The reluctant Republican (5×8 – 11/13/11)

Political flavors, is life worth living without your iGadget, the day they killed JFK, a day on Planet Booze, and homecoming in Fergus Falls.


David Frum has quit his job as a conservative commentator on Marketplace, the program from American Public Media, Minnesota Public Radio’s sister. He said he no longer is able to fill the role of a conservative commentator, because he’s no longer Republican enough. His explanation of his departure on the broadcast last evening was more illuminating than any numbers upon which the program reflects:

But I think that there’s a kind of expectation that when you do it that you represent the broad point of view of your half of the political spectrum. And although I consider myself a conservative and a Republican, and I think that the right-hand side of the spectrum has the better answers for the long-term growth of economy — low taxes, restrained government, less regulation — it’s pretty clear that facing the immediate crisis — very intense crisis — I’m just not representing the view of most people who call themselves Republicans and conservatives these days.

How does he know? There are few yardsticks to measure the broad spectrum anymore. The election process no longer offers a choice to people in either party, the process narrows all choices to the one that fits — perfectly, usually — the dogma of the relatively few insiders who get to decide.

Minnesota has seen this often. In the ’90s, for example, the party would nominate a far right candidate, who would get slaughtered on primary day by the not-quite-as-far-to-the-right Republican voter.

But political parties — insiders — go out of their way now to avoid primaries, and yet there is no other way to know if the Main St. party member is the same as the party insiders who calls the shots, or if the hand-picked candidates are getting elected because Main Streeters are holding their noses and voting for the only choice they’re given. That choice then goes on to legislate by declaring they have a mandate from the people… people who never really got to choose between the flavors of a particular party.

Indeed, by the time an actual entire state gets to vote in a presidential primary, most of the candidates will have dropped out.

But some things about Frum’s self-review just don’t add up. He’s leaving the radio because he’s not Republican enough anymore and going to TV — CNN, specifically — to be a — wait for it — political commentator.

Yet, on his blog this week, Frum distanced himself even more from his party….

For three years, my political party has veered in a direction I cannot follow. And if the GOP insists on framing the 2012 election as a ballot question on fiscal and monetary austerity, or if they nominate somebody manifestly incompetent to do the job of president, they’re going to lose me – and a lot more people beside me.

But I don’t believe they will do either of those things. I believe that as the election draws closer, the GOP will recover its bearings and its good sense.

So, he thinks he’s not Republican enough to speak for Republicans, and yet he anticipates that the GOP will “recover its bearings and its good sense,” which seems to suggest he thinks his party isn’t aligned with the Republican voters, the ones on Main St.

Why not speak for the ones on Main Street then? With his new gig, Frum says, “I don’t have to represent myself as a champion for a large numbers of people.” But maybe he already does, but the real “large number of people” don’t have a voice he can hear.

A commenter on the Marketplace site certainly signals that possibility:

Although I am a Republican and consider myself somewhat of a fiscal conservative, I agree with a lot of the points David was making. In particular, the part about the Republicans probably having the best plan for the long run, but being wrong about what to do right now. But, of course, the Republicans IN CONGRESS don’t want to do anything but make Obama look bad, even if it means dragging the country down. That top priority, and the one of protecting tax cuts for the wealthiest one percent, will eventually come back to haunt the Republican party, in my opinion. I think that staunch conservatives and staunch liberals share one thing in common – lack of independent thinking. They just holler what and when the head cheerleader tells them to. I am glad that Mr. Frum is showing some independent thinking!

You are, if you’re at all interested in politics, expected to be either “with us or agin’ us.” You are either all in or you’re all out. One flavor.

Frum’s departure is a concession to the reality of the times, when people no longer feel empowered to define and defend their own politics, which might be the best commentary he could provide on how dysfunctional we are.

2) iLOVE

It’s another day of drooling for owners of iGadgets. By today, perhaps, owners of iPhones and iPads should be able to update to the new operating system without the woes they encountered yesterday, and we can then get back to the big issue surrounding them: Do you need a human assistant if you’ve got one?

Meanwhile, Research In Motion says service to its BlackBerry line is improving after a massive outage that had its users questioning whether life was worth living anymore.

It may be too late to save the future of the company, however, an analyst tells the BBC.

It took four days — four days! — for the company’s boss to step forward:

Now, for this next item, you’ll be needing a few cups of coffee, first. Time is changing. Maybe it’s speeding up, maybe it’s slowing down, but it’s changing. Adam Frank says technology changes how we relate to time:

Beginning three decades ago, we were promised a new age of freedom through devices that would let us work more efficiently and at our convenience. Instead, this new world was only half-born and digital technologies now have us working everywhere, all the time. Rather than giving us a new time, our Facebooked, GPS-mapped, mobile-connected lives appear to be lashed ever more tightly to the rigid industrial time-logic of our grandparents world.

Where, then, is the fluid, flexible time these new silicon-enabled devices should have enabled?

The problem, clearly, is not just technology, but what we do with it as individuals and as a collective culture. Just as science is in the midst of a grand experiment reinventing cosmological time, we are in the midst of an epoch-making experiment in reinventing our cultural time. Even in the midst of history’s broad and powerful flow; this experiment is still one we can all take part in.

Here’s the entire article. Read it when you have time.


Concordia College grad Clint Hill, now 79, didn’t talk to anyone about November 22, 1963 for years, he told an audience at the college yesterday. He was one of the Secret Service agents who jumped on the limousine in Dallas to shield the president from more gunshots. But it was, of course, too late.

“It was like I was stuck in a dungeon. I couldn’t get out,” Hill said of the depression he suffered after the assassination.

The Fargo Forum has the story.

Here are a couple of earlier interviews well worth watching:


Three news stories today conflict with the happy marketing for booze…

St. Paul: Claros Bonilla was at Erick’s Bar in St. Paul’s Payne-Phalen neighborhood on Sunday. He got drunk, the Pioneer Press says, so bar owner Gary Erickson refused him more alcohol. That got Erickson stabbed.

Hibbing: Jason Martinson of Angora and Shawn Koski of Cook were drinking at a bar Saturday night. Somehow, according to the Duluth News Tribune, Martinson allegedly started shooting at his friend outside. Koski hid under his truck, when his friend eventually jumped in and drove off, with Koski holding on. For six miles.

Sioux Falls: KELO reports teens are using gummy bears to get drunk. Kids are soaking gummy bears in alcohol and then eating the candy without fear of being caught with a bottle or can. The Rock County (Minnesota) sheriff has also sent out an alert to parents.


A homecoming first at Fergus Falls High School: Twins were crowned homecoming king and queen.

Bonus: “It’s important to swear with care,” says Ryan, who has authored today’s post at the Stuff Expat Aid Workers Like, a humorous blog with vignettes of the humanitarian aid industry from the inside.

Today’s entry is on swearing in the native language to establish field cred with other aid workers (asterisks mine, we’re bilingual on NewsCut):

Swearing in Spanish is the most likely to backfire because, come-on, we ALL know the basic swear words of Spanish from watching movies and listening to music back in the day. A common scenario in which swearing in Spanish fails is when the EAW says “p*** m****” and another EAW says something like “got some Cypress Hill on your playlist these days?” rather then saying “wow, you really went native in Latin America when you were meeting the locals!”

(h/t: Steve Inskeep)


Here’s a tissue…


A recurring theme among Republicans running for president is that they’d like to see more discretion left to the states. For example, Rep. Michele Bachmann wants to abolish the federal Education Department in favor of local and state control, and Gov. Rick Perry wants to use the states as “laboratories of innovation” in health care. Today’s Question: Do you favor moving authority away from Washington and back to the states?


Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: In his new book, historian Eric Foner examines Abraham Lincoln’s complex ideas about slavery and African-Americans, casting fresh light on an American icon.

Second hour: In the summer of 1916, Dorothy Woodruff and Rosamond Underwood, close friends from childhood and graduates of Smith College, left home in Auburn, New York, for the wilds of northwestern Colorado. Woodruff’s granddaughter, Dorothy Wikenden, tells the story of these two pioneers

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: Brian Horrigan and Brad Zellar join Gary Eichten to talk about “The 1968 Exhibit” at the Minnesota History Center. It opens to the public Friday (Here’s an interview — and photos — from a Morning Edition segment on the subject).

Second hour: From the Aspen Ideas Festival, psychologist Jonathan Haidt, author of “The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom.”

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: The plot to kill the Saudi ambassador.

Second hour: Cities that go bankrupt.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – Despite the high unemployment rate, an estimated one million job openings are proving tough to fill. Employers just can’t seem to find enough qualified employees in some industries, from chemical engineering to truck driving. NPR looks at the mismatch of supply and demand in the job market.

Business owners in Bemidji will get a primer on how the state’s homestead tax credit change will affect them. They’ll help make up the difference. MPR’s Tom Robertson will report.

Rev. Russell Rathbun of House of Mercy church in St. Paul has created a play that envisions the funeral of Hank Williams alter ego “Luke the Drifter.” The production is taking place at the Bradshaw Funeral Home on St. Paul’s East Side, where Rathbun volunteers presiding over the funerals of people who have few family, friends, or a minister. Chris Roberts will have the story.

The Minneapolis Police Department has created a new unit aimed at rooting out terrorism through community policing. They’ve put together a team of officers of different ethnicities, assigned to build relationship with their respective ethnic communities. MPR’s Rupa Shenoy will profile the unit.