Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Halloween

Posted by Craig Westover | 3:42 PM |  

Monday, October 30, 2006

Kline Endorsement Correction

Posted by Craig Westover | 4:00 PM |  

The following appeared on the Pioneer Press website Friday afternoon and on the Opinion Page on Saturday:

The campaign for the U.S. House of Representatives seat from the 2nd District of Minnesota has been edgy on both sides, but in our opinion page endorsement of John Kline on Friday we erroneously reported that the Coleen Rowley campaign had produced a misleading negative video tying Kline to Washington corruption.

Although it includes Rowley campaign graphics, the video we referenced was neither produced nor endorsed by the candidate or her campaign.

It was created independently. According to the filmmaker, it was shown to the campaign, which declined to use it because it was "too negative." The filmmaker contends the video is accurate, not misleading. The video remained accessible on YouTube Friday, posted by the filmmaker and not the campaign, and it was not linked or referenced on the Rowley campaign Web site.

Attributing the video to the Rowley campaign was our error.

— Mike Burbach, editorial page editor
My mea culpa in response to a comment here:

You'll find the correction at the Pioneer Press prominently displayed on Saturday's editorial page, which essentially says the editorial we, meaning me, screwed up.

The original draft, written after the endorsement decision was made in a meeting of the editorial board of the Pioneer Press, had a general statement about campaign nastiness, (the Col. Klink photo and the like, but not mentioned specifically). The suggestion was made to add a specific, and I didn't want to replay the Nazi card. I'd just seen the film in question with the official Rowley graphics and made a bad assumption the use of the graphics indicated the campaign had a hand it its production. Bad decision on my part.

I screwed up, but the screw-up was after the endorsement was already made. (The entire editorial board sat in on both the Kline and Rowley interviews and discussed the endorsement. I supported Kline in this one, but in others I have supported the DFL candidate as a better endorsement based on Pioneer Press criteria.) The video itself had no bearing on the endorsement.

The paper made the correction promptly (next day), prominently, and completely, even adding the filmmaker's statement the film is accurate. I promptly returned his call. (I also returned a call to the Rowely campaign and apologized.) I assume the filmmaker’s data is accurate, but is, my opinion, used to mislead; the Rowley campaign said the ad was “too negative,” which means in their opinion something is not quite right about it even if it is accurate.

The reality is, I used the film (erroneously) as an illustration of general campaign nastiness that could have been illustrated by other examples. The film itself had nothing to do with the endorsement decision, which was based on the board's opinion that Rowley didn't present herself as ready to be effective in Congress and Kline's military experience and disagreement with the administration (on issues that are often behind the scenes and do not come to a vote) was needed in Congress.

I’d also note that the endorsement specifically gave Rowley credit for being more interesting than negative advertising portrayed her, and it was much harder on Kline for his infamous “meth mailer.” That’s not an excuse, but demonstrates the endorsement was far from a Kline puff piece.

Short of gutting myself on the corner of 4th and Cedar, there is little more to be done except learn from the experience.

Whatever happened to Minnesota's most vulnerable citizens?

Posted by Craig Westover | 6:17 AM |  

From the Strib’s predicable endorsement of Mike Hatch for Governor

Pawlenty says he has made mistakes and learned a lot. But he's given Minnesotans little reason to believe that he will charge hard at what Hatch correctly sees as state government's biggest challenge: retaining a large and secure middle class.
Aside from the misstatement that Pawlenty won’t charge hard at pumping benefits to the middle class (that’s his gravy constituency) is the shocking change in direction of the Democratic Party – whatever happened to the voice of the voiceless and concern with the most vulnerable members of our society?

“Middle class” is a family income hovering around $100K per year. That may be a two-income figure, but it’s not exactly homeless and hungry. What we have is another example of the DFL abandoning its base in pursuit of power – quick examples: abandoning the gay community by simply opposing DOMA amendments but remaining mute on DOMA laws; abandoning low-income families that want parental school choice in favor of supporting teachers’ unions (middle-class folks) that oppose it; abandoning low-income families by locking them into social security without even investigating investment options that middle-class families routinely make with discretionary income.

I’ve been critical of Republicans for assuming that just because Democrats have dumb ideas about how to solve social problems that those problems don't exist. Well, now it seems the Democrats are moving in the direction of, there aren’t any problems – at least not ones to be concerned about at election time. Sad commentary on the party of Hubert Humphrey and Eugene McCarthy.

Note: The Pioneer Press made a bold endorsement of Peter Hutchinson for Governor. As noted elsewhere, I’ve participated in editorial board meetings on the endorsements (I am not an official member of the board), and don’t feel it’s my place to comment extensively other than to say those endorsements of Hutchinson (and Amy Klobuchar) speak well for themselves. I did comment on the Pioneer Press Wetterling endorsement, here, only because I have been an outspoken Bachmann supporter.

Update: I corrected a typo in the spelling of Patty Wetterling's last name, which was not intentional.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Pioneer Press endorses Patty Wetterling

Posted by Craig Westover | 3:54 PM |  

Eva Young gloats today in a comment thread

“The Pioneer Press endorsed Patty Wetterling. Will you be highlighting that editorial?”
When I get around to it – like now.

The editorial is a pretty harsh criticism of Bachmann, and I’m not talking out of school when I say I disagreed with the endorsement. But the editorial is a consensus piece, and while I didn’t write it, I did contribute to it – I suggested tempering some criticisms of Bachmann and sharpening some others that I agreed with. Some of my suggestions were taken, some weren’t.

Again, I didn’t write it, but for the internal hashing it went through, I think it is a well-done piece of work on a difficult endorsement. The piece is logically consistent and, frankly, does a pretty good job resolving a lot of conflicting opinion and discussion, which to go into would be talking out of school. If you accept the premise of the piece – that Bachmann pushes her faith-based politics too far – then the editorial makes a consistent case why she is not right for the district, for Congress and the country.

Unlike the Dump Bachmann crowd, the Pioneer Press doesn’t take cheap shots at Bachmann’s beliefs. It quotes her only where her comments are relevant to the election, ignoring comments pertinent only to her personal faith. The editorial objects not that she believes, but that she builds political support by claiming to know which side God is on, which the board says is unknowable.

It’s hard to ignore the contrast of backgrounds in the race. There’s no denying Wetterling the admiration she deserves for as the editorial states emerging from the kidnapping of her son “undefeated by the worst life can deliver.” The editorial notes that presidents and governors wanted her at their bill signings – indeed it’s tough to say no to a mother who’s lost a child.

This is the only place I think the editorial waffles a bit – it never really distances itself from Patty the mom to be truly critical of Wetterling the politician. By the same token, and this is my opinion, the board couldn’t get past Bachmann’s “policies from God” image to critically look at her as a politician. Indeed, the last lines of the editorial ties the two personas of each woman tightly together expressing the hope that voters will “find themselves, as we did, far more comfortable with the inspiring life story and effective advocacy of Patty Wetterling than with the crusading, divisive career of Michele Bachmann.”

My rhetorical question, which was acknowledged as fair but remained rhetorical (as I intended) was, if Bachamnn believed what she does but didn’t express it, would we be endorsing her? That’s a much tougher call.

Bottom line, and why I admire Michele Bachmann, is she is courageous enough to say what she said about her faith, doesn’t back off it, and to borrow form from Patrick Henry, if that be divisive, then make the most of it. The PiPress called her on comments, and made its case, a pretty good case, that the way she expresses her faith matters in the race.

The philosophy behind PiPress endorsements is they are not to be read as “this is whom you should vote for,” but they provide more data points for readers to consider. They aren’t ideological – in the two competitive races today, the PiPress endorsed Democrat Wetterling and Republican John Kline, who are clearly on opposite sides of the political spectrum. Admittedly, it’s tough to put aside bias and make a case for a candidate in a context beyond what they can do for one party or another, but that’s the task of an institutional endorsement as opposed to a personal endorsement – or an individual vote.

Unlike the vitriolic spewing against Bachmann on the Internet where it’s tough to find a reasoned argument, the PiPress makes a logically consistent case against Michele Bachmann and for Patty Wetterling. Readers can buy it or not – I don’t think, and I don’t think Michele Bachmann thinks (but I’m not too sure what the Eva Young thinks), that a vote either way sends a person to hell.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Cutting the baby of liberty in half

Posted by Craig Westover | 12:23 PM |  

A couple of interesting letters in the Pioneer Press. The first stands alone and needs no comment, just thoughtful contemplation.

Why disparage the Bachmanns?

Regarding "Time from a busy schedule" (Oct. 19): A Chassidic Rabbi once asked his child, "Where does God reside?" The child answered, "Wherever they let Him in."

Hitler and Pol Pot never let God into their lives. Sen. Bachmann and her husband welcome God into their lives. Why disparage them?

St. Paul

The second deserves some comment, especially the emphasis added portion.

Seems like a no-brainer

John Jordan claims that it is "liberal lefties" who wish to tell people what to think and how to worship ("Today, Bachmann tomorrow, you," Oct. 23). Reality shows it is the fundamentalist religious right that is in the business of telling people what to believe and what to do. They want to tell women what they can do with their own bodies, to deny people the ability to buy legal products, to push their vision of what should be on TV on everyone else (parental controls aren't enough for them), to push a religious belief into the science classroom with intelligent design and to deny people in love the freedom to marry.
I don't think I am either right or left but it has become a simple choice — vote left and watch your pocketbook shrink, vote right and watch your freedoms erode and your pocketbook shrink. Seems like a no brainer to me


Smith expresses the ignorance of a lot of people -- that somehow there is a hierarchy between economic rights and personal freedom. There is not. You can’t have one without the other. They are integrally entwined.

Smith also confirms both my faith in the American people and my fear of the majority. I believe Americans still have enough trust in liberty to resist when a person or group treads on personal freedoms of any group or individual. Too few, however, have the character to stand-up to a government that would take away the economic rights of others provided they themselves are not harmed or even receive benefit. In the end, both economic liberty and personal freedom is lost.

Dare we mention again that when the IRS is the final arbiter of proper religious content, religious freedom is non-existent?

Too short a cut

Posted by Craig Westover | 11:33 AM |  

The GOP takes too short a cut in this release --
“The new Hatch plan to hike gas taxes by $300 million will hurt Minnesota families and destroy jobs. By reaffirming his support today for a $300 million gas tax increase on hard working Minnesotans, Mike Hatch again demonstrates he is a politician who can’t be trusted to keep his word on taxes.”

- Ron Carey, Republican Party of Minnesota Chairman
For the record, I don't favor raising the gas tax because I think state government is spending a lot of money elsewhere on things that are not its responsibility that ought to be going to needed transportation infrastructure. That said. This quote over simplifies the issue of gas taxes.

Not all taxes and not everything government does is bad. I’ve argued and continue to argue that government doesn’t produce wealth; it only spends wealth created by others. That is true. But government can produce value when it performs tasks that people would pay for given the choice. Maintaining the transportation infrastructure is one such activity.

We are not talking about “bridges to nowhere.” Just because a project creates jobs does not mean it creates either value or wealth. Labor that goes into a bridge to nowhere (any unnecessary project) is labor that could be more productively used in another part of the economy. Tax dollars spent on bridges to nowhere are wasted and would “hurt Minnesota families and destroy jobs.”

But when state money, including gas taxes, is applied to maintaining and improving the transportation infrastructure, it helps Minnesota families and creates real jobs that provide real value. IF, and the operative word is IF, gas taxes were necessary to maintain the infrastructure, a gas tax hike would be a good thing. What I and other conservatives argue is that a gas tax hike is not necessary to maintain the infrastructure given the current largess of state government in other areas.

The intent of the “No New Taxes” mantra is to force government to make hard decisions among things it CAN do and the things that it SHOULD do.

The correct knock on Mike Hatch is that he does not want to make the tough budget decisions or cut some of his pet programs (like reducing college tuition, which is not a government function) to come up with the funds for maintaining the infrastructure. He wants to make the easy choice of raising the gas tax.

The GOP oversimplifies the issue to vilify Hatch.

Worth a thought or two

Posted by Craig Westover | 10:44 AM |  

This quote from today's Strib "Shortcuts" --
"Economic resentment (among the upper middle class) toward the top 1% is the new wild card in public life. Ordinary workers won't rise up against ultras because they take it as given that 'the rich get richer.' But the hopes and dreams of today's educated class are based on the idea that market capitalism is a meritocracy. The unreachable success of the superrich shreds those dreams. If people no smarter than you are making $50 million or $100 million in a single year while you're working yourself ragged to earn a million or two -- or, God forbid, $400,000 -- then something must be wrong."

-- Columnist MATTHEW MILLER, writing in the Oct. 20 edition of Fortune magazine.

BREAKABLE NEWS -- Democrats push for universal cell phone ownership in wake of birth control potential

Posted by Craig Westover | 7:14 AM |  

Local Bloggers catch Michele Bachmann on tape with cell phone

Recent reports out of Britain that contend cell phones can reduce male sperm count by up to 30 percent have Democrats pushing for a federal subsidy for universal cell phone ownership.

“If Republicans would stop pushing their divisive campaign to ban abortion and join me in reducing the number of abortions by providing American males who cannot afford one a free cell phone there would be fewer abortions, which is what we all want,” said Hillary Clinton.

“Denying a cell phone to a poor family is denying that family expression of its reproductive rights,” said Whoopie Goldberg waving a bloody cell phone over her head. “How long has the president known that cell phones are an essential element of family planning and how long has he covered it up?” asked Goldberg.

Former president William Jefferson Clinton issued a statement saying that while he has owned a cell phone for several years, he has never dialed it.

"I never called that woman, Monica Lewinski. Not once! Never!" said the former president. "I do not carry my cell phone in my front pants pocket, and I do not keep it on vibrate," he added.

On the local scene, the website Dump Michele Bachmann released an Avidor video showing 6th Congressional District candidate Michele Bachmann handing a cell phone to her husband, Marcus.

“What a hypocrite,” said commenter Karl. “Michele Bachmann tells voters she is pro life and that a woman should be subservient to her husband but we caught her on video virtually cutting her husband's balls off in public.”

“Is it a coincidence that Michele and Marcus each have a cell phone, and they haven’t had additional children?” asked Eva Young. “Developing . . . .”

Bachmann's opponent in the 6th District, Patty Wetterling, issued a statement saying that while she "didn't know much about cell phones and sperm counts, she cares about people."

Wetterling's latest television ad takes advantage of the controversy declaring that "Republican leaders have admitted covering up that Mark Foley used cell phones to moleste pre-school age congressional pages." Although some media sources have called Wetterling's ad "false and misleading," she stands by her statement.

"I don't know much about campaign advertising," Wetterling told the media, "but I care about people."

On the opposite side of the issue, Tom Prichard, president of the Minnesota Family Council said his group would be drafting sample legislation prohibiting the use of state funds for cell phone research.

“The president’s approach is a sensible one,” said Prichard. “We can continue to improve existing cell phone products, but we must not create any new advancements.”

Elsewhere, the Pope issued an official statement from the Vatican saying that using a cell phone during sex to call the Howard Stern show was “kinda kinky,” but it did not violate the Catholic prohibition on birth control, provided one hangs up before ejaculation.

Sleep well -- CREW is on alert again

Posted by Craig Westover | 5:57 AM |  

Mark W. Everson, the commissioner of the I.R.S., has repeatedly warned that the agency will crack down on religious organizations that violate laws barring charities of any type from involvement in partisan political activities.

This election cycle, additional accusations of such violations have been made against religious organizations in California, Minnesota, Missouri and Ohio.
The New York Times is reporting today that Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington has set it’s sites on Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline, a Republican, for writing a memo directing members of his campaign staff to recruit churches to distribute campaign literature and serve as the sites for events.
“This is the top law enforcement official in the state who is encouraging everyone to break the law,” said Melanie Sloan, executive director of the watchdog group. “He’s either abysmally unfamiliar with the law, or he’s deliberately violating it.”

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) also filed a complaint with the I.R.S. last week against the Living Word Christian Center in Brooklyn Park, Minn., accusing its senior pastor, Mac Hammond of violating the law by stating he, personally, would vote for Michele Bachmann in the 6th Congressional District.

“From what we know, the I.R.S. has gone after liberal organizations primarily, the N.A.A.C.P. and the liberal church in California,” Ms. Sloan told the Times, referring to the inquiry into All Saints Church of Pasedena, which was cited because the pastor gave an anti-war sermon on the eve of the 2004 election critical of the war in Iraq nad the Bush tax cuts. An I.R.S. investigation of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was closed with no finding of wrongdoing according to the Times.

A conservative might be tempted to point a finger at Sloan and CREW as partisan hacks just out after conservative organizations, but fortunately, judging by the comment threads on this site, conservatives get it – this is not a conservative/liberal issue.

If indeed the IRS is systematically only going after liberal organizations for political advantage, all the more reason the IRS should not be the final arbiter of what is or is not proper activity for a church or charitable organization. Our friends on the left don’t seem to recognize the inherent contradiction in holding that government determining what is the proper sphere of religion is a separation of church and state. In logical fact, it is the opposite.

What's next -- going after chartiable organizations that use contributions to support political activities like smoking bans?

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Does pain of loss equal a pass on moral judgment?

Posted by Craig Westover | 3:31 PM |  

Gutsy column. Prager on Wetterling.
Democrats who excuse her (for her misleading Mark Foley ad) point to the fact that she suffered the unspeakable tragedy of having her own child abducted 18 years ago.

This is a new development in American moral discourse -- the granting to people who have suffered the loss of a child moral credibility, thereby excusing them from normal moral judgments. The father of Nick Berg, the young American slaughtered by Islamists in Iraq, has made morally absurd comments from the national platform accorded him as a grieving father; Cindy Sheehan has attained iconic status solely because her son was killed in Iraq.

The loss of a child entitles a parent to the deepest, sincerest sympathy the human race can offer; there is no pain like the loss of a child. But that loss does not justify using that sympathy to claim special moral status . . .
I have to agree with Prager, although I cut both Berg and Sheehan some slack given the recentness of their losses. What Parger rails against is the flip side of condeming an arguement by the perceieved motivation or intent of supporters rather than judging the argument on its merits. It's a tendency we should nip in the bud.

Keeping the IRS inquisitors busy

Posted by Craig Westover | 12:43 PM |  

Saint Paul at Frater Libertas notes another "non-partisan" gathering of the faithful. He also takes a little shot at the motivations of the local guardians of separation of church and state.
As if the Archdiocese of Mpls/St. Paul doesn't have enough to do in saving the souls of all the sinners in these parts, they've announced their participation in this crucial initiative:
The Office for Social Justice is proud to present Global Warming: A Catholic Perspective, an event we are co-sponsoring with Congregations Caring for Creation. This event kicks off a new level of Archdiocesan involvement to address the consequences of global warming: on the environment, the common good, and especially people in poverty.
I'm sure there won't be any partisan political implications to that presentation. Just in case, maybe George Soros will give the gang from Minnesota Monitor the night off from stalking Michele Bachmann and they'll send a few representatives over to make sure this speech meets with the approval of the Internal Revenue Service.
Indeed, I'm looking forward to their report, which I assume will begin "Any idiot can see that . . . ." More thoughtful folks will understand that liberal or conservative, one has to question if the IRS as the final arbiter of relgious content is really a separation of church and state.

More on ISAIAH

He didn’t go intending to expose “evil,” but to at least give the opposition a listen. He carried no video camera, but this personal report from reader Larry Colson, relating to this post, is worth a read.
I was one of those 'municipal officials' Sturdevant mentioned that attended the ISAIAH meeting in Maple Grove. They invited the city council and city council candidates and the planning commission. I was pretty sure this was going to be a socialist leaning meeting, but as I'd been unable to attend two of the other events they invited me to because of scheduling conflicts, I decided to attend this one. I think you've got to at least listen to citizens if you have a city position.

Their big push in Maple Grove is affordable housing. They want to mandate by ordinance that 20% of all future developments are affordable, and they want to create a land trust in Maple Grove. Their 'ask' (their word) was that we stand up if we supported their efforts to create a land trust in MG. That, of course, is an easy question to answer.

Anyway, their stuff got about as close to the line as they could, and they might have crossed it a few times. Had it gotten a little more political, I would have gotten up and walked out (they put us in the front row, so it would have been obvious), and I'm sure there would have been others. Of course, I suspect that what they really want is to have the city establish and/or fund it, which I'm totally against. Churches are great for establishing charities - governments aren't

As a side note, they had a lady who was a victim of spousal abuse speak. It was moving, but she used 3 words that I didn't ever think I'd heard from a church pulpit - the F one, the S one and the female dog one. Of course, she was quoting her husband, but it was pretty unnecessary. I'm a long way from a prude, but I don't think language like that belongs in church.

I have yet to decide if I'll go to another one of their events. As much of a waste of my time as it was, I somewhat long for the opportunity to speak my mind about what they are asking for. You are absolutely correct: if groups like this wish to form political movements in and around the church, they had better be careful about how they go after others who do it on issues they don't support.

Monday, October 23, 2006

CAIR: Anti-terror ads to air in Minnesota

Posted by Craig Westover | 8:11 PM |  

Press release from the Council on American-Islamic Relations
(WASHINGTON, D.C., 10/23/06) - Beginning Wednesday, October 25, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) will air its "Not in the Name of Islam" anti-terror television advertisement on cable networks in Minnesota, including during a Monday night Vikings football game.

CAIR's 30-second spot features American Muslims stating: "We often hear claims Muslims don't condemn terrorism and that Islam condones violence. As Muslims, we want to state clearly that those who commit acts of terror in the name of Islam are betraying the teachings of the Quran and the Prophet Muhammad. We reject anyone ­ of any faith - who commits such brutal acts and will not allow our faith to be hijacked by criminals. Islam is not about hatred and violence. It's about peace and justice."

View CAIR's ad at: http://www.cair.com/video/psa.rm

The ad campaign grew out of CAIR's "Not in the Name of Islam" online petition, signed by hundreds of thousands of Muslims worldwide, designed to disassociate the faith of Islam from the violent acts of a few Muslims.

SEE: CAIR Launches 'Not in the Name of Islam' Petition Drive

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Pastor Gregory Boyd on the church and politics. -- What of ISAIAH?

Posted by Craig Westover | 9:37 AM |  

The Strib runs a column today by Gregory Boyd, senior pastor of Woodland Hills Church in Maplewood, whom I've quoted before as pretty close to my personal view on religion and politics.

Yes, Jesus was all about transforming society -- but not by political means. This is why he said the movement he came to bring was "not of this world." This simply wasn't the kind of power Jesus was interested in.
And, of course, we all know how the story ends -- Jesus is crucified by the state.

The point of previous discussions here is simple: The Bible says, "all we like sheep have gone astray," and the IRS can make anyone a criminal.

Those that want to nail Pastor Mac Hammond of Living Word Christian Center to a cross for making a personal endorsement of Michele Bachmann miss the larger point that allowing government to hold power to define religious content does not preserve separation of church and state --it is manifestation of the founders’ fear that the state would hold sway over the individual’s religious beliefs.

Pastor Hammond says his endorsement of Michele Bachmann was a misunderstanding of IRS rules. Given the right (or the wrong) administration, who can say that Pastor Boyd's letter is not political speech, or that his book, "The Myth of a Christian Nation" is not political speech -- it is more critical of the religious right than the left. What of ISAIAH?

Also in the Strib, Lori Sturdevant writes about the group of churches operating under the ISAIAH banner, offering “a comeback for the peace-and-justice Christians.”

Still, something is stirring when 400-plus suburbanites stream into a church on a school night to talk about the need for more mass transit, battered women's shelters, school funding and chances for immigrant kids to go to college.

They came intent upon talking about those issues with candidates for elective office, and some obligingly showed up. A half-dozen legislators and most of their challengers were present, as was a cluster of municipal officials. Republican U.S. Rep. Jim Ramstad, a crowd pleaser and big fan of ISAIAH, was there, as was his challenger, DFLer Wendy Wilde.

But only one of the major-party candidates for governor appeared -- and Peter Hutchinson's presence wasn't enough for a group that's promoting more citizen interaction with public decisionmakers.

"The other candidates have not responded. Do you think that's right?" moderator Barb Brown asked the crowd. The response was a booming "No!" . . . .

Understandably, the big boys' debate dodging has Hutchinson in a lather. But it's also ruffling ISAIAH. Hear Sarah Gleason, chair of the group's legislative strategy team, on the gubernatorial no-shows in Maple Grove: "This is what makes people cynical. It gives them the feeling that they don't have an opportunity to be heard or to help shape their future. In a democracy, that feeling is deadly. It's what we're trying to overcome." (emphasis added)
Do I detect in those paragraphs just a hint of political activism organized by not one, but many chruches? Should a congregation of the saved, secure in the righteousness of its cause and the evil of its enemies, say a group like Dump Bachmann, be poised with video cameras ready to catch a slip or misstatement that could get ISAIAH member churchers in trouble with the IRS?

I hope not.

Fortunately, partisanship and obsession with Michele Bachmann will keep some dogs from nipping at the heels of Pastor Boyd and ISAIAH. Hopefully no such "Dump" group will form. There is more than enough photoshopping passing for thought and thnking not worth a photoshop from some quarters.

And the fundamental question remains -- freedom of religious thought is secure only to the extent we are willing to grant security to those with a differing view. Religous, or any other thought, remains vibrant only when it is intellectually challenged. Politically, we need Living Word and ISAIAH to be free of government coercion. Personally, we could all beenfit from a little contemplation of Pator Boyd's thoughts.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

An intelligent starting point for discussing intelligent design

Posted by Craig Westover | 10:22 AM |  

From the PiPress --
Neither science nor religion, but, in context, a way to think critically

One of the first things I learned as an undergraduate student of philosophy was "Never deny, seldom affirm, always distinguish." Even if this was meant as a joke, it contains a good deal of wisdom.

Paul Hanle's essay, "War on evolution has a price" (Oct. 3), contains a number of hysterical reactions to the "war" he imagines the advocates of intelligent design are waging against science. According to Hanle, "This war could decimate the development of U.S. scientific talent and erode whatever competitive advantage the U.S. enjoys in the … global economy." "By teaching intelligent design," he thinks, "we are greatly diminishing our chances for future scientific breakthroughs and technological innovations, and are endangering our health, safety and economic well-being as individuals and as a nation. We must teach science, not religion, in the science classroom."

Hanle seems to think intelligent design (hereafter I.D.) is as great a threat to our civilization as terrorism, and I would be terrified were it not for the fact that Hanle's hysteria results from the failure to make a few simple distinctions.

First of all, I.D. is neither religion nor science. The argument for the existence of an Intelligent Designer belongs to a field called "natural theology" which is sometimes called "theodicy," a term first used by the German philosopher Leibnitz in 1710.

Natural theology must be distinguished from what the Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy calls "supernatural theology." Natural theology is based on reason and rational principles; "supernatural theology" and religion are based on faith. Once an important and respected subsection of philosophy, natural theology went out of fashion over a century ago, but has enjoyed a revival during the past 25 years.

In natural theology, there are nine well known arguments for the existence of God, e.g. arguments from motion, from causality, from possibility and necessity, etc. The argument from design is one of these. It is very ancient, being found in Greek philosophers who had no access to the Hebrew Scriptures and lived centuries before Jesus was born. Natural theology is as much a part of philosophy as logic, ethics and aesthetics are.

Theories that, as one philosopher puts it, "predict and explain observed phenomena by appeal to law-like generalizations" are scientific. That natural theology is not a scientific theory in this strict sense is too obvious to call for argument.

Philosophy is rarely taught in American high schools, but it is a common subject in France, Germany, other European countries and in other parts of the world. I see no reason why natural theology, including its arguments for the existence of an Intelligent Designer, should not be dealt with by seniors in public high schools if philosophy is carefully distinguished from theology, religion and sciences such as biology and physics.

If there is one thing that K-12 educators and college and university professors agree on, it is that critical thinking is one of the goals of education. Hanle's identification of I.D. with religion is a failure to think critically, a failure to make important distinctions. If "U.S. high school students lag near the bottom in math skills compared with students in other developed nations," it's most likely because of the K-12 version of "fuzzy math" or because, in the U.S., math is sometimes taught by teachers who didn't major in math. Also, if our "high school seniors are performing worse in science than they were 10 years ago," it can have nothing to do with I.D. There must be other causes.

The fact is that the truth is most likely to emerge when scholars with opposing views challenge one another. When one side has a monopoly on discourse, its members tend to become dogmatic, complacent, divorced from reality and eager to silence the opposition, as indeed Mr. Hanle is. Darwinians should be thankful there are critics who are keeping them on their toes. While claiming to "value open inquiry," Hanle wants to silence the proponents of I.D.

A final irony: Modern science is based on a philosophy called "scientific materialism" which has not been established scientifically nor can it be. It is taken on faith.

Jeremiah Reedy of Mendota Heights is professor of classics emeritus, Macalester College.
(I have worked with Prof. Reedy establishing Seven Hills Academy, a charter school with a core knowledge curriculum located in Bloomington.)

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Policing the Pulpit -- Michele Bachmann at Living Word

Posted by Craig Westover | 6:56 AM |  

I haven't posted on the Living Word Christian Center controversy, but I contributed to today's editorial in the Pioneer Press.

Policing the pulpit

We're hard pressed to figure out which cliche best describes this weekend's flap over a pastor's from-the-pulpit endorsement of 6th District congressional candidate Michele Bachmann.

The group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, CREW, has filed an Internal Revenue Service complaint against Living Word Christian Center in Brooklyn Park for "illegally promoting" Bachmann's candidacy, noting that the IRS has investigated more liberal organizations for similar situations. The group asks for fines and penalties, and revocation of Living Word's tax-exempt status. Talk about cutting off one's nose to spite one's face.

Given Bachmann's lightning-rod status it's not surprising that the week's events have focused on the partisan rather than the pertinent.
Among the pertinent: Free speech issues, concern about mixing campaigns and congregations, and concern about relying on the IRS to police "political" content in a religious context.

Ostensibly, Bachmann appeared at Living Word to speak about her faith. Believing that all things are ultimately political but recognizing the potential conflict of campaign politics and religion, we must ask, do we really need government to tell us the difference?

Bachmann was clearly preaching to the saved. However, watching video of the event, we learn some things about Bachmann's religious views that might not surface in any other forum. As a result, we know a little bit more about candidate Bachmann. Had she and the pastor interpreted the political-speech-in-church limits more conservatively (or liberally?), we might not have had that opportunity.

However, churches in American society enjoy a special tax status. Churches are a "twofer" — donations are tax deductible for the giver, and the proceeds to the church are not taxed either.

In return, churches are expected to accept limits on how they function in that intriguing gray area between religion and politics. There's a line in there somewhere. On one side of it is religion, with room for worldly affairs short of partisanship, and on the other side is plain old partisanship.

Pastor Mac Hammond crossed that line when he said he'd be voting for Bachmann, but such infractions are generally a slap-on-the-wrist offense. The very few churches that have lost their tax-exempt status have done so for far more serious violations.

Hammond has since said that he thought he was within IRS guidelines and that his endorsement was an honest mistake. The Washington D.C.-based CREW isn't buying Hammond's mea culpa.

According to The Associated Press, the organization says in its formal complaint to the IRS that it appears Living Word "illegally promoted" Bachmann's campaign.

"The IRS has pledged to investigate nonprofits that violate the law," said the organization's executive director, Melanie Sloan. "So far the IRS has targeted only progressive organizations such as the All Saints Church in Pasadena, Calif."

Sloan seems to be cutting off her nose to spite her face. Through a partisan prism, she's looking at the Living Word situation as a chance to go after a conservative church — but ignoring the larger issue: Do we really want the IRS to be the final arbiter of what is the proper content of a religious sermon?

Be careful what we wish for.

As Living Word is considered a conservative church, All Saints Church in Pasadena is regarded as a liberal congregation. What drew the attention of the IRS was an anti-war sermon given on the eve of the 2004 election. The priest did not express support for a specific candidate, but was critical of the Iraq war and the Bush tax cuts.

It doesn't take much imagination to carry that scenario forward: Would a sermon on poverty that mentioned welfare programs be considered political? How about a sermon that preached on homosexuality? Need anything be said about the sanctity of life and abortion?

Do we want clergy vetting their sermons with tax attorneys? Do we want the IRS sitting in judgment on how we pray? Are we OK with a goring as long as it's the other guy's ox?
Because society favors churches and other nonprofits with tax breaks, there are and should be limits on what goes.

But, for the sake of First Amendment freedoms, that is, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom to assemble, we should be liberal about those limits. Or conservative. Or both.

There's no two ways about it.
The point is this: it doesn't take much thinking to turn the Living Word events into a partisan issue. You could almost hear the anticipation of lefty bloggers when the event was announced -- there was no way this was going to pull off without some statement(s) that could be construed as violating IRS rules.

But inherent in the calls for sanctions against Living Word is acceptance that at even the most trivial level government generally, the IRS specifically, has the final say on what is religion and what is politics -- conservative politics or liberal politics. That is the exact opposite of separation of church and state. That violates the constitutional protection of the free exercise of religion. But as the editorial says -- that's okay if it's not your ox being gored.

A personal note -- I've also refrained from posting on the event so I could count to ten and write less angrily. Although the shallow and narrow view, there is reason to write about did or did not Pastor Hammond and Michele Bachmann step over the line in their comments. There is room to question if the ardent nature of Bachmann's beliefs negatively affect her ability to represent the 6th district. But there is no call to mock and ridicule those beliefs and by extension denigrate every other person that holds an abiding faith in God in whatever form they percieve Him. For the people that take that route, I have nothing but contempt.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

A defection to Tammy Lee

Posted by Craig Westover | 8:58 PM |  

[Via David Strom of the Taxpayer's League] From Kathleen Anderson, Congressman Sabo's District Director:

Why I'm Voting for Tammy Lee

For the past 28 years, Minnesota’s Fifth Congressional District has been represented by Martin Sabo—a man whom all agree has demonstrated the highest ethical standards. In my years working for Martin, I never once had to wince or blush because of his personal or professional behavior. I think the people of this district deserve no less in their next representative.

Especially in light of the recent rash of misdeeds in Washington (this past year alone four Republican congressmen have been forced to relinquish their offices due to ethical transgressions), it is important to send someone to replace Martin who will continue to make us proud. Unfortunately, Keith Ellison, the DFL endorsed candidate, falls short in this regard.

The primary responsibility of any elected official is to make the laws. At the very least, our lawmakers should set a good example by obeying those laws. Is that asking too much? Apparently so, when it comes to Mr. Ellison. Time and again, he has demonstrated a scofflaw attitude.

What is a scofflaw? The dictionary says “a contemptuous law violator.” In fairness, contemptuous may be too strong a word to describe Mr. Ellison’s behavior. I can not know with certainty Ellison’s motivations. To be kind, perhaps he is simply disorganized when it comes to these matters. Nonetheless, he has repeatedly – and very recently - violated the laws the rest of us routinely obey.

For example, his numerous unpaid speeding and parking tickets have led to license suspensions in the past and yet another suspension just this summer. In addition, his failure to properly file and pay taxes on several occasions in the 1990s and early 2000s – actually resulting in a lien being placed on his property - is also serious cause for concern.

Naturally, none of us enjoys getting a traffic ticket. But if and when we do, we readily pay the fine.

Understandably, most of us dread April 15 when it is time to pay the taxes we owe, but we still settle up and write the check before the deadline, if additional taxes are due.

Most of us do not run for public office, but those who do must file campaign reports in a timely fashion. Here again, Mr. Ellison has displayed a disregard for the law. By filing late, or filing inaccurately, he has – as recently as this summer – been found in noncompliance of these laws and fined by the Minnesota Campaign Finance Board.

Again, I can not know what leads Mr. Ellison to be so casual or cavalier about these matters. By his actions, however, he seems to feel that he should only obey these laws at his convenience – when he gets around to it. When a lawmaker behaves in this fashion, what example does that set for the rest of us – or more importantly for our children?

It is often said that “past is prologue.” But, Mr. Ellison’s “scofflaw” attitude is not in the distant past – it is ongoing. Accordingly, we should be rightly concerned that these ethical mis-steps will continue into the future. Clearly, the best way to prevent unethical behavior by politicians once in office is to seek the truth about their character now—before the election. And it is on this ground—on his character—that I find Keith Ellison unfit to represent Minnesota’s Fifth District in Congress.

With the choices that remain on the November 7th ballot, Independence Party candidate, Tammy Lee, is the only candidate that I feel can carry on Congressman Martin Sabo’s legacy. I’m voting for Tammy Lee.

COLUMN -- Effort to suppress same-sex marriage engenders more same-sex couples

Posted by Craig Westover | 6:20 AM |  

Wednesday, Oct 18, 2006

OK, enough about same-sex marriage. It's a distraction from important issues. People on the street don't care. A gay marriage amendment is unnecessary. We have a law. Let's move on.

Would that we could. What politicians and a gay-marriage-weary straight society are missing is this: The "unnecessary" debate, right here in Ole and Lena's Minnesota, has set a rising level of expectations among an increasing number of same-sex couples. The reality is it's time to grasp the inevitable and make it look like a plan.

Based on data from the American Community Survey (which replaces the Census Bureau's long-form document), the number of self-identified same-sex couples in Minnesota increased 76 percent in the past five years, the third largest percentage increase in the nation (9,147 couples in 2000 to 16,081 in 2005).

Is this the lavender horde that Defense of Marriage Act supporters have been warning us about?

According to analysis of the survey data by the Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy at UCLA, the increase in same-sex couples is a combination of more couples forming relationships and — even more — same-sex couples willing to acknowledge existing relationships.

"Most likely, as stigma associated with same-sex partnering and homosexuality decreases, more same-sex couples are willing to identify themselves as such on government surveys," said Gary Gates, senior research fellow at the Williams Institute and author of the study.

The study also pulled other interesting trends from the ACS data:

• The 10 states with the largest percentage increases in same-sex couples were states with controversial same-sex marriage debates.

• Of the top 10 states, eight are Midwestern, including Wisconsin (81 percent), Minnesota (76 percent) and Iowa (58 percent).

• Since 2000, most of the top 10 have passed laws and constitutional amendments that deny marriage and sometimes other unions for same-sex couples.

"Some might expect that heated debate and disappointing losses would drive gay men and lesbians and bisexual people back into anonymity and silence. But the campaigns against gay rights may have had the opposite effect," said M.V. Lee Badgett, research director at the Williams Institute. "By launching anti-gay campaigns in the Midwest, gay rights opponents greatly increased the visibility of gay people and issues."

Welcome to the paradox of rising expectations. In every movement to right a perceived social wrong, a fringe element with no apparent social upside (who hence emphasize their differences from the traditional) becomes the image of the enemy to supporters of the status quo. In this case, these are the leather- and tutu-clad lads who wind up in defense-of-marriage literature and DVDs. Only after a movement has gained some visibility, some credibility and some respectability do suit-and-tie supporters, people invested in society with something material to lose, risk identifying with it.

Here's where the paradox of rising expectations kicks in. Even as overt public discrimination against same-sex couples grows smaller, the inequities of law loom larger. The Williams Institute study suggests same-sex couples are more at ease declaring their relationships. They do so, however, with expectations of expanding their participation in society on equal terms with heterosexuals. Taking a risk, they are impatient with barriers to fulfillment of expectations of equality.

Ironically, the biggest barrier to full recognition of same-sex marriage is not those standing in opposition to it. It's lukewarm politicians ostensibly dedicated to gay rights who oppose an amendment banning same-sex marriage but who will say neither "nay" nor "yea" to same-sex marriage. Excusing politicians who oppose DOMA and hedge the larger question to get re-elected isn't going to cut it in the face of the rising expectations of a growing population of same-sex couples.

Political hedging on same-sex marriage is about at its end; so is simply declaring the debate unnecessary and shoving the issue to the back burner. When people with status and prestige in their communities declare their same-sex relationships, they do so with purpose and expectation. The ACS data tells us that process is well under way.

Like it or not, the same-sex marriage debate isn't going away anytime soon. Political conflict is inevitable. It's time to recall that government isn't in the business of making moral judgments. Government resolves conflicts. It's time to, legislatively, plot an orderly course with measurable milestones to full parity, even civil marriage, for same-sex couples.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

BREAKABLE NEWS -- Hatch and Pawlenty vie for Guernsey vote

Posted by Craig Westover | 4:16 PM |  

Hatch pledges direct support of new portable hand-mixer

(Duluth) -- DFL gubernatorial candidate Mike Hatch stirred up quite a controversy yesterday when he pledged his support to purchase a new Oster Inspire 2529 6-Speed Hand Mixer with Storage Case for Mrs. Glenda Guernsey while in Duluth pledging his support for the new DECC Arena.

While Mrs. Guensey also has support from incumbent Governor Tim Pawlenty, who promised her a KitchenAid KHM7T 7-Speed Ultra Power Plus Hand Mixer in Empire Red, Hatch said he’d push for a direct subsidy for Mrs. Guensey’s hand mixer. He said Pawlenty has only promised Mrs. Guernsey tax increment financing under the JOBZ program after renigging on a promise to put the hand mixer into the 2006 bonding bill.

“Pawlenty says he wants Glenda to get her hand mixer,” said Hatch. “But at the end of the day, he couldn’t come up with the cash and just told her ‘TIF shit.’”

Hatch said he would pay for the $69.95 Oster Inspire by shopping on line and looking very hard at products customers who purchased the Oster Inspire 2529 also bought.

“By making additional purchases and taking advantage of a shipping order loophole, we can recoup an estimated $360 million. Suing Amazon.com could bring in another $500 to $750 million,” said Hatch. Mrs. Guernsey would make up the $4.20 sales tax out of proceeds from her job as a six-figure corporate attorney.

Pawlenty says he strongly supports a program he called “Q-Kitchen,” which would ensure that busy executives have the tools they need to achieve “high-performance baking.” He said Democrats, in the pocket of the baker’s union, have consistently blocked the Q-Kitchen program or watered it down saying Mrs. Guernsey could not be held accountable for her cooking because some of her dinner guests came from homes where lard was generally not used as a substitute for butter.

Meanwhile, the Michele Bachmann campaign is planning a gala fundraising dinner in Minnetonka. Angry, out-of-touch with Minnesota liberal Al Franken was not invited. According to a report on Minnesota Monitor, a truck was seen delivering three loaves of bread and seven small fishes, but according to the blog, Bachmann has personally guaranteed that there will be enough food for everyone with some leftover.

Monday, October 16, 2006

The Differences Between Foley and Clinton

Posted by Craig Westover | 8:23 AM |  

Responding to a previous letter in the PiPress (Spotlight Letter not online), a letter writer on Sunday contrasted the Foley and Clinton scandals. Not going to get into the equivocation of “my scandal is not as bad as your scandal,” which is where the letter writer goes. However, the writer’s last point is worth looking at because it reflects a prevalent view.

“Finally, the Democratic Party does not purport to be the standard-bearer of moral values.”
The inverse of the letter writer’s point is that because Democrats don’t claim to represent moral values, it is not as bad when they fail to exhibit them. Is that really where a thoughtful Democrat wants to go? That’s the Jesse Ventura attitude of honesty is an excuse -- I am what I am so you can’t criticism my actions, and I need not take responsibility for them.

The shallow end of the population pool is made uncomfortable by people that actually believe in something. They revel when others fail to live up to the standards they set for themselves, while they don’t even make the effort. To enhance their own self-image they must tear others down. It is not enough for them to disagree with others and make their own case -- they can only destroy, they cannot build. They seek the comfort of equality in the rubble of achievement.

Eric Hoffer wrote “Resentment springs more from a sense of weakness than from a sense of injustice. We resent a wholly false accusation less than one which is partly justified.” Perhaps that is why the Pioneer Press letter writer was compelled to respond; perhaps that is why it is so easy for Michele Bachmann to tolerate her most vicious critics.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Live by the sound bite, die by the sound bite

Posted by Craig Westover | 10:14 AM |  

The Kennedy campaign has issued a press release in response to Eric Black’s Strib piece reporting on Kennedy’s ad saying Amy Klobuchar wants to provide social security to illegal aliens, which Black has responded to by saying he stands by his story.

Here are the grafs at issue. First Black

To back up the ad's claims, the Kennedy campaign cites the fact that Klobuchar has said she would have voted for the Senate bill on immigration that passed in May. This is true.

Kennedy says that this bill would have provided Social Security benefits to illegal workers, or at least give credit to formerly illegal workers for work done while they were illegal. That is false.

Under existing law, Social Security already pays benefits to retirees who have legal status in retirement, for work done when they were illegal, if they can demonstrate that they paid the FICA payroll taxes that support Social Security.

The Senate bill leaves that alone. To say that voting for that bill would give benefits to illegal immigrants is false. The strongest claim you could make in defense of the inference that Kennedy has drawn would be this:

The bill would create a new guest worker program and an easier path to citizenship for the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants now in the country. Therefore it would likely increase the number of formerly illegal workers who will become legal and eventually claim benefits for work done while they were illegal. Therefore supporting the bill means allowing more illegal immigrants eventually to get Social Security benefits.

The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the impact of the Senate immigration bill would cost the Social Security Administration $5.2 billion over the next 10 years.
And from Kennedy -

The charge is true and is based on Ms. Klobuchar’s support for the Senate immigration bill (S 2611). The bill is sweeping in 12 million illegal immigrants, what some call amnesty, making them eligible for a variety of benefits, including Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security. Today, these 12 million people aren't eligible for anything. Thus, as a direct result of the Senate bill, someone who broke the law and is an illegal immigrant today, will soon be a recipient of government benefits, thus Social Security for illegal immigrants. The Star Tribune story even cites the CBO figure of $5.2 billion that this will cost Social Security. If CBO says it costs Social Security money, it clearly gives benefits to those who did not have them before.

Illegal immigrants are being rewarded by the Senate bill. As they would receive full benefits but would only be responsible for paying 3 of 5 years of taxes. All other taxpayers pay every year.

The House bill, which Mark Kennedy supports, does not make 12 million illegal immigrants legal, and thus does not make them eligible for new government benefits. That's the fundamental question we're dealing with in the immigration debate.
Political wonks will argue which version is closer to the truth, but what ought to be obvious is the issue is larger than “Amy Klobuchar wants to give social security to illegal aliens.” It’s a nice sound bite, but it’s bullshit in that its intent is to create an impression witout regard for communicating the truth of the circumstances.

If you live by the sound bite, then expect to be judged by the sound bite. When an argument is bullshit simplistic, then it only takes bullshit simplicity to refute it, and Black provides considerably more than that. Kennedy has a valid point, but the way he chose to express it -- simplistic bullshit -- again puts him on the defensive and seeming to whine about about unfair coverage.

[Contrast with the impression Kennedy makes when he avoids personality and stays on policy.]

In the final weeks of the campaign, Kennedy has locked himself into a sound bite campaign of negativity that he will live or die by. His success depends on how many people would rather have sound bites than substance. That's an ironic combination on which to pull for a Kennedy victory, but at this point, might be all he's got.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Yahoo! Buzz Top Movers - Stewart/Colbert '08...?

Posted by Craig Westover | 7:20 PM |  

From email:
If the Yahoo! Buzz Index (http://buzz.yahoo.com) is an indicator of how a Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert combo would fare in a presidential election, the duo will be running the White House come 2008.

At the intersection of pop culture and politics, Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert were “Top Movers” on Yahoo! Search earlier this week, with a 1,596% increase in searches for Colbert, and 1,110% for Stewart.

Despite the hugely popular Stewart/Colbert ’08 t-shirts circulating, the pair recently confirmed that they will not be vying for The White House anytime soon

Deliver us from Eva (and MN Publius and . . . )

Posted by Craig Westover | 6:33 PM |  

Eva Young sent me a link to MN Publius and an NRCC ad attacking Patty Wetterling. I've made it pretty clear on my blog and in the PiPress that I don't like the negative advertising that the state GOP is doing. Ditto the NRCC. However, looking at the NRCC ad posted at MN Publius, while I'd rather see a pro Bachmann ad than this negativity, this ad uses an effective if exaggerated metaphor, but it doesn't misrepresent Wetterling's stated position.

Patty Wetterling is against a constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage. Unless I’ve missed something, that is 100 percent true.

The line in the ad about her “’hometown values’ aren’t ours” is speculative and not necessarily true; Wetterling could have the same values and be opposed to the amendment for legalistic reasons (What does that say about Wetterling?), but that bit of political exaggeration pales in degree to just about everything on sites like MN Publius and Dump Bachmann not to mention the misleading nature of Wetterling’s (not the DCCC‘s) “Bachmann is for raising taxes ad.”

I’m not going to get into a whose-ad-is-worse mode. A pox on both your houses. Just a couple of relevant points.

First, Bachmann can officially do nothing about NRCC ads even if she wants to. As King Baniaian pointed out, a candidate cannot coordinate with party or PAC advertising. Yeah, there are ways around that I suppose, but it’s still the law and somebody would jump on Bachmann if they found out she tried it.

Second, if the folks so upset by Bachmann’s same-sex marriage stance would think for more than two seconds before opening their mouths or their browsers, they might realize that Bachmann’s given the status of same-sex couples a visibility it has never had before. Instead of using that to their advantage, DFLer’s, who claim the GLBT community as their own, are screaming and whining and reinforcing the perception Bachammn is playing to. They’re making it difficult for people that rationally try to support same-sex marriage to do so with any credibility or enthusiasm.

With same-sex marriage, society is in a period of rising expectations. There’s no turning back now. Either the country is going to push for and pass amendments banning same-sex marriage or society is going to perceive a social value to same-sex marriage and move toward it. The MN Publius types aren’t making the latter any easier.

I have faith that society will move toward same-sex marriage, and I am willing to hope so and say so publically, which doesn’t score a lot of points for me with my conservative readership. The people Bachmann-haters should be pissed at are people like Patty Wetterling that will criticize Bachmann but refuse to take a positive stance on same-sex marriage for fear of offending voters.

Can anyone tell me how, short of opposition to a constitutional amendment and an unwillingness to speak up for what she believes, Patty Wetterling’s stance on gays and same-sex marriage differs from Michele Bachmann’s?

Okay, if you want to say Bachmann is anti-gay, go ahead, but at least you know where she stands. You’re not going to change her mind, and you’re not going to change voters’ minds until people like Patty Wetterling and other so-called supporters of the GLBT community find the courage to take an honest stand in support of whatever it is they believe.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Hutchinson Has Plan for Rebating Forecasted Budget Surplus

Posted by Craig Westover | 11:39 AM |  

Press release from the Indpendence Party --
Peter Hutchinson, Independence Party candidate for Governor, today announced his fiscally responsible plan to rebate the expected statebudget surplus to current taxpayers and future generations.

The state Finance Department quarterly tax collection update indicatesthat there will likely be a forecasted surplus of several hundred million dollars in the current biennium. According to the rebate law put intoeffect by then-Governor Jesse Ventura, the next governor will be required to submit a plan to the legislature regarding how that surplus should be rebated.

The Hutchinson plan calls for rebating 50 percent of the projected surplus to all current Minnesota taxpayers using the ‘Jesse checks’ created by Governor Jesse Ventura. The other 50 percent will be used to pay off part of the $1 billion of irresponsible highway debt foisted on to future generations by Governor Pawlenty and the Legislature.

“Taxpayers have sent in more money than we need to run state government, while Tim Pawlenty and the Legislature have spent more money than we have through excessive borrowing for highway construction,” observed Hutchinson. “Our plan returns half of the surplus to all the taxpayers who sent the money in and returns the other half to those in the future who had the cost of borrowing for roads foisted on them.”

He added, “Just as a fiscally responsible family would spend some of any unexpected income on today’s needs and some on paying off their mortgage or credit card debt, I believe the state government must balance both the short-term and long-term interests of Minnesotans.“

Hutchinson charged his opponents with making reckless promises for hundreds of millions of dollars of new spending with money that they don’t have. He challenged his opponents to answer specifically how they will comply with Governor Ventura’s taxpayer rebate law at the same time that they are making their lavish election-year spending promises.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Mark Kennedy talks health care at CCHC event

Posted by Craig Westover | 6:59 AM |  

Yesterday I attended the Citizen’s Council on Health Care event “Setting a Bright Course for Health Care.” I’ll post more on the content later, but for now a quick observation.

The CCHC is an organization that believes in a free-market approach to health care, so predictably the presentations leaned in that direction, and while the audience of physicians, policy makers, and local think tank wonks was also biased in that direction, judging from questions and comments and conversations with various attendees, there was some sentiment for government intervention in health care among the those in attendance.

In addition to the scheduled speakers, all the major political candidates were invited to make brief remarks about their positions on health care. Predictably, the minor candidates turned out in force. Gov. Pawlenty’s spokesman Brian McClung stood in for the governor, who was in Washington yesterday, but aside from McClung and Mark Kennedy, none of the major players made an appearance or sent a representative.

Gubernatorial candidates Mike Hatch and Peter Hutchinson have made health care a front and center issue in their campaigns, yet neither showed nor sent a spokesperson. One might make an excuse that the audience was unfriendly to their points of view, but that rings a little shallow – these are the people Hatch and Hutchinson have to convince if they have any chance of pushing their government-centered healthcare initiatives.

Besides which, Green party candidate for governor Ken Pentel did show up and did pitch single-payer universal health care. He wasn’t booed off the stage, he handled challenging questions directly, didn’t back down from his position, and there were a few people that leaned to his position. He may not have won many votes, but he earned some respect.

Amy Klobuchar was also a no-show. Mark Kennedy was the biggest name to make an appearance. Kennedy did a good job delineating the basic difference between him and Klobuchar on health care – she favors heavy involvement of government in health care, Kennedy favors policies that put the emphasis in healthcare on the doctor-patient relationship and put patients in charge of their healthcare dollars.

When Kennedy talks policy and policy differences – instead of launching into personal attacks – he comes across as a very strong candidate. Ironically, by talking policy differences, he exposes more of Klobuchar’s flaws than when he intentionally tries to rip her.

In short, Kennedy demonstrated yesterday why he’s the candidate that is right on policy issues that have the most impact on Minnesotans.

COLUMN -- And now, a subsidy to attract smokers the city drove away

Posted by Craig Westover | 5:14 AM |  

Wednesday, Oct 11, 2006

When irony becomes commonplace it loses some of its sarcastic potential. Instead of appreciating the irony in St. Paul's subsidizing of outdoor patios to entice smokers back to bars and restaurants from which the city banned them in the first place, we want to assume there's some common sense at work:

Outdoor smoking really isn't that big a deal. It's not as bad as smoking indoors. And smoking patios might help out some of the small neighborhood bars; but if not, at least the policy will quiet smoking-ban critics down a bit.

Having attended the hearings on the smoking ban in Minneapolis and St. Paul, having watched the total disregard shown tavern owner after tavern owner testifying about the impact of the smoking ban on their businesses and their lives, I can't get to the point where I agree it is "common sense" for government to partially fix problems that are of its own creation. Having listened to the exaggerated and scientifically misleading testimony of smoking ban supporters, I cannot let them get away with collecting kudos for, in their worldview, compromising with death.

Let's set the record straight:

• The city of St. Paul is using Sales Tax Revitalization (STAR) proceeds to revitalize some bars devitalized by the passage of the comprehensive smoking ban, but according to Barbara Schillo, Ph.D. and director of research programs for ClearWay Minnesota (formerly MPAAT), "studies conducted nationwide have shown that, over time, local smoke-free ordinances do not damage the business environment."

• St. Paul is using tax dollars to subsidize bar and restaurant patios to lure back smokers driven away by the smoking ban even though St. Paul City Council Member Dave Thune believes depriving people of the opportunity to smoke in bars and restaurants provides motivation, especially for him, to quit smoking.

• Food and drink will be served to smokers on those patios, exposing waiters to the "4,000 chemicals in secondhand smoke," even though Pat McKone of the American Lung Association told the Duluth News-Tribune "we have an obligation to protect the health of workers."

• And then there is Jeanne Weigum of the Association for Nonsmokers, who commented to the Pioneer Press about subsidized patios, "If their motivation is not quite as pure as the driven snow, oh well. They're really bringing up the neighborhoods."

In Weigum's press release plugging a ClearWay survey of air-quality improvement after the smoking ban was implemented in St. Paul bars and restaurants (which even the pro-ban Pioneer Press criticized as "deceptive"), she claimed secondhand smoke causes 38,000 deaths in nonsmokers each year. "Just 30 seconds of exposure," she declared, "can make coronary artery function of nonsmokers indistinguishable from smokers."

In Weigum's world, secondhand smoke is a real killer. So how can she suddenly dismiss the health hazard to nonsmokers dining on a patio, to wait staff working a patio and to pedestrians walking past a patio, just because the patio makes the neighborhood look nice?

Bob Moffitt, American Lung Association of Minnesota communications director, has repeatedly said, "There is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke." Presumably that would include exposure underneath an outdoor tent. The ALA must oppose smoking on outdoor patios then, right? No, they have no position, Moffitt posted to the MNSpeak bulletin board, but personally, he likes "the increased number of patios around town."

How can Moffitt condone a practice that exposes tavern patrons and employees to unsafe-at-any-level secondhand smoke? I don't think he legitimately can.

Here's another bit of common sense to consider — city government can't maintain its credibility without some consistent set of criteria upon which it bases policy decisions. Honest debate can't happen within a system that uses one set of justifications to pass a law and a contradictory set of justifications to correct the problems the first law created.

How credible is a government that bans smoking in private bars and restaurants and then helps those same bars and restaurants entice smokers back by using public dollars? How credible is a government that says a smoking ban will help people quit smoking, but then provides a venue where they can smoke? Can one trust a government that tells bar employees, "Secondhand smoke will kill you," and then subsidizes an area where employees must wait on smokers?

Sometimes an ounce of irony is worth a pound of common sense.

Monday, October 09, 2006

More pimping the news

Posted by Craig Westover | 8:00 AM |  

Just after posting the Borowitz column below this email arrived:

Thought you might like our new conservative satire site, www.gunsnbutter.com Think The Onion, but conservative.

We're not just some yahoos with five dollars and some Internet access. We've written for National Review Online, The Weekly Standard, The American Spectator, The Washington Times, The Cato Institute, The Boston Globe, and too many other publications to list. We do serious conserative journalism by day and thought we'd try our hand at spoofing the left by night. We're brand new and trying to let people know we're out there. Thought you might enjoy our off-kilter take on the news.

If you happen to have a moment, thanks for taking a look at us.
My plug for the day.

Borowitz humor puts Foley scandal in perspective

Posted by Craig Westover | 7:23 AM |  

I've often noted that good satire works because it has more than a grain truth. This piece from Andy Borowitz also puts the scandal in its proper political perspective.

Poll: Majority of Americans Fear Being Instant-Messaged By a Republican
Tops Terrorism, North Korean Nukes in New Survey

A new survey released today indicates that a majority of Americans are more afraid of being instant-messaged or emailed by a Republican congressman than they are of terrorism, rising oil prices, or North Korea destroying the world with a nuclear weapon.

Anecdotal evidence in recent days has suggested that Americans are increasingly concerned about receiving unwanted electronic communications from a Republican lawmaker, but the new poll, conducted by the University of Minnesota's Opinion Research Institute, offers a measure of just how deep those concerns run.

When asked to name their number one fear, 8% said "losing my job to outsourcing," 10% said "not being able to afford to fill up my car with gas," 14% said "North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il blowing up the world with a nuclear weapon," while a whopping 65% said "being instant-messaged by a horny Republican."

Carol Foyler, the director of GOPervWatch, a watchdog group that warns parents about their children's Internet contact with pervy Republicans, said that there are simple ways for parents to determine if their kids have been chatting online with a filthy-minded G.O.P. lawmaker.

"As parents, it's our responsibility to monitor who our children are talking to online," Ms. Foyler said. "If you hear your child start to use phrases like 'tax cut,' 'stay the course,' or 'family values,' those are danger signs that he has been chatting with a horny Republican."

Saturday, October 07, 2006

It's not lying; it's bullshit

Posted by Craig Westover | 2:05 PM |  

Just had a chance to read the Eric Black/Hugh Hewitt debate over Patty Wetterling’s “cover-up” ad and whether or not Patty lied and Black contrived to cut her some slack. Both make good cases for their positions; both miss the point.

My work here is not done. Wetterling did not lie in her ad. She dispensed bullshit.

In his interview of Black, Hewitt made the point that Wetterling’s statement about congressional leaders admitting there was a cover-up of the Mark Foley emails was false. Black admitted as much but said one couldn’t call that a “lie” without knowing the intent behind it. Both arguments miss the point.

The intent of the ad was to heighten the impression of wrong-doing on the part of Republicans and to the Wetterling camp, it didn’t matter whether statements in the ad were true or false, as long as they were plausible and might be accurate and created the correct impression, they were justified. That’s not lying, it’s bullshit -- and its more dangerous to the truth than is lying.

I wrote a series of columns on bullshit in the Pioneer Press some months back. Some excerpts that pertain to the Wetterling ad.
Bullsh*t, Frankfurt [Princeton professor Harry] says, is a misrepresentation short of an actual lie. To avoid the consequences of the truth, a liar makes a specific false statement, replacing truth with fabrication. A person cannot tell a lie unless he knows what the truth is and what its impact is. Bullsh*t, on the other hand, is indifferent to the truth. . . .

That is not to say slinging bull is morally superior to lying. It simply serves a different purpose. Lying hides the fact that the speaker is not telling the truth. Bullsh*t hides the fact that the truth is of no importance. It might contain fact, but the use of facts is meant to create an impression that is not necessarily connected with reality. The fault lies not in getting something wrong, says Frankfurt, but in not even trying to get it right. . . .

Frankfurt comes to a logical conclusion: Excessive indulgence in ignoring reality, making assertions only considering what it suits one to say, a person loses the habit of actually looking for the truth.
After reading the flurry of back and forth accusations on the Internet last week, I discover I must be one of the few bloggers on the Internet NOT being paid by a political campaign or organization. (Where did I go wrong?) If I were being paid by the GOP for my advice (which has been ignored thus far so I guess I answered my own question), I think there is hay to be made, not by calling Patty Wetterling a liar, but by pointing out that Wetterling’s campaign has reached the point where the truth is becoming totally irrelevant -- evidence the Foley ad and the Bachmann tax hike ad. The fault lies not that Wetterling got the facts wrong in these ads -- she didn’t even try to get them right.

Of course, there’s a problem with with the GOP using that tactic, isn't there?

Friday, October 06, 2006

Patty Wetterling to Deliver Democratic Radio Address

Posted by Craig Westover | 7:30 PM |  

The DCCC has issued a release of Patty Wetterling’s Democratic response to President Bush’s weekly radio address. It is embargoed until 11:06 EST tomorrow.

The address calls for holding House leadership responsible for the Foley affair as well it should. To be honest, it is less harsh a call than I expected, and less harsh than I think it could have legitimately been. And if anyone has the credibility and the ability to deliver the message sincerely, it is Patty Wetterling.

Wetterling makes the justifiable call for a full investigation including “unfettered access to email, records and correspondence.” She notes that we have instituted safeguards for children at schools and nationwide alert systems. “But we need to do more to return the peace of mind we’ve lost” says her remarks.

It’s tough to draw a point from this without seeming to make excuses. The later is not my intent. But as you listen (or read) on Saturday, stop and think about how Wetterling is responding, think of reaction to the Foley affair independent of her remarks, think about the emotional reaction to events -- that reaction has been, like Wetterling’s, that we must do more.

How is that different from reaction to 9/11? The need to “do more” has led to government surveillance and practices that some call necessary and others see as violations of fundamental individual rights. What does Wetterling’s “unfettered access” mean? Unfettered by legal maneuvers intended to protect the rights of the accused? What is the “more” we need to do to protect children? Does the “more” take us into the gray areas of violating the rights of some to protect the lives of others?

Wetterling doesn’t say. Unstated is the question, “can we do more to protect children without the same kind of fundamental rights violations that are being used (and condemned) to prevent another 9/11?”

That’s not a statement of judgment; it is a question, a question that captures the difference between being a president responsible for action and responsible for the consequences of acting (or not acting) and a voice on the outside making the vague demand to keep us safe.

Jack Nicholson’s character in the movie “A Few Good Men” was an asshole, but no one in the climatic courtroom scene disputed his contention that we want his kind on the wall between us and our enemies; we also want his kind on the wall between us and those that would prey on our children. We need his kind on those walls.

Without sarcasm, Wetterling on Saturday is an every parent speaking for all us with a concern for children. It is fitting that on Saturday, we leave it at that. On Saturday, she is more mom than politician, we more parents than partisans.

But in the campaign ahead, the Patty Wetterling that would serve in Congress assumes the mantle of a would-be leader and must, like the president she criticizes, make the call on just what she would bring to that wall. She must accept the responsibility of her action or non-action. A leader must be capable of more than criticism.

Patty Wetterling
National Radio Address

“Our Children Need Strong Voices in Washington”

Good morning, my name is Patty Wetterling.

I am a mother, teacher and child advocate from Minnesota . On October 22, seventeen years ago, my son Jacob was abducted. Jacob is still missing. As I talk to you today I am as concerned as ever about the safety of all of our children.

This week, we all watched in shock and with deep sadness as violence hit our schools and the security of classrooms was violated – and we watched in anger as yet another scandal broke in Washington .

In Colorado , Pennsylvania , here in Minnesota and across the country, we need to be able to tell our children that they are safe when we kiss them goodbye or put them on a school bus in the morning. Our schools must be a safe place for every child.

Seventeen years ago, I committed my self and my work to strengthening penalties for those who harm children and to stopping the sexual exploitation of children. The terrible reality of child sexual abuse is that it almost always involves someone that the child knows. As was the case with Congressman Foley.

Foley sent obvious predatory signals, received loud and clear by members of the congressional leadership, who swept them under the rug to protect their political power.

If a teacher did this and the principal was told but did nothing, once the community found out, that principal would be fired.

If this happened in a church and the minister received information and he did nothing, he’d be fired.

Congressional leaders shouldn’t be held to a lower standard than what we expect of our community leaders.

Too often, even well-intentioned people stand by when there is a suspicion of child abuse because they don’t know what to do and they hope that the problem will just stop or go away. Too often, there is more concern over protecting an institution than protecting our children. That is precisely what happened here.

Secrecy is the common ingredient in all child sexual abuse. When we have reason to believe someone is sexually abusing a child, we must act. When a child has the courage to come forward, we must not become part of the secret. We must make the protection of our children the highest priority.

Our nation’s children and their parents don’t deserve to endure fear in our schools and it is wrong to make children endure fear within the halls of Congress.

We need to get our priorities straight when it comes to protecting children. Prevention is more than educating children to protect themselves – it is fundamental change that requires investment in promoting the healthy development of our children and doing all we can to protect them and prevent harm.

My prayers are with all the families who are suffering because of the tragedies of the past week. I admire the courage of the victims who, in speaking up, inspire us all to do more. My family joins me in offering a prayer today for their continued strength, and for the support of their communities to see them through this dark time, as our community has done since Jacob was taken from us.

We need a new direction in Congress because our children need strong voices. We need to stop the sexual exploitation of children across the country, and in Washington we must hold accountable all those complicit in allowing this victimization to happen.

I have called for an independent investigation and the immediate expulsion of any member of Congress involved in covering up the actions of their colleague.

For seventeen years, I have fought for tough penalties for those who harm children. Members of Congress are not and should not be above the law. We need a full and complete investigation with unfettered access to emails, records and correspondence and subpoena power over members, leadership and staff.

We need to restore integrity to Congress, integrity that was further damaged by Congressional leadership’s silence. We need a new direction to restore the trust we’ve lost.

We’ve instituted safeguards at schools and nationwide alert systems, but we need to do more return the peace of mind that we’ve lost.

We cannot change the way Washington operates until we change the people we send there.

We need to ensure that members of Congress understand the reality of sexual exploitation of children in America . This is not a problem that can be swept under the rug. This is not about “overly friendly” relationships between adults and children this is about ways children are too often viewed as sexual objects. And this is not about partisan politics. Protecting our children is not a Democratic or Republican issue – it is an American issue that we are all concerned about.

This is about the safety of children – mine and yours. How we address this appalling situation impacts every child, every parent, and every institution in this country. Adults must be accountable for the well being of our children. Parents, please take the time to talk to your children about personal safety. We can and we must do better.

My prayers continue to be with every child and every family involved in this tragic situation, that their faith will sustain them in this difficult time.

I’m Patty Wetterling, and I thank you for listening.

Just another reason I admire David Strom

Posted by Craig Westover | 4:39 PM |  

Strom doesn't mince words and cuts to the chase. Hastert should resign for political reasons, yes, but Strom doesn't let him off the hook on personal responsibility -- even if Hastert didn't know about Foley's activities, he should have known. Even if the Democrats knew about Foley and conspired to turn him into an October surprise -- doesn't matter. There's no gray in this issue -- there is a right thing to do.

When a person "takes responsibility," more is involved that rhetoric. A person that takes responsibility doesn't merely wait around to see what the consequences might be, a person taking responsibility initiates the proper consequences. That is the situation Hastert is in.

Below is Strom's Townhall column. It's a good one.

Denny Hastert Must Go
This is not a question of “justice” or “fault,” it is simply political reality

“What did he know and when did he know it?”

Those are the questions that seem to be on everyone’s lips when discussing the future of Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert.

Yet, in a very real way, those questions are irrelevant to whether he should resign his position as Speaker.

What really matters right now is, can Denny Hastert be the leader and spokesman for his Party in the coming election? For not only is Hastert Speaker of the House, a technically non-partisan position, but also the head of the Republican Party in the House of Representatives.

And it seems clear that the answer to that question is no. For the foreseeable future, Hastert will be involved in cleaning up the mess caused by the Mark Foley scandal, and his handling of the information he received about Foley over the past year or more. It is difficult to imagine that anything Hastert says or does in the coming weeks would not be tainted by that scandal, and impossible to imagine a situation in which he could effectively campaign for Republican House candidates.

Unless Hastert resigns, the Mark Foley scandal will be at the center of political discussion for the rest of the campaign season. It is tempting for Republicans to bemoan the injustice of it all. After all, Mark Foley was just one of the 231 Republicans in the House; and nobody knows for certain how much members of the Republican Leadership knew and when they knew it. There is a lot of dark talk about how the information about Foley was leaked as part of an “October Surprise” to derail Republicans in the key weeks before the election.

All of this is beside the point. Mark Foley’s behavior was inexcusable and indefensible. The leadership either knew or should have known enough to take vigorous action to protect pages and former pages from Foley, rather than just taking his word that he wouldn't do it again. Any attempts by Republicans to excuse or defend their leadership’s response will keep the public focused on the shortcomings of the Republican leadership, rather than on the issues that should decide the election. Anything Republicans do right now, short of a full mea culpa and a sacrifice of their leadership upon the alter of decency, will be seen as trying to defend the indefensible.

Denny Hastert must resign, not because this scandal is necessarily his fault, or even because we know of a specific failure on his part that if corrected could have avoided this scandal. Hastert should resign because it happened on his watch, and somebody has to take responsibility. And because there is no way that he can lead the Republican effort to retain control of Congress as long as this scandal is hanging over his head.

If Republicans are to have any chance at all of keeping their majority—and chances of that look increasingly slim —they need to go back on the offense and take control of the political conversation in last weeks of the campaign. They also need to send a clear message to the public that they understand that the House leadership had its priorities wrong in not taking strong action to deal with Foley's misconduct. Hastert cannot help them do that, and indeed it is probable that nobody in current House Leadership could.

Republicans need to quickly get past the question of what is fair and just, or whose fault this mess is, and focus entirely on the question of what they need to do to remain competitive in the upcoming elections. It doesn’t matter if this mess was an “October Surprise;” it doesn’t matter that many Democrats are being hypocrites when they decry Hastert’s response to Foley’s behavior; it doesn’t even matter if Hastert and other members of leadership really did all they reasonably could have given the information they had about Foley's misconduct.

Republicans are asking the voters to retain them in office because of the party's commitment to important principles, including the principle of personal responsibility. There is simply no way they can make the case unless they wipe the slate clean, elect new leadership, and embrace full responsibility for the failure to do the right thing about Foley. Anything short of this will doom the Republicans to minority status. Replacing the leadership may not be enough to salvage this election, but at least it will let the country know that the Republicans in the House understand that something went terribly wrong.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

COLUMN -- Imagining the backlash from Big Oil

Posted by Craig Westover | 6:12 AM |  

Note: This column appeared briefly as a post, which I pulled so I could make it paying copy. The original is now posted here, interesting only for the differences editing (self-imposed and MSM) makes.

Wednesday, Oct 4, 2006

A Gallup poll released last week found that 42 percent of Americans believe President Bush is manipulating gas prices before the November elections. If the poll is accurate, I wouldn't be surprised to see a news report that goes a little bit like this:

Big Oil criticizes
Bush administration's
mishandling of gasoline prices

"Bush lied and prices slide," oil exec says

MINNEAPOLIS — Attired in Armani and chomping on contraband Cuban cigars, representatives of Big Oil demonstrated their solidarity in front of the pumps at a Minneapolis "Stop 'n Rob" convenience store and railed against the Bush administration's failure to maintain gas prices at record levels.

"Less than two months ago, with gas prices busting the $3-per-gallon barrier, the president landed his helicopter on an Exxon oil exploration platform and declared 'mission accomplished,' " said Big Oil spokesman Sol Recker. "Not.

"Bush promised us, in return for campaign contributions, that he'd maintain high gasoline prices by creating weather of mass destruction," an angry Recker said. "Well, we authorized the contributions, but now there's no WMD. Bush lied, and prices slide."

Recker's contention that the Bush administration, which can't seem to balance the federal budget, is manipulating prices on the world oil market received support from Glencoe farmer Hans Anderson. According to Anderson, the conjecture by double-talking economists citing the end of the summer travel season, lack of hurricanes, easing of tensions between the United States and Iran, and a sell-off of oil futures by speculators is just a smoke screen.

"It's as plain as the fact that George Bush orchestrated the 9/11 attacks that he's manipulating gas prices in order to elect Republicans," Anderson said from behind a large Wellstone! sign he had propped against the stroller of his sleeping 17-month-old granddaughter. Anderson said the obvious compromise is adding higher quantities of more expensive ethanol blends to gasoline, which would drive up the price at the pump for consumers but put more money in the pockets of farmers.

"Ya, sure. You betcha," Anderson said when asked if that proposal sounded fair.

Dodging a black, sputtering and coughing SUV with a faded "Support E85" bumper sticker pulling up to the pumps, Robert Enron II, representing Citizens for Higher Everyday Energy Prices (CHEEP), said even if Bush didn't lie about weather of mass destruction, "he certainly did not have an adequate plan for maintaining high pump prices."

"The shock and awe of hurricanes Katrina and Rita was brilliant strategy on Bush's part, but maybe it was too successful," Enron II said. "Bush obviously had no plan to counter the resiliency of insurgent market forces that are driving the price of gasoline down. We're losing the War on Free Markets. Without further government intervention, we'll be stuck in a quagmire of falling gas prices for the foreseeable future."

"People underestimate how fast government can raise the price of gasoline at the pump," countered Decimile Point, second assistant undersecretary of price manipulation at the U.S. Department of Energy. "We have to stay the course. With a Republican majority in Congress, we can still get gas prices up well over the $2.85 price point, maybe even over $3, in time for the holiday travel season."

In a related development, angry demonstrators gathered outside a Wal-Mart store. protesting the mega-chain's reduction of the prices of some generic drugs to $4 a prescription, calling the lower prices "a gimmick intended to generate more business and goodwill for the company."