Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Attention to detail

So that jayvee team that's been causing trouble in the Mideast? The ones that we're bombing? Word was out a long time ago:
By late last year, classified American intelligence reports painted an increasingly ominous picture of a growing threat from Sunni extremists in Syria, according to senior intelligence and military officials. Just as worrisome, they said, were reports of deteriorating readiness and morale among troops next door in Iraq.

But the reports, they said, generated little attention in a White House consumed with multiple brush fires and reluctant to be drawn back into Iraq. “Some of us were pushing the reporting, but the White House just didn’t pay attention to it,” said a senior American intelligence official. “They were preoccupied with other crises,” the official added. “This just wasn’t a big priority.”
Of course, the president threw his security team under the bus on 60 Minutes on Sunday. That was a bad move, because the bureaucracy will outlast this president, just as it outlasted his predecessors. And there's a lot less incentive to stay quiet when the president is a lame duck:
President Obama fueled the debate in an interview broadcast over the weekend when he said that intelligence agencies had underestimated the peril posed by the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL. Mr. Obama accurately quoted James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, acknowledging that he and his analysts did not foresee the stunning success of Islamic State forces or the catastrophic collapse of the Iraqi Army.

But by pointing to the agencies without mentioning any misjudgments of his own, Mr. Obama left intelligence officials bristling about being made into scapegoats and critics complaining that he was trying to avoid responsibility.
The kids in Langley may not be that great at detecting threats, but they are awfully good at protecting their turf. You can expect a lot more revelations.

Meanwhile, back in booming Minnesota

Happy days are here again:
Golden Valley-based General Mills, buffeted by weak sales, revealed the job cuts late Tuesday in a filing with federal securities regulators. The head count reduction will primarily be in the United States, the filing said. General Mills employs about 5,000 in the Twin Cities, mostly in white-collar positions.

General Mills spokeswoman Kirstie Foster said in an e-mail that the new cuts include “salaried positions in General Mills’ U.S. businesses, and the functions and groups that support those businesses.” She said the company did not yet know how jobs in Minnesota would affected.

The 700 to 800 job cuts will be completed by next spring and will lead to annual cost savings of $125 million to $150 million, the securities filing said. Tuesday’s moves include $40 million of the $140 million in cuts that General Mills has announced in recent months.
The disconnect between rhetoric and reality concerning the economy continues to grow.


This is downright astonishing, when you think about it:
A security contractor with a gun and three convictions for assault and battery was allowed on an elevator with President Obama during a Sept. 16 trip to Atlanta, violating Secret Service protocols, according to three people familiar with the incident.

Obama was not told about the lapse in his security, these people said. The Secret Service director, Julia Pierson, asked a top agency manager to look into the matter but did not refer it to an investigative unit that was created to review violations of protocol and standards, according to two people familiar with the handling of the case who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The Secret Service does many things, but job one is keeping the president safe. This raises an important question:

The recent security breaches are bad enough, but the hiding of bad news is equally troubling. Julia Pierson needs to be gone.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Gardy is out

By now you've probably heard that Ron Gardenhire got the pipe from the Twins yesterday, following a fourth consecutive 90-loss season. The Twins were marginally better this year than they had been in previous seasons, but there certainly wasn't any compelling reason to stay with the current on-field staff.

The always perceptive Aaron Gleeman sizes up the situation well:
Gardenhire's firing was justified, but it has little to do with whether another manager could have avoided four consecutive 90-loss seasons with sub par talent and a lot to do with whether Gardenhire is the manager the Twins want leading them for the next 5-10 years when the talent improves.

And it will improve. This team will be better in 2015 than it was in 2014 and better in 2016 than it was in 2015. They have too much high-end talent in the minor leagues--and some high-end talent already faring well in the major leagues--for that not to happen, so even though the next manager may have to deal with low payrolls and shaky front office decision-making the combination of an impending influx of young talent and minimal expectations should make it an appealing gig.
I think that's right. The larger question is whether this supremely insular organization will look outside of the organization. You're already seeing some very familiar names being surfaced -- Paul Molitor and Terry Steinbach, who were both on Gardenhire's staff this season, and former Twins players Chip Hale and Doug Mientkiewicz. You're also seeing Ozzie Guillen, the longtime White Sox manager/lovable villain who often served as the foil for the Twins during the previous decade. While those would be easily understood choices, I think it's time to look outside the organization entirely.

The two guys I'd be looking at are Dave Martinez, currently the right-hand man of Joe Maddon at Tampa Bay, and Jose Oquendo, the longtime third base coach of the Cardinals. The obvious advantage is that you want someone who speaks Spanish well, since some of the key youngsters in the organization are from Latin America -- Danny Santana, Kennys Vargas, Oswaldo Arcia and Miguel Angel Sano are all going to be part of the future of this team. It will be interesting to see if the Twins are willing to bring in a new set of eyes.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Potentially helpful, yet still irritating

Tom Horner, who took just enough votes away from Tom Emmer to hand the governorship to Mark Dayton in 2010, now endorses Jeff Johnson:
Minnesota still is a state of great strengths, thanks to the innovation of earlier leaders. But we are a very different state today than we were three decades ago when Mark Dayton first ran for office. We can’t solve tomorrow’s challenges with yesterday’s solutions.
Yep. Mark Dayton's platform, much like that of his party, hasn't changed in any substantive ways since the days of Floyd B. Olson. Back to Horner:
Gov. Dayton has spent four years promising to close the achievement gap between Minnesota’s white students and students of color. Yet the gap remains one of the worst in the country. Johnson has outlined a program to create stronger schools, not more powerful teacher unions, which is Dayton’s focus. 
Yep again. And there's more:
Gov. Dayton’s “tax the rich” economic plan isn’t a sustainable solution in a low-wage economy. Sooner rather than later there won’t be enough “rich” and Minnesota’s already high income tax rates will need to become higher and impact not just the top 2 percent, but the top 10, 20, 30 or 50 percent of families, creating yet another drag on Minnesota’s economy.
I'm glad that Horner is saying these things, because they need to be said. Unfortunately, he's about 4 years too late.

One other thing to note -- in his entire piece, he doesn't mention the Independence Party a single time. Wonder why that is....

Papaya with a hint of sulfur

You can tell by the smell that it isn't going well:
The Cuban government has said it will take disciplinary action against a state pharmaceutical company that created perfumes named Ernesto Che Guevara and Hugo Chavez.

In a statement in the official Granma newspaper, the government described the project as "a serious error."
I'll say. But aren't you intrigued? What would these fine fragrances be? The Beeb is on the case:
Labiofam said Ernesto, the cologne named after the Argentine-born revolutionary who helped Fidel Castro take over in Cuba in 1959, would be a woodsy and refreshing citric scent with notes of talcum powder.

Hugo, named after the late Venezuelan president, would offer a softer, fruitier fragrance with hints of mango and papaya.
Walter Russell Mead thinks the Cubans are missing a bet on this one:
It’s a pity, really. The product could have ended up being a success story, even if it was only made for export. After all, there are thousands of young fools, excuse us, idealistic ‘activists’ who want to change the world all across the developed world who blithely buy Che t-shirts. These same people would no doubt line up to buy this stuff in a heartbeat. 
I would suggest adding a little patchouli to the brew as well.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- Find the Minnesota Quarterback Edition

So old dude, it's getting to be that if you live in Minnesota, none of your teams have a quarterback. I leave for a few weeks and it's all falling apart up there. What's going on, Geritol Fan?

Darned if I know. Mitch Leidner is injured, Matt Cassel is injured. It seems to be an epidemic.

Sounds like you need better quarterbacks up there. Should I look around campus and see if any of my classmates at Knox can fill the bill?

I dunno. What are their qualifications?

Well, proximity to me. And a healthy dose of HYYYYYYPPPE! That should be more than enough, I think. Meanwhile, watch me work!

South Florida Bulls (+33.5) vs. Beloved Wisconsin Badgers. So did you see Melvin Gordon leave his cleat marks all over Bowling Green last week? It was pretty good. And it should get better. South Florida has been good in the whatever they are calling the old Big East but this team has not been as good as in recent years. This should not be an issue as we focus on getting through conference play. Bucky 50, USF 7.

South Florida has had some good teams in recent years, but this doesn't appear to be one of them. I don't think they'll strike much fear into the Badgers, at least. Badgers 49, South Florida 14.

Minnesota Golden Gophers (+12) vs. Meeshegan Wolverines. It's time for the Jug, baby! As in Little Brown Jug. I'd show you what it looks like, but since I'm from Minnesota I really haven't seen it very often and I'm not sure. Brady Hoke is in a load of hot water and this time the Michigan Men have no reason to be mad. Hoke is a Michigan Man and has been to a BCS bowl game and won it and has not run a dirty program or been a victim of a paper with an axe to grind. Michigan needs a win now and Hoke can prove that he is the right leader for this program. Real Michigan Men 31, Minnesota 7.

Michigan is a mess. There's no question about that, and Brady Hoke is truly struggling with the reality of the situation. They have high expectations in Ann Arbor and it's always an expectation that the Gophers are going to get drilled there. Maybe not this time. Minnesota 21, Michigan 20.

Lawrence University Vikings (NL) vs. Knox College Prairie Fire. It's a traditional Midwest Conference clash as my newly beloved Prairie Fire come back from their bye week looking to make amends for a tough loss at Carleton. I plan to be in attendance in the Knosher Bowl to observe this game and the guys won in the Lincoln Bowl and will have the home crowd. Knox 13, Larries 7.

Historically, Lawrence has been pretty good in football. But the key word there is "historically," because it's been 30 years or so since they won a conference title. Should be an even game, so take the home team. Knox 27, Lawrence 24.

Glorious Green Bay Packers (+1.5) vs. Bear Down Chicago da Bearz. Jay Cutler is back and there's gonna be trouble. Or will there be? The guys on my floor have been talking me up saying that the boys are cooked and this game is over already. But what is encouraging is that the Packers have had success in Chicago and that Brandon Marshall at best is going to be limited. And last time Aaron told us that things are good, they destroyed a good Houston team. Sorry Gino. If Jay Cutler were a present, I would exchange him for a McCown. Packers 37, Bears 34.

The Packers almost have to be better after the stinkeroo they put out against Detroit last week. This is the end of a very tough stretch to open the season and I'm hopeful that things will start to improve. The Bears aren't nearly as formidable across the defensive front as the Lions were and so I expect Eddie Lacy to get untracked. If he does, the Bears will have to abandon the 2-deep zone and Rodgers will be able to take some shots. And with the Bears being all banged up in the secondary, there should be some opportunities. I predicted a shootout last week and it didn't happen. This time, it will. Packers 31, Bears 28.

Hotlanta Falcons (-3) vs. Minnesota Vikings. Seriously, the Vikings are a home dog? Man, what is happening? I have not seen much of the Vikings. That being said the fans have gotten their wish and I think Teddy Bridgewater can be the quarterback that the Vikings have been waiting for. And Teddy will be just as good in his rookie year as Big Ben was. And that is very good, indeed. Vikings 24, Dirty Birds 21.

The Falcons looked like world-beaters last week against Tampa. I think the Vikings are better than Tampa and this time the game is outside of the dome. Can Teddy Bridgewater have a nice game? Yes. Do the Vikes have enough weapons? That's a tougher question. Falcons 28, Vikings 17.

Well, football is a magic thing, old dude. And the HYYYYYPPPPE! is coming back. So try not to trip over your Dentu-Grip. Ben out!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Big Brother and the Holder Company

Eric Holder is leaving. Good. John Hayward takes us through his resume. Click the link, it's a fun trip down memory lane.

Money is bad, except when it isn't

Stewart Mills is a bad guy with fabulous hair, or something. If you've watched local television at all in the past week or two, you've almost certainly seen the ads that ridicule Mills for being rich. And there's no question that Mills is rich, because he's part of the Mills family that is best known for operating the various Mills Fleet Farm locations throughout the upper Midwest.

It's a given that rich scions should never get into politics, especially the offspring of people who build retail empires. So remind me again, who's the governor?

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Things aren't going well. Who gets the blame?

Pollcode isn't working right. Here's a workaround for now.

Things aren't going well. Who gets the blame?

I Blame William Henry Harrison

Reg Henry wants you to know it's still George W. Bush's fault:
If there’s a sacred commandment in the one true church of conservative belief, it is thou shalt not name the president who must not be blamed, for to name him is to blame him. From the earliest days of the Obama administration, an ironclad type of right-wing political correctness clanged down like a huge gate, fencing off the former president from all who would criticize him.
Oh, they love ol' W. on the right. But Reg wants to get your mind right. Some more:
The ordinary, boring truth is that Mr. Obama doesn’t go around blaming the other guy all the time. Early in his administration, he did dare to suggest he had inherited a situation, this before you-know-who was fenced off entirely from all criticism and guarded by a praetorian guard of grumpy old guys with computers.
Well, every president has inherited a situation or two from a predecessor, with the possible exception of John Tyler, who succeeded William Henry Harrison, the president who died a month into office. So I'm going to blame William Henry Harrison, since poor Tyler never had the chance.

But since blame needs to be assigned, apparently, for current situations, let's poll who's really responsible -- you can choose more than one answer, and you really should, doncha think?

Things aren't going well. Who gets the blame? free polls

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

As seen on the internet

Submitted without further comment:

Anything you can do, I can do better

Feel the love

Every time the POTUS comes to Manhattan, it causes huge traffic problems because city officials end up shutting down a lot of streets to keep the president protected. This is not a recent problem, either. 

A little story: Mrs. D and I were in Manhattan for the initial part of our honeymoon, way back in 1991, and I remember that we talking to the cab driver who was giving us a ride back to our hotel. He was complaining quite bitterly about the problems it caused when "El Presidente" comes to town. In this case, he was talking about George H. W. Bush, who happened to be in town for some event and was staying at the Waldorf-Astoria. We were staying at the Algonquin, which is about 6 blocks away from the Waldorf. Later on, when we walked out from the Algonquin to get dinner, we ended having to walk about three blocks out of our way to get to our destination because all the streets were blocked off around the Waldorf.

Of course, if you're as much of a narcissist as the current occupant of the Oval Office appears to be, you find the inconvenience you cause others to be very amusing:
President Barack Obama joked today during a New York speech that he doesn't seem to have the traffic problems the city's residents are always complaining about.

'It's actually pretty smooth for me during the week,' Obama said, after playfully arguing that everyone in New York 'hypes' the traffic.

'I don't know what the problem is,' he told attendees of the Clinton Global Initiative's annual meeting. 'I haven't noticed.'
This sort of behavior doesn't surprise me, nor does the reaction it gets:

The already busy streets were even more jam-packed this week as the United Nations convened for a climate change summit and a General Assembly meeting.

Per usual, New Yorkers took out their outrage over the gridlock caused by Obama's motorcade on twitter.

'GO HOME OBAMA NO ONE WANTS THIS TRAFFIC,' twitter user Rebecca Plaine said.

'Thank you Obama for causing all this bulls*** traffic in NYC,' a user named Ramirez tweeted.

'Pres and Lady Obama we love you guys but please leave NY ASAP! This traffic is unbearable!' user Rachel Johnson begged.

First Lady Michelle Obama accompanied the president to New York this afternoon, and the first couple will remain there through Thursday.

After learning that Obama had mocked their travel problems, residents of New York and the surrounding area were even more irate.

'I know multiple folks who missed flights today because of him. File Under: No laughing matter,' twitter user @lisaedlisa said.
It's not a laughing matter. But it's no big whip to a guy who has his own plane. Speaking of which, here's an amusing image:

Bet those Marines appreciated the sentiment. But the Leader of the Free World has an answer for people who notice such things.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A good point

I haven't written about the governor's race much yet, but I'll give Jeff Johnson credit for this much -- if he can find a way to get his message across, he's got a target-rich environment:

If you're wondering what Johnson means, read this.


In the end, we're all neocons, I guess:
The U.S. and five Arab countries launched airstrikes Monday night on Islamic State group targets in Syria, expanding a military campaign into a country whose three-year civil war has given the brutal militant group a safe haven.

Using a mix of manned aircraft — fighter jets and bombers — plus Tomahawk cruise missiles, the strikes were part of the expanded military campaign that President Barack Obama authorized nearly two weeks ago in order to disrupt and destroy the Islamic State militants, who have slaughtered thousands of people, beheaded Westerners — including two American journalists — and captured large swaths of Syria and northern and western Iraq.
It appears that someone has given some thought to the appropriate targets:
Some of the airstrikes were against Islamic State group's self-declared capital in Raqqa in northeastern Syria. Military officials have said the U.S. would target militants' command and control centers, re-supply facilities, training camps and other key logistical sites.

Syrian activists reported several airstrikes on militant targets in Raqqa. One Raqqa-based activist, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the airstrikes lit the night sky over the city, and reported a power cut that lasted for two hours.

An anti-militant media collective called "Raqqa is being silently slaughtered" said among the targets were Islamic State buildings used as the group's headquarters, and the Brigade 93, a Syrian army base that the militants recently seized. Other airstrikes targeted the town of Tabqa and Tel Abyad in Raqqa province, it said. Their claims could not be independently verified.
Raqqa is a city about the size of Madison, on the Euphrates River. If the U.S. so chose, it could turn Raqqa into a parking lot, but we haven't chosen that option since Vietnam.

There's a larger question that hovers over the events of the last quarter century -- is radical Islam an existential threat? If it is, going after terrorists everywhere is required. If radical Islam is not an existential threat, then we've spent a lot of time and effort chasing a chimera. We can, and likely will, spend a lot of time sorting out the political blame for all this, but it doesn't do much to answer the larger question.

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!