The Tea Party — which isn’t really a party just yet, but rather the world’s largest agglomeration of misspelled signs — attracted the attention of the local press this past weekend. This despite the fact that, as the Associated Press admits, it hasn’t really caught on in Minnesota.
Nonetheless, the Star Tribune was inspired enough by the movement to reprint another AP story: Five things to know about the Tea Party. What is worth knowing? Well, they tilt hard right, they’re leaderless, they have no defining issue, and they’re angry. And, despite all the naysayers saying nay, they’re doing what they can to make an impact locally. Heck, they have big plans for Tax Day, according to the local Tea Party Patriots site. They’ve got Toni Backdahl as an emcee, as an example. Who? Dunno, but they make a infanticide joke on their Twitter bio over an image of the cartoon character Beavis, so there’s that. Also, there will be music by Kritical Kontact. Who? If their Facebook page is correct, they’re “a fatal hit from a ninja to the throat collapsing your windpipe,” which seems to be a fancy way of saying “a rap group from Duluth. You can check out their mad skillz on their MySpace page.
Speaking of tilting hard to the right, the news in Tim Pawlenty’s world got weird this past week. Now, this is not a candidate who has been antagonistic to, let us say the fringe of the conservative party. Quite the opposite — for the past year or so, our governor has been the very model of toeing the party line, from public pronouncements of religion to rejection of climate science to aggressively criticizing Obama for federal spending, even as Pawlenty has used those funds to help balance the state budget. So he’s not precisely the sort of guy you expect to get right-wing death threats. Nonetheless, on Friday, Pawlenty announced that he had received a letter telling him he must resign within three days, or he would be “removed.” As the AP reports, the letter came from a group identified by the FBI as Guardians of the free Republics. Pawlenty didn’t seem especially concerned, perhaps because the threats were sent out en masse to about 30 state governors. Why not all 50? Perhaps they simply ran out of postage.
Paul Schmelzer from Minnesota Independent looks into the group a little more and discovers an Anti-Defamation League report on the movement that the group is associated with, called the Sovereign Citizen Movement, and finds it to be a rogues’ gallery of Posse Comitatus-styled anti-government types, linking it to the Redemption movement (Wikipedia entry), a terrifically bizarre tax fraud scheme. Fortunately, these guys are just some lunatic fringe, and hardly have a voice in contemporary politics. Except that the you’ll find a lot of the language of the Sovereign Citizen movement at Tea Party rallies. Here’s an example of its appearance locally.
Of course, that’s just one guy and one blog, although the same guy was also promoting a Tea Party protest at the state Capitol on March 19. The point? Although it’s a movement without a leader or a unified ideology, when you start chasing down the ideological threads of specific members, it just doesn’t take very long to locate links to the same people who threatened our governor, and the governors of a majority of the states of this Union. Of course, the counter-claim by Tea Party affiliates is that fringe elements in their movement are infiltrators, probably intended to discredit the movement. We’d like to suggest that it is possible that having a large and disorganized movement with generalized anti-government and anti-tax sentiments might, on occasion, attract anti-government and anti-tax extremists, but, then, what do we know?
Well, enough about the Tea Party. Alas, this means we move on to some terrible news. Firstly, there is a word in criminology, “overkill.” It’s a terrifying word, and defines situations in which criminal violence is far in excess of what would be required to end somebody’s life, generally indicating the killer was so blinded with emotion that they completely lost control of their actions. There was a textbook case of it this past weekend. As Abby Simons of the Star Tribune reports, a man named Billy Nash was charged Friday with fatally stabbing his wife. He allegedly stabbed her more than 70 times. While his children watched. Nash had already been charged with beating his wife, and was released from the Hennepin County Jail on the condition that he make no attempt to contact her.
The other terrible news is of the burning of the apartments above McMahon’s Pub at 3001 E. Lake St., which cost six lives, including one of the pub’s bartenders. According to Jessica Mador of Minnesota Public Radio, officials are still chasing down the source of the blaze, and the Associated Press offers the story of Andrew Gervais and his three young children, killed in the fire, who were temporarily homeless and were above the bar for one night while Gervais tried to get back on his feet.
At least we can close with a more encouraging tale of homelessness: According to Scott Seroka of KARE11, former Vikings linebacker Matt Blair, who volunteers at Union Gospel Mission in St. Paul, provided space and resources for a down-on-his-luck architect named John Chilcott; Chilcott, it turns out, has a talent for painting, and his work will be displayed at the Hilton in downtown Minneapolis April 10.