Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Your Greggie Song of the Day, Volume Two


Hardball

Whispers getting louder

Since they came on the national scene, some 25 years ago now, there's always been a sense of sleaze about the Clintons. Now one of their longtime henchmen might be in trouble:
The FBI is investigating whether Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe's 2013 campaign accepted illegal contributions, law enforcement officials confirmed to NBC News.

Federal officials say for the past several months, the FBI has been looking at whether McAuliffe's 2013 campaign for governor of Virginia accepted political contributions that were forbidden by federal law.
So why does that matter?
McAuliffe is a one-time board member of the Clinton Global Initiative, the foundation set up by former President Bill Clinton and likely Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

The former chairman of the Democratic National Committee from 2000 to 2005, McAuliffe was also a co-chairman of Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign.

Records show more than 100 donors contributed to both the foundation and McAuliffe's campaign.
McAuliffe knows where the bodies are buried. If the FBI is on his tail, that's not good news for the Clintons.

Meanwhile, The Donald is out with the ad I've posted elsewhere that features the voice of Juanita Broaddrick, who has accused ol' Bill of raping her back in 1978. It's become evident that one primary Trump strategy is to turn Bill Clinton into Bill Cosby. If this strategy is successful, Hillary loses her best weapon. 

Hillary has wanted to be president in the worst way. She's getting her wish.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Your Greggie song of the day


This will be a recurring feature for at least a while. RIP, my brother.

State of play

There is a downside to being #NeverTrump -- in this cycle, it means you have less to write about. We've made our case concerning the qualifications of The Donald. He would be a horrible president. People don't seem to care. Now that the Washington Post has come up with a poll showing Trump leading Hillary Clinton, it's become evident that logic and reason aren't in the saddle.

It's not particularly tough to understand how this is possible. Hillary Clinton is a terrible candidate. It's amusing to watch my lefty pals on social media pretend otherwise. They know it in their bones; she has nothing to offer except a connection to a time gone by. And because Trump understands how to attack people, he's made the correct strategic decision in going after Bill Clinton first. I imagine the Democratic high command is in a panic right now.


Friday, May 20, 2016

A half-cent here, a half-cent there

It's the little funding engine that could:
The Metropolitan Council is rapidly running out of options to come up with $135 million needed to lock in critical federal funding for Southwest light-rail transit. GOP House Speaker Kurt Daudt’s refusal to put state dollars toward the project has left few viable alternatives with only four days left in the session.

Gov. Mark Dayton, DFL legislators, local mayors and business groups are making a last-ditch effort to raise a half-cent sales tax in the seven-county metro region to expand a transit system that must accommodate 750,000 new residents who are expected here in 25 years.

“We think this is a long-term, sustainable solution,” said Adam Duininck, chairman of the Metropolitan Council, which manages the transit system used by about 275,000 people in the region on the average weekday.
Will a train that runs from downtown Minneapolis to Eden Prairie help the traffic in Forest Lake? What's in it for Hastings? How do you like your rail, St. Michael? The Met Council thinks you should pay for it, even if you never use it.

But it's only a half-cent. You won't even notice. And that's the point. You should notice the impact of taxes. After a while, it does become noticeable. Back to the linked Star Tribune article:
If the increase is approved, the Minneapolis sales tax would rise to 8.275 percent, with rates well above 10 percent for liquor, hotels, restaurants and entertainment.

St. Paul’s sales tax would also go north of 8 percent.
Is that a competitive disadvantage for those cities? Yes, eventually it is. An example -- if I want to buy something at Home Depot, I have two locations that are nearby. The closest location is in Northeast Minneapolis, while there's another one in Fridley that is a few miles further away. Currently, the sales tax rate in Fridley is 7.125%. It's 7.775% in Nordeast. If I'm buying something inexpensive, it doesn't make a lot of difference. If I'm buying new carpeting, or building materials for a remodel project, it starts to add up. And if the Minneapolis City Council decides they'd like a sales tax hike to fund some other scheme, the Nordeast location faces even a greater challenge. And since it's highly likely that a Minneapolis business faces larger costs in other ways, especially if the Minneapolis City Council jacks up the minimum wage to $15 an hour, it's increasingly difficult to run a business there.

But I'm sure it wall be fine. We can trust the Met Council to do the right thing. After all, they are accountable to the people, right? There's no chance that the Met Council chairman would be the husband of the governor's chief of staff, right? It's all on the up and up.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

We're #1! We're #1!

As most readers of this feature know, I grew up in Appleton, Wisconsin. Appleton is in the news today for a particular reason:
A new list of the “Drunkest Cities in America” puts a perhaps unwelcome spotlight on Wisconsin, which is home to 12 cities in the top 20, ranked by the highest rates of binge drinking in adults.

The findings were compiled by online financial news outlet 24/7 Wall St.
And look what city comes in first?
Wisconsin outdrinks any other state, results showed. Our neighbor to the east boasted seven of the top 10 “Drunkest Cities,” including the top four: Appleton, Oshkosh-Neenah, Green Bay and Madison.
Why do people in Wisconsin drink so much? It's nothing particularly new. My people are of Bavarian and Irish ancestry and drinking is part of the culture; a lot of people in Appleton have similar ancestry. Downtown Appleton has bars galore on the main street, College Avenue, and in my youth I spent plenty of time downtown. Appleton is also, by and large, a fairly prosperous community, and young people have disposable income and opportunity to go out and party. If you look at the list, nearly every non-Wisconsin location is a college town.

So what does it mean? Well, the story mentions something in passing that I think is especially significant:
The group analyzed self-reported data from County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, a joint program with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. Excessive drinking, concentration of bars and alcohol-related driving deaths all were contributing factors in determining America’s drunkest cities — all but two of which are in the Midwest.
Emphasis mine. People drink in Wisconsin. Sometimes they drink a lot. I think people in Wisconsin are simply more honest about how they go about it -- there is no particular stigma to drinking in the state; you don't have a lot of people who are teetotalers. If you grow up in Wisconsin, none of it seems very unusual. This bit from the comedian Lewis Black is spot-on. It's also, without question, NSFW.

I'll be back in Appleton over the weekend for my stepbrother's memorial service. I would imagine we'll have a few beers as well. It's the way we roll.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Silence speaking volumes

Now that's it's essentially over, many Republicans are getting behind The Donald, much like the guys who follow the horses on the Rose Bowl parade route. So far, the most famous refusenik has been Paul Ryan, but the other person who hasn't gotten in line is the man who fought Trump the longest, Ted Cruz. And Patterico has noticed:
I think Cruz genuinely believes (as I do) that Donald Trump will end up as a disaster, either because he will hand the election to Hillary Clinton — or else will get into office and stab conservatives in the back so many times that they’ll look like someone sicced O.J. on them.

At some point the depth of Trump’s incompetence and betrayal will be obvious to all but his most mindless supporters. So why not be the person who actually stood athwart history yelling stop? — in the words of the founder of National Review, which actually did that in this primary, to their everlasting credit.
It's the smart play; while I could easily see Trump winning the general election, he's still a disastrous choice. And why would Cruz support Trump, really? Remember the remarks Cruz made on the day of the Indiana primary:
Donald Trump alleges that my dad was involved in assassinating JFK. Now, let’s be clear. This is nuts. This is not a reasonable position. This is just kooky. . . . This man is a pathological liar. He doesn’t know the difference between truth and lies. He lies practically every word that comes out of his mouth. . . .

The man cannot tell the truth, but he combines it with being a narcissist. A narcissist at a level I don’t think this country’s ever seen. Donald Trump is such a narcissist that Barack Obama looks at him and goes: ‘Dude, what’s your problem?’ Everything in Donald’s world is about Donald.

And he combines being a pathological liar — and I say pathological because I actually think Donald, if you hooked him up to a lie detector test, he could say one in the morning, one thing at noon, and one thing in the evening, all contradictory, and he’d pass the lie detector test each time. Whatever lie he’s telling, at that minute, he believes it.

But the man is utterly amoral. Let me finish this, please. The man is utterly amoral. Morality does not exist for him. It’s why he went after Heidi directly and smeared my wife. Attacked her. Apparently she’s not pretty enough for Donald Trump. I may be biased, but I think if he’s making that allegation, he’s also legally blind.

But Donald is a bully. You know, we just visited with fifth graders. Every one of us knew bullies in elementary school. Bullies don’t come from strength. Bullies come from weakness. Bullies come from a deep yawning cavern of insecurity. There is a reason Donald builds giant buildings and puts his name on them everywhere he goes.

And I will say: there are millions of people in this country who are angry. They’re angry at Washington. They’re angry at politicians who’ve lied to them. I understand that anger. I share that anger. And Donald is cynically exploiting that anger. And he is lying to his supporters.
I don't think Cruz can walk that back. And I'm guessing he won't. His silence will become increasingly eloquent as the year goes on.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Fifty years ago

Two albums were released at this time in 1966 -- Dylan's Blonde on Blonde and the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds. Amazing albums both, in their own ways. A sample of each -- first, the most beautiful song Brian Wilson ever wrote, and one of the best:


You can't easily link Dylan videos to the blog, but I can post a link to the funniest song Dylan ever wrote:

Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat

Great stuff. Hard to believe it's been 50 years.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Greggie

It's already been a tough year in a lot of ways and got a lot worse over the weekend. My stepbrother, Greg Collar, passed away on Saturday at the VA hospital in Milwaukee. He'd been there for surgery and it appears that complications ensued.

I'm struggling with the notion that any mentions of Greg must now be in the past tense. Greg was a character. I'm going to take the liberty of quoting a Facebook post my sister Carol wrote last night; she explains it well.
When my dad married my stepmother Darlene, we got a new batch of brothers and a sister that came with the package. Most of Dar's kids were older than we were, particularly Margie, Mike and myself. So there was an age gap that was a little different at first, but we soon found that Greg in particular was just a big kid himself, a goofy and lovable guy with a rather odd sense of humor and a big love of music- the guy had tons of albums! He loved what I guess you would call novelty songs- and all the pop music of the late 60's and 70's. He also loved movies, his collection of those was always impressive too. I particularly remember he loved the movie "Uncle Buck" among many others.
It was almost a genre, the "Greggie song." The guy had just about every oddball one-hit wonder song you can think of in his collection, especially from the early 1970s. I was posting YouTube videos of some of these songs over the weekend on Facebook. A representative sample:


Another:


And one more:


I was a little kid, barely in elementary school, when these songs were on the radio; Greg was about six years older than me, so they were certainly the soundtrack of his early adolescent years. Over the years, he found a way to amass an incredible collection of such music. Listening to these tunes now, all these years later, there's an innocence about it all -- while much of it was product and the bands were essentially interchangeable, the cynicism that pervaded the music business later on is largely missing from these grooves. It was happy, optimistic music. And there was an optimism and innocence that Greg carried with him, even though he'd seen his share of struggles. Greg was diabetic and he was in the hospital because he'd needed to have a foot amputated, which happens to a lot of diabetics as they get older. He'd had a kidney replacement a number of years back and while that helped, health was a struggle for him.

By the time I met Greg and the rest of Dar's kids, in the early 1980s, I had a foot out the door and was well on my way to college, so they were only sporadic presences in my life. There was a summer, 1983, where Greg was a major presence in my life. He spent a lot of time with us and he got to know a lot of my friends. We spent a lot of time together that summer and he was a comforting presence at a time of great transition in my life. There's more to the story of 1983 than I can share here, but I'll never forget that summer and how Greg was instrumental in making sense of it all.

I'll write more about this in the coming days. I'd appreciate prayers, if you're so inclined, for his wife Carmen, his daughter Connie, and his granddaughter Cavalina.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Open thread

Apparently my dudgeon isn't high enough this morning, so let's make this an open thread. What's on your mind?
He's not fond of the sidebar

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Starting over in Dinkytown

I've lived in Minnesota for nearly a quarter century now and I continue to be amazed at how poorly the revenue producing sports and the University of Minnesota have done. And now the U is starting over, yet again:

Mark Coyle’s first words Wednesday as the leader of the embattled Gophers athletics department weren’t hard-edge, like the ones University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler had just spoken about Gophers basketball.

Coyle, 47, a native of Waterloo, Iowa, had listened to Kaler’s introduction, which featured this assessment of his men’s basketball program: “I’m profoundly disappointed in the continuing episodes, poor judgment, alleged crimes, and it simply can’t continue.”
Sure it can. It's been happening. We're talking about a pedigree that goes back to Corky Taylor and Ron Behagen stomping an opponent on the court, through the various excesses of the Bill Musselman era, through the Gangelhoff cheating, up to today. And when the football program hasn't been awful, it's been mostly invisible. The Gophers haven't been to the Rose Bowl in my lifetime, and I'm getting old, frankly.

Can Mark Coyle change the culture? Will he be the Pat Richter of Dinkytown? It ought to be possible. The schools that should be the yardstick for the Gophers are our neighbors to the east and south. The Badgers and the Hawkeyes have been, in the main, making the Gophers look foolish for years.

Coyle has an excellent track record. He should have institutional support. Good luck to him.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Submitted without further comment

Victor Davis Hanson:
Another dilemma hinges not on the omnipresence of crudity but on how one prefers to have it presented — delivered in a chartreuse monster truck, or by Tesla? One is the gutter sort — besmirching John McCain’s war record, or fibbing about releasing tax returns, or bragging about rank adultery; the other is dressed up with sonorous cadences about why you must be the first presidential candidate to reject campaign-financing-reform rules in the general election, when you vowed you would be the most transparent candidate in history (as you hid both your medical records and your university transcripts and became Wall Street’s most endowed cash recipient).

When Obama later was forced to admit that his autobiographical memoir was mostly fiction, or when Bill Clinton was revealed to have jetted around with convicted sex abuser Jeffrey Epstein, or when Obama invites as an honored White House guest a rapper whose latest album cover glorifies homies on the White House lawn gloating over the corpse of a white judge at their feet, I think we long ago eroded any notion of presidential decorum. The honest and quite legitimate argument against Trump on this count is the one we never hear: that instead of offering a corrective to the present crudity, he might continue to erode the dignity of the office in the manner of Bill and Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Even Trump, however, could hardly do more damage with the Iranians than did Obama’s in-house wannabe novelist, Ben Rhodes, who, in the twilight of his one and only policy career, now brags how he misled the Congress and the public by easily salting the media field with phony nuggets of expertise and punditry. The point is that we are worried about Armageddon on the Trump horizon while we are living amid the Apocalypse.

Read the whole thing.

Hmmm

I missed this when it first came out, but it's worth mentioning. It's Kevin Drum, writing for Mother Jones, providing some revisionist history about Flint:

These people desperately need to be told the truth:
  • What happened in Flint was a horrible, inexcusable tragedy.
  • Residents have every right to be furious with government at all levels.
  • But the health effects are, in fact, pretty minimal. With a few rare exceptions, the level of lead contamination caused by Flint's water won't cause any noticeable cognitive problems in children. It will not lower IQs or increase crime rates 20 years from now. It will not cause ADHD. It will not affect anyone's ability to play sports. It will not cause anyone's hair to fall out. It will not cause cancer. And "lead leaching" vegetables don't work.
For two years, about 5 percent of the children in Flint recorded blood lead levels greater than 5 m/d. This is a very moderate level for a short period of time. In every single year before 2010, Flint was above this number; usually far, far above.
For a little context about lead exposure, consider this:
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control, in the mid-1970s 88 percent of children nationwide had blood lead levels above 10 micrograms per deciliter (ug/dl). In the old days the dangerous level was thought to be around 30 ug/dl, but of course we’ve moved that down to about 5, and you hear a lot of people breathlessly say that there is no safe level. 
When I was a child, lead levels were much, much higher, primarily because most of the cars on the road were burning leaded gasoline. Steve Hayward shares the relevant chart:

We got the lead out
The meaning of this chart -- in the late 1970s, nearly 90 percent of children had lead levels over 10 micrograms per deciliter. This was all over the country. If you look at the numbers from Flint, about 5 percent of children there had similar levels for a short time.

Does this mean we shouldn't solve the issue in Flint? Of course not. However, as we consider the path forward, there might be other issues to address as well:
The Flint water crisis has triggered yet another lawsuit, this one filed by the city's former administrator, who claims she was wrongfully fired for blowing the whistle on the mayor of Flint for allegedly trying to steer money from a charity for local families into a campaign fund.

Former City Administrator Natasha Henderson, 39, who now lives in Muskegon, claims in a lawsuit filed today in U.S. District Court that she was terminated on Feb. 12 for seeking an investigation into allegations of misconduct by Flint Mayor Karen Weaver.

Specifically, the suit alleges that Weaver directed a city employee and volunteer to steer donors away from a charity called Safe Water/Safe Homes, and instead give money to the so-called "Karenabout Flint" fund, which was a political action committee or campaign fund created at Weaver's direction.
As the man said, never let a crisis go to waste.