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OK, first of all, before anyone asks me what I'm talking about, here's a link to Neil Gaiman's blog post relating the entire situation in gory detail. Read up and come on back.

Ready? Great. So Matt Dean, the Republican Majority Leader for the Minnesota House of Representatives, decided that it would be a good idea to call Neil Gaiman a "pencil-necked weasel-thief." For those unfamiliar with Gaiman, he's an internationally-bestselling science-fiction and fantasy author who lives in the Upper Midwest. He writes such delicious fiction as American Gods and Coraline, but is probably most famous for his work on the comic book series The Sandman, which dealt with the engimatic anti-hero Dream of the Endless.

Why did Dean call an author of Mr. Gaiman's caliber such a completely untoward name? Because Mr. Gaiman was asked to speak at the Stillwater Public Library for about $45,000 and was paid from funds collected as a result of the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment, which, despite its strong support and passage in 2008, is currently a whipping boy of the "deficit-hawk" Republicans in Minnesota. Of course, they're no different from the "deficit-hawk" Republicans in Washington - they only care about the deficit when money is being spent on things they hate, like clean water, state parks, and the arts and humanities. So since Mr. Gaiman accepted this speaking offer and got paid for it, he is now apparently a "weasel-thief." I'm sure the fact that he gave the money to charity didn't help Matt Dean's opinion of him in the slightest.

Anyway, the crux of the diary is that I wrote a letter to Mr. Dean as a "concerned citizen." I'm not a Minnesota resident now, having expatriated to Wisconsin in order to get a job as a Children's Librarian. However, I'm a huge fan of Neil Gaiman's work, both creatively and in his advocacy for free speech and libraries. So I told Mr. Dean off. And I think you'll enjoy reading it. I was, um, a little harsh? So be gentle in your comments.

Mr. Dean,

I'm not one of your constituents, nor am I a Minnesota resident, so you may be wondering why I would write to you today. I write as a concerned citizen, and an admitted fan of Neil Gaiman, a fantasy and science-fiction author of whom I believe you've heard. I was reading Mr. Gaiman's blog today and discovered that, in a recent article in the Star Tribune, you were quoted as saying that you "hate" Mr. Gaiman, and that he is a "pencil-necked weasel-thief." You can imagine my disgust.

First of all, this is incredibly indecorous language for you to use as an elected representative. I didn't realize that middle-school taunts were appropriate rhetoric for someone in your position, and I certainly didn't think that politicians of any party were in the habit of randomly insulting people who they've obviously never met. I guess in the era of Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck I can't be terribly surprised at your complete lack of conscience or tact. However, I would have hoped that you had the intellectual capacity to realize that you were insulting an internationally-bestselling author who also happens to be a local celebrity in your area. You seem incredibly eager to torpedo your political career.

Secondly, it has clearly escaped you that Mr. Gaiman did not, in fact, "steal" money from the state of Minnesota. That money was offered to him by the library to pay for a speaking engagement which he then performed, and, as if that shouldn't have been satisfactory enough, Mr. Gaiman gave the money he received to charitable causes. Being paid for services rendered, in accordance with your stated fees for a speaking engagement, is not theft. It's actually good business practice. I'm sure you don't consider your paycheck as a representative to be theft from the State of Minnesota. If you do, may I suggest you seek other employment immediately.

But I'm being hyperbolic. I understand the real reason you are so angry with Mr. Gaiman. It's because the Stillwater Public Library paid Mr. Gaiman out of the Legacy Fund, a sales tax allocation designed to fund programs just like this one for libraries, museums, parks, and public broadcasting. It was, as I recall, a referendum in Minnesota a few years ago, one which passed with more than simple majority support from the voters. I will make no secret of the fact that I support the Legacy Fund and other initiatives of its kind because I believe that supporting public institutions like our libraries and state parks is of the utmost importance, not only to our generation, but to our children and grandchildren.

However, I understand that your Republican Party absolutely cannot stand public monies being used to fund public institutions - you're much more interested in seeing public monies used to fund private corporations, raise your own salaries, and line the pockets of your anonymous corporate sponsors. That is a position I personally find morally and ethically reprehensible when placed alongside ensuring that our children can still go to the Science Museum of Minnesota and listen to Garrison Keillor on Minnesota Public Radio. However, I understand that the entire mantra of the modern Republican Party is based on the writings of Ayn Rand, whose objectivist philosophies state that selfishness is the highest goal, future generations be damned. I know that I'm not going to be able to talk you out of your political philosophy of greed and self-interest anymore than you'll be able to talk me out of my socialist political philosophy, so I won't bother.

Instead, allow me to offer you a piece of political advice. If you think that slandering and libeling internationally renowned authors is good political theater, or that it will win you elections, get out of office now. Just resign and do yourself a favor. It's not going to impress anyone but your staunchest supporters, and it's going to turn off a whole lot of other people, whether they were originally inclined to vote for you or not. I certainly would vote against you every time in light of your apparent bad manners and horrifying ego. Thankfully for you, I don't have that opportunity.

Sincerely,
Matthew J. White

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how you shoot a skunk.

UPDATE: Because it is too rich to resist. Thanks to elektra for pointing this out. Apparently Matt Dean's mother made him apologize to Neil Gaiman today. When I was child, I never put much stock in the sincerity of apologies which were obviously forced by a parent. I hope that Neil doesn't either. Please, PLEASE do me a favor and flood Mr. Dean's e-mail inbox with letters that explain his immaturity to him in very simple English. You might have to write in crayon.

UPDATE THE SECOND: Neil has a new blog post detailing his response to Matt Dean's "apology." Fine form. He mentions that Matt Dean told a CityPages reporter that he's "now lost the votes of all the Star Trek fans," which proves further that he is a complete and utter horse's ass. My apologies to horse's asses everywhere.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (24+ / 0-)

    "Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?" -Joseph N. Welch, to Joseph McCarthy

    by SocialPunk on Wed May 04, 2011 at 05:34:28 PM PDT

  •  On first read, I was ready to say "for shame!" (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    la urracca, SocialPunk

    to Gaimain: "taking all that money from a small public library!"  But when I read the background, it was totally clear that he's totally in the right.  I don't really have an opinion about Gaiman one way or the other, but now I know that Dean is a super-douche.

  •  You used an accurate verbal rifle. (6+ / 0-)

    Next time, and there will be a next time, try an urban assault machine gun.

    What we call god is merely a living creature with superior technology & understanding. If their fragile egos demand prayer, they lose that superiority.

    by agnostic on Wed May 04, 2011 at 05:56:48 PM PDT

  •  Am a great fan of Gaiman, and so (6+ / 0-)

    happy he stood up to an obviously anti-intellectual ignoramus....
    Sick, sick, SICK of moron politicians who are anti book, anti culture...anti ANYTHING of value.

  •  And btw...excellent letter!! N/t (4+ / 0-)
  •  He's a great guy (7+ / 0-)

    and a good friend. Pissed me off no end to see him catching shit from Minnesota Republicans. I hope it bites Dean in the ass, hard.

    Kelly McCullough - author of the WebMage series and the forthcoming Chronicles of Aral Kingslayer (Penguin/ACE)

    by KMc on Wed May 04, 2011 at 06:47:38 PM PDT

  •  The GOP is afraid of anything (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    SocialPunk, DawnN, Toon, highacidity, Unit Zero

    that might lead to thinking. Too dangerous for their side.

    "George RR Martin is not your bitch" ~~ Neil Gaiman

    by tardis10 on Wed May 04, 2011 at 07:13:52 PM PDT

  •  They want to destroy the legacy fund (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    SocialPunk, DawnN, Toon, highacidity, Unit Zero

    it's their new target. They're going down some sort of list, as they seem to be hitting one hot-button issue every few days.

  •  $45,000 for a speaking engagement does (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    OHdog

    appear to be wasteful.  I support public institutions and libraries, but I can't say I support paying somebody $45000 for a speaking engagement at a public library. That money would be better spent on buying computers and buying books.

    •  The funds were part of a bespoke grant (9+ / 0-)

      So that wasn't an option. Read the Gaiman blog posts on the subject.

      Kelly McCullough - author of the WebMage series and the forthcoming Fallen Blade books (Penguin/ACE)

      by KMc on Wed May 04, 2011 at 07:30:30 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I just read Neil Gaiman's blog (0+ / 0-)
        As anyone who’s read the FAQ (which was written in 2002, thus the Clinton reference) or has been reading this blog for a while knows, if you want to hire me to come and talk somewhere, and people do, I’m expensive. Not just a bit pricy. Really expensive.

        Right here he is acknowledging that his speaking fees are really expensive.

        As to the fund:

        I was asked if I’d come and talk at Stillwater, and be paid $40,000. I said, “That’s an awful lot of money for a little library.”

        “It’s not from the library. It’s from the Legacy Fund, a Minnesota tax allocation that allows the library to pay market rates to bring authors to suburban libraries who otherwise wouldn’t be able to bring them in. They have to use the money now as it won’t roll over to next year and expires next month.”

        This is a really cavalier attitude to take with respect to public funds. This thinking of "oh well, it's use it or lose it... we might as well use it"  This is bad, irresponsible stewardship of public money.

        Unfortunately in this instance I have to agree with the republican position. In this day and age of state and local fiscal crises, it is wrong for a public library to blow $45000 on a speaking engagement, instead of just returning that money to the general funds.

        •  It doesn't return to the general funds (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Unit Zero, SocialPunk

          It's money that the voters of Minnesota authorized in a referendum to go to specific purposes, a chunk of which is arts and cultural heritage. Doing things like bringing in famous authors is what the money was appropriated for.

          Kelly McCullough - author of the WebMage series and the forthcoming Fallen Blade books (Penguin/ACE)

          by KMc on Thu May 05, 2011 at 06:29:39 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Of course it returns to the general funds (0+ / 0-)

            If you don't spend the money then the money sits in the general funds still. It's like you and your checkbook. If nobody cashes your check, then the money stays in your bank account.

            Just what do you think happens to unspent, allocated money? Do you think the night janitors would haul the cash out and throw them in the dumpster? Hello?????

            •  The point is (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              KMc

              the money was spent in accordance with the purpose of the Legacy Fund. Simply sending it back to the state serves no purpose whatsoever, and undermines the entire point of the exercise. Spending money for the express purpose it was given to you is not wasting money.

              "Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?" -Joseph N. Welch, to Joseph McCarthy

              by SocialPunk on Thu May 05, 2011 at 10:11:11 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  $45000 is a waste of money no different than $800 (0+ / 0-)

                for a toilet seat that the DoD was accused of doing some years back. You are getting bad value for your money.

                Sending it back to the state serves all kinds of purpose: Medicaid, education, SCHIP, police, roads, you name it. I am not saying arts and culture is wasteful. I am saying $45000 for one speaking engagement is wasteful.

                Neil Gaiman already said that his speaking fees is deliberately set high in order to discourage people from hiring him. He doesn't care to be on the speaking circuit. So why on earth would you go hire this guy?

            •  No. It goes back into the Legacy Fund (0+ / 0-)

              Then it gets spent on a different cultural event. That was the whole point of creating the fund, to have a special segregated arts funding source. If it doesn't go to Neil it goes to a different speaker or arts event.

              Kelly McCullough - author of the WebMage series and the forthcoming Fallen Blade books (Penguin/ACE)

              by KMc on Thu May 05, 2011 at 12:53:36 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  They just said it does NOT roll over to next (0+ / 0-)

                fiscal year. If it doesn't get spent by a certain deadline, then that money is gone. (gone back to the general funds obviously)

                By the way, even if that money goes back to the Legacy Fund for the next year (which it doesn't), it would be just as wrong to blow $45000 on one speaking engagement. For that money they could have easily invited 10 authors or more, or host some other cultural events.

                •  Fair enough, but Neil donated the money to charity (0+ / 0-)

                  It went to a sexual abuse charity and to a library charity. Can you think of another cultural use of that money would have both A) gotten an A list writer in to do a talk that was also broadcast and enjoyed by thousands and B) rolled that money straight back into other worthy causes including more funding for libraries? Because I'm thinking that's tough to beat. Also, 33,600, not 45,000

                  Kelly McCullough - author of the WebMage series and the forthcoming Fallen Blade books (Penguin/ACE)

                  by KMc on Thu May 05, 2011 at 01:27:30 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                •  Well, and actually it's not clear (0+ / 0-)

                  Since the fund was created by amendment to the Minnesota constitution, as a segregated fund it's not at all clear that it gets rolled back into the general fund. It looks more like it just goes to fund different arts events the following year. So, the library not being able to use it, doesn't necessarily mean that it doesn't get used for arts. It's not entirely clear from the wording of the amendment and the data I can find in quick search how unused funds are dealt with. There's a bit on the amendment here, but not enoug real data. http://www.arts.state.mn.us/...

                  In any case, the use it was put to was entirely in keeping with the constitutional amendment passed by Minnesota voters, and rolling that money into the general fund would be pretty expressly against the spirit of the amendment.

                  Kelly McCullough - author of the WebMage series and the forthcoming Fallen Blade books (Penguin/ACE)

                  by KMc on Thu May 05, 2011 at 01:33:14 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Actual Amendment Language (0+ / 0-)

                    The question that was on the 2008 General Election ballot stated:

                    "Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to dedicate funding to protect our drinking water sources; to protect, enhance, and restore our wetlands, prairies, forests, and fish, game, and wildlife habitat; to preserve our arts and cultural heritage; to support our parks and trails; and to protect, enhance, and restore our lakes, rivers, streams, and groundwater by increasing the sales and use tax rate beginning July 1, 2009, by three-eighths of one percent on taxable sales until the year 2034?"

                    Yes ......
                    No ......

                    Kelly McCullough - author of the WebMage series and the forthcoming Fallen Blade books (Penguin/ACE)

                    by KMc on Thu May 05, 2011 at 01:36:09 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                  •  Well- if that money gets rolled over to (0+ / 0-)

                    fund other arts events then that is a good reason against blowing $45000 on one single speaker. It's a bum deal. It's not good value for the money.

                    Now if you told me that the unspent money gets thrown into a giant bonfire, then I would totally agree that it's better to just blow it on an expensive speaker.

  •  and I note that Neil has lived in MN (4+ / 0-)

    for decades, he raised his kids there, and believe me, having some idea of how successful Neil has been for 20+ years, he's paid plenty of taxes in MN for a long long time.

    and like Kelly, I know he's a good guy, a real mensch, who does good deeds privately as well as publicly. Plus, he's absolutely a handsome guy, with deep green eyes, curly black and (now) silver hair and a great smile, so this "Dean" guy (I think of him as bizzarro- world Dean, because I admire our former DNC chairman so much) just used the stereotypical 'nerd boy' insults, which I'm getting pretty damn tired of hearing just on general principles (you hear that NYT reviewers and their editors who assign fantasy-hating snobs to review fantasy books and TV shows?).

    Is this Dean guy on the recall list? If not, can we put him on it, just because he ticked off us fan boys/girls?

    Hey, the Repubs attempt to do similar things with less reasoning or sense!

    or maybe just conjure up a new American God or two to deal with this old white fat stupid Republican. OH! MY! I just used a sterotype to describe an individual! I wonder how accurate I was?!!!

  •  I follow both Neil Gaiman's Blog (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    highacidity, mythatsme, Unit Zero

    and FB page. I'm glad this got mentioned here at DKos. I think your letter is great but I fear you may have written above Mr. Dean's reading comprehension level.

    I mean, this is a guy who's mom has to babysit him when his wife goes out of town. Apparently, mother has to tell when to apologize as well.

  •  perhaps we should all send (4+ / 0-)

    poor little illiterate gov. dean a copy of "good omens: the nice and accurate prophecies of agnes nutter, witch" - written by neil gaiman and terry pratchett!

    POOF!  (and the hound of hell had a sudden urge to wag his tail ...) [pardon the paraphrase....]

    MOVE'EM UP! ROLL'EM OUT... MOVE'EM UP RAWHIDE!!! meeeoooow! mrraaarrr!! meeeOOOOOW!

    by edrie on Wed May 04, 2011 at 08:55:47 PM PDT

    •  MAJOR oopsie here - REP., not GOV!!!! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      tardis10

      i'm just so used to idiotic governors out of that area that my fingers automatically typed "gov" - or maybe i'm channelling dean's secret aspirations!

      MOVE'EM UP! ROLL'EM OUT... MOVE'EM UP RAWHIDE!!! meeeoooow! mrraaarrr!! meeeOOOOOW!

      by edrie on Wed May 04, 2011 at 09:02:59 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I read (4+ / 0-)

    a local newspaper report online about this and the comments attached to it were so heartening. Usually, newspaper comment sections are Wingnut Central but I was pleasantly surprised to read about a 95% support level for Gaiman. I really have to wonder if Dean knew who he was dealing with. Hello? Internationally beloved author? Yes, let's get on the bad side of his fans!

    Great letter BTW.

    There's a reason Democrats won massively the last two cycles, and it wasn't because people were desperate for "bipartisanship". --kos

    by Debby on Wed May 04, 2011 at 09:09:53 PM PDT

  •  I think this snip from his post says it all: (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Unit Zero, SocialPunk
    1) It's funny. Sad that this is the kind of thing that elected officials say in public, but still funny. It's the kind of thing that you expect to hear at school from fourteen-year old bullies, before they tell you that they'll be seeing you by the lockers with their friends, not what you expect to see from an adult.

    The bolded section pretty much describes the GOP today:

    [People who behave like] fourteen-year old bullies, before they tell you that they'll be seeing you by the lockers with their friends, not what you expect to see from an adult.

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