Friday, December 09, 2016

When the moon hits your eye

It's not particularly difficult to spot "fake news." The real challenge is getting past the narrative. Consider a woman who seems to be aggrieved at the moment:
Hillary Clinton on Thursday decried the spread of fake news online, calling it an “epidemic” that Congress should take action against.

“The epidemic of malicious fake news and false propaganda that flooded social media over the past year — it’s now clear the so-called fake news can have real-world consequences,” Clinton said during a speech on Capitol Hill.

Some Democrats have argued the spread of anti-Clinton fake news online contributed to her electoral loss to Donald Trump.

The issue has received renewed attention this week after a gunman entered a pizzeria in Washington that was at the center of a false viral conspiracy theory that alleged it was home to a pedophilia ring operated by Clinton and her inner circle.
That free speech thing is definitely a problem, especially when a deranged gunman enters a pizzeria bent on causing mayhem. Better shut up those third parties!

If we're trying to understand recent events and the larger trends that have driven them, perhaps we ought to look at a different pizzeria:
Weeks after it inadvertently became the center of a nationwide scandal and was forced to close, Memories Pizza in Walkerton, Ind., has reopened.

The pizza joint became embroiled in a massive culture war when its owners told a television station that while they would serve pizza to any LGBT customers who walked through their doors, they would not cater a gay wedding due to their religious beliefs. Their comments, made shortly after the state’s recently-signed religious freedom law was signed and met with an angry response across the country, soon became the subject of vandalized Yelp pages and a fundraiser spearheaded by TheBlaze host Dana Loesch that managed to raise nearly $850,000 dollars for the restaurant. In the meantime, the restaurant was forced to close due to threats.
It's worth remembering some of the things people posted on Yelp about this particular eatery:

Free speech
Just a guess -- people in places like Walkerton, Indiana, remember things like this. And they vote. It's at least one reason Mrs. Clinton has more leisure time than she'd anticipated a few months ago.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Existential threat?

As the old saying goes, personnel is policy. And the President-elect has made quite the pick for the Environmental Protection Agency:
Liberals and the environmental left have gone into a tizzy over the selection of Oklahoma attorney general Scott Pruitt as Donald Trump's pick to head of the Environmental Protection Agency.

House minority leader Nancy Pelosi says the Pruitt nomination must be blocked "for the sake of the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the planet we will leave our children." New York AG Eric Schneiderman says Pruitt is a "dangerous and an unqualified choice." Independent socialist senator Bernie Sanders declares the Pruitt pick is not only dangerous but also "sad." The League of Conservation Voters calls Pruitt not just a global warming skeptic but "an outright climate denier."
If you think that reaction is a bit strong, try this one from Obama hand Dan Pfeiffer:

High praise indeed
Pruitt has been a prominent member of a group of attorneys general who have been fighting against EPA rulemaking, especially where the energy industry is concerned. This isn't particularly surprising, given he is from Oklahoma, a state that produces a lot of energy. Does that make him an existential threat?

The larger meaning of the Pruitt nomination is simple -- the Washington bureaucracy needs to be reined in. Trump may actually be serious. We'll be watching.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Dead but too dumb to lie down

For better or worse, Donald Trump is going to be president The recounts aren't going to change anything. In Michigan, they are likely not to happen at all:
The State Court of Appeals has encouraged the Michigan Board of State Canvassers to reject Green Party candidate Jill Stein's recount petition, marking the latest turn in a flurry of legal drama over the recount.

The ruling comes after the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed in a 2-1 decision U.S. District Court Judge Mark Goldsmith's Monday ruling allowing the recount to proceed immediately. In that ruling, the federal court determined the order issued by Goldsmith could be dismissed if state courts ruled the recount to be out of order with state law.

Following the state court ruling, Attorney General Bill Schuette said in a statement he would file a motion in federal court seeking to dissolve the temporary restraining order.
Once Schuette shows up at the 6th Circuit, the recount will be done. Meanwhile, in Wisconsin, nothing much is changing, either:
The totals show for day 6:
Trump has lost 429 votes
Trump has gained 568 votes
Clinton has lost 405 votes
Clinton has gained 546 votes

Trump has gained a net of 139 votes
Clinton has gained a net of 141 votes

Clinton has gained a net of 2 votes after 6 days.
What does Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate, get for all this? Well, certainly she gets a lot of names and addresses of people willing to give money to left-wing causes. More importantly, she gets the names and addresses of people willing to finance a fool's errand. There's a lot of value in idiocy.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Wolf, we cry

Writing for the Federalist, J. D. Davidson reminds us of the credibility problem the mainstream media now have:

Arguably, the media long ago lost all credibility with its fawning coverage of the Obama White House. Faced with the task of covering a president who shared all their favorite progressive narratives, biases, and priorities, the press abdicated its responsibility to hold political leaders accountable.

From the collapse of Obamacare to the ginned-up narrative undergirding the Iran deal, the Washington media establishment balked every time it should have held the Obama administration’s feet to the fire.

We do need someone to hold Donald Trump's feet to the fire. But do you imagine the MSM is up to the task? Back to Davidson:
Now that the tables have turned, we have a somewhat different problem on our hands. Instead of enforcing progressive orthodoxy and towing the White House line, the media will be tempted to cover Trump the way they have been since November 8, with feigned outrage, hysteria, and condescension. In both cases, the media are abdicating their duty.

For a media establishment with only slightly better approval ratings than Congress, that’s a problem for all of us. If Americans don’t believe the press because journalists automatically denounce everything Trump does in the misguided belief that it’s their duty, then who will be able to credibly report on the Trump administration’s actual mistakes and abuses of power?
Davidson suggests the job could fall to conservative media, who are not necessarily all on board the Trump Train. But will they be effective? I doubt it. We get in line, too. I've been watching Trump greet the parade of mendicants who appear at Trump Tower with bemusement, as erstwhile ferocious critics like Mitt Romney head through the glitz to meet the President-elect.

I'm going to keep my powder dry for now. I am doing my best to avoid the siren song. As we move forward, the din from the Left will grow more shrill and less effective. As that noise starts to subside, bad things could happen. Stay vigilant.

Monday, December 05, 2016

The New Brighton Kangaroo Court -- Local Letters to the Editor Edition

I am not finding a link to a remarkable letter that New Brighton city council member Brian Strub wrote, which appeared in the Nov. 30 edition of the New Brighton Bulletin, so I'm forced to retype it here.

Every year elections would have saved New Brighton taxpayers thousands, for many years, and increased voter participation -- we had only 2,900 voters in 2015. Gina Bauman stood in the way of this common sense change and flip-flopped from her initial support for this measure after realizing that it could shorten her own 12-year political career if she lost another election.

In contrast, I proposed shortening council terms, including reducing my own, for all four council members. When was the last time an elected official voted to reduce their term in office? I did on November 10, 2015 and the ordinance passed 4-1.

In the year since, Bauman claimed support for a popular vote on the November 2016 ballot. This vote did not occur because of Gina Bauman. Just days before the legal deadline Bauman submitted a petition full of errors and mistakes. Over 30 signatures were rejected for including minors, ineligible voters, and non-residents. A number of petition signers supported the even year change but were confused by misleading labeling on the petition. If submitted sooner, the city would have been legally obligated to provide an opportunity to correct the petition errors. Waiting until the last minute took away your ability to vote on even year elections. 

Bauman's efforts to fight even year elections has distracted the city council from more pressing issues. I for one, am ready to discuss other issues that improve the quality of life in this fine city of ours.

Brian Strub
New Brighton City Council Member
New Brighton

As anyone who has followed this case knows, nearly every assertion Strub makes here is false. The findings of fact in the case before Ramsey County Judge Lezlie Ott Marek were clear. As a reminder, I republish the order from Judge Marek, which includes the findings of fact from the case, below:

So let's sum up, shall we?

  1. The City did not pass the ordinance in a timely manner. For the ordinance to have been lawful, it would have needed to be passed by June 1, 2015, not November 10, 2015. You cannot blame Bauman for that.
  2. The petition was not full of errors and mistakes and in fact it complied with statutory requirements.
  3. The timing of the petition was indeed "just days before the legal deadline." Which means, of course, that it complied with the statutory requirement for timely submission.
  4. The City improperly rejected the petition.
  5. Since the City Council did not pass its ordinance in a timely fashion and also improperly rejected the petition, it was in violation of the relevant Minnesota statutes.
  6. The City lost its case decisively.
Now, a few questions for Mr. Strub:
  • If you still believe in saving money, are you willing to propose another ordinance that moves elections to even number years, which would extend everyone's term a year? You could do that at any time. If your stated goal of saving money is correct, why stop now?  Have you considered reintroducing your ordinance, which would be timely based on the statute?
  • Speaking of money, how much money has the City spent on fighting this losing battle? Does the total exceed the anticipated savings from moving the election?
  • How does your letter help to resolve the issues you and the rest of the City Council have created?
  • If you are willing to shorten your term, have you considered resigning your position?
Gina Bauman had every right to pursue the remedies she pursued and she did so properly. Brian Strub can spin it any way he'd like, but the facts of the case are clear.

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- Lord I Can't Go Back There Edition

Old dude, they're going back to Indy! But the Committee refuses to give Wisconsin and Penn State the respect they deserve!

Well, you don't know that, because the final pairings haven't been announced yet. But you're probably right about the Playoff.

Many people in Indiana have that attitude, Seabiscuit!

Well, that is true. And I have to honor my word about a promise I made the other day: Skip Bayless is a genius, and who am I to question him?

I'll just leave that burnt offering alone.

Okay, now that I got that off my chest, watch me work!

Big Ten Championship, at Indianapolis: Beloved Wisconsin Badgers (-2.5) vs. Penn State Nittany Lions. Wisconsin's winning the Big Ten West was a surprise, but not completely unbelievable. Penn State winning the East? That was a shocker! If you are a fan of team in Ohio, and I don't mean the Browns, you better hope to the heavens that this game is close. Penn State is a deserving team and they have been getting better all season long. However, the Badgers have played all the big boys in the Big Ten and are not scared of Penn State. Badgers 45, Sad Valley 21.

I agree with the pick, but not the points. The Badgers have made their name with defense this season and will hold Penn State's explosive offense down somewhat. At this point, Penn State's star running back Saquon Barkley is going to play, but he comes in with an ankle injury that is likely to limit him. The Badgers do a great job of pursuing and keeping teams off the edge, so it's difficult to see where Penn State will get their big plays. On offense, the Badgers are improving, but I don't see them scoring 45 points. I do think they will win, however. Wisconsin 24, Penn State 14.

Houston Texans (+6.5) vs. Glorious Green Bay Packers. What a difference a week makes. Suddenly, the Packers looked like the Packers again. The good news for the Packers is that they still get to play of their divisional opponents and they get the Seahawks at home next week. There is still the matter of this week and how they will do against an inconsistent Texans team. The biggest thing the Packers are going to need is to put points on the board right away. It's also important for every Packer fan in attendance to not boo. Positivity, baby! Packers 35, Texans 21.

Brock Osweiler, the Texan quarterback, has been a big disappointment for the Texans. He looks the part, but he seems to make bad decisions under pressure. The Packers will be providing rather a lot of pressure this week and while the Texan receivers are talented enough to win their battles, Osweiler is going to have a tough time completing passes from his back. This one should go well for the Green and Gold. Packers 28, Texans 20.

San Francisco Kaepernicks (pick) vs. Bear Down Chicago da Bearz. I'm wondering Gino's going to protest how bad the Bears are playing by taking a knee throughout the entirety of this game. If you are unfortunate enough to get this game on television, you might consider burning your television. It's going to be Must Not See TV. But since Gino is a good guy, and Colin Kapernick is not, I figure da Bearz are going to win and Gino's fantasy team will go down in flames. Da Bearz 56, 49ers 8.

We were fortunate enough to get an advanced screening of this game:

Maybe we had the wrong channel. In any event, it's not likely to be a very good game. Someone will win, though. Bears 17, 49ers 14.

Hopefully your holiday preparations give you more joy and HYYYYYYPPPPPPE! than da Bearz are likely to provide. But that's a low bar. Ben out!

Friday, December 02, 2016

Open thread

Comcast covers itself in glory yet again, so I  have no Internet service at home. I'm not especially adept at blogging from my phone, so we'll call this one an open thread.

Having said that, I would ask that you keep the two young women from Mounds View High School who died yesterday morning in your thoughts and prayers. Life is precious and the car crash that cost them their lives was horrific.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Pigs in the dining room

A week later, in the afternoon, a number of dogcarts drove up to the farm. A deputation of neighbouring farmers had been invited to make a tour of inspection. They were shown all over the farm, and expressed great admiration for everything they saw, especially the windmill. The animals were weeding the turnip field. They worked diligently, hardly raising their faces from the ground, and not knowing whether to be more frightened of the pigs or of the human visitors.

That evening loud laughter and bursts of singing came from the farmhouse. And suddenly, at the sound of the mingled voices, the animals were stricken with curiosity. What could be happening in there, now that for the first time animals and human beings were meeting on terms of equality? With one accord they began to creep as quietly as possible into the farmhouse garden.

At the gate they paused, half frightened to go on but Clover led the way in. They tiptoed up to the house, and such animals as were tall enough peered in at the dining-room window. There, round the long table, sat half a dozen farmers and half a dozen of the more eminent pigs, Napoleon himself occupying the seat of honour at the head of the table. The pigs appeared completely at ease in their chairs The company had been enjoying a game of cards but had broken off for the moment, evidently in order to drink a toast. A large jug was circulating, and the mugs were being refilled with beer. No one noticed the wondering faces of the animals that gazed in at the window.
-- George Orwell, "Animal Farm"

Now I know why Gov. Dayton said the U.S. Bank stadium would be known as “the people’s stadium.” 
It’s because the big-shot DFLers who have been given access to some of the best seats in two exclusive suites in the Vikings Magnificent Palace are, technically, people.

Calling it “The Special People’s Stadium” just didn’t have the proper populist ring to it.

Those seats, in the rarefied and inebriated air along the 20-yard line, were essentially free to a cabal of party loyalists, until Star Tribune reporter Rochelle Olson called to ask about them.

Sultans of Swag Michele Kelm-Helgen and Ted Mondale then scrambled to collect checks from public officials who took advantage of the chance to watch mediocre football in the house that taxpayers bought. That must have been awkward. The DFL insiders came for the “free lunch” and ended up buying the timeshare.

Still, it was a heck of a deal. The Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority (MSFA) honchos retroactively determined those tickets were worth $132 apiece, and added $68 for food, for a total of $200. The public officials, all DFLers from what I can tell, dug deep for the dough and all was well.

Nice try. If you are not a DFL insider, just try to buy seats anywhere near those boxes for $132 for Thursday’s game against Dallas. The cheapest I found in the entire stadium were for $195, and those closer to the party’s party box were much higher. That didn’t include food or VIP parking.
-- Jon Tevlin, Star Tribune, November 29

The best person in Minnesota government, Legislative Auditor Jim Nobles, has noticed the faces in the window:
The state's top auditor said he's opened a "priority" investigation into the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority's control of two prime luxury suites in U.S. Bank Stadium. Separately, the state senator who sponsored the bill authorizing the stadium said she's "disgusted" by the lack of transparency by the authority over who uses the suites at Vikings games and other events.

Legislative Auditor Jim Nobles said Wednesday that he had begun an inquiry into the MSFA's "control and use of suites in the U.S. Bank Stadium."

The nonpartisan office conducts routine audits on the financial activities of state agencies and boards and investigates potential wrongdoing.
You don't want to be in the crosshairs of Jim Nobles. So who has been using the suites?
Kelm-Helgen and Mondale said they and the four MSFA commissioners use the suites to host potential clients who are looking to rent all or portions of the stadium, which opened in August. Last week, they released the identities of 12 current and former public officials who reimbursed the authority $200 for their tickets to the suite.

In the past two weeks, reimbursement checks were deposited from Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges and her husband, Gary Cunningham, city attorney Susan Segal and her husband, Minnesota Management and Budget Commissioner Myron Frans (who attended two games and deposited a total of $800) and City Council Member Jacob Frey, who said he was there to talk to X Games officials and doesn't even like football.
Any time of the year, don't you hear? Spendin' cash, talkin' trash
I'll show you a real good time, come on with me, leave your troubles behind
I don't care where you've been, you ain't been nowhere til you've been in
With the in crowd, with the in crowd, in crowd!

Twelve voices were shouting in anger, and they were all alike. No question, now, what had happened to the faces of the pigs. The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.

And that's why Jim Nobles is on the case.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Benster and D Pick Your Game -- Why Are We Still Playing on Thursday Edition

That's right -- why in the wide, wide world of sports does the NFL insist on having games on Thursday? The only time football should be played on Thursday is Thanksgiving. Is tomorrow Thanksgiving? No. It's December Freaking First! Knock it off, Goodell.

You know why this happening, young fella. I know you know why. Here's why:

Your concerns? You can give them to the birds and bees. Goodell wants the money. That's what he wants.

Quit drinking the Kool-Aid! Or are you mixing it with your Geritol again?

Don't knock it until you've tried it, Seabiscuit.

Naaah. I'll settle for something a little more refreshing. Something with HYYYYYYPPPPPE! Watch me work!

Dallas How 'Bout Them Cowboahs (-3.5) vs. Minnesota Vikings. Speaking of unquenchable greed, here comes Jerry Jones to town, with his nasty Cowboys. The Cowboys are suddenly a good team again this year, no doubt making carnival barkers like Skip Bayless happier than a pig in, well, you know. However, the Vikings are no slouches. The key will be to stop the run game. Ezekiel Elliott has been nothing short of outstanding in his rookie season, while Dak Prescott has been the busiest bankruptcy lawyer in Minnesota. No, that's not right. That would be our pal the late, great, Jack Prescott. Dak Prescott has been putting his opponents into Chapter 7 all season long. The Vikings have to win this game, because they need to keep pace with the Lions and the Packers are now nipping at their heels. I'm so confident the Vikings will win that if my pick doesn't come true, I will call Skip Bayless a genius. Vikings 45, Cowboahs 17.

I'd rather call Skip Bayless a cab to the airport, as long as he rides in the trunk. This one is going to be tough because the Vikings are suddenly riddled with injuries. They will not have Sharrif Floyd, Joe Berger, Marcus Sherels or Mackenzie Alexander available this week. Floyd hasn't been playing much this season because of injuries, but they could really use him this week. It's going to be tough. Stefon Diggs is still questionable and may not play. So it's adversity time at the People's Stadium, and not just because Ted Mondale is taking up a bunch of suites. I'd like the Vikings to win, because the Cowboys are flat evil, but I don't see it this week. Cowboys 27, Vikings 19.

I can't believe I just promised to say something nice about Skip Bayless. He's still upset because Vince Lombardi spoiled his sorry-ass childhood. Ben out!

Another loss in the recount

Guess we won't have a recount by hand in Wisconsin after all:
Dane County Circuit Judge Valerie Bailey-Rihn said the effort to force the hand recount, which was backed by Democrat Hillary Clinton’s campaign, did not meet the state’s legal standard for prohibiting the use of machines in the recount, saying that the two campaigns did not show a hand recount, though more thorough, was necessary or show there was a clear and convincing evidence of fraud or other problems.

Bailey-Rihn said there were good reasons to do a hand recount but no legal basis for her to mandate it.

"I follow the law. That's who I am despite my personal opinions," said Bailey-Rihn, who was elected to the bench last spring.
A Dane County judge who follows the law? Dang -- didn't know that was possible.

Safe space

My goodness:
Gov. Mark Dayton stormed out of a public meeting about the State Capitol restoration on Tuesday, after accusing a Republican state lawmaker of playing politics with decisions about a set of Civil War paintings and their placement in the soon-to-reopen building.

“If this commission gets hijacked for political purposes, I’ll resign from it,” Dayton said at the meeting of the Capitol Preservation Commission. He cited a recent memo by state Rep. Matt Dean, R-Dellwood, to his House colleagues arguing against what he alleged was a move by the administration to remove one or several Civil War paintings.

“The Capitol should not be designed around the likes and dislikes of any temporary tenant,” Dean wrote in the memo.
Where to begin?

  • Storming out of a meeting is always the best approach to a dispute.
  • I would like a bit more precision in the reporting -- "one or several"? 
  • Dean is correct -- the Capitol is more than just a place the politicians meet.
There's more -- back to the Star Tribune story:
At a news conference later in the afternoon, Dayton reiterated that he believed House Republicans were trying to make political hay out of disagreements over the paintings’ placement: “I’m not going to sit around and be part of that contrivance,” the DFL governor said. He said he would not try to influence the Historical Society’s decision.

Dayton said he believed the art kerfuffle was an attempt by Republicans to distract from their inaction in addressing an expected spike in MNsure premiums in January. He also alleged that Dean, who is considering a 2018 bid for governor, was using the issue to bolster his own conservative credentials.
I don't know if the Republicans want to take action on MNsure, but they can't do a thing unless a special session is called. The only person who can call a special session is Dayton, but he won't call a special session because once the legislature is in session, it can do any number of things. Dayton only wants the lege to rubber stamp what he wants done. That's not how it works in a system of government where the legislature and the executive share power. Despite having similar voting patterns, St. Paul is not Pyongang, at least not yet. 

As for MNsure, it's difficult to see why the Republicans are responsible for fixing something that the DFL broke. At this point, Dayton would be better off calling the special session and letting the chips fall where they may, because the next lege will be completely in Republican hands and he's not likely to get a better deal on anything in 2017. And of course the personal attack on Dean is par for the course.

Someday we'll look back on the Dayton era and marvel at it all. For now, the repeated demonstrations of pique that we get from the guy who is head of the state government are causes for disgust and shame.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Recount down for the count?

If you're someone who dreams of a last-minute reversal of fortune that will send Hillary Clinton to the White House, yesterday didn't help your agenda. First, no foot-dragging hand recount in Wisconsin:
The Wisconsin Elections Commission agreed Monday to begin a recount of the presidential election on Thursday but was sued by Green Party candidate Jill Stein after the agency declined to require county officials to recount the votes by hand.
On the bright side for Stein, who is acting as a cat's-paw for Clinton, the suit is filed in Dane County, where nearly every judge is more than willing to aid the Left. The problem for Stein is she's likely to run out of time. Moreover, she also needs to sue to get a recount in Pennsylvania, because she missed the deadline:
Jill Stein has everything she needs to launch a presidential recount. She's got the cash, the grassroots fervor and the spotlight of an adoring media. But there's one thing she needs to overturn Trump's victory: a calendar.

Stein missed Pennsylvania's deadline to file for a voter-initiated recount. That blown deadline is a huge blow for Democrats who have pinned their hopes on recounts in the Keystone State, Michigan and Wisconsin.

"According to Wanda Murren, spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Department of State," the Philadelphia Inquirer reported Monday, "the deadline for a voter-initiated recount was Monday, Nov. 21."
You don't have to like Donald Trump; goodness knows I don't. Although I took it down after the election, this feature had a #NeverTrump banner on the sidebar for nearly the entirety of the election. Having said that, Donald Trump is President-elect because he won the election as the election is contested, in the Electoral College. Jill Stein has no path to victory and neither does Hillary Clinton. The Democrats and their patrons would do well to start making better arguments and start fielding better candidates so they can run against Trump in 2020. Their efforts at litigating their way to victory in a contest that is alrady lost suggest they have worries about their abilities to contest the election properly in the next cycle.