Paul From Minneapolis

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

It's 60's Night!

A few days ago, anyway, on KTMA, Channel 2, the PBS station here in the Twin Cities. That means old clips and even more it means far out! Old groups singing their old songs at one of the squarest-looking events ever. The bands aren’t bad, actually. The audience is the problem. When boogying, middle-aged white people with money should do so away from the camera’s cruel eye, that’s what I’m saying.

“The music of the Sixties deserves to be preserved.”
That probably explains the gigantic market and huge profits.
“...and public television does that.”
'We’re done preserving Bill Moyers, so we’ve got time. '
“Barry McGuire’s ‘Eve of Destruction’ tells you everything you need to know about the revolutionary tenor of the times…”
That and “Honey.”
“’Abraham, Martin and John’ – every time I hear that song I……mm.”
You what? Turn the radio off? Do a bong?
"Don’t wait!! Pledge Now!! "
Okay, calm down. You’re harshing my buzz.
"With public television, you don’t have all of the......."
What? What don't you have?
"..things… that you have with commercial television…"
Well that seals it. I’ll go get my credit card.
“You hear the opening lines of Barry McGuire’s ‘Eve of Destruction’”-
Okay seriously.
“’the Eastern world’s exploding…’”
“It makes you think, the more things change, the more things…… turn around, the wheel keeps rolling.”
That’s not what I think. I’ve never thought that.
“Sky Pilot. War. People Get Ready. Everybody’s Talkin’ At Me. Eve of Destruction. By Barry McGuire.”
I don’t think they splurged for the copyrights on a lot of songs they might have.
“He Ain’t Heavy...”
You can say that again.
“He’s my brother.”
I’m very sorry.

Okay, fine. And yet, there was an old Creedence clip, a song and a half, and if you need me to tell you about Creedence well then you simply don’t have all of the things – sorry, actually you’re very lucky because you have a lifetime ahead of you of listening to Creedence for the first time.

Back in modern times, on stage, the old guys in Steppenwolf were damn good, too. John Kay in particular – transcendent. Transcendent, that is, of this particular event, but still. I liked it. “Born To Be Wild” – unbelievable song. Would make a good national anthem, actually. Of course I say that about a lot of songs.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Let’s Take A Look at Bobby Fischer’s Proposal

“Sitting in the first-class cabin whisking him away from nine months' detention in Japan, chess icon Bobby Fischer launched a rambling diatribe against the United States on Thursday , calling it "an illegitimate country" that should be given back to Indians.”

Clearly, all Bobby Fischer is doing is voicing a rigorous version of the basic idea animating the far left, that being the deep flaws that define the United States of America, beginning with the original sins of slavery and the white man’s treatment of Indians.

And the program Fischer recommends – that the land should be given back to the Indians – has several features to recommend it, mainly that doing so would finalize discussion of just what we in fact owe the indigenous people we decimated. It would be very nice to move on.

But what do we do with the non-Indian people currently in America? That’s the problem. One option would be to kill them all, or us all I should say. A few hands may raise on that possibility, but you have to remember there are complications: any liberal program, even the most straightforward, can founder on the thorny details of implementation. Like, obviously, non-Indian, non-white people brought here by white people against their will are certainly exempt from being killed. I mean decency counts for something.

And of course even us white people, do you really want to kill us all? I think not. Right? Heh heh. But happily there is another solution: back to Europe with us. All of us, no exceptions.

Here we come Europe! Where do we park?

I Think This Is A Pattern

On the Web, that is:

An outrage-inducing story concerning W and his crew erupts on the left and is swallowed whole by many millions within seconds. If there is an analogy to be found in nature, it would be the effect produced from tossing a handful of grub worms onto the water above a school of undersized, malnourished bluegills hiding under dock: there is little hesitancy.

More slowly, usually in a few hours or a day or two but sometimes it can take months, the story is dismantled by hard-working conservatives. They show it pretty convincingly to be based not on fact, or on all the facts, or they describe another way of looking at things that makes at least as much sense. However, most meaning just about all of the left-leaning people who have heard the story and gobbled it down have a) no interest in hearing the other side and b) no automatic internal system for suspecting their own perceptions might be wrong (it’s a life-long issue with them).

To complete our analogy, imagine returning to those same stunted bluegills in order to explain, with careful argument and nuance, why they simply should not have been so excited by those grub worms yesterday, or last summer. It could not matter less to them. They have moved on to other pursuits. Unless you bring more grub worms, you do not exist. I would expect it would be very frustrating.

The end result is the one we all know: a substantial grouping of compassionate, concerned left-leaning folk who keep building up little fortresses of outrage made up events they don’t understand very well, although they think they do. (They are very well-read, it’s well-known.)

With that in mind, here is a nicely-done and doomed-to-have-no-effect takedown of the story that goes: “W signed a bill that means Texas is putting to death indigent black children in the hospital, so he is a racist hypocrite.”

Done from the left, I should say, and congratulations. It may be that I give left-leaning folks too little credit. It may be that a lot of them approach these stories with skepticism, and know enough to be aware of holes and to seek out explanations rather than swan-dive into the soothing waters of indignation. If that’s the case, I really wish those people would talk more than do. Because I don’t hear them very much. And I'm listening.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Today's Odd Strib Letter

The opening line from a letter that goes onto other similar points:

"The Star Tribune chose to run "Rampage at Red Lake" as its March 22 front-page headline. It was reminiscent of a shoot-'em-up cowboys and Indians TV western, with perfect racist alliteration. "

I can guarantee you that whoever came up with that headline is very far from considering him or herself any kind of racist. In fact, this anonymous person is so far from that condition, it is pretty likely he has already eagerly signed up for a workshop that will teach him once and for all the inherently racist nature of alliteration.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

I Have a Master's Degree! From Sangamon State!

The school that granted Ward Churchill a master’s degree in communications (!) can’t locate Churchill’s thesis and in fact they’re not sure he needed to write one.

Doesn't that sound like a great place to get a master's degree? Recently I dig a little into this institution of relaxed and higher learning, Sangamon State, in Illinois, which started as a radical experiment around 1970 and has since been subsumed into the state system as the “University of Illinois at Springfield.” That’s a move that was hugely controversial with the Surrealists and neo-Marxists who still dot its faculty, like the Professors Sakolsky and Fox who penned this sad history.

“From ‘Radical University’ to Handmaiden of the Corporate State” screams the headline, drawing the reader. Recently the same Fox fellow offered his thoughts on Churchill:

“The supposed focus on Churchill himself -- his specific word choices, his academic credentials, his personal background -- masks the right's broader effort to rid higher education of anyone who rejects mainstream conventionalisms.”

Okay! Got it. College professors who reject mainstream conventionalisms face extinction like the California condor. We must cherish and protect the few we have left. And I trust it is with the same level-headedness and equanimity that our angry professor approaches all topics related to American Empire.

I’m not kidding, by the way. Surrealists. I didn’t just pull that name out of my oddly misplaced ear. Prof. Sakolsky himself is an expert on Surrealism (and pirate radio) and particularly the Surrealism that has long been found in Chicago. He covered it recently in a book he edited entitled “Surrealist Subversions: Rants, Writings and Images in the Surrealist Movement,” reviewed here. Nelson Algren, 1975: “Surrealism? In Chicago? You're going to need a lot of luck." Not quite so, says Sakolsky:

In his essay in the massive 742-page tome Surrealist Subversions, Ron Sakolsky says that despite Algren's skepticism, a healthy surrealist movement had been blooming in the Midwestern city since the mid-60s. "The Chicago Surrealist Group had been a defiant presence in the Windy City for nine years," writes Sakolsky, a pirate radio expert. "And it has sustained that persona ever since, blowing in and out of the unfolding cityscape of collective imagination, speaking bluntly in the language of desire, and unabashedly urging the realization of our dreams."

I don’t remember that, growing up outside Chicago, unless he’s talking about Cubs fans. Also, when I see that hunger for speaking bluntly in the language of desire, as distinct from acting on it one is forced to suspect but never mind, I start to conceive of my own essay: Why, exactly, does there seem to be some vague magnetic pull between the far left and Radical Islam?

My search concerning Ward Churchill and Sangamon State led me also to the homepage of University of Texas at Austin professor of Marxist economics, Harry Cleaver. From Ward Churchill to Harry Cleaver. Never again will I mock Surrealism or Dada.

A note at the bottom of Prof. Cleaver’s homepage said, “You are my visitor since March 29, 2000.” Oh no I’m not. You got me confused with someone else.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Stuff From The Past Week

This is the one where Daniel Schorr discusses W’s statements (“pre-war,” he says) that a free Iraq could be a beacon to the rest of the Middle East. Schorr says, “He may have been right.”

Maybe, maybe not. Hope so. The point is that Daniel Schorr, high priest of liberalism, frequently-rational variety, has conceded it’s a possibility. Isn’t that about the same as conceding that W actually had and has laudable realistic motives in this freedom talk? At least a little? The fact that it was even feasible: doesn't that remove quite a lot of circumstantial evidence that the freedom angle was purely a cover story?

I sure as heck think it does. Let me go check to see if Kos and crew have acknowledged this, taken back some stuff they’ve said and apologized good-naturedly. I’ll be right back. If I’m not back in an hour don’t come get me. It’ll be too late.

These two go together, the first being Eugene Volokh’s reference to the second, the Washington Monthly article. It concerns the long policy road that’s led us to where we are on the environment during the Bush administration.

The Monthly article is long but worth it. It’s a portrayal of chaotic policy-making and moral ambiguity. W’s image as a creature of pure devouring malevolence on the environment is underrated as one factor allowing the Loony Left (who are not as fun-loving as the name sounds) to reject him as a human being and call his policies demonic, making this a good topic.

Recent reprint of a 1920 article on Lincoln’s boyhood, based on interviews in 1909 and '09 with people who grew up with him. I think you need a subscription. For me, fascinating almost more because of the 1909 America it evokes. There are still people around, you know? People who remember this: and there, perched in a cranny of the hills, a log cabin overflowing with children. I stopped for dinner at one of these. There were the great stone fireplace, the hand-made hickory furniture, hand-woven baskets, and puncheon floors, all a reproduction, I suppose, of a typical English cabin of three hundred years ago; and there were archaic forms of speech which even in Shakespeare's day had disappeared from all but uncultured or primitive communities.

You don't need to go very far back to connect with ancientness. It can be comforting to remember that my great aunt could have known someone who knew Thomas Jefferson. In fact, maybe she did. She was pretty out of it by the time I rolled around.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Tim Sherno's Guerilla Ops

Last Saturday night around 9:45 I drove to the liquor store, meaning in the Minneapolis context I was making a last-minute trip for supplies for the rest of the weekend.

Liquor stores close at ten Friday and Saturday around here, eight on weekdays, and they don’t open at all on Sundays. As a result there are almost no alcoholics in the state. But anyway, that’s what I was doing, driving 10 blocks to the store and listening to the radio. WCCO-AM, Home of the Twins, a not-much-listened-to Saturday night talk show. The host? I forget. The guest? Tim Sherno, a local TV personality. Not a superstar. Co-anchor of a 5 AM show.

Maybe he is a superstar for people who turn the TV on first thing in the wee morning. Farmers? I would have no idea.

Based on memory, this was what I heard in my three-minute window:

Host: (this is the most inexact of my memories, but I guarantee the spirit) Okay, we’re back, and I’d like to talk about the Jeff Guckert- Jeff Gannon story. Where you had a situation where a gay escort from a fake news outlet using a fake name was allowed access to the White House press room and allowed to ask questions of the president. Why hasn’t this become as big a story as someone might think it should be? (His tone increased in concerned disgust as he reached his climax-question.)

Tim Sherno: (long pause) (continuing) Wry smile… (he actually said that)…What do you think? First let me say that this is the most disgusting, sickening, outrageous, sick, disgusting – as low as you can go, this is lower than that – this is the worst thing I have ever seen. But why isn’t it a story? What do you think? Because whatever machine or whatever that put him there has the ability to make sure this doesn’t become a story!

Okay, again, a little inexact. But he did spit out a list of pejoratives, and he did say “as low as you can go, this is lower,” or words to that effect, and he talked about a machine controlling events and news coverage.


Understand, before this my glancing thoughts related to Tim Sherno involved noticing he has a very thin face, as do I, and musing that it must be a hindrance to true superstardom in his field. In short I know Tim’s pain, if anything I’ve felt a connection. So it was a sucker punch, a blind side hit, to realize during an otherwise pleasant chore: Oh my heavens! There goes another one!

Another what? Another somewhat famous media-type person saying whatever the hell he feels like regarding almost anything previous to checking if he knows what he’s talking about.

Another left-leaning person indulging in a little enjoyable psychic wriggle as he dreams and speaks of this administration possessing mysterious semi-demonic powers. It’s like they all grew up shivering delightfully at Christopher Lee or Donald Pleasence and now, isn’t it fun! They're in the White House!


Okay. It’s kind of odd that Guckert/Gannon was granted daily passes for two years or whatever, but that’s about all I can come up with as an actual question, since I – evidently not joined by Tim Sherno – have been paying attention to the details that have crept out regarding the actual working of the White House press room. Is it uncommon? I don’t know. Do I know why it happened? My first guess would be, they liked the guy. He was a conservative so somebody, probably pretty low down, cut him some slack. If that’s a scandal, all hope is lost.

If you care, go right below for a little e-mail exchange I had a couple weeks back with Ron Hutcheson, current president of the White House Correspondents Association. I saw him interviewed on MSNBC and wrote him to make sure I understood his points.

Before that, though, do remind yourself of the conspiracy believed in by Tim Sherno, celebrity:

Although supplied already with non-hostile questioners from various fairly prominent outlets like Fox and what not, the White House’s Incredibly Insidious Media Control Team decides that to really cement that straitjacket on the press, they simply must plant a gay escort using an alias to ask mostly (not entirely) friendly questions no one will pay attention to, until he pisses off the other liberal reporters enough that they can run off and discover within seconds that he is a gay escort using an alias. Then – as a capping stratagem – the clamps come down and the media fails to write about the issue as much as Tim Sherno thinks they should!

On to the exchange.

Update: It’s possible I got this Sherno guy all wrong, and he’s just really gut-level disgusted by the fact that Guckert is gay or, at the very least, has acted quite gay. Maybe his despair derives less from evil administration control stuff and more from how the whole gay thing makes the situation something he can never handle emotionally. Maybe the machine to which he refers is the gay machine. I don’t associate those feelings with Tim Sherno types – urban, thin-faced – but maybe he’s playing to his farmer base to an extent. I doubt it but you never know. If so I sort of apologize or something.

Guckert/Gannon: An Exchange with Ron Hutcheson

This post is pretty basic. Just the facts. I might have posted it before, but what prods me now is an tiny event in my life from last weekend reviewed in the post above. So these two posts are a pair. Read them in either order.

This doesn’t need much explanation. Ron Hutcheson of Knight-Ridder is the current president of the White House Correspondents Association, elected by the other correspondents. This brief e-mail exchange conveyshis view of the Jeff Gannon-Jeff Guckert caper. It started after I saw Mr. Hutcheson interviewed on Keith Olbermann’s show on MSNBC where his intent seemed to be to add a note of calmness.

But as I say, the substance of the exchange is pretty clear, I think. Here we go.

Me, writing to an e-mail address I found pretty easily:

Hello Mr. Hutcheson -

Saw you on Olbermann last night. Thought you did a good job; I was surprised how Olbermann just sort of seemed to accept your version of things and then move on. I have a question or two, if that's okay. (I'm a proto-blogger…It exists but not for public consumption yet.)

Anyway, are you actually here and would you have a couple minutes for a quick back and forth?

Thanks -

Paul S. in Minneapolis

Ron Hutcheson:



Thanks -

I assume the association you're currently the president of is a non-partisan thing, right? That your presidency while sign of a certain respect is also something that people kind of take turns at? (Not to denigrate your role, of course.) And I assume you're no particular Bush supporter or defender?

Beyond that, I just to make sure I understood your points accurately:

Traditionally, there is an atmosphere of letting people in for the daily briefings, rather than keeping people out. So if a guy has any claim to any credibility, the tendency is to err on the side of openness. So it's actually pretty easy to get a daily pass.

The decision would have been made below the level of press sec, and would have been nothing "the White House" (that is, W or his advisors) had anything to do with. So the press sec's claims of ignorance about the details of who he was or why he was there are logical.

(Your organization doesn't have a role in this, does it? You're just
describing a kind of collegial and open tradition, was my sense.)

There is a tradition of agenda-driven pseudo-reporters from both sides of the fence - I believed you called them "cocoanuts" - that the rest of you tolerate; Guckert/Gannon fit with that tradition, as far as anyone could tell.

Then, just a couple questions: Would whoever have made the decision to grant a day pass have known about the fake name, and just accepted it as a "writer's name," so what the heck? Would they have known about the gay porn site stuff in researching Guckert, and decided, well, that's not enough reason to keep him out? Or - is it possible they didn't know about the name, which would seem like a security issue, but not one related to a secret WH plot to insert a gay porn site operator using an alias into the press briefings?

Or is it possible the decision-maker knew Guckert was, liked him but didn't know about the porn stuff?

Anyway, thanks - hopefully I didn’t ramble too much -


Ron Hutcheson:

Correct on all of your first three assumptions, although I would note that the association presidency is an elected position. We take turns only in the sense that people typically do not run for the job again after serving.

You've also done a great job of describing the situation. I don't buy the conspiracy theories at all. There is a long history of people with questionable journalistic credentials, from both the left and the right, attending briefings. There's a good story in today's NY Times that captures this element.

In any case, I very much doubt that anyone in the White House was aware of the porn connection. I'm unsure on the fake name issue, but the Secret Service requires a Social Security number and a date of birth for the background check. It seems that those requirements would uncover any fake name. I don't think a fake name would ring any particular alarm bells.

Finally, you're right that the correspondents' association doesn't have any role in this. The White House would gladly hand it off to us because they don't like making judgment calls about journalists either. We'll discuss the issue at our next board meeting on Feb. 28, but, speaking strictly for myself, I would oppose any effort to drag us into this. I want our organization to be on the side of getting people access to the White House, not shutting them out.

Hope this helps.

Thankfully for us in the Twin Cities, though, we have Tim Sherno on the case.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

This is the end.

Or the beginning of the end. The walls are crumbling, the people are awakening. Does big hair mean big brains?