January 20, 2005

Ooh, Ooh! It's A Nick Coleman Column!

That's right, folks, it's Nick Coleman fisking time again here at Rambling Rhodes! Grab your popcorn and take a seat, because here we go:

Wednesday was Meth Awareness Day at the State Capitol, and just in time. Symptoms of methamphetamine use include a false sense of power, incessant talking and purposeless, repetitive behavior.

See also: Nick Coleman.

Of course, those things in the Capitol only prove that the Legislature is in session. But whatever our lawmakers may be smoking, the warning signs are clear: They have begun neglecting their responsibilities and are having trouble setting priorities.

And those priorities would be? What priorities does Nick Coleman think the Legislature should be focusing on? Well, seeing as how this is a Coleman column, we probably won't find out for the next several paragraphs.

This was a disgrace:

See also: Nick Coleman.

While state officials were getting hip to crank yesterday, leaders of Minnesota's two largest religious faiths were two miles away, visiting the West Side of St. Paul in an attempt to show lawmakers the human faces of poverty and to change the nature of our political debate, which has been dominated in recent years by budget squabbles and juvenile promises not to raise taxes.

First off: "Hip to crank?" *groan* Secondly, I find it amazing that Coleman thinks it's juvenile to promise not to raise taxes. Why, that's something only a teenager would promise!

Every one of the 201 legislators was notified of the effort by Archbishop Harry Flynn of the Catholic Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis and his Lutheran opposite number, Bishop Peter Rogness of the St. Paul Synod of the ELCA. Powerful pols on both sides of the aisle were specifically invited to join the churchmen in a hardship tour of the West Side, a microcosm of poverty and problems too often seen by politicians only as troublesome line items.

Not a one of the pompous windbags showed up. None of them.

Yeah, because, when the Legislature is in session, they have nothing else to do but go gallavanting off to pat the poor on their poverty-stricken heads. Or, wait, I have an idea: how about those 201 legislators stay at the Capitol and actually work to address the issue of poverty where it makes the most sense? Or, maybe Nick envisions legislation being drawn up on the hunched over backs of their fellow legislators? For Nick, a legislator's time is better spent strolling along a hardship tour of the West Side. Gotcha, Nick. NEXT!

No state senators, no representatives, no staff people. No Republicans, no DFLers. Hundreds of these same empty suits had traveled down to Rochester on Tuesday to applaud Gov. Tim Pawlenty as he promised, once again, to balance a deficit on the backs of the disadvantaged.

Uh. . . huh. That was actually part of Pawlenty's state of the state speech. It was right towards the end. Raising his fist in the air, he proclaimed, in a clear, deep tone: "I promise, once again, to balance a deficit on the backs of the disadvantaged!" It was met with wild applause.

But none could get their tuchis over the Wabasha Street Bridge to St. Matthew's Catholic parish, practically within the shadow of the gold-plated jackasses on top of the Capitol, to find out how political games affect the people where they live.

First off: "tuchis?" *groan* Secondly: "gold-plated jackasses?" *groan squared* There's this Home-Ec rule about grocery shopping I learned way back in 7th grade. It is simply: don't go shopping on an empty stomach. Otherwise, you'll end up with a bunch of crap you'll regret buying once you've eaten. On the same token, I'm kind of pleased that the Minnesota legislators opted out of this "feel bad" tour, because I don't want our elected officials going back to the Capitol to start drafting ill-advised legislation because their emotions have been stirred by Tiny Tim and his whooping cough. Minnesota has some of the highest taxes in the nation, and I don't want taxes being raised even higher in a futile attempt to head off poverty.

If I were a bishop, I'd read the windbags' names from the pulpit.

That'd show 'em!!

Here's a little of what the pols were too busy to be bothered with:

• A health clinic director explaining how more and more uninsured people are being forced to wait until a nagging medical problem becomes a full-blown crisis before seeking emergency treatment. Kids with ear infections, mothers with breast lumps, dads with nagging coughs: They all wait.

I've got news for you, Nick. That's not unique to the uninsured. I once sat around with a sore throat for about two weeks, before what turned out to be strep morphed into scarlet fever (seriously). I was a wreck. And I was INSURED! But, I was STUBBORN! And, I was STUPID. And, I'll probably DO IT AGAIN AT SOME POINT.

• A teacher in the only day-care center still open on the West Side explaining how working parents are squeezed between low-paying jobs and rising housing and health costs and are unable to afford child care. Some of the kids in her center wolf down lunch because there is no dinner at home.

SOME of the kids, wolfing down lunch! Oh, the humanity! Also note the classic Nick Coleman observational reporting without any background fact-checking at all. How bad is it? Well, it's so bad, people are telling Nick how bad it is during an event specifically organized to shed the worst possible light on a situation! It's THAT BAD!

• A Loaves & Fishes evening meal that serves 600 people a week at St. Matt's, 30,000 a year. Even though 25 St. Paul-area churches support the St. Matt's feeding program, the churches, too, are being stretched in an era of continuing budget deficits and growing callousness.

This is my favorite. The churches are being stretched in an era of continuing budget deficits? Aren't churches kept afloat by DONATIONS? So, wouldn't the blame fall more on stingy church-goers than anything government-related? Separation of church and state and all that, dontcha know.

Hoping that people of faith will cover the growing gaps in the social safety net means asking churches to double and triple the work they do. But if you want to enlist the churches in this fight, you have to accept that they don't fight by a political playbook. Their book is called the Gospels.

Rrrriigght, because organized religion has never had any political power at all, ever. And there are certainly no religious lobbies to speak of today, are there? Of course not. Nick: head. . . ass. . . remove.

Bishop Rogness, borrowing a story from progressive evangelist Jim Wallis (author of "God's Politics"), told me about a seminarian who went through the Bible with a pair of scissors and cut out every verse having to do with the poor and the hungry. When he was done, the seminarian had snipped out more than 3,000 passages and there wasn't enough left of the good book to keep it together.

Leave it to Nick to listen to a parable from a bishop and hoist it up as some sort of fact. I can almost imagine Nick, listening to the bishop, nodding enthusiastically, scribbling furiously in his tattered notebook, thinking "man, this is good stuff! They can't deny me a Pulitzer this time!"

"We want to re-frame the political debate," Rogness said during his visit to the day-care center. "The debate shouldn't just be how to juggle numbers. We also have to decide what kind of people we want to be and what kind of place we want this to be. In the past, we have taken pride that we have always been a state that has taken care of its people. We can be that kind of place again. And I will state to anyone who'll listen: The care of the poor -- how we take care of those who are on the margins -- is the barometer of a people's faithfulness."

Bishop Rogness is a smart guy. He had identified the fight we have here.

Nick Coleman is not a smart guy. He accepts everything he hears from biships, care workers, and poor people, as the absolute, unvarnished truth. You'll notice, beyond chastising legislators for not attending the "feel bad" PR event, he never, not once, attempted to contact one of those said legislators. No alternative voice sought. No attempt to even think about balancing his literary tripe.

The question before us is whether Minnesota is going to stay true to its traditions and the compassion that made us a leader, or whether we are going to worship the almighty tax cut until we become a heartless Omaha. In this fight, the heads of the Catholic and Lutheran churches are fundamentalists: They are preaching a return to the core tenets of their Christian traditions.

Nick Coleman: Theologian!!

"Our state's budget is more than just a document," Flynn said Wednesday to a half dozen news hounds in a church basement that should have been full of power-drunk lawmakers.

Power-drunk lawmakers? Come on, Nick, even for you, that's an abysmal turn of phrase. I've met a few Minnesota legislators, and "power-drunk" is hardly how I'd describe them.

"It is a moral statement and our legislators must begin their deliberations with the human needs of so many of our people foremost in their minds and hearts. 'Caps' and 'cuts' can be cruel words when they mean adding to the suffering of our children, our elderly, our newcomers to this country, our uninsured, and those housed in shelters or on our streets."

So it's shameful that the politicians were too busy playing with their microphones and pretending they understand drug addiction to go over to the West Side and learn how their duties look to two leading preachers.

He so outraged! It's so cute! You can almost imagine his little cheeks just getting all red. Awwww, Nick. *squeezing cheeks in a playful manner*

But if the politicians think they got away with something, they're wrong.

They've got the bishops on their tail.

Ooooh the bishops are mad at the legislators, they're so scared! Oooooh, the bishops! Uh oh, the bishops are coming to get the legislators! Oh no, don’t let the bishops come after them! Oh, no the bishops are coming after them! No! They’re so big and strong. Oh, protect them from the bishops, the bishops! (shameless Monty Burns ripoff, I know, but it's still funny).

Let the pols yammer on about the State of the State.

The bishops are talking about the State of Our Soul.

Why am I envisioning Shang Tsung stealing Sub-Zero's soul? Nick Coleman columns have a weird affect on me, I guess.

Posted by Ryan at January 20, 2005 12:14 PM

I don't get why they let this guy keep writing. Are they perhaps hoping that people will continue to read his column just for the belly laughs? Or so they can use it as fodder for their blog? Um, uh, sorry 'bout that. Delurking for now.

Posted by: Kris at January 20, 2005 12:30 PM

Wow, this guy is truly an utter fucktard. If he can get, and hold, a job writing like this then why the hell aren't you and I both writing for the Star? Beats the hell out of me!

Posted by: Rick at January 20, 2005 01:16 PM

Given the number of times you've evoked the old "Josh is jousting windmills" thing, it's amusing to me how much energy you devote to flogging this particular bishop. As 't'were.

Posted by: Joshua at January 20, 2005 06:03 PM

Eh, Joshua, kind of like you and your arguing into infinity and beyond, I do it because I enjoy it. It's a cheap little humor/mental exercise.

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