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

 

 

Hope and Branding

NEW SLAUGHTERBefore getting to the important stuff, as a member of “the single-payer left”, but also someone sees Obamacare as a substantial step forward, can I just say that I’m delighted to see a resurgence of skepticism among the “lamestream” press over the hysterical claims coming from Obamacare’s entrenched opponents?

First there was Eric Stern’s instant classic, “Inside the FoxNews Lie Machine”, where Stern fact-checked three sets of guests in a Sean Hannity interview. Then a couple of days ago Jim Tankersley of The Washington Post reported a story out of Rome, Georgia on a guy convinced his small business failing was entirely Obama’s fault.  (By all means read through the comments section on that one.) Then yesterday we had Michael Hiltzik in the Los Angeles Times doing the same thing as Mr. Stern in a piece titled, “Another Obamacare horror story debunked”.

Continue reading “Hope and Branding”

It’s the “Hysterical Delusional Affirmation” Syndrome

NEW SLAUGHTERThis was pretty good from Charlie Cook’s National Journal column today …

“Driving in to work Tuesday morning while listening to WTOP, Washington’s excellent all-news radio station, I heard my friend, the extremely able congressional reporter Dave McConnell, relate a conversation he had with a Republican House member. This member told McConnell that allowing the debt ceiling to be breached might “get the leadership’s attention.” That sounded like a kid saying if he threw his mother’s priceless vase against the wall, she might start letting him do what he wants. Political judgment this bad, coming from members of Congress, is a dangerous thing for a party. When it comes to dealing with something with enormous consequences, such as intentionally creating a situation that could lead to default on our national debt, we are no longer quibbling about minor differences of opinion.

Continue reading “It’s the “Hysterical Delusional Affirmation” Syndrome”

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”

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.

Five Good and Bad Sideshows At Target Field

Since the Twins aren’t much to watch on the field these days, the sideshows start to take on more significance.  Target Field itself remains a draw.  Witness the fact that we still feel compelled to post Facebook photos of ourselves making the scene at games.    But beyond the overall venue are the sideshows, both the good and the bad:

The Bad

Mascot Race.  For some reason, almost all pro sports teams feel compelled to feature some sort of cartoon figure race.  Whatever charm they once initially had is long gone.  While Target Field’s mascot race is slightly better than Metrodome’s cartoon tire races, it is still very, very lame.  And does anyone else think it’s just a little crooked that Target’s corporate mascot has won more races at Target Field than Babe the Oxe, Squita,  and the others?  The corporate fix is obviously in.  Are you seriously telling me a mosquito can’t move faster than a bull terrier?

Every Day is Veteran’s Day.  Before I get hammered for this, please know that I’m extremely thankful for people who serve in the military, especially when they serve in places and ways the politicians should never have authorized.  Overall, we don’t thank them enough.  Still, the cynic in me wonders if the fact that pro sports corporations honor veterans every single game has something to do with “patriotic by association” brand building.  I hope I’m wrong, but that suspicion eats at me. I’ve worked in PR and marketing long enough to know that such crassness is a distinct possibility.  Yes, honor veterans on Memorial Day, July 4th and other special days.  But when the honoring is done every single game, several times per game, it starts to feel forced, cheapened and self-serving.  I’m sure I’m the minority on this issue.  But there, I said it.

Interlude Music.  I’m very, very old, but even I find myself longing to hear music at the game from the current decade.  Not only am I sick to death of 70s and 80s classic rock staleness, but the songs themselves just don’t fit the Minnesota venue.  “Just a city boy, growing up in South Detroit…”  Hello, can you say “hated division rival?”

The Wave. From a very young age, my kids learned that if they participate in The Wave, it will make them ineligible for 7th inning ice cream, and they will be suspended from attendance to the next game.  Sometimes parenting requires tough love.  The Wave is never acceptable at a baseball game, but the worst is when it is done when the home team is getting hammered.   Serious fans do not participate in expressions of “Yay, we’re so euphoric about being 10 runs down that we’re going absolutely bananas here at Target Field!”

Applause Signs.  The electronic scoreboard prompts to “ make some noise” also brings out my grumpy.  Call me old school, but I feel like fans themselves should decide when they feel like cheering.  And if fans aren’t feeling it – perhaps because the home team is hitting .150 with runners in scoring position – electronic begging comes across as just plain pathetic.

The Good

Kiss Cam. Though I’m strongly opposed to public displays of affection, I confess I’m a complete sap for the Kiss Cam.  From the “awww”-inducing octageneraian pecks to the twenty something’s scandalous tonsil ticklers, that old Kiss Cam always makes me smile, in spite of myself.

Hecklers.  Thousandaires lighting into gazillionaires with a string of creative insults — “I’ve seen snakes with better arms!”  — also brings a smile to my sourpuss face.  I don’t heckle, because my momma brought me up right.  Plus, I genuinely feel like the guys are usually doing their best.  But the fact that the powerless can feel free to let loose on the powerful, without fear that they will be punished for it…  Aint that America?

Kid Preference.  When ball players flip a ball into the stands, it’s almost always to a young kid.  When an adult fan kills himself to haul in a foul ball, they often give it away it to a kid, often a kid they never met before.  This is us at our best.  Would that our  collective fiscal decisions were borne of such magnanimity.

Candid Sales Pitches.  I always bought from the beer vendor who called out “Beer here, fifty-one dollars per six pack,” until he mysteriously disappeared.  I also love “Free Root Beer!  $4.75 delivery.”  Thankfully, that guy is still on the job.  I appreciate candor in the face of thievery.  If only the banksters were that transparent and self-effacing.

Take Me Out To the Ball Game.  I never tire of it.  I always sing it, badly.  That quote “a bad day at the ballpark is better than a good day at the office” must have been conceived during the sentimental singing of baseball’s national anthem.  “I don’t care if I never get back” indeed.  Bring us home, Buck:

– Loveland

Peeling Back Minnesota’s Media Layers

Compared to other Americans, are Minnesotans more intellectual in their media choices? More conservative? Liberal? Business minded? Worldly?

Or  are they sophmoric wise asses?

It appears the latter.  A recent Forbes analysis says that stereotypically stoic, humorless Minnesotans are disproportionately likely to be readers and sharers of, drumroll please:

The Onion.

Yes, The Onion, the self-styled “America’s Finest News Source.”  For those of you who aren’t real Minnesotans who are familiar with The Onion, it is a satirical news publication that currently features such fine journalism as:

Court Orders Amazon.com To Adopt Bankrupt Bookstores’ Cats

Tiger Woods’ Reputation Takes Another Hit After He Is Caught Operating A Coal Mine With Flagrant Disregard For OSHA Regulations

General Mills Gives Honey Nut Cheerios Bee Intense Backstory Of Childhood Foster Home Abuse In Bizarre Rebranding Effort

Forgive me for getting verklempt, but I’m not sure I’ve ever been more proud of my adopted state.

– Loveland

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? Really?

This is not — really — a joke. So Mitt Romney walks into a the offices of a GOP phone bank. To rally the troops, you see. The place is crowded with volunteers furiously dialing up voters to prevent what appears to be the certain overturn of the Wisconsin-like anti-collective bargaining legislation rammed into law by Ohio’s new and now deeply unpopular (54% disapproval) governor.

The standard move in these situations is for the candidate to make — at least one — call himself. For the cameras. “Hi, Mrs. Lebowski? This is Mitt Romney. No, really, Mitt Romney. Yes, yes, ‘the guy who looks like he turned your dad down for a loan’, that Mitt Romney’. But no. Not only doesn’t Romney dial-up an Ohio citizen and urge them to support their Republican governor and his aggressive, 21st century union-busting, anti-middle class Republican legislation … Romney doesn’t even endorse what everyone in the room is working so hard to save.

From the CNN story:

Romney expressed generic support for Kasich’s efforts to curtail union rights, but he would not say whether he supports or opposes the specific measures.

“I am not speaking about the particular ballot issues,” Romney said, only after repeated questions from reporters. “Those are up to the people of Ohio. But I certainly support the efforts of the governor to reign in the scale of government. I am not terribly familiar with the two ballot initiatives. But I am certainly supportive of the Republican Party’s efforts here.”

If you’re like me you say, “Well, that’s classic Romney. The guy gives shameless, naked pandering another even worse name. He’s been on five sides of every issue you can think of.” Democrats love the guy for precisely this kind of completely craven and predictable waffling. In addition to the deliciously ripe story of his career as essentially a corporate raider, many times eviscerating American companies and requiring hundreds of middle-class lay-offs in exchange for his own fast profit, Romney is the kind of competition that manufacturers his own oppo-research and attack ads. And, more to my point here, the modern conservative “intelligentsia”, a crowd heavily self-invested in rigid-sounding, ersatz-populist dogmas and total victory-without-compromise is well aware of it. Hence his 25% polling … behind … Herman Cain, a guy who hasn’t even bothered to assemble a full function campaign apparatus.

And ladies and gentlemen, Mitt Romney is where he is today, among the leaders for the Republican nomination, because he is regarded as “the most electable of those running”. Of all of the cartoonish characters on the GOP candidate menu, Romney is the default candidate because he seems the guy with the best chance of beating Barack Obama …. which could still happen. Even the heretofore commonly accepted icons of conservative thought — people like George Will and John Podhoretz — have gone public with very serious doubts about Romney and the rest of the cast.

Said Will Sunday: “Romney, supposedly the Republican most electable next November, is a recidivist reviser of his principles who is not only becoming less electable; he might damage GOP chances of capturing the Senate. Republican successes down the ticket will depend on the energies of the Tea Party and other conservatives, who will be deflated by a nominee whose blurry profile in caution communicates only calculated trimming.”

Earlier last week Podhoretz, in Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post wrote of the entire GOP field, “Memo to the Republican field: You’re running for president. Of the United States. Of America. Start acting like it. Stop proposing nonsense tax plans that won’t work. Stop making ridiculous attention-getting ads that might be minimally acceptable if you were running for county supervisor in Oklahoma. Stop saying you’re going to build a US-Mexico border fence you know perfectly well you’re not going to build. Give the GOP electorate and the American people some credit. This country is in terrible shape. They know it. You know it. They want solutions. You’re providing comedy.”

Podhoretz may have been referring less to Romney and more to completely bogus, ego-acts like we’ve seen from Donald Trump, Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain, “candidates” in name only with, in many cases, not even the pretense of hiring staff and operating a legitimate campaign, but Mitt comes awfully close to comedy.

But, without ascribing any undo legitimacy to the Tea Party’s intellectual foundation, what fascinates me most at this moment is watching to see how that crowd, so pleased with their moral/intellectual purity, and the more mainstream Republican faction that has enabled the obstructionist mayhem the Tea Party has leveled on this economy rationalizes Mitt Romney as their standard-bearer. True, he is not Obama. But for every time Romney has said something supportive of the Tea Party’s take-no-prisoners jihad against common sense and social decency he is also on record saying precisely the opposite.

Were the Tea Party truly rooted in the “principles” they’re constantly professing to fight to their (and our) death for, Mitt Romney would be an absolute anathema, exactly the untrustworthy, self-aggrandizing empty suit they couldn’t possibly trust in good conscience.

More to the point, true Tea Party revolutionaries would have no honorable course of action other than to launch a third party candidacy behind a bona fide flag bearing warrior spirit like … Ron Paul or Bachmann?

As I’ve said before, the Tea Party movement is rooted far more in long-standing cultural and social issue grudges than middle-class economic “populism”. But that makes support for an on-again-off-again whenever-opportune social liberal like Mitt Romney all the more preposterous … and comical.

9-9-9: Simply Trickle Down

Simplicity is the foundation of many a great sales pitch: “$5 foot longs.” “Jobs, jobs, jobs.” “99 cents tacos on Taco Tuesday.” “Buck beer night.” Pitches that state their value proposition concisely, specifically, and memorably are powerful in both the retail and political marketplace. And at first blush, Herman Cain, the former Godfather’s Pizza CEO, looks to have himself an awesome presidential pitch strategy in “9-9-9.”

Under Cain’s “9-9-9” proposal, a big chunk of the federal tax code would be replaced with a flat 9% federal income tax, a new 9% federal sales tax and a 9% federal corporate tax. Like many great sales pitches, Herman’s husksterism is elegantly simple, digestible, understandable, symetrical and memorable. Moreover, “9-9-9” has the all the appeal of an IED planted alongside the IRS headquarters, a popular proposition among just about all taxpayers, particularly GOP activists.

Politically speaking, “9-9-9” just flat out sells. Almost overnight, it has made Cain — who also has swell ideas about electrocuting Mexicans and banning government service based on religious affiliation — a GOP presidential front-runner.

But at some point, even wildly popular political pitches get dissected by journalists and opponents. When that happens, I’m not convinced that the Niner Designer will survive the economic vivisection.

Tax experts such as a former chief-of-staff of the non-partisan congressional Joint Tax Committee, are now finding that “9-9-9” represents a tax increase for every household earning under $120,000/year. A family of four earning about $90,000/year would pay about $5,000 more annually. (In Cain currency, that’s roughly 417 one-topping medium-sized pizzas per year.) At the same time, under “9-9-9,” billiaonaire Warren Buffet last year would have paid no income tax.

In fact, a President Cain with a “9-9-9” in place would probably redistribute more of old Joe the Plumber’s wealth than any President in American history. The trickle down economics imbedded in Cain’s “9-9-9” might make even old Arthur Laffer blush.

So sure, simple sells, and right now simplicity is raising Cain. But will it sell long enough to make Citizen Cain our next President? Nein, nein, nein.

– 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