Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Vikings to _______? II -- Landshark

Now that they've been effectively forced to seek a solution in Minneapolis, the Vikings are wandering the streets looking for a place for shelter:
Minneapolis and Minnesota Vikings officials said Monday they're scrutinizing a parcel of land next to the Metrodome in hopes of continuing to play at the old stadium while the new one is under construction.

Even as the owner of a major technology center on the site insisted that he's not selling, Vikings' Vice President Lester Bagley said they want to see whether building at the Dome location can be done without having to spend the $48 million it would cost for the team to play up to three seasons at the University of Minnesota.
Of course, one of the owners of the land has no interest in selling:

So far, Bagley said he hasn't seen "a viable proposal" that would allow the Vikings to build southeast of the Dome. That's partly due to Minneapolis entrepreneur Basant Kharbanda, who owns the 511 Building, a telecommunications center of high-tech firms that's considered the Twin Cities' portal to the Internet.

Kharbanda said Monday that he's not selling the property and that he would take the city to court if necessary to protect his high-tech tenants.

Relocating those firms, he said, "is not possible technically and would take too much money to do it. For that amount of money, the Vikings could refurbish TCF stadium and play there."
And if you think relocating tenants from a high-tech building would be expensive, imagine the cost of moving an electrical substation:
The city's analysis is planned for release later this week, Lutz said. But he said it was clear that the 511 Building and the other major building in the way, Xcel Energy's Elliot Park substation, "would be high-ticket items."

Xcel Energy officials met Friday with city officials to provide information on the substation, which supplies power to businesses and homes in the downtown area.

"At this point we haven't even started an analysis of what it would take [to move the substation] and what the impact could be. We haven't said it could or couldn't be moved. We'll do our part to accomplish that," said Xcel spokesman Tom Hoen.
Remember, the idea behind forcing the Vikings to concentrate on the Dome site is that it would supposedly be easier to get the bill done and get something, anything built. You have to wonder how much longer the Vikings, and the public for that matter, are going to be willing to put up with this charade.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Anderson Gets Molnaued

Back in 2008, as a state senator, Ellen Anderson voted to oust Carol Molnau from her position as head of MnDOT. The vote then was a party line 44-22 vote, in which every member of the DFL majority sent Molnau from office. Today, Ellen Anderson got Molnaued:
Minnesota Republicans took the rare step on Monday of voting to remove an appointee of DFL Gov. Mark Dayton.

By a 37-29 party-line vote, Republicans voted against confirming Ellen Anderson, a former longtime member of the Senate, as Dayton's appointee to chair the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission.
Back in 2008, then-Gov. Tim Pawlenty had to swallow hard and deal with the decision. Dayton took a different tack:

The vote means Anderson must leave the post. Dayton, angry at the vote and calling Republicans "too extreme to lead,'' immediately hired Anderson as an energy advisor on his staff. He must now search for a new chair of the PUC.

Now, I'm of two minds about this. First, I fully suspect that whomever Dayton selects will be just as much of a problem child as Anderson was in this position. Second, elections do have consequences and Mark Dayton is the governor and should, barring anything extraordinary, be able to appoint lieutenants of his choosing.

Having said that, I have no sympathy for the outrageously outraged Dayton or any of his colleagues in the DFL. The vote against Molnau was shameful and an exercise in raw political power, mostly done for the hell of it as far as anyone could tell. The pretext was that the 35W bridge had collapsed during Molnau's tenure at MnDOT, but as was later demonstrated, that collapse was the result of a faulty bridge design that took place some 30 years before.

Republicans have been all too willing to play by Marquess of Queensbury rules -- the primary reason that Mark Dayton is in the governor's chair is that the Republican Party, at Tom Emmer's direction, didn't unload on Dayton's very troublesome history, while Dayton's hired goons had no hesitation in running dozens of scurrilous ads that scored Emmer.

The only way Republicans are ever going to be praised in this state is if they lose, graciously and perpetually. Perhaps the Republicans in Minnesota are finally learning that hearing the praise of your enemies is far less enjoyable than hearing their lamentations and vows of revenge.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Vikings to Metrodome? -- No Need to Be Coy, Colvin Roy

You remember how all the momentum was for the Metrodome site for the Vikings? And how it was Minneapolis, and not Ramsey County, that had the funding mechanism in place that could provide the chimerical "local contribution" that would fund a new stadium?

Good times, good times:
City Council insistence that public funding for a new Minnesota Vikings stadium must go before Minneapolis voters put the brakes on Mayor R.T. Rybak's plan for the Metrodome site Thursday. Sandra Colvin Roy, whose stance on the mayor's stadium plan was previously unknown, became the seventh member of the 13-member council standing against the proposal absent a citywide referendum. That vote is required under the city's charter if the city spends more than $10 million on a stadium, but the mayor and council President Barb Johnson would like the Legislature to override it.
And guess who makes Colvin Roy worry about the machinations?
"Looking across the street at Occupy Minnesota and thinking about what's going on in our country right now, some of the discussions that are happening relative to government -- can we trust them or not? -- I cannot countenance going around that referendum," Colvin Roy said Thursday during a hearing.
Well, hell, let's just give Occupy a suite in the new place. That should solve the problem.

So there needs to be a referendum to secure funding in Minneapolis, too? Somewhere in his bunker in Ramsey County, Tony Bennett must have a smirk on his face about this development.

I've made this point before, but it needs to underscored. The "local share" business is a myth. No local electorate will be willing to impose a tax on itself to pay for a playpen for billionaires. The only way this deal gets done is if the state picks up whatever share the Wilfs aren't willing to provide. R. T. Rybak can use whatever flimflammery he'd like, but he has no more leverage to find imaginary local funding than Bennett and his bobos on the board have in Ramsey County.

If we're going to have a Vikings stadium, it's going to be up the legislature and to Mark Dayton. And if the cost is $700-750 million, which it probably will be no matter where they build the thing, it's going to be a tough sell. The good news? The NFL has decided that the Vikes can't move to L.A. this year. After that? Well....

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Guilty Pleasures Part Eighty-Four -- Chief of Staff Fearless Maria Offers Random Dance Moves

Hey everybody, Fearless Maria is back in town! And I'm now the Chief of Staff of the MOB! Take that, Learned Foot!

Well, Foot is due some courtesy, since he's Secretary of State for Life.

Well, tell me this, Mayor Dad -- if I'm Chief of Staff, do I get to boss him around? Because I'm prepared to boss him around. I am. Then again, I heard he's a lawyer so I'd better be careful.

Yes, it is a good idea to be courteous to lawyers.

But do I get to boss him around? C'mon, Dad -- let me boss him around! I never get to boss anyone around! Well, that's a bit of hyperbole -- I do boss around Ben from time to time when he has it coming. But who cares? I just want to get on with the post, so answer my question, buddy! Do I get to boss Learned Foot around?

Yes -- I think you can boss him around. How far it gets you is another matter, of course.

Okay, then. As long as I have the power, I'll use it wisely and won't pursue it for now. So now, this is a Guilty Pleasures. And no, this is not Zombie Fearless Maria. I didn't die, or even retire. I just haven't gotten around to doing a Guilty Pleasures in a while. Sometimes the Mayor gets too busy writing about the Vikings stadium. Sometimes my English teacher is too busy assigning me big honking essays. Which I ace, of course, because I'm Fearless. And just pure awesomeness.

And modest.

Hey, I thought you told me that it isn't bragging if you can back it up. So let's back up the Wayback Machine and play some music from the time of the Phoenician sailors! Yes, I'm getting into my Social Studies classes and I think some of the stuff that Dad finds is at least that old. Like this song:

That's Wilson Pickett, doing the Land of 1,000 Dances. So Dad, what the heck is a bonie maronie, anyway? Or the mashed potato?

I think those were old dance crazes. Ol' Wilson goes through a lot of them on his list.

Well, he's sure wearing a lot of leather, too. His hair is fine and his outfit is kinda silly, but it was 1966, so that's just how things were those days. Right, Dad?

Well, I turned 3 in 1966, so I'm not entirely sure. I know I didn't wear a leather jumpsuit.

So did you wear a leather onesie? No, I don't think Grandma would be that cruel. I suppose you were eating more mashed potatoes than doing the mashed potato dance. But by the time the next some came out, you might have had some dance moves:

This one is called "Give It Up or Turn It Loose." That's what they told you in kindergarten, right, when you were hogging the sand table. Or maybe when you were hogging the magazines in the school library.

I don't remember what magazines they had in the school library at Jackson Elementary. I think it might have been "Highlights for Children" or something like that.

So, you're telling me your childhood was lame? That explains a few things. I'm surprised that James Brown can crack some of those moves in his suit. He looks fine, and so does his band in a weird sorta way, but the wall behind the band is pretty silly. Kinda like a messed up Target symbol or something. And the song is fun.

The JBs were quite a band.

No, that can't be right. I don't see Justin Bieber anywhere in that video, Dad! He wasn't even born yet! And he's horrible anyway. So let's move on the next one:

That's Sly and the Family Stone, who seemed to have misplaced their copy of "Hooked on Phonics" when they named this song "Thank You (Falettin Me Be Mice Elf Agin)." Did they leave their copy at Jackson Elementary School for you to read, Dad?

I don't remember seeing them there, but it's possible, Maria. This song actually came out around the same time as the James Brown song, but this performance is later on, around 1974 or so. Sly was starting to lose it around this time, but the band could still play.

He was definitely messed up in his outfits. I mean, really -- what did he do, just close his eyes and grab it out of the high school drama department dress-up box? The rest of the band looks slightly strange, but it was 1974 so I guess they were actually normal. The song, obviously, is great, although I could think of a lot of people who would completely frown on that spelling effort. I'm hoping my teachers don't see that I wrote this post and think I've forgotten how to spell. Which I haven't. In fact, I'm very precise, Dad!

That's why you're Chief of Staff, Maria.

Yeah, that and because you really couldn't trust that Red Squirrel guy with that much power. Anyway, let's get on to the next one. Hey, it's a Soul Train video!

That's the O'Jays, singing "For the Love of Money." And look, they are wearing blinding white tuxedos! Ah, the horror that their wives must have gone through trying to wash them after they all got stained from the wine people were throwing at them, because they were so good! Although I guess that Soul Train guy -- what's his name, Dad?

That would be Don Cornelius.

Yeah, that guy -- the guy who always wore the suits with the lapels as wide as Snelling Avenue and patterns as bright as the Great Coral Reef. Yeah, that guy. He must have edited out the wine throwing part. I suppose they are technically well dressed, because the suits don't look bad or anything, but if they'd have been wearing yellow ties, then I would have been concerned. There are definitely some fun dance moves going on, too -- especially the people waving around the giant dollar bills. You did grow up in a strange time, Dad!

Why yes, Maria. Yes, I did.

Glad you snapped out of it, though! All right, we're going to pass over the disco era because it's kinda boring anyway and we'll break out some 80s. Hey look, it's one of our favorites!

Ah yes, the Bangles continue to "Walk Like an Egyptian." And you can tell it's the 80s, because they all have really HUGE HAIR! Their outfits are okay, a little strange but not strange enough to rant about, although if they used that much hair care product, I wonder if the other ladies in town had to do without for a week. I bet they had hair mousse in the 55-gallon drum size! And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why we have a hole in the ozone layer!

That could be the reason. I hadn't thought of it, but maybe we should blame the Bangles.

Well, we have to blame somebody, Dad. This is politics -- you're the mayor and if you don't blame somebody, they're going to blame you! And I've seen your hair -- I don't think the mousse is going to help you very much.

I actually tried mousse once during the 80s.

Don't tell me things like that, Dad. I'm going to have nightmares imagining you with Flock of Seagulls hair.

It was a nightmare. But I haven't done that for a very long time now. And there's no photographic evidence out there that shows me in a moussed-up state.

Since we already know what's in the hair, let's find out what's in the heart!

"Groove Is in the Heart!" Deee-Lite! Strange, strange, strange. But I always want to make sure that Dad gets a Bootsy Collins fix and there it is! It's a fun song, but the gigantic platform shoes are a bit much to take, as well as yellow pants with green and yellow dress shirts. Or some kinda shirt. Maybe it was just a bath towel -- it's hard to be certain. But the song does make me want to move my feet.

And that's not a bad thing.

No, it's not, Dad. But now we need to move on to the voting. So let's have you pick your favorite in the comments section! Remember, be nice, please! You wouldn't want to get on the bad side of the Chief of Staff! Or the Mayor. But just between you and me, the Mayor is a pushover compared to me. I'm Fearless Maria and don't you forget it! Peace out!

Show Me the Money

I don't really want to know how much money Debra Bosanek makes. But you have to wonder.

Bosanek has become something of the anti-Joe the Plumber in recent days because she is supposed to symbolize the downtrodden middle class worker who is getting jobbed on her taxes, especially in comparison to her boss. Bosanek is Warren Buffett's secretary and she and ol' Warren have been making the rounds in recent days, complaining about how unfair it all is.

As usual, there's more to the story. First of all, most executive secretaries make pretty good coin and I would imagine that Bosanek is no exception. A columnist for Forbes estimates that for Bosanek to pay the tax rate she claims to pay, she must earn well north of $200,000 a year. If this guy is correct, she might make closer to $400,000 a year:

If she’s really paying a marginal rate of 35%, she’s earning over $379,150 per year in taxable income, which places her in the top 1% of income earners nationally. If this is true, Ms. Bosanek is anything but an average citizen. An average citizen–say someone who earns the median salary of a secretary to a CEO, which is $67, 791, according to a 2011 survey conducted by Certified Compensation Professionals–pays a much lower effective tax rate on taxable income than Ms. Bosanek. Assuming this average citizen took about $15,000 in deductions, she would pay an effective tax rate of 17% on taxable income of $52,791, the same rate Mr. Buffett claims to be paying.

I would not be surprised if she did make that much. Buffett could afford to pay her that much and probably would, since a CEO's secretary typically has the same skill set as a department manager, or even director-level employee in most companies. As has been pointed out elsewhere, there's really no way to know if the assertions that Bosanek and Buffett are making are true unless they both are willing to release their tax returns.

My guess is that the 35% number actually counts the payroll taxes that go to FICA and Medicare, although calculations of the effective income tax rate do not typically lump in those numbers.

Another point worth making: even if you closed the loopholes and really stuck it to the uber-rich, we aren't really talking about a lot of people, as Jonathan Karl of ABC News reveals:

The Top 400 tax filers – the very richest Americans – do pay a lower rate of just 18.11 percent of their total income. Why? Many of them are hedge fund managers and people like Buffet — their income is pegged how much their investment fund grows. For some reason, this income is counted as so-called “carried interest” (even though it is not interest at all; it’s more like a performance bonus) and is taxed at the lower 15 percent capital gains rate.

It’s a loophole for hedge managers, pure and simple. But while it may be an outrage that these uber-rich hedge fund managers pay such a low rate compared to the rest of us, there are just not many of them out there.

But the top 400 tax filers represent a tiny sliver – just .00028 percent of all filers. The vast majority of those earning over $1 million a year pay at a higher rate, which is why the average tax rate for this group, according to the Tax Foundation, is 29.1 percent of taxable income. And, yes, this number includes income taxes, payroll taxes and capital gains taxes.

Either way, I don't think Ms. Bosanek has much to worry about. Buffett has plenty of money coming in these days.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

8th Grade Reading

You can read various critiques of President Obama’s State of the Union address out on the interwebs, but there is one critique out there that is, frankly, pretty lame. It is the idea that there is something risible about the speech being written at an 8th grade level.

I write for a living. Writing at an 8th grade level is a good approach, in most cases. Too many people confuse complexity with intelligence. Truth be told, needless complexity is usually a mask for something else, including incoherence or deceit. At the level of attention that most people can offer, communicating at the 8th grade level is usually where you want to be. Reading need not be the intellectual equivalent of calisthenics.

Remembrances of Things Past

As time passes, it's easy to forget things that have happened. Memories blur and things that aren't necessarily true can ossify into conventional wisdom. Now that our man Newt is back on the scene, part of the conventional wisdom is that he was ethically challenged and was forced to resign "in disgrace" because of the evil deeds he did. I've heard these things in recent days, but a lot of it didn't jibe with my own recollection of events, although I didn't quite remember why. Writing for the Washington Examiner, Byron York gives us a trip down memory lane:
Given all the attention to the ethics matter, it's worth asking what actually happened back in 1995, 1996, and 1997. The Gingrich case was extraordinarily complex, intensely partisan, and driven in no small way by a personal vendetta on the part of one of Gingrich's former political opponents. It received saturation coverage in the press; a database search of major media outlets revealed more than 10,000 references to Gingrich's ethics problems during the six months leading to his reprimand. It ended with a special counsel hired by the House Ethics Committee holding Gingrich to an astonishingly strict standard of behavior, after which Gingrich in essence pled guilty to two minor offenses. Afterwards, the case was referred to the Internal Revenue Service, which conducted an exhaustive investigation into the matter. And then, after it was all over and Gingrich was out of office, the IRS concluded that Gingrich did nothing wrong. After all the struggle, Gingrich was exonerated.
York's piece should be read in full, but a few things are worth calling out. First, the role of Gingrich's chief accuser, Ben "Cooter" Jones, the onetime "Dukes of Hazzard" actor who found his way to Congress but lost his seat due to redistricting. Jones had an axe to grind and he wasn't particularly subtle about it, as York reminds us:
There's no doubt the complaint was rooted in the intense personal animus Jones felt toward Gingrich. In 1995, I sat down with Jones for a talk about Gingrich, and without provocation, Jones simply went off on the Speaker. "He's just full of s--t," Jones told me. "He is. I mean, the guy's never done a damn thing, he's never worked a day in his life, he's never hit a lick at a snake. He's just a bulls--t artist. I mean, think about it. What has this guy ever done in his life?…Gingrich has never worked. He's never had any life experience. He's very gifted in his way at a sort of rhetorical terrorism, and he's gifted in his way at being a career politician, someone who understands how that system works and how to get ahead in it, which is everything that he has derided for all these years. So I think he's a hypocrite, and I think he's a wuss, and I don't mind saying that to him or whoever. To his mother -- I don't care."

At that point, Jones leaned over to speak directly into my recorder. Raising his voice, he declared: "HE'S THE BIGGEST A--HOLE IN AMERICA!"
And if what York asserts is true, why then has the impression of Gingrich being a world-class scoundrel hardened, at least on this issue? Let him explain how the game works:
Back in January 1997, the day after Cole presented his damning report to the Ethics Committee, the Washington Post's front-page banner headline was "Gingrich Actions 'Intentional' or 'Reckless'; Counsel Concludes That Speaker's Course Funding Was 'Clear Violation' of Tax Laws." That same day, the New York Times ran eleven stories on the Gingrich matter, four of them on the front page (one inside story was headlined, "Report Describes How Gingrich Used Taxpayers' Money for Partisan Politics"). On television, Dan Rather began the CBS Evening News by telling viewers that "only now is the evidence of Newt Gingrich's ethics violations and tax problems being disclosed in detail."

The story was much different when Gingrich was exonerated. The Washington Post ran a brief story on page five. The Times ran an equally brief story on page 23. And the evening newscasts of CBS, NBC, and ABC -- which together had devoted hours of coverage to the question of Gingrich's ethics -- did not report the story at all. Not a word.
All the news that's fit to print, of course.

There are plenty of things to dislike about Newt Gingrich, including his philandering, his egomania and his tendency to misunderstand that bloviation isn't an adequate substitute for principle. At this point he'd not be my choice to lead this nation. Still, in a time when dishonesty is firmly in the saddle, York's article is a useful reminder of why dishonesty works so well. I'll say it again -- no matter what you think of Gingrich otherwise, you really need to read the whole thing.

Old Country Buffett

President Obama thinks it's a shame that Warren Buffett's secretary pays at a higher marginal rate than her boss does. Of course, the reason for the disparate treatment is that Warren Buffett, like most rich people, makes his money in ways that don't count as traditional income.

And sometimes Warren Buffett makes makes money in other ways, too:

Warren Buffett's Burlington Northern Santa Fe LLC is among U.S. and Canadian railroads that stand to benefit from the Obama administration's decision to reject TransCanada Corp.'s Keystone XL oil pipeline permit.

With modest expansion, railroads can handle all new oil produced in western Canada through 2030, according to an analysis of the Keystone proposal by the U.S. State Department.

"Whatever people bring to us, we're ready to haul," Krista York-Wooley, a spokeswoman for Burlington Northern, a unit of Buffett's Omaha, Nebraska-based Berkshire Hathaway Inc., said in an interview. If Keystone XL "doesn't happen, we're here to haul."
And it should be quite a haul, too. Read the whole thing.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Vikings to _______?

As the lege gets ready to start up, Mark Dayton gives Zygi and the boys the news they don't want to hear:

Gov. Mark Dayton told the Minnesota Vikings on Monday that the only workable site this year for a new stadium is the Metrodome, apparently bringing the team's long search for a new home back to where it started. "The governor spoke to Mr. Zygi Wilf this afternoon and told him that if we are going to get a stadium bill passed this year, it will have to be at the Metrodome site," said the governor's spokeswoman, Katharine Tinucci.
And now Zygi is coming back to Minnesota for a "come to Jesus" meeting. The question is, who gets to be Jesus in this one:

Vikings spokesman Lester Bagley said the team is upset by the news, which came just the team appeared to be shifting from its preferred site in Arden Hills to the so-called Linden Avenue location near the Minneapolis' Basilica of St. Mary. "We were told by the governor's office that Linden Avenue is not workable, at least in the short term," said Bagley, the team's vice president of public affairs and stadium development. "All I can tell you is that our ownership is extremely frustrated with the situation."

I'll bet. We're at the point now where Wilf is getting what is called "Hobson's Choice" -- what is on offer, or nothing. If you read between the lines, what Bagley is telling you is this -- if the Metrodome site is the only option, the Vikings are going to pursue other options. My guess is that is what Wilf will tell Dayton tomorrow. And that is when it gets interesting.

No Exit/Il miglior fabbro

I did something I hadn't done before in this cycle, which is to watch one of the Republican presidential debates from beginning to end. Since that represents two hours of my life I'll never get back, herewith I present a quick synopsis and a recommendation.

  • The overall impression I got was similar to the sensation I got when I saw a production of Sartre's "No Exit" during my college years. You saw a bunch of unpleasant people in a version of hell that is entirely of NBC's making. If you look up "unctuous" in the dictionary, there's a picture of Brian Williams next to the definition.
  • Mitt Romney does a lot better with the attacking when he hires the job out to surrogates. I really don't know if what he said about Newt Gingrich is true, but he came off as desperate and irritating.
  • Newt Gingrich went into his "well I declare, I don't know what you're talking about, Mitt" mode for most of the debate, which was effective because it seemed like Mitt didn't know what he was talking about.
  • Rick Santorum continues to come across as an earnest statist with no real reason for being on the stage. He's not going to be president.
  • Ron Paul is mostly correct in what he says, but he's still got that crazy uncle persona going and I think Stephen Green's observation is spot-on: "Is Ron Paul shrinking or are his suits growing?" 
Speaking of which, Green, who writes for PJ Media under the handle "Vodkapundit," has been "drunkblogging" the debates and his synopsis is better and more amusing than most of the other post-mortems I've read. This observation I think is 100% correct:

7:24PM There is only one explanation for this debate: NBC News wanted to show off the GOP contenders as the world’s Most Boring and Irrelevant White Guys. On tomorrow night’s NBC News primetime program, the second coming of Black Jesus. Compare and contrast, dulled audience.
Maybe not the nicest way to put it, but that's about it. I strongly recommend clicking the link -- he's really good and makes at least a half dozen other observations that ring true.

Monday, January 23, 2012

No SOPA, or PIPA Longstocking

At least for now, SOPA and PIPA are not happening. These two bills were both ostensibly aimed at stopping the problem of pirated intellectual property, particularly movies and music. The problem was that, in designing a mechanism to shut down primarily overseas websites, the law was likely to put the clampdown on a lot of what happens on the Internet.

Hollywood wanted SOPA (the House version) and/or PIPA (the Senate version) to pass and it hired former Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd, the one-time Friend of Angelo who played a major role in ensuring that corruption in the financial industry was undisturbed, to protect its interests. Didn't work out so well. And now Dodd is very angry at the Obama administration in particular, and Democrats in general, for not staying bought:

Hollywood's top lobbyist and former Sen. Chris Dodd is threatening to cut off campaign funds to President Obama's re-election effort because of anger over the White House appearing to side with tech companies in a bitter fight over anti-piracy legislation.

In an exclusive interview with Fox News, Dodd fired off a warning to Obama -- his former Senate Democratic colleague in this election year -- "don't take us for granted."

"Candidly, those who count on quote 'Hollywood' for support need to understand that this industry is watching very carefully who's going to stand up for them when their job is at stake," Dodd told Fox News. "Don't ask me to write a check for you when you think your job is at risk and then don't pay any attention to me when my job is at stake."
This is actually pretty amusing, because to me backing away from SOPA and PIPA is one of the best things the Obama administration has done since it first came to power. This was bad legislation and would have had the potential to hurt a lot more people than it would have benefited. It's also amusing because it's highly unusual to hear a lobbyist be so out front about the fact that he's trying to buy votes.

I suppose Dodd is confused because while he was a scoundrel whose vote was always negotiable, he had the moral probity to stay bought. And I suppose it's difficult to remember the proper pecking order among mendicants for who gets what from the Obama administration. Hollywood gives a lot of money, but they didn't get the Solyndra treatment in terms of tilting the playing field their way. If you think you are a winner, it's gotta hurt to be a loser in the poker pork game.

Meanwhile, our two august Senators, Klobuchar and Franken, were staunch PIPA supporters. As far as one can tell in the gauzy, feel-good Lifetime Channel world that is Amy Klobuchar's career, she stayed bought. Wonder if the money will keep coming now.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Victory Speech - Updated

We were going to do a press conference, but it was obvious from the get-go that being elected Mayor of the MOB isn't really news. And staging a press conference did present the remote yet uncomfortable possibility that some leftyblogger might actually show up at my house. That would likely disturb my neighbors and would be rediculous. So here's my speech:

Thanks to everyone for your support. It reflects two things -- that you might have actually enjoyed something you read here; and your evident good taste in rejecting the other candidates. That is the greatest victory, of course. It's also a sign of your courage, since Ecker is heavily armed.

What is my goal for my tenure as MOB Mayor? To endure as much ridicule as possible. And to encourage all MOB bloggers to write as much as they can. Unlike my predecessor, the honorable J. Roosh, I will keep writing. We need all bloggers to be writing as much as they can. Even dashed off tripe can add to the debate, as this blog has proved conclusively for the past six years.

We will have more to say at the MOB Party, which will take place on Saturday, Feb. 25 at Ol' Mexico in Roseville. In the meantime, my chief of staff Fearless Maria is in charge of processing applications for the various lucrative patronage positions that are now available. Know that the following positions are already filled:

Everything else is up for grabs. And if nothing else, we can trust on everyone to be grabby.

Update (01/23/12). We have added two additional positions to the team:

Watch this space for additional updates.

She Turned Me Into a Newt

Newt Gingrich wins South Carolina, going away. Why do you suppose that happened? It's pretty simple, really. He's out there throwing haymakers. He's willing to do whatever it takes to win, even if it means blowing up his fellow Republicans. He's working the passion angle very well right now. And primary voters tend to be more passionate than the overall electorate.

We can safely assume that the Obama campaign is going to be fear and loathing all the way, since he'll not be able to defend his record, which has fallen far short of the myriad promises he made. Even if we had better Republican choices than we do, any Republican that runs for office these days is going to be vilified. That's just the way it is.

If Newt Gingrich has any advantage, it's that his villainy is pretty much out there and not much of a revelation to anyone. For anyone over the age of 30 who was even remotely paying attention, Newt is well known. There's really not that much we can be told about him that we don't already know. And to a certain extent, the experience of living through Bill Clinton's presidency is crucial to what is happening. By the end of his term, everyone in the world recognized that Bill Clinton was a world-class scoundrel and a moral reprobate, but even his harshest critics had to admit that he was a smart dude. Gingrich offers a similar profile, at least in some ways.

As for Romney, he's still in a better position, but he has problems to face. Much has been made about the idea of income inequality driving this election, which makes sense because that is the ground Obama would prefer to fight upon, but I really don't think that's it. What I think might turn this election isn't economic populism as much as it is a revolt against elitism. And that's Romney's problem. When people compare Romney to John Kerry, this is what they mean. Romney has the bearing of an elitist -- he can't be a man of the people because he's never been one.

We've had a lot of elitists lately. Obama masked his own elitism fairly well until he got into office. The various Bushes who have been in office were elitists, too. I'm getting a Jacksonian vibe right now and while it would be ridiculous to understand Gingrich as an Andrew Jackson-style outsider, he's enough of a ruffian that he's getting traction. Romney will never be anything other than an elitist. If that flavor is out of favor, he's going to be a tough sell.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- Not That They Really Matter At This Point Edition

So old dude, I heard you won the election and are now the new Mayor of the MOB.

You heard right, Seabiscuit. It's quite an honor.

So tell me -- how you are going to use nepotism to give me a really sweet job in your administration?

Keep this under your hat, young fella, but I believe you are being vetted for a potential position as the Minister of HYYYYYYYYPPPPPE!

That seems like a lateral move to me. I've been doing HYYYYYYYPPPPPE! for a number of years now. What else ya got?

You should probably just let the process play out, young fella. This is how they got Blago, ya know.

Good point, Decrepit! Anyway, we do have to pick the remaining games, even though the Green Bay Packers are no longer part of the tournament. I gotta tell you, my heart isn't in this, but I'm nothing if not contractually obligated to offer my views on such things. So watch me work!

Baltimore Ravens (+7) vs. New England Patriots. It's the classic matchup. Offense vs. Defense. Style vs. Substance. Ratty Hooded Sweatshirt against Nylon-Clad Generic Coach. So many contrasts, old dude! I learned my lesson last week when I was foolhardy enough to say that the Patriots would be shut out. Instead, they scored 45 points and Tom Brady threw six touchdowns. I'm not afraid to say that I might have been a little wrong about that one, but as a fully licensed prognosticator and high school sophomore, I feel that I do have a professional opinion to offer. And I'm also very predictable. Ravens 24, Pats 0.

Slow learner, too, apparently. I wouldn't be surprised if the Ravens pull this off, because they are a superior defensive team, but I don't know that they can score enough to win. I'm going to say that they do beat the spread, though. Pats 31, Ravens 27.

New York Football Giants (+2.5) vs. San Francisco 49ers. I also learned that it's a bad idea to question the New York media, since they are a lot louder than I am. I'm pretty sure I could take Mike Lupica in a game of one-on-one, since he's, what, 73 or something, but he's seen a few things that I haven't. Like the Civil War, for example. I kid, I kid. The Giants played well, I'll admit, and they are the ever-popular "hot team" that is always noticed at this time of year. What I don't get is this -- if they were so hot, how did they lose to the Redskins in December? Hot must be a different concept in New York. As for the game, I highly doubt that Eli Manning is going to have a good game, because he is still turnover-prone. If everything breaks right, the Giants could win. But I don't think they will. Niners 14, G-Men 10.

I watched the game last week. Pretty much every stinking minute of it. The Giants were dominant. Can they do it again? I don't see why not. The 49ers are a talented team, but they haven't been there before. The Giants have. I think that makes the difference. Giants 27, 49ers 20.

Well, that's all I have for this one. Excuse me while I fight my way through the lobby where all the job applicants are lining up for patronage positions. Ben out!

Welcome to City Hall

It is official. Mr. Dilettante is the new Mayor of the MOB. We will have a press conference over the weekend to lay out our agenda and announce a few key appointments. My thanks to SOSFL Learned Foot for his diligence and, if I may, I'd especially like to congratulate the other candidates in the race for running a spirited campaign, with special thanks to the Master of Sausages for phoning it in.

State of Play

Another presidential debate last night -- only saw excerpts of it because the kids were watching something else. Good thing, too. A lot happened in the last few days, though:

  • Our friend First Ringer provides a typically great synopsis over at Mitch's place if you need to catch up on all of the particulars, but the big news of the day was that Rick Perry dropped out of the race and endorsed Newt Gingrich, which was a curious move. One could write volumes about the problems Perry encountered in his campaign. Whether anyone would want to read them is another matter. He was supposed to the deus ex machina of the race, but he turned out to be more of a doofus ex machina. He has a good record as governor and I remain convinced that being a governor is the best prerequisite for the job of President, but he wasn't ready to be president. And it's likely he never will be.
  • Newt Gingrich is, as always, the most interesting guy in the race, although he's interesting in the sense of the famous Chinese curse "may you live in interesting times." One of his ex-wives unloaded on him yesterday and the matter came up in the debate, which gave Gingrich the opening to be outrageously outraged about the whole thing. He took great, theatrical umbrage and battered CNN moderator John King about the neck and ears, earning a standing ovation from the assembled crowd. It's a pretty good trick to get a room full of Republicans to give a standing ovation to a philanderer, but that's the beauty of Newt. I continue to believe his popularity rests entirely on his willingness to play bully boy and take the battle to his interlocutors. I'll admit I enjoy it, too. Having said that, it's preposterous to think he could be an effective President. Andy Aplikowski has an interesting take on the matter of Gingrich, too.
  • Rick Santorum is still standing, for reasons that aren't entirely clear. I've never really thought much of him and while he's been occasionally effective on the trail and may have won Iowa after all, he's not the right guy to run the country. Social conservatism is fine but for it to triumph it needs to win the hearts and minds of the citizenry through persuasion, not be imposed by fiat. And Santorum seems far too comfortable with the notion of using the tools of the state to impose things by fiat.
  • Ron Paul is Ron Paul. He's doing his Old Testament prophet shtick and raising important points, but he's also 76 years old and it's evident that he's getting worn down. I fully expect him to remain in the race to the end, though, because he's playing the long game and trying to change the nature of the conversation. And in doing so he's performing a necessary service.
  • That leaves Mitt Romney. He's not the guy most conservatives would prefer, but he's the guy we are likely to get, despite the punches in the nose he's getting at the moment. He's been running for president for about 8 years now and the experience shows in his campaign. He's problematic for several reasons, but in the end the question will be this -- is he better than Barack Obama? If this year plays out the way I suspect it will, Obama will have a very difficult time convincing anyone he deserves a second term.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Vikings to Arden Hills? XXXIII -- Linden Avenue?

In the ever-churning Vikings debate, is Arden Hills dead? Mark Dayton thinks so:

Dayton was firm about the fate of one site: The Vikings' previously preferred site at Arden Hills, he said, "is not financially viable." The Vikings, he said, could choose to contribute $700 million to the cost of the $1.1 billion stadium -- something the Vikings immediately said would not be possible.

The Vikings could fork over that much money if they chose to, but they won't, mostly because the league won't let them. The question is, does the Linden Avenue site actually work? Lester Bagley said this:
Vikings spokesman Lester Bagley called the Linden Avenue site "intriguing," and said: "It's got the ability to share game-day experience with [the] Twins and Target Center. If Arden Hills is not achievable, we will work with state leaders and the city of Minneapolis to try to negotiate an agreement."

He also said this, though:
Bagley, the team's vice president for stadium development, stopped short of a full embrace. "We are not there yet," he said. "We have to study this."
A few thoughts:

  • It's worth remembering that a large part of the costs associated with the Arden Hills project concerned the improvement of local roads. Those projects are going to happen regardless of whether or not a stadium is built on the site; the only real change is that an additional 35W interchange at County Road H2 to direct traffic to a stadium is now out. It was always a curious thing that these costs were included in the project.
  • The state will still need to deal with the cleanup and remediation costs of the Arden Hills site. That hasn't changed, although the costs will now get transferred to another place on the ledger.
  • The only real advantage I see to the Linden Avenue site is that it would allow the Vikings to stay in the Dome during construction.
  • There's no real funding available for the Linden Avenue site, either. R. T. Rybak doesn't have it and it would take a change to the Minneapolis city charter to make it happen.
  • The Basilica of St. Mary would have a lot of trouble if the stadium goes on that site. Mary Jo Copeland's Sharing and Caring Hands facility would also get displaced. Perhaps Archbishop Nienstedt will be too busy dealing with other matters, but running afoul of the Archdiocese isn't wise.
  • When the Vikings are done "studying" the issue, they may decide that Linden Avenue won't work. What then?
I don't know if the Arden Hills site is dead, or merely mostly dead. But there are larger questions involved and we are no closer to resolving them after yesterday than we were before.

Keystone Cop

By now you've heard that Barack Obama has sandbagged the Keystone XL pipeline, which was going to be used to get Canadian oil down to our refining facilities in Texas. If you want a Canadian perspective on the matter, check out this video. It's long, but commenter Ezra Levant makes the following points:

  • Canada sells all of its oil to the U.S. If we won't buy it, someone else will.
  • The decision benefits Venezuela
  • The environmental concerns that have been raised are all red herrings, since hundreds of pipelines of various sorts already crisscross the Ogalala aquifer
  • In 2008 Obama promised to end our dependence on buying oil from the Middle East and Venezuela; this decision runs counter to that
Definitely worth a click.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

How Does Marianne Gingrich End Newt's Career with One Interview?

That's the premise behind all the chattering going on about the interview that ABC News apparently did with Marianne Gingrich, the second wife of Newt Gingrich, the known reprobate who is running for president on the Republican side of the equation.

I'm hard pressed to think of what this woman could say about Newt that would be any worse than what we already know about the guy. I mean, it's well established that he's a narcissist, a blowhard and that he has a difficult time controlling his genitalia, which was standard presidential behavior in the 1990s, of course. So what could she tell us that we don't already know? Let's make this a contest and solicit your guesses. I'll throw out a few possibilities to get things started:

  • Newt killed a puppy with his bare hands
  • Newt did the voiceover work in the 1980s for the Snuggle the Fabric Softener Bear ad campaign
  • Newt was once a roadie for Uriah Heep
  • Newt left Marianne because of a torrid affair/love triangle involving Garry Trudeau and Barbara Mikulski
  • Newt actually is the Antichrist
  • Newt never once offered Marianne the opportunity to "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go"
  • Newt is actually the Red Squirrel and has abandoned his presidential bid to run for Mayor of the MOB
I'll stop now before this becomes a NIGP Top 11 List. Weigh in!

Walker vs. the Machine

My friend Gary Miller used to let me play in his internet sandbox Truth vs. the Machine, which is now sadly defunct. But the Machine never goes away, as Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is learning:

Shouting "This is what democracy looks like!" and singing "We Shall Overcome," volunteers, union activists and Democratic partisans delivered a truckload of petitions to the state's Government Accountability Board, virtually assuring that Walker will face a recall election this year, probably in the summer.

For his part, Walker seems to be taking a "bring it on" stance:
Walker said he looks forward to talking to voters "about my continued promises to control government spending, balance the budget and hold the line on taxes." He added that he eliminated a $3.6 billion deficit last year without raising taxes.
And the Democrats do have a problem they need to address -- they may have a lot of anger, but they don't have a candidate:
Potential candidates include Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who lost to Walker in 2010; former Dane County executive Kathleen Falk, who failed in runs for governor in 2002 and attorney general in 2006; David Obey, a former longtime congressman from northwestern Wisconsin; and state Sens. Tim Cullen, a moderate Democrat, and Jon Erpenbach, a leader of the Democrats who fled the state last winter to keep the Senate from approving the anti-union bill. The election would serve as a prelude to the presidential battle in this battleground state, and Erpenbach said he believes it will have national implications because Democrats feel they are fighting an assault on the middle class. But he said the Democrats will not win with a simple protest candidate. "'Vote for me because I'm not Scott Walker' is not going to do it," Erpenbach said.
To review -- the Democrats offer either people who have lost before (Barrett and Falk) or very old men (Obey and Cullen). I've seen Erpenbach and he won't beat Walker, either. Democrats in Wisconsin are like dogs that chase the car. They've now caught the car. Can they do anything with it? Guess we'll find out soon enough, but the guess here is that it won't end well for them.

Make Sure You Read This

There's a really good analysis of the problems besetting Europe at City Journal. Theodore Dalrymple delivers the correct conclusion at the very end:

In short, the incontinent spending of many European governments, which awarded whole populations unearned benefits at the expense of generations to come, has—along with a megalomaniacal currency union—produced a crisis not merely economic but social, political, and even civilizational. The European Union that was supposed to put an end to war on the continent has resuscitated antagonisms that might end in bellicosity, if not in outright war. And the European Project stands revealed as what any sensible person could have seen it always was: something akin to the construction of a massive, post-Tito Yugoslavia.

And we all know how that ended. Read the whole thing -- it's longish but definitely worth your time. And remember this -- people who admire Europe and its peculiarities are currently in charge of our government at the federal level.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The polls are open

Voting has begun for the MOB mayoral election over at the Secretary of State's office. As you likely know, I am a candidate for this imaginary office and would appreciate your support, although you might want to vote for Ecker, since he's heavily armed. As always, let your conscience be your guide and remember -- either way, Fearless Maria is still very bitter about all this.

Answering a question

Over at Mitch Berg's blog, a discussion about conservatism has broken out and I answered two questions in his comment section, to wit:

  • What does conservatism mean to you?
  • What first got you excited about politics?
And my response was:

For me, conservatism is recognizing that while my personal life experience is unique, my experiences are not. Because of that deference is due to the judgments of my predecessors on a variety of matters, especially those concerning the ordering of society. I choose to assume that those who came before me might have insights that still have relevance to our world.

As for what got me excited me about politics — nothing, really. In fact, I rather dislike it. However, I realize that I need to be in the arena because there are too many people who are (a) wrong-headed and (b) full of passion to change the world because they overvalue their own worldview and life experiences.

So how would you answer the questions? Share it with Mitch, or share it here. Better yet, do both. We're all about sharing.

Monday, January 16, 2012

I Appreciate the Honesty

Good to know where you stand. Must be part of that nuance thing that our betters are always instructing us about. Besides, I'm not completely critical of Mr. Obama. I like the tie he's wearing in the picture -- it's very classy. There -- just with that statement, I bet I get at least five more points on the ol' I.Q. test.

That Dog Won't Huntsman

It took a few days longer than I thought it would, but Jon Huntsman is apparently out:

Jon Huntsman Jr. informed his advisers Sunday that he intends to drop out of the Republican presidential race, ending his candidacy a week before he had hoped to revive his campaign in the South Carolina primary. Huntsman, who had struggled to live up to the soaring expectations of his candidacy, planned to make a formal announcement Monday, hours before he had been set to participate in an evening debate in Myrtle Beach.
So I have one question -- other than Huntsman himself, who precisely had "soaring expectations" for his candidacy? I really can't think of anyone. Can you?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Noted in passing

Just an observation, based on what I see from social media (Facebook and Twitter):

I have a number of friends and people I follow on Twitter who are from Chicago area. Many of this number are Bears fans. Not one has indulged in any schadenfreude concerning what happened to the Packers today. In fact, on my Facebook feed, the Bears fans have been quite respectful.

On the other hand, I've seen at least a dozen "ha ha the Packers suck" and "the cheese is melting" comments from various Minnesota-based correspondents. I'm not sure what that means, or if you can draw any conclusions from it. But I find it quite interesting.

All Hail the New York Giants

The better team won today. It was fun while it lasted -- it's awfully tough to repeat in this league and the Packers weren't ready for the challenge they faced, so they got what they deserved. Still love 'em anyway. Time to get ready for next season....

Fearless Maria Hits the Dozen

It goes by so very fast. Maria is 12 years old today. I wrote an essay about her birth back in '08 that you can read here. She remains a wonderful daughter and a source of great joy for everyone who knows her.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Things I Learn on Facebook

One of my old college friends tipped me to this -- apparently today is National Pastrami Day. Hey, if Hallmark can invent holidays, there's no reason why the lunchmeat industry shouldn't follow suit. Finding really good pastrami in the Twin Cities is tough, but it might be time to start a quest.

Update:  Gino is considering naming his birthday National Italian Beef Day. Once the paperwork gets posted, I'll keep you apprised.

Things I Learn on the Internet

Who knew?

Ex-presidential candidate John Edwards has a serious heart condition that will require a medical procedure next month and his illness limits his travel including for an upcoming court case over possible campaign violations, his doctor told a judge, who delayed the trial.
So heartless people can have a heart condition? Go figure!

Seriously -- go get it treated, Mr. Edwards. Then go away.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- NFL Divisional Round HYYYYYYYYPPPPPPE! Edition

Old dude, there's so much HYYYYYYYPPPPPPPPE! out there that I had to get it out of the way in the headline! Can you feel it?

I'm actually a bit desensitized to it, considering I experience it nearly every day.

Are you sure that it's just because you usually need a nap? Old dudes like to nap, I've noticed.

Could be. But what does that have to do with picking the football games?

Well, nothing. I'm supposed to care about your well-being. And whether or not you're taking your Geritol and all the other over-the-counter medications you see on the 5:30 news. But enough of that. We've got games to pick. Watch me work!

N'awlins Saints (-3 1/2) vs. San Francisco 49ers. So let me get this straight. The 49ers were 13-3 and earned a first round bye, but they are home underdogs? Speed of lighting, roar of thunder! Well, that's what happens when you play the New Orleans Saints, who are the best offense on the entire planet and perhaps the entire solar system as well. That's what they keep telling me on ESPN. Well guess what? They are now walking into the Streets of San Francisco and they're going to need more than a "Quinn Martin Production" to win this one. Jim Harbaugh doesn't wear a bad hat like that Karl Malden dude, but after his 49ers get after Drew Brees, they might be asking "what will you do? What will you do?" Niners 35, Saints 17.

Nice use of 70s references there, Benster! Your link fu is strong, grasshopper. Will your pick be correct, though? I'd like it to be, because as a Packer fan I'd prefer to avoid the Saints. But I think the Saints are probably going to be able to beat San Francisco after a bit of a struggle. Saints 31, 49ers 27.

Denver Tebows (+13 1/2) vs. New England Evil Empire. So is this one Carthage vs. Rome -- total war? Or is it a battle of Good and Evil? It's brave Sir Tebow, who is on a mission from God, although some people call him. . . Tim. Our man Tebow has been on a quest for the Holy Grail, and now he finds himself in Foxborough to face the dark lord Belichick. Guess what? You might expect me to pick the Patriots, right? Well -- NNNNNNNNNT! That is incorrect! The Patriots can't win at home in the playoffs. They have failed twice in a row and do not have a good defense. In fact, the Patriots were lucky to get out of Denver alive last time. The final score was pretty comfortable for New England fans, but their comfort level is about to plummet. Denver 21, New England 0.

Uh, no. I've been pretty impressed with the Denver defense this year, and there's no denying that Tebow has made a lot of big plays when it matters, but this seems like too large a task. The window is closing on Tom Brady and if he's going to make another Super Bowl run, it probably needs to be soon. Hard to see the Pats falling short this week. New England 34, Denver 20.

Houston Texans (+7 1/2) vs. Baltimore Ravens. It's T. J. Yates against Ray Lewis. That could be trouble for the fresh-faced kid from Carolina. The Texans played very well last week in defeating the Bengals, and our man J. J. Watt made a huge play by picking off a pass and lumbering into the end zone. Way to represent, J. J.! Gotta give some love to our Badger alums! But here's the funny thing -- if the Texans are going to have a chance in this game, it might be Badger alum Owen Daniels who might have to make a big play against the Ravens defense. In fact, I think the Ravens aren't ready for what they're about to face, because Joe Flacco is one inconsistent quarterback and you never know which Baltimore team is going to show up. Houston 17, Baltimore 10.

Houston plays very good defense, so they should have a chance. I agree that Flacco isn't all that great, but he's probably going to be better than T. J. Yates. I think it's a low-scoring game, but I'll go with the Ravens. Baltimore 24, Houston 14.

New York Football Giants (+7 1/2) vs. Glorious Green Bay Packers. I noticed this week that some of the Giants were running their mouths a little bit. Jason Pierre-Paul, who is a very good player but not known for his tact, went all Joe Namath and guaranteed a win. Good move, sir! As it happens, the old dude and I were at Lambeau the last time the Giants paid a visit. Tom Coughlin's face didn't freeze off that time, but the Giants were humiliated 45-17 and had to spend an additional night in lovely Appleton because the East Coast was snowed in. Bet that was fun for the Giants! My X Factors for this game are Jordy Nelson and Tramon Williams. I think both will get into the end zone and the Williams pick will be especially devastating to our old pal Eli Manning, who has played well lately but usually is good for a pick or two a game. Jordy Nelson has not been getting a lot of headlines, but if you look at the stats, you'll see that he has scored 15 touchdowns this season. That's a lot of touchdowns, kids. And when Jordy Nelson scores, the Packers win. Packers 45, Giants 17.

I heard some of the same things you did, young fella. The Giants are a hot team. They are playing so well right now. It's just like 2007. Pull back from the hype (not HYYYYYYPPPPPPPE!, which is a more wholesome thing) and you'll notice that the Giants were 9-7 and were outscored as a team this season. They played their best game of the season against the Packers on their own turf and still came up short. And it's not 2007, because Aaron Rodgers isn't an aging gunslinger. He's the best quarterback on the planet and he's at the peak of his powers. The Giants will give the Packers a struggle early, but I also think Jordy Nelson will score. As will a few of his friends. And the Giants won't be able to keep up. Packers 38, Giants 21.

Just a reminder, kids. This is what it will look like in Lambeau on Sunday. Get used to it. Ben out!

Vikings to Arden Hills? XXXIII - Meaningless Scurrying and a Jan Parker Sighting

Minneapolis city officials, the gang of spendthrifts known as the Ramsey County Board and various other mendicants were parading around the Capitol yesterday, Vikings stadium proposals in hand. They all came with their plans and presented them to a guy who can't actually make the decision.

It was a ludicrous exercise. We learned nothing new. Although there was one thing that was surprising -- we heard an actual public statement from Jan Parker, the otherwise-invisible DFL timeserver who ostensibly represents my district on the County Board:

Ramsey County Commissioner Jan Parker said she believed there was a bias toward building the stadium in Minneapolis, and she specifically criticized the Star Tribune. Parker said she thought the newspaper was skewing its coverage in favor of the Metrodome site because it holds land nearby. "I'm just appalled at the lack of objectivity," she said.
This is hilarious, since the Parkers of the world usually count on the Star Tribune to carry their water. It's doubly hilarious because it stepped on the message of her fellow commissioners, which compelled her colleague Rafael Ortega to contradict her:
At a brief news conference outside the governor's office, county officials were asked repeatedly Thursday whether they felt there was a "bias" in favor of Minneapolis. "We don't feel there's been any bias," Ortega said.
And this, of course, is hilarious as well. Of course there's a bias in favor of Minneapolis. A lot of politicians have staked their careers on putting eggs into the Minneapolis basket and their vision of a dream world with light rail lines and other amenities. It's a vision that is as ludicrous as the vision Zygi Wilf has about Arden Hills. The one thing both have in common is that they are perfectly willing to spend other people's money to make their vision come true.

And yes, the Star Tribune suits want the Metrodome site because they envision that they can make a lot of money if they can sell the land around their building to the Vikings.

Two other things worth noting:

  • As many of us have suspected, the lege is going to do what it is going to do and the artificial deadline doesn't mean much. There's a chance the matter won't even be taken up in this session. And Kurt Zellers, bless his heart, doesn't seem to care that much.
  • Plenty of people have noticed that the Vikings are now saying they will accept a stadium wherever it is built -- I must have seen a few dozen hits on the ol' Twitter feed about it. I wouldn't put too much stock into that statement. If this thing drags out or doesn't get resolved, the Vikings will start getting pretty antsy and the rhetoric will change.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

mayoral race question 3

the final question is posed

QUESTION: Which ONE (no more, no less)of your fellow mayoral candidates is the least suitable to be MOB Mayor? Please explain why this person would be an embarrassment / pose an existential threat to the art of blogging / just sucks in general. DIFFICULTY: You may NOT use capital letters, punctuation and the letter 'b'.
if you are wondering why grammar and rules of punctuation do not seem to apply that is why

this makes posting like writing an e e cummings poem only far worse

rules also take early plan to answer question channeling saturday morning cartoon favorite mushmouth out of play

a warning you should know link is actively annoying so dont click it whatever you do

anyway lets answer the question

definitely tough to denounce one candidate since his name includes letter not used

he wont win anyway though so to hell with him not worth our time

could denounce red squirrel guy however old rule states never punch down

and red squirrel is so down that foot mocks him with impunity

denouncing ecker is dangerous since he remains heavily armed

that leaves night writer

tough guy to denounce however this is the game so game on

night writer really doesnt suck although he does have suspect facial hair

he claims title master of sausages

current presidential administration does not approve of sausages

night writer might participate in witness protection program

this would explain suspect facial hair

night writer is a highly skilled writer although he shills for evil corporate interests

that is the word on the street anyway

no cant use occupy wall street rhetoric that is icky

his wife and daughters are lovely people hard to ding him for that

his son in law is a lutheran minister

a fellow could face hell fire for making fun of lutheran ministers

some reason must exist for night writer denunciation

foot suggested existentialism so we could use jean paul sartre

hell is other night writers

no that makes no sense and there is nothing wrong with night writers teeth so sartre comparison wont work

could channel j d salinger and go all holden caufield on his tuchus which might work

perhaps night writer is a phony

no thats silly

or we could try monty python

his father was a hamster and his mother smelled of

no cant use that word either

perhaps cheech and chong

his mamas talkin to night writer
she tells him how to live
he dont listen to her
his head is like a sieve

that seems to work
night writer is so old he played that song at his senior prom and lived it too
although drag queen incident cheech and chong make reference to is well hidden from view
yes night writer is actually j edgar hoover and is in witness protection program

cant vote for someone like that
it would put his life in danger

in conclusion night writer is very shadowy and has suspect facial hair
he does not deserve your support

if he offers you a sausage he is not happy to see you
run the other way

thats it
thank you very much

Vikings to Arden Hills? XXXII - Artificial Deadline Day

Boy howdy, the excitement is building in the Capitol, because today is the day it gets decided:
Minneapolis and Ramsey County hurriedly retooled competing plans Wednesday to build a new Minnesota Vikings stadium, although both appeared to have continuing flaws. Meanwhile a sudden, last-minute bid from Shakopee could complicate the race. Racing to meet a 5 p.m. Thursday deadline set by Gov. Mark Dayton, city and county officials said they expected to work nearly up to the deadline. As many as five locations -- including three in Minneapolis -- are in play.
Shakopee? Yes, Shakopee. Scott County. Closer, in some cases, to the ticket-buying base than Arden Hills is. And they do have the land for parking. So, whaddya say, Vikings?
The Vikings, meanwhile, say they still prefer a $1.1 billion stadium in Ramsey County's Arden Hills, and brushed aside Wednesday's proposal by Shakopee officials to build a $920 million stadium in Scott County backed by racino money.
Of course they do. Nothing has really changed, because the Vikings want the big score, which is the development potential in Arden Hills. Real estate developers like real estate they can develop. That's what you get in Arden Hills. A few comments are in order:

  • If anyone tells you, and that includes the Vikings, that this is about building a "people's stadium" for the benefit of the State of Minnesota, they are lying. It's never been the case.
  • Beyond the lack of development potential, the main reason the Vikings haven't been all that interested in the Metrodome site is that they need the Metrodome, as it is currently configured, to remain operational while their new palace is built. Why is that? The Vikings may not want to play in the Metrodome long-term, but they can live with it for now. The Vikings would lose money, rather a lot of it, if they have to play at TCF Bank Stadium for a 2-4 years. And while we are throwing around huge numbers for costs, there's a difference between a capital budget and an operating budget. If the Vikes had to play at TCF, it would hurt their current operating receipts. That is precisely why the Vikings released the letter on Tuesday that outlines those issues. They have to be polite for the moment, but they have no intention of taking a multi-year haircut.
  • Every site in consideration assumes income that likely won't be available. I don't see the Ramsey County food/beverage tax plan getting anywhere. While racino is a possibility, it's hardly a slam dunk. The tribes that are making the money on gambling now don't want to take a haircut, either, and they have plenty of friends in the Lege. And the three-card monte game that Minneapolis officials are playing won't ever produce the revenue they claim it will.
  • Because of these factors, we need to be up front -- the state would likely end up paying both the supposed "state" portion and whatever "local" funding source is involved. So you can assume that the overall cost to the state, at any location, is going to be around $750 million. You can ask the Vikings to make up the overage, but you can also ask to be named King of Portugal. Neither request is likely to get a favorable response.
  • You may not have noticed this, but the San Diego Chargers announced that they are staying in San Diego for the 2012 season. The Chargers are, along with the Vikings, the most likely potential team to consider a move to Los Angeles. The Vikings haven't said where they will be.
So that's the question folks. Same question it's always been. What are the Vikings worth to you? Do you give them what they want, or do you let them walk? Okay, that's two questions. We need to answer both. We don't need to answer today, but we do need to answer it soon.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Vikings to Arden Hills? XXXI - We Shall Send You a Letter

It's increasingly evident that there's a push to stampede the Vikings into accepting the Metrodome site for their new stadium. One problem -- they don't want to do that:
In his letter aimed at dispelling portrayals of the Metrodome site as the cheapest option, Vikings President Mark Wilf wrote that "The $67 million in costs identified above brings the total costs to build at the Metrodome site to $962 million." The team, he added, was also concerned "about the significant disruptions to our football team, our fans and our sponsors and partners."
I've seen a lot of headlines indicating the the Vikings are supposedly "warming" to the idea of building at the Metrodome, but I still don't see it. This has always been about maximizing revenue and the Metrodome site will never allow the team to do that. You can bemoan the Vikings for being greedy. Go right ahead. It won't change their stance, though. There's enough to pick at in the Star Tribune article linked above to provide fodder for about three stories. We'll return to this subject soon.

State of Play, Briefly

Romney wins New Hampshire easily. What does it mean? A few guesses:

  • Rick Perry's campaign is, to borrow a phrase from P. J. O'Rourke, dead but too dumb to lie down.
  • Rick Santorum needs to win South Carolina to have any chance. Don't see that happening.
  • Jon Huntsman said that "in New Hampshire, they pick presidents." They didn't pick Huntsman. Buh-bye.
  • Newt Gingrich has proven conclusively that he hasn't learned a damned thing since his days as Speaker. He, or rather his "Super PAC," has a lot of money to spend on South Carolina. While you can buy a lot of attack ads with 5 mil, it's not going to be enough.
  • Ron Paul likely will be able to contest Romney all the way to the convention. And he should. 
  • If you want two other smart takes on the state of play, check out our friend First Ringer over at Shot in the Dark and James "Editorial We" Taranto at the WSJ. I highly recommend both.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Hall of Fame (with Update)

We learned yesterday that longtime Cincinnati Reds shortstop Barry Larkin was the only person elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, although Jack Morris is now considerably closer to election than he has been in the past. The requirement is to be named on 75% of the ballots; Larkin got 86%, while Morris got 66%. Historically, if you reach 66%, you eventually get in.

First, there's no question that Larkin deserved the honor. Two of his contemporaries are in the HOF:  Cal Ripken and Ozzie Smith. Ripken is in because of his offense and his amazing durability, while Smith is in because of his defensive prowess. Larkin had a little bit of both -- he was a power/speed guy and was consistently one of the best defensive players in the National League throughout his long career with the Reds.

When I think about that era of shortstops, one other guy strikes me as a worthy candidate for the HOF. That would be Alan Trammell. In fact, I would argue that both Trammell and his longtime double-play partner, Lou Whitaker, are both deserving of the honor, although Trammell was the greater player of the two. The Detroit Tiger teams of the 1980s were consistently contending for the championship and they were dominant in 1984. The key players on those teams were Trammell, Whitaker and Morris. Throughout the 1980s, you would often see Trammell and Whitaker compared to the two HOF members of my beloved Brewers, Robin Yount and Paul Molitor. There was never any question concerning Yount or Molitor's qualifications and if you look at the numbers, Trammell and Whitaker weren't as productive offensively. They were a tremendous duo, though, and they were always considered to be among the best players of their time.

We tend to think about Morris a little more in Minnesota because of the one glorious year that he spent with the Twins. Morris was one of three great players from St. Paul who were dominant players; the others were Molitor and Dave Winfield. Morris gets dragged down by some because his career ERA (3.90) isn't outstanding. I think you have to consider the context in which Morris pitched, though. A pitcher of an earlier generation who made the HOF easily was Catfish Hunter, who was the ace of the Oakland A's staff of the 1970s. When you look at the numbers, you see that Hunter's ERA was considerably better. However, he won less games and pitched in one of the best pitcher's parks around, the Oakland Coliseum. He also pitched in an era where overall offensive numbers weren't as high as they were later on. When you look at it in context, I think Morris has a pretty good argument.

What do you think?

Update:  From the comments, Night Writer offers a post he did a few years back concerning the fateful 1987 Twins/Tigers series. As with all NW enterprises, it's definitely worth your time.

Monday, January 09, 2012

On Tebow

Two observations:

  1. I have little reason to believe that God cares who wins NFL games. I would assume that at least someone on the Pittsburgh Steelers was praying for God's benevolence as well.
  2. What makes Tim Tebow different? He apparently really means what he says. And while he still has mechanical issues to correct as a quarterback, he made some really good throws yesterday, including the one that won the game. In a league that is all about narratives, Tebow and the Broncos are providing a highly interesting one.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Benster and D Pick Your BCS Championship Game -- With a "Special Comment" from the Benster

I really have two purposes this evening. First, we do have to pick the "championship" game for the BCS. But more importantly, I have some denouncing to do. And you know that I'm feeling the HYYYYYYYPPPPPPPE!!

Of course you are. I could sense the HYYYYYYPPPPPPE! building all weekend. Or maybe that was a backed up sewage pipe?

Old dude, you try so hard to be funny. And yet you fail. Leave the comedy to me, Gummo. And in the meantime, watch me work!

BCS Championship Game:  Alabama Crimson Tide (-2) vs. L.S.U. Tigers, in N'awlins. First thing they need to do is test the temperature of the carpet on the floor of the Superdome. It might still be smoking from the beatdown the Saints issued last night and the smoldering remains of the Detroit Lions's defensive backfield. Wow, Brees went all Peshtigo on them! By the way I disagree with the presence of at least one of these teams in this game. But I'll save that for my "Special Comment" that follows our pick. First, the game itself will be boring. Yes, really boring. Do you remember the last time these two titans of the gridiron met, back in November? It was a snooze-fest. The teams couldn't score on the field in Tuscaloosa. Now, I've heard it's pretty easy to score in New Orleans, but I can already see the old fella shaking his head at me about that, so I'd better avoid the urge to "work blue." I'll probably never be welcome in the SEC Hospitality Tent for saying this, but the SEC is overrated! It has always one or two really good teams, but the rest are terrible. The problem I have, as a Big Ten guy, is that all the teams in the Big Ten are horrible, too! But at least there's a question as to who is going to have a shot. We've seen all too much of LSU and Alabama lately. I want to see any other team in the country win a championship. And maybe that will stop this SEC bias. As for the game, LSU has the better defense and the better offense, too. So why is Alabama favored? Beats me. LSU 9, Roll Tide 7.

I sense the rant was trying to leak out there. Hold your horses, young fella. Bottom line, as much as it pains me to say it, is this -- if the Big Ten wants to be the top dog, they need to start winning more games against the top competition. It didn't go well for the Big Ten this year and last year it was worse. I would have preferred to see Oklahoma State in this game over Alabama, but I get why they were passed over. I do suspect this game will be a snoozefest, though. And I also suspect that unless you start seeing some other regions in the country represented in this game, interest will begin to wane. That might cause a few of these computers to get reprogrammed a bit, if you know what I mean (and I think you do). Alabama is favored because it's supposedly tough to beat the same team twice. It isn't if one team is better than the other. LSU 17, Alabama 14.

And now it's time for Benster's Special Comment. I may not be able to ramp up the frothing rage of Keith Olbermann tearing into some Republican operative, but I will be heard. Hear this -- the BCS is rigged. Why, you ask? Because both of the human polls are biased. The coaches don't have enough time to actually vote and they hand off the task to the SID or some other flunky in their program. Even worse, the Harris Poll is made up of mostly former players or administrators. They have actual lives, but not actual objectivity. They will usually vote for teams in their region only, and because Southerners generally follow the SEC and tend to vote as a bloc, SEC teams do disproportionately well in these polls. The AP poll, which is not part of the SEC ranking system, tends to be a more accurate and objective means of ranking teams. But even that can be screwed up. And it gets even worse.

Before the 2002 season, the BCS decided to get rid of margin of victory from the computer formula, primarily because it was ranking Boise State too high. Boise State tends to crush its opponents and because it has not been part of the BCS favored conferences, it always gets punished for beating up its opponents. If you noticed what happened this year, Boise State was sent off to the MAACO Las Vegas Bowl, even though they had finished with an 11-1 record. They played a BCS school, Arizona State, and crushed them 56-24. That sort of thing happens all the time with Boise State. To find a way into this rigged system, they are now joining the Big East. Do you know where Boise, Idaho is? It's in freaking Idaho! It's only in the east if you go all the way around the world before you measure its location. This is silly and completely unnecessary. In fact, it seems to me that the cartel known as the BCS is scared of the little guy, mainly because the BCS exists only for the care and feeding of the big schools, whether they are any good or not.

The obvious answer is to get rid of the BCS and institute a playoff system. You could have a simple "plus one" system that takes an extra game at the end of the season, or you could integrate the existing bowl system into a playoff format, or you could use home sites as they do in FCS, Div II and Div. III. The key thing is this -- any team can conceivably get in, and the winner will be chosen on the field, not by a bank of computer and polls of disinterested observers. We need to get rid of the BCS. In fact, we can blame the SEC for the existence of the BCS. But that's another story that I'll share at another time. Ben out!

Gabriel and Amy

I wrote yesterday on the nasty piling on that some liberals have given Rick Santorum and his wife concerning the way they chose to deal with the heartbreaking circumstances surrounding the birth and death of their infant son, Gabriel. For reasons that weren't clear to me initially, this particular episode of political blood sport bothered me more than similar episodes of crappy behavior from the pundit class. Writing for National Review, Mark Steyn made the following observation:
The short life of Gabriel Santorum would seem a curious priority for political discourse at a time when the Brokest Nation in History is hurtling toward its rendezvous with destiny. But needs must, and victory by any means necessary. In 2008, the Left gleefully mocked Sarah Palin’s live baby. It was only a matter of time before they moved on to a dead one.
While that's true, there's more to it. And I figured out what it was. While I've never had to make the horrifying choices that faced the Santorums, my parents did. And the toll it took was larger than I ever really understood.

Like the Santorums, I come from a big Catholic family. I am the oldest child; I grew up knowing three brothers and two sisters. But I had another sister, whose name is Amy. And Amy is largely a mystery to me.

Amy was a twin, born the same day as my brother. Paul was a healthy baby and he is now the proud father of three fine children. Amy was born and died the same day, in October of 1966. I am not even sure that my parents even knew that my mother was carrying twins, as ultrasound machines and such were rarities in those days. Paul was born first and apparently arrived without much incident, but the story goes that after Paul was born, my mother's obstetrician noticed that there was another baby. That was Amy. From what I understand, it was immediately evident that Amy had severe birth defects and was not going to make it. Amy died within an hour of her birth. She apparently had a funeral; I say apparently because I was about a month shy of my third birthday when Paul and Amy were born, so I have no memory of these events. It's possible, even likely, that I didn't attend the funeral.

Growing up, I knew about Amy's existence, but my parents didn't really want to discuss the matter very much and I was usually too busy pursuing my own agenda to worry much about family history. From time to time we would go out to the country cemetery in Mackville, a crossroads about 5 miles north of town, where Amy was laid to rest, alongside other infants and young children of previous generations who had died from the fatal childhood diseases that were once a sad part of life. But while Amy wasn't a topic of conversation very often, throughout my mother's life it was clear that Amy's absence was on her mind. When my mother passed away, some 34 years later, her remains were buried in the same plot where Amy was laid to rest.

Both of my parents are deceased now. So is the obstetrician who delivered her. I am not aware of any pictures or other evidence of her life, beyond the grave marker out in Mackville. It's likely that no one who still walks this earth has ever seen her face. Yet Amy was here. She is my sister and her life, however brief, has meaning, just as Gabriel Santorum's life has meaning to his parents. And because of the choice that Rick and Karen Santorum made, his siblings have at least some understanding, or at least a tangible memory, of the brother they have.

In the NR article, Steyn points out that the choice the Santorums made isn't weird at all:

Not many of us will ever know what it’s like to have a child who lives only a few hours. That alone should occasion a certain modesty about presuming to know what are “weird” and unweird reactions to such an event. In 1996, the Santorums were told during the pregnancy that their baby had a fatal birth defect and would not survive more than a few hours outside the womb. So Gabriel was born, his parents bundled him, and held him, and baptized him. And two hours later he died. They decided to take his body back to the home he would never know. Weirdly enough, this crazy weird behavior is in line with the advice of the American Pregnancy Association, which says that “it is important for your family members to spend time with the baby” and “help them come to terms with their loss.”
I don't know, and will never know, what drove the choices my parents had to make. They had to deal with two toddlers (my brother Pat was 20 months old at the time) and now another baby boy, all of whom needed their love and attention. They may not have had time to grieve, considering the circumstances. Still, the reality of this sister I never knew is something I carry with me. I don't know that if I'd been able to see her face, or hold her, it would have made that much of a difference in my life. I suspect not. But it would have meant a connection that I cannot now make.

This much I know -- I am glad that my father was a businessman and not a politician.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Home Truth

I have no interest in voting for Rick Santorum. Having said that, the outright mocking he has received for the choice he and his wife made concerning the death of his infant child tells us a lot more about his detractors than it tells us about Santorum.

Writing for the Washington Post, blogger and columnist Charles Lane shares his own experience with the horrible process of losing a child, and a regret:

I regret that, unlike the Santorums, who presented the body of their child to their children, we did not show Jonathan’s body to our other son, who was six years old at the time. When I told him what had happened, his first question was, “Well, where is the baby?” I tried to explain what a morgue is, and why the baby went there. It was awkward and unsatisfactory -- too abstract. In hindsight, I was not protecting my son from a difficult conversation, I was protecting myself.
He also says this about Santorum, which rings true to me:

I’m not defending Rick Santorum the presidential candidate. From what little I know about him, he seems to have his own issues with moralizing and judging. To the extent he has used his family’s experience to make a point about abortion, I object.
 But I am defending the right of the Santorums and all families to grieve an infant’s death in accordance with their personal needs and beliefs. My plea is for a little more respect regarding the way people deal with loss, and a little more maturity about physical contact with the dead. If that puts me in sympathy, for a moment, with this right-wing politician, so be it.
Jonathan’s death was probably the hardest moment of my life. But actually touching his body was a source of comfort and the first step in going on with life. Not weird.

There are ample reasons to criticize Rick Santorum's politics, his demeanor, his worldview. He's the sort of Republican who simply wants to redirect the intrusions of huge government into other areas, which makes him unacceptable to me. But I've seen a lot of terrible behavior from his detractors. And I would be remiss if  I failed to mention that some of the most nasty invective has come from certain quarters of the Right.

I realize it's probably a forlorn hope, but I don't think it's too much to ask, so I'll put this as plainly as possible:  let's try to keep our partisanship from turning us into assholes.