"You'll never get ahead if you don't take care of what you have." - Doris Waddell, RIP

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn
The multi-ethnic building was the original home of the music department at UMM. (B.W. photo)

Monday, May 9, 2011

Author allows us to see GOP's bad side

You'd think this guy had written The Satanic Verses. Of course, getting into a political pissing match can be the ticket for much-coveted attention for an artist. It's just that you don't want a bounty put on your head.
Neil Gaiman (in photo) looks like the recipient of coveted attention, due to the wrath he aroused in a Republican politician. I hadn't heard of him before.
He's definitely an artist to be respected. His talent in modern comics is well-noted. My goodness he has plied his artistry in prose, poetry, film, journalism, song lyrics and drama, in addition to that talent with comics which surely connects him to young people.
Being an artist today, breaking through the clutter of competing talent and voices is important. Mr. Gaiman has definitely done that.
He stepped into the current kerfuffle through no act of his own, really. Oh, he did accept a speaking gig for a rather generous fee. The fee was courtesy the State of Minnesota. That's hardly Gaiman's fault.
Artists everywhere are salivating about what Gaiman earned with a four-hour appearance at the Stillwater library. It's an aberration naturally. If it isn't, we're really in trouble.
There's no doubt the mechanisms of government got gummed up when Gaiman picked up a $45,000 payment for this. But doesn't this type of thing happen all the time with military procurements? You know, those hammers that cost an astronomical sum etc.
It definitely shows the dysfunction of government.
You can expect Republicans to object the loudest. Not about the military procurements, but about the artists.
This type of spectacle is sad to see because Republicans do have something to offer. I'm not one of them, but as I have written before on this site, they promote restraint when restraint is needed.
Democrats might shrug when shown an excess of government, but Republicans will insist that something be done about it. Fine, but it isn't necessary, as House Majority Leader Matt Dean (Dellwood) did, to call author Gaiman "a pencil-necked little weasel."
Not only that, Gaiman in in the eyes of this rabid critic is "a pencil-necked little weasel who stole $45,000 from the State of Minnesota."
So we're getting into libel territory.
It was horribly poor judgment by Rep. Dean to choose such words.
I was immediately reminded of the book "The Wrecking Crew" by Thomas Frank. Frank thoroughly illustrates how Republicans can't govern when given the chance. They can't lead. It's sad because they have valid ideas.
They are the contrary voice that would look at something like LBJ's The Great Society and see shortcomings.
You might be familiar with Frank through his best-known work: "What's the Matter with Kansas?"
If you're familiar with his work, you're not surprised by how Republicans have veered away from the economy-centered points they made when campaigning (emphasis on "jobs") to "God, Guns and Gays." Let's throw "pencil-necked little weasels" in there.
Gaiman responded by calling Dean's words "lunatic schoolyard rhetoric."
Dean's attack is what you'd call ad hominem: appealing to emotions and not reason or logic.
What, a Republican would do this?
I'll just say for the record that something is amiss with the speaking fee. Oh, there are excuses and spin about how the money had to be spent in a certain way and by a certain deadline or it would be "lost" etc., but none of this really washes.
It's nice for people to get exposed to a superb artist like Gaiman at a library event. We have had some interesting author/speakers at our own Morris Public Library, including one who filled the room who had written a book about life on the home front during World War II.
It was at that event we learned about that fascinating "lookout perch" at the Cyrus school, put there for defense purposes. I would guess that little discussion led to the eventual article we saw in Senior Perspective about that perch.
But I'm sure our city officials wouldn't approve anything like $45,000 for such an author appearance. Certainly not if it's the city's money!
So is it supposed to be a ho-hum deal just because it's the state's money?
You see, this is where Republicans can be very helpful. They truly understand accountability. But they don't want people to like government.
This is what we learn the hard way when we choose to turn over the leadership reins to them. This gets scary when we see the likes of Congressman Paul Ryan wanting to tinker with Medicare.
Medicare will "go broke," they say. So? People aren't going to stand idly by while it's dismantled. Republicans need to swallow hard and realize that people really do want certain safety nets.
It's ironic that Rep. Dean would be so hard-edged attacking Gaiman when Gaiman was merely exercising the time-honored Republican/big business principle of "getting the best deal you can." Mr. Gaiman was being resourceful and enterprising.
He says he gave the money to charity. That's fine but I'm not sure it makes the issue go away. There's no guarantee that such recipients would do this. But hats off to the author if he went that route.
Rep. Dean has apologized for the language he used, and he cited the influence of his mother in doing this. He said "my mom is staying with us now because my wife's out of town." This prompted a critic to ask "Who doesn't trust him in the house alone, his wife or his mother?"
Gaiman for his part says of Dean: "He's apologized for calling me names, he says, because his mother made him. He doesn't seem to have apologized for calling me a thief."
Why would Republicans have wanted a pissing match like this? They don't know any better. Because as Thomas Frank has articulated, Republicans can't be entrusted to take the true lead in government.
Sadly they believe in enshrining the free market as the logic of the state. Thus we see Paul Ryan trotting out his sadly ill-fated ideas about Medicare.
I should note that Rep. Dean isn't the first to blow the whistle on the speaking fee embarrassment. City Pages reports that "Last year author Neil Gaiman was criticized by the Star Tribune for receiving $45,000 for a four-hour talk at the Stillwater library."
With the trumpet blaring on such matters, Minnesota House Republicans are justifiably looking at state funding for some key arts and cultural heritage groups. Republicans might want certain organizations of which they aren't terribly fond to compete for grants, rather than get a yearly allotment.
Fair enough. The arts can do fine without a whole lot of government support.
We ought to cheer when someone like Neil Gaiman can reap rewards for his talent. But government shouldn't carelessly loosen its purse strings. Democrats tend not to be vigilant enough about such things.
But Republicans? They can be like a bear with boxing gloves.
You don't want to get into a verbal sparring match with a writer as gifted as Gaiman, who has written in the last few days that "if a man is known by his enemies, I think my stock just went up a little."
- Brian Williams - morris mn Minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

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