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Where the past and the future collide: Why today’s politics includes a fake letter to Lincoln

Let us start with a Monday morning eye-opener, designed to make anybody of a certain age feel simply ancient: Twitter user bloisolson filmed two children at Ax-Man Surplus attempting to figure out how to use a rotary phone. Attempting and failing. Failing badly. One suspects that they would similarly try, and fail, to get sounds out of a record player. Heck, we’re close to the time when a CD player might get a similarly bewildered response. Maybe it’s time we at the Glean sold all those 8-track cassettes, because, man, that technology is not coming back.

Mike Binkley of WCCO seems to be thinking the same thing: “Most of today’s kids can’t imagine living without cell phones, iPods and computers. How would they do without any electricity at all?” The answer, it seems, comes from sending them to the historical village of Forestville, where it’s still the Victorian era, and where they fit children for corsets and, from the sound of things, sell them opium. No, that can’t be. From the report: “It’s a place where the general store clerk sells everything from jars of medicine (including opium) to school slates and clothes.” Huh. We assume that’s simply poorly put, but if your children return reciting De Quincey and the poem “Kubla Khan,” you’ll know why.

Also, if they come home bearing a letter from newly freed African-Americans to President Abraham Lincoln — well, they haven’t actually gone that far back into the past. Just as far back as last Wednesday, when Tea Party Express spokesman and talk radio host Mark Williams penned an imagined “Colored People Change Mind About Emancipation” letter, in which America’s black population collectively change their mind about being freed from slavery, saying, “We had a great gig. Three squares, room and board, all our decisions made by the massa in the house.” (The original piece, along with other startling comments from Williams, can be read here.)

This has created a bit of a dustup in the Tea Party, where the Express was always viewed with some suspicion as being a Republican front group, as this FOX news story from June demonstrates. Williams’ satiric letter, coming on the heels of a NAACP criticism of the Tea Party, was the final straw: Williams, and the Tea Party Express, were somehow expelled en masse from the decentralized and supposedly leaderless movement, as reported by Politico. We mention this because, as Andy Birkey of Minnesota Independent points out, Michele Bachmann, who has close ties with the movement, responded to the NAACP’s complaint by saying, “These are serious charges, so people need to back them up.”

We’ll give her the benefit of the doubt and assume she was not yet briefed on Williams; we’ll also presume she overlooked the University of Washington Institute for the Study of Ethnicity, Race & Sexuality study from April that surveyed Tea Party members and found 25 percent of Tea Party members are racially resentful. Hints of that resentment show up at rallies, such as the sign in this story by the Washington Independent  — and there are other examples, such as this one, and this one, and this one. It’s hard to gauge whether actual racist attitudes are behind this sort of thing or if there is just a sort of generalized resentment that is boiling over into supremely ill-considered actions (Jay Smooth addresses this in his popular “How to Tell People They Sounded Racist” video), but they’re hard to overlook.

A quick additional note about Bachmann: Eric Ostermeier of Smart Politics, republished on MinnPost, points out that Bachmann’s district is one of the most politically volatile in Minnesota: According to Ostermeier, “the 6th CD has flipped seven times since 1966 and five times since 1980 — or approximately one out of every three election cycles.” Bachmann is currently ahead in the polls, but this will be the third election cycle since she was elected.

Some more news from the upcoming election cycle: Brian Bakst of the Associated Press reports that IP gubernatorial candidate Tom Horner wants to “‘take a hard look’ at tax exemptions and deductions, including mortgage interest for homeowners”; DFL-endorsed candidate Margaret Anderson Kelliher has weighed in on the flap over tax breaks for veterans by saying she would consider it once the financial crisis has past, as Tom Scheck of Minnesota Public Radio’s Polinaut blog reports.

Andy Birkey of the Minnesota Independent describes a fundraising issue for GOP gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer: Three organizations (Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, the Taxpayers League of Minnesota and Coastal Travel Enterprises) want to contribute directly to Emmer without registering as political organizations, and are suing for the right to do so. Democratic state Rep. Ryan Winkler rankled at this, saying, “They want to spend millions in corporate cash to elect ultra conservative candidates and they don’t want the public to know where the money is coming from.”

Minneapolis might be front and center once again when the election cycle goes national — The Democratic National Committee is scouting the state as a possible convention host for 2012, as FOX9 reports. And, as WCCO tells us, they’ve already been protested. Everything moves so fast in this world of the future; back when we were using rotary phones, we would have had to wait for a convention actually to happen to see people protest it.

In today’s baby animal news, according to KARE11, there is a baby dolphin at the Minnesota Zoo. Also, according to WCCO, Underwater Adventures at Mall of America has brought a rare shark ray from Japan to act as a stud, which seems like a pretty good job, for a shark ray, anyway. No word if any protesters have shown up yet to picket the forthcoming baby sharks.

In the arts: Sheila Regan of the TC Daily Planet provides a detailed history of the Bedlam Theatre, which is losing its building next month. The story details the theater’s long roots in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood. We at the Glean noticed a while ago an oddity in the way the map of Minneapolis is divvied up. There is a part of Elliot Park that hangs over the highway into Cedar Riverside (map here), consuming a park and half of a building. That building: The Bedlam Theatre. So if you’re seeing a play in the structure, you’re in Cedar-Riverside, but if you’re having a drink on their patio, you’re in Elliot Park. Hopefully, when they find a new space, this will simplify things, because, man, sometimes you’d be walking through the building and you’d think, did I just enter a new neighborhood? Yes you did, friend. Yes you did.

In sports: City Pages reprints from Men’s Journal a doozy of a quote from Brett Fravre’s personal manager, Bus Cook, regarding Favre’s annoucenment he’s having surgery: “Brett talked to goddamned Ed Werder at ESPN, says he needs ankle surgery. Now why did he do that? I’ve got Childress calling. I’ve got reporters calling all damn morning. Goddammit, why does he have to be such a goddamned drama queen. Play, don’t play, goddamn, people are getting sick of it. I’m getting sick of it.”

Comments (5)

  1. Submitted by Pat McGee on 07/19/2010 - 10:24 am.

    My kids (19 and 20)encoutered their first rotary dial phone ten years ago and they didn’t know how to use. What was more unnerving was that even though I had experienced rotary dial phones as a child, I was momentarily unable to remember how to use it. So, ten years later. This nugget of a story is not surprising.

  2. Submitted by kay smith on 07/19/2010 - 12:24 pm.

    We have a brown wall-model rotary phone in our unfinished basement; it works fine for the few occasions it’s used. It’s oddly entertaining to dial a number with alot of nines and zeros.

    And what did you expect from a man named ‘Bus’?

  3. Submitted by Alicia DeMatteo on 07/19/2010 - 12:26 pm.

    You know, when this whole tea party movement started, I decided to ignore it, assuming it would die a quick death. A few months ago, I started to second-guess myself. But I now realize my original opinion stands.

  4. Submitted by James Hamilton on 07/19/2010 - 01:01 pm.

    Rep. Bachmann has yet to be heard from on Ms. Palins’ (and others’)recent request that Muslims not build or be permitted to build a mosque in lower Manhattan (two blocks from ground zero). These calls reflect a continuing disconnect with what I consider to be a real American value: freedom from religious bigotry.

    19 men and a relative handful of others perpretrated the murders of 3,000 people (not all Americans or Christian) on 9/11. Holding every Muslim accountable for that crime is as much lunacy as the rationale for the crime. It reinforces Al-Queda propaganda regarding American hatred for all things Islamic and feeds recruitment efforts here and abroad.

    I look forward to Rep. Bachmann’s repudiation of these attempts and her defense of Muslims’ rights to worship where they wish, just as she’s condemned the racist elements of the Tea Party movement.

    Oh, wait. She hasn’t, has she?

  5. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 07/19/2010 - 01:49 pm.

    Considering the political/social/religious demographic of the 6th District, it’s likely that Mickey Bachmann would lose the support of a key minority segment of her electorate if she came out strongly against the racism and religous bigotry of a strong subgroup of the TeaPartiers (and if there are no polls to prove that, yet, I am completely confident that appropriate polling would bear me out).

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