of authority, where they had more opportunities to say and do ridiculous things.

The topic-hungry blogger in me pines for the hot mess of a Legislature that Teapublicans  built.  But deep down the responsible citizen in me knows that I need to vote to bring back the DFL’s brand of colorless competence.  Sigh.

– Loveland

Note:  This post was featured as a “best of the best” in MinnPost’s Blog Cabin.

MN GOP Gubernatorial Candidates Demand Target and Best Buy Shutdown Their Online Retailing

Target_Missoni_crashMinneapolis, Minn. — Minnesota Republican gubernatorial candidates today demanded that home state retailers Target and Best Buy  pull out of online marketing because of serious technical meltdowns associated with their respective commercial websites.

The Republican candidates’ criticism of the local private retailers was consistent with harsh criticism they have leveled at the government-run website, Minnesota’s new online venue for comparing and purchasing private insurance policies offered in association with the federal Affordable Care Act.  A Minnesota Department of Commerce analysis finds that MnSure offers the lowest prices in the nation and has proven to be a popular destination for Minnesotans, but MnSure website visitors have also been subjected to frustrating delays and bugs.

The three Republican candidates ordinarily stress that  private companies are superior to  government-run initiatives.  But today the candidates pointed out that Minnesota-based Best Buy and Target also experienced MnSure-like launch problems, and therefore also should terminate their online retailing operations.

In September 2011, Target Corporation was publicly humiliated when its website crashed during a crucial launch of  a much anticipated Missoni-designed clothing line, infuriating its  customers.  At the time, a New York Times article noted:

The site was wiped out for most of the day; the company said that demand for items was higher than it was on a typical day after Thanksgiving, and that is usually the biggest shopping day of the year.

A few months later in 2011,  sheepish Best Buy officials had to notify customers that it would not be able to fill their orders in time for Christmas, because the electronics retail giant had underestimated the initial demand for its products. USA Today reported:

The largest U.S. specialty electronics retailer said late Wednesday that overwhelming demand for some products from has led to a problem redeeming online orders made in November and December.

The Minneapolis company declined Thursday to specify how many orders are affected or which products are out of stock.

“I would do anything I could to end them,” said Minnesota Senator Dave Thompson, said of Best Buy and Target.

“I don’t believe it can be fixed,” added Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson about the retail giants’ glitches.

“It just isn’t going to work,” agreed former Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Zellers.

Note:  This post is satirical, and not true.  Though the quotes above are the exact words the candidates used about MnSure in August 2013, the candidates have not, to the best of our knowledge, made the same demands of Best Buy and Target.

This post was featured in Politics in Minnesota’s Best of the Blogs, and republished on MinnPost.

A Thank You Note for Minnesota Republicans

Dear Minnesota Republicans:

We just wanted to drop you a quick note to thank you for the gift of your marriage ban amendment.  Such a thoughtful idea!

We must admit, we didn’t appreciate your gift to its fullest when we first unwrapped it last spring.  To be candid, we thought it was kinda ugly.  We wanted to throw it away.  But we couldn’t.

As it turns out, though, it was one of the most beautiful gifts we’ve ever received. Continue reading

Minnesota GOPers Select Their Halloween Costumes!

Americans spend something like $5 billion per year on Halloween.  Dressing up in costumers has become an increasingly popular form of escapism for stressed out adults.  In fact, some retail outlets now report that more costumes are sold to adults than children.

This led us to wonder what our favorite Minnesota Republican politicians are dressing up as this year?  Wry Wing Politics did a little investigative reporting:

Kurt Bills.  The rarely spotted U.S. Senate candidate challenging popular Senator Amy Kloubachar is reportedly going as Waldo, of the  Where’s Waldo puzzle books.   Mr. Bills is out there in one of Minnesota’s 87 counties.  Can YOU find him?

Mary Franson.  The state legislator who infamously attempted to draw a parallel between not giving families in need Food Stamps and not feeding wild animals, is dressing up as a wild game hunter.

Michelle Bachman. The Member of Congress who maintains that we need to “wean” Minnesotans off of popular programs such as Social Security and Medicare, is going as a, um, weaner.

Michael Brodkorb.  Brodkorb is the Minnesota Senate staffer who admitted to having an affair with a married Senate leader, and is threatening to commit mass politicide by naming others at the State Capitol who Brodkorb says also had extramarital affairs.  Mr. Brodkorb is dressing up as the personification of death, The Grim Reaper.  Will anyone answer the door when he comes knocking?

Allen QuistAllen Quist is a former state legislator, current congressional candidate and ever creative Creationist who edits a website that says that dinosaurs lived alongside human beings as recently as the 12th Century.  To educate more Minnesota children about this little known scientific fact, Mr. Quist is dressing up as Pope Innnocent III’s papal pet “Barney.”

Kurt Zellers.  The Minnesota House Speaker who created confusion at the Capitol last year when he announced that he was going to oppose the Vikings Stadium bill, but hoped that it would pass, is dressing up as  comic book figure Two-Face.

Tim Pawlenty.  Former Presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty is dressing up as, get this, a banking lobbyist.  Eeeek!  For a nation that has suffered mightily since the banksters’ wreckless practices caused a financial meltdown, it doesn’t get much scarier than this.

 Norm Coleman.  Former U.S. Senator Norm Coleman is going scary too.  He is dressing up as a slimey leader of a corporate Super PAC.  This costume is all the rage this year with little Republicans.  With millions of Americans hiding from the political pollution brought to us by Super PACs like Coleman’s, the Super PAC Man is the new Freddy Krueger.

What a fright!  Then, six days after Halloween, Minnesota voters will face the same question posed on October 31:  Trick or treat?


Ballot Language Ruling Easily Could Come Back To Bite Minnesota GOP

In the wake of yesterday’s Minnesota Supreme Court’s ruling upholding the GOP Legislature’s ballot wording for two proposed constitutional amendments, endzone-dancing Republican leaders should keep something in mind.

The Supremes did not rule in favor of the Republican Party.  They ruled in favor of the legislature branch.   Important difference.

Here is what the Court said:

The proper role for the judiciary, however, is not to second-guess the wisdom of policy decisions that the constitution commits to one of the political branches.

The Secretary of State exceeded his authority … when he provided titles different from those passed by the Legislature.”

Granted, that’s good news for Republicans this year, because they’re the ones currently controlling  the legislative “policy decisions” of which the Court speaks.

But in future years, the same ruling could easily turn out to be very bad news for Republicans.  After all, the way Minnesota’s long-term demographics are trending – with the most rapid population growth happening in demographic groups historically more supportive of DFL candidates – the prospect of permanent GOP control of the Legislature is far from certain.

Future DFL-controlled Legislatures, stinging from the constitutional word games Republicans have played during their leadership reign, could do something equally absurd, or even more absurd.

For instance, a DFL-controlled Legislature could propose a constitutional amendment to require an enormous tax on the wealthiest Minnesotans to finance, let’s say, vacation homes for DFL leaders, or something else completely reckless.  Furthermore, taking a page out of the GOP’ 2012 playbook, the DFL-controlled Legislature could then deceptively present this proposal to voters on their ballots in benign-sounding euphamisms:

“Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to support fairness in housing financing in Minnesota, effective July 1, 2015?”

As I understand yesterday’s ruling, the Supremes wouldn’t overrule that kind of a hypothetical ballot wording scam.  Not their job.  I exaggerate in my example, for I am a blogger and exaggeration is what we do, but you get the general idea.

This is not a problem that is going to go away under the status quo approach to wording ballot questions.  The majority party in the Legislature will probably continue to play word games in their drafting, and, again, the majority party may not always be to Speaker Zellers’ liking.

A few days ago I proposed what seems to me to be a more fair way of drafting ballot questions.  Whether the reform comes off of my cocktail napkin, or from someone who actually knows what they’re doing, reform of the current ballot initiative drafting system is needed.   If Minnesota politicians are going to persist in continually trying to amend the State Constitution to tickle their political fancy — and it seems pretty certain that they are — we need to at least get the proposals described to voters clearly and fairly.

– Loveland

Beyond Duluth Flood, Minnesota Legislature Must Address Quieter Everyday Disasters

Last Friday, following the Minnesota Legislature’s passage of $160 million in flood relief for the Duluth area, House Speaker Kurt Zellers (R-Maple Grove) was in full self-congratulatory mode about the body’s decisive bipartisan action to help Minnesotans in need:

“When bad things happen to people … the last thing you want is a bunch of politicians bickering in the Capitol.”

My goodness, no, we don’t want THAT!

But, Mr. Speaker, “bad things” aren’t limited to buckets of water falling from the sky on the Duluth area.

Every day, “bad things” quietly happen to ordinary Minnesotans.  Every day, Minnesotans go untreated, undertreated, homeless, unprotected, undereducated, abused, underemployed and unemployed because of “a bunch of politicians bickering at the Capitol.”

Those “bad things” are often due to events that, like Duluth’s storm of the century, are not the fault of the victim:  Being born into poverty.  Being born into an abusive or otherwise non-functioning family.  Having your job sent overseas, or eliminated due to a global financial meltdown.  Discovering a debilitating tumor or aneurysm.  Falling off a ladder, or getting in a disabling car crash.

And when Minnesotans face those “bad things,” your cutting of $7 billion in services over the last decade has made their catastrophes much worse, not better.

So, yes, I applaud Speaker Zellers and the Minnesota Legislature for not bickering at the Capitol last Friday when Minnesotans needed help to survive the spectacularly “bad things” that recently befell the great City of Duluth.

But please also remember that most of the emergencies in our state are much less visible than the recent Duluth drama.  Most Minnesota emergencies don’t lead our news.  But they are crises nonetheless, that crush hopes, dreams and lives nonetheless, that require disaster relief nonetheless.

– Loveland

Note:  This post was also featured in Politics in Minnesota’s Morning Report, “Best of the Blogs.

Pulling Back the Curtain on the Minnesota Legislature

The one thing that Vikings Stadium proponents and opponents in the Legislature should be able to agree on:  The debate was very bad for all of their reputations.

Why?  Because there was an audience.  While the masses usually are mostly blind to what happens in legislative floor debates, a sizeable audience of casually involved Minnesotans were engaged enough in the high profile stadium issue to seek out legislative coverage on TV or the Internet.   My sense is that they were appalled.

Legislators didn’t really act much worse during the Vikings Stadium debate than they typically do at the end of any session.  It’s just that they usually behave badly in relative anonymity.  Usually, the only witnesses are jaded Capitol insiders, who can no longer be shocked.  Capitol dwellers – legislators, lobbyists, reporters and staff – take it for granted that legislators are breathtakingly rude and disrespectful to each other.  Every day, they see legislators use shallow “if she is for it, then I MUST be against it” policy logic.  To Capitol dwellers, self-serving partisan pranks are de rigueur.

But this is news to ordinary Minnesotans.  They hear about it, but they don’t often see it.

“I hardly ever watch the Legislature, but I tuned in for some of the big stadium debate…,” friends have been telling me.  Then their eyes bug out, and their mouths gape, as if they had just caught a glimpse of Lobster Boy and the Elephant Man at the carnival’s side show.  “Oh my.  I had NO idea.”

This reaction came regardless of how the individual felt about the outcome of the Vikings Stadium debate.  In a way, winners still felt like losers.

Lobster Boy indeed.  Half-baked Plan Z’s were sprung in the closing hours of a decade long debate.  The House’s top “leader” declared he was voting against the bill, but hoped it would pass.  Reckless amendment after reckless amendment were added, making the bill read like the contents of an elementary school Suggestion Box, instead of the product of a decade’s worth of expert study and analysis.

In the midst of a blinding blizzard of amendments, freshman Rep. John Kriesel plaintively held up a sign from the House floor reading “Help!”  From Baudette to Blooming Prairie, ordinary Minnesotans’ on both sides of the issue were collectively nodding at the sentiment.

A recent SurveyUSA poll found that only one of five (21%) Minnesotans approves of the job the Legislature is doing.  That number might be even smaller among those who watched a chunk of the Vikings Stadium debate.  Incidentally, Governor Dayton’s approval rating (56%) is about three times higher than the Legislature’s, despite the fact that he was in the center of the bruising stadium debate.  Demeanor probably explains some of this difference.  Dayton wasn’t perfect, but he wasn’t Lobster Boy.

When Dorothy of Kansas was shocked by what she found behind the Wizard of Oz’s curtain, she declared “you’re a very bad man.”  After Minnesotans pulled back the curtain of public indifference that usually covers up St. Paul’s secrets, they may be feeling the same way.

But most of the legislators aren’t bad people.  It’s just that powerful special interests, partisan bullies and fatigue don’t bring out the best in them.  Sometimes good people can be bad leaders.  As the Wizard of Oz sheepishly responded in his defense, “Oh no, my dear.  I’m a very good man.  I’m just a very bad wizard.”



Note:  This post was also featured as part of the “Best of the Blogs” feature in Politics in Minnesota’s Morning Report.