Monday, September 22, 2014

You could use Skype instead

Personal pet peeve -- when grandees burn fossil fuels to go to sustainability conferences:
An announcement expected Monday in New York will break the news that Minneapolis will host a major global conference on sustainability that will attract the former heads of state of nearly 100 countries to Minnesota in October 2015.

The theme of “MN2015,” as the conference will be called, is “democracy in a sustainable future.” Given the governing crises in many democracies — and the challenge of climate change — the timing couldn’t be better.

The host state is hard to top, too. Minnesota’s growing global reputation for good government, multisector collaboration, and innovation in business, education and the arts makes it an ideal place to host a serious dialogue on these fundamental issues.
If climate change is as intractable and dangerous a problem as we are told it is, why the hell are former heads of state from nearly 100 countries coming here? Are they all taking the same plane?

The Silent Move Star

Mark Dayton's new ad is out and the thing you notice right away is that he does not speak:

It will be interesting to see what happens when we actually get to evaluate how well he's able to communicate.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- Wondering Where the Lions Are Edition

Old dude, I'm settling in to my routine here at Knox and I'm kicking butt all over Illinois. Not that you're surprised by that.

No, I'm not. How do they like the HYYYYPPPE!

They're able to handle it. It's a bit surprising, actually. But for the most part, they seem to be rolling pretty good with my brilliance. And so now it's time to unleash some more HYYYYPPPE! Watch me work.

San Jose State Spartans (+ 9) vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers. The Gophers did not perform well in Fort Worth and the wonder is if this team can finally put things together. San Jose is defiantly a step down but the way the Gophers look right now things are very shaky. And teams that are shaky lose. SJSU 21, Minnesota 17.

I'm not sure the Gophers will score much, but they will score enough. Gophers 21, San Jose 7.

Bowling Green Falcons (+27) vs. Beloved Wisconsin Badgers. Wisconsin did not look very good in the first half but turned it around against Western Illinois. With the extra week to prepare, Wisconsin should be looking good because the book is out that McEvoy can make teams pay for crowding the box. A win here should be no problem. Wisconsin 56, Bowling Green 17.

I kinda think the line is a bit high. Bowling Green did beat Indiana. Mind you, everybody beats Indiana. But the Badgers will be rested and ready. And Melvin Gordon wants to get his motor running. Badgers 35, Falcons 14.

Clemson Tigers (+16) vs. Florida State Seminoles. This game was a blowout last year in Clemson but Jameis Winston is suspended for being an immature college kid, which as a college kid is amusing to me. Clemson is in a better place right now and you have to figure that if karma is a female dog, then Jameis will learn about maturity on Saturday. Clemson 35, The New Hurricanes 9.

Jameis Winston seems to have trouble controlling his emotions. He can control the scoreboard, though. I'm not yet convinced that Florida State is really a legitimate contender for the national championship. If they roll over Clemson, you have to pay attention. Seminoles 34, Clemson 17.

Minnesota Vikings (+10) vs. New Orleans Saints. I was able to watch the game down here last week and the Vikings did not look well. Zimmer will have his troops ready to play this week but without AD against a video game offense in a dome, this could be a long day. Saints 42, Norseman 17.

Now, I don't think the Vikings will just roll up into a ball and quit. However, this was going to be a tough game whether Peterson was available or not. The Saints are seeing their rivals get off to fast starts, so they can't take another loss. They won't. Saints 34, Vikings 14.

Glorious Green Bay Packers (+2.5) vs. Detroit Lions. This game is going to feature an Old West duel of gunslingers. The Pack rallied for a very good win against the Jets last week and if the defense can show up, the Lions will be in trouble. While the Lions have looked good this year, you have to wonder if they can get over the hump under Jim Caldwell. I think they can but it still is early for them. Packers 42, Lions 38

It's a shootout for sure. Neither team has proven they can play defense and both teams can score at will, so you'll want to bet the over. Packers 38, Lions 31.

Bear Down Chicago da Bearz (-2.5) v. New York J-E-T-S JETS JETS JETS Da Bearz surprised me last Sunday by ruining the opening of the House that Harbaugh screamed at. The Jets are a very good young team who gave the Pack a major scare and I think are real playoff contenders this year in the AFC East. Jets 17, Bears 10

The Bears played very well against the 49ers. The Jets feel like they should have stolen one at Lambeau last week, so they'll be angry. I like the Jets in this one. Jets 28, Bears 24.

That's it, that's all. Ben out!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Plagiarism or Boilerplate

I haven't written much about the governor's race in Wisconsin, but I am watching it with interest. Scott Walker has done well in his four years, but those who hate him really, really, really, really, really hate him, so it's been a fairly close race. Now comes word that his challenger, Mary Burke, might not exactly be an original thinker:
Large portions of Wisconsin Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke’s jobs plan for Wisconsin appear to be copied directly from the plans of three Democratic candidates who ran for governor in previous election cycles.

Burke’s economic plan “Invest for Success” copies nearly-verbatim sections from the jobs plans of Ward Cammack, who ran for Tennessee governor in 2009 before withdrawing from the race, a 2008 plan from Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, and John Gregg who ran for governor of Indiana in 2012 and lost to Mike Pence.
BuzzFeeder Andrew Kaczynski reproduces some representative samples, which indicate that Burke did pretty much lift a lot of material verbatim from other candidates. A few thoughts:

  • Are we surprised by this? Really? The Democrats have been using terms like "invest" for years, even though their notion of investing is actually channeling money to their clients. If you call it boilerplate language, you're getting closer to the truth.
  • If plagiarism is a hanging offense, no one bothered to tell Joe Biden.
  • The larger issue is that Democrats haven't had a new economic idea in half a century. I've always found it amusing that they call themselves progressives, since they are essentially reactionary in everything they do. Heck, their playbook against Walker isn't much different than what we saw in a certain town back east in 1692.

The most recent polling indicates that Walker has a narrow lead, which is about what you might expect, given the outright hatred the Blue Fist brigade has for Walker. There are still a lot of people in the Badger State who sound this way:

No politician in the past few years has had to overcome more scurrility than Scott Walker.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

A Probative View on Scotland

The Scots are going to decide if they want to be independent from the rest of the United Kingdom today. I don't really have a dog in this fight, but I do think you should ask an expert:

If it happens, I suspect that if they become independent, Scotland will become Albania with kilts, but we'll see. Other groups are watching this vote with great interest, however. As someone with a smidge of Flemish ancestry, I'm amused to see that they're getting riled up in Flanders, too. And I don't mean Ned Flanders.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Pall Bunion

If an insurer falls in the MNsure forest, does it make a sound? Oh yeah:
The top-selling insurer on the state’s MNsure exchange has pulled out of the online marketplace just two months before this year’s open enrollment period begins.

Golden Valley-based PreferredOne had set the lowest premium prices in the nation last year and signed up nearly 6 in 10 consumers who shopped on the MNsure exchange.

But the insurer’s CEO, Marcus Merz, said this week in a letter to the exchange’s leaders that “continuing to provide this coverage through MNsure is not sustainable.”
Not sustainable? Fancy that. Why would that be? One guess, from the Star Tribune article, make sense to me:
But Caroline Pearson of health consulting firm Avalere Health, who has followed exchanges and the health reform rollout, said it was surprising to see an insurer drop out.

“Everyone was heading into 2014 with limited data about the true health demands,” she said. “My guess is they may be seeing premium prices that can’t sustain the medical costs they experienced with their enrollees.”
The point of being in the insurance business is to avoid paying out premiums wherever possible. The goal of the customer is to maximize the premiums they receive while minimizing the costs involved. It would hardly be surprising that the pool of enrollees that MNsure attracts would include a lot of people who haven't been receiving medical care in the past and would have underlying health issues. It's always been a dubious model.

The timing of this announcement doesn't work so well for Mark Dayton, which explains why he was more interested in talking about Adrian Peterson than about this issue. Jeff Johnson was less reticent:
“This is yet another example of everyday, middle-class Minnesotans paying the price for Mark Dayton’s incompetence,” said Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson, who is challenging Dayton for the governor’s seat. “Six out of 10 people who’ve purchased insurance through MNsure will now have to go through the nightmare process of purchasing another plan all over again — thanks to Mark Dayton.”
Stay tuned, folks. This story isn't going away.

Purple and Green

The Vikings announced early Wednesday morning they have placed running back Adrian Peterson on the exempt/commissioner’s permission list, which will keep him away from the team while the legal process involving his child abuse case plays out.

The decision was rendered after a flurry of statements — some literal and others figurative — from sponsors of Peterson, the Vikings and the NFL expressing disappointment that the Vikings had reinstated the running back Monday morning.
Matt Vensel, Star Tribune

Money, (Money!) I want money (Money!)
Baby, ain't no "why", baby (Money!)
I need money!
First I look at the purse!

-- The Contours
Peterson was back at Winter Park on Tuesday, an off day for players, and was reportedly tailed by a TMZ cameraman as he departed the facility. Also Tuesday, Nike pulled Peterson jerseys off the shelves at its area stories, sponsors distanced themselves from Peterson and Anheuser Busch publicly called for the NFL to get its house in order.
-- Vensel

We think we know what we're doin'
That don't mean a thing
It's all in the past now
Money changes everything

-- Tom Gray (and Cyndi Lauper)
In the long term, it is fair to wonder if this will be Peterson’s final season with the Vikings.

The six-time Pro Bowler is under contract through 2017, but the salary-cap ramifications of cutting him now would not be debilitating. The Vikings would actually save $12 million on this year’s salary cap and $2.4 million in dead money would carry over to next year’s cap.

If they decided to release Peterson, who is scheduled to make $13 million in salary and workout bonuses in 2015, after the season, they would have no future cap penalties beyond 2015.
-- Vensel

Sonny it's money that matters, hear what I say
It's money that matters in the USA
It's money that matters
Now you know that it's true
It's money that matters whatever you do

-- Randy Newman

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Just win, baby

We can safely assume that the Code of Conduct of the Minnesota Vikings is similar to the motto of the Oakland Raiders under Al Davis -- just win, baby:
The Vikings announced Monday that star running back Adrian Peterson -- deactivated for Sunday's Week 2 loss to the Patriots after being indicted on child abuse charges late Friday afternoon -- would practice fully throughout the week and "is expected to play" in Week 3 when the Vikings travel to New Orleans to play the Saints.

"Today's decision was made after significant thought, discussion and consideration. As evidenced by our decision to deactivate Adrian from yesterday's game, this is clearly a very important issue," Vikings owners Zygi Wilf and Mark Wilf said in a statement. "On Friday, we felt it was in the best interests of the organization to step back, evaluate the situation and not rush to judgment given the seriousness of this matter. At that time, we made the decision that we felt was best for the Vikings and all parties involved."
Last year, you might recall that reserve cornerback A. J. Jefferson got in trouble with the law for domestic violence. He was gone within hours.

So what do we conclude from this? The Vikings are just as mercenary as everyone else in the NFL. If Matt Asiata, Peterson's backup, had done what Peterson has admitted doing, he'd have received the A. J. Jefferson treatment.

So be it. The Vikings are going to do what they please and there's no sense in pretending otherwise. There are codes of conduct for some people and not for others. And if you assumed that, since you are a taxpayer who will be supporting the Vikings by financing their new stadium, that you had any say in how they operate, you should be safely disabused of that notion. You can hyperventilate about that if you'd like; Jim Souhan does a fine job of it here. But nothing changes.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Mostly open thread

The muse is intermittent these days so this will be a mostly open thread. Having said that, a few very brief observations:

  • I think the best way to read the latest Star Tribune polling on the governor's race is this -- people are open to the idea of getting rid of Mark Dayton, hence the very close approval/disapproval rating. People don't know who Jeff Johnson is yet. They'll find out next month. If Dayton looks shaky during the debates, and my guess is that he will, at least once, it could be game on, especially since I expect Johnson to perform very well.
  • The NFL may have all manner of public relations problems off the field, but the football continues to be intriguing. Show of hands -- how many people saw San Diego winning yesterday? And how about Gino's beloved Bears, coming back from way down to ruin San Francisco's party? And oh, by the way, the preferred green-clad squad won at Lambeau yesterday.
  • If the Scots vote for independence, there are going to be a lot of people in other parts of the world who will try to do the same. Spain in particular could become fragmented in a hurry.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The other issue

Now that Adrian Peterson's future with the Vikings appears to be problematic, there's another issue that needs to be addressed. As we've all seen, the artist renderings of the new stadium have prominently featured Peterson in a heroic stance:

Come to me, citizenry
Well, that might not work. Fortunately, the Vikings do have a Plan B:

Give the past a slip

Saturday, September 13, 2014

In re Adrian Peterson

The Bill James quote from yesterday again applies:

What Watergate was about was not the corruption of government, as most people thought, but rather, the establishment of new and higher standards of ethical conduct. Almost all scandals, I think, result not from the invention of new evils, but from the imposition of new ethical standards.

Adrian Peterson grew up in a world where the switch was used. As an adult, he lives in a different world. He apparently didn't know that. As we are regularly reminded, ignorance of the law is no excuse.

Adrian Peterson is not a role model, either. And if he is going to raise his kids, or even have a role in their lives, he's going to have to find a way to live in the world we all occupy today, not a world that no longer exists.

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- Police Blotter Edition

Old dude, it's a regular crime spree in football these days! Ray Rice is in trouble, Josh Gordon won't admit that he is a druggie and is selling cars at a lot somewhere in Northeastern Ohio. What is going on in this league?

I'm having a hard time wrapping my mind around it myself. I have to rely on my favorite football mind to explain things to me:

That was clarifying. Still, I'm not entirely sure what to make of it. We need less domestic struggle and more football, I think.

I agree, Geritol Fan! James Brown needs to stop talking about social stuff and more about the game. Watch me work!

Minnesota Golden Gophers (+15) vs. Texas Christian Horned Frogs. Minnesota has shown progress but traveling down to Fort Worth should cause a problem. Mitch Leidner is hurt and if he plays I would not be surprised if his instincts to be mobile will be possibly curtailed. TCU is a sneaky team and the Gophers are looking shaky after playing subpar halves against minnows. That is a recipe for disaster and Vegas is justified. TCU 28, Gophers 17

I'm confused by this line. So far the only team TCU has played is Samford. I have some game highlights:

Oops, I guess that was the wrong tape. Anyway, I'm hardly convinced that TCU is two touchdowns better than the Gophers, whether Leidner is available or not. It will be a low-scoring game, old school, even. TCU 17, Gophers 13.

Iowa State Cyclones (+11) vs. Iowa Hawkeyes. No Badgers this week, so we'll turn our attention to the state I must cross to get to my new alma mater! This game is a grudge match and Iowa is a team favored to win the West in my eyes but Ball State should not be a challenge. Iowa needs this one but once again I sense ISU is looking for a soft target and the bitter memories of losing to NDSU will linger for them. Time to take out some frustrations for the Cyclones. ISU 35, Iowa 7.

So Iowa can barely beat Ball State, but they're 11 points better than the Cyclones? Really. I find that difficult to believe. The Cyclones got beat badly by the NoDak State Bison, but that's not surprising. I think it's going to be pretty close, actually. Iowa 24, Iowa State 21.

Knox College Prairie Fire (NL) vs. Carleton College Knights. Yes, it's time for more red-hot Prairie Fire action! Knox is a good school populated by great people. However, the Fire are looking good led by Matt McCathry, who is a freshman quarterback who looked very good against Eureka. Carleton is good but once again if Knox is putting me up for 4 years, might as well pick em. Knox 32, Carleton 18.

This will be a true intellectual showdown between two schools with that aren't exactly known for football prowess. I'm very happy that you've settled in at Knox, but they aren't gonna win up in Northfield. At least take solace in this -- it would have been worse if they'd played St. Olaf. Carleton 33, Knox 21

Bear Down Chicago da Bearz (+7) vs. San Francisco Harbaughs. So da Bearz are the team that gets to debut against the 49ers in their new facility, Levi's Stadium. To honor the event, 49ers coach and all-around jerk Jim Harbaugh has chosen to wear bad looking khakis to show his appreciation for the corporate sponsor:

That's a tremendous look there, Jim. Harbaugh is going to attack Conte because Conte has a tendency to freeze during big moments. However, Jay Cutler will not have to deal with Navarro Bowman and Justin Smith. With no Donte Whitner in the building, look for the Bears to attack at will and ruin the festivities. da Bearz 13, D-Bags 6.

While I think it appropriate to pick on Jim Harbaugh's pants, the problem the Bears had was the way they got undressed in their own building last week. Did you see Fred Jackson lower the boom? It was brutal. The Bears will need to get better quickly, or get buried. Harbaugh's pants are good for grave digging, too. 49ers 31, Bears 24.

New England Patriots (-3) vs. Minnesota Vikings.  I'll be honest -- I don't know what Adrian Peterson did, or if his attempt at disciplining his son turned out to cross a line, but he's not playing on Sunday, so it's going to be tough. They looked very good and the Vikings can win without Peterson. Sweaterman Belichick is a master coach but how do you stop Cordarrelle Patterson? Special players change the game, plain and simple. Vikes 31, Pats 24

Tom Brady needs to get things back to normal. The Vikings didn't get much of a test last week. This week is very different. We'll find out if Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon can play. If they can't, the Vikes will be one dimensional. Bill Belichick eats one dimensional teams for lunch. Patriots 31, Vikings 16.

New York J-E-T-S JETS JETS JETS (+8.5) vs. Glorious Green Bay Packers. The Packers have had a few extra days to dwell on their loss in Seattle. Geno Smith is a similar quarterback to Russell Wilson and the Jets are a sneaky team. However, the Packers have the advantage of extra preparation time, which is a huge edge in my eyes and Aaron Rodgers is right that even though the sky is falling around them, they are just fine inside. Packers 45, Jets 17.

This game makes me nervous. I don't know that the Jets can do what the Seahawks did, but they can run the football and they do play hard-nosed defense. It's not going to be an easy game at all for the Packers, but I think they'll prevail. Packers 24, Jets 17.

Well, that's all I have for now. I think it's going to be a lot of fun at Knox. But I already know football, baby! Ben out!

Friday, September 12, 2014

In re Ray Rice and Roger Goodell


  • Domestic violence is a bad thing.
  • Whatever good things Ray Rice has done in his life, he's effectively negated them with his actions.
  • I don't know what else to say about Roger Goodell except to quote Bill James's observation, which I first quoted a few years ago:
What Watergate was about was not the corruption of government, as most people thought, but rather, the establishment of new and higher standards of ethical conduct. Almost all scandals, I think, result not from the invention of new evils, but from the imposition of new ethical standards.

Back from Knox

The Benster is safely ensconsed at his new alma mater, Knox College. The level of "HYYYYPE" in western Illinois has increased substantially.

It was a happy and exciting trip -- few things are more fun than starting out in a new chapter in your life and the modern American college campus can be a very pleasant place to spend four years. Like a lot of smallish liberal arts schools, it has a bit of a lived-in feel; Benster's dorm room is large but the ancient radiator in the corner lets you know it's an older building. It's a nice setup for him, though, because the living space is directly atop the student union and cafeteria, so he and his crew can just roll down the stairs and get their meals, pick up their mail, etc.

The grandees at Knox gave us all a formal welcome before we said goodbye, including high-minded speeches from a couple of deans and the president of the college. One thing the president said was interesting. She implored the freshly minted students to listen to differences respectfully. That's not news. What was newsworthy is that she said this -- liberals, listen to the conservatives. I will be curious to see if this actually happens, because conservatives views aren't particularly welcome on many college campuses these days.

Benster will continue to grace this feature with his accumulated football wisdom; we're figuring out the logistics of it but he's committed to the bit.


Buy a location, close a location:
The new owner of two Rainbow Foods stores has decided to close them, four months after picking them up in a multicompany, 27-store deal that reshaped the Twin Cities grocery scene.

Jerry’s Enterprises Inc. notified workers and city officials that it will close the stores at 1660 S. Robert St. in West St. Paul and 2919 26th Av. S. in Minneapolis in early November.

Both stores employ about 25 full-time workers and another 60 or so part-timers.

Jerry’s, an Edina-based operator of about 40 stores in Minnesota and Florida, owns other grocery stores under the Cub Foods name next to both locations. A spokesman for Jerry’s confirmed the decision but declined to comment further.
This was an easy decision for Jerry's -- it's often cheaper and a better business decision to buy out and close a competitor's location than it is to let another party enter the market. HyVee is starting to enter the Twin Cities grocery market and certainly would have been interested in these locations had they been available.