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The value of follow-up questions

It's a good rule of thumb that where there is one embarrassment, there will be more. For instance, if you scratch beneath the surface of a celebrity breakup, you'll find audio recordings in which the celebrity defends abusiveness and launches into racist tirades. It's why follow-up questions are just good policy in news reporting.

It's not certain who did some digging on state Sen. Satveer Chaudhary, DFL-Fridley, although it seems Brandon Stahl of the Duluth News Tribune broke the story. Chaudhary, as you may remember, created a bit of a stir when he had language inserted into a fish and game bill that regulated fishing on Fish Lake, which struck some as, well, fishy, especially when it turned out he owned a cabin on the lake, and so indirectly benefited. Chaudhary apologized, but the DFL went ahead and revoked its endorsement of him. Chaudhary fought this, but, as Rupa Shenoy of Minnesota Public Radio reports, it didn't do him any good. Endorsement: still revoked.

As it turns out, there are yet more troubles for Chaudhary. According to Stahl, the senator owes back taxes. A lot of back taxes. In 2007, he and his wife failed to pay $100,000 in income taxes; the next year, he neglected to pay $151,000. Chaudhary has an explanation for 2008, involving his wife being forced to exercise some stock options, which "led to a huge tax liability." He has no explantion for the previous year and is "checking with his accountant to learn more."

It's no Mel Gibson tape, but this isn't the sort of thing that makes for a very successful re-election campaign, either.

But then, Michele Bachmann seems to have no trouble getting elected, and she can be perfectly bewildering. Let's take her latest quote: As Joseph Boven of the Minnesota Independent reports, on Friday Bachmann declared at the Western Conservative Summit in Denver that health care reform, along with executive overreach on President Obama's part, had created a "nation of slaves."

We were once a nation of slaves, and it took a Civil War to end that. And there is still slavery in the world. There are, in fact, an estimated 27 million slaves in the world today, greater than any number in human history. Some are beaten and drugged and forced to act as prostitutes; some are pressed into labor without remuneration; some are children, and are handed weapons and forced to go to war. Some of this happens in the United States — here is a PDF of a Department of Justice Report from 2006 that estimates that between 14,000 and 50,000 individuals are trafficked into the United States annually. Note that the Department of Justice does not include "receiving health care" or "not liking what the president is doing" in its definition of slavery.

But, then, if Bachmann gets enough heat for comparing policies she disapproves of with slavery, she may just claim never to have said it. There is precedent. She claimed never to have asked for the media to investigate members of Congress for un-Americanism, saying it was an "urban legend" (here's the video of her making the request). Now she's claiming that her opponent for her seat, Tarryl Clark, is "brazenly and blatantly" lying about her, according to Andy Birkey of the Minnesota Independent. "I have never once said that BP is not liable or that they shouldn't be 100 percent of what they owe or that the taxpayers should pay a dime," Bachmann complains.

And of course she didn't. What she said was this: "They shouldn't have to be fleeced and made chumps to have to pay for perpetual unemployment and all the rest — they've got to be legitimate claims. 'The other thing we have to remember is that Obama loves to make evil whatever company it is that he wants to get more power from. He makes them evil, and what we've got to ask ourselves is: Do we really want to be paying $9 for a gallon of gas? Because that could be the final result of this.' "

Clark's ad makes extensive — and accurate — use of this quote, but at no point does she claim Bachmann said BP is not liable or shouldn't pay. Instead, she suggests that if Michele Bachmann lets BP off the hook, the taxpayers will have to pick up the slack. Now, that's a big "if" — Bachmann has, in fact, said BP should be responsible for paying for the cleanup, but it's a bit different than the claim Bachmann is making, that Clark is lying about what she said. And, in fairness to Clark, Bachmann wants people hurt by the oil spill to do what they traditionally do and go to the courts to make their claims. There is actually historic precedent for this — the Exxon Valdez spill from two decades ago. This was resolved all of two years ago by the Supreme Court, who ordered one-fifth of the damages plaintiffs sued for. So, practically speaking, Bachmann's proposal would takes decades, cost millions of dollars and result in plaintiffs getting a much smaller settlement than they expect. In the meanwhile, the cost to taxpayers for the Exxon Valdez cleanup was $87 million.

So Bachmann may be publicly demanding that BP pay every penny, but she's supporting a process that results in taxpayers picking up the tab. Bachmann says Clark is lying; the facts suggest Clark is merely a student of history.

No further digging happened in a Pioneer Press story on Tom Emmer by Bill Salisbury. Salisbury repeats a stirring anecdote about Emmer's father, whose lumberyard was ailing during the early '80s recession, and who took a photo of the whole family dressed in suits, up to their necks in the family pool. He sent this photo out with the words "The Emmers almost went under last year, but we're coming out with a splash this year."

What does this charming anecdote demonstrate? "Self-reliance is at the core of his laissez-faire political philosophy," Salisbury says. We at the Glean would be curious about how much self-reliance actually was in place here. After all, the big '80s recession was prompted by a Savings and Loan crisis and was resolved by a massive bailout, with the U.S. government eventually forking over about $124.6 billion. The S-and-Ls had backed a lot of home loans, and this bailout kept the housing market afloat, which provided a sizable income for lumber companies. Now, it is possible the chestnut that Emmer shares has nothing at all to do with that, and is, instead, the tale of a hardworking man hoisting himself out of his family pool by his bootstraps without an ounce of assistance from the federal government. A few follow-up questions might have clarified this.

In arts: Local music legend Spider John Koerner is enjoying a release of previously undiscovered material from 1963, the year he and his musical partners, Dave Ray and Tony Glover, recorded their famous "Blues, Rags and Hollers" album. Actually, it's from the very night of the recording, when Koerner went to a Milwaukee radio station to play some live music and get interviewed. According to Chris Roberts of Minnesota Public Radio, Koerner has no memory of the night in question, or the interview, or the recordings. We've all had nights like that, although in the case of us at the Glean, those nights resulted in dimly lit photographs and blackmail threats, and not a collection of vintage 1960s barroom folk blues music.

It was the pages. When they come bearing whiskey and digital cameras, man, run.

Finally, in sports, John Shipley of the Pioneer Press reports that Twins catcher Joe Mauer is on the sidelines for the moment, thanks to a sore shoulder. This is almost as distressing as that spell when he was benched after having badly strained one of his sideburns.

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Comments (18)

Ms. Bachmann has a history of amusing misstatements which would be funny if they were (a) actual misstatements not her honest opinion or (b) the mutterings of my old aunt or (c) at least not from an elected official.

How the heck does this nut get re-elected?

Anyhow, here is a story about Bachmann that uses her words against her (hey, she has the right to remain she would tell you, that right comes from the Declaration of Independence). THIS IS FUNNY >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Gosh, I bet you have a few choice words you’d like to share with Salisbury, Bunny.

I mean, here the guy has a golden opportunity not only to rub Tom Emmer’s face in some dirt, but to toss a little mud at his family as well...and he let Emmer off the hook; another opportunity wasted.

But listen, bunny, don’t be too hard on Salisbury.

As you yourself prove, right here on “the Glean”, shining up a Democrat candidate’s old, busted papspew often isn’t any easier than sliming GOP legislators. "Big if's"? C'mon, bunny; we know you you can do better than that. Minnpost's scary smart, reality based community is counting on you!

Seriously, if you hope to help “Taxin’” Terryl avoid a humiliating double digit trouncing in her upcoming campaign FAIL, you are going to have to try a bit harder.

When was the S&L Crisis, again? When was the bailout? The pool photo came during the "deep recession in the early '80s."

You certainly are free to criticize Tom Emmer, but at least get your timeline in order. When you do, throw in Neil Bush for good measure.

Ah, yes... the mark of a truly objective member of the commentariat! Attack the messenger for being partisan when that messenger repeats the intellectually challenged if not downright dishonest ramblings of your candidate and, in the same tortured breath, attempt to pin an ancient and now-rendered-useless-through-constant-repetition label on your candidate's opponent.

All of that including not a single effort to actually correct or defend what your candidate said (because, of course, what was reported is accurate and indefensible).

Of course there are still LARGE numbers of folks in our Minnesota Sixth who love Ms. Bachmann because she thinks (or fails to think) just like they do, expresses the same unreasoned and unreasoning cognitive dissonance as they do themselves, and, of course, she claims to be against abortion and offering human rights to gay people (although she hasn't actually been successful at anything but posturing in the media on that, or any other issue she claims to hold dear).

She did, however, get dangerously close to some gay people while hiding in the bushes in her high heels at a rally in favor of offering GLBT people full human rights at the state capital a few years back. I suppose she deserves a purple bandaid for that level of courage, at least, but re-election? Decidedly not.

"She did, however, get dangerously close to some gay people while hiding in the bushes in her high heels at a rally...I suppose she deserves a purple bandaid for that level of courage"


Gay people in the bushes with Michele? Who knew? And why would she need a bandaid, no, a purple bandaid, after the encounter? And what does any of this have to do with "big if's"?

Y'all really have this poor conservative scratching his head this time!

I wasn't really able to follow Mr. Swift's logic, but he did seem to miss that I lead this column with a discussion of Sen. Satveer Chaudhary.

It's not partisan if it cuts both ways, Mr. Swift.

Rep. Bachmann appears to be congenitally incapable of getting her facts straight, particularly when the truth is so much less helpful to her goals.

The knives are out this morning, aren't they?

Salisbury's article on Mr. Emmer did read much like a press release from his office. I recall being surprised by this line as I read the piece yesterday:

"He's been badgered for not saying what government programs he would cut and questioned about taking seemingly contradictory stands on racetrack gambling. Last week, he sparked a controversy by saying restaurant owners should get a "tip credit" to allow them to pay servers less than the minimum wage if they earn tips."

Badgered? Surely there were many more objective words to choose from, among them 'pressed'.

Re-reading the piece now, it's lack of objectivity is even more apparent.

As for the early '80's recession: housing starts and sales went into the tank as the '70s ended and stayed there for some as interest rates went through the roof. (I left the construction business myself in '82 and bought down to a 14% mortgage rate in the spring of '84.) Emmer's father's operation no doubt was hit hard at the time, as were every other business related to the construction industry, from logging to milling to those who swung the hammers. (Pre-nailing gun days: showing my age.) That didn't last long enough to keep Emmer from heading off to Alaska to play college hockey, however.

It will be interesting to compare the Press's pieces on the candidates to see whether others receive such light-handed treatment.

"You get a right you don't have and you are a slave."

Obamacare as a "right" has been given to us like the Africans dragged over here in chains were given the "right" to work the fields.

The major difference between the two are the consequences of declining those rights. Whips being replaced with greybars.

"Obamacare as a "right" has been given to us like the Africans dragged over here in chains were given the "right" to work the fields.

The major difference between the two are the consequences of declining those rights. Whips being replaced with greybars."

Did you write that with a straight face, Mr. Swift? I certainly couldn't keep one while reading it.

Thomas have you no decency?

Actually a big part of the savings and loan crisis was that such institutions were no longer acting as old fashioned S & Ls but more like banks but with few attendant regulations.

Not so Swift:

The dangers of dancing too close to the edge is that eventually you just fall off.

"Obamacare as a "right" has been given to us like the Africans dragged over here in chains were given the "right" to work the fields.

The major difference between the two are the consequences of declining those rights. Whips being replaced with greybars."

No the major difference between the two is how they came to be.

In the case of Health Care Reform, we the people voted in the President, Senators and Representatives (majorities of the latter two) that passed Health Care Reform.

We elected many of the above in part because of their promises to enact such reform (or promises to enact reform that went significantly beyond what was eventually passed.)

In that's how you think slavery was imposed, I have neither time nor inclination to point out the many significant ways in which you are profoundly mistaken (though your willfull ignorance or intentional distortion of history is more likely than good-faith mistake.)

And what do you mean by greybars? Anything?

In which decade did the S&L Crisis and subsequent bailout happen? I'm just curious.

Those Emmers sure could tread water for a long time!

according to the office of budget and management each american owes $365,000 to the federal government. what do you call someone who is going to be forced to repay a bill that they did not spend and can not possibly pay off in a lifetime.

Hi Dave,

Out of a current projected budget deficit of $1.3 trillion, $700 billion, or 54% comes from the Bush era tax cuts, $320 billion (25%) from a tax revenue fall off caused by the Great Recession, $200 billion from the wars in Iran and Iraq (15%), and $50 billion (4%) is generated by Obama’s recovery measures.

The TARP and the bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are so small; they don’t even register. All of the angst, complaining, moaning, blustering, and carping is about the 4%. You often see this in politics, where the debate gets focused on where the problem isn’t, not where it is.

So while the noise out of Washington is trying to convince us that these deficits are ruinous, the ten year Treasury bond yields which are 2.97% are telling us that, in fact, they are no problem at all, and that the government can now borrow nearly infinite amounts of money at the lowest interest rates in history.

The Bush tax cuts expire next year, and a recovering economy will bring a return of tax revenues, eliminating 79% of the deficit. The scheduled withdrawal from Iraq next year will cut another 7%. This assumes that Obama is unable to get a single additional piece of legislation through the congress, a distinct possibility if he loses control of congress in November. If anyone else has another set of believable numbers that reaches a different conclusion, I am all ears.

And what happened to Franklin D. Roosevelt's grandchildren, the last president to preside over massive, depression fighting government borrowing? That would be me and my generation, and I think we've done pretty well.

Do you have a link to a credible source for that statistic, David? I'm not an expert on the Office of Budget and Management, but I don't see $365,000 (or any similar number) cited anywhere else, let alone the department's official site. Sounds like you pulled that statistic out of your nether region, but I'm willing to be proven wrong.

The Exxon court-directed settlement leaves hundreds of Alaskan fishermen, their families and their village(s) appreciably undercompensated for the damage from which they have yet, and probably never will, recover.

In Libby Montana, E.R. Grace & Co. executives knowing exposed mine workers to asbestos for decades. Hundreds and upon hundreds died; hundreds more are sick, hundreds more WILL get sick because no clean-up has taken place. Was Grace and/or its managers held accountable for their misdeeds (which amount to murder)? Nope. A Missoula judge found that the court case residents were finally able to bring was filed too late to be heard before the statute of limitations ran out. Libby was off the hook.

Last year during the health care debates, Senator Baucus proudly announced that he had, after years of struggle to obtain government help, been able to add clean-up and victim compensation funds to the health care reform bill.

Who rules America? C-o-r-p-o-r-a-t-i-o-n-s.