A Rose by Any Other Name…

I’m going to start a collection of Donald Trump descriptions and invite you to play along at home. I’ll update this post whenever I stumble across a new one.

The rules are simple: Any description is eligible as long as you can cite a link to an article or video somewhere on the web. Descriptions can be positive or negative, as short as a single word or up to a sentence in length.

At the end of the election, we’ll hold a vote to pick our favorites.

Here’s a couple to get us started:

Positive

“The best sex I ever had.” Marla Maples, Access Hollywood (h/t to Ellen Mrja)

Negative

“…dangerous buffoon…” Frances Wilkinson, Bloomberg View

“…a small, insecure money-grubber…” Elizabeth Warren, Huffington Post

“…a thin-skinned, racist, sexist bully…” Elizabeth Warren, Huffington Post

“He is a man-baby.” John Stewart, CNN (h/t to Mike Keliher and Jeremy Powers)

“…a megalomaniac…” Trump: What’s the Deal (h/t to Gary Gilson)

“…a pathological liar…” Carl Bernstein, CNN

“…a strong man who doesn’t believe in democratic institutions.” Carl Bernstein, CNN

“…a grifter always dancing one step ahead of bankruptcy court and concocting one failed scheme after another to separate people from their money.” Paul Waldman, Washington Post

“…a shallow, ignorant, incurious, emotionally immature narcissist.” Jon Austin, The Same Rowdy Crowd

I look forward to your entries.

– Austin

 

 

I know, wrong?

i_know_right_-_Google_SearchEvery generation has its annoying catch phrases.  The valley girls and their wannabes famously sprinkled every sentence with “like.”  More recently,  “not so much” has been used ad nauseum to express disapproval or disagreement.

“Whatever!”  It’s not “all good.” Admittedly, often it’s “my bad,” “yada yada.”

I have a house full of teens and young adults these days, so I’m particularly aware of a prevalent catch phrase.  When I assert something that meets with the youngsters’ agreement, a rare event, they invariably respond with “I know, right?”

The main problem with this, or any catch phrase, is that I know it’s only a matter of time before I hear those words coming out of my mouth.  Catch phrases are contagious that way.

I desperately don’t want to let this phrase into my lexicon, because it particularly irritates me.  It makes no sense to respond to an assertion with a question about whether the assertion is correct.

My mama taught me that it is polite to respond to direct questions.  So, it strikes me that the “right?” part of the response requires a response, which leads to mind-numbing exchanges such as this:

Me:  “The Twins starting pitching is crappy.”

Youngster:  “I know, right?”

Me:  “Right.  That’s why I just said it.”

Youngster:  “I know, right?”

Me:  (stink eye)

I know, it’s not really a question.  But then, why include the “right?” part.

I guess this is the “everyone gets a ribbon” generation that we raised.  Even when they are agreeing with us, they need still more affirmation that agreement is acceptable.

Right?

– Loveland

Snobbyapolis

News flash:  Minneapolis is a snobby city.  This from Travel and Leisure:

In the annual America’s Favorite Cities survey, we asked readers to rank 35 major metropolitan areas for features such as trendy food trucks or good-looking locals.

To determine which city has the biggest nose in the air, we factored in some traditional staples of snobbery: a reputation for aloof and smarty-pants residents, along with high-end shopping and highbrow cultural offerings like classical music and theater.

But we also considered 21st-century definitions of elitism: tech-savviness, artisanal coffeehouses, and a conspicuous eco-consciousness (say, the kind of city where you get a dirty look for throwing your coffee cup in the wrong bin).

Minneapolis ranked 4th, trailing San Francisco, New York City and Boston, but edging out Seattle, Santa Fe and Chicago.  The Travelers’ and Leisurers’ take on us:

Perhaps readers felt intimidated by these bookish, indie-music-loving, craft-beer-drinking hipsters, who also ranked highly for being exceptionally tidy. If these Minnesotans feel self-satisfied, is it any wonder? They also scored well for being fit and outdoorsy; you can join them at the Chain of Lakes, where, depending on the season, folks are hiking, paddling, or even ice-surfing.

Snobby?  Really?  Isn’t having interesting stuff in your community a desirable thing?

Of course it is.  Having the option of experiencing something new and different that isn’t available just anywhere is a huge advantage of living in a great city like Minneapolis.

But T and L got it right.  Minneapolis is a snobby city, because having new and different things is not enough for many Minneapolitans.  They feel obliged to look down  from their lofts and rooftop cafes judging people who don’t worship at the altar of all that is new and different.

Minneapolis_hipster

For instance, God help you if you express dislike for Surly Furious beer inside the Minneapolis city limits.  It’s perfectly reasonable that some people would enjoy the bitter taste of the hop-heavy brew, and some would not.  Preferences are preferences.  But to hipster Minneapolitans, a distaste for the hops in IPAs is a clear sign that one is not sufficiently evolved.

The same thing applies to food and wine.  If my God-given tastebuds just can’t distinguish between a ten buck meal and a fifty buck meal, does that really mean that I’m a closed-minded rube?  Maybe it just means that I’d rather hold onto the extra forty bucks to buy four extra ten buck meals.  Saffron and truffle oil?  Can’t taste it dude.  Hints of oak barrel?  Even if I could taste it, why would I necessarily desire it?

I also plead guilty to wearing khakis and not possessing a single pair of skinny jeans.  Why?  One, BECAUSE I’M NOT SKINNY.  (Neither, by the way, are many of you.)  Two, because I still have khakis in my closet from the 90s that have some more miles on them.

And then there are bicyclists.  Minneapolis is thick with them these days, and I’m all for them.  I support more bike lanes, bike racks, and people out of cars, if that’s what works well for them.   But just because I prefer not to arrive at meetings drenched in sweat and expect bicyclists to obey traffic laws doesn’t make me a Neanderthal bike hater who doesn’t understand the profound awesomeness of Amsterdam.

The fact that many Minneapolitan hipsters equate rejection of a trend with inferiority is what makes them snobby. Trends are fine.  Enforcement of trends is snobby.

It’s a little more difficult for me to understand when snobbery happens in a city of folks who are largely transplants from small towns, suburbs and rural areas.  Even most of the free spirits in Uptown and downtown lofts did not grow up in Soho or Greenwich Village.  They are only a few short years removed from enjoying Folgers, Mogen David, Buckhorn and IHOP.  If those folks find that  Peets, Pétrus, Surly, and Café Lurcat brings them more joy, enjoy already.  But really, there is no need to evangelize and snigger.   We hayseeds are perfectly comfortable, in all our glorious frumpyness.

– Loveland

Ship-for-Brains Kmart

For many of us, our biggest strength often also turns out to be our biggest weakness.  For ad agencies, their biggest strengths often are their creativity and sense-of-humor.  Those wacky guys in the skinny jeans and pointy shoes crack me up!  But when not checked by clients and agency grown-ups, that strength can sometimes manifest itself as a weakness.

Witness K-Mart’s ad agency, Draftfcb.   (You can already tell how hip they are just by the funky corporate name.)  This is the assignment Draftfcb was given:  Promote Kmart as an online shopping outlet, something Kmart is lightly associated with.

But, it’s also critically important that any ad agency also be mindful of the overall brand backdrop for their narrow marketing assignment:   Historically, K-mart has had shitty stores, a shitty customer experience, shitty customer service, and shitty products, and, consequently, a shitty brand image.  Kmart desperately needs to change both the reality and perception of its wall-to-wall shitty-ness.

So, Draftfcb created, and Kmart approved, this gut-buster:

Continue reading “Ship-for-Brains Kmart”

Chapter I: How Did I Get Here?

colllegeNote to readers:  What can I say?  A lot, apparently.  This started off as a simple post back in January, but it was a slow day on the work front and it was too damned cold to go outside if I could help it.  As a result, I found several hours later that I had run on for better than 3,600 words about how I was a lousy student in college and lived to tell the tale…and I hadn’t even gotten around to getting kicked out the second time or how it came to pass that I did get a college degree.  The first draft was such a hot mess that I let it sit for nearly a month before mustering the courage to come back to it. After looking at it again, I decided that the first part – 2,900 words – was not so much about how I screwed off in college (though there’s plenty of that) as they were a general recounting of how I’ve been “different” from way back. I could – probably should – have simply pitched the whole thing over the side, but since I’d wasted so long writing so much I decided to at least post the somewhat intelligible part as Chapter I of what may – or may not – be a series of posts about my youthful indiscretions (the ones I can cop to anyway).

Readers of a certain age may enjoy the result as a trip back to the 1970s and any parent of any child can now console him or herself with the words, “At least I’m not Austin’s parent.”  No matter what, that’s true.

I mostly look for ways to differentiate myself from David Brauer (and, I suspect, he from me), but I found a kindred spirit in his confessional about his failure to graduate college on schedule back in the 1970s.  In my case, it took 7 years, three institutions and the assistance of an entire village of friends, mentors and family to get one under-achieving slacker his undergraduate degree.  But for that assistance I suspect that I, too, would have been a long time going back to finish.  I’ve bored my family and friends many times by recounting my college career so why not you too.

Continue reading “Chapter I: How Did I Get Here?”

Pre-Gaming the First Debate

I’m not sure if it’s actually possible to 1) have the media invest tonight’s debate with any more importance for the Romney campaign than has been done over the last two weeks; 2) come up with another way to lower expectations for both candidates without reducing all of us to fits of giggles; 3) be any more primed for disappointment than all of us – left, right, center – are right now as we are almost certain to see a debate that is probably not going to deliver a knockout blow to Governor Romney, put President Obama on the defensive and the race back into a dead heat or – for the 11 remaining undecided voters in a swing state – illuminate much about what either client plans to do over the next four years.

It is, of course, possible that I’m wrong on any of these points, particularly #3, but statistics are on my side.  Why are nearly all of the most famous moments from Presidential debates from the 70s and 80s?  Because most of the time these events are not particularly memorable and don’t represent turning points in a campaign.

This reality is particularly true when the participants are Barack “No Drama” Obama and W. Mitt “the Robot” Romney.  While different in many ways, both men are generally very skilled at keeping their emotions in check and their talking points firmly in their forebrains.  Couple that with day…and days…and days…of debate camp and the throw down in Denver has all the suspense of two chessmasters replaying a game from the Fischer-Spassky era.  The image of an unscripted and freeflowing debate is just that; an image and not a reality.

None of this, of course, will prevent me from eagerly watching all 90 minutes and then listening to the post-debate analysis on as many channels as my wife will tolerate me surfing.  Here’s what I think we’ll be hearing after the debate: Continue reading “Pre-Gaming the First Debate”

And Now for Something Completely Different…

Well, that was different.

I’m not much of a Rachel Maddow sycophant, but I have to agree with her that Clint Eastwood’s 11-minute performance at last night’s RNC was the most bizarre thing I’ve seen in a major party convention.  Maddow was left speechless – for once – and so was I by the surreal sight of Mr. Eastwood rambling and ad-libbing to an empty chair.  Between the mumbling and the fly-away hairdo, Mr. Eastwood came off less like Dirty Harry and more like the old guy down the block who was pretty normal and neighborly in a curmudgeonly way until the day he started cutting the lawn in his underwear with a katana strapped to his back.

His performance makes two things abundantly clear:

1) Nobody – I mean NOBODY – vetted Eastwood’s remarks.  Not even so much as a “Mr. Eastwood, what do you need with the chair?”

2) Actors without good writers to give them good material are rarely worth listening to.

You are, of course, welcome to disagree with me on this point, but I am 100% sure that Team Romney counts this as a hot mess that is stepping all over the next-day coverage of what was supposed to be “All About Mitt.” Instead, The Big Speech (which in the words of Fox’s Chris Wallace was “workmanlike” at best) has to contend with headlines like:

  • “After a Gunslinger Cuts Loose, Romney Aides Take Cover” – New York Times
  • “Ann Romney: Eastwood Did “A Unique Thing” – CBS News
  • “Clint Eastwood Riff Distracts From Successful Romney Convention” – Washington Post
  • “Clint Eastwood Speech Backfires on Republicans” – Boston.com
  • “Clint Eastwood at the GOP convention: effective, or strange?” – Christian Science Monitor
  • “Clint Eastwood’s empty chair at RNC sparks Internet buzz” – NBC News
  • “Clint Eastwood puts liberals in full panic mode” – New York Daily News
  • “Eastwood mocked for kooky speech at GOP convention” – San Jose Mercury News
  • “Clint Eastwood speech with empty chair upstages Mitt Romney at GOP convention” – Newsday
  • “Eastwood, the empty chair and the speech everyone is talking about” – CNN

And on and on and on.  As of now, Google News is serving up more than 1,500 stories related to the Eastwood speech.  Every one of them distracts, detracts from or otherwise obscures the message Romney and company were hoping we’d be talking about today but aren’t.

Check out the New York Times‘ story this morning on who was responsible for this clusterfuck:

Clint Eastwood’s rambling and off-color endorsement of Mitt Romney on Thursday seemed to startle and unsettle even the candidate’s own top aides, several of whom made a point of distancing themselves from the decision to put him onstage without a polished script.

“Not me,” said an exasperated-looking senior adviser, when asked who was responsible for Mr. Eastwood’s speech. In late-night interviews, aides variously called the speech “strange” and “weird.” One described it as “theater of the absurd.”

Finger-pointing quickly ensued, suggesting real displeasure and even confusion over the handling of Mr. Eastwood’s performance, which was kept secret until the last minute.

A senior Republican involved in convention planning said that Mr. Eastwood’s appearance was cleared by at least two of Mr. Romney’s top advisers, Russ Schriefer and Stuart Stevens. This person said that there had been no rehearsal, to the surprise of the rest of the campaign team.

But another adviser said that several top aides had reviewed talking points given to Mr. Eastwood, which the campaign had discussed with the actor as recently as a few hours before his appearance. Mr. Eastwood, however, delivered those points in a theatrical, and at times crass, way that caught Romney aides off guard, this person said.

Mr. Stevens, in an interview, said he would not discuss internal decision making but described Mr. Eastwood’s remarks as improvised.

There’s some profiles in courage there. I can hardly wait for a Romney presidency in which the aides race one another to their iPhones to rat out their colleagues – anonymously of course – when real decisions go wrong.

Couple last  night’s mess with everything else that went wrong or off-message in Tampa (cancellation of Day 1, the Christie keynote (aka “It’s All About Me”), the cult of Paul Ryan, the peanut tossers, being upstaged by his wife and Condeleeza Rice, the untruths of the Ryan speech, the Ron Paul distractions) and this was NOT a good convention for Romney. Anne Romney, maybe, but not Mitt.

Yes, the GOP talking points would have us believe otherwise, but the reality is that Mitt Romney got less out of this convention than almost anyone. Instead of a bounce, I’m expecting more of a post-convention “thud” in the next set of polls.

Oh well, there’s still the debates.  Governor Romney was pretty good in the Republican debates where he could play Snow White to the Seven Dwarfs but I’m not entirely sure he’ll come across so well in a one-on-one comparison with Obama.

– Austin

 

Vikings’ Jerry Burns Reminds Us How Badly PR Has F-ed Up News Viewing

The field of public relations has sucked nearly all the emotion, candor, color and sincerity out of news programming.

I haven’t done formal research on this, but my sense is that all of this started in the political world.  After the political handlers got done “training” their bosses and clients, the politicans became rhetorical robots.  As a result, they are now less likely to say anything politically perilous, but they are also unlikely to say anything remotely thought-provoking or candid.

The Sunday news shows are living proof.   Virtually no intelligent life can be found there.  It’s not because the guests aren’t intelligent.  It’s because the guests have all been trained.

About the same time, the burgeoning class of media trainers started to suck out what little color and candor ever existed in the world of corporate communications.  PR pros taught their bosses and clients to stay emotionally flat, avoid unflattering questions, and stay “on message” at all costs.  That is sound advice for the client, to a point, but it is absolutely lethal for audiences hoping to learn anything about a businessperson’s actual personality, insights, or intentions.

Increasingly, this rhetorical neutering reached, sigh, the sports world.  Listen to current Minnesota Vikings coach Leslie Frazier, in all his emotionally flat, cliché-ridden blandness.  “One game at a time,” “everyone do their jobs,” “you take what they give you,” “stick with our game plan.”  Blah, blah, blahtedy blah.  Like white noise, Frazier interviews numb the ear drum.

The ever-programmed Coach Frazier will never begin to hold a player publicly accountable.  For instance, when wide receiver Percy Harvin recently spent a week acting like a spoiled brat, Coach Frazier, who had to be absolutely livid, instead looked like he had been lobotomized.  I can assure you, he had been, by media trainers.

As a result of all this training, I am no more likely to watch an interview of the Vikings’ verbal Vulcan than I am to watch an interview of Mitt Romney, John Boehner, Harry Reid, or Nancy Pelosi.  I have learned from experience that none of them will ever say anything remotely genuine or unscripted.  After all, they have been trained.

If you doubt me about how bad sports interviews have become from a spectators’ standpoint, treat yourself to a walk down memory lane with former Vikings Coach Jerry Burns.

Warning:  Do not watch this with the volume up within earshot of  the kiddies, clergy or your mother:

And mind you, this was a game the Vikings won.

Put that Burns interview alongside a contemporary Leslie Frazier interview, and you will see why the NFL is now rightfully called the “No Fun League.”  Burnsy wasn’t afraid to let his real emotions out, provide somewhat frank analysis and bring his cartoon character personality to the screen.  Burns was employed in the entertainment business, and he entertained unabashedly.

If the Vikings hired me to media train Jerry Burns, I supposed I’d feel obligated to put him through Charm School.  And you know what?  F*#k me for doing it.

– Loveland

Programming note:  Thanks to a West Coast Rowdy reader for passing along the vintage video.

Let’s Give Sorkin and “The Newsroom” Due Credit.

The underlying irony of Aaron Sorkin’s new HBO show, “The Newsroom”, and I’m sure he’s well aware of it, is that as much as he wants to use it to frame a discussion about the half-assed, highly compromised job so many outlets of professional journalism are doing in this country today, he too has to dilute and diminish his product to keep it commercially viable.

I had to play catch up with the three episodes that have aired so far. The first, where lovable-but-curmudgeonly cable network anchor Jeff Daniels (aka Will McAvoy), goes off on a Northwestern coed for her “let’s all reaffirm each other” question about why America is the greatest country on earth, was ripped about a hundred new ones by virtually every critic on the planet. The knives were obviously out for Sorkin. (There are even video mash-ups of “Sorkinisms”.) Having caught up … the fault I find with the main thrust of the criticism is that it gives too little credit to Sorkin’s larger ambition. The guy has ambitions beyond making another fortune. In its best moments it is plain that he wants to elevate the grade-level discourse of modern commercial entertainment from the fifth to maybe the eleventh, with a dash of college prep work here and there. Can we at least acknowledge that he has other interests than padding his bank account with yet another cop or hospital show stocked with maximum-allowable beef and cheesecake?

Gratuitous name-dropping paragraph … so I asked Sorkin over drinks in a Pasadena restaurant … why he had so consciously avoided the truly unhinged, insane levels of naked partisanship of the Clinton era while cooking up scripts for “The West Wing”? Earlier, I had asked him much the same at press gatherings. His answer remained constant. He wanted to imagine and paint a better world, a world where large-stage politics wasn’t primarily about venal rat-fucking and shameless self-aggrandizing. (He didn’t use the phrase “rat-fucking”, but I knew what he was talking about.)

My counter argument was that if he wanted the frisson of stark reality to drive audience interest (and pundit attention) how could drawing lessons from a protracted bogus scandal like Whitewater, with all the craven demagoguery and serio-comic arm-flapping involved, hurt the ratings? His basic answer was that “West Wing’s” ratings were just fine, thank you.

The commercial dilution factor of “The Newsroom” isn’t in the “speechifying” which seems to annoy both TV critics and general audiences, (but really is pretty entertaining), but rather the “personal relationship” factor. Translated: “Romantic interest” for those forced by their spouse or date to sit through McAvoy railing on about how, in actual fact, more Americans believe in angels than understand their own health insurance. Even Sorkin has said that the success of the show hinges on how much we care about the characters.

Well, dude, on that point you do have some problems. I freely admit that at my advanced age I have only limited patience with still more self-consciously whip smart post grad students agonizing over their romantic choices and failings. But then, that stuff kinda bored me when I was 24. Is life really made better by over-analyzing every remark and statement you make and is made to you? More to the point, while Sorkin’s opening dialogue in “The Social Network”, (via 50-plus takes by director David Fincher), was quite clever, let’s not forget that Mark Zuckerberg was/is trying to “out-asshole” everyone else, including nice girls who might have modified him for the better, though maybe not the wealthier.

Week Two of ‘The Newsroom” was particularly ghastly in terms of the latter-day Tracy-Hepburn ratta-tat-tat battle-of-the-genders dialogue between the kiddies. The contrast between the big, serious, fat-and-ripe news and culture story lines and the cutie-pie love stories for the masses stuff is so extreme whenever the kids come on the screen they might as well put up a card saying — “Adults Are Advised to Use the Next Four Minutes for Bathroom Needs”.

This past week’s episode, with Jane Fonda as the network boss, re-balanced the show in favor of the stuff that Sorkin, who is now 51, (so a ways past grad-school flirtation and angst) knows best, thinks most deeply about and therefore best distinguishes “The Newsroom”.

There are plenty of things to quarrel with in terms of how the newsroom in question functions. Let’s not get started again on the likelihood of any newsroom on any planet advancing the Deepwater Horizon story as far as Sorkin’s crew did on Day #1. But the larger point in Sorkin’s favor is this: At a time when both mainstream entertainment and mainstream journalism, TV in particular, tip-toe only reluctantly and fretfully into large festering cultural issues such as — how the not so bright base of the Tea Party has been radicalized to protect and serve powerful forces largely indifferent to their quality of life — Sorkin not only has identified that trend as epochal, but has the talent and industry standing to produce it as mass entertainment — America’s best form of lubricated instruction.

Were I his producer … I would strongly advise him to shift focus steadily away from the kids’, “OMG! Did he just say that to me?!” jabberings and devote steadily more energy to the conflicts inherent in trying to/daring to describe (as opposed to avoiding) the roiling ocean of dramatic material informed adults see playing out in front of their eyes every day … and night on TV news.

This century needs another Paddy Chayefsky, not another John Hughes.

The show also needs a Tucker Carlson-like character to be foisted on McAvoy as a “balancing” foil, a la the early days of MSNBC, when the network suits looked up from their demographic research and told Phil Donahue he had to book two conservatives for every liberal guest he (unwisely) placed in front of their network cameras.

“In Order to Form a More Rowdy Book Club…”

Crowdies –

I have an experiment I’d like to propose.  Let’s read the new book “It’s Even Worse Than It Looks” by Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein and have a virtual book club discussion around it next month.

The book talks about the dysfunction afflicting the Congress and the confluence of forces that have contributed to – and perpetuate – that dysfunction. Mann and Ornstein are serious and longstanding Congressional and political observers, are not bomb-throwers from the left or the right and have some cred: Mann is a senior fellow in Governance Studies at The Brookings Institution and Ornstein is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

What I have in mind is something similar to what we did in 2010 with gubernatorial candidate Tom Horner: I’ll put up a post on a certain date that kicks off the discussion and then let the discussing – and cussing – begin.  I’ll extend an invite to both authors to join us (you never know) but even in their absence, we could have an interesting conversation and – who knows – we might learn something.

Book clubs seem to meet on Wednesdays for some reason so how does Wednesday, August 8 sound?  That gives us a month to get the book and read it.

No need for a show of hands!  Go forth and read!

– Austin

Brainstorm or Braindrain?

All wet?
Those of you in the PR, advertising and marketing business are probably very familiar with the brainstorm model of idea generation, but I know it is also used in many other industries.

For those of you who have been left out of the brain rain, here is a crash course: During brainstorms, a group of colleagues closes themselves into a room and spontaneously blurts out ideas on the given topic. The ideas are excitedly written on giant Post-it notes adhered to the walls by a perky brain storm facilitator.

“There is no such thing as a bad idea,” the facilitator, pacing around the room frenetically, continually reminds us, usually after someone offers a particularly bad idea. “The wilder the idea, the better!”

The group is urged to generate a large quantity of ideas, and rapidly build off ideas with supplements or variations. Toys and treats are often offered, to foster creativity. A few people usually sit quietly looking at their watches, and looking idealess, while a relative few dominate the airwaves. The session ends with the chirpy facilitator congratulating the participants, pointing to all of the giant Post-it Notes on the walls as evidence of the world changing ideas that the brainstorm precipitated.

Brainstorming, which was particularly promoted by legendary BBDO ad man Alex Osborn, is the operational and cultural building block of many creatively oriented businesses. The brainstorm session is to PR and agencies as the assembly line is to a manufacturer. It’s the place where the company’s talent synergistically comes together to create MAGIC.

Or does it?

In the book “Quiet: The Power of Intoverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking,” author Susan Cain examines the heavy workplace emphasis on consensus and teamwork generally, and the brainstorming work model specifically. Cain cites research done by University of Minnesota psychology professor Marvin Dunnette in 1963. Dunnette asked ad executives and 3M executives to do a set of tasks. Some worked alone, and some in groups. Cain writes:

The results were unambiguous. The men in 23 of the 24 groups produced more ideas when they worked on their own than when they worked as a group. They also produced ideas of equal or higher quality when working individually. And the advertising executives were no better at group work than the presumably introverted research scientists.

Since then, some forty years of research has reached the same startling conclusions. Studies have shown that performance gets worse as group size increases…

‘The “evidence from science suggests that businesspeople must be insane to use brainstorming groups,’ writes the organizational psychologist Adrian Furnham. ‘If you have talented and motivated people, they should be encouraged to work alone when creativity or efficiency is the highest priority.’

…Psychologists usually offer three explanations for the failure of group brainstorming. The first is social loafing: in a group some individuals tend to sit back and let others do the work. The second is production blocking: only person can talk or produce an idea at once while the other group members are forced to sit passively. And the third is evaluation apprehehsion: meaning the fear of looking studid in front of one’s peers.”

So, why is brainstorming still such a big part of business operations?

Because we’re all afraid to protest, for fear we will look like killjoys who can’t appreciate all the giddy merriment and free Snickers bars?

Because all of those Post-it notes on the wall feel more like tangible evidence of productivity than the evidence offered by peer reviewed scientific research?

Because the extraverted leaders that tend to lead organizations personally are attracted to the energy such sessions gives them?

Quick, someone get some giant Post-it Notes, colored markers, beanbag chairs and Cheetos. We’ll get to the bottom of this in no time!

– Loveland

“Vacation, Vacation, Vacation” Trumps “Jobs, Jobs, Jobs” At Minnesota Legislature

Republican politicians love to cite private sector experiences as their guiding compass in legislative matters. They puff out their pin-striped draped chests and declare (feel free to use a Foghorn Leghorn voice if you’d like):

“In the private sector, we do audits and cut the fat we identify.”

“In the private sector, we know how to create jobs by golly.”

“In the private sector, we demand accountability from our investments.”

These kinds of private sector references got a lot of traction with voters in the 2010 elections. To voters, the private sector expertise seemed key to producing the “jobs, jobs, jobs” that Republican candidates were promising, promising, promsing.

For now, let’s put aside the question of whether the private sector really is more lean, efficient, and accountable than the public sector. For today, I pose a different question. Can you ever imagine private sector fans making this boast:

“In the private sector, we set a goal of punching out super early with major projects unfinished, so we have more time to be at home.”

That’s not one I hear a lot. Yet according to an article in yesterday’s Star Tribune, those in the Minnesota Legislature who are most likely to start sentences with “In the private sector” are…

…edging toward a historically early end to the legislative session, potentially ditching dozens of prized initiatives in their determination to head home and hit the campaign trail.

The tulips are up, the bushes are budding and it’s time to go home,” said Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, amid buzz that next Friday’s targeted start for spring recess could instead become a final adjournment.

Senjem has been cajoling lawmakers into adjourning by the end of the week, more than a month before the constitutionally mandated end.

House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, would prefer to go till the end of April. That would still be the earliest adjournment in 14 years.

No jobs bill because of...
Really? When the going gets tough, the tough gets…gardening?

I ask you, do you hear old Bill Cooper, the CEO at TCF Bank, declaring to his Carlson School cronies, “The tulips are up, boys, so let’s punch out early and head to our respective mansions?” Hell no, Bill the Bankster makes sure they all stay until every last bank fee is raised. That’s the way they do it “in the private sector!”

But among the private sector’s champions at the Capitol, it seems their goals are mighty modest.

“As far as I am concerned, if we can block a whole bunch of spending in a bonding bill and get the photo ID bill done, that’s enough,” said Sen. Dave Thompson, R-Lakeville, who faces his first re-election.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to see them stay in session into the summer, like last year. As Will Rogers said, “This country has come to feel the same when Congress is in session as when the baby gets hold of a hammer.”

But I have to say, with all the issues Minnesota faces — schools that need to be paid back, chronically unemployed workers who need jobs, structural deficits that need fixing — the earliest adjourment in 14 years seems pretty lame to many of us “in the private sector.”

– Loveland

Minnesota GOP Legislators Announce Full Blockade of St. Paul and Minneapolis

Friday near Raspberry Island.
Saint Paul (AP) — Minnesota Republican legislative leaders said today that their decision to defund nearly all bonding projects in Minnesota’s two largest cities was just the beginning, as they began preparation for a full blockade reminiscent of the U.S. blockade of communist Cuba in the 1960s.

Earlier this week, the Republican majority in the Legislature refused to approve most bonding requests from Minneapolis and Saint Paul, the two cities that are Minnesota’s most reliable Democratic political strongholds. Longtime observers of the Legislature characterized this year’s bonding bill as the most partisan in Minnesota history. But Republican leaders maintain that further pressure is needed to break the core cities’ will.

“Killing their dream of a sub-minor league baseball field was a start, but more government reform is needed,” said Senate Capital Investment Chairman Ronnie Wright (R-Bunker Hills). “So we’re going to blockade the metrosexual candy asses.”

In anticipation of the blockade, Republican legislators were reported to be hording legislators’ favorite urban delicacies before they become unavailable during a blockade, such as Fabulous Fern’s ‘Fern Burgers,’ mini soap bars from the Kelly Inn Best Western, and tassles from Augie’s Cabaret.

“Hey Jack Kennedy smuggled 1,000 cigars out of Cuba, so you can’t expect us go cold turkey,” said Rep. Richard Dick (R-Sticks). “And I’m just telling you, they don’t call it the ‘Best Western’ for nothin.”

The blockade leaders rejected charges that they had lost their promised focus on producing “jobs, jobs, jobs” during a sluggish economic recovery.

“Those in the liberal media who charge that this is just about a raw political power grab are dead wrong,” said Rep. Wy Kayer (R- Stillwhiter). “It’s simply about raining the Creator’s righteous wrath down upon those in Sodom and Gomorrah who insist on voting for unconstitutional sinning, that’s all.”

But legislators acknowledge that even a full commercial, economic and financial embargo may not be sufficient to keep their Tea Party supporters sufficiently aroused.

“If the blockade doesn’t work, we are not ruling out a full Bay of Pig’s Eye invasion,” said Kayer.

Subpoena Day at the Minnesota Legislature!

In my high school, we had a Valentines Day ritual that non-popular kids like me dreaded. The Spanish Club came up with the brilliant idea of selling carnations for students to give to each other. Red was for “love,” white was for “hope,” and blue was for “friendship.” And, of course, nothing signified, alas, nothingness.

Needless to say the jocks and foxes looked like Rose Bowl Parade floats all day long, while I was as unadorned as a devout Amish elder. No love. No hope. No friendship. It was botanical bullying, pure and simple. There are scars. Oh yes, there are scars.

Will he or won't he?
Similarly, a litigious version of Carnation Day appears to be brewing at the Minnesota State Capitol. Like the Spanish Club, former GOP spokesperson Michael Brodkorb, who was fired from his job after having an affair with Senate leader Amy Koch, is looking for a good fundraising idea. So he is launching a half million dollar lawsuit, and will be issuing subpoenas to former colleagues who, Brodkorb alleges, have had red carnation style carnal relations with each other.

Therefore, the State Capitol, whose petty, insular culture has always been a whole lot like high school culture, is all atwitter about this critical question: “Who will get a Shaboink Subpoena??”

However, given my history of floral abuse, I’m obsessed with the question “Who won’t get a subpoena?” After all, imagine the humiliation if it is revealed that, with all the political porking that apparently has been going on, you DIDN’T have what it takes to have had a ball in the Great Hall, or fun-da in the Rotunda?

The funny thing is, when you think about the Minnesota Legislature, attraction is about the last thing that comes to mind. The way they go at each other verbally, it’s difficult to imagine anyone doing the wild thing with anyone else. Plus, they’re so busy defending marriage and all.

But as with prison cells, there are apparently two basic interpersonal challenges associated with life in the tight confines of the State Capitol: The inmates either hate each other too much, or love each other too much.

At any rate, this is just a long way of saying if I were a legislator, I’m pretty sure I’d have my mom call in sick for me on Shaboink Subpoena Day.

– Loveland

‘Hits-For-Cash’ Bounty Scandal Rocks Minnesota Legislature

Saint Paul (AP) — The far-reaching investigation into a Minnesota Legislature “bounty” scandal is reverberating across the nation and threatens to tarnish the loveable image of the Minnesota GOP Party.

As many as 27 Minnesota GOP legislators were reportedly paid an undisclosed amount of Super PAC donations for vicious hits intended to knock low-income Minnesotans out of the safety net.

According to undisclosed sources, GOP-friendly Super PACs paid into a “bounty” fund, and former GOP Chair Bobby Butterball would dole out the bounty payments based on how many low income people were knocked out of the social safety net.

Especially large bounties were reportedly paid by Super PACs for a number of recent bell-ringing hits against vulnerable Minnesotans:

• Making deep budget cuts impacting the most vulnerable Minnesotans, in order to protect the wealthy from paying their fair share in taxes;
• Attacking poverty stricken children as “animals” who shouldn’t be fed;
• Blocking implementation of the Affordable Care Act, which will reduce the uninsured rate by 32 million people; and
• Pushing a photo ID law that makes it more difficult for low income people to vote bounty recipients out of office.

Facing mounting evidence, Butterball now admits carrying out the cash-for-performance scheme.

“If children were somehow upset by being called “animals” who shouldn’t be fed, we sincerely regret that they are choosing to victimize us,” Butterball said in a written apology. “Instead of getting caught up in it, I should have done a better job covering it up. For that, I am deeply, deeply sorry.”

Despite the tearful Butterball apology, many Republican legislators maintain politics has always been a violent sport built around punishing your most vulnerable constituents. And they point out that Minnesota Republicans still have 17 percent of Minnesotans who approve of their job performance.

Robert Hitman, a former GOP spokesperson and writer of the blog democratsaregravysuckingpigswhoaregoingtofryforallofeternityinhell.com, said the best legislators in the history of politics have always brought a toughness to the game.

“They want an edge mentally,” explained Hitman. “They want to break their opponent’s will to vote, and the best way to break to do that is to strip away their ability to eat, work and get health care for their loved ones. The media needs to stop whining, because that’s just how the game is played.”

Still, many political observers say the bounty program went too far.

“We really have to figure out where to draw the line,” said University of Minnesota political science professor Clarence B. Milquetoast. “And now I’m obligated to say that both parties are equally guilty.”

Memo to Minnesota Republican Candidates

He spooned with John McCain in 2008, and promised that Minnesota was a purple state that a Republican could win with the help of his considerable home state clout. McCain lost Minnesota by 10 points.

Then, the celebrated Minnesota pol endorsed Minnesota gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer, and Emmer used that golden endorsement to become one of the few Republicans to lose, to a decidedly non-charismatic DFL opponent, amidst a tidal wave of 2010 GOP victories.

He ran for President in 2011. Polls showed Minnesota’s favorite son getting beat in his home state by President Obama, despite the fact that the incumbent President was politically weakened by a sluggish economy.

After abandoning his somnolent presidential run polling in single digits, he next laid his North Star scepter on the favorite in the race, Mitt Romney. In Minnesota last night, Romney lost, by 28 points. The well-funded frontrunner ran against a perennial bottom feeder running on a platform of legalizing meth and hookers, in a Republican caucus process dominated by social conservatives. And with Tim Pawlenty leading the way, Romney got pasted.

Minnesota Republicans, trust me on this. If former Governor Tim Pawlenty comes offering to endorse you for anything in Minnesota – dog catcher, class president, Water Buffalo Lodge President, Klondike Kate contest — run. Run very fast.

– Loveland

Ron Paul: The Black Eyed Pea of Politics

Where's the love y'all?
Yesterday GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul drew 1,800 mall walkers to his Mall of America (MOA) speech.  It’s tempting to characterize this public outpouring as a sign of political viability.  But drawing 1,800 drive-by gawkers at MOA is not especially difficult, as the agent of many a fading boy band star could tell you.  Moreover, Paul’s winless performance in the first several GOP contests would have driven any reality-based candidates from the race by now. 

But still, it’s kind of amazing that the libertarian leprechaun is still drawing anybody, much less twenty-something hipsters.  But he is.

Robert California, James Spader’s character on the NBC TV comedy The Office, said this about another celebrity popular with Generation Whatever We’re Calling This One:

I’m so tired of the Black Eyed Peas.  It’s rock and roll for people who don’t like rock and roll.  It’s rap for people who don’t like rap.  It’s pop for people who don’t like pop.

That, my friends, is Ronald Ernest Paul. 

To the Black Eyed Peas (BEP) generation, Ron Paul is a conservative for people who don’t like conservatives.  Like a good conservative, he promises to strip your obligation to help pay for Grandma’s meds. BUT he doesn’t want to criminalize sex and drugs, as other conservatives do. 

And he’s a liberal for people who don’t like liberals.  Like a good liberal, Ron Paul promises to end America’s costly wars on drugs and phantom WMD. BUT he doesn’t want spend the savings on rebuilding our infrastructure, as other liberals do.

The Paul platform leaves less in taxes for us to pay, and consequently more money in our pockets to spend on newly legalized sex and drugs. Nice.

In this manner, Ron Paul wins the support of Snoop Dogg.  And Barry Goldwater, Jr.  Can the fergalicious lead singer of BEP be far behind?

– Loveland

Minnesota Legislature Announces Lawmaking Partnership With Buzztime Triva™

Saint Paul, Minn., January 30, 2012 – The Minnesota Legislature announced today that it will be delegating additional lawmaking authority to non-elected citizens through a public-private partnership with Buzztime Trivia™, America’s premier provider of bar-based interactive trivia games.

“When we learned that Buzztime Trivia™ could cover 10 trivia questions every 15 minutes, we created Buzztime Lawmaking™ to allow Real People to pass Constitutional Amendments at a more efficient clip than the outdated ballot box system allowed,” said House Speaker Kurt Zellers.

In a beta test of Buzztime Lawmaking™, bar patrons were able to eliminate seven constitutional rights, punish three minority groups, strike the impaired driving law, and exclude bar patrons from taxation, all before the conclusion of Happy Hour.

“Sh*t, most of them questions didn’t take more than a second or two to answer,” said Sparky Franklin, a freshly minted Buzztime Lawmaker. “Them trivia questions are way harder than them lawmaking questions.”

Minnesota lawmakers tout the efficiency and convenience of the new ballot initiative system, which is financed by a fee on shots sold during bar-based lawmaking sessions.

“This is how old Tom Jefferson would have done it if the interwebs had been around back in the 1800s,” McNeely said.

– Loveland

One Minnesota Ballot Initiative I Could Support

As we all know, we have a representative democracy, where we elect leaders to represent us in matters of governance. Depending on how we feel about how they represent us, we either vote them in or out. We don’t have a direct democracy, where the masses directly decide detailed governance issues. No nation on the planet has such a system, unless you consider California a nation.

Representative democracy has worked out well for us. Thanks to in large part to a series of difficult compromises crafted in our legislative bodies, we have one of the most successful states in the nation, and one of the most successful nations in the world.

Tell this to the Minnesota Legislature. Because it is utterly unwilling to compromise, it has not been able to pass much of anything. Therefore, they are passing the buck to voters to do their work for them. The following ballot initiatives may be in front of voters this fall:

Ban thousands of Minnesotans’ right to marry.
• Ban voting for those lacking a photo ID, disproportionately elderly, disabled, poor, and minority Minnesotans.
• Make it almost impossible to reach legislative compromises involving taxation.

I don’t think much of these ideas. But I think even less of the underlying process that increasingly undercuts our heretofore successful system of representative democracy.

However, there is one ballot initiative I could support. I wrote it this morning in in my parlor with a feather quill, but I have faithfully transferred it to typeface for you:

“Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to require an affirmative vote of seven-eighths of the State Legislature before more Constitutional amendments can clutter voters’ ballots?

Please sign the petition and consider making a donation at makethemdotheirjobs.com.

– Loveland

Bad Neighbor

First, it was Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty’s smack down in the Iowa Straw Poll, which prompted his premature evacuation.

Then it was Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann going from first to worst in the blink of an Iowa eye, followed by her Iowegian Chairman stabbing her in the back yesterday.

We Minnesotans have met our Waterloo, Iowa.

Iowa, oh Iowa. We’ve given you Minnesota’s very finest, and you’ve rejected them, for what? A farm subsidy hating Texan? A Bay Stater? Really?

We’ll grant you, our Governor is deadly boring, even to a citizenry that regards boring as a high virtue. And Bachmann’s act — Palin but dumber and meaner — is wearing thin on us too.

But still, we’re freaking neighbors. Does a 275-mile shared border mean nothing to you people?

Maybe it’s Floyd of Rosedale envy. Maybe it’s because we didn’t send enough buses of Minnesotans down to pay your Straw Poll ransom. Or maybe it’s because you’re tired of driving all the way up here only to see our Vikings, Twins, Wild and Timberwolves stink up the joint like an overflowing hog confinement in July.

But come on now, you still have the Food Court at the Mall of America, right?

Whatever it is, we just have to say, it hurts.

– Loveland

Signs That Vikings’ Poor Play May Be Impacting Stadium Push At Capitol

For a long time, I’ve maintained that the quality of the Vikings’ play has almost no impact on the team’s push for a state subsidy to finance a new stadium. But recent developments at the State Capitol are causing me to reconsider that opinion:

• Following yesterday’s twelfth loss of the season, Vikings stadium bill is now being considered as part the Omnibus Homeless Assistance Act.

• During a recent heated exchange on the House floor, a legislator was heard to be bitterly calling his opponent a “Loadholt.”

• During this morning’s opening prayer in the House, firebrand preacher Bradlee Dean referenced Vikings’ quarterback “Muslim Ponder.”

• A member of the Capitol press corps asked the staffer allegedly in an “inapporpriate relationship” with Senator Amy Koch, “who taught you pass defense, Leslie Frazier?”

• The Wisconsin Legislature reportedly has offered to pay for 100% of the new Vikings stadium, to keep the Vikings in the Packers’ division.

• To finance their stadium push, Ramsey County is now suggesting a tax on surging local sales of Prozac and Wellbutrin.

I’m not a lobbyist, but these do not strike me as good signs for the Vikings.

– Loveland

Romney Rally Anthem

Don’t be angry. Don’t be sad.
And don’t sit cryin’ over good times you’ve had.
There’s a girl right next to you.
And she’s just waitin’ for something to do.

And there’s a rose in the fisted glove.
And the eagle flies with the dove.
And if you can’t be with the one you love,
honey, love the one you’re with.

Love the one you’re with.
Love the one you’re with.
Love the one you’re with.

– Stephen Stills

Dayton’s “Dog Doe”

“If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.” That quote, falsely attributed to Harry Truman, may be on Governor Mark Dayton’s mind as the bachelor prepares to adopt his THIRD black German Shepherd.

Dayton is in the news today inviting Minnesotans to help name his adorable new pup. To give you a sense of the Governor’s naming tastes, the first two were named Mingo and Mesabi, and Dakota recently passed away.

Some of the early nominations for Dog Doe’s new name:

• From Republican Senate Majority Amy Koch: “Marx.”
• From DFL Chair Ken Martin: “Taxable.”
• From Democratic U.S. Senator Al Franken: “Smalley.”
• From accuracy challenged U.S. Rep. Michelle Bachmann: “Cat.”
• From Minnesota Democrats Exposed blog: “Dog of Satan.”
• From Former Governor Tim Pawlenty: “President Pawlenty.”
• From MN Independence Party Chairman Mark Jenkins: “None of the Above.”
• From GOP Chair Tony Sutton: “Target Practice.”
• From South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard: “Overtaxed.”
• From Governor’s Mansion neighbor: “ANOTHER?!”

Okay, surely you can do better. Nominations are open.

– Loveland

Grading Standardized Tests

Tests effective?
The news last week about Minnesota’s standardized reading scores reminded me how much I hate standardized tests. In my considered opinion, one-size-fits all standardized tests are the absolute worst tools I have seen for improving education.

Except for all the other options available to us.

Before explaining my Churchillian verdict on standardized tests, I should mention that I was a very poor standardized test taker back in the day. When I should have been answering questions, I tended to be thinking about why they asked the question…or why they used that particular wording…or what kind of deductive mind games they were trying to play…or what kind of test scores Charlie on Charlie’s Angels got in order to land that awesome job…or what is so special about #2 pencils for chrissake…or why the cute girl three rows over would never be interested in a guy like me, or why… And then when they announced there was one minute left before our life’s course would be charted by optical mark recognition equipment, I would guess “C” on the large portion of the test that I had not yet read.

Maybe that shows that I had an attention deficit disorder. Maybe it means I was analytical, creative, intellectually curious, hormonal, or moronic.

Psychoanalysis aside, this was not a winning strategy for me. It also wasn’t a winning strategy for the institutions who wanted an honest assessment of my likelihood of success. Because I turned out to be a “late bloomer,” someone who wasn’t predicted by the optical recognition scanner to succeed in academics or a white collar career, but did.

Given my personal experience, you would think that I’d want to ban standardized tests. I’m sorely tempted. But at the same time, I do think that K-12 schools need to be intentional and disciplined about teaching the foundational skills most of us need to succeed. I do want to keep kids away from teachers and schools who can’t or won’t teach those things. I do want to measure student performance in order to incent individual and institutional improvement, empower parents to vote with their feet, and target early help to kids who are falling behind.

And I can’t figure out how to achieve those things without standardized tests. Maybe those of you who got kickass standardized test scores can figure that out, but I can’t.
Continue reading “Grading Standardized Tests”

Willard in Wonderland

Source: Mike Luckovic, Atlanta Journal Constitution
Willard Mitt Romney’s biggest political vulnerability as a presidential candidate is that he passed Obamacare before President Obama did. After Romney passed the basic equivalent of Obamacare, the Republicans made a seismic shift to the right, making Romney’s golden child look like a shameful bastard child.

As a result, the Father of Romneycare and Grandfather of Obamacare has essentially three choices for managing the angry paternity claims:

MAN UP AND EMBRACE THE KID. Romney could explain why he and other Republicans were right to embrace the private sector health insurance reform model, which, by the way, is dramatically outperforming Rick Parry’s model (Massachusets has 4% uninsured, Texas is six times higher, with 24%).

CONFESS AND REPENT FOR FATHERING A BASTARD. Romney could admit the kid is his, and confess to the Tea Party that he made an unforgiveable error in fathering the reform model that is producing the best health coverage rate in the nation. (The shame!)

GO DEADBEAT AND MAKE SHIT UP. Or Romney could fabricate DNA evidence in an attempt to disprove any common lineage between Obamacare and Romneycare.

Romney has decided to go the fabrication route. In the debates this week and last, he trotted out a series of ridiculous Obamacare-Romneycare differentiators, such as:
Continue reading “Willard in Wonderland”

A (Heavily Medicated) Live-Blog of the GOP Debate.

True, I had to have my restraints re-tightened a couple of times, and I was heavily tranquilized. But I watched the entire GOP debate from the Ronald Reagan Library last night. With the big applause line, that the state of Texas has executed 234 people, still ringing in my ears, I’ve combed back through my live-blog style comments for the highlights of the night, the moments most representative of credible, responsible, America-first, conservative messaging and marketing.


6:59
With a minute to go MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, who is working some kind of raconteur emeritus act these days tells the story of Bobby Kennedy’s pre-debate advice to brother Jack, namely, “Kick ‘im in the balls”. Good lord Chris, there’s a lady present.

7:00 Wait a minute. There are still eight of these cartoons walking around? Rick Santorum is still running? Who is giving him money?

7:03 Rick Perry gets the first question and goes right to his “jobs creator” shtick. Someone will be fact-checking that “95% above the minimum wage” business. But even if 90% of Texans are making 10 cents over the minimum wage, those are “real jobs” in the minds of The Base, not elite-y, college-trained government career-like jobs. I notice he doesn’t mention, nor does Brian Williams follow-up with the inconvenient fact that the fattest chunk of Texas’ job growth has been in … government jobs.

7:04 Mitt Romney, the guy who, to quote David Letterman, “looks like the guy who turned your dad down for a loan” doesn’t like the “buy out specialist” tag Williams puts on him. I assume Team Romney will create some new facts for a 2012 campaign that will call out the numbers of “hard-working middle class Americans” Bain Capital laid off as it stripped companies for assets and quick sales. Note to GOP: If Romney is a viable candidate why not Carl Icahn?

7:10
Rick Santorum … wait I need to Google some info on this guy … is arguing that he is someone who “has done things”, which could mean tieing his own shoes, although frankly he looks like a Velcro slip-on guy to me. He is of course saying that the path to job creation is through a zero percent corporate tax. Not that there’s anyone on the stage — other than Herman Cain — who’ll disagree with that.

7:11 Oh, here’s Herman. And yeah baby, “flat tax”. Did Godfather’s Pizza see a lot of tax-deductible business lunches?

7:12 Jon Huntsman has by far the best tan.

7:14 Our girl Michele finally gets some camera time. Watch her lay in to that fraudulent Tea Party in Name Only Rick Perry … oh wait, she’s talking about federal regulations stifling her small, family business. Is this the farm she gets federal tax support from, or her husband’s pray-the-gay-away front business, for which he’s taken government money? I won’t wait for Williams to ask her how the hub’s small business managed to make “between $50,000 and $100,000 in net income” last year and … still keep the gay away. And, uh what? The Congressional Budget Office has said “Obamacare” is a jobs killer? How did I miss that?

7:15
According to a scientific study Ron Paul makes lucid sense 41.3% of the time. It’s his 58.7% foaming street prophet thing that makes trouble for himself. I notice in this rant about federal regulations, which I guess would have pilots handling their own landing queues, he doesn’t get into the mortality rate of private industry testing out drugs on the general public until they get the formulas right.

7:17 Oh shit … I just blew a quart of high dose sedative formula out my nose. Did Newt Gingrich just give himself credit for the “bi-partisan” way HE created 11 million new jobs in the 1990s? These could not possibly be the same 1990s where a guy named Newt Gingrich obstructed every attempt at budgetary discipline proposed by Bill Clinton, withheld every vote on the budget act that set up government surpluses, threw a tantrum that shut down the entire government and then, as an elder statesman, happily fomented a witch hunt that impeached the most successful jobs creator/deficit reducer of the past hundred years over a sex fling, all while atop a desk boinking his own secretary? That has to be a different Gingrich, right?

7:25 Michele is back. I think her hair has been over-teased. But then Mitt’s looks like a non-government worker applied a quart of marine spar varnish. She is still claiming that “Obamacare” which goes into effect in 2014 has taken over one-sixth of the American economy, which can not be good news for UnitedHealth and all those other companies who struggle against great odds every day to maintain such a clean, straight unimpeded line between you and your doctor.

7:31
Santorum and Perry have just finished explaining how they’d treat poverty in America. Essentially it’s this: Stop the government from doing anything and these malingerers will show some initiative. And they make it sound like they care.

7:35 Michele’s $2 gas promise is not playing too well. But, boy does she have big numbers. I think I have this right. If we set fire to the EPA we would create 1.2 million new jobs, increase energy productions by 50%, and goose the economy by $800 billion. I’m not sure if this also involves turning North Dakota into a sludge pond and burning the homes of 5th District liberals for heating fuel, but if I’m a Tea Partier living on Social Security and Medicare I love the thought of getting the government off my back.

7:37 Huntsman is picking up some of Ron Paul’s disease. He’s talking again about the $13/gallon “true cost of imported oil”, taking into account the military we need to keep the juice flowing from the Middle East and Brunei. I think he hates the troops.

7:40 Ron Paul … in the sanctum sanctorum of the Ronald Reagan library points out that dottering old Ronnie ran up staggering deficits. But Paul stills loves his “message”, wholly bullshit though it was.

7:47 Ohhhh boy, here’s the takeaway for the group-think press herd. Perry is calling Social Security a “Ponzi scheme” again. ‘Wrong from the beginning” he says. “A monstrous lie”. Worse though, for him, he’s getting into it with Karl Rove who is connected to about as much undisclosed SuperPAC cash as the there is money in Social Security. But damn it, like W*, Perry is sayin’ it from his gut. He’s decidin’. He stickin’ to what he believes. Or at least what the Goldman Sachs lobbyist told him is a winning formula for the Americans that matter.

7:53 I am not comfortable watching any of these people talk about the HPV virus, especially the seven very weird middle-aged guys. Ron Paul tells everyone he’s an actual doctor. So why doesn’t he tell everyone how those Big Pharma sales guys — like from Merck — sweeten the pot to make their drug du jour the go-to for what ails “the people”. But really, aren’t we talking pre-marital sex? And why is Rick Santorum looking like he just had unnatural congress with some … thing?

7:59 Newt is reminding … an audience that needs reminding hourly … that “there are people out there who want to kill us”. Does anyone remember how it was back in Ronnie Reagan’s glory years, when no one did? Except those silly Russians? Only since Obama took over have the knives come out.

8:00 Ron Paul’s 58.7% batshit fever has flared up again. We’re spending $20 billion on air conditioning” in Iraq? Oh hell, close enough for debate work.

8:05
It’s really good to know that the 49,000 teachers Rick Perry laid off in Texas and his state’s Mississippi-like graduation numbers were all part of the “thoughtful reductions” he made in out of control, wasteful spending. Of course, we can all agree that the real culprit there was … Mexicans.

8:08 And on the subject of those violent brown people climbing fences to get into the better neighborhoods of Houston and Dallas, and getting the federal government off the states’ backs, Perry demands … the federal government step up and put “boots on the ground”, drones in the air and who knows, straight cash in the pockets of private contractors to seal off the Rio Grande.

8:10 Romney wants the whole enchilada, the 2600 mile fence. Does Bain Capital own a steel fabricator? He’ll have to check.

8:14
Apparently Michele didn’t hear the question. Instead of saying what she would do with the 11 million undocumented “illegals” already here, she riffs on “narco-terrorists”, completing missing her opportunity to link homocidal drug lords to the jobs creation aspects of American assault rifle manufacturers working overtime to build and smuggle heavy-duty firepower into Juarez and Tijuana.

8:17 Bi-polar Ron Paul is back on the 41.7% lucid side, talking about how our drug laws are driving narco-terrorism. BTW, where is my medicinal sensimilla?

8:23 Perry too is down on the negatory of even a 10 to 1 debt deal. He says a national balanced budget amendment would be the only way to “cut the snake’s head off” … just not until the damned pit viper sends out those boots, drones and greenbacks to stop the friggin’ Mexicans.

8:25 Bachmann invokes Ronald Reagan, without making the sign of the cross and kissing a rosary.

8:26
It’s “Malaise in America” time. Huntsman says, “we have lost our confidence as a country”. “Our core is broken … we are weak … “. Good lord man, wear a cardigan the next time.

8:28 Romney agrees. “We have a crisis of confidence … absolutely … .” Romney’s cardigan would be top dollar imported cashmere.

8:29 After complimenting, sort of, Obama for getting Osama bin Laden, “but mostly the SEALS” Perry again reminds his target audience that “government spending will not create one job”. There was a noise outside so I’m not sure if he said, “If you don’t believe me, ask the Chinese”. But before anyone takes that too seriously, get those troops and contractors on permanent patrol down in El Paso, damn it. He’s also against sending troops anywhere without a clear intent. Hear that, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama?

8:31 Michele still doesn’t like what we did in Libya. But those tyrants in Iran … now that’s a whole different story.

8:33 Rick Santorum just called someone else “indecisive and confused”.

8:35 Huntsman is toast. You DO NOT stand under Ronnie Reagan’s airplane and say Republicans lose if they’re anti-science. Ronnie flewall over the world looking for a cure for AIDS, didn’t he?

8:37 Perry won’t buy that climate change bull. And he’s got Galileo on his side.

8:39
Michele reiterates that if we drill in the Everglades “of course we’d do it responsibly”. That’s BP’s promise.

8:44 I’m glad I lasted this long. Enthusiastic, spontaneous applause for 234 death row executions in Texas. That’s one way to keep The Base exclusive.

Damn! It’s over. Screw the sensimilla. Give me a triple Everclear and an appointment for electro-shock.

Kill-er PR Strategy: Low Expectations

Former Gopher football coach Tim Brewster promised “Gopher Nation” an immediate and dramatic turnaround! The most tremendous players in the nation!! Euphoric student body parades into the best stadium in America!!! A Rose Bowl!!!! And a tremendous pony for the first 10,000 fans through the gate!!!!!

New Gopher football coach Jerry Kill promises little. Underwhelming players. An okay marching band. No beer. Maybe, maybe, a win here and there. Hey, what do you expect, you’re the Gophers.

And Minnesotans are LOVING Jerry Kill.

Tremendous.
We Minnesotans have grown weary of sales people. Before Coach Brew, we went gaga for Les Steckel, Red McCombs, Jesse Ventura, Jim Wacker, and many other hucksters who, it turns out, could politic better than they could perform. And they broke our little hearts.

As I’ve said before, expectations management is much more than just smart PR strategy. I believe expectations management is the key to a happy life. And Coach Kill’s anti-pep talks are a model of expectations management, though he would surely caution us about using a strong word like “model.”

Of course, we’ll turn on Coach Kill too when he inevitably – we are the Gophers, after all — underperforms even his low expectations. But at least when Gopher Nation’s next fall happens, it will be, thanks to Kill, from a much lower height.

– Loveland

Five Reasons To HATE State Fair TV News Coverage

I loathe State Fair TV news coverage. And just to preempt the question, yes, I’m not “from here.”

The State Fair begins tomorrow, but State Fair TV news coverage started in roughly February. I’ve already been through a lot, so allow me my primal scream.

Reasons to hate on State Fair TV news coverage:

Reason #1: Because it crowds out all other news coverage. If in the next ten days Kurt Zellers comes out for a 75% tax on all Tea Party members’ Medicare benefits, the Vikings trade a 73-year old groundskeeper for Aaron Rodgers and Charles Woodson, and space aliens colonize a Mahtomedi strip mall, this much I promise you: You will not hear about it. No chance. Why? Because during the last 10 days of August there is sameness happening in Falcon Heights, Minnesota. And there is an unwritten rule in Twin Cities TV newsrooms: All that is the same in Falcon Heights must crowd out all that is new in the rest of the state. (Though to be fair, the crop art turns over every year.)

“It could be that his head wasn’t screwed on quite right. It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too tight. But I think that the most likely reason of all may have been that his heart was two sizes too small.”

Reason #2: Because skinny people repeatedly fabricating overeating stories is never that funny. One of the many recurring gags we will suffer through during State Fair TV news coverage involves willowy anchors and svelte reporters exchanging witty repartee about how grotesquely bloated and obese they are from going all Joey Chestnut on Commoner Food all day long. Oh, the humanity! Their image consultants tell them that pretending to be like the binging masses will help their Nielsens. But make no mistake, they are mocking us, as they spit and rinse their Sweet Martha’s at station breaks, and nibble the sensible sack lunches packed by their personal nutritionists.

“And they’d feast! And they’d feast! And they’d FEAST! FEAST! FEAST!”

Reason #3: Because even hilarious jokes lose their charm when repeated the 653,776th time. “On a stick.” “Jokes” using those three hideous words will be repeated hundreds of times over the next 10 days on TV news. Though even Ed McMahon wouldn’t laugh the 653,776th time, you can count on our TV news friends to guffaw uproariously at every “on a stick” utterance, as if they just heard it for the first time. To make things worse, every PR person in town will put their client’s product or service on-a- stick – long term care insurance on-a-stick, get it?! — because it is the one guaranteed way to get coverage for your otherwise non-newsworthy client.

“They’d stand hand in hand and they’d start singing.”

Reason #4. Because Def Leppard hasn’t been remotely newsworthy for at least twenty years. …yet we can be certain that there will be a full length news story about them by every station. Why? Because for the last ten days or August, anything within earshot of the broadast booth is automatically deemed newsworthy. Plus, it’s so adorable when Frank tosses “Pour Some Sugar On Me” segues to Amelia.

“They’d sing! And they’d sing! AND they’d SING! SING! SING! SING!”

Reason #5. Because the 3.5 million Minnesotans who avoid the Fair every year are people too. One of the most fascinating parts of State Fair news coverage – and it’s quite a competition — is regular attendance updates. Spolier alert: The number will astound the reporters. Last year, it was 1.77 million. Though I’ve always suspected that’s probably the same 177,000 mini-donut addicts coming back each of the ten days, for the sake of argument, I’ll accept the number. Even using that number, that leaves something like 3.56 million of us — about two-thirds of all Minnesotans, I’ll have you know — who have chosen NOT to attend the State Fair. And maybe, just maybe, those of us who chose to stay away from the Great Minnesota SweatTogether would rather the news broadcast contain a little actual NEWS.

“Why for fifty-three years I’ve put up with it now! I MUST stop it from coming! …But HOW?”

There. I’m better now. Nothing like a good rant. On a stick.

– Loveland

MnDOT Battles Minnesota Nice

Zip it.
Governments conduct public education campaigns on many important issues, but I especially have zeal for a righteous cause being promoted by our Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) – the Zipper Merge movement.

During Minnesota’s construction season, drivers are frequently required to merge due to a closed lane. And merge they do. In fact, they overmerge. Seemingly in a silent competition to showcase how doggone polite and law-abiding each of them is, Minnesota Nice drivers tend to merge the nano-second they learn of the lane closure.

The problem is, this early merging leaves vast expanses of unused road capacity in the merging lane. And as we all know, unused road capacity is a priceless commodity in a construction zone. Unused road capacity aggravates traffic congestion. It costs millions per mile to construct urban freeways, and yet we leave them vacant?

In this particular scenario, Minnesota Nice effectively becomes Minnesota Moronic.

But thank goodness, MnDOT has come to the rescue with it’s Zipper Merge campaign. Instead of the “early merge” the Minnesota Nicers use, drivers are urged by MnDOT to “zipper merge,” or drive to the very end of the merging lane before taking turns merging. When the zipper merge is done correctly, an aerial view of the lane looks like a closing zipper, with little-to-no unused road space.

This utilitarian MnDOT video won’t win any cinematic or soundtrack awards, but it explains the concept well enough.

So, my oh-so-nice Minnesota neighbors, please repeat after me: Zipper Merging is our friend. Zipper Merging is not rude. Zipper Merging makes maximum use of the merging lane, and consequently reduces construction-related congestion. Therefore, Zipper Merging is what good neighbors do for each other.

But despite MnDOT’s best efforts, the Zipper Merge remains a VERY challenging concept for most Minnesotans. It still feels naughty to them, like budging in the school cafeteria line on Tater Tot hotdish day.

The situation isn’t helped by vigilante drivers, who are apparently so convinced that the Zipper Merge represents highway robbery that they straddle the two lanes so as to clog the zipper, and force inefficient, self-defeating early merging. Needless to say, sometimes the communications between the Zippers and the Minnesota Nice vigilantes gets Minnesota Nasty.

So anyway, you go, MnDOT. I’ll happily march with you to right this wrong.

– Loveland