Monday, May 31, 2010
Sunday, May 30, 2010
I've added a few new sites to the sidebar. I'm now linking to MinnPost, which is the online newspaper that is a bit of a Star Tribune alumni association, because they have been nice enough to offer me an opportunity to have my work appear in their Minnesota Blog Cabin feature, thus spreading more rich Mr. D goodness throughout the local blogosphere. I appreciate the opportunity to throw a little gentle snark at the good readers over there. If all goes well, they'll come over here with their kendo sticks and take a few whacks at the pinatas in the comment section.
I've also added Politics in Minnesota to the sidebar. They have, from time to time, linked here and every time they do they pretty much triple my visitor count for the day. I appreciate that. More importantly, their site is a valuable resource for keeping track of what goes on around the state, as they cast a much wider net and follow the political beat full time.
I've also corrected two long-standing oversights on my part. I now have a link to EckerNet, the always-entertaining and informative site run by Kevin Ecker, who also happens to be one of the genuinely good dudes in the local blogosphere. And I've finally gotten around to linking to the KTLK showpage for my friend Sue Jeffers, whose Saturday afternoon show is pure Sue -- fun, funny, informative and absolutely fearless.
Finally, I'd like to call this big news to your attention: Stinger and Scourge are both actively blogging again. Check them out -- a splendid time is guaranteed for all.
Saturday, May 29, 2010
I'd also like to call your attention to another account of the meeting, provided by Force50 at Boots On. While our friends at Boots On are not disinterested observers, the account rings true and goes a long way in explaining why Chaudhary is in so much trouble:
Satveer was not at his best. He alternately touted his achievements while attacking Republicans, the Republican endorsed candidate for Governor, and the sitting Governor. He even attacked his Republican opponent, Gina Bauman, revealing more about himself than Gina. The Democrats in attendance were not impressed. This was not the time. Satveer did not get it.
Political damage control is more an art than a science and Chaudhary failed to understand a number of important things. A few thoughts:
- Political parties prefer to handle their dirty laundry privately whenever possible, which makes the public nature of Thursday's event surprising. If I were to guess, the local DFLers would have preferred to handle this business quietly but someone publicized it. It's not clear who would benefit from making the matter public; perhaps it was someone in Chaudhary's camp. If so, it was yet another miscalculation.
- We've heard so many non-apology apologies in the political world that even the most detached observer can spot one a mile away. Chaudhary clearly isn't sorry about what he did. He's sorry he was caught and his approach at self-justification is the sort of thing that we've also seen a million times before. If Chaudhary had been sincerely contrite, he might have survived the meeting, but he clearly thinks he's bigger than that. Attacking Republicans might be something to do in a campaign event, but Thursday's gathering was something else entirely. Chaudhary wasn't on the hustings; he was in the dock and it takes a special sort of self-aborption not to figure that out.
- One especially striking part of Chaudhary's travails is the level of attention his case has received in the statewide press. Besides the Kaszuba story, the Star Tribune also editorialized on the matter in Thursday's edition and was suprisingly dismissive of Chaudhary. He also was on the business end of a Steve Sack cartoon. If he gets a glove slap from Lori Sturdevant any time soon, you can safely assume that Chaudhary is dead to the DFL on the state level.
- I suspect the Star Tribune's messaging is especially telling. The problem with Chaudhary right now isn't that he's in danger of losing his own seat; instead, the larger problem is that the sort of petty corruption involved in asking for a special legislative favor is exactly the sort of corruption that is easy for voters, even disengaged voters, to understand. This, more than any other reason, is why many DFLers think Chaudhary has to go. While the DFL would prefer to hold the seat, the electoral calculus is pretty simple -- better to lose SD50 than to have to spend the summer defending the indefensible and potentially lose more. Do you think that MAK, Entenza or Dayton want to spend time talking about Satveer Chaudhary, let alone defending him? It would be far better for DFL campaigns up and down the ticket to throw Chaudhary under the bus.
- What will Chaudhary do? Frankly, I'd be surprised if he goes quietly. He's an ambitious fellow; it's been a bit of an open secret in SD50 that Chaudhary gave consideration to taking a run at Keith Ellison for the CD-5 seat in this cycle but eventually thought better of it. I recall some of his earlier campaign literature touting him as the first Indian-American state senator and I dimly remember him being featured in gauzy feature articles with State Sen. Mee Moua when they both arrived in the Senate a decade ago -- some rot about the exciting new faces of the DFL or somesuch. It's long been clear that Satveer Chaudhary sees Great Things for himself. This is not a guy who will fall on his sword for the local DFL apparat. I fully expect that he will run in the primary if the local DFL strips him of endorsement. And I suspect it will be highly entertaining.
Friday, May 28, 2010
This is what happened with Katrina, and Katrina did at least two big things politically. The first was draw together everything people didn't like about the Bush administration, everything it didn't like about two wars and high spending and illegal immigration, and brought those strands into a heavy knot that just sat there, soggily, and came to symbolize Bushism. The second was illustrate that even though the federal government in our time has continually taken on new missions and responsibilities, the more it took on, the less it seemed capable of performing even its most essential jobs. Conservatives got this point—they know it without being told—but liberals and progressives did not. They thought Katrina was the result only of George W. Bush's incompetence and conservatives' failure to "believe in government." But Mr. Obama was supposed to be competent.
No he wasn't supposed to be competent, Peggy. It beggars belief that a fellow who never ran anything in his life other than his mouth would be capable of being a competent president. Mr. Obama was supposed to be Not Bush. And that was good enough for you and a lot of other people.
Here's the problem. Peggy says conservatives get the point about the limits of government competence. So if a conservative knows that, and one claims to be a conservative, why on earth would you suppose that it makes sense to hire a liberal?
Ah, it's almost not worth explaining any more, really. I think ol' Peggy inadvertently gave the game away with this little observation:
What continues to fascinate me is Mr. Obama's standing with Democrats. They don't love him. Half the party voted for Hillary Clinton, and her people have never fully reconciled themselves to him. But he is what they have. They are invested in him. In time—after the 2010 elections go badly—they are going to start to peel off. The political operative James Carville, the most vocal and influential of the president's Gulf critics, signaled to Democrats this week that they can start to peel off. He did it through the passion of his denunciations.
Peggy is giving a signal to peel off, too. Whether anyone else is listening to her signal any more is hard to say.
Math in the real world often is a word problem. Some real world word problems are fun, like going shopping at the mall, finding something on the clearance rack, then applying a $10.00 coupon, and coming home with a new skirt and blouse to wear to work after only paying $20.00 for the whole outfit. Or, going to two different grocery stores, stocking up on lots of loss leaders, redeeming a bunch of coupons and saving $49.00 on the groceries.
Sometimes, the word problems are more complicated and have bigger implications. Should you take the standard deduction or itemize on your income tax? Should you refinance your mortgage? Should you take the $1000.00 manufaturer's rebate or 0% financing for 60 months on your new car? Did you make a mistake last month by not picking up the two upholstered chairs on someone's driveway that were marked FREE - 100% OFF?
As adults, many of us thought we were done doing math problems when we left school. Truth of the matter is we are still doing math problems on a daily basis.
While several speakers warned that taking away Chaudhary's endorsement could hand the state Senate seat to the Republicans in the November elections, John Haluska of Fridley said the senator seemed not to understand his ethical breach: "I really don't think you get it, Satveer."
He may not get it yet, but it sounds like he's about to get it, good and hard.
Thursday, May 27, 2010
What's surprising is that it turns out that Robinson wasn't his first choice. In fact, Entenza had considered a number of other candidates who turned him down, according to a mole in his campaign.
The mole reports that the selection process was contentious. "We really wanted to stress Matt's rural Minnesota roots and his great love of old fashioned thinking, but it turns out that stock footage of the Worthington water tower is more expensive than you would initially think, so we had to take another angle. We did a little research and we figured that it might make sense to turn to the world of entertainment for a candidate," the mole said.
However, the trick was to select an entertainer with enough street cred to attract the attention of the urban core while maintaining the old school touch that has been a hallmark of the Entenza campaign. "We thought about it a lot and we decided that it was better to stay with a more traditional approach," the mole noted, "so our dream candidate was polka king Whoopee John Wilfahrt. But we did a search and it turns out that Wilfahrt died in 1961, so his participation seemed a bit problematic," the mole reports.
There was also some concern that the primary demographic for bumper stickers for the Entenza/Wilfahrt ticket would have been 13-year old boys, so the team had to adjust their thinking. "Despite all the work that Phyllis Kahn has done on this issue over the years, our research indicated that 13-year old boys don't vote that often," the mole added.
Eventually a list of other candidates was drawn up. The mole has provided this feature with Entenza's short list, in roughly preferential order. Some of Entenza's picks were, frankly, a little surprising:
13. Mae Schunk
12. Mike Hatch
11. Lori Sturdevant
10. Bombo Rivera
9. Carol Molnau
8. Dark Star
7. Onterrio Smith
6. Willie Clark
5. Russell Shimooka
4. Denny Hecker
3. Don Shelby
2. Terri Traen
1. David Strom
I'll admit it -- I'm a little disappointed that Strommie turned Entenza down.
To reverse the effects of SB-1070, legislators in Mexico and the U.S. (EU) have agreed to submit an appeal to the Interamerican Commission on Human Rights
(IACHR), since this initiative criminalises migration with racial profiling in the state of Arizona.
Amanda Aguirre, state Sen. governed by Jan Brewer, read-after a closed-door meeting in the City of Nogales, “a joint statement announcing the promotion of comprehensive immigration reform” before the U.S. Congress- to enable the safe and orderly flow of migrants, in response to the reality of both nations in labor.
“We will seek to denounce the SB-1070 to the Organization of American States (OAS) through the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (…) in order to determine if the imminent implementation of this legislation violates the human rights of residents Arizona, regardless of their immigration status, “he said.
Of course, as things stand now we have a very safe and orderly flow of immigrants. What could be more safe than being crammed into a panel truck? But I digress. You could dismiss all this as yet another pathetic grandstand play, since it is one, but there's this little detail. From the article:
Update: It looks to me like this action may have violated the oath of office required of all elected officials in AZ.
I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution and laws of the State of Arizona, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same and defend them against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge the duties of the office of ______________ according to the best of my ability, so help me God (or so I do affirm).
What do you think?
Ooh, pick me, pick me! I'd say yes, the Arizona politicians who pulled this stunt are definitely violating their oath of office. But I suspect they'll do well in the voting for the upcoming Aztlan legislature.
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Sen. Satveer Chaudhary, DFL-Fridley, will face constituents at a special meeting Thursday night of Senate District 50 DFLers to answer questions about his attempt to pass legislation to improve fishing on a northeastern Minnesota lake where he owns a cabin.
William Krueger, the district's chair, said he called the meeting after being bombarded with calls from DFLers upset with Chaudhary. "Since I've been chair almost 10 years, I've never had so many calls and e-mails," Krueger said.
Some are so angry they want to rescind the party's endorsement of the three-term senator, he said. The 7 p.m. meeting at the Fridley Community Center will, Krueger said, "take everybody's pulse" before deciding a next move. "Nothing has lit up my district like this did," he added.
Well now. If the DFL were to rescind the endorsement, it would put the district in play in even a greater way than it is now. The dilemma for the DFL is that it would likely mean that they'd have to find another candidate and there's not necessarily a lot of options. The logical move would be for a current House rep to step in, but the two DFLers representing the district don't bring much to the table. The current state rep in 50A is Carolyn Laine, who is a relative newcomer and hasn't done much to distinguish herself. Laine is facing an energetic challenge from Tim Utz, who has been busy making inroads into what is usually hostile territory for Republicans. The rep on my side of the district (50B) is the orange-clad green acolyte Kate Knuth, most recently seen protesting global warming in a Copenhagen snowstorm. If Knuth were to step in as a Senate candidate, her seat would almost certainly fall to her Republican challenger, Russ Bertsch, who has a decent change to oust Knuth in any event. And does anyone think that Chaudhary is willing to fall on his sword?
There's an additonal problem if you're on the DFL side -- the Republicans have endorsed a formidable candidate in New Brighton Councilwoman Gina Bauman. Gina has a proven record as a reformer and fiscal watchdog in New Brighton, and has been quite vocal and fearless in her efforts to take on the old boy network that had run this city for over 25 years. Chaudhary was going to be in trouble anyway and the ethical cloud he now faces could be too much to hold the seat.
So what is the DFL to do? The cupboard is pretty much bare and if they try to broker a deal to move out Chaudhary, they risk losing his seat and potentially a House seat as well. The unhappy result for the DFL is that they will probably have to bite down hard, accept Chaudhary as their standardbearer and hope that the voters in SD50 forget about his misstep. There are plenty of people (myself included) who will not hesitate to remind them.
"The more he talked, the more he got upset," Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) said. “He needs to take a valium before he comes in and talks to Republicans and just calm down, and don’t take anything so seriously. If you disagree with someone, it doesn’t mean you’re attacking their motives — and he takes it that way and tends then to lecture and then gets upset.”
Do you remember how we were assured, back in 2008, that one of the best features of Barack Obama, especially when compared to his hot-headed opponent John McCain, was his "first-class temperament?" Somehow I don't think this is what the bien pensants had in mind. It's no surprise that Tom Friedman wants some sort of China For a Day policy.
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Since I Don’t Have You, The Skyliners
Flamenco Sketches, Miles Davis
Combination of the Two, Big Brother and the Holding Company
Candy's Room, Bruce Springsteen
That Lady, The Isley Brothers
Border Town Girl, Los Lobos
Slippin' Into Darkness, War
Funky President (People It’s Bad), James Brown
From a Buick 6, Bob Dylan
You may have heard the allegations that Joe Sestak, the Democratic Senate candidate who knocked off Snarlin' Arlen Specter in the Pennsylvania primary a week ago, has made concerning a job offer that someone in the Obama administration made, assuming he would discreetly leave the race against Specter. Sestak has been pretty clear about it and mentioned the topic again over the weekend on Meet the Press.
Now comes White House operative David Axelrod, recent Beloit College commencement speaker (and as a Beloit alum I couldn't be more proud), who suggests that Sestak isn't exactly telling the truth:
Senior adviser to the president David Axelrod said Monday evening that there is “no evidence” that White House officials tried to keep a Democratic congressman from entering the Pennsylvania Senate race by offering him a high-ranking government job.So Sestak is lying, then? Or is Axelrod? No wonder President Obama would rather do interviews with Marv Albert than take a chance with an increasingly restive White House press corps.
“When the allegations were made, they were looked into. And there was no evidence of such a thing,” Axelrod said on CNN’s “John King USA.”
Axelrod acknowledged that if White House officials dangled a job in front of Rep. Joe Sestak’s face to keep him away from challenging incumbent Sen. Arlen Specter, that would “constitute a serious breach of the law.”
Axelrod also acknowledged that there were “conversations” involving White House officials and Sestak, but said that those had been “looked at” by White House lawyers and “their conclusion was that it was perfect — the conversations were perfectly appropriate.”
- Andrew Malcolm is that unlikeliest of birds, a conservative at the Los Angeles Times. He's also provided the headline of the year so far: Obama White House probe of Obama White House finds no Obama White House impropriety on Sestak. That pretty much covers it. You should read the piece, which shows two very important things: (1) the extent that the White House doesn't want to talk about the issue (whether or not it tried to buy off Joe Sestak with a job to get him to drop out of the Pennsylvania Senate race); and (2) the extent that our media watchdogs would prefer to avoid the issue as well.
- An important distinction, with gratuitous Palin bashing offered at no extra charge!
- I gave the insufferable Thomas Friedman a little shot in the post immediately below. Elizabeth "The Anchoress" Scalia does a much more thorough job here. Money quote: "Every murderous totalitarian government of the 20th century began with some insulated group of faux-intellectuals congratulating each other on how smart they are, and fantasizing about how, if they could just install a dictatorship-for-a-day, they could right all the wrongs in the world." Yep. And you still see Che on posters and t-shirts! Read the whole thing.
Monday, May 24, 2010
First, let's hear from Tom "The World is Flat" Friedman, who lately has been musing about how much better things run in China:
So I don't--I, I--I'm worried about this, it's why I have fantasized--don't get me wrong--but that what if we could just be China for a day? I mean, just, just, just one day. You know, I mean, where we could actually, you know, authorize the right solutions, and I do think there is a sense of that, on, on everything from the economy to environment. I don't want to be China for a second, OK, I want my democracy to work with the same authority, focus and stick-to-itiveness. But right now we have a system that can only produce suboptimal solutions.
I don't know about you, but my fantasies rarely involve repressive government. But we'll put that aside for the moment. There's an obvious problem with Mr. Friedman's prescription. No one is ever satisfied to be China for one day. And even if we stipulate that Mr. Friedman's prescriptions are the right solutions, to merely "authorize the right solutions" won't work, because people are quarrelsome and will fight for their own interests. Which is why the Chinese government actively represses its own people when it feels the need. Maybe Tom is cool with that, but I'm not.
Meanwhile, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick is also growing tired of dissent, as the Boston Globe reports (H/T: Allahpundit):
Patrick said that even "on my worst day, when I’m most frustrated about folks who seem to rooting for failure," he doesn't face anything like the opposition faced by the president.
"It seems like child’s play compared to what is going on in Washington, where it is almost at the level of sedition, it feels to like me,” Patrick said.
Sedition? Now that's a bold statement, as the Globe reminds us.
Merriam-Webster.com, the dictionary site, defines sedition as "incitement of resistance to or insurrection against lawful authority.''
Insurrection against lawful authority? Now some Republicans are a little unkempt and most thoughtful observers would argue that the Tea Parties might need a fashion makeover, but sedition? Insurrection? It's quite a charge to level.
After the forum, Patrick explained his remarks.I would be curious to see the extraordinary ideas from the President and his party. From what I can gather, it's pretty much the same off-the-rack agenda they've been peddling since 1933, but maybe massive expansion of government is somehow extraordinary now. Who knows? That's why we have people like Gov. Patrick around, to explain such things to those of us who are too benighted to understand the nuance of a concept as quicksilver as almost-sedition.
“I think that the number of people in the Grand Old Party who seem to be absolutely committed to saying ‘no,' whenever he says ‘yes,’ no matter what it is, even if it’s an idea that they came up with, is just extraordinary,” the governor told reporters after the forum.
Still, the Globe has to ask the question:
But did the opposition really border on sedition?
“That was a rhetorical flourish,” Patrick said.
In other words, the governor was talking out of his ass. The good news is that we are apparently free to be churlish for yet another day. But remember what Elvis Costello sang.
It turns out that my son has a contemporary who lives in the suburbs of Washington, DC. As it happens, his family was away and he was in his home alone about a week back. He had a tough time ignoring the visitors who came to his house, though. Nina Easton, a writer for Fortune who happens to live in the neighborhood where the event happens, picks up the story:
Last Sunday, on a peaceful, sun-crisp afternoon, our toddler finally napping upstairs, my front yard exploded with 500 screaming, placard-waving strangers on a mission to intimidate my neighbor, Greg Baer. Baer is deputy general counsel for corporate law at Bank of America (BAC, Fortune 500), a senior executive based in Washington, D.C. And that -- in the minds of the organizers at the politically influential Service Employees International Union and a Chicago outfit called National Political Action -- makes his family fair game.I guess I won't complain about the motley group of peddlers who want to sell door-to-door tree-trimming services and gas coupon cards who usually show up at my place.
Waving signs denouncing bank "greed," hordes of invaders poured out of 14 school buses, up Baer's steps, and onto his front porch. As bullhorns rattled with stories of debtor calls and foreclosed homes, Baer's teenage son Jack -- alone in the house -- locked himself in the bathroom. "When are they going to leave?" Jack pleaded when I called to check on him.
Baer, on his way home from a Little League game, parked his car around the corner, called the police, and made a quick calculation to leave his younger son behind while he tried to rescue his increasingly distressed teen. He made his way through a din of barked demands and insults from the activists who proudly "outed" him, and slipped through his front door.
I used to work for B of A and I'm pretty sure I got an e-mail from Greg Baer once. I might have even been on a conference call with him. While I'm sure he's an evil corporate fatcat I don't recall that he was a bad dude. B of A executives, in the main, are actually pretty reasonable people. Can you imagine what this experience must have been like for the youngster in the house? While I could understand a group of protestors showing up at B of A's offices, coming to someone's house seems a bit much, doncha think? Easton thinks so, too:
Now this event would accurately be called a "protest" if it were taking place at, say, a bank or the U.S. Capitol. But when hundreds of loud and angry strangers are descending on your family, your children, and your home, a more apt description of this assemblage would be "mob." Intimidation was the whole point of this exercise, and it worked-even on the police. A trio of officers who belatedly answered our calls confessed a fear that arrests might "incite" these trespassers.What's even more interesting about this is that the local officers who responded were unaware that a different police force had helped the SEIU find Mr. Baer's home, even providing an escort:
According to Corporal Dan Friz, an MCPD spokesperson in Rockville, Maryland, the department received a disturbance call from one of Baer’s neighbors at 4:10 pm last Sunday. Four MCPD units arrived at Baer’s Greenville Rd. address at 4:15 pm. At least two Metropolitan Police Department units from the nearby District of Columbia were already at the scene when they arrived.That seems a little strange, doesn't it? And get a load of the reason the Washington MPD was there on SEIU's behalf:
Why? Because police cars attached to the Washington MPD’s Civil Disturbance Unit had escorted the SEIU protesters’ buses to Baer’s home. Such cross-jurisdictional escort activity is not uncommon for both departments according to Friz and Metro Police Department spokesperson Officer Eric Frost. Still, the District police did not inform their colleagues of what was about to happen in one of their Maryland neighborhoods.
The primary role of the Washington cops in this event was to protect the protesters. The D.C. officers had no authority to act to disperse the protesters even had the homeowner been present and asked them to vacate the private property. The event ended as a “dash one”– no arrests, no citations – according to Friz. The Montgomery County units left the scene at 5:29 pm.Emphasis mine. Maybe we haven't heard the whole story and Mr. Baer's son actually was in possession of a WMD or something, but why on earth would 14 busloads of protestors need "protection" from a private homeowner, even one with the financial resources of a B of A senior executive? And if the local Montgomery County police had turned on the protestors, what would the Washington MPD done? Start fighting the Montgomery County force on the lawn? I don't see how 500 protestors would have much to fear from the anyone in a residential neighborhood.
Maybe someone can explain why this incident happened. Maybe someone can even justify it. I'd be curious to hear that explanation, wouldn't you?
So the President went to West Point and addressed the graduating seniors of the United States Military Academy. And what did he say?
"Yes, we are clear-eyed about the shortfalls of our international system. But America has not succeeded by stepping outside the currents of international cooperation," he said. "We have succeeded by steering those currents in the direction of liberty and justice -- so nations thrive by meeting their responsibilities, and face consequences when they don't."
I'm curious about this, because Obama seems to imply that sanctions are forthcoming against rogue states. As it happens, the countries that this administration has been most tough on are Great Britain, Israel and Honduras. I would be curious to find out how precisely the President and his team feel these countries have not met their responsibilities. Wouldn't you?
Sunday, May 23, 2010
Saturday, May 22, 2010
We made our first official visit to Target Field last night. I'd been there for the open house in March, but a game day is a different phenomenon and the experience was different, too. A few thoughts before I get to the main point of this post:
To save money and to make it easier to get out of downtown after the game, I decided to park in the ramp that's just east of the Hennepin County building (only $4!), which meant about an 8-block walk down 6th Street to Target Field. You walk by a lot of bars and restaurants on the way -- M&S Grill, Ike's, Murray's, Lions Tap, the Lone Tree, Gluek's, Kieran's Irish Pub, the new Hubert's and probably a few other places I'm forgetting -- and they were all packed. It might not be that way every game night, but it was yesterday. We're a long ways from being able to gauge the financial impact of the new stadium for the area, but it was clear that the restaurants on that route were very happy to have the patronage. In some ways, it reminded me of what you see when you walk up Clark Street near Wrigley Field in Chicago.
Target Field is a great place to watch a game. The sight lines are very nice and the seats were comfortable. Our seats were in Section 319, bleeders but just off home plate on the 3rd base side. The 3rd base side is the place to be, because it gives you the skyline view. The park design is pretty astonishing, because the architects found a way to maximize a very small footprint. It's a pretty good trick to shoehorn nearly 40,000 people into a site that's only about 8 acres. Somehow it works and it doesn't feel crowded. The open concourses prevent the claustrophobic sense you get from the Metrodome and we had no trouble finding our way around.
The game itself was fun if you're a Twins fan, not so much if you like the Milwaukee Brewers, as the Twins won 15-3. Dave Bush, the Brewers starter, put on one of the most disgraceful performances I've ever seen on a major league field. At least that's what I thought as I was watching it unfold. Bush gave up hits to the first two batters of the game (Denard Span and Orlando Hudson), then gave up a walk to Joe Mauer. He didn't seem to like the call from the umpire very much and it was clear that his emotions were becoming a problem. He managed to get Justin Morneau to hit a popup, but then Bush walked Michael Cuddyer, which sent Span in for the first run of the inning. And at that point, Bush appeared to lose it. He said something to the umpire, who immediately bolted out from behind the plate and starting jawing with Bush. It was one of those typical comic opera baseball arguments, with a lot of emoting and silliness. At one point Bush had to be restrained by his first basemen, the enormous Prince Fielder. Bush then came unglued entirely. He ended up pitching to 10 men, committing a balk that would have been unacceptable in a Little League game and giving up 7 runs in 1/3 of an inning, which works out to a tidy ERA of 189.00 for the game. After the game was over, it seemed like a good chance to do a little parenting. Since it had seemed to me that the True Blue Brew Crew was utterly unprepared for the game, I said as much to Benster as we were walking back to the car.
This morning, it was my turn to be unprepared. Benster's Boy Scout troop was already at Star Camp, a giant camporee that's going on this weekend at Stearns Scout Camp, which is about an hour northwest of the Twin Cities. Star Camp is a pretty big deal, as it's meant as a celebration of the 100th anniversary of Scouting in the United States. All told there were going to be upwards of 7,000 scouts attending the event. The rest of Benster's troop was already there and he was going to join them this morning. One of the central tenets of scouting is a simple one: Be Prepared. Benster was prepared for what happened. His father? Not so much.
As we arrived at the site this morning, the skies were looking ominous. The weather forecast I'd heard this morning suggested that today would be a warm, sunny day, with temperatures in the low to mid 80s by the afternoon. Since I was simply going to drop Benster off at the camp and return, I didn't think to pack any gear or provisions for myself. I didn't even pack a jacket and was just wearing a polo shirt, shorts and my tennis shoes. Seemed like the proper attire for a summery day, right?
Well, as we approached the camp, it became clear that things weren't going to be so clear. The assigned parking area for our troop was filled, so we were told to park in a lot that was over a mile from the camp entrance. Meanwhile, the sunny skies were nowhere to be found and a thick bank of gray, ominous clouds were gathering over the site. After I parked the vehicle, we walked to the registration area where we waited, and waited, and waited. Meanwhile, the clouds were getting darker and a few flashes of lightning were evident. Once we got to the registration area, we were told that since the troop had already registered, Ben's credentials were at the campsite. We needed to get into line for the shuttle bus that would take us over to the campsite area. The line snaked about 375 feet. We got in line. And then the rain came. Lots and lots of rain.
Ben quickly pulled his rain jacket from his pack. We stood in the line for about a half hour, rain pelting down on us, waiting for a bus. Meanwhile, the temperature had dropped about 20 degrees as the storm pounded us. As a general rule, a polo shirt and shorts doesn't work especially well under those conditions. Eventually we got on a bus and rode over to the camp entrance. At that point we walked about a half mile from the staging area to the proper campsite registration area, picked up Ben's credentials and then walked another 1/4 mile or so to the actual campsite, where we found Ben's troop huddled in their tents. Over the course of the next hour, I waited for the rain to slow up enough to head back to my vehicle and come home. I heard more than a few Woodstock jokes during that time. Eventually I made it home, though. And now it is warm and sunny.
One of the things that Scouting teaches best is that a person must be prepared in this life. I preach that message a lot to my kids, but in this case I didn't follow my own advice. Storms come into your life unexpectedly, as do cranky umpires. Perhaps I shouldn't have been so hard on Dave Bush last night.
Friday, May 21, 2010
- This whole immigration/Arizona thing has grown tiresome, but I continue to be astonished at the gall of the Mexican President Felipe Calderon. Allahpundit shares the amusing CNN transcript, in which Calderon blithely ignores the inconvenient matter that Mexico treats immigrants/aliens far more harshly than the U.S. does.
- I don't know who decided that it would be a good idea to shut down 2 lanes of traffic on northbound 35W as it winds its way from Roseville through Arden Hills, but they need to know that the the traffic jams they caused on the residential streets yesterday were absolutely horrible. 35W was impassable and it forced tens of thousands of cars onto the residential streets. There were hellacious traffic jams on Old Highway 8, County Road D and Lake Johanna Boulevard. How do I know this? I got to experience all of them. It took me an hour to get from my house to my son's baseball game last night in Shoreview. It usually takes about 15 minutes. Awful, awful, awful.
Thursday, May 20, 2010
There was Sen. Satveer Chaudhary, rushing onto the floor of the Minnesota House last Wednesday as legislators were about to approve a complicated fish and game proposal.
Chaudhary kneeled at the desk of Rep. David Dill -- who was presenting the bill at the time -- and whispered an urgent request.
Could Dill quickly insert special language to improve walleye fishing on Fish Lake Reservoir? Although few in the House chamber realized it at the time, Chaudhary owns a cabin on the northeastern Minnesota lake.
Holy conflict of interest, Batman! That does explain why we don't see so much of Chaudhary in the district; he's probably up at his lake place throwing back the puny walleyes he's catching up there. But here's the beauty part — Sen. Chaudhary apparently can't figure out why it's a conflict of interest:
Chaudhary denied he was motivated because he owned a cabin on the lake, where he fishes regularly. "I'm not sure how I benefit from it. I'm not lining my pockets with anything," he said, maintaining he does not have a conflict of interest.
Well, we all know how undersirable lakes are when they have superior walleye fishing. The property values for land on those lakes always lags well behind lakes that have poor fishing. That's pretty much axiomatic, right?
Meanwhile, in the real world, the Star Tribune also helpfully supplies additional career highlights for Our Man in St. Paul:
It is not Chaudhary's first brush with controversy.
Two years ago he was cleared by a Senate ethics panel over allegations that he hosted a cable TV outdoors show and approached Arctic Cat and a carpenters union as possible sponsors. He was backing legislative measures favorable to them at the time. Chaudhary also was sold a snowmobile by Arctic Cat at a discount.
Nothing to see here, of course. Satveer's just a darn good haggler. And besides, ethics are for other people anyway.
It will be interesting to see if the DFL moves to throw Satveer under the bus. It's worth noting that while he's been ostensibly popular in the Fridley/Columbia Heights part of the district, he's not that well regarded in the New Brighton/Arden Hills portion of the district. He got involved in the Northwest Quadrant fiasco in New Brighton when the city was negotiating with Medtronic and then pulled out at a very inopportune moment, which has earned him some genuine ill will among the local leftish politicos in New Brighton. The Republicans have endorsed a highly credible challenger for the seat, New Brighton Councilwoman Gina Bauman, who has earned a reputation in New Brighton as a reformer. Chaudhary looks a lot more vulnerable now and it wouldn't surprise me if he suddenly felt the need to spend a little more time with his family. Or fishing, perhaps.
The Obama administration has announced plans to regulate the Internet through the Federal Communications Commission, extending its authority over broadband providers to police web traffic, enforcing “net neutrality.”
Last week, a congressional hearing exposed an effort to give another agency—the Federal Election Commission—unprecedented power to regulate political speech online. At a House Administration Committee hearing last Tuesday, Patton Boggs attorney William McGinley explained that the sloppy statutory language in the “DISCLOSE Act” would extend the FEC’s control over broadcast communications
to all “covered communications,” including the blogosphere.
Cool -- I'm gonna get me a bureaucrat minder! There's more:
The DISCLOSE Act’s purpose, according to Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chair Chris Van Hollen and other “reformers,” is simply to require disclosure of corporate and union political speech after the Supreme Court’s January decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission held that the government could not ban political expenditures by companies, nonprofit groups, and labor unions.
The bill, however, would radically redefine how the FEC regulates political commentary. A section of the DISCLOSE Act would exempt traditional media outlets from coordination regulations, but the exemption does not include bloggers, only “a communication appearing in a news story, commentary, or editorial distributed through the facilities of any broadcasting station, newspaper, magazine or other periodical publication…”
Emhpasis mine. I'm guessing that my dining room table doesn't count as any of those things, so I'm subject to the ministrations of this law. What does "coordination" mean in this context? If I talk to Night Writer, am I coordinating? If I get an e-mail from the Emmer campaign, is that coordinating? Lot of meat to chew on this bone, I'm thinking....
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Mexican President Felipe Calderon took the unusual step Wednesday morning of criticizing an American law while visiting the White House, saying cooperation is needed to fix the US-Mexican immigration issue but "such laws as the Arizona law that is forcing our people to face discrimination. If we are divided, we cannot overcome these problems."I realize this is crazy talk on my part, but had it occurred to President Calderon that maybe, just maybe it means something that up to 20 million of his "people" had left his country, in many cases risking life and limb to do it? What does that say about conditions in Mexico? If he were worried about discrimination, perhaps he might want to make life a little better for his own citizenry. It's a thought.
And while we're thinking out loud, would it have occurred to President Obama to maybe, just maybe suggest that perhaps Mr. Calderon might want to consider getting his own house in order a bit before offering such a critique? I'm sorry -- more of that crazy talk again.
- Stick a fork in Arlen Specter. Really, it couldn't have happened to a more deserving fellow.
- I guess we won't be seeing much of John Wall or Evan Turner after all. Time for the Timberwolves to find this year's functional equivalent of Paul Grant again, I guess.
- Today would have been my dad's 77th birthday. He's been gone nearly 20 years now but a day does not go by when I don't think about him. I wrote a piece in honor of his birthday 2 years ago and I don't think I can improve on it. No matter what else you do, appreciate your parents while you have them.
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
There was some rich irony at the White House today -- President Obama signed the Press Freedom Act, and then promptly refused to take any questions.
Irony? Not so much. I believe the term you're looking for in this instance is "obedience training." Wait, you think that's too harsh? Well consider the question that fearless reporter Chip Reid asked:
So after he signed the bill, and as the press "wranglers" began aggressively herding us out of the room, I asked if he still has confidence in BP. He ignored the question so I tried this: "In the interest of press freedom, would you take a couple questions on BP?"
Not a question about something the president can control, mind you. A question about a private company, one that he bashed last week. These guys aren't going to ask the President any tough questions, anyway.
Here's the deal, Chip -- may I call you Chip? We have freedom of the press. Yet the Washington press corps chooses to be, ahem, stenographers and then y'all are surprised and hurt when this administration doesn't respect you in the morning. There's no irony in a lack of self-awareness.
Monday, May 17, 2010
Here's what I want you to do: rewrite a song (it doesn't have to be Steely Dan, but a band that cynical provides fine source material) and pen a tale of the legislative session. Here's mine, a rewrite of the Dan's "Black Cow."
In the corner
Of my eye
I saw you in Forepaugh's
And your rates were high
They were high
It was a cryin' disgrace
They went no place
On the counter
By your keys
Was your book of numbers
But no remedies
One of these
Surely will beg bond and borrow
We can't afford tomorrow
I can't cry anymore
While you run around
Just when it
Seems so clear
Take you tax hike plow
And get out of here
Down John Ireland
There you go
Rates are so outrageous
And we told you so
You should know
How all the pros play the game
You change your name
Like a gangster
On the run
You will stagger homeward
Your endorsement won
Tim's the one
Who must make everything right
Talk it out till daylight
I don't care anymore
Why you run around
Just when it
Seems so clear
Gone too far
Take your campaign car
And get out of here
Go on and play -- it's fun for the entire family!
The business community and a growing portion of the public now understand the dynamics that discriminate against the private sector. The public sector unions organize voting campaigns for politicians who, on election, repay their benefactors by approving salaries and benefits for the public sector, irrespective of whether they are sustainable. And what is happening with California is happening in slower motion in the rest of the country. It must be one of the reasons the Pew Research Center this year reported that support for labor unions generally has plummeted "amid growing public skepticism about unions' power and purpose."Now we all know this stuff already 'round here; I've been writing about the problem of public employee unions, and the inherent conflicts that are involved in their very existence, for some time now. It's not a message that has much penetrated the MSM, though, and as a result those who don't pay attention to such matters aren't necessarily aware of the dangerous point we've reached. Greece seems distant in more than geography to most people. It's not, though. Kudos to Zuckerman for addressing something that needs addressing.
There has been a transformation in the nature of our employment. Labor is no longer dominated by private sector industrial workers who were in large part culturally conservative and economically pro-growth. Over recent decades public sector employment has exploded and public workers have come to dominate the labor movement. These public sector employees have a unique and powerful advantage in contract negotiations. Quite simply it is their capacity to deliver political endorsements and votes for the very people who are theoretically on the other side of the negotiating table. Candidates who want to appear tough on crime will look to cops, sheriffs' deputies, prison guards, and highway patrol officers for their endorsement.
These unions will naturally back a candidate willing to support better pay and benefits for their members, and this means as much as, or more than, the candidate's views on law enforcement. The result has been soaring pay and the ability of state police and other safety officers to retire with pensions that place an increasingly unbearable financial burden on the states. In California, such retirees at age 50 often receive pensions at 90 percent of their pay; comparable retirees in most other states get about half their final working salary.
Under the deal, the Legislature and governor patched up the state's $3 billion budget hole and DFLers won agreement on a plan that would allow the governor -- either Pawlenty or his successor -- to decide whether to shift thousands of low-income Minnesotans from state-funded health programs into Medicaid, which uses state and federal funds.
"I've never seen anything like it," said Sen. Keith Langseth, DFL-Glyndon, who has served in the Legislature since 1974.
Langseth expressed exasperation with Pawlenty and his refusal to give in on the budget. "I've served with six governors, and five of them know what democracy is about," Langseth said. "You compromise." DFLers hold strong majorities in the House and Senate.
Sunday, May 16, 2010
George Bush, who doesn’t have a vote in Congress and who no longer occupies the White House, is to blame for it all.
He broke Obama’s promise to put all bills on the White House web site for five days before signing them.
He broke Obama’s promise to have the congressional health care negotiations broadcast live on C-SPAN.
He broke Obama’s promise to end earmarks.He broke Obama’s promise to keep unemployment from rising above 8 percent.
He broke Obama’s promise to close the detention center at Guantanamo in the first year.
He broke Obama’s promise to make peace with direct, no pre-condition talks with America’s most hate-filled enemies during his first year in office, ushering in a new era of global cooperation.
He broke Obama’s promise to end the hiring of former lobbyists into high White House jobs.
He broke Obama’s promise to end no-compete contracts with the government.
He broke Obama’s promise to disclose the names of all attendees at closed White House meetings.
He broke Obama’s promise for a new era of bipartisan cooperation in all matters.
He broke Obama’s promise to have chosen a home church to attend Sunday services with his family by Easter of last year.
Yes, it’s all George Bush’s fault. President Obama is nothing more than a puppet in the never-ending, failed Bush administration.
Friday, May 14, 2010
He hasn’t read the Arizona immigration law, even though reading the law is the basic duty of any lawyer (let alone the U.S. Attorney General) who is called on to assess a legal situation.The invaluable Morrissey draws an interesting conclusion from the behavior of the man who heads the Justice Department: he's profiling Arizonans.
Thus, he hasn’t got reasonable suspicion that Arizonans are violating the Constitution, even though reasonable suspicion is the basic investigative standard we expect law-enforcement to satisfy before officials harass Americans with stepped up scrutiny. …
If a police officer, without taking elementary investigative steps to inform himself about the facts of a situation, and thus without reasonable suspicion, simply assumed a person must be guilty of wrongdoing based on the police officer’s avowed prejudice, what would Eric Holder call it?
Let’s see. Reaching conclusions based on a “glance”? Check. Relying on hearsay and rumor about a people instead of using independent thought? Check. Putting law-enforcement resources into attacking something based solely on appearances? Check.Just a hunch -- when the history of the Obama administration is written in the future, one thing that will amaze the historians is how lazy and arrogant it was. Obama's pals in Congress, bless their twisted souls, are plenty industrious -- Henry Waxman and his staff of gremlins can crank out a 2,000 page bill at the drop of a hat. How the heck can the Attorney General think he can get by without reading a law before offering an opinion? It's astonishing, really.
I was taking a course called "Sociology and the Law" at the time and my sociology professor, who was influencing my thinking, almost certainly was a socialist, too. There's a lot of that sort of thinking going on in academe and it's hardly news. What's different is that the West Wing has more than a little bit of the typical faculty lounge mentality in it these days. We elected these people, so we just have to deal with it.
So that leaves the question: is Elena Kagan a socialist now? Based on the available evidence, not likely. We won't find out from reading her old college papers, though.
Thursday, May 13, 2010
“What I did say is look, the typical thing that’s going to happen, and it’s already been happening, is everyone is going to come along with this idea—the value added tax, this thing under $250,000, Social Security, Medicare changes, what have you—and you’re looking for us to say no, yes, no, yes, no, yes—which will mean that the commission has absolutely nothing to talk about and nothing to do. The president has been very clear that we’re not going to play that game.”You know what's really amusing? That was the clarification.
But notice closely one thing that was said: value added tax. Remember those three little words, which have huge implications. Your life could get a whole lot more expensive soon if you don't pay attention to such things.
Fully 73% say they approve of requiring people to produce documents verifying their legal status if police ask for them. Two-thirds (67%) approve of allowing police to detain anyone who cannot verify their legal status, while 62% approve of allowing police to question people they think may be in the country illegally.
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
I'm younger than Joni Mitchell but I also wore my hair straight and dressed in long dresses in the early 1970's. My parents probably still have the Kodak pictures to prove it.
The YouTube videos reminded me of how often women wore dresses when I was growing up. I still wear a dress or skirt about once a week to work. Most of my co-workers that have a similar job wear jeans or khaki pants on a daily basis. Even on Easter or Christmas in church, I see very few, if any, women wearing a skirt or dress.
German anger at the 750billion Euro Greek bailout is swelling as world markets slid after initial excitement at the bailout fizzled.I don't speak German so I'm not sure if the Daily Mail has translated that properly. The headline appears to be the following:
The headline on the front page of Germany's biggest newspaper, Bild, summed up the national mood, declaring: 'We are once again the schmucks of Europe!'
Wir sind wieder mal Europas Deppen!
Just a guess -- you probably don't want to be anyone's Deppen. But the implications aren't happy for the entire European enterprise, which largely depends on Germany's willingness to go along:
Unless measures are taken to deal with the underlying structural problems affecting the most indebted of eurozone nations, then the bailout package merely kicks the can down the road,' said Michael Hewson, analyst at CMC Markets.
In Germany, the uncertainties were having a far more immediate effect.
Hard-pressed taxpayers - led by a flailing coalition government that could be the template for one soon to be assembled in the UK - are being asked for more sacrifices to save a currency they never wanted at a time when the country has record postwar debt.
I don't think schmuck is the right word. I believe it's sucker. Anyhoo,
Britain's bill for the bailout varies between £10bill and £43billion. But there is no doubt on the continent that it is Germany that is picking up the lion's share of the tab.No soup for you, Heinrich!
Now German citizens have also been told that a tax cut is shelved for at least two years, and will probably never materialise in the life of this administration.
Is there a lesson in all this? Well, yeah. The reason the Greeks are mendicants is that they have allowed their government workers to forget that they are civil servants. In point of fact, they are now uncivil masters and the government is scared to death of its own people. That's not a place a government should be. And you can hardly blame the Germans for their reluctance in enabling this sort of behavior. You have to wonder how much longer the Germans are going to be willing to support this Euro enterprise, especially when the Italians, Portugese and Spaniards present their expense accounts.
The larger issue is this: here in America, we already have versions of the Greek problem afoot in places like California. Meanwhile, our betters in Washington have been busily trying to build up a larger government apparatus in order to service their great plans for healthcare and whatnot. We still have time to avoid the fate of Athens. But the hour draws short.
To this point, Democrats have not pushed for an override attempt, opting to let lawmakers ponder the veto and the near-record deficit as the session creeps toward adjournment Monday. The DFL has a large enough majority in the Senate to override a veto if all its members went along -- something that didn't happen in Monday's votes -- but is three seats shy in the House.
It's pretty simple -- the DFL wants to raise taxes but the only way they can is to own the increase by overriding a veto. In other words, they want something for nothing.
The Strib did add a little comedy to their coverage, too:
Some Democrats held out a faint hope that the cooling-off period might encourage three House Republicans seeking to leverage a big political score for their communities to support some kind of revenue increase.
So that's what they call it now, a big score. Nope -- the big score that matters to the Republicans will be the score on November 2.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
The rally at the Capitol was organized by Jason Lewis of KTLK. To be clear: Most of the signs were merely political in nature. But, at some point, doesn't someone have to say, "Hey, buddy, ditch the sign; you're killing our cause, here"?The post got Mitch Berg's attention, who smoked Collins out pretty well:
Was that the sign’s intent? “A monkey could do it” is a not-uncommon way of saying “Duh”; the Bush years saw more than a few “Chimp” references that passed without (disapproving) comment from the mainstream media.
If it was racist – was it a tax protester, or one of the ringers sent from the left to stand by the media’s cameras to smear the tea party?
We don’t know. Bob Collins didn’t check. Perhaps it was because it didn’t fit the narrative that the media has set up about the Tea Party, which both the WaPo article and (wittingly or not) Collins extend – that it’s racist until proven otherwise. Or maybe he didn’t feel like walking through the crowd to check. We’ll never know. For the media’s narrative about the Tea Parties, “knowing” might be inconvenient.
Collins didn't like that analysis and responded in Mitch's comment section:
Mitch, how many nooses does someone have to hang in a fire department before it’s racist? How many swastiskas does someone have to spraypaint on a wall before it’s racist? One, two, six?
Now, I grew up in Appleton, Wisconsin, which was the hometown of one of the best practitioners of the "guilt by association" tactic, a fellow by the name of Sen. Joseph McCarthy. Let's just say that ol' Joe would recognize the tactic at play here.
It's pretty simple, really: if you see a swastika spray-painted on the wall and there's a fella holding a can of spray paint, go right ahead and excoriate the dude for his bigotry. But it doesn't follow that someone else in the area is a bigot, any more than I would assume that those people who tried to tear up St. Paul in 2008 were representative of Obama supporters.
By all means, read both Collins's post on Gather and Mitch's post. Things are going to be getting pretty contentious as the year goes on and we might look back on this exchange as being surprisingly civil.
Monday, May 10, 2010
The Minnesota Legislature has sent Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty a bill to close a budget gap in part by raising income taxes on the highest-paid Minnesotans.
Monday's 71-63 vote followed approval by the state Senate with a bare 34-33 majority.
And in a moment of clarity, Margaret Anderson-Kelliher, who is the endorsed DFL candidate for governor, carried the bill through the House. And in an even better moment of clarity, the deciding vote on the Senate side was cast by none other than Tarryl Clark, who would like to replace Michele Bachmann in Congress. Luke Hellier at MDE has the visuals. Meanwhile, Kate Knuth and Satveer Chaudhary apparently would like you to pay more taxes. Thought you should know.
- So apparently it's going to be Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court. Another pick that doesn't move the needle much. I had feared that President Obama might have thrown a bomb and picked someone like his buddy Cass Sunstein, but the President and his people are probably too weak politically at this point to really push someone who would be as in-your-face as Sunstein.
- Robert Bennett, the moderate (squishy) Republican senator from Utah, lost his bid for re-election when he failed to gain nomination from the state GOP at its convention over the weekend. The hand of the Tea Partiers is evident in this and it's a good thing, too. There isn't a senator, representative or anyone else in Washington right now who is indispensable. The message is pretty clear that there will be change in November, although it probably won't be Change You Can Believe In. One way to know conclusively that Bennett's ouster is a good thing? David Brooks is agin' it.
- The Star Tribune editorial section yesterday was a very handy compendium of really bad ideas, including a breathless feature from someone named Timothy Taylor on how much more revenue we could raise from extending the sales tax to, well, just about everything. I'm not finding a link on their website, but Mr. Taylor would like to suggest that taxing food would net $699 million, clothing $398 million, etc., etc. Would you like to raise your cost of living by 7-10% right now, just to ensure that Tom Dooher and his batallions won't have to get a haircut? That's a debate well worth having, don't you think?
Sunday, May 09, 2010
US President Barack Obama lamented Sunday that in the iPad and Xbox era, information had become a diversion that was imposing new strains on democracy, in his latest critique of modern media.Pardon me for working blue on this, but my goodness, where to begin with this pile of caca? It raises a lot of questions:
Obama, who often chides journalists and cable news outlets for obsessing with political horse race coverage rather than serious issues, told a class of graduating university students that education was the key to progress.
"You're coming of age in a 24/7 media environment that bombards us with all kinds of content and exposes us to all kinds of arguments, some of which don't always rank all that high on the truth meter," Obama said at Hampton University, Virginia.
"With iPods and iPads and Xboxes and PlayStations, -- none of which I know how to work -- information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment, rather than the means of emancipation," Obama said.
- I grew up in the 1970s. We had four television stations in our market and a handful of radio stations to choose from. Outside of the lessons I received from teachers and my parents, my worldview emerged from a miasma of Top 40 radio, Walter Cronkite and whatever I could find from the public library. My kids can use the Internet to find out things that I never could have seen, or even known about, in my childhood. How is that not empowering?
- Does anyone really believe that the President doesn't know how to work an iPod? Perhaps there's a problem with the truth meter, but we were told repeatedly how much then-Senator Obama loved his BlackBerry and how much he fought having to give it up. If you can work a BlackBerry, it's almost certain you can figure out an iPod. And if an iPod isn't a tool of empowerment, why would the President have given one to the Queen?
- Why on earth should we not have information as entertainment? Is not information baked in to all forms of entertainment? Or all forms of communication, for that matter?
- How can information undermine democracy? Do we not need an informed citizenry, with access to varying viewpoints? Or should all just rely on a single, approved viewpoint? I'm sure someone could come up with a viewpoint that we all could live with, right? That would make our lives easier, no doubt.
What to make of this? I think the President is whining because he feels as though he's lost control of the narrative. And I also think it's unseemly. What do you think?
Thursday, May 06, 2010
Any reasonable person would have to include "Imagine" on a top ten list of the worst songs of all time. It's simple-minded, smug, and sanctimonious. And it's often invoked for purposes ill-suited to its true intentions and played it situations that are completely inappropriate for its message. The worst example from personal experience was hearing it at a Mass held at our high school. Yes, a Catholic Mass featuring a song extolling the virtues of "no religion." I believe that the occasion of the Mass was that a classmate of Atomizer's and the Nihilist in Golf Pant's had recently offed himself. He supposedly was a big Beatles fan, especially Lennon, and so someone decided it would make sense to listen to "Imagine" as the student body paid their respects. Under the circumstance, one would have thought he could have used a little "Amazing Grace" instead.
Internal documents recently reviewed by Fortune, originally requested by Congress, show what the bill's critics predicted, and what its champions dreaded: many large companies are examining a course that was heretofore unthinkable, dumping the health care coverage they provide to their workers in exchange for paying penalty fees to the government.It's almost sweet that Shawn Tully, a "senior editor at large" from Fortune, would actually believe that President Obama and his allies were actually hoping that employers would continue to handle health care. If they wanted that, they wouldn't have constructed the 2,000+ page Leviathan they did. In fact, they could have left things alone. But that was never the plan. Still, our reporter can't believe it:
That would dismantle the employer-based system that has reigned since World War II. It would also seem to contradict President Obama's statements that Americans who like their current plans could keep them. And as we'll see, it would hugely magnify the projected costs for the bill, which controls deficits only by assuming that America's employers would remain the backbone of the nation's health care system.
Hence, health-care reform risks becoming a victim of unintended consequences. Amazingly, the corporate documents that prove this point became public because of a different set of unintended consequences: they told a story far different than the one the politicians who demanded them expected.We've said it over and over -- rational people respond to incentives. Anyone who has control over a business has ample reason to behave in a rational manner. And if it is rational, and more cost-effective, to dump health care coverage and face a fine, it's better to face the fine if there's no other real sanction involved.
But let Tully tell you a little more:
In the days after President Obama signed the bill on March 24, a number of companies announced big write downs due to some fiscal changes it ushered in. The legislation eliminated a company's right to deduct the federal retiree drug-benefit subsidy from their corporate taxes. That reduced projected revenue. As a result, AT&T (T, Fortune 500) and Verizon (VZ, Fortune 500) took well-publicized charges of around $1 billion.We talked about that at the time, of course. Oddly enough, Waxman cancelled the hearings rather abruptly. Allow Tully to share the reason:
The announcements greatly annoyed Representative Henry Waxman, who accused the companies of using the big numbers to exaggerate health care reform's burden on employers. Waxman, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, demanded that they turn over their confidential memos, and summoned their top executives for hearings.
The request yielded 1,100 pages of documents from four major employers: AT&T, Verizon, Caterpillar and Deere (DE, Fortune 500). No sooner did the Democrats on the Energy Committee read them than they abruptly cancelled the hearings. On April 14, the Committee's majority staff issued a memo stating that the write downs were "proper and in accordance with SEC rules." The committee also stated that the memos took a generally sunny view of the new legislation. The documents, said the Democrats' memo, show that "the overall impact of health reform on large employers could be beneficial."Waxman knew all this. He just didn't want everyone else to know. At least not yet. The primary reason that Obamacare is supposed to be phased in over a number of years is simple -- people won't understand the endgame until it's too late. The plan was to make healthcare requirements so onerous that employers would have a choice -- either pay the premiums and face severe financial hardship in doing so, or offer a half-assed version of healthcare that would offload the costs onto their employees. But there was a better alternative built into the legislation -- employers could avoid a lot of heartburn by simply paying the fine instead. And any officer of a company who takes fiduciary duty seriously would have to consider paying the fine and dropping coverage.
Nowhere in the five-page report did the majority staff mention that not one, but all four companies, were weighing the costs and benefits of dropping their coverage.
But the voters weren't supposed to know that, at least not yet. From the perspective of the average voter/healthcare recipient, the goal was to make healthcare in the interim so awful that people would be clamoring for single-payer, which would theoretically solve the cost and access problems. Waxman, Obama and the rest of our friends had it all planned out. But that wasn't supposed to happen until, say, 2014 or 2016. And we surely weren't supposed to learn about it in April, 2010.
There's a lot more at the link, most of which won't surprise readers of this feature. Even if you know how this ends, it's worth reading.